Triple Threat Reivew: Scanner Sombre, Hand of Fate 2, Stick Fight: The Game

(Originally Posted Jul 2018)

Welcome back to Triple Threat Review!

This is the series where I pick 3 games from my Steam list semi-randomly, play them, give you my first impressions and score them as either a 1, 2 or 3.

If this is your first time reading one of these articles then please check out the previous edition to find more games.

Now, please scroll down and enjoy the reviews!

Scanner Sombre

Scanner Sombre is one of the games that has been sitting, unplayed, on my Steam list for the longest. I got it in a Humble Bundle around a year ago, not too long after it was released, and I’ve been reluctant to play it ever since. Why? Well, it’s quite simple really, on the game’s store page, the first tag the game has is “horror”. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a total wimp when it comes to the horror genre; in films it doesn’t really bother me, but in games I can’t handle it. However, the laws of random generation picked this game for me to play, so I guess I don’t have much of a choice.

First of all, I was surprised to find that this game was developed by Introversion Software – who made the outstanding Prison Architect – so my interest was piqued since this seemed like quite the leap in genres to make.

The game starts quite simply, you’re in a tent, outside is complete blackness, with a lone light on top of a rock in the distance, so naturally you wander towards it and pick up your scanner. Then the game reveals to you its main gameplay. You are an explorer, who is exploring this cave for as yet unexplained reasons and instead of navigating using light, you use some VR goggles and a scanner to reveal the terrain and represent it in the form of coloured dots.

Straight away, this helps to curb one of the main problems many so-called “walking simulator” games come across, which is giving the player something to do while you’re telling them the story. Normally, just walking through samey looking caves would be quite dull, but because you’re constantly having to work out what the terrain even looks like, and with it being represented in a visually pleasing way, I found that made the game very good at avoiding boredom for the most part.

So what about that horror I was so terrified of? Well…there isn’t really much of it.

Granted, I only got about half way through the game, but in that time, there really hadn’t been much in the way of horror. Pretty early on you come across a figure that looks human, which will creepily turn on the spot to look at you as you move around it, and there’s a small jumpscare a little on from that, but that’s really it.

The game did do a pretty good job of keeping me tense for a while, but eventually that tension faded, sure, having no jumpscares for a while can actually be extremely nerve-wracking, but eventually I’d gone for so long with nothing happening, that I didn’t feel tense anymore and just kept going like normal.

It was at that point, that the game started to lose its legs a bit for me. After a while it began to feel less like I was exploring, and more like I was just going through the motions. I’d wander into an area, scan it, find the exit, rinse and repeat, and towards the end of my time with it, the moments that did try to bring the scares didn’t really have much effect, because I’d already become too comfortable in the world I was exploring.

Not to mention that the environments all began to feel pretty samey after a while. Although the scanning gimmick did keep things fresh for a lot longer than they normally would’ve been, it ran out of steam eventually, and in the last 5 minutes or so, I was pretty bored of it.

That said, I do still want to go back to it, I feel like if I go away from the game for a couple of days before touching it again, then I’ll be able to recapture some of that feeling that pulled me into the game when I first started playing it, and perhaps the second half will be a lot more enthralling than the first.

Overall, while Scanner Sombre isn’t much in the way of a horror game, it’s certainly a pretty solid addition to the walking simulator genre, it’s certainly no Gone Home, but it’s definitely a whole lot better than Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

Score: 2/3 – OK

Hand of Fate 2

Ok, so I’m cheating a bit with this one.

Hand of Fate 2 is actually a game I’ve already played many hours of, but it came out on Switch this week, and I’m never gonna get a better excuse to talk about it so here’s the review.

The first Hand of Fate is a game that had a genuinely very unique concept, the idea of combining  a board game with more traditional types of gameplay is one that I really think should be explored a lot more, and Hand of Fate really proves the idea has legs.

To be simple about it, you have a counter on the board and you move between cards on the table, each card will have some form of scenario or encounter that you have to deal with, either through quick thinking and timing, or by bashing in some faces. When you enter a combat scenario, instead of doing something like Talisman, where you roll dice, you instead enter a small environment and you directly control your character to fight the enemies.

In addition to this you have to manage your resources, you have your health and gold as standard, but there is also food, which you consume as you move from card to card; and fame, which you gain by completing encounters and is required to use certain items.

While, the original Hand of Fate was a tad limited in the encounters, and began to feel a bit samey after a while, Hand of Fate 2 completely fixes this. There are hundreds of different encounter cards, and while some are similar, most of them have their own unique twist in how to resolve them; with tasks such as following the right card, stopping the wheel or the pendulum in the right place, or some good old-fashioned combat.

