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After Mindful March, I decided to go full on patriot for April. It's the month of our democratic revolution, so it's the best time for that. As such, for April, I went and played every game I owned from a Portuguese developer (all of them on Steam, incidentally). This is no pot-pourri or picnic, this is a... cozido. Num bufete, à vontade do freguês. Portugal, carago!

So please, indulge me for a second as I delve into some weirder games, and enjoy an appropriate soundtrack:

Inspector Zé e Robot Palhaço em: Crime no Hotel Lisboa

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"In glorious ZX Spectrum 256x192 resolution!" - PC Master Race

Also known as "Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in the Hotel Lisbon" in English. But I would never play this in English.

First released in 2013, this was the first game by the Lisbon-based studio Nerd Monkeys. It seems they're big fans of old-school point&click games (late 80s, early 90s), because not only did they make a game of that genre (without voice acting, as most computers of the time did not support it), they even replicated the art style and screen resolution of the time. It's pretty charming, and it complements the weird, exaggerated body proportions that every single character has.

Anyway, this is the story of a sleazy private detective (operating during what I surmise are the late 80s) called Zé, who one day receives a sentient robot in the mail. The robot (Clownbot) pretty much declares himself his "saidequique" and off they go to solve crimes. With Zé's social skills and overly blunt attitude, alongside Clownbot's polite and analytical personality (with occasional dry attempts at humour), they form a decent duo with entertaining chemistry. The main case is that some guy at the local hotel killed himself with 14 knife stabs to the back (left a suicide note and everything), but Zé is inclined to believe it was a murder.

I mean, let's not beat around the bush, this is a very silly game. But not just any kind of silly, this is a game by Portuguese, for Portuguese. Everything, from the way the characters speak, through the occasional 4th wall breaks, to the jokes involving the English language, is permeated with a Portugality that can't be ignored. Like, I wouldn't laugh at the word "Achivementos" in any other language or context. And that's far from the only thing, there are tons of tiny details that are only relevant to my culture. (And after all of the games I played recently that first boot in Portuguese, this is the one that defaults to English? I'll be damned. Even the developers apologised for this!)

The script itself is... hit or miss, comedically speaking. There are plenty of good moments that got a laugh out of me, but there's a lot of low-brow humour in-between. For every great line ("My TV can display colour, and tune into 8 channels. Truly future-proof!", is grade A humour for us who remember what TV was like back then. Mine used to tune into 11-and-a-half channels!), there's a juvenile comment about toilets or dicks not too far behind. It's like, I'm smiling a lot, but cringing just as often. Like a Simpson's episode that alternates between older season quality and newer season quality, depending on the scene.

For more general observations outside of the script... the music is great, mostly consisting of chill, funky Jazz, with one Fado track. I'm considering getting the soundtrack, it's legit great music to have in the background.

Though the game controls like your usual point&click, there are occasional "interrogation" segments that are really good. They work a lot like the magatama segments in Ace Attorney, with you choosing one of three dialogue options while presenting one of your items alongside it. They're simple at first, but with your inventory getting bloated as the game goes on, and the options getting trickier to choose (with tiny differences in wording), It pays to think what each piece of evidence truly means, and becomes a truly immersive challenge, especially since you need to pick either Zé or Palhaço to carry out the questioning (each suspect reacts better or worse depending on who asks the questions, and the script can get quite distinct for each). It's also during these segments that suspects and witnesses get AA-style meltdowns, some of which are even plot-relevant.

Also, the game has "saidequéstes" *ahem* sidequests, which is rare for the genre. They actually work pretty well, as minor cases that Zé takes while working the main case, and they complement the bizarre worldbuilding this game's got going. There are even collectible VHSes scattered throughout the game world (nine of them) as an extra thing to do. Not to mention the Easter Eggs hidden in some corners of the game. For a game that's supposed to last 4-5 hours, there's a surprising amount of content packed in here.

So, in a nutshell... It's an endearing game, made with a lot of love and plenty of strong points, but not one I can easily recommend to the non-Portuguese. I'd love to see Nerd Monkeys try their hand at a more universal or international-friendly setting, because I get the feeling they're really talented at this genre.

I hear they made a sequel, which I'm sure to check out at some point. Oh, and there's a Switch version of this game, of all things!

 

Munin

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Didn't expect Jotunheimr to be this cramped

Moving on to a different genre, Munin is a 2014 puzzle game from Portuguese studio Gojira. I literally don't know anything else about them, so I'm guessing this is the only game they've ever made.

Using Nordic Mythology as a base, the story goes that Munin - one of Odin's crows - was transformed into a human due to one of Loki's tricks, and she must now collect all of her feathers, scattered throughout the 9 realms, before she can return to her true bird form. Her partner Huginn is along for the ride, but all he does is transport Munin from map to map.

