Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

This comes with a trigger warning. Senua’s sacrifice is not for those who have schizophrenia or having relapses of psychosis. As someone with schizophrenia who is in recovery, Senua’s story was hard for me as it played on all the things that I would go through if I was having a relapse.  The story of […]

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Bite Size Reviews – Mom Hid My Game

If were growing up like me, you might have experienced Mom Hid My Game’s base scenario. Your Mom has stolen your game console, as the name of the game would imply, and you have to navigate an ever more elaborate way to get your game boy back to in order to play.

The puzzles were often intuitive. Checking the game boy behind a bookcase, or distracting your mom on the couch so you can get the game boy back. But often they were equally bewildering; cultural signals such as looking under a cushion that would be used to sit on were for someone who could be dealing with someone who wouldn’t be so in tune with other cultures.

One aspect that was credit to Mom Stole my Game was the fact that all the levels are short in nature. For each puzzle the rooms are the same (by in large) so you get a sense of where things are easily placed. Every time the game makes it clear what the threat to your success is, and it has very straightforward clues to your success.

Failure states are always quick and if you don’t find the right answer the first time around, it’s easy to leap back into action.

The only downpoint I can say about it is for accessibility. 

This can become one of the biggest frustrations of the game, as these have been hard to time, even for someone who is ablebodied. And there was no way to make it any easier! Ruling out some of the final act of Mom Stole My Game

Not to get spoilers-as it ‘s not worth spoiling this ending. I would encourage players to see Mom Stole My Game ‘s journey through to its end, however. In the final act, there is a marvelous piece of game design and narrative direction that brings the players through a journey of connection to technology and how it affects your relationship with those near you.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX – Review

Having pumped double digits of hours into the new Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX, I can safely say beyond doubt that this is the most loving entry into the history of the franchise. It will charm old and new players alike. However, much like its first incarnation, there were several opportunities where developer Spike Chunsoft could have made moves to better plan a better player experience where it matters the most and that is within its dungeons.

Choosing your character  A selection of Pokémon appear before the character ranging from Bulbasaurs to Machops
Choosing your character.

It all begins with a Question

I remember when I picked up Mystery Dungeon for the first time. I was sitting in Eddie Rockets (Johnny Rockets to my friends in the USA) and when the game asked you to place your finger on the touchpad and begin your quest by answering a series of personality questions. I was hooked, hooked the same way I can remember being hooked playing Pokémon Crystal when the first female playable female protagonist was introduced. The same way I remember being hooked when I first started playing Pokémon Red. I knew that this would be a love affair that would last me my entire life.

Little did I know how right I would be, leaning into all entries regardless of version. A love that would lead me to buy multiple copies and keep old systems around just to go back to that world, that place. A deeper love than maybe the original Pokémon series had on me as the series was more formulaic in its iterations.

Mystery Dungeon was something special to me. Something unique. This wasn’t just a protagonist who I was aiming to be, shoes I was yet to fill. This was my own journey, with my answers, my solutions, with my friends.

So when I heard of the remake it thrilled me to bits to go back into this place, and I’m delighted to say that Spike Chunsoft (the makers of hit visual novel series Danganronpa) made a faithful recreation of the Mystery Dungeon world; with some beautiful ascetic changes.

Watercolour Masterpiece. Pikachu and Bulbasaur by a forest lush with watercolours straight from a childs book.
Watercolour Masterpiece

Watercolour Masterpiece

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX is stunningly beautiful in its depiction of the world. It’s the closest thing I’ve come to going “this is exactly what I had in my brain when I was young”. The watercolor imagery captures all that is whimsical, bright and alive in this world. It is bright without being overbearing, a brightness you could stare out at for hours without needing to avert your gaze. Thankfully there are instances in the games where you can pause for a moment to take in your surroundings. Even going so far as to have a dedicated art mode viewer on the main menus.

