Game Quicky: Mystik Belle – Enchanted Edition (Switch) ~ The Metroidvania Witchschool Adventure

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

So, I was browsing the Nintendo Switch eShop one day and I came across this game. Without doing a lot of research, I bought it since it looked like an interesting indie Metroidvania game. I didn’t know that a big studio like WayForward helped the developers Last Dimension in publishing this game to the Nintendo Switch. For some reason, I didn’t realize that this game is a port either. Even with the subtitle “Enchanted Edition”. In any case, I was also surprised to learn that this game is created in GameMaker Studio. A tool I used to learn about game development when I was younger. But, with that said, how is the actual game? Is it worth your money or should you rather focus on the original edition or is this a game you could skip without hesitation? Well, I’m here to give you my opinion and while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Witchschool

Usually, I write something myself to explain the story. But, the way the developers described the story is so good, I’m going to quote it here:

Being a student of mysterious art is a daunting task, doubly if you are Bell McFay – a freshman at the Hugmore Magic School. The teachers and staff are mean, I have few friends, and my grades are poor. Worst of all – Bell tends to be in the wrong place at worst. When she stayed up late to practice the magic of fire, for example tonight, but was instead assembled to confuse ancient rituals. And is there a better way to punish the unlucky first-grader than to prosecute her for an impossible job on the worst night of the year? Reproduce or exile Walpurgisnacht Brew. The sound of expulsion is beginning to improve as all types of spies hijack the school.

Official story on the eShop page

There is no voice acting in this game, so the story is told through text boxes and the environment design. Overall, the writing in this game is good. It sets up the arc of the game nicely without a lot of technobabble to pull you out of the experience. It’s quite difficult to review the story of this game because this game is somewhat short. This game takes around 5-ish hours to beat.

Usually, in these short games, I expect the story to grip me and focus more on telling a good story with interesting mechanics like Super Liminal or There Is No Game. Yet, this game doesn’t do that. I’m not saying that the story is bad, it’s just that this game focuses more on the gameplay and it’s puzzles than the overall story. This isn’t such a big negative in my eyes. While, yes, the setting and the atmosphere gives the story a lot of potential… I’m just extremely happy that it’s not bloated or is just filler to make the game longer. It’s to the point and quite enjoyable.

This game almost plays like your typical Metroidvania game. If you don’t know what a Metroidvania game is, compare it to games like Monster Tale, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception amongst others. You explore large area’s where you learn new skills and abilities to help you on the way and discover secrets. Now, what this game does special is that this game has also a focus on puzzle elements and a whole inventory mechanic. In extremely rough terms, this game is a giant fetch quest in a Metroidvania game.

And it’s a lot of fun. I love exploring the school and trying to figure out which abilities I’m going to get to explore more of the castle. The responsive controls were so easy to learn that I was able to get the hang of the mechanics quite easily. The only thing that is different compared to your typical Metroidvania games is that there are no save rooms in this game. The game autosave when you change rooms. But that’s anything but a negative, to be honest.

Now, there are two ways to play this game. You can play through this game with warp chests, that help you with your inventory and makes the game a bit easier. It also gives you the option to choose if you restart the room or start from the counsel room. Or you have the harder difficulty, where you don’t have: warp chests, restart the room and the enemies hit harder. So, you can play on the difficulty you enjoy.

I really love shooting my fire spell around and leveling it up when I killed more enemies. I really liked running around this school with the amazing pixel art and animation. The game looks amazing, and the level design is well done for a Metroidvania game. While the level design makes the school feel less like a school since you don’t see a lot of classrooms and weird architecture, the pixel art is so good-looking and well-designed that it doesn’t bother me at all. (Only my really harsh critic side, tho.)

Not only does the game have amazing visuals and animations, the music is a jam. It’s amazing chiptune by Dan Rogers. I have listened to it while writing this article and I liked it so much that I decided to buy the whole soundtrack from Dan Roger’s Bandcamp I linked earlier.

Something that’s quite impressive is that this game is the love child of Andrew Bado. He placed so much love and care into the game. I mean, he even made an option where the dialogue is child-friendly in the PC version. Yes, an option! That’s something I can applaud. If only this came to the Switch version.

Almost there, Bell

I have thrown quite a lot of praise towards this game, but I’m sad to say that this game does make a few mistakes or things I don’t like. Let me first talk about the health system. There is one thing I didn’t like at all. That’s the way you heal. To heal, you have to pick up hearts that can randomly drop from enemies. The hearts drop where you kill the enemy. So, if you kill the enemy while it’s in the wall, since your projectiles go through into the wall… Your health pick-up is going to be stuck in the wall. And those don’t get attracted when you get close.

Also, there is no “quick heal” method or room. The health you have is the health you start with when you respawn or restart the room. So, when you are low on health, you better find a room where you can grind enemies to grind the health drops to get back to full health. This is one of the few moments where the game just stopped in its tracks, to be honest. Granted, you could restart at the counsel room with full health, but then you have to backtrack all the way… That isn’t fun.

Now, here is something I really found annoying. This game has an amazing mini-map, but why can’t I look at it with more detail? In this game, you have to gather and manage a lot of items. Around 60 in fact. And they are spread out over the whole map. But, remembering which item goes where is a real pain. Either having a quest list and/or which character is where it could have helped so much. Thankfully, the map is rather small, so going through all of it and trying out which item goes where wasn’t such a pain. Yet, I really missed a feature a like that in this game.

Sadly enough, there is actually a second thing I don’t like about the health system. There is this mechanic where you are able to kill enemies by just colliding with them. But this costs health. Now here is the issue with that, the sound effect and visual feedback is so similar to normally killing enemies it’s confusing. Something to improve this would be another sound effect if Belle gets hit compared to when she kills an enemy. Since, overall, the sound effects are excellent.

One of the final things I want to talk about is the pacing. In this game, you need to get three ingredients and something that really surprised me is that the second act is short. But this is an extremely minor complaint, a nitpick even. As big as a nitpick as the I find it a shame that some nice designs like statues go to waste since they are mostly in the dark. But, then again, it adds to the atmosphere and gives off a slightly creepy vibe.

Now, I think it’s high time for the conclusion, don’t you think? A summary of what I think in general about this game and trying to answer the questions I asked in the introduction of this article.

Let’s play or let’s play?

Is this game worth your time? Yes, yes it is! While the game has some annoying things like I talked about in the previous section, I really think that the positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game.

Now, if you would ask me… Which version should I play? Then, I have to answer the enchanted edition on Switch. It’s quite difficult to answer what’s new in this version since you don’t have an official change log but reading from the Twitter feeds of the developers it seems that it’s mostly a graphical upgrade and various tweaks to make the experience more enjoyable.

It also looks like this game is going to have a sequel or expansion from what I’m reading on the developers twitter feed.

I’m so glad that I gave this game a chance, since because of this game I discovered a very passionate developer that loves creating charming games like this one. I really enjoyed my time with this game, trying to figure out which item goes where. While it’s tempting to use a walkthrough, I highly advise that you don’t. There is barely any moon logic in this game, and it feels so much more rewarding to play it blind.

The charm of this game is just amazing. Mystik Belle is a hidden gem that more people should know of and play. This game has so much potential even while I haven’t finished the original, I’m already hyped for new content that’s upcoming.

And with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

NekoJonez’s August 2021 Update

It’s almost that time of year again, the start of the school year here in Belgium. This year, I start my 3rd year as an IT-admin in the school I work for. So, that also means that my summer break is over, and I restarted working again. Also, I’m quite surprised that my latest update article was from December 2020. I mean, it’s quite usual that there are sometimes big gaps between these articles when not a lot of interesting things happen to collect together in an update… But hey, that’s totally besides the point. Let’s start talking about what’s happening in my life and what’s going on for my blog. And before I start, I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Fewer articles and more gaps

When you look at the numbers of amount of published articles, you’ll notice that since March of this year… I have been skipping more and more weeks. Apart from April, I have been able to write and publish 2-3 articles each month. While I see a decrease in traffic to my blog because of that, I honestly don’t mind that much. I still reach similar numbers in the end. Now, I know that numbers shouldn’t matter since writing this blog is still a hobby. I know that fact all too well, yet… somehow, I feel proud when I see the numbers raise. But, that’s something we all like, seeing numbers raise. It’s a physiological thing.

So, why are there so many gaps in the publishing of articles? Well, it’s because I have written about so many games that I’m as good as through my backlog. I still have several games on my backlog to write about, but most of them should be replayed for at least a little while, since it has been such a long time since I played them for the first time. Before I write an article about a game, I want to have at least played 5-ish hours of that game, unless it’s a game quicky or a small indie game (that’s shorter than 5 hours). And here are the reasons I’m having trouble with that.

First, due to the COVID pandemic and private matters… My day job is extremely busy. I love doing my day job, but it’s extremely draining. So, at the end of the day, I sometimes don’t have the energy left to play games, or I just want to play a game to relax and not having to take notes or prepare an article about it. So, that means I have been playing games I have reviewed before and finishing them and, yes, even replaying some of them.

Secondly, I’m trying to improve my writing style. After writing for about 10 years in a similar writing style, I want to challenge myself to write more in-depth articles with more research and more cohesion. So, I’m putting a lot more time into each article, and it shows. I’m prouder of each article that I publish, and I feel that I’m improving quite a lot.

Thirdly, due to the general business of my personal life and the work for my school… I don’t always have the energy to write. I also want to recover in the weekend or work on my huge to-do list. Furthermore, I’m writing a lot for other things I’ll talk about more later… and that also has consequences. That means I burn myself out of writing sometimes. And I find that sometimes taking a break is better for me. That way I can still publish an interesting and well written article instead of a half-baked article. I like “better quality over more quantity”. So yeah.

And finally, here in Belgium, the COVID restrictions are slowly but surely lifting. Especially for vaccinated people (like myself)! So, that means I can start doing things in my local acting group again and go to see theater performances and movies in the cinema. Man, I have missed that so hard. You know those things you do, to reward yourself after doing a good job? Well, that was theater and cinema for me. Of course, blogging/writing about games has the same effect for me, but variety is the spice of life.