Clearly the story is just an excuse for puzzling, so what do we got? Each map can be navigated via 2D platforming, with basic jumps. The main unique mechanic here is that each map is subdivided into squares (the picture above shows a 6-square map, two of which are highlighted), which you can rotate by clicking on them with your mouse, just as long as Munin herself isn't in the square you wish to rotate. You must manipulate each level's layout in order to overcome obstacles, avoid traps, or simply follow an often unclear path towards a farfetched feather.

It's a good original mechanic, and the game is rife with good and creative puzzles. Each realm offers a specific gimmick (Múspellheimr has a lot of lava that flows everywhere, Jotunheimr has plenty of boulders that can be rolled around, and so on), except for the final and most difficult realm Asgard, where every gimmick pops up at once. I really liked these puzzles, and they were satisfying to solve, despite (though more often because of) how trippy the level layouts could get. The only main hiccup is one instance where the solution is that you're supposed to take advantage of a gameplay quirk/exploit (taking advantage of a cooldown quirk of the rotation mechanic) instead of a more logical solution, which jars with the rest of the game's design.

Aesthetically, there's this dour watercolour art style going on, with a similarly melancholic soundtrack. The pictures used for backgrounds and intros is really good, with unique takes on Jotun giants, Hel, and Odin. There are even a few levels with their presence in the background, which actually works pretty well to create atmosphere. Also as part of the overall aesthetic, there are these beautiful poems that introduce each area, inspired by real life Edda. I'm not sure if they sound as good in English as they do in Portuguese, but they do add a lot of character to the game.

But beyond the aesthetic... I can't help but feel like this game was just average overall. It was a bunch of good creative puzzles wrapped in compelling presentation, but it definitely lacks that "it" factor. It was solid, not bad at all, but it wasn't great either.

Maybe (and this is just me musing) it has to do with the fact that the gameplay elements and the overall Nordic setting exist largely divorced from one another. If there had been more thematic levels throughout the game to better gel gameplay and presentation, I think that would've helped a lot. For example, there's a level where you start inside a cage, with Hel hovering next to it. Her being there doesn't really affect gameplay, but it does a lot to help the player get immersed into the setting. I think the game needed way more of those moments.

 

As Aventuras Interactivas de Dog Mendonça e Pizzaboy

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I hope I don't need to translate this title?

So, this is a borderline case. Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy is a small series of cult comic books penned by a Portuguese writer, with art from two Argentinian artists, which even found some moderate international success (published by Dark Horse comics in the USA). The creators wanted to make an official videogame for the franchise, so they took it upon themselves to make it happen, with the help of OKAM Studio... based in Argentina. Makes sense, if the game's gonna look like the comic book, the developer should work closely with the artists. But the franchise is very Portuguese nevertheless, so I'm counting it.

Now, I'm not actually that familiar with the series. I do know the premise is all about how the monsters of legend (vampires, gremlins, merfolk, you name it) secretly all exist in the occult underbelly of society, avoiding regular humans. "Dog" Mendonça (a werewolf) is a Lisbon-based private investigator who takes on such paranormal cases, while Pizzaboy (human, real name Eurico) is his unpaid intern. They're aided by a Gargoyle's severed talking head and an ancient demon trapped inside a little girl's body. Despite the setting, it's a comedic take on detective noir stories, with common subversions regarding how normal the monsters themselves turn out to be, with mundane names and jobs (not unlike the Men in Black franchise, now that I think of it)

Released in 2016, the game turned out to be a point&click, which fits the setting. Plus, the author admitted he loves the Monkey Island games, so this was entirely predictable. Fittingly enough, it's a good genre for this kind of tone and setting anyway.

In this story, Dog takes a case from a lady who asks strange questions regarding gypsy curses. He vanishes shortly after, and Eurico takes up the investigation from there. You might think you'd be controlling both protagonists (and judging by how the story is set up, that might have been the initial intention), but it's Pizzaboy throughout the entire thing. Might be because his sass resembles Guybrush Threepwood more. The script is pretty strong as well, with a sarcastic kind of humour consistently spread throughout the game (though Eurico breaks the fourth wall surprisingly often).

As you can tell by the screenshot above, the game looks pretty dang gorgeous, exactly like the comic. The backgrounds especially are super detailed and contain a lot of subtle gags here and there. Furthermore, there are some action-oriented segments where the story is told via comic book panels that pop on-screen, and those work surprisingly well. Sadly, this didn't translate well to actual animations, which feel a bit more limited. Pizzaboy's walking animations have very few frames, and he's got the one mild facial expression throughout the entire game (and at least one NPC lacks a talking animation, which was just weird). Maybe I'm nitpicking, but you could really tell how basic the animations are while playing, even though each frame looks great individually. There are still a fair few moments with unique interactions, but they feel just as jagged and basic. But on a more positive note, the music's pretty decent, mostly made of slower jazzy tunes, with the occasional upbeat ditties sprinkled in for the more frantic segments.