It also fixes the sense of pointlessness you had in the first game as well, since you were just beating bosses in some vague attempt to beat the dealer at the game. While in this game, there are many scenarios and different ideas of what your goal is each time you play, one that particularly stood out to me was one where I was informed that in three days, a murder was going to take place and I had to work out who the culprit was and stop them. It gives this great context to your adventure that the first game didn’t have, and it really helped me immerse myself in the world and become invested in the overall story of the game.

You also get a great deal of deck customisation as many encounters will give you tokens that unlock new cards for you to add to future decks, some are items that will appear in shops or as random drops, and others are encounter cards, that you can put in the deck to either help you, or challenge you on your journey.

The only major criticism I have with the game is that the combat is somewhat basic. While you have a few items or abilities on a couple of buttons, generally you just mash the attack button until everything’s dead, stopping only on the odd occasion to block or dodge, while it can be fun, it does feel tedious at times and lacks a general sense of flow or grace.

This doesn’t bog down the game at all however, and isn’t really the main focus of things. The simple fact of the matter is that the core gameplay here is just too fun to put down, it has the sense of excitement that a good board game can bring, and each adventure is short enough that you want to keep diving into it again and again.

Score: 3/3 – Great

Stick Fight: The Game

The idea of a casual fighting game, is one that I don’t really feel has been done very well up until now, the game will either end up being too complex for casual players, or far too simple to be fun. Up until now the only game I can think of that got it right was Gang Beasts; so, when I saw Stick Fight: The Game, I had to take a look at it.

The first thing you notice about the game is the aesthetic, which is of course that of stick fighting flash animations from the early days of the internet, and honestly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a high profile one like this to come along, seemed like a definite money maker to me.

Anyway, the actual meat of the game is of course the fighting mechanics, which are pretty damn good for a casual game like this. Personally, I think the mark of a good casual game is something that let’s skillful players do skillful things, while still letting less skilled players do well, and that’s exactly how this combat system feels. When you’re going hand to hand, you will often find yourself just mashing the attack button and doing pretty well, but if you begin to step back and be more smart with your shots and blocks, then you’ll find that you’re able to do even better.

The only major downside is that any real complexity that the combat system has tends to go out the window has soon as weapons come into play. As in every stage, guns and spears and such like will rain from the sky for players to pick up, at which point the game becomes more of a mad scramble than a fight; however, you have the option to turn weapons off if you don’t like it, so it’s not too big of an issue.

One of the most interesting ideas I saw in the game was a pickup that only spawns on certain levels, and turns the player who picked it up into a sort of boss for everyone else to fight (pictured above). I found this to be a really fun way to mix up the established formula of the game, and it’s generally balanced pretty well, and I found it’s fun to play as both the boss and the person fighting it, and can really become a good test of how well you’ve got to grips with the game.

Speaking of certain levels, the majority of levels are very well designed, and there is a great variety of environments to fight on. Be it a pile of precariously stacked boxes, or a giant box that’s constantly rotating, every level adds a unique new layer of complexity to the gameplay that stops the formula from getting boring after you’ve played it for a while.

Although the game is most fun when played locally, it does also feature online matches, and it’s very easy to just jump in and play with randoms, or host your own private session for friends; and most importantly, there is very little in the way of lag. Occasionally I had a couple people jump about the place without explanation, but it was almost always down to my own terrible internet, but when my internet was running smoothly, I didn’t have any problems with online games whatsoever.

Overall, Stick Fight is a great addition to the resurgent “couch game” genre, standing tall next to similar games like Gang Beasts and Towerfall Ascension. I can absolutely see myself pulling this one out when I’m playing games with friends to have a good time.

Score: 3/3 – Great

So there you go! I had a really great time with the games I played this week and I’m hoping that we can keep this good will going into the next one!

Until then please share this around on social media, and follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo and thank you to the wonderful @lauren_cmonster for editing this one for me!

 

Triple Threat Review: Quaratine Circular, Chronology, Spectrum

(Originally Posted Jul 2018)

Welcome back to Triple Threat Review!

This is the series where I pick 3 games from my Steam list semi-randomly, play them, give you my first impressions and score them as either a 1, 2 or 3.

If this is your first time reading one of these articles, then make sure to check out the previous edition.

Now please, scroll down and enjoy my look at this week’s games!