I’m grateful for that tiniest of little touches to take your time and appreciate the world that you’re in. It encourages a place to go and gather yourself, place your feet firmly on the ground and take your time to get to grips with everything that the game has to offer. It is deceptive in its ability to surprise you. Especially as the game starts to get into the deeper aspects of the story.

Many to one. Your team vs a load of enemies
Many to one

Not so Mysterious Dungeon

Formulaic is the kindest word that I can find to describe the gameplay, although a more accurate word would be boring. The dungeon part of Mystery Dungeon is easily the weakest part of the game. Which is unfortunate – as it is the most predominant part of the game. The premise of the mystery dungeon title is that every time you enter a new dungeon it is different from the last one you enter. This means you can only go so far to prepare for what lies ahead of you.

This has its pros and cons, naturally. Pro’s being it does keep the gameplay from being completely dragged down by the sameness of having to go through the same layouts on repeat and you will encounter different sorts of Pokemon on each run you do. Giving you more opportunities depending on rare qualities a likelihood to recruit them onto your squad for more adventures.

Cons, unfortunately, outweigh the pros. You invariably are trying to do quest markers more often than you are doing a quest to boost your rescue teams’ rank because you just can’t bear the thought of having to do any more dungeons. I was doing so many dungeons at one stage I had to take a break because I was getting headaches. That’s not the best sign in the world that your gameplay is engaging or keeps you in a rewarding loop. The items you get from dungeons are, most times, are either completely useless to your objectives or essential items that you need for dungeons; like apples.

The Kecleon Shop that you have access to in the Pokemon main square or occasionally popping up mid dungeon has an uninspired array of items. Apples are essential for longer dungeon runs, as getting hungry will invariably lead to your party fainting if you can’t get some sustenance. The shop only selling one of these a go at any one time just isn’t useful. You have to bank on the ability to either find them in dungeons as they spawn or that the shop in dungeon spawns more than just a single-use item.

What is the biggest gamble of these mystery dungeons is starting them in the first place. There are no hard and fast rules for level requirements and you will find out super quick if you are under the level required for it and with that loss comes the loss of all of your money as well as your items. So if you have had a set of equipment and are fully prepared for your dungeon you could get wiped out in one go by just having an unlucky encounter or worse, a monster house.

Silver linings in unlikely places

Auto Mode allows the player with one click to move around the dungeon
Auto mode

There are some incredible accessibility modes that more developers could do with taking on board. Some of these are unique features and others are just sheer thoughtful input created from a thoughtful development process. There is quite literally an overabundance of them. Some of which there has been no fan fair or notice through other outlets, but I can’t tell you how much these things matter for players with disabilities.

Auto Mode

Auto mode is a mode where, as the name would imply, allows your character to explore the dungeons without you needing to toggle or hold down buttons in order to explore. The auto mode only ceases when there is an enemy in sight, allowing the players to make a decision on what to do from that point on.

Move Sets

For players with Cognitive difficulties or simply new players who wouldn’t know what the best moves are. They can simply press the A button and the game will make the best decision as to what move to use in order to get the upper hands on your opponents.

Highlighted Text

One of the best things that I have seen in accessibility tools is the ability to look into highlight words by simply hovering over the words. Each is colour coded into their specific categories so they are distinct from each other at all times. This gives the player the ability to review at any time what is going on or what item will have an effect etc.

Audio Captions

Something that goes so understated in video games is the ability to read captions. Thankfully, Spike Chunsoft has been experts in their field when it comes to visual novels. All that experience comes into play with the way that they have used text in this game. Not just in the way that they have used highlight text, as per the example above. But their ability to capture sound in text to tell a story. This level of storytelling should be standard across all titles, as this is a level of care that you take to include people from all backgrounds, levels, and experiences in being able to enjoy your game fully. I can think of no higher praise than this. It is a sheer masterclass of accessibility and something that developers from all around the world can learn from.