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Gameplay-wise, it's a very traditional point&click with items, interactions, funny dialogue, etc., with its most unique features being a recurring Punch-Out clone minigame for a few necessary fights (Eurico ain't no slouch), and an interrogation system for certain segments. Unfortunately, these are a lot more simplistic the ones I just mentioned from Inspector Zé, consisting of simply choosing a question from a dialogue tree and picking which attitude you want to take while asking it (usually "Aggressive", "Patient", or "Mocking"). It rewards thinking as much as blind experimentation, so it wasn't very interesting, even though it has the potential to be.

The setting is... weird. It's supposed to take place in Lisbon, but we see a Chinatown, a motel and a theme park in the middle of nowhere, an Indian burial ground... I know the Detective Noir genre takes heavy inspiration from New York and the USA as a whole, but it's weird to feature these nonsensical locations when the plot takes place in a very specific city. But this is not that strong of a gripe, it's clear that this is meant to be part of the bizarre world of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy.

There's voice acting, but I thought it was largely unnecessary. For starters, it takes away from the comic book aesthetic, second, it makes that one unanimated NPC even more jarring, and third, the English voices sucks (they're low quality recordings, and the acting isn't compelling). The game's script is available in several languages including Portuguese, but the voices are only available in English and German. I'm assuming the developers included voice acting because they were told games these days need it, but it was clearly out of their capability.

But there's a fix, of sorts: as it turns out, the German voices (which I assume were done independently, as the game was being released there) are much better acted, with better sound quality as well. I recommend switching the voiced language to German even if you're playing the game itself in English. That's how I played it (though with writing in Portuguese, obvs), and it worked well. Plus, from my part, it was interesting to hear some localization choices they made (for example, Portuguese uses "gypsy" the whole time, while German uses the term "Roma" whenever possible, which reflects the sensibilities of both countries).

One last criticism I'd like to add... the backgrounds are so detailed, it's easy to miss items you can pick up. I had to check guides a couple of times, and sure enough, it was an item in the background I missed. Older titles usually got around this issue by having interactive elements glow, shine, or otherwise call attention to the player, and it's a shame no such thing was implemented here.

Despite me criticising the game a lot, I actually really liked it. There's solid direction behind it, it's cohesive, without any moon-logic type of puzzles, the writing is legitimately funny, the setting is compelling and intriguing, and the game does an overall good job at following in Monkey Island's footsteps. I had a great time with it, despite it also being just 4-5 hours long. Plus, I can actually recommend this game to a wider audience, because the game's style is perfectly enjoyable for anybody, with the Portuguese influence being pretty much incidental. It's just that... it absolutely feels like their budget was just short of many things they wanted to do or implement, so it can get frustrating.

On a final note, there's a funny and unexpected reference to Weeping Angels in this game. Someone says they hate playing Poker with them because "how the hell can you read a guy who stops moving the moment you look at him?" :heh: I swear, this game made finally want to check out the full comics for myself.

  My 2021 log (Hide contents)

Played/Beat/Completed:

-Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019) Beat (January 9th)

-Fatal Fury Special (1993) No Goal (January 17th)

-Art of Fighting 2 (1994) No Goal (January 19th)

-Samurai Shodown II (1994) No Goal (January 20th)

-The Last Blade (1997) No Goal (January 22nd)

-Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 - The Newcomers (1998) No Goal (January 22nd)

-King of Fighters 2000 (2000) No Goal (January 23rd)

-King of Fighters 2002 (2002) No Goal (January 23rd)

-Samurai Shodown V Special (2004) No Goal (January 23rd)

-Harmo Knight (2012) Beat (January 25th)

-Furi (2016) Completed (January 31st)

-Life is Strange (Episode 1) (2015) Beat (February 13th)

-The Stanley Parable (2013) Completed (February 14th)

-1979 Revolution: Black Friday (2016) Beat (February 17th)

-Azure Striker Gunvolt (2014) Beat (March 6th)

-Hitman: Blood Money (2006) Completed (March 10th)

-A Short Hike (2019) Completed (March 16th)

-ABZÛ (2016) Beat (March 20th)

-Silence (2016) Completed (March 27th)

-Huniepop 2: Double Date (2021) Completed (April 13th)

-Horned Knight (2021) Completed (April 14th)

-Inspector Zé e Robot Palhaço em: Crime no Hotel Lisboa (2013) Completed (April 18th)

-Munin (2014) Completed (April 25th)

-As Aventuras Interactivas de Dog Mendonça e Pizzaboy (2016) Completed (April 27th)

 

Dropped:

-Perfect Angle (2015) (January 20th)

 

Edited by Jonnas
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One more to add to the tally... This time it's...

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

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This is the latest installment in the mainline Super Mario series.  Though sold as a bonus add-on to a pretty decent (though somewhat contentious) Switch port of Super Mario 3D World on Wii U; make no mistake, this is a fully fledged, brand new 3D Mario game.  It has almost as much gameplay content as Super Mario 64 and, quite frankly, feels mis-sold as a mere "bonus" feature.  It is a fully fledged entry into the mainline series in its own right, and I'm gonna treat it as such.