Quarantine Circular

The reason the screenshot above is simply of the main menu is because this is a mystery text-based adventure game, so I recommend going into it as blind as possible, so if you’re one of those people who wants to experience it blind, then I shall simply say this is a very good game and is well worth the mere four pounds it costs on Steam right now. So far I have played to the end of the fourth chapter, I will try my best to avoid as many spoilers as I can, but I will be using a couple of minor spoilers to illustrate some of my points; so beware of that.

Quarantine Circular is the next game directed by the wonderful Mike Bithell, who made the fantastic Thomas Was Alone and the brilliant Subsurface Circular. This game follows a similar format to that of Subsurface Circular, a text-based adventure, where you’re using focus points and other details to ask questions and learn as much as you can about the world to help you make necessary choices for the story.

One thing Bithell games excel at more than anything else is their world building, in Thomas Was Alone it was done through the soothing tone of Danny Wallace’s narration and in both “Circular” games it’s done simply via dialogue. Normally this can be an issue, as I mentioned last time in my review of Bear With Me, using dialogue for all your exposition can be quite tedious at times, but the writing in this game is so well done that it doesn’t feel like an exposition dump at all.

You play the first two chapters as an engineer who is tasked with setting up a translation matrix, so that the humans can communicate with an alien they have found. Once you’ve done this the alien will converse with you and you begin to learn about what’s going on. This develops over the next chapter until eventually that character is forced to leave; and this is where the first major difference from Subsurface Circular comes in.

I had assumed at that point, I would be following that same character as he wandered around the ship, asking questions and trying to uncover what’s going on, but instead the perspective then switches and you then begin to play as the alien. At first I was slightly wary of this difference, I believed that the singular perspective in Subsurface Circular was what made uncovering the mystery so enthralling, but as I started to play as the alien, I realised how brilliant of an idea this was.

You see, over the first two chapters I had been conversing with the alien, and learnt a lot about them, their personality, what they think of humanity and such like. This meant that now I was playing as them, I was able to properly get inside their head and really be able to react and talk in the way I think that character would do so normally. Jumping around perspectives like this allows you to really sympathise with all of the characters, because you’re forced to think like them in order to progress.

My only worry is how everything will be resolved, as I said I have just finished the fourth chapter and – according to the Steam achievements – there are only two more to go. I’m just a little worried that the ending might end up begin a bit rushed based on where I currently am, but that is purely speculative as I haven’t played that section of the game yet.

Overall, Quarantine Circular is another gold star for Mike Bithell, using all of the elements that make his games great to brilliant effect. The world is enticing, the story gripping, and one that I’m going to go back in and finish, the moment I finish writing this review.

Score: 3/3 Great

Chronology

As you’d expect from the title, Chronology involves no small amount of time travel. Most of the main mechanics in this puzzle-platformer centre around manipulating time in some way, to create an enjoyable, albeit flawed, experience.

The game does a very good job of introducing all of it’s mechanics to you, at a pace that gives you enough time to get used to them, but not so fast that you feel overwhelmed by the information. The first is the main puzzle mechanic of the game, which is a watch that our main character created which can switch him between two points in time; before or after the world was ripped up.

After a few pretty simple puzzles based around using the passage of time to make trees grow and such like, you meet a rather chatty snail with a mechanical shell, that you can use to cling to walls and ceilings, allowing you to traverse terrain that you couldn’t on your own. Then things start to get a bit weird, because the snail can teleport to you no matter where you are. This goes unexplained, but I can look past it for the sake of game mechanics; what I can’t look past however, is why the snail can FREEZE TIME. They give a passing line to it saying “That’s what I was built to do!”, but that doesn’t explain how it’s even possible in the first place.

While these are annoyances, they don’t drag the game down too much, as in a puzzle-platformer like this, story and world building is generally pretty bare bones, and the gameplay is what we’re all here for, so what’s that like?

It’s ok I guess.

The platforming aspect of this puzzle-platformer isn’t great, a lot of platforms have hitboxes that don’t quite make sense, and I’ve found myself messing up jumps on multiple occasions, because I feel through what I thought would be solid ground. However, the platforming in this game is pretty secondary to the puzzle aspect of it so what’s that like?

Well, it’s pretty much the same way I’d describe the game as a whole: enjoyable, but flawed. The difficulty ramps up nicely, and I found myself scratching my head on a couple of occasions, and the solutions are always logical and make perfect sense with the mechanics, so that’s one big tick. However, the mechanics don’t always gel very well, while all of the mechanics individually are clever, when you pile them on top of each other, they can often become a bit much.