A Storys End

Camp Corner with Wigglytuff and our protagonists
Camp Corner

There is an awful lot to like about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX. You can feel the love of the source material from the Spike Chunsoft team and the care that went into developing this game. Using their length and breadth of experiences to breathe new life into a franchise that was feared to be left in obscurity. However, even with the quality of life improvements as well as some stellar accessibility features – it doesn’t stop the game from having some fundamental flaws where it matters the most and that is in its gameplay.

It leads to a larger conversation around remakes, how close should you stay to the sources material in order to maintain its truest self? With other remakes of significance lurking around the corner like Final Fantasy VII, I’m sure this will only be the start of the debate to come. All I know is that I’d appreciate the intention but am sad for the opportunity missed to tweak some mechanics or to expand on what made the series iconic, to begin with.

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Secret of Mana – Why I’m excited about the remake.

In August 1993, the game was released initially as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan on the Super Famicom (SNES) but sold outside Japan as Secret of Mana. Now, as of 2017 Square Enix is has decided to remake the beloved series which will be released in North America on February 15, 2018.

Earlier this summer, a Mana collection containing three pillars of the Mana theme; Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Seiken Densetsu 3.  This was Japanese exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. Now the second game in the series is headed to the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita as well as Steam.

According to Famitsu, this is a full remake with full voice-overs, a new musical arrangement, other new elements like upgraded gameplay and graphics. It will also have local multiplayer on all platforms. All sounds so far so good, right?

Well, with the launch of the SNES Classic launched at the end of this year I’m not too sure. If you were one of the lucky ones, who got these hands of one of these elusive mini consoles you will already have access to the legendary RPG. One of the charming things about the SNES Classic will find that, among other things, the most exciting inclusions was the inclusion of the range of JRPGS. One of the things about the SNES Classic that I love is that its entire library of games has lasted the test of time, so they’re still great today. There are very few games on the consoles roster that I wouldn’t play, which for me was a more enticing prospect than the original NES mini.

So, I’m reminded of how good Secret of Mana is with the SNES mini, but I was struck by how much it could benefit from an update. I’m, personally, not concerned about the new art direction that it’s taking. Chibi style is something that I’ve always had a soft spot for that style, and while there seem to be some odd texture choices, it’s not enough for me to be super concerned.

This is primarily because I’m so excited that there will be a new generation of players who will be able to experience this incredible game with no significant changes to its narrative other than its visual aesthetics. I have a similar feeling of optimism surrounding the remake of final fantasy 7 (although, I’m less pleased with it being episodic, but I digress). So, for now, I’m going to trust that we’re going to get the remake it so richly deserves.

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Animal Crossing : Pocket Camp Review

Animal Crossing has always had the same appeal to me as the Harvest Moon series. It’s like good comfort food; it’s regular, consistent and expected. There are no surprises and satisfies a need that I have of getting lost for a few hours doing meaningful tasks in a world that is not my own. This need for getting the comfort food I’m so used to is the reason why I’m so conflicted about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.

camping experience 2

I started with the Animal Crossing series late, as I never had a Nintendo 64 or a GameCube growing up (my family was a Playstation household growing up – bar handhelds). So I missed the original Animal Crossing, and my first fling with the series was with Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo DS and it was love at first play. I loved the character style, the size of the map, how you interacted with the characters and the overall flow of the game. It has a Sims or Harvest Moon effect – where you tell yourself you’re only going to play an hour max of it and suddenly it’s 4 am.

So I was equal parts thrilled and concerned when Nintendo announced that they would be releasing a mobile version of Animal Crossing. The one thing that I didn’t want was it to be completely overrun with prompts to hand over my money to get apples from a tree. (You can find more about my thoughts on microtransactions over at Noobist.com http://noobist.com/gaming/microtransactions-questioning-noise/) It turns out that those fears are only half realised.

camp and chill

When you first start out in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you’re greeted by the regular faces. You’ll be first greeted by K.K. Slider, and then Isabelle, who’ll get you up and running in your campsite. From then on, everything goes mostly as expected; you’ll be befriending neighbourly animals, collecting fruit, hunting bugs, and customising your campsite & minivan. Most of these events are set up via timers, so you can only do a set amount of things in a certain amount of time. This means that there isn’t as much of a time commitment so its perfect for waiting for a bus or queuing for your shopping but it isn’t so suited for more extended play sessions.