First off the bat, there's the big elephant in the room (and no, I'm not talking about Bowser here).  This is an open world game.  No ifs, no asterisks, no buts.  If Super Mario Odyssey was a step towards making 3D Mario into a more open world experience (though I would argue that it's a Banjo Kazooie/Tooie knockoff more than anything else), Bowser's Fury throws all pretence right out of the cat flap.  Bowser's Fury is the first, true Open World Super Mario game, and you ALL know how I feel about open world games in general... (cue the fit of rage about to ensue...)

...

...

... so I'm actually quite shocked to say that this game actually has more genuine platforming gameplay than Super Mario Odyssey! Yes, really! I shit you not!

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Actual platforms! In a Platforming game!? What will they think of next?

For all of its lavish production values and Gee Golly presentation, Super Mario Odyssey was fucking boring to actually play.  Never before had I felt so let down (and yes, furious) at a new mainline Mario game.  It has all the movement options in the world and bloody nothing to actually do with them; with barely any interesting platforms to actually traverse and a whole lotta flat ground to contend with.  Moons were scattered around nearly completely randomly, with no meaningful challenge behind their collection.  They were collectable shite for the sake of collectable shite; and the only enjoyment I was able to wring out of that pile of nothing was to try breaking the game and completing it with the minimum amount of collectables possible (which I did, and then couldn't stomach going back to this anger inducing shite again).

So Mario Odyssey (and BOTW, and well, the Switch itself as a whole really) has left in a really bad mood for quite some time.  So when I heard that Bowser's Fury would be an open world game? I was FURIOUS! OUTRAGED! SICK WITH ANGER! But hey, I was getting it for free along with my Mario 3D World portable port so eh? I'll give it a try...

... you know what? It's actually not all terrible!

This game basically cribs all of its gameplay mechanics, objects, enemies, powerups, platforming mechanics etc from Super Mario 3D World.  That's totally fine by me, we haven't had a good mainline Mario game since SM3DW anyway (wow! That's 8 years ago now... damn...).  However, it uses all of these mechanics in new ways within this open world; kind of like what New Super Mario Bros 2 did with NSMB Wii, with Mario being placed within a wide ocean with islands scattered around that house various platforming challenges.  Structurally, it's not unlike The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker then; with pockets of handcrafted content spread out across the ocean.  This demarcates Bowser's Fury from most open world games (including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), as its world is NOT made up primarily of procedurally generated content.

The moment to moment gameplay is actually much more satisfying than in Super Mario Odyssey, because there are actual platforming challenges to be overcome! What a fucking revelation! Cat Shines are not just dotted randomly around the map, they're rewards for completing a platforming challenge! Hallefuckinglulia!!!  While you'll find that the game does like to repeat its challenges across each island (not unlike Super Mario Odyssey), there's enough done with each challenge to make them feel distinct from each other here... but it doesn't necessarily feel that way (more on that in a bit).

However, Bowser's Fury does take one big cue from Breath of the Wild... and it's unfortunate that it does... It's the visual language here.  Each island is basically like a Shrine from BOTW, presenting a series of self-contained challenges; but here's the kicker, almost every island looks and feels near identical.  There is very little visual variety in this game, with almost every single island being made up of the same, boring looking blue/metal or red/metal looking blocks.  As such, the islands all end up blurring into each other in the mind; and this even has gameplay ramifications, as the entierly utilitarian look means that nothing stands out from each other.  Things that should grab your attention, or lead you down a certain path to a secret just... don't, because nothing stands out.  It also becomes very difficult to remember where specific cat shines are that you need to complete, because everything looks and feels the same! It's Metroid 1 syndrome! And it makes the game much less memorable and enjoyable as a result.

Ceave actually made a really good video about this problem.  It's a bit lengthy (about 30 mins), but it's worth a watch...

This also has the ramification of making the repeated challenges feel really repetitive; because it feels like you're doing the same thing over and over again, even when they are actually designed to test your platforming skills in a myriad of different ways.

That's not to say that there's nothing noteworthy about the presentation taken alone; the cat theme is rather lovely and well realised.  The music is also really rather nice, a big improvement on the whole lotta nothing of Super Mario Odyssey (Let's be honest, outside of just 3 standout tracks - Jump up Superstar, Fossil Falls, Steam Gardens - you ain't humming any of the other tunes).  And while the visual variety is lacking, the audio variety certainly isn't! From Jazz, to orchestra, to metal; Bowser's Fury doesn't disappoint on the audio front! (I never knew I wanted a Mario Moshpit, but by God I do!!)

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Power Rangers... now with METAL!

The Bowser fights themselves are also pretty fun as Super Saiyan Oozaru Mario squares off against Giga Godzilla Bowser; it's ridiculous, stupid and pretty enjoyable.  Though the loading times, as the game switches from the normal world map to the minaturised "giant" world map, does end up breaking the flow of things...