So, what does that mean? Shall you see less articles on my blog? Bluntly said, yes. I might not write weekly articles for a while anymore. I decided that it’s a goal I would love to reach, but I’m not going to force myself to write 4 articles each month. Not only that, but I’m going to try to write at least 1-2 articles/month. And if that’s not possible, I’ll talk about that on my twitter.

Outside of blogging

So, what’s going on in my personal life outside of writing for this blog? Well, quite a lot, actually. I have been expanding my hobbies and skill set. The first hobby I want to talk about is something that’s related to gaming, actually. I started speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You can find my runs at my Speedrun.com profile. At first, I wanted to beat the PC times, but those are not only extremely optimized already, I’m unable to do the perfect movement.

That’s why I started to focus on the GBC version. While I’m keeping an eye on the PC version, I’m mainly focused on the GBC version. Not too long ago, I have beaten my ANY% GBC full game run I did live that one time. Whenever I feel like it, I have been grinding this run out since that 1h 40 m 08s, I’m certain it can go lower. In a matter of fact, I have found several small skips and improvements that is going to save at least 10-ish minutes all together. But, I’m planning to write an article about the strategies and such involved in the full game run in the future… So, keep an eye out for that.

Besides speedrunning, I’m also creating a new website for my local acting group. Currently, it’s behind closed doors, but I’m spending quite a lot of time on that site. I’m also working on a lot of technical stuff for my acting group to improve work flow and such. It’s something different and a fun challenge for sure. I love the stuff I’m learning since I’m able to use it for the website I maintain for my school and visa versa.

Speaking about the school I work for, I have two updates about that. The first update is that I have a fixed contract. Now, here in Belgium, it works somewhat different in schools. The contract I currently have is if the school has to shut down for what ever reason, a school from the district has to give me a job. In other words, I’m quite certain that I’m going to have a job for the foreseeable future. 🙂 And not only that, it’s in my dream job as an IT admin in a big school. I couldn’t wish for more.

The second update is that the school I work for is growing in amount of students. Currently, we have around 700 students, compared to roughly 600 students at the start of the previous year. This is quite mind-blowing for an art school, and that’s the biggest reason my day job is so busy. I’m so happy that the school I work for is growing so much since that means our school is quite healthy.

So, outside of having a busy day job, writing a gaming blog (semi-)weekly, doing things for my acting group, speeding running games… I’m also active in the development of WordPress. Now, I’m not a coder, so I’m helping that much in the actual development of WordPress outside of testing and reporting bugs… I’m more active in the translation department. I’m a translation editor for all the WordPress plugins & themes on WordPress.org for the locale’s nl_NL(-formal) and nl_BE, which means all forms of Dutch basically. If you want to take a look at my work, you can see it on my profile. And if I contribute to a plugin/extension, it’s mostly issues with strings which make things less easy for translation. You can see most of my contributions on my GitHub profile.

That means, that I do a lot of things in my free time outside of spending time with my family. While it might sound overwhelming and a lot to keep up with, honestly, I enjoy it. I’m expanding my skill set and learning quite a lot. And not only that, I’m giving something back to the community.

What’s next?

Now, you might think that I want to spend less time writing. Because I have so many other hobbies or things I do outside of writing. And, that’s not true. I found that spending time on other things like speedrunning, translations, working on websites… It actually helps me to not burn out on writing. Like I said earlier in this article, variety is the spice of life.

I do have a collab in the works with a good blogging friend of mine, but I’m unable to make a lot of progress due to the busy times at my day job. Thankfully, after next week, it’s going to become a lot less busy, so I can focus on a lot of other things and maybe write more.

I’m also playing around with a few major updates on my blog, but I think most of them are going to have to wait until I have another vacation. Since it’s going to help me in keeping certain things up-to-date here on my blog. And yes, I’m also removing typo’s and such from older articles. If you notice one, feel free to give me a shout, and I’ll try to fix it as soon as I can.

So, what’s the summary of this update? I’m going to try to at least write 2 articles each month, and 4 if I can. I also started speedrunning, getting more involved with the development of WordPress and doing things for my local acting group. On top of that, my day job is extremely busy… eating up a lot of my time. And I don’t want to have it any other way. Mentally, I’m doing a lot better and that’s what counts in the end, in my opinion… If you are happy with your life, than all is well.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: Superliminal (Switch) ~ Objects are differently shaped than they appear.

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

I remember seeing a game floating around on the internet many years ago. I even bookmarked the page I saw it on, since I wanted to keep myself up-to-date on future updates. It looked extremely cool and had a lot of potential to have amazing puzzles and mind binding twists. But that was in 2014-2015 if I remember correctly. Then, I honestly forgot about the game, and it fell off my radar. Not too long ago, I was cleaning out my overload of bookmarks and I suddenly found that game again. That reminded me about the game and when I suddenly saw it on my Nintendo Switch eShop that evening, I knew that I had to buy it right away. So, the game released a year ago, and I totally forgot about it. Oh well, that’s no big deal. Since, now, I have a lot of time to find out if my expectations were correct or if I shouldn’t have started playing this game. Now, while I have beaten the game now, I’m going to review this game in my game quicky style of articles since it’s rather short. But more on that later, let’s find out if this game is good or not, while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Objects are better shaped than they appear.

In this game, you are taken on a trip to the Pierce Institute to help test a new technology. This new technology is to help people with therapy using dreams. In these dreams, you can manipulate objects in some very strange ways. But, since this is a video game, something goes wrong. Instead of waking up, you get stuck inside the dream world due to Emergency Exit Protocol failing for whatever reason. So, it’s up to you to figure out why and to leave the dreamworld.

Now, I wish I could say more, but it would spoil the amazing story and strong message that this game has. This game is, give or take, 3 hours long if you only want to beat it and not 100% complete it. The story telling and voice acting in this game is so well crafted. The game spoke to me on a personal level several times. The game is also filled with some amazing life advice, and I’m so glad I played through it.

The main mechanic in this game is that perspective matters. A lot. You can enlarge or shrink certain objects in this game, so you can reach higher ledges or jump over huge gaps. The best way I can explain it, is if you go away from objects, they appear to “shrink” and when you get closer, they appear to “enlarge”. Now, image that when the “shrinking” or “enlarging” is happening, the object actually takes those dimensions. So, suddenly the cheese wheel can become a giant ramp for you to walk on. If you don’t really understand what I’m trying to explain here, take a look at these gifs, I think they might explain it way better.

I’m not going to show more or explain more of the mechanics since, it would ruin the surprises and the unique and amazingly crafted puzzles that this game has. This game can become quite tricky, but remember, it’s all a matter of having the right perspective and understanding the space you are in. Each section introduces its own unique spin or mechanic on the perspective puzzle theme, and it’s just great. I had so much fun trying to figure them all out.

Something that surprised me is that with the various elements that this game has and with the unique shrink/enlarge mechanics, it’s so well optimized. I didn’t experience any slowdowns nor did I experience any graphical glitches. Now, this is when you play the game normally. And why am I saying this? Well, it’s because the game actually encourages you to speedrun it once or twice. The Steam achievements of this game are ported over to the Nintendo Switch version. And I think I might give it a go myself one day. The controls of this game are solid enough and I think they are responsive enough for me to speedrun this game. I learned them extremely quickly and mastered them fast as well.

It would be an amazing way to dive right back into this amazing adventure and to go through the well detailed levels again. Visually, this game is stunning. While I think that the game has some moments that might trigger players that aren’t too good with flashing lights, I was amazed with the detail and visual presentation that this game has. The game also has a lot of triggers, so you don’t softlock yourself. For example, if you shrink the exit door and throw it in a trash can, the exit door spits it right back out. One animation detail I loved is seeing all the different jokes the developer made with the loading screens. You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean, but they were a nice way to do something unique with a loading screen instead of having a boring static or short moving image…

Apart from the objects you can interact with, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. But, the animations it does have pulled you into the game so much more. Including with the enjoyable sound design. It has been at least a month since I have beaten this game since I’m writing this article and I can still remember the sound effects, how the voice acting sound and how the music sounds.

Speaking about the music, most of the soundtrack of this game is extremely relaxing and sounds extremely dreamy. The great use of the piano and, which is the center instrument in this soundtrack, and it’s just lovely. It’s that lovely, I actually bought the game again on Steam since it includes the soundtrack and some official Lo-Fi remixes as DLC.

Objects are worse shaped than they appear.

So far, I’m talking quite positively about this game. While I enjoy this game an awful lot and I even dare to say that it wouldn’t surprise me that I put it on my top 10 games of 2021 list, I do have several things that I disliked about this game and that made the experience less enjoyable.

While I barely experienced any bugs, I did fall three times through the map in similar ways. Once, I was pushed out of the map when I made a way too big object fall on me. Another time I fell through the map when getting on the roof of a building and trying to get onto the wall (which wasn’t the solution, by the way) and I don’t remember what triggered the 3rd time. Thankfully, the game autosave quite often, so I didn’t lose too much progress. But, it was a bit annoying that there is no death plane underneath the maps that automatically reset you to the latest checkpoint. So, thankfully, you have the “reset” option in the game.

Something I feel extremely mixed about is the game’s length. This game is so short but the mechanics it has, have so much potential, it’s a shame. I really think that this game should have a sequel where even trickier puzzles are introduced. On the other hand, due to the short length, the story has barely any bloat or unneeded sections and flows extremely nicely. Let’s just say that I’m quite jealous of the Steam workshop features that the PC version has. While it’s amazing that I can take this game on the go and show it off to other people, I’m also glad I bought the PC version to not only have the DLC but play more of this game.

Now, while I personally had a ton of fun with this game… When I really look at the game and take a step back… In terms of gameplay, this game could have been so much stronger. I honestly have to agree with what other critics are saying about this game to a certain degree. That some mechanics are seriously underused. Not to say that the puzzles in this game are bad, far from it. I think the biggest issue is that the games’ hooks are so good that the short length to conserve the story flow actually hurt it somewhat. I do heavily disagree with the “lackluster” story. But that’s maybe because it spoke to me on a personal level.