Not in the sense that it gets to complicated, but in the sense that you have to do so much stuff for a single puzzle, that once you’ve worked out the solution, executing it feels more like busy work, and it led to several occasions where I got to the other side of a puzzle, and instead of feeling satisfied that I solved it, I felt thankful that I didn’t have to faf about with the busy work anymore.

All that said, I did come away from Chronology feeling positive overall. While the platforming could get frustrating the puzzles were, for the most part, enough to keep me going.

I don’t think I’m going to go back to it any time soon, but I had fun with what I played of Chronology, and I recommend you give it a try.

Score: 2/3 – OK

Spectrum

Now. If there’s one genre I’m a self-proclaimed expert on, it’s extremely difficult reflex games. Super Hexagon, Boson X, One Finger Death Punch; all of them have fallen by my hand. So when I saw Spectrum – an extremely difficult reflex game – I knew I had to try it out.

The basic premise of the game is simple, you must guide a small black blob through the level, it can jump and dive an infinite number of times and must avoid coloured surfaces. Pale surfaces will do one point of damage (you have 3 total) and darker surfaces will instantly kill you.

When it comes to these types of games, I judge them based on 3 main criteria, which are: movement, difficulty curve and how death feels; so let’s explore them shall we?

First off, movement. If I were to play this game with a keyboard, I’m not sure I’d be such a big fan, but I played this game with a controller and it was excellent. The little black blob (whom from now on, I shall simply call Geoff) is very responsive when it comes to direction and jumping. There’s a nice flow to every action you perform, and once you’ve got the hang of things, it can be very satisfying indeed.

What’s most interesting about the movement, is that it’s a lot faster to dive down than it is to try to jump up, so you are faced with scenarios where you need to position yourself properly at the end of each movement in preparation for the next one.

Next up, difficulty curve. This genre tends to have two ways of executing a difficulty curve, one is the “slow and steady” adopted by Boson X, or the “brick wall” adopted by Super Hexagon. Spectrum does a very nice slow and steady curve, I breezed through the first set of levels, only to slowly grind to a halt as I progressed through each set. I believe doing difficulty like this is generally the better approach, since it makes the entire game feel like a learning process, which goes a big way to offsetting some of the frustration that games of this nature can give.

Finally, how death feels. Games of this genre tend to succeed or fail based on how death feels to the player. It’s very important that the player doesn’t feel like that deaths are the game’s fault because that leads to frustration, however if the player knows that the death was their fault, then they’re far less likely to get frustrated, and instead feel encouraged to persevere and overcome whatever it was that stopped them.

Spectrum very much falls into the later category, the precise movement combined with the smooth difficulty curve and well designed levels, meant that I didn’t find myself getting frustrated at all; I knew every death was because of some mistake I’d made and I wanted to get back into it and try again straight away.

Overall, I can’t describe Spectrum as anything other than a fantastic addition to a genre I love. It passes in all of the major categories, and I can see myself coming back to this one for a very long time.

Score: 3/3 – Great

That’s all folks! I was really surprised by how good the games were this time around, I went in not expecting much and was blown away by what I played, let’s hope we can keep this up for next time.

As always, please share this around and follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo, and come back next week for my WWE Extreme Rules predictions and the next episode of the Strong Style Podcast!

Until next time!

 

Triple Threat Review: Rumu, Lost Castle, Omensight

(Originally Posted Jun 2018)

Well, people seemed to enjoy the first one, so let’s keep this going!

Welcome back to Triple Threat Review, this is a series where I pick three games at random and review them! Each game gets a score of either 1, 2 or 3; I score them based simply on how much I enjoyed playing them.

So without further ado, let’s get right to it!

Rumu

So first things first, this is a mystery game that’s all about the story, so go in as blind as possible. I’m going to avoid any major spoilers, but I will mention some minor ones in order to get my point across; so if you want to avoid that, just know that this game is very good and you should go play it.

For the most part, story focused games generally aren’t my thing, I really don’t like any Telltale games, and things like Life is Strange generally fail to enthuse me. However, about once a year a story focused game will come along that manages to appeal to me in just the right way. These are usually Mike Bithell games such as Thomas Was Alone and Subsurface Circular, and Rumu caught me off guard a bit.

I originally found it while I was scrolling through older videos on Jesse Cox’s channel, I saw the aesthetic and thought it looked like my kind of thing. I then watched a clip of the very beginning of the game, after seeing this clip it looked to me like it was going to be some sort of puzzle game where you play as a sentient vacuum attempting to clean everything in sight, so I stopped watching the video and picked the game up and well….I was half right.