There are things you can do to extend your time should you have extra time to kill. For instance, fishing can be completed in one of two ways. Firstly, is the traditional way where you go from area to area catching fish with a rod. Or you can skip the fishing for a net which catches multiple types of fish at once the catch is (ha!) that it costs leaf tickets. This is where the game begins to get a bit cash happy as this is the games premium currency.

So, for those who unwittingly spent their tickets early on in the game during setup – I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Leaf tickets are a strategy in themselves, a balance of what you want versus what you’re willing to wait for. You can acquire Leaf Tickets in-game at the beginning with relative ease given the stretch goal systems. They give you tickets readily and freely in the beginning just for getting simple tasks done. But the good times don’t last forever I’m afraid.

There become barriers to entry to specific areas like the ore mining camp without payment of some leaf tickets. Or having to pay for trees to regrow, fishing nets, upgrading your bays to purchase more than one piece of furniture at a time. The list gets long and endless, and as a result, loses its sweetness. It forgets that spark that made it go to comfort food, something that you can sit down and relax with to something that is more a convenience snack. Enough to keep you going, but not enough to fill the void.

That’s the best way of summing up what Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is something to play when you’re just casually waiting for a bus or a way to pass a little bit of time. However, trying to get the full-bodied experience of Animal Crossing game will not be found here, or at least not without serious investment.

E3 2017 – EA Press Conference [Noobist.com]

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Original Article to be found at Noobist.com

E3 2017

Ah, E3 2017. Gaming’s version of Christmas. Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 for short) is an annual conference where all walks of life from the video games come together to discuss what’s coming up in the industry this year. Everyone attends: from software developers to retailers and everyone in between. A lot of hype happens around this conference as the big names in industry showcase what they have to offer for 2017.

Madden 18 Longshot

madden-long-shot

This year’s E3 lineup starts out strong with a gripping introduction to the campaign mode of Madden 18 Longshot. If you’ve been following any of my work for long, you’ll know I’m not into sports games. They just don’t do it for me. However, I have to say, that the story mode of going through the drama of what it would be life to be an American Football Star had me engrossed. House of Cards engrossed. Hook. Line. And Sinker. Well done, Madden, well done. You can check out the trailer yourself and let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

Star Wars Battlefront 2

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Moving onto Star Wars Battlefront 2, you have to give credit where credit is due. CEO, Andrew Wilson admits from the get-go that they had a lot to learn from Star Wars Battlefront.

Two years ago we launched Star Wars Battlefront and we got a lot of feedback. A lot of it positive and a bunch of it constructive. That’s a uphamism for not as positive.

You know what? I respect that. I appreciate the fact that he can admit that there were a lot of frustrated fans and players from the rather hollow experience that Star Wars Battlefront was. Time will tell as to whether or not they have indeed learned their lessons from the first Battlefront and what will change in this iteration of the franchise.

While microtransactions are still a thing, there is a lot to be said for the studio electing to not have any paid DLC with Battlefront 2. They’re aware the goodwill they built up vanished when they charged what they did for what was essentially four maps. Let them try and earn it back I’d say. They’re aware the game will sell, but they will be under more pressure now to not take the mickey with it.

Battlefield 1

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It’s always reassuring to know that Battlefield 1 will not be left out of the E3 love this year. As Andrew Gulotta, Producer of Battlefield 1 talks through the success of the franchise so far. Though, it did give way to some of the most awkward montages of games live streaming/YouTube experiences of playing BattleField 1 that I’ve ever seen.

It illustrates the power and where the influence for games are going these days (to the players and influencers). It hit home to me at that moment two equally powerful things. 1): They’re paying attention to the movement of gaming and where the hubs are. This is good. 2): They’re taking streamers and YouTubers content to present at E3. Yikes.