But, yeah, the underused mechanics are such a shame. Yet! Don’t care because it’s over, be happy that it happened. And maybe play some custom-made workshop levels via the Steam version. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel or DLC content to expand on the universe and lore of this game.

Objects’ true sizes

So, in conclusion. What do I think of the Switch version of this game? Is it worth your time, or should you buy another version or totally skip this game? Personally, I would highly recommend this game. But, do play it in one sitting. I personally think that the message that the story has it that much stronger when you get it all in one go.

The big novelty of the Switch version is that you can easily take it on the go. Of course, with the right laptop you can also take this game on the go, but the Switch is more convenient. But know that this game’s short length might annoy you, since like I explained earlier, the hooks of the game are that good. If you want to get the most out of this game, I think that the PC version might be the better option here, since it looks like it’s more actively developed, and it has the Steam Workshop with custom content!

Overall, this game does do a lot right. It has a strong story, fun and unique mechanics, amazing atmosphere, great visual presentation but due to some minor bugs and especially the short length, this game might be a difficult sell for some people. But if anything sounded interesting from what I have said in this article, please give this game a go. I really meant in what I said earlier. I wouldn’t surprise me if this game turns up in my top 10 games of 2021 list.

If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend going as blind as possible in this game. Reading too much about this game will ruin various surprises and twists this game takes. It’s like the Stanley Parable. A great short game that leaves so much impact on me as a player, and maybe it does with you too. And if it doesn’t have the same strong impact on you, you might have played a unique puzzle game that challenge your perception abilities and skills. Since, I think this game found the right perception.

What that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

First Impression: Final Fantasy X (PS2) ~ Soccer under water.

Wikipedia entry

So, my vacation recently started, and I felt like playing some games I have in my collection for years but haven’t really played. One of these games is Final Fantasy X on the PS2. A game I started playing this year, but I haven’t gotten the time to start really playing this game. I was even afraid in 2019 that I wouldn’t be able to start playing these two games. But now I have a whole summer to play games, and work inside my apartment. So, was it a good idea to pick Final Fantasy 10 to play during this holiday, or should I start looking for another game? Well, let’s find out together in this first impression article if I think it’s worth our time or if we should skip this game for another one. While I invite you, the reader, to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And no, it’s a coincidence that I pick this RPG with fantasy soccer elements on the day that the final of the European Championship is being played. (That little bit would have worked, if only I was able to finish the article on that day.)

Blitz soccer under water

While writing this article, I found out that this game got an remaster way back in 2016. But, when I was able to pick up this game, and it’s sequel for €5 in my local game store second hand… Well, let’s just say I quickly decided to play the originals. Now that I’m admitting things, I think it’s a good thing to also “admit” or rather inform my readers that I haven’t played a lot of games in the Final Fantasy series. If my memory serves me correctly, this is one of the first Final Fantasy games I really started playing in-depth. I have started playing Final Fantasy 7 and other Final Fantasy titles, but for some unknown reason, I didn’t continue playing them.

Anyway, enough introductory rambling. It’s time to explain the (start) of the story of this game. So, this game opens with Tidus, a blitzball player from Zanarkand who is playing in a memorial cup. This memorial cup is to honor his father, a legendary player who went missing 10 years ago. The memorial cup for Jecht (Tidus’ father) has barely started and a big monster attacks the metropolis. Together with Auron, our main character Tidus is swept away. Who is Auron? Well, he is somebody who was looking after Tidus right after his father went missing and Tidus’ mother died.

Now, where is our Tidus swept away to? To Spira. A world where he barely knows the customs and languages. There, Tidus learns that Zanarkand has been destroyed over 1000 years ago by a being named Sin. And not only that, it turns out the Zanarkand is a holy land.

It doesn’t take long before Tidus’ blitzball skills are discovered by the locals and he enters a tournament. There, he meets various characters like the summoner Yuna. Together with her crew, Yuna is taking a pilgrimage to Zanarkand to destroy Sin. And you can bet on it that Tidus’ joins Yuna’s crew since he wants answers.

A lot of this game is voice acted. If you google this game together with “voice acting”, you get a LOT of varied opinions. From it being the worst they ever heard to being good. Personally, I think the voice acting is a bit on the weak side. I think the biggest issue is the pacing and delivery of the lines. Now, what I mean here is that the delivery of the English lines doesn’t always match the actions on screen. For example, there is a scene where you just enter a village, and you get stopped to get the prayer explained. But, there is a strange pause between the “Oh right, hold up” line and the character actually pulling you aside.

Overall, the writing so far is decent. All the unknown customs and languages are as confusing to us players then they are to our main character. If only the English voice acting was a bit more fine-tuned to give the story a bit more impact, a bit more “umphf” you know. Since there are moments that really have great voice acting, but it isn’t consistent, and it feels unpolished and a tad bit rushed.

Now, I could keep talking about the voice acting and story for a while but since I haven’t beaten the game yet, I think I’ll wait to talk about it more in depth for when I have finished this game and/or I have finished the sequel. Since then, I’ll have a way more clear picture on what the whole game and if it’s really that bad that the internet is actually saying. The only thing I want to say for now is that after 5 hours of playing, this game is a tad bit slow on the story side.

It’s battle time

This game is at its core an RPG. You explore the world while you have random battles with enemies to increase your stats. Besides that, you have a whole blitzball game to play as well. Currently, I haven’t played enough of the game to comment too in depth about blitzball. So, I’m going to focus mainly on the RPG gameplay. The battle system in this game your classic turn based affair. So, that means that if you have played RPG’s before, it won’t take you long before you get into this one.

One of the unique mechanics in this game is the Sphere Grid. I could try and explain it but I found that the Final Fantasy wiki has an excellent explanation. So, props to the writer(s) of that section of the wiki since it’s one of the best explanations of this interesting and fun to play with mechanic I was able to find.

At the end of each battle every party member that took at least one full turn earns AP. Characters who are switched out during their first turn, KO’d, or petrified at the end of the battle will not gain AP. If the player defeats the enemy using an aeon, then Yuna will be treated as having taken a turn even if she only summoned.

When enough AP is earned, the character gains a Sphere Level (“S.Lv“). The amount of AP needed to generate Sphere Levels increases progressively until the character has acquired 101 S.LV, after which an additional Sphere Level will always require 22,000 AP. When moving about the Sphere Grid, the character may move one node forward for each S.LV they have. The player does not need to activate a node to pass by it. Regardless of activation, when the player passes a node, a colored band connects their current node to the node they left to mark their path on the grid. Moving across previously connected paths allows the character to move four nodes for every S.LV they have.

Each character’s starting location on the grid indicates their strengths and weaknesses based on the variety of nodes in their section, though the player can choose to take the character down a different path using Key Spheres. The character-specific sections merge at certain points, allowing a character to take another’s path. The character-specific sections are separated by locked nodes, which become empty nodes once opened, allowing free movement. Ultimately, every node on the Sphere Grid may be accessed by every character.

https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Sphere_Grid

The Sphere Grid makes the combat even more interesting. Something that this game does extremely well is teaching the mechanics and the strategies in battles to the player. It doesn’t overwhelm you with all the mechanics of this game in one go, but it steadily builds up until every mechanic has been covered. While I love RPG’s, I always have a hard time getting into the deeper meta of the game and I barely remember several things like what’s effective against what. Thankfully, in the towns, there is a station where you can re-read every tutorial from the game to refresh your memory. I love touches like these in games since it makes the game more accessible whilst the difficulty doesn’t suffer.

Speaking about difficulty, since you have full control over the Sphere Grid, you can somewhat decide that for yourself. I think this is an excellent idea how to handle difficulty. This way more veteran players can make the game more difficult by not unlocking everything on the grid while for more casual players, the game can become “easier” by unlocking the whole grid.

Something that really surprised me is the fact you can control Tidus via the D-pad. I honestly expected that since this game is on the PS2, only the joystick would move him. But that isn’t the case. You can control him with both. Overall, the controls of this game are quite well done. They are responsive and intuitive. Even when I put the game down for several months in February and picked it back up for this summer vacation, I was able to get the hang of the controls extremely quickly.

Also, the small map/radar helps quite a lot while exploring the area’s you come across. The yellow arrow is you and the red arrow is the next major objective. I’m really curious how that’s going to work when I’m further in the game and I hope it doesn’t take away the joy of trying to find the way to your next location. Since sometimes it’s a lot of fun, getting lost in the RPG world. That’s why I love playing games like Dragon Quest.

A bit stiff

I’m not that picky when it comes to the visuals of a game. I don’t mind if a game hasn’t the best visuals or looks from yesteryear, what matters to me is that the visual presentation is consistent with a nice art style that isn’t too hard on the eyes, fits the theme and atmosphere of game and helps me to pull me into the game. But, there are something’s in this game I want to talk about.

While overall, the visual presentation of this game looks quite good, I do notice some visual hiccups here and there. I honestly can’t tell if that’s because of the composite switch I’m using, my PS2 disc or something else, but I have noticed some visual issues. In one cutscene, you could see how Tidus’ hair is modeled, since it blurred out the background on the empty spots.

Maybe I notice these imperfections more easily since I have been reviewing games for over 11 years now and I might have developed an eye for it. But, there are some things that I really don’t like in terms of animation for this game. For example, I find the somewhat slow run cycle of Tidus so unnatural, it’s honestly almost comical in my opinion. Also, I have seen some strange movements from Yuna during her first cutscenes.

It’s a real shame, since this there is a lot that this game does right in terms of the visual presentation. The battle animations look amazing, and I have seen environments that still hold up in my opinion. But, it’s a bit stiff and rough on some edges. Things that could have been patched out if the game was to release in the modern gaming industry.

Now that I have talked about the visual presentation, I think it’s high time I also talk about the audiovisual presentation. Let’s first talk about the music. The orchestral soundtrack of this game has Final Fantasy written all over it. The classic victory tune and the hints to the original theme in the theme of this game are excellent. When I’m listening to game soundtracks, I rarely skip Final Fantasy soundtracks and this game is one of them. Great soundtrack!