You do indeed play as a sentient vacuum cleaner, with AI that attempts to mimic human emotions; specifically love. There’s a lot more to the emotional side of things than that, but saying any more would ruin it. Either way, once you’re finished with the tutorial the story starts up properly and the game establishes all the story tropes you’d expect from this kind of thing, however, where most games would either conform to all of them, or attempt to subvert all of them, this game has an interesting mixture of the two which does a great job at keeping you guessing.

Speaking of keeping you guessing, the game really pulls you in every direction throughout the story, even when things seem to be coming together it’ll reveal something you never saw coming. Although, not in the kind of way where it feels out of nowhere and unearned, all of the twists make total sense when you piece everything together. The best example of keeping you guessing I found was the AI who gives you your tasks and information. Now I, very much like most people, heard a overbearing AI telling me everything’s fine and instantly assumed it was the secret bad guy, but as I said, the game does a great job of keeping you guessing, there were moments I was certain it was the villain, and moments I had the complete opposite belief, and it never became clear until the final revelation.

There’s so much more I could say about this game but it’d just spoil the experience, so just go and play Rumu, it’s a fantastic experience.

Score: 3/3 – Great

Lost Castle

Roguelike is a very crowded genre these days, and as such, any game in said genre is usually heavily scrutinised and compared to the kings of the genre, such as Binding of Isaac, or FTL, so there’s a lot for Lost Castle to live up to.

At first glance, one would compare Lost Castle to Binding of Isaac, but upon playing it you soon realise that they don’t have as much in common as you’d think. The basic plot of the game is that, thanks to a spell gone wrong, demons have taken over a castle and you’re a daring treasure hunter looking to grab all that’s inside; and in order to eventually accomplish your goal you have to die…..a lot.

The first thing that struck me about the game was its combat, which is the main crux of the gameplay. You play with either a Two handed, One handed, Ranged or Magical weapon, each of which play differently and you randomly spawn with one of them in each run. Here is the first of my gripes with the game, one of the things I find most fun about games like this is how each individual player will adapt to the game in a different way and choose a different style that they excel with and having you spawn with a random weapon takes away from this somewhat. For example I found I couldn’t play with magical weapons very well, which meant that when I spawned with one, it felt like my run was a waste of time, and I invariably died within the first couple of rooms.

In addition to this, you can only hit enemies on a horizontal plane, and generally I don’t have a problem with this as it seemed to work for the game, however I was often frustrated as it’s not always entirely clear whether you can hit your enemy from the plane you’re on. There were multiple occasions I’d fire off an attack that I thought was sure to hit, only to have it miss entirely.

While I did find I got more used to it as I played, this game seems to be littered with all of these little frustrations like the one I mentioned above. Another that would constantly rear its head is that enemies would often have the same animation for being stunned and death. The only indicator an enemy is actually dead is a little skull that appears above its head, a few seconds after it finishes it’s animation. This means there were many scenarios where I had assumed an enemy was dead, only for it to suddenly leap back up and deal me a bunch of damage.

The game also has up to 4 player co-op, and to an extent, the single player experience does feel a bit lacking because of it, right out of the gate some enemies feel a bit too bulky for no real reason, and I generally got the overall feeling that the game had been balanced for you to play with at least 2 players.

In games like this – that are designed to be difficult and you’re supposed to die a lot – it’s important that the player never feels like the game is screwing them over. While for the most part I did feel like every death was my own fault, there were occasions like those mentioned above, where I’d lose a large chunk of health or die because of what felt like poor game design.

With all of that said though, I did still have a lot of fun with Lost Castle, while it might take a little while to get the hang of, I found myself wanting to keep going back for more and seeing how far I could get. I’m interested to see what some of the late game has to offer, whether it is more unique enemies, or just more enemies.

So while Lost Castle definitely has its flaws, I did have fun playing it and I imagine I will go back and play more of it in the future.

Score: 2/3 – OK

Omensight

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Omensight, it’s quite a seamless blend of many genres, it contains many mystery, hack-and-slash and RPG like elements; normally a game trying to cram this much in would be quite the mess, but Omensight manages to achieve it well.

Not flawlessly however, it seems to have a lot of information to give you so the first 20-30 minutes feels like quite the exposition dump. I would’ve preferred it if the game had spent a little more time easing you into the world, with a bit less telling and a bit more showing. However with that said, once the game is done setting itself up, it takes its foot off the gas a bit and lets you enjoy the world some more.