... and yeah... here in lies a pretty big problem... Bowser's Fury is one of the least polished games that Nintendo have put out in a long time.   It's shocking how poorly this game runs! Slowdown is rampant, jaggies are fucking everywhere and handheld mode is a complete disaster (no, really, it feels absolutely AWFUL compared to Docked mode!).  I am stunned that Nintendo released it in this state, I cannot, in all good honesty, recommend that anyone play this game in handheld mode.  Docked mode itself has frequent bouts of slowdown from it's 60FPS target, and the resolution seems to drop below 720p pretty often (honestly looking like a Wii game at times); but GOOD LORD is handheld mode just something else! 30FPS is frequently missed, let alone 60FPS, making for an annoyingly choppy gameplay experience that feels like a 3rd rate 3rd party port.  The aging Switch hardware is really struggling with this game, and when this is coming from Nintendo EPD themselves? Holy shit! We need Switch 2 NOW!

Oh, but that's not the worst offender when it comes to lack of polish... Oh no.  The part that really boils my piss? It's the camera.  What The Fuck!? What happened here!? It's atrocious!

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That's fine, I don't need to see where I'm going anyway

 

How did they mess up the camera so badly here?! It barely follows your movement at all and requires constant babysitting; and with this game keeping the run button from SM3DW? It means that you're constantly having to use the good ol' PSP Monster Hunter Claw to be able to run, jump AND move the camera.  This camera is so lazy that I think Lakitu must've dozed off on shift!

It also LOVES getting stuck on things, and in the few cases where you find yourself having to backtrack on an island? The camera ALWAYS works against you! It's absolutely rage inducing!

Speaking of which... let's get back to the open world part again.  So this game is made up of different islands with various platforming challenges.  Well.  Most of these islands are made up of towering structures that challenge Mario to climb them.  Here's the kicker though, there are NO death holes/plains; because you just have one giant open world map.  Outside of lava? Nothing will insta-kill Mario.  Sounds easygoing on paper, right? Well... no.  Instead, what typically happens is that you'll fall off a tower, only to watch as Mario helplessly plummets back to the bottom & into the ocean; and you are then tasked to swim ALL the way back to the island that you fell off and then start ALL over again.  Combine this with a completely inept, braindead stupid camera, and the Switch's oh so wonderful drifting Joy-cons? Well my friend, you have FURY!!!!

Quite frankly, this game would've been MUCH better if it simply had a level select screen instead of all this open world guff.  The open world structure simply doesn't do anything to enhance the game, and instead, only serves to aggrevate and frustrate as it just wastes your time with meaningless traversal in order to actually get to the real platforming.  You know what's the best bit though? There's no form of fast travel... UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY BEAT THE GAME! It's almost as if Bowser himself is throwing you a middle finger, as you finally unlock the thing that would've been helpful... you know... HOURS AGO!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

All jokes & anger aside though? It's actually not a bad game at all.  I don't know how on earth it managed to get released in such an unpolished state (I can only assume that COVID had a part to play here), but despite the shift to a full open world format? I still enjoyed it much more than Super Mario Odyssey.  While I really hope that the open world format doesn't make a return in future Mario games, I'm at least happy to see the plumber return to actually do some meaningful platforming; about time he earned his keep again!

 

And with that?

Spoiler

New Super Mario Bros 2

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (MSU-1 Switch Remake Music Edition)

Pilotwings 64

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Super Mario 3D World (Switch Version)

Perfect Dark Zero

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Sabrewulf (GBA)

Actraiser

Sonic Delta (Sonic 1,2 and 3&K Combined!)

Bowser's Fury

 

Edited by Dcubed
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I mostly agree with everything @Dcubed says above, but with that theming he was going for, I couldn't resist with that reaction.

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I kicked off April by delving into the Monster Hunter franchise for the first time with Monster Hunter Rise. I had tried demos of previous entries but it all seemed way over my head, there certainly wasn't enough explanation in those demos and the segmented nature of the maps was quite jarring (it didn't help that each section seemed to be tiny too) so I wasn't sure what I was going to think to Rise but I took a punt on buying it at launch. It was definitely overwhelming at first, there seemed so many systems to get to grips with, but there are plenty of tutorials (arguably too many!) to help ease a new player like myself in. Getting out into the environment I was immediately won over with the exploration aspect, riding the Palamute makes the simple act of running around enjoyable in and off itself so I was getting plenty out of the game in the opening hours just doing the initial gathering quests and slaying minor monsters. When it came time to hunt a full fledged beast the lack of a lock on took a while to get used to but I soon got into my stride and was getting through the village quests at a fair clip. The way that the monsters will scurry away in search of food or rest to regain strength is an interesting mechanic, making them feel more alive but I didn't feel like the mechanics evolved very much as the game wore on - it always felt as if I was going through the same routine with every hunt, regardless of the specific monster I was going after, but there was still enough to it that it never really felt like a drag. Don't quite agree with the critics saying it is the 'best game on Switch since BOTW' but it's done enough to win me round to the franchise and I'm intrigued to come back to dip in to the online aspects once I've chalked a few other games off my backlog.