That also goes for the audio in this game. There are a lot of ambient sound effects that pull you more into the atmosphere of the visual design. There were some moments where I felt that some additional sound effects could have helped… like with a silent waterfall. But then again, it might run the excellent sound mixing this game has going on… So yeah.

Now, I want to mention a nitpick. There isn’t a way to quickly skip long animations and/or cutscenes. So, yeah. That’s quite annoying if you are in a rush to get somewhere since you got a game over, and you haven’t manually saved at a save stone in a while. Thankfully, I’m that kind of player who saves at every opportunity I can, just in case…

The final thing I want to touch upon in this first impression is the camera. All in all, the camera in this game is good, but sometimes it doesn’t follow the main player well enough and the main character almost goes off-screen before the camera angle switches. Thankfully, the map helps in these moments, but hey, it could have been better.

Overall, I’m quite happy that I’m giving this game a chance during my summer vacation break. While this game is showing its age in the visual department and that complaint is mostly fixed with the remaster… I do still enjoy playing the original version of the game. The only thing that really bothers me is the mediocre voice acting, which breaks some tension of the story. But, thankfully, it’s great voice practice for me since my folk theater group is restarting after the… let’s just say… the “covid-break”. So, I can try to act it out myself how I would have preformed that line.

While I could have gone more in depth on certain aspects of this game, I’m going to keep that for the review when I have fully beaten this game. I’m really curious if certain opinions are going to change. And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: Guards (Switch) ~ Tower Defense Switching

Nintendo.com page

Today I want to talk about the new game that Drageus Games released on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Their previous title, Moon Raider was a pretty nice game, so I actually have high hopes and expectations for this game. So, when Drageus Games send me a press copy over, and I could give my 100% honest opinion, I didn’t hesitate. I wanted to take a look at this game. I know full well that this game has been released for a while now but due to my busy life, I just got time to reviewing it now. So, it’s time to review this smaller game in my shorter game quicky style. And before I truly start, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of the article below!

Time to play

So, in this game, you take on the role of various warriors who are defending their homeland from invaders. Each warrior has his/her strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you to use them in the right way. The gameplay is turn based. The left area of play field is yours and the right area is from where the enemies come in. In each turn, you can switch the location of two warriors. In order for you to win, you have to defeat a certain amount of enemies before one enemy can breach to the other side.

The gameplay is quite challenging and unique. It’s easy to understand, but oh so tricky to master. It’s a sort of turn based tower defense where you have to swap your towers from location each turn.

Visually, this game looks quite charming. The cartoon presentation of this game gives it some Saturday morning show vibes that add even more to the charm. While the animations might be a bit basic, they work, and they help to draw the player into the game quite well. The UI and menus are also easy to navigate, and I rarely found myself lost in them.

Time to skip this one

Sometimes I found the gameplay mechanics rather limiting. The fact, you can’t always choose if a magic user is going to use their healing magic or their field clear attack is annoying. On top of that, you weren’t allowed to switch your characters with an empty space. So, you HAD to switch between two characters for your move to count. Oh, and explain to my why I can select characters and “switch” while it’s the enemy’s turn? The switch doesn’t actually happen, but the game registers the button inputs.

Also, there are some things that aren’t communicated to the player well enough. For example, what does the inventory do? I was pressing the X button, and it only highlighted the button. When I continued to play, I started to understand how to use the inventory, but why did I have to find that out by myself? Also, I sometimes thought the game froze or soft locked… and it took me a while before I released that the game was waiting on my inputs since it was my turn.

The lack of an actual story actually hurts this game in my opinion. I rather have a generic, boring story then none. In this game, you don’t have any context why these fights are happening, and my interest in this game quickly went away as I felt myself going through the motions of every other game. I really felt that there was something lacking in this game and the story is one of the biggest mistakes of this game.

In terms of difficulty, I felt that this game is sometimes more luck based then skill based. A game over puts you back at the start of the game, but you get rewards to unlock more powerful characters. Why this game isn’t a high score game after seeing this mechanic is something I don’t understand. But, this made the game more grind heavy and here is where another big downfall of this game lies.

The gameplay loop of this game isn’t there. You go through the same motion over and over again to get just a little further. This unlocks rewards to unlock better heroes or upgrade your current heroes. While this might sound fun on paper, in the case of this game the repetitiveness of this game left me bored, and I had a hard time writing this article because of it.

Conclusion

I could keep writing a lengthy article about this game, but I think everything is boiling down to one point. This game is undercooked and shouldn’t have been released so fast. This game and the ideas it presents have so much potential, but the actual execution falls flat on its face.

This game has three save slots, but the save system itself is confusing, and I don’t know when my game is saved. The game has three difficulty settings, but you need to beat the easiest setting first before you can play on a harder setting. There is no cancel button when upgrading heroes, and you can’t swap heroes for other heroes when you started a run. The audiovisual presentation is quite nice but due to the repetitive nature of this game, I got bored with hearing the tracks so many times.

I’m sorry, but this game isn’t my cup of tea. I true feel that this game is undercooked and needs some major polishing up work for it to work and be enjoyable. Furthermore, I’m glad to see that other reviewers are enjoying themselves with the game, but I respectfully disagree with the high scores that some reviewers give to this game.

Things that should be improved in my opinion are:

  • A more in-depth tutorial on every screen of the game. Not every mechanic is clearly explained to the player.
  • More audio and visual cue’s to explain to the player when they can/can’t do something or when it’s their turn.
  • A better save system that doesn’t only save after the end of a run!
  • Polish out visual bugs like the “amount of enemies to be killed” counter resetting only after the round has started.
    • It always shows the counter from the ending of your previous run.
  • More communication with the player. What does “Magical hints” in the option menu do?
  • Some story to pull in the player a bit more.

Usually, when I feel this negative about a game, I don’t write about the game and I skip it. I write a feedback mail to the developers and/or tell them that I’m not going to write about the game. But in this case, I decided to write an article anyways since I find that this game has so much potential that it actually made me annoyed. Seeing this game so undercooked, it’s a big let down.

I honestly think that this game needed a lot more time in the over before it got released to the Nintendo Switch. From the digging I have done, I noticed that this game first released as a mobile game and after that on Steam. From what I have seen, the same complaints come up in various reviews. Most of those complaints are the exact same then I have. The last update to the game has been since 2017 and most updates have been bug fixes instead of polishing this game up with new features and more content. So, I don’t have high hopes this game is going to improve or if we are going to see a better version in the future.

Do I recommend this game to anyone? Well, if you are curious about this turn based lane defense game with a lot of grinding and a ton of rough edges, I think you might want to give this game a try but for all other players, I would skip this game. Thankfully, the new game from the developers of this game: Warstone TD looks a LOT better and more promising than this undercooked game.

And with that said, I want to thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading this shorter article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 2/5

Android Games – Let’s start playing on my phone again.

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article with short reviews of Android games, has it not? Lately, I have been focussing on the bigger games and I haven’t given the smaller games some time to shine on my blog. Also, when I was talking about a smaller game, I wrote a longer article on it instead of a short review. But, since I’m currently working on bigger articles and I didn’t want to skip this week, I decided I wanted to bring this series back and start talking about a few smaller games I have been playing on my phone lately. So, let’s start talking about smaller Android games and let’s take a quick look if they are worth your time/money. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the games and/or the content of this article.

ProgressBar95

Steam versionAndroid version

For those who don’t know, I’m 28 years old, and I also have a day job. This day job is being an IT admin in a big art secondary school (high school for some) here in Belgium. My work days are filled with solving problems that teachers and students have, improving our IT infrastructure, developing our website… Apart from that, I’m also a big fan of old tech and I love messing around with old computers and technology.

So, when I came across ProgressBar95 on the app store, I downloaded the game right away. And I fell in love with it right away. The game keeps true to its tagline that this game is a “hypercasual UI game”. The main idea of this game is that you are a progress bar that needs to catch dropping squares to make the progress bar progress. Blue and light blue are good ones, orange are errors but still help you in progress. Pink detracts from your progress bar, so you can get rid of orange squares if you want.

Depending on how well you do, the amount of points you get to unlock various upgrades to your computer. The higher your level, the more difficult this game becomes and the more points you can earn. This game also works with lives, but if you run out of lives, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for them to recharge and try the game again.

So, the interface of this game is top-notch. It nails the ascetic of being a computer amazingly. For example, to toggle sound on or off, you can press the sound icon in the bottom right of the computer. If you click the “EN” of the language toolbar, you can switch languages. It also has a colorblind mode, cloud saving, multiple game modes and one of the best ways to handle microtransactions I have seen.

The different gameplay modes I have played so far is a sort infinite runner Wolfenstein game and a “dodge the red numbers and get to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet”-game. They add so much variety to the game and I love going between them if I’m bored with one game mode.

The biggest recommendation I would give to you is that you buy the extremely cheap “no-ads” package. Overall, the ads aren’t annoying but the game improves so much without forced ads. Now, if you look at the whole shop, you might think that this game is a “pay-to-win” or a money sink. But, no. You can pay to unlock all other levels but 99% of the stuff in the store can be earned easily in-game by winning levels or doing side quests.

It’s clear that this game has a lot of love put into it and I have a hard time finding anything negative about this game. Apart from this game being extremely niche and the game being a little boring for extend playthroughs… But yeah, I honestly would recommend this game to all my other retro gamers or people who are into computer science. It’s an amazing and refreshing experience.

Score: 5/5.

Word Lanes

Android store

So, when I’m in a waiting room or have some time to kill, I love playing small games. Especially when they are puzzle games like word searches or connect the dots to give two examples.

In Word Lanes, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all the words that fit the clues at the top. Each letter can only be used once and the letters have to connect horizontally or vertically to be used in a word.