The reason why I say Yikes is because it makes me very self-conscious about how young the industry is, and yes, these moments are crucial to a gamers life. I don’t know why, but it showcased this way felt invasive in a way I can’t describe. Communities are built around these things, and generally, it’s not for the benefit of the publication of these communities.

Not that I feel that showing these communities to a wider audience isn’t useful or beneficial – but my fear is for the larger audiences of these conferences that it may just perpetuate the stereotypes of what we face already as gamers. I think that’s what I’m the most uncomfortable with. That and the lack of diversity in that clip. Those who were talking about the engagement in their communities were predominantly white men. I only saw one female, and I know a lot of women who play Battlefield, so this made me feel uneasy.

In the name of Tsar is the latest expansion coming to Battlefield one and it will contain eight new maps all based around the Russian Army around World War 1. There will also be a new competitive battlefield experience, based on the feedback that they’ve received from fans. Patrick Söderlund talks through what to expect in this update.

Later this year we are going to give you a new competitive Battelfield experience. We’ve heard you. You want a smaller, tighter experience focused on teamplay.

We can look forward to hearing more about it at Gamescom later on this year.

FIFA 18

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FIFA is FIFA is FIFA. I know next to nothing about it, except that Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (no not that one) is on the cover of it and contributed his data to the game to help it be more realistic. For those in the eSports world of FIFA,  you’ll be pleased to know that EA is heavily investing in the scene and that more championships and leagues will be coming to your monitors soon.

Need for Speed: Payback

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A bit of Burnout mixed in with some Horizon style open world with the regular additions of the Need for Speed franchise. So, what’s not to like? We’ll find out more about it soon in due time.

A Way Out

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A Way Out is probably EA’s most exciting new title for this year’s E3. From the Studio that did Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. This Prison breakout game is one that should interest the wider community, giving some Last of Us/Uncharted vibes. Lots to be excited about given how stellar Brothers was. I’d be cautiously optimistic about what comes next for this studio!

There is a lot to digest from this E3 2017 presentation from EA. It shows a different side of the company, one that is painfully aware of itself and the market. Yet, hasn’t really hit the nail on the head regarding tone and approach. That being said, there is a lot to be looking forward to in the next year with an impressive lineup of old and new titles.

Best Cases for the Nintendo Switch!

With the new release of the Nintendo Switch on Friday the 3rd of March 2017. New owners revel in their new purchase! (Myself included) However, in the excitement, it is always likely to overlook one of the biggest features of the Switch. That is, its portability. If you have just spent €312 on a console that you intend on carrying with you on communities, you should really have a case to carry the thing in! So lets have a run down of the top Nintendo Cases that are available to purchase right now!

SF/Waterfield Design – Switch Case

SF/Waterfield Design are known for protecting they’re gaming kilt. Already having bags for mobile devices such as the 3DS and the Vita, it is no surprise that they’ve created a case for the Switch. Made from Leather, this bag has a stunning appeal in terms of its appearance. You would not mind carrying this pouch around with you in public. It just oozes of class. With room enough for cables, game cards, and headphones this pouch should definitely be a must see for those who are willing to spend a little bit more to get something exceptionally classy.

SF Nintendo Switch Bag
SF Nintendo Switch Bag

Pre-Order: $79

For those who are looking to move more than just their Switch and Joy-Con around. There is an option for a Multiplayer Pro Case. This can Carry everything from the dock to the Joy-Con Grips all in the typical classy design that you would expect!

Nintendo Switch Multiplayer Pro Case
Nintendo Switch Multiplayer Pro Case

Pre-Order: $149

Gamestop – Official Nintendo Switch Case

For those who are looking for the more official route. Gamestop Ireland are stocking the Official Nintendo Switch Accessory pack. This pack has the case itself, with the Nintendo Switch logo on the front and comes with a screen protector  and kickstand/stand for the Switch included in the bundle. At €20 if you’re looking for the Nintendo solution to your carrying problem, this is a good case to look at!