Next up I finally fired up Bugsnax on PS5, technically my first next gen title (seeing as Astro's Playroom is more of a tech demo), I enjoyed the reveal trailer and the accompanying song but I was hesitant about it seeming a bit too 'random' in its use of humour and initially there were plenty of eye rolls as I played through the opening areas but there was enough charm behind the silly puns to keep me interested. I didn't expect the story to be so impressive, helping to rebuild the community of Snaxburg became a really compelling goal with each of the residents having their own interesting and unique arcs. The different snax kept gameplay varied enough for the majority of the game but I expected it to involve more puzzle mechanics for capturing them but it becomes quite routine eventually. That said, the finale was fantastic - packing a surprisingly emotional punch as well as featuring satisfying gameplay - and overall Bugsnax absolutely exceeded my expectations.

The last game I played in April was Hades which completely consumed my time for the better part of a couple of weeks. I've dabbled with a few roguelike/lites in the past but didn't get truly obsessed with one until I played Downwell and Hades cast a similar spell over me. It is immediately engaging, the combat fluid and fun, and it always feels like you're progressing - no matter how many times you die - thanks to the variety of collectables and upgrades. The way it contextualises the mechanics is really second to none, everything fits within the world and the lore, from Zag coming back to life over and over again to the constant shifting of chambers and the Olympian boons that you find, it all makes sense and serves to make the game more compelling. Accompanying the fantastic gameplay is a consistently intriguing story, featuring a variety of interesting side characters and sub plots that give you even more motivation to progress through the underworld. The difficulty curve seems perfectly tuned for a roguelite, the pits of Tartarus seeming imposing at first but you're soon cleaving your way through in no time at all and pushing on to Asphodel and Elysium, inch by inch getting closer to the surface. It's one of those rare games that really took hold of me, wholly capturing my attention and turning into an obsession - utterly deserving of all the plaudits it has received, Supergiant have really impressed me and I'll definitely be digging into their back catalog.

Currently I'm digging into Symphony of the Night for the first time, had a bit of a rough start but I'm getting into the swing of things now so I'm eager to see if it really is up there with Hollow Knight and Super Metroid as one of the best examples of the genre.

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6 hours ago, killthenet said:

Currently I'm digging into Symphony of the Night for the first time, had a bit of a rough start but I'm getting into the swing of things now so I'm eager to see if it really is up there with Hollow Knight and Super Metroid as one of the best examples of the genre.

Nice, I finished that game recently and really enjoyed myself. Though, the game does have some of its issues...

 

Anyway, onto my current main game I'm playing, NieR; Replicant. Made a good amount of progress in the game, made my way through The Aerie and finished the boss battle at the end after meeting Kainé for the first time. Played a bit more and now having to deliver letters for a really annoying old woman , just to see what happens if I do. Very manipulative woman that...

 

 

 

Dang you hidden obscure ladders!

 

 

 

Grimoire Weiss is my favourite character in the game, he's just so witty!

I didn't quite make as much progress as I would have liked though as I was finishing up Soulcalibur VI's Custom Character Tournament that I've been doing on Youtube recently. Did a few Tweets with tournament highlights in an attempt to hype up the final!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now.... here it is!

 

 

EDIT: Oh yeah, a friend picked up Hollow Knight recently so it inspired me to go back and do some of the side stuff to try and get 100%. Collected a few more charms and I'm going for them all now, this included unlocking the Grimm Troupe DLC as well as finding the Godmaster DLC in the process. I also managed to find a few secret rooms that I missed when playing through the game and that allowed me to pick up missing grubs, taking the Symphony of the Night mindset into this one certainly helped!

Edited by Aperson
Missed game

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After 20 pretty stressful hours with Returnal I decided to find something in my library that keeps my heart rate below one million: Vostok Inc.

It's a clicker-game with twin-stick shooting. Yes. Nothing more, nothing less.

Played this way back in 2018 but never gotten the Platinum. Didn't take too long to clean up some trophies and there it is:

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I've decided to put the Returnal Platinum hunt on hold for now.
I love the game and I kinda do want to play it, but its way of handling saves, or rather lack of saves makes it impossible for me to play other games in-between.
You can't save and quit...close the game and the run ends. It wasn't a problem for me when Returnal was the only game I played but now it's a little stupid as runs can take up to 3 hours :D
Housemarque has gotten their fair share of criticism for this, are aware of the issue and will most likely patch in some kind of solution soon.

Sooooooo last night I started playing Bugsnax.
45 minutes in and it's both charming and incredibly annoying and I'm not talking about gameplay. The characters are cute, imaginative and funny but oh so fucking annoying :laughing: Not sure how long I can deal with that :p

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I'm on a roll! Here's another AAA Ballin' addition to this year's tally...

Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa

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This game is the canonical sequel to Space Jam (The movie, not the game), chronicling the tale of the resulting cyberpocalyptic fallout of the playoff between the Looney Tunes & the Monstars; and the destruction of the world after Charles Barkley performed the forbidden dark magickal Chaos Dunk.  Neo New York is a dark and dangerous place, in a world where B-ball is outlawed, everyone has diabetes and Vidcons are the sole form of escapism that survived the Great Purge.  Now, Charles Barkley, forced to re-live the agony of losing his wife & the sport that gave his life purpose, is being hunted down by Michael Jordan and B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S, who seek to kill his only son Hoopz; The One with the ability to restore the power of B-Ball to the world.

This game's premise is absolutely amazing, but you're probably thinking that this is all just some stupid joke; leading up to a tongue-in-cheek punchline... but you would be dead wrong! No.  This game plays its premise completely straight from start to finish and it is S.P.E.C.T.A.C.U.L.A.R!

Each character is surprisingly fleshed out and three dimensional; with as many indentations and grooves as a well crafted B-ball.  The townsfolk are colourful, deranged and exasperatingly memorable; as they fight for survival beneath the dread skies of the cyberpocalypse and its accompanying absurdist scenarios, ranging from a Mafia-like Doctor who surgically alters people into the form of various anime characters & animals, to the harsh treading boot of Square-Enix Goya dooming the unwashed masses to a life of destitution in the face of unchecked corporate greed & malice.

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Well it beats mining for bitcoins I suppose

 

B-ball is a dirty word, spoken only by the few renegade survivors of The Purge with a neo-sheckle or two left in their pocket to spare, but it is here in the power of B-ball that salvation may be sought from Clispaeth.  From the B-ball catacombs, housing the wandering souls of once great Ballers, arises the hope of Balthios; the Octaroon mentor who unites Charles & Hoopz with the Cyberdwarf (now rended into a malformed B-ball); with the help of Vincebot (The once legendary real-life Baller Vince Carter; now reborn in cyborg form).  Together the merry band scour the remains of Neo New York, seeking refuge and answers to the threat of B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S; now in posession of The Ultimate B-Ball; and the deranged denizens of Neo New York, Diabetes Island and everything inbetween here and The B-Ball Dimension.

Oh yeah, and the Save Point guy (who is represented as an animate petrol pump), is also a massive weeaboo dweeb.

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Be prepared for a lengthy lecture each time you save!

 

The dialogue is incredibly well written and the plot beats are well paced, genuinely drawing you into this insane world and making you empathise with its plight and those that dwell within it.  Suffice to say, the narrative is genuinely compelling and (without spoiling anything), I am genuinely really sad that the planned sequel appears to be all but dead within the bowels of development hell I really wanted to see where the story would end up leading to... I can't do this anymore! This is just too ridiculous! This game is one of the most fucking hilarious things I have ever seen in my life!  It's that rare combination of amazing ridonkulousness being played absolutely perfectly deadpan straight and I LOVE it!

This game wouldn't be even remotely as funny as it is if the game pitched itself as being in on the joke, but no; it plays everything out 100% serious all the way through, and it makes the whole thing into an absolutely beautiful piece of comedy!

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Everything Charles... absolutely everything

 

This also extends to the presentation itself, as this game comes equipped with a surprisingly well realised world (well, as far as Game Maker will allow the developers anyway) and a surprisingly really good soundtrack! Neo New York really does feel like a high quality indie take on the Midgar-esc setting, complete with oddly compelling music.  No corners are cut... not even when it comes to the absurd amount of asset theft, with sprites, backgrounds and important music moments straight up five-finger-discounted from countless other games.  Real talk, this game makes far better use of Eternity than Blue Dragon ever did...

jesus christ the guy from deep purple sang this

 

The greatest punchline that this game has to offer though? This shitpost of a game is actually, genuinely, no-lie, honestly, truly, actually a really fucking good JRPG in its own right! It is actually one of the best RPGs I've ever played, I'm dead fucking serious!

The game's battle system is actually really fucking good! Clearly inspired by Super Mario RPGs and its many sequels, the game makes use of various action commands to engage your foes with a variety of special moves.  All of these feel satisfying to pull off, both in spite of, and because of, the jank that comes with Game Maker.  The world is also shockingly alive, filled with a myriad of genuinely interesting and well designed sidequests, minigames, QTEs (yes, really), puzzles, and a huge number of branching paths & events that have a genuine impact on the world and the characters within it!  There is a huge amount of unique & hilarious dialogue and tons of secrets to find, making exploration actually worth your while (unlike most modern RPGs since the PS1 era and onward).  There are even hidden optional dungeons and even a dating simulator in this thing! It's like Undertale before Undertale! This game has NO RIGHT to be anywhere near as good as it is!