This game is rather relaxing, and it’s a great way for me to unwind. I also love how the game is fully translated into my native language. The only complaint I have about that is the fact that as a Belgian person, I always have to struggle when the hint is talking about something from the Netherlands. But, I always report them with a handy report feature after you solved a clue. With this report feature you can report typo’s, wrong clues and things like that.

I’m also on the fence about the microtransactions. You earn coins to use the hint features after beating a level, but I feel I always don’t have enough. Thankfully, you have these daily rewards and saving them up is easy then. Honestly, I just think that the prices of the power-ups are a tad bit too high.

But hey, that’s a minor complaint. Since this game has so much enjoyment to offer and the ads aren’t THAT intrusive and only play between levels. Also, quite frequently, I have an option where the ads are disabled for one day. This is amazing and actually makes me consider buying the “no ads” package since I got a free trial.

Score: 4/5

Reigns

Android store

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article about Questr. A game that has some “Tinder” style gameplay while being a questing game. Now, that game was more about adventuring while you created your party with a sort of Tinder app. In this game, the main feature of Tinder of swiping left to reject or right to approve, is set into a “choose your own adventure” game.

Reigns is published by DeveloperDigital and is so close to be amazing, it’s painful. The gameplay is quite addictive, and I love taking decisions as an immortal king on how my kingdom should progress. The atmosphere, sound effects, music and visual design is amazing. It really pulls you into the game and I love playing the game but…

It’s way too easy to take a decision. It’s too sensitive. I had several moments where I was choosing between two options and just because I hit the edge of one side a bit too much, the game decided for me. And not only that, my phone doesn’t have physical buttons anymore and quite often, I had the game deciding for me just because I swiped down to see the time or see my latest notification.

There is also no “message log”. So, when you put the game down for a moment, you can’t see the history of what happened. And if I want to change the options during gameplay, though luck. The menu only appears when see the progress between kings.

This game has a lot of amazing elements like having to balance your four powers and the various twists and turns certain decisions and pathways can take, but it has various rough edges, I fell so mixed about this game. Maybe the PC version of the game is better, but I feel like this game works best as a mobile game. But, I feel like the mobile version just got a few rough edges. For example, I had to look up a way to reset your progress in the game. It turns out you have to hold two fingers on to have the reset screen to show up.

Yet, I advise people who enjoy adventure games to give this game a go. But be warned, the mobile version has some rough edges. But, for the low asking price of this game and the amount of content in this game, I can say for a fact there is a LOT worse out there. And I’m also so glad that this amazing concept got a few sequels as well… So, I know what to play next on my phone.

Score: 3.5/5

Wrapping up

I’m so glad that I gave this format another go and revived it. It allowed me to talk about three Android games I wanted to showcase on my blog, but I didn’t have the time for or wasn’t able to write a good enough “long” article about. I think I’ll revisit this format more often in the future and maybe also use it when I play small games on Steam, Switch or other platforms.

Then again, with my busy lifestyle and the backlog of games I still want to cover, I can’t promise how frequent I’ll write articles like these. I also challenged myself to be brief and short in this article and I had the urge to keep writing about these three games. So, if you want a more in-depth article about one of these games, let me know in the comments.

So, with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

NekoJonez’s 11 YEARS of blogging

Has it already been 11 years? On in late 2010, I opened my Dutch personal blog. And now, that blog died due to personal reasons and I restarted my English blog on the 20th March 2013. So, I have been blogging for 8 years in English and quite close to 11 years if you count the years that I wrote articles in my native Dutch language. So, let’s have a retrospective look at my experiences as a writer, blogger and things like that. Let’s do a sort of celebration for this milestone that I reached with a simple hobby. But, first, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on this article. Yeah, the usual ending of my opening paragraph.

The usual word of thanks

So, the fact that I’m able to reach around 10.000 people each and every year is amazing. Sadly enough, my numbers have been taking a big dive lately. While I can explain that away with the fact that I’m writing less, but way better, articles… It still surprises me that I get around 10-20/visitors each day. I know, I shouldn’t focus on these numbers too much or else I’ll burn out but still, when I compare these numbers with numbers from other people in the community, I honestly feel humbled.

If only I had more time to write more articles, I think I would be able to have even better numbers. I would love to reach as much people as I can since the people I have met over the years, is just mind-blowing. I have created friendships that will last a lifetime. Furthermore, I’m not going to list any names here since I want to avoid that people are going to feel left out, but you know who you are. I love talking to you guys and girls.

Apart from meeting so much other content creators, I also love to interact with the people that read my blog. From indie developers to people who are looking for their next game to play. It warms my heart that people like what I write, and I have to say. From childhood, I always wanted a way to share my experiences and my life stories with others and writing this blog allowed to make that dream become a reality. Because I don’t always play the latest of the latest games and I don’t always play the “most popular” retro titles, I had a hard time connecting to other gamers.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading my articles. I’m still blown away by the support I get from others all the while I keep writing. As said earlier, I might be writing less than in the past, I still see a lot of people interacting with my blog and I always see huge spikes in my visitor graph whenever I publish an article. So, yeah. If only I was better at expressing gratitude and things like that without resorting to the classic speech is usually given by other content creators….

Highlights from the past 11 years

A typical question to ask when somebody celebrates a milestone like writing for over 11 years is what your favorite or most memorable moment was. To be quite honest, I don’t have just one moment. At first, I was planning to through each and every year and give you my best moment for each and every year, but even that wouldn’t do justice to the opportunities and highlights I had in the past 11 years.

This stats above, show how much I have written over the past 8 years while I’m writing this English blog. Let’s just say that I have written over 700.000 words in the past 560+ articles. That’s roughly 1250 words per article as an average. I write and publish around 40 – 75 articles each and every year. So, finding my favorite(s) moment(s) would be finding a needle in a haystack.

So, let me just name a few of them. A few memorable moments that stick out for me and that I currently remember from the top of my head. By all means, these just a few examples of moments I just adored and are the things that just make this blogging experience so memorable for me.

Reviewing Stella Glow

http://thebuttonsmashers.com/2016/08/game-review-stella-glow/

Back in 2016, I sometimes got requests from small developers to take a look at their game. But, when a good blogging friend of mine gave me the opportunity to write about a game I just played the demo off, and I was planning to go and pick up, I was over the moon.

When I started to play the game, I was amazed at the quality and polish that the game had. And not only that, the music and the atmosphere was so amazing. While it’s a shame to admit that I haven’t fully completed the game just yet since I didn’t grind certain characters enough to beat a certain fight, I’m actually planning to finish this game in the near future.

Now, you might notice that the link to the article isn’t on my blog. That’s because as a part of the agreement, I had to publish the article on his site. Which is only fair since he has provided me with the press key to this game. But, it felt so strange being able to write for a bigger company than all the indie developers.

Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing for indie developers. But, the fact that even bigger companies trust their brand in my hands and I only do this as a hobby is such a special feeling for me. So yeah, thank you, Stella Glow for providing me with such an amazing opportunity and the memories that I created while playing this game and talking about it with family and friends while I was preparing the review was such an amazing feeling.

Retrospective collabs

One of my favorite memories in the blogging world is the fact that I was able to do 3 retrospective collabs so far. The idea started when I wanted to write a retrospective series on a game series, but I didn’t want to do it alone. So, the idea of the hub article was born.

The moment of the birth of this idea was actually in a Discord call with another blogger who wanted to start out and was looking for idea’s and cross promotion. Sadly enough, I didn’t hear from that blogger when I was working on the first hub article… But, I felt that the idea had so much potential, I kept the collab running. The end result was:

Not too long after that, The Well Red Mage, who was one of the writers for this collab started his own collab in the same style for the Final Fantasy series. He also did one for the Mario series. In the meantime, I did two other ones.

All three collabs have their own unique stories and memories attached to it. From being able to work with an actual journalist, YouTubers, being promoted by YouTubers, celebrating the anniversary of the series together and writing about the latest recently released game in the series, it’s just magical. I love doing these collab, but they are so extremely draining and demanding to do. But, the rewarding feeling you get when everything comes together, and you see everything get published and launch at the same time… And then seeing the community read and interact with the whole collab, it’s so lovely. And yes, here is a little hint… I may be thinking about the next game series to give it the hub retrospective look… Keep an eye on my blog and such if you want to be part of it.

And while I have only chosen two moments, I can keep listing a lot more amazing moments. From writing an article for HP, The Creative Christmas collab in 2017, those two weeks in 2017 where I wrote 2 articles every day for two weeks(!), the time I interviewed an internet friend who turned game dev, the time that a quote of mine made it on the Steam store page, being called the best tech blog in 2017 and being a part of the list of best gaming blogs on the Internet… those are just a few examples of my amazing ride. And yeah, I just noticed that 2017 was an amazing year for my blog, but strangely enough, it’s the year after that I got the biggest spike in visitors and such. Strange how things go.

Award questions

You know what would be fun as well? Let’s take a look back some previous award question posts I have written and let’s see if some of my answers would change today. How much have I changed in the past years? Let’s find out together. Meanwhile, it’s a fun trip through memory lane taking a look back at the various bloggers who think it’s worth it to follow and read my work.

What’s your earliest gaming memory?

So, my answer isn’t going to change from what I have said in that article. Rather, I’m going to add to the story. It’s true that the earliest gaming memories are playing Pac-Man on the Gameboy. But, one of my earliest gaming memories is also playing Tarzan on my parent’s computer. I still remember that when they bought their first computer, they called me into the office but instead of explaining me on how to properly use the computer, my mom took out a copied version of the PC game Tarzan. I remember playing it all afternoon and bragging to my mom how far I had gotten.

The copied version of the game came from one of her co-workers. I was so sad when the copy stopped working, I had one goal, buy my own copy. And, I’m proud to admit that I took my bike and rode to the toystore and bought a copy for myself. And yes, as a proud game collector, I still have that copy in my collection. It’s one of the games that will never ever leave my collection when I have anything to say about it.

Do you have a games room / corner?

Now, it might only be 4 years since that article, but I have to say, a lot changed. Not only do I live on my own but my games room/corner changed quite a lot. Currently, my retro systems and my computer is in my office and my more modern systems are in my living room. Compared to the pictures, I gained a NES and a Switch in terms of consoles and a few more retro game computers.