The basis of the story is that you’re some ancient spirit tasked with preventing the end of the world, but despite your seemingly infinite powers, you don’t actually know what’s causing the end of the world, or how to stop it. You have to work it out by reliving the final day over and over from the perspectives of different major characters, gaining new abilities along the way that allow you to take different paths and uncover more of the mystery.

Spending time with each of the different characters does a really good job of involving you in the world, and seeing its complexities from every angle, and I found myself becoming more attached to some of the characters than others. This does make me wonder how much your choices will affect the outcome of the game, since you’re supposed to be an unbiased party attempting to prevent the end of the world, will there be consequences if you choose a side?

As for the gameplay, I found myself very much enjoying my time playing Omensight. The combat is pretty much what you’d expect from any hack-and-slash style combat system, with fast reflexes for attacking and dodging being key to your success in combat and some magical abilities thrown in there too.

While it’s nothing unique I think that’s perfectly fine, there’s been quite the trend in recent years of games trying to reinvent the wheel with combat in games, and while there are a few that excel because of it, most fall flat; so I’m very happy to see that this game simply focused on trying to perfect the existing formula. Speaking of, I’d say it does a very good job of using this formula, the flow of combat feels very nice and every attack feels weighty and important, and the magical abilities flow nicely with all of it. I’m interested to see how things fare when the game is played on a harder difficulty however, I played on the “balanced” difficulty and I didn’t really come across much of a challenge in my couple hours of playing. I only died once and that was because of the camera.

This brings me to my only major issue with the game; the camera. While it would often frame a room quite nicely, I found it to be rather uncooperative when trying to perform certain tasks. The game encourages exploration and going off the beaten path, yet I often found that quite frustrating to achieve because I couldn’t make the camera point where I wanted it to. The death I mentioned earlier was due to me attempting to make a jump that wasn’t possible, because the camera made it look like it was; and then upon my death, the camera panned down more and revealed a much closer platform I could’ve jumped to.

But this doesn’t drag the game down too much in my eyes, because I’ve still had a lot of fun playing it, the story is very intriguing and I want to keep going, but more than that, I want to keep playing the combat and hack through waves of enemies, feeling like an ethereal badass. This is a game I will definitely be playing to completion.

Score: 3/3  – Great

And that’s it! Three more games that I enjoyed this time round! This does make me wonder if my luck is eventually going to run out and I’ll get a bunch of bad games, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

As always follow both myself and my editor on Twitter, @10ryawoo and @lauren_cmonster respectively, and please make sure you share this around and come back next time!

 

Pokemon for Switch Rumours: Let’s GO Pikachu/Eevee

(Orignally Posted Jun 2018)

*sigh* Ok, let’s talk about this shall we?

Before we get started let’s get one thing clear, as of writing this article, these are NOT leaks, they are rumours, as credible as they might be, there is no information in any of this that has been confirmed by Game Freak or the Pokemon Company. However these rumours have been gaining a hell of a lot of steam, and upon researching them, they begin to look pretty credible, so I think it’s worth talking about.

I’m not going to discuss all the details about how these rumours came to light, or how solid their sources are, I’m just going to talk about what these rumours say, and what I think of them.

Pokemon Yellow remakes for Switch

Would I prefer gen 8? Yes. Would I prefer gen 4 remakes? Absolutely. Do I hate the idea of new gen 1 remakes? No I do not.

The last time we visited Kanto in a main series game was in Fire Red and Leaf Green on GameBoy Color in 2004, Two thousand and four, that’s 14 years ago, I don’t understand this bile in the community about Kanto being “done to death”, yes it was in the Johto remakes too, but Gold & Silver Kanto is very different to the original. On top of that the GameBoy Color is very old technology at this point, older than Gen 4 on the DS, and it doesn’t really do Kanto justice as the “definitive” edition of the region.

Finally, there’s the personal note that, I didn’t become a Pokemon fan until 2010, so I’ve never actually played a Kanto game, and while I know roughly what to expect, I’d love to have my first real experience of the region be on the wonderful Nintendo Switch.

Pikachu and Eevee will be the versions

A hundred times yes, I’ve never really had an opportunity to use a Pikachu properly in any of the Pokemon games, so I think I’d have a lot of fun using it for the first time. While Eevee is one of my top 3 favourite Pokemon, it’s in the header for this site for christ’s sake, it makes so much sense as a starter Pokemon given the options you have with it, and having an entire adventure with Eevee as my partner will be a wonderful time. On the subject of choice however…

Only the original 151 Pokemon will be available

This to me, is the clearest indication that these will be side games, because in order to make this work, they’d have to essentially undo all of the balancing they’ve done to these Pokemon over the years, since so many of them have got evolutions now and made their pre-evolutions much weaker in comparison. If they were to go this route, I’d also like them go all in with it and put Special attack and defence back into one stat, and maybe even get rid of all the types that were added post gen 1, just for this game to really capture that authentic Kanto feel.