It's not a long game either, clocking in at about 5 hours or so on average.  It is paced incredibly well, with absolutely no guff wasting your time (again, unlike most modern RPGs); and the difficulty curve is just right.  Even if it had all of the absurdist comedy and fantastic writing stripped out of it? I would still wholeheartedly recommend it to any RPG fan.  It is a genuinely solid RPG, even with its comedy wrapping ripped out of it.

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... the tough get slammed!

 

Married with some genuinely incredibly well written dialogue, a compelling cast of characters and copious amounts of copyright infringement; you have a genuinely engaging & compelling narrative, and one of the funniest video games ever made.  But even more than that? It's a fantastic RPG that is bursting with unique & well designed mechanics, a truly interactive & enchanting world of insanity, great puzzles, level design and pacing.  It is a complete package, wrapped up in the most utterly ridiculous and hilarious premise humanly imaginable.

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Words for us all to live by

And with that?

Spoiler

New Super Mario Bros 2

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (MSU-1 Switch Remake Music Edition)

Pilotwings 64

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Super Mario 3D World (Switch Version)

Perfect Dark Zero

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Sabrewulf (GBA)

Actraiser

Sonic Delta (Sonic 1,2 and 3&K Combined!)

Bowser's Fury

Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa

 

Edited by Dcubed
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Wait... that's a real game? Um... OK...

 

Anyway, sunk a lot of time into NieR Replicant over the past couple of days and one thing is becoming very apparent... this game is trying to challenge the conventions of video games by imitating them in some ways. It has segments that call back to Resident Evil, Diablo and top down shooters among other things. But most of all, there's one particular game that I think this game is trying to lean on heavily towards.

 

Let me give you this scenario.... young boy who you name at the start of the game gains a magical companion and goes on a quest to retrieve multiple mystical objects to help stop a major villain's plans. He has to go through labyrinthian dungeons and fight a boss at the end of each one in order to retrieve these objects. After obtaining all these objects, the villain launches an attack on a main town and the young boy comes face to face with the villain. Despite his best efforts, the villain wins and puts the world under his rule and order. The young boy must become a young man before he has the chance to be able to turn the tide, with the adult protagnist having a wider range of abilities than their child self.

 

Sound familiar? If you thought "Ocarina of Time" you;d be right, but Nier Replicant would also be the correct answer because I wrote this generic enough for it to apply to both games. e.g. Navi/Griome Weiss, Link/NieR and the Shadowlord/Ganondorf. The fact that both protagonists have both child and adult forms with the adult having expanded abilities (in NieR's case being able to equip more weapon types) is quite obvious. But I think the biggest wink and nod towards Zelda is... this!

 

 

Just as I thought the game was starting to remind me of Zelda a lot, the game goes and puts a straight up Zelda reference in there... the jingle that plays is also extremely similar to the point where only one note is different. He even does the twirl around... actually, lets put this in video form...

 

 

In spite of the Zelda paralells there seems to be something afoot. I thought it was pretty strange that the game flashed forward by 1000 years and everyone still seemed to be the same age. But the game gives further confirmation of this by strongly hinting at something in the Forest of Myth and then during one transition, instead of a page from Yonah's diary playing it showed a black notebook instead with a more complex date and year which talks about some sort of operation... what?

 

It was a one off at the time but... come the adult portion Yonah's Diary entires don't seem to show up as much anymore and the loading screens are more of this black book. I suspect something like a Matrix or something along those lines where this entire world is in-universe virtual. It would line up perfectly with the whole game making reference to different video game genres.

 

Anyone who has played this before will obviously know what that actually is so if there's anyone here who did play the original  Nier back in 2010 then please DO NOT TELL ME what actually happens. I want to try and discover what happens myself. Some characters don't appear to be who they said they were and one of the companions has undergone a complete transformation.

 

In the meantime, here's a few Twitter highlights of the last two days, I did make quite a significant amount of progress...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do think this game does have the slow beginning problem that also plagues the likes of Twilight Princess, Kingdom Hearts II and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. But the story certainly seems to be picking up the pace and I'm intruiged to see where it goes... the thing is though I've now heard that you need to collect all the weapons in order to see all the endings so I'm having to farm for money to buy the weapons at the shops that I don't have yet. They're pretty expensive now!

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38 minutes ago, Aperson said:

I do think this game does have the slow beginning problem that also plagues the likes of Twilight Princess, Kingdom Hearts II and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. But the story certainly seems to be picking up the pace and I'm intruiged to see where it goes... the thing is though I've now heard that you need to collect all the weapons in order to see all the endings so I'm having to farm for money to buy the weapons at the shops that I don't have yet. They're pretty expensive now!

You could just YouTube the endings, since nothing changes except the ending cutscene after your second playthrough. :p

I've played Nier twice and I can barely remember anything of the story. To be honest, Yoko Taro's stories only ever half make sense to me. That might be one of the reasons why I wasn't as taken with Nier: Automata as everyone else seemed to be.

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