Of course, I also gained quite a lot of games to add to my collection. I don’t dare to count the size of my collection at the moment but I estimate that my game collection is nearing the 5K games mark. I really should start counting them one day. I feel like a project is coming up for this summer.

Oh, and if you want to see pictures of my current game room… Well, here are two.

Light theme, or dark theme?

To be honest, for writing I prefer my light theme. It reminds me more of writing on a piece of paper and I feel like I have a bit more control. For reading, I tend to switch between the two.

Now, most of the apps I use on my phone and the default setting on my computer is in dark mode. I just prefer those apps that way. But, I don’t mind interacting with a light theme. A big example is that I have my Microsoft Teams set in dark mode but when I help teachers or students to solve problems with Teams, I notice that the majority has still light mode on.

Now, my answer if I should choose a light or dark theme hasn’t changed… I rather prefer a gray/silver-ish theme since that’s my favorite color. The “bland” yet special color that can support so much while not standing out at all and being easy on the eyes… Yes please. (At least, that’s my opinion on the color.)

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

This is one answer that’s going to change completely. When I was writing that article, I was playing a ton of RPG’s, so it doesn’t surprise me. Also, action…? Well, let me put this into context. There are a lot of things that happen in my life, but it isn’t THAT eventful that you would say it’s an action game.

Lately, I feel that my life is more in the style of a visual novel/adventure game. One where an interesting story is told through the eyes of an IT-admin in an art school who has a lot of experiences in terms of having a ton of different experiences due to being involved in a theater group, speedrunning…

Then again, maybe a simulation like the Sims would fit my life as well. But then again, I think that would fit almost everybody’s life wouldn’t it? But, I think that if you would base a character on me, I think I would be either that helpful companion who helps to solve the problems or something along those lines.

What things do you do to relax?

So, I still love to explore cities but lately, I’m more into speedrunning one of my favorite childhood games. Also, I’m watching less anime lately. I don’t know why exactly, but lately I do enjoy reading more on the SPC-wiki. I just love the idea of a whole universe being created from everybody who wants to contribute to the universe. Also, the stories that are created can be so interesting and unique they can be their own film/movie or have such a deep meaning.

On top of that, I also quite enjoy contributing to open source projects. Especially WordPress lately. I’m not that good of a coder, so I currently help in translating plugins and themes into Dutch and Flemish.

Apart from that, I still enjoy playing games, watching anime/YouTube and writing. Something I also enjoy is going to theater. Which wouldn’t be a surprise if you knew that I also love acting on stage and/or being a part of the technical crew while preforming a play.

So, one of the biggest projects I did this school year was completely revamping my school’s website. I’m quite proud of it, but I’m not done revamping it. But, I have to admit that doing this project also made me discover that I also enjoy creating websites quite a lot. So, yeah…

Wrapping up time

I was planning to do something special last year with my 10 years of blogging milestone but my workload with my job and other personal things stopped me from writing something special. Now, a lot of my workload has to do with me being unable to be unproductive. I always want to do something to work on something. I think that’s just a curse of being a creator. My mind never shuts down. I always think about the next story/article to write or what I can do to help out others.

Like I said in the article I wrote in 2014, I sometimes have trouble enjoying certain things like games. Since I always think about: “How can I turn this into an enjoyable article?”. It’s not that I’m not having fun tho. I’m having quite a lot of fun. Yet, I’m so glad that I decided to listen a bit more to my mental health instead of pushing myself into writing each and every week. Sometimes it’s okay to skip a week (or two), as long as I keep the quality of my articles up.

Looking back to my first article and the articles I write today, I am quite amazed at the progression I made. When I read my older articles, I feel they are incomplete, and I want to edit them to make them more complete. But, I’m not going to. This blog is also sort of my portfolio, and it’s my life’s journey. And I’m so happy that I can share it with you all. It’s a journey that I love going on.

It might be extremely cliché, but I can’t thank everybody enough who helped me, supported me and been there for me in the past 11 years. But, I’m so grateful for all my readers and people who went into interaction with my articles. If you decided to buy a certain game because of me, I hope you enjoyed your time with it. Feel free to let me know if you did.

I don’t know what the future will bring for me and my blog. But you can be sure that I’m going to keep writing. At the moment, I don’t have any reason to stop doing this enjoyable hobby. And if you want to see your game or a certain game reviewed on this blog, feel free to reach out to me via my contact page. The best way to follow me is following my Twitter, since I’m that sort of person who can only maintain a few social media channels and Twitter is the easiest for me to share short updates.

And with that, I’m going to close off this ramble article. It might have been all over the place, but I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (GBC) ~ Speedrun Time!

InfernalMachineGBCWikipedia entry

Times can change quite a lot. Way back in 2014, I wrote an article about one of my most favorite childhood games ever made. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You might think, why am I reviewing this again? Well, in today’s article I’m going to review the port to the Gameboy Color. I still remember getting my copy for one of my birthdays. Since I wasn’t allowed much time on the computer and I saw I was able to take the game on the go with me, the solution was easy. My godmother aunt bought the game for me and gave it to me when I was sleeping over at her place. A few days later, I want to my cousin who introduced me to this game and he got so jealous of my copy that he started to beg his mother for a copy as well. Amazing memories. Anyways, now that I’m also speedrunning the game (both this version and the PC version) and that I have fully finished this game, I think it would be a neat idea to review the GBC version of this game. Is it a good game or should we ignore it? Let’s talk about that while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: want to see runs of this game? 

So, what happened?

3If the developers of this game were able to cram the whole PC game into a Gameboy Color game, I would be amazed. But we all know how powerful the Gameboy Color was a playing a 3D game on that wasn’t fully realized yet. There are a few 3D titles on the Gameboy Color but not too many. So, some things had to give. But, how much had to go and did we still have a good game left? 

Let’s first talk about the extremely strange cuts into the story of this game. When you are used to playing the PC or N64 version of this game, the story in the Gameboy Color game is quite strange to say the least. There is so much less story in this game that if you would only play the Gameboy Color game, you might be unable to follow along.  

The best example is almost the whole ending cutscene after the first level is cut out of the game. You don’t get an explanation on why Sophia was looking for you and the whole setup of the story falls in like a cake you take too soon out of the oven. Yet, when you have played the PC/N64 version, you’ll recognize the story beats right away and know where in the story you are. 

So, since the gameboy wasn’t powerful enough, some sections and even entire levels have been cut. For example, there aren’t any final bosses in this version and Palawan Temple, Jeep Trek and King Sol’s Mines are missing in this version. Instead, we got a new level, the Russian Border. This level is a sort of extended version of the Tian Shan River opening section. 

The story in this game is a mess. I don’t really advise that you try to follow it if you haven’t played the PC/N64 version. It’s a shame since the story of the original versions is great. It really makes you feel that you are playing through an Indy movie. Fun fact, did you know that this game was first going to be about aliens before it got veto’ed because the script for the 4th movie was in development? That movie some Indy fans don’t talk about.

So, is this 2D or 3D?

indjgb004Even games with a messy story can be quite fun to play. So, is this game fun to play? Well, in my honest opinion, I’m having quite a lot of fun in playing this game, but this game has a lot of special quirks you need to get used to, to be able to enjoy this game to the fullest. The first one is that this game is sort of 2,5D game where you look at Indy from above. Thanks to the good use of shadows and different textures, you can be able to quickly see when you are approaching a cliff. 

While you can explore in this game, this game is somewhat linear. There aren’t a lot of moments where you need to backtrack. There is a certain order in which you have to play and beat the level but finding that out is half the fun. Now, as soon as you get a hang of the quirks of this game, it really opens up. Together with the extremely responsive controls, this game is challenge to play. 

So, when I started to speedrun this game, I hadn’t beaten the whole game yet. I had beaten the first 3 levels in my childhood, but the 4th level gave me a lot of trouble. When I actually started to run the levels I hadn’t played yet, I challenged myself and I tried to finish them without looking at the guide. To be honest, I was extremely surprised how the knowledge of the PC version helped me in certain sections and that this game also has unique sections and puzzles. 

Is the game difficult? Well, in a certain degree, yes it is. Healing items are more scarce in this game and there are no checkpoints in this game. When you die, you have to restart the level. A difference in terms of difficulty in this game is that poison can run out. Yes; it can run out. Oh, and med kits don’t heal poison. Only venom kits (green medkits) do. 

Surprisingly, the machine parts have the same use as in the PC/N64 version. The Azerim (flying) tool works a small bit differently but has the same concept behind it. So, knowledge of the PC/N64 version can be extremely helpful in this game to not get stuck. Since, like the original game, the GBC version doesn’t have a tutorial. It doesn’t help you in explaining the controls and the fact you can interact with certain things. A big piece of advice from me, if you are stuck, use the hand on anything strange. If a certain tile on the floor looks strange, use your hand on it. Since lifts aren’t always clear that they are lifts. 

So, the controls. Earlier I said they are extremely responsive. Now that I have quite some experience with them thanks to speed running this game, I have to say that they are precise but can feel a bit floaty. It’s something that has to click with you, or you will have some trouble with it. The D-pad is used to control Indy, the A button interacts with the selected item and B jumps. Start opens the inventory and Select cycles through your tools. 

For this review, I have played quite a lot on my Gameboy Advance as well and I have to say that I can’t decide if I like the fact that I run on an emulator since it gives me more screen space and I can connect my XBOX controller for finer control, or if I enjoy the charm of the game on a smaller screen with a bit more stiff controls. The difference in controls might have to do with the fact I’m running this game. 

Another big difference you might have noticed between the PC/N64 version and the GBC version from the inventory screen you can see a bit higher in this article is that you can only carry 5 of each healing item. You can’t carry more of them. You can purchase more of them with the treasures you find at the end of each level. But, here is something interesting. You can sell your healing items. For example, when you want more medkits, you can sell your green medkits. 