Pokemon Go integration

Whether you like this or not, it absolutely makes sense, Pokemon Go was one of the biggest trends of this generation back in 2016, and while it died down a bit in 2017, this year it seems to be getting quite the resurgence, with more and more events and support coming out for the game on a regular basis.

In addition to this, Sun and Moon didn’t get quite the boost that Game Freak were hoping for from Pokemon Go when they released in 2016, so bringing in those fans with this game, could easily get people hooked on the more mainstream series of Pokemon games, in time for generation 8 to drop with a massive boom in a year or two.

However, mechanically speaking, the main sort of Pokemon Go integration that was being talked about is the catching mechanics, and this makes for an interesting discussion if you ask me, because if you were to just copy/paste the catching from Go, into this game I think it’d be awful. However, if you were to combine the two, taking all the variables that increase your catch chance from the main series games (health, status effects etc.) and combine that with the throwing mechanics that Pokemon Go has (Nintendo loves their motion controls after all), it could make catching Pokemon a lot of fun.

Announcement soon, releasing this year

Personally, I think one of the purposes of this game is for Game Freak to test the waters with a lot of new ideas they’ve come up with and see what sticks, to eventually put into future main series games.

Regardless, I am so excited to see what’s next for the Pokemon franchise, and I really hope we get some sort of announcement soon to clear up all the confusion in the community right now, but I think it’s important not to get too critical or analytical in a time like this. A dose of skepticism is healthy of course, but don’t let it cloud your joy and excitement for the next major step in this awesome franchise.

Well there you go! This was a bit of a brain dump that I wrote at 3AM, so I hope it all made sense, there’s just been so much buzz about this over the past couple weeks I couldn’t stay silent on it any longer.

As always, make sure you share this about, and keep and eye on this space as I will be posting here once any new information is revealed. If you want my live reactions to stuff like this though, check out my Twitter at @10ryawoo, and of course the wonderful @lauren_cmonster for stopping me from sounding like a lunatic….sort of. See you soon!

 

The Best Sonic the Hedgehog Zones

(Originally Posted Apr 2018)

So sometimes I get a craving to go back and play through games again. I tend to play through at least one of the old Assassin’s Creed games once a year, and Skyrim is a game I will always go back to. Anyway, the most recent of these cravings was Sonic the Hedgehog, so I went back and played through all of the original 3 followed by Mania, and it got me thinking, what do I consider to be the best zones in Sonic the Hedgehog? Here were the eight I came up with:

Studiopolis Zone (Sonic Mania)

So, Sonic Mania is perhaps my favourite Sonic game, all of the redesigns of the old levels were fantastically done, but I think the originally designed levels are where the game really shines and Studiopolis Zone is where this is most prominent. Everything about it just screams innovation, you will constantly be coming across new mechanics and gimmicks all the way through the level, and they really managed to capture the feel of what I imagine a Hollywood style studio would be like on Mobius.

From the music counting down to “action”, the giant popcorn and bingo machines, the whole zone feels like the set of some elaborate game show set up by Dr Robotnik. This stage really nailed the feeling of what a “modern-classic” Sonic level should be and if the team that made Sonic Mania went on to make their own fully original game, this is what I’d want to see more of.

Rooftop Run (Sonic Unleashed)

THIS is what a good 3D Sonic level should be. The entire level is a non-stop blitz across the rooftops of Spagonia and it is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a 3D Sonic level in a long time. It has just enough to think about so you don’t feel like you’re just holding the run button and waiting, but also doesn’t try to be so complex as to slow down the pace of the level, and it communicates all that to the player. With the narrow streets and the upbeat music, you know you’re in for a rollercoaster when you start this one up.

The rest of Sonic Unleashed may be a flaming pile of trash, but this shows the true potential of what a 3D Sonic Game can be.

Green Hill Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)

What would a list of the best Sonic zones be without the original? This zone is one of the reasons Sonic became so popular, it captures exactly the essence of what the Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay is all about, momentum. All of the dips and loops at every point in the level are there to teach the player right from the outset how the core mechanics work and its able to do it all seamlessly to make a zone that’s still fast paced and great fun to run through; While it still keeps you on your toes with enemies and secrets hidden throughout.