Official Nintendo Carry Case
Official Nintendo Switch Carry Case

HORI Switch Tough Case (Nintendo Switch)

For those who are looking for something a little bit more robust in terms of protection, but still are looking for something sleek. The Hori Switch Tough case will be a difficult one to beat. It’s hard shell, and focus on protection of the touchscreen built into the case itself makes this case a great alternative for those who don’t like the hassle of having to worry about screen protectors. (But please, put on screen protectors)

£29.99 at Amazon.co.uk

HORI Switch Tough Case (Nintendo Switch)
HORI Switch Tough Case (Nintendo Switch)

So what do you think? Are there any more cases I missed that you think should be on this list? What cases did you get for your Switch? Let me know in the comments below.

Remember to give this blog a share on your favourite social media, and don’t forget we have a Nintendo Switch Unboxing over at Should You Care? YouTube.

Without Iwata-san what now for Nintendo?

http://m.ie.ign.com/articles/2015/07/13/nintendo-ceo-satoru-iwata-has-passed-away

I’m devastated by the news that Mr Satoru Iwata has passed away at the age of 55 due to a bile duct growth.
Being someone who grew up with the original Gameboy, Nintendo has been a part of my life. Nintendo products have accompanied me through all states of my development – even well into my adulthood. I’ve always been very fond of Mr Iwata as a developer before he became president of Nintendo. I knew deep down that Iwata would have a lasting legacy that would continue well into the mid 2020’s. It’s such a tragedy that his life was cut so short.
Mr Iwata was known for his friendly attitude to fans along with his openness. As one of the first major corporations to peel back the curtain into the inner workings of the gaming industry, he became a much respected and loved figure of modern gaming.
Being such a force of good for Nintendo, bringing around new consoles and the revival of handhelds. Questions now appear as to what’s next for Nintendo at such a precarious time.
Nintendo have recently had a bit of controversy over their new partnership with Japanese mobile developers DNA, sparking debate and concern that the much loved franchises might in someway be diluted for the smartphone market.
It comes at a time where Wii U sales are still low & with the announcement of the NX and a new ecosystem of products that all connect – it’s hard to think of who is going to lead Nintendo through this transition.
I’ve no doubt that Nintendo have had some preparations in place, and some plans for the future. All eyes will be on Nintendo to see what is next. For us fans, it is now time to mourn the loss of a great leader in Video Gaming.
This world would be a much more lonely place without Nintendo, I hope that for a company over 100 years old that they will be able to maintain the course set for being around for another 100 years.

Yoshi’s Wooly World

Without a Doubt Too Excited for this

This is going to be a game journal to tell you what I’ve been playing and how i’m getting on with it. What I like about the game play, design and what I don’t. I won’t be giving any scores or anything like that, this will just be a running update of my thoughts while playing the game and to see if it was worth the €59 I spent with the amiibo plushy! (Which is super cute, although I am sad I didn’t manage to get a blue one!)
 
Full coverage will probably start tomorrow so keep an eye on the blog!
Update 4pm on the 7th:

 

 
I have come to the conclusion that if you don’t like Yoshi’s Woolly World you don’t have a soul. 
 
In all seriousness, the game is beautifully crafted and stunning to play. The only gripe I’d have about it is the fact that I didn’t expect the amount of loading screens. While these aren’t very long, they are enough to take you out of the world in which they are trying to create for you. 
 
Otherwise, the level design I find challenges both the little ones who this product is aimed towards and veteran platformers. It reminds me of the old Kirby games from the SNES how there are multiple ways of progressing through a level and the more skills you master the different ways become available to get to things and explore the levels.
 
 I feel right now after playing up to 1-5 the pacing of the levels are well done. I don’t feel like they’re too long or too short and I don’t feel at the minute that the levels are too repetitive. That may change however, as the case with Super Mario World 3D, it became difficult late game to keep things fresh. I get bored easily.