So, what is the gameplay here? This game is an adventure game where you have to platform your way to the end. All the while you have to solve puzzles, fight enemies and avoid traps. This adventure takes you through 15 levels that quite closely follow the structure of the N64/PC version. The red bar is your health and the blue bar is your stamina. 

To beat this game, you have to pull blocks, jump and swing over gaps and solve some puzzles. Most of the puzzles have to do with using the right item on the right location. Sadly enough, picking up and using items can be a bit pixel perfect which is annoying during runs. 

Sadly, you don’t have a map in this game for the larger levels. But, all in all, the levels won’t take you that long to beat. The longest level is Nub’s Tomb, which took me around 11 minutes in my speedrun. Now, certain levels can be beaten in under a minute if you know what you are doing. If you hold up while Indy is moving over a ladder, he can climb it… No matter how long his fall is going. And this game uses that mechanic in certain levels as well. 

All in all, the gameplay is quite addicitive. Especially if you enjoyed the original game. But, I can understand why people would get frustrated and lost in this game if they haven’t played the PC or N64 versions of this game.  

It’s fine

gfs_44058_2_11Now, visually this game looks fin in my opinion. There are better looking games on the Gameboy Color yet, I find the atmosphere the developers created with the visuals is quite nice to look at. But, it looks the best in the correct ratio. It doesn’t look bad in a bigger screensize, but you will have some blur here and there. 

Sadly enough, sometimes certain things like breakable walls or places where you can swing with your whip blend in a bit too much in the background. I’m certain that if when you play this game in a darker room or if you suffer from colorblindness that you’ll be unable to see them sometimes. Which is a shame. I wish they stood out a bit more since things like this give the neat visuals a bad name. 

As said earlier, there are a lot better looking games on the Gameboy Color but with the “weaker” visuals, they still pull off an amazing atmosphere. One of my favorite levels visually is Nub’s Tomb. It also has the worst puzzle in the game with the music puzzle. And let’s not forget the jump over the lake bit and if you miss one jump, you have to restart that whole section.

Are there glitches in this game? Well, not a lot. I found a few spots where the game gets confused so you are able to stand on places you aren’t supposed to stand and if you fall into the liquid in the Infernal Machine level and you are holding a direction button while facing a wall, you don’t die until you release the movement button. 

Now, going back to the visuals. There are also animations in this game. These animations are good. They really add to the game, all the while they don’t feel out of palace. They really blend into the created atmosphere really well. I always enjoyed seeing Indy swing over large pits and always hearing that amazing melody is just icing on the cake. But, let’s not mention how tricky it is to get in the right position to whip over a pit. 

Sadly, in terms of sound effects and music, this game lacks quite a lot. Apart from the main theme at the start and some short tunes, there isn’t a lot of music in this game. In the later parts of the game, there is a bit more music but it mostly aids in the puzzles or certain a bit more tension. I wish these moments were used a bit more. And there aren’t a lot of sound effects either. If I didn’t have to focus on my gameplay, I would play this game while listening to music. It’s a shame since when this game has music, it’s amazing chiptune goodness but it’s so sparingly implemented it’s annoying. Thankfully, the walking sound effects of Indy aren’t annoying. 

There are 15 levels in this game and when you play each level optimally, I think you can beat this game in 4 to 5 hours in your first run and without using a guide. Currently, I’m griding for a full run of this game and I estimate that it will take 2,5 hours if I don’t make too many mistakes. Granted, that’s when I skip all the treasures that are in most of the levels. Apart from, I think, 2 levels, there are 10 treasures hidden in each level. But, in this version of the game, they are a bit well less hidden compared to the PC/N64 version.

The final thing I want to talk about is the password system. As a speedrunner, I’m a bit on the edge on this mechanic. Before I started running this game, I hated this system. Why couldn’t I use the save system like in the Zelda games and other Gameboy Color games. But, now that I run this game, it’s quite helpful in training certain levels or trying to set a new level record. So, yeah. 

Anyways, I think it’s high time for a conclusion is it not? Let’s wrap up this article with a nice conclusion to summerize my thoughts.

Summary time

The good:

+ Enjoyable gameplay with exploration and nice puzzles.

+ Decent visuals (for the most part)

+ …

The bad:

-Butchered story.

-Too little in terms of music.

-Some sections are a bit too pixel perfect.

-Lack of tutorial.

Final thoughts:

Is this game worth your time? If you enjoy games like the old school Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, I would say yes. If you enjoy unique and special old mobile games, I would also recommend this game. But, know that this game is a niche game and it has it’s quirks.

Two things can happen. It can click like it did with me and then you have a nice experience all the while you see the flaws and issues that this game has. The other thing is you realize that this game isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t play it. 

I honestly think that it’s quite impressive how they were able to cram a somewhat solid version of the PC/N64 version into a small Gameboy Color cartridge. I mean, the rom file for this game is only 1MB! This whole game is 1MB and it can provide you with a decent Indy game..? Sign me up! 

Now, if you are on the fence about it, just give the first two levels a try. If you notice that it’s not your cup of tea, then skip this game. If you enjoyed playing the first two levels, I would highly recommend you continue to play this game. 

Granted, I think that the nostalgia for this game might have placed a lot of rose colored glasses on my eyes and I might see this game in a better light then it actually is but should that matter? I think this game is a nice gem in the Gameboy Color library and I would recommend it to people who enjoy adventure games. All the while, I would warn it’s an unique and special game with it’s own flaws but it’s still enjoyable. If only the story was a bit more intact… 

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 80/100

 

First Impression: There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (Switch) ~ Ceci n’est pas un article.

ThereisnogameWikipedia entryNintendo.com micrositeDeveloper site

There is no game here, so there is no article here. I have been searching everywhere in this game and I have found nothing. So, why am I writing about this then? Because I have no other game to write about, and I still want to write an article since it’s one of my biggest hobbies? Well, who knows. I can’t say, since there isn’t an expanded version of a game jam here. Maybe that section in the latest Nintendo Indie World was a lie. … Okay, I don’t think he is looking anymore. I think it’s time to let you in on a little secret. … There might be a game here. Shall we take a look at it? Come on, you and me. Let’s talk about this secret game while you sneakily go to the comment section after reading this article and tell me what you think about this game and/or the content of this article.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

fileD8CAV347I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up the gag from the introduction paragraph through the whole article before it gets extremely stale and boring to read. No really, it might not be enjoyable at all. There would be loads of things that’ll be way more enjoyable to do. Like, read one of my articles or play a game. 

But, since you are still here, I think you want to poke around in the wrong dimension that’s part of the title right? Alright then, reader. In this game, you take on the role of “the user”. Explaining how your adventure gets started would spoil various gags that this game pulls with you and since I try to keep my content as spoiler free as possible, it gets quite tricky. 

The different chapters of this game can be a standalone episode in a series, but it still has an overarching plot. It tells a story about a certain game program that is convincing you that there is no game. But, some strange glitch is haunting him and messing things up for him, so maybe it’s time to set things right. 

You and the game program travel through the various wrong dimensions on your way home to set things right while having amazing humorous adventures throughout various game genres that poke fun at various elements of that genre. The amount of the sneaky references and the clever use in the gameplay and puzzles of this game is just amazing. 

When I said “various game genres”, you might think that this game has a lot of different gameplay styles. Well, this game is a point-and-click adventure. So, while you might be a Zelda-style adventure game dimension, you have to interact with the game via the modern point-and-click controls. But, more about the gameplay later. 

First, let’s talk about our Russian(?) host. Your game program friend is fully voice acted. The voice work has been done by Pascal Cammisotto, who is actually the French developer of this game. While the game is translated in various other languages, the voice acting is stays in English, and it’s glorious. The voice acting in this game is extremely well done and adds even more charm to the game, which may or may not be there.

The pacing of this story is walking on the fine line of going a tad bit too fast and just fast enough. I felt that some sections of this “fictional” game that I have played so far went over a bit too quickly, but I also think that if they dragged on for a bit longer they might overstay their welcome. In other words, in most places the pacing hits the right beats but in some cases, I found that a section was over a bit too fast.

“User, please solve that.”

20200807202822_1So, in this game you have to interact with the world in various unique ways via your usual point-and-click style gameplay. You find various items that can aid you on your quest. Your inventory is at the bottom of the screen, and you can place it in the order you like. If two objects might be able to interact, they get a white outline around them. 

Not that this information matters, since I’m not talking about a game that’s here on Switch, but I felt that this game controls better when being played on the touch screen of your Switch compared to the docked controls. I’m not saying that the controls while docked don’t work, but you need to quickly interact with some actions, and I was able to solve most of the puzzles more easy using the touch controls. 

The controls were quite easy to get a hang of. It didn’t take long before I was able to tackle the amazing puzzles in this game. The difficulty balance in this game gets a thumbs up from me. I really loved to solve the puzzles in this game and the mechanics and gags used to solve the puzzles in this game make the game being a love letter to our hobby even better. 

Also, when you are stuck in a certain section, the hint system gets a chef’s kiss. A ten out of ten. Whenever you click the “Help” button, you can unlock a hint. In most cases, you have to unlock another hint before you can unlock the solution. The only penalty you get from using the hint system is a small “boo” shout that the game gives you. But, I highly advise you to not use the hint system. The solution and out-of-the-box thinking you have to do is so much more enjoyable when you solve it without a hint. It’s a shame, since the hint system is one of the best I have seen in point-and-click games so far. 

The biggest shame of this game is that this game is extremely short. This game can be beaten in 5 to 8 hours. So, I currently played this game for 3 hours, so that means I’m somewhat over half way to beat this game. I always feel quite conflicted about these short games. At one hand, some of these are a blast to play through and provide a lot of unique experiences but on the other hand… I always wanted from the game. 

Nostalgic

tng-fp__xlI think we are currently in the time period where people who grew up with the same sort of games then I did are currently in the indie game development scene. The various game spoofs that this game visits feel so extremely nostalgic all the while that this game is putting its own unique spin on them. For example, the Zelda-style spoof reminds me so much of playing the Minish Cap for the first time. And the first spoof reminds me so much of playing old school point-and-click games from Humongous Entertainment or LucasArts.