This level is the basis for the design of every 2D level that came after it, and for that, it is truly one of the greats.

Sky Babylon Zone (Sonic Rush Adventure)

In my “Why am I a Gamer?” post, I talked very briefly about Sonic Rush Adventure on the Nintendo DS but I never talked much about why I liked it so much, and this level here I think is the best one to talk about why I like the game so much. When you think about it, a handheld console really seems like the perfect place for a 2D Sonic game, they have that kind of scale and innovation to them, and this level encapsulated exactly why they should’ve ran more with the DS in particular.

Unlike the other levels I’ve talked about so far, this one isn’t particularly fast paced, in fact it can be rather slow, but speed isn’t the point of this level, thinking is. If you rush in headstrong into Sky Babylon you’re going to get your arse handed to you and you’ll lose all your lives; you have to look before you leap. I’m usually not a big fan of Sonic games trying to buck the trend of the series (see Sonic ’06 and the night levels of Sonic Unleashed), but keeping it small-scale like this really helped it out, and with the release of the Nintendo Switch, I hope to see more levels like this in future Sonic games.

Ice Cap Zone (Sonic 3)

Ok so first thing’s first, listen to the soundtrack for this level, there are very credible rumours that Michael Jackson had a hand in creating Sonic 3’s soundtrack, and nowhere is that more obvious than here. Anyway, onto the actual level.

2D Sonic games tend to have two very different styles of levels. There are the fast paced sprinting levels (see Green Hill Zone) and then there are slower puzzley levels (see Labyrinth Zone), but this zone is able to blend both of those styles beautifully. It starts out with a fast snowboard ride down a snowy mountain before it throws you down into caves where careful platforming and interesting puzzle mechanics are the order of the day, before you escape into act 2 which is much faster paced and seemingly more free-flowing than the first.

The whole thing strings together beautifully to make one of the most overall well-formed zones in the history of the franchise.

City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2)

Sonic Adventure 2 is a game that hasn’t really aged very well if you ask me. I went back and played it recently, and it just felt so slow, and there are huge chunks of it which are just boring.

City Escape however, is none of those things. I can see why this was the opening level of the game as it leaves a great impression, with a deliciously early noughties soundtrack backing up this thrill ride through the streets of discount San Francisco.

Unlike most other levels it can be nicely split up into three distinct chunks, which are all enjoyable in their own way. First up is the skateboarding (sort of) down the streets of the city, this is a great way to open things up as it gets the pace going, it then reigns things in a bit with a more traditional platforming section before hitting you with That-Bit-With-The-Truck™ which is a great set-piece to end the opening level on that gets you amped up for the rest of the game.

Chemical Plant Zone (Sonic 2)

Whenever most people think of classic Sonic levels, this is one of the first ones that comes to mind, the level design throughout every section of this level is genius. It constantly changes up what kind of style you’re going to have to play, you could be running full speed down a slope one second before suddenly being thrown into a section of precise platforming and purple water of death.

This was the level that taught me to be cautious and not to trust the level I’m playing, this is very much a level where death is just one mistake away at all times, but I don’t feel like it’s unfair levels of difficulty, it’s just a bit contrarian. The entire franchise is built around going fast, but this level politely asks you to slow down for a change, then when you ignore it, it slams it’s fist down on the table and beats you down until you start to listen.

The redux of the level in Sonic Mania was even better and the use of the new mechanics was fantastic, it was able to recapture that feeling of always keeping me on my toes and fearing what’s just behind the loop as I barrel through it at the speed of sound. Also the music, good god that music is wonderful.

Flying Battery Zone (Sonic & Knuckles)

I adore this level so much. That feeling of being kept on your toes and not knowing what round the next corner (figuratively) really is at its peak here. The level feels like a maze, but you’re never lost or confused, you’re always able to keep moving forwards and make progress.

It’s such a deep level too, between Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic Mania I’ve played through this level many times, but as recently as my latest playthrough, I’ve found new sections in the level and new paths to take. It’s a level that I always have fun exploring, even when it’s parts of the level I’ve already been through.

The best Sonic levels for me are the ones that I’m always excited to play, and when the first note of this level’s soundtrack kicks off, I always get hyped up to play what is easily my favourite stage in all of Sonic the Hedgehog.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for reading, if you want more of my ramblings make sure to check out my other articles and follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo. Also don’t forget to share this around as I’d love to get as many eyes on it as possible.

I’ll be posting a few more articles as we gear up into Wrestlemania season, and I have a couple more gaming articles in mind for the coming weeks, so watch this space! See you soon!