The game’s visual presentation pulls you in so much that it makes the game more addictive to play for me. It blends the visual style of its own and the games it’s spoofing so well I have a hard time telling which is which sometimes. I can only praise the artist who works on the visual presentation and the animations since you did an amazing job. 

And as usual, after talking about the visual presentation… I talk about the music and sound effects. And just like the visual presentation, I have no complaints about those either. It’s an amazing blend between modern and retro styled sound effects. I could be an annoying nitpicker and say that it’s an extremely minor shame that the whole soundtrack of this game is orchestrated but then again, that’s extremely impressive for such a small indie game that only costs $13.

So far, I have been praising this game to the moon and back. It’s almost that this game doesn’t have any negatives apart from its short length. The save system works fine, the UI is excellent… I feel that this game is polished and play tested quite a lot before it got released.   

The biggest negative I can say is that this game has some jokes that might go unnoticed or fall flat for younger gamers or people who just get into gaming. I honestly don’t think that the story is going to be so strong if you played it with people who aren’t that into video games. But, if you are well versed into games, I think that this game’s humor and charm will draw you in like it did with me.

Now, this game falls into the trap of being a short point-and-click game. If you want to enjoy this game to its full potential, I highly recommend that you read as little about the game as possible since the fewer you know about the game the better. Otherwise, the charm and humor will hit less hard and that’s a lot of what makes this game so addictive and fun to play. 

The second trap of the point-and-click genre is that the replay value is extremely low. While you might enjoy your 2nd or 3rd playthrough, you will know most of the gags and story beats in this game which makes a 2nd playthrough way less enjoyable. Unless you are doing a speedrun of this game of course. 

So, I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s high time for the conclusion I sort of already gave earlier in this article. If you are into video games and enjoy a point-and-click adventure game, I think that this short game is one you shouldn’t sleep on. While the game works a lot better with touch controls compared to controlling it with the joy cons or a pro controller, I don’t think that it would hinder your experience too much in this game. 

Now, if you aren’t into video games, I would still recommend this game to you, but I have to warn you that a lot of the gags and spoofs in this game will go over your head. The strength of the story only shines when you know a little about computers and games. Then the beautiful game world and the nice audiovisual design will draw you in just like it does it with me. 

If I have to describe my feelings and thoughts about this game in a short paragraph I have to say that this game is a humorous point-and-click adventure that takes you through a nostalgic trip throughout (recent) gaming history that uses it’s gags extremely well. The charm of the story, settings, visual and audiovisual presentation quite well to deliver a short but extremely enjoyable adventure that makes me keep an eye on the developer of this game about what he is going to do next.

So, it’s high time to wrap up this article so I can start finishing this game. I want to thank you a lot for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Oh, so there was a game there… Should I start reviewing it?

Game Quicky: Moon Raider (Switch) ~ Time For Revenge

heroNintendo.com micrositeDeveloper site

Drageus Games is back, and they provided me with another press key for a game with the request to give my 100% honest opinion on the game. The game I’m going to take a look at is going to release on April 23rd on Switch but if you want to play it right now, you can play it on Steam, iOS, Android. Apart from the game releasing on Switch, it’ll also release on the Xbox One and PS4. So, is this action, platformer / metroidvania-ish game worth your time, or should you skip this one? Let’s find out in this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: please note that it's possible that this game gets updated when it gets released and that some things mentioned won't apply. 

Time for revenge

screenshot01In this game you play as Ava, the daughter of a scientist and the former queen of the moon, Selene. Now, our former queen needs special gems to stay alive, but they start to run out and Selene gets quite ill. So, it’s up to Ava to rescue her mother, and she does that by raiding the moon of all places. 

So far, I haven’t gotten too far into the story, but the setup for the story is simple and to the point. I was hanging out yesterday in a livestream of this game done by Star or Shovelware. The reason I bring this up is that I also used his stream as a research to write this article. Of course, I played the game myself but if you want to have an additional opinion, I would recommend watching that stream after reading this article. 

Anyways, the story. It doesn’t get in the way of the game at all. Which is both a negative and a positive. I felt like the story has potential but due to the lack of development of any kind, the story feels a bit useless. Oh well, I’m happy it’s here, and it’s not too generic and actually has a great motivation to play the game.

You would get the impression that this game is a sort of Metroidvania game since it has various elements of the genre but from what I have seen and played so far, this game isn’t that. This game is an action-adventure platformer game with elements of the Metroidvania genre. Surprisingly, it flows pretty well. 

The main goal of the game is getting from the start to the end of the zone. You can do these zones somewhat out of order, but overall this game is quite linear with some secrets hidden for explorers. The move set is quite basic, but it does the job. You have your standard double jump, attack, and you unlock some special abilities later in the game. 

Overall, the controls are extremely responsive. I got used to them extremely quickly, and I also got used to the quirky hitboxes of some things of the level geometry. But, I have a bit more to say about the controls, but I’m going to save that for later since this isn’t the correct section of the article for it. 

Something that surprised me is that by default, the sound and music is set to 50%. I have no idea why that is since the music and sound effects are amazing for this indie title. When you are playing this game, I highly recommend that you raise the volume of the sound effects and music since it enhances the experience quite a lot. The voice samples for the enemies are so well done. The music is decent, and it really adds to the moon raiding vibe. The minor nitpick I have is that this game doesn’t have sound effects for the UI. So, moving in the menu’s is completely silent, apart from the music.

Something you might have noticed by watching the screenshots of this game is that this game looks amazing. The environments are extremely detailed, nicely themed and quite colorful. I think it’s one of the strongest points of this game. The same counts for the animation as well. Together, the game runs at an amazing frame rate and is quite immersive. A minor complaint/praise I want to give about the visuals is that I felt that some traps like the prickly vines in one of the treasure room blends in a bit too well. This can be seen as a good and a bad thing. 

The revenge isn’t needed

screenshot04So, where does this game drop the ball? Well, first, let’s just say that the respawn mechanic is a bit broken. It’s also mentioned in the livestream by Star or Shovelware, but I also didn’t like the mechanic where when you die, you respawn at the start of the zone with the health you entered.

Health pots are quite rare, and I highly advise you to try and stock up before leaving the zone since otherwise you might regret it. For one of the bosses I had to go to the previous zones and get a health pot, go back to the boss zone, go back to the previous zone… Since, one health pot only heals one bit of health. 

There is nothing wrong with the quick respawing, so you can try again and try to avoid your mistake that got you killed, but the health thing really slows down gameplay. If the developer really wanted to balance the game, I think that at least half of your health should have been filled at respawning since nothing is more annoying than being in a long level where one mistake kills you.

A second mistake is the lack of a level select/map/completion screen. There are some animals to free in certain levels and special gems to aid Ava’s mother to pick up in the levels, but you have no idea in which levels they are and how many you have collected already. You have an overall counter on the top middle of your screen, but that’s about it. Thanks to the lords that already picked up gems and freed animals stay freed when you leave the zone, but not when you die.

Thirdly, there are some moments where I felt that some minor quality of life polish could have helped the game quite a bit. I had to learn the hard way that some smaller creatures are not set decoration but enemies. But the biggest thing I feel could be better in terms of quality of life in this game is a bit more sound effects when you use your gem energy. Especially when you are dashing, it would have been nice to have some sound effect when it’s almost depleted, so you could act accordingly and not try to go cross-eyed between the top monitoring your gem energy and the middle of the screen where you have to play the game. 

Another nice example is how the great save system works. The game saves every time you enter a zone. It doesn’t matter if you enter it via the exit or the entrance, your game saves, and you respawn with the amount of gem energy and health you had while entering. Now, this isn’t said anywhere. There isn’t even a save icon to indicate that.

The 4th thing that this game doesn’t do all that well has to do with the movement. Now, hear me out. You can jump up in the middle of a platform, but you don’t go down. In the middle of the lava zones, I opened a gate and jumped up to a higher ledge to avoid an enemy. But, I jumped on the higher ledge, and now I had to go all the way around to pick up the crystal since I couldn’t go down. 

In addition to that, I felt that using the dash was clunky sometimes. I didn’t always feel in control. Since I mostly control Ava by the left joystick and the dash works a LOT better by using the D-pad arrows. I also felt that the “Y” button is a strange button for that. You use “B” to jump and my fingers won’t go naturally to the “Y” button to dash but to one of the shoulder buttons. Maybe this might just be me, but I feel that if you had the ability to remap or use another control scheme, this would have been better.

Apart from that, I feel like the dash drains your gem energy way to fast. This drain made me grind for gems several times which is extremely slow mind you.

There is also no duck button. I can’t count the amount of times I tried to duck to either hit a small enemy or dodge a rocket and looked down instead… That was quite annoying.

The final thing I want to mention is that I find it quite surprising that this game isn’t translated. Usually, Drageus Games’ games are always translated into various other languages. But not this time, this game is only in English. Maybe that might change after the release.

So, yes or no?

ss_b360b3da6090a8aeb997ac9333be437be1189f51.1920x1080

So, is this game worth your time? My answer to that question is YES. While the game has some rough spots which I mentioned in section above, I honestly think the positives outweigh the negatives here. 

If the developers improved the respawing mechanic, gave us a completion list, tweaked the dash controls and gem drain, polished up the controls a bit and maybe control remapping, this game would improve so much. But overall, this game plays amazingly for being a budget indie title. It’s only €10 here in Europe and I have played a lot worse games for that price. 

The hand drawn visuals, the amazing animation and the nice mix between an action adventure platformer and metroidvania makes this game somewhat addictive, and it wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to finish this game on the train back and from work. It’s an amazing time waster, and I’m so glad that I was able to play it. 

So, if you enjoy action-adventure platformers, I would recommend that you check this game out. Like I said before, it has some rough edges but who knows, they might get polished up in a future update. Since, the potential of this game is amazing, and I would love to see this game get the spotlight it deserves and maybe a bit more content since reading from the press kit, I think this game might be a bit too short. 

And that wraps up my article about Moon Raider on the Nintendo Switch. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 4/5