Review of Pokémon Let’s Go

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I wasn’t always a big fan of Pokemon. Back when the original game came out in Europe I was close to twenty years of age. Based off clips I had seen, of the wholesome cartoon series, I dismissed Pokemon as being something that was just for kids. Twelve months later Final Fantasy IX awakened my passion for RPGs. Eager to try other titles in the genre, I decided to be less close-minded and give Pokemon Blue a chance. Turns out that the series, developed by Game Freak, can be enjoyed by youngsters and adults alike. At the time of writing I am fast approaching forty and have just beaten the twenty three hour story mode of Pokemon Let’s Go.

OVERVIEW

One of the reasons I was looking forward to this release is because it is set in the Kanto region – the same setting as the above mentioned Pokemon Blue. When it comes to Pokemon, just like Transformers, I am most familiar with generation one. It was a simpler time, when completing a Pokedex only required that you catch 151 critters. These days I hear that the species list of Pokemon surpasses over eight hundred! Some of the new Pokemon look cool, but others suffer from uninspired designs. When a developer starts to create Pokemon that resemble ice cream cones and key chains you know they are running low on ideas.

Technically speaking Let’s Go is a remake of Pokemon Yellow. Were the two differ is the manner in which you catch Pokemon. Yellow had players capturing Pokemon by weakening them first in combat. Let’s Go adopts a simpler approach, inspired by the mobile game it is named after. Catching a Pokemon is just like nabbing a woman. You throw your balls at them and hope they don’t run away. I personally liked the new system, as it spared me from suffering the frustration of accidentally killing Pokemon I was trying to recruit. My opinion would be different though, were I not someone who plays handheld mode exclusively. Switch owners who play docked on the TV will have to catch Pokemon with fiddly motion controls, rather than buttons. Nintendo thinks it is cute to simulate the action of hurling a Pokeball. If you prefer a traditional controller or are disabled tough luck.

GOT TO CATCH EM ALL

What makes capturing Pokemon in Let’s Go a blast is that you can see the buggers roaming through the bushes (like a creepy stalker). Gone are the days of random encounters. Yay! I no longer have the patience to battle Zubats every time I take a step forward. Should you spot a Pokemon that you want to add to your collection just walk up to them. If you have no desire to tangle with yet another Rattata, give them a wide berth. The option of targeting Pokemon by sight allows trainers to build up combos. Catching several Pokemon, of the same type, in a row rewards you with increased odds of finding rare Pokemon and Shinies (mutant Pokemon who have been born with a different pigmentation). Some Twitch channels make an income by streaming hunts for Shinies, which amounts to trapping the same Pokemon, over and over, for hours at a time. Man, I think I am in the wrong line of work.

For those of you worrying that Pokemon Let’s Go only involves throwing spheres at woodland creatures fear not. Turn based battles still exist in this game. In order to finish the story players need to defeat eight gym leaders, the Elite Four and any other trainers/children/fishermen who get in your way. Winning a Pokemon duel rewards you with cash and experience. When a Pokemon accumulates enough experience they level up, which may cause them to unlock new abilities or evolve into a new form. Another way of powering up your team is to exchange duplicate Pokemon for stat boosting candy. Yes, that is right. Candy makes you stronger. Those doctors who warned you that sweets will rot your teeth are liars. Devour confectionery and one day you too shall bulk up like The Rock.

VERDICT

My rating for Pokemon Let’s Go is a four out of five. Some hardcore fans won’t approve of how Let’s Go dumbs things down, by removing features found in other modern Pokemon titles. For a casual player, such as myself, the game is however fun. Many people have commented that Let’s Go is a tad easy, which I would have to agree. That said, I did lose a few matches during the course of my adventure. My losses were mostly due to my terrible sense of direction, rather than the opponents being tough. Somehow I ended up facing the Sixth Gym Leader, before beating the fourth and fifth one, as I took a detour leading to the wrong town. Oops! Perhaps I can also blame the losses on buying the Pikachu edition? I hear that the Eevee version is a bit easier, as the adorable pup has a better move set. As a superhero fan I couldn’t resist going on a journey with Pikachu though. He sounds a lot like Deadpool after all.

Angels of Death Review

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A more organized blogger would have posted this Switch review a week ago and called it a Halloween special. I am however not known for planning out site content in advance. Opportunity missed! Instead of reviewing a horror game, on the 31st of October, I ended up writing about a horror-ible Fantastic Four movie instead. Angels of Death has a handicap, when it comes to instilling terror, as it was developed on RPG Maker. Scaring people is far easier with realistic graphics, rather than sixteen-bit pixels. With the right atmosphere it is still possible though, as Corpse Party has proven in the past. To be honest I am a coward at heart, so a horror game that is low on frights is fine with me. Heck, the only reason I braved this six-hour adventure was because some folks, who I follow, have praised the anime adaptation that recently aired.

OVERVIEW

Rachel Gardner is an emotionless thirteen-year old who has been sent to counselling after the death of her parents. When the game begins she awakens in a mysterious building with no knowledge of how she got there. Ray explores her surroundings and soon encounters a bandaged man who wields a scythe. Said mummy look-alike is a serial killer who answers to the name Zack Foster. He chases after Rachel, with the intentions of adding her to his murder tally. The pursuit doesn’t go as planned however. Rather than culminating in homicide, the pair’s meeting ends with them forming a temporary truce. With the aims of escaping the skyscraper that holds them prisoner, Rachel and Zack elect to team up. Can the partnership’s mix of brains and brawn overcome the dangers that await them? Probably. The game isn’t very hard.

Over the course of four episodes Rachel and Zack descend down the edifice. Each floor is littered with traps and is guarded by bloodthirsty lunatics. Despite being coded in a role-playing-game engine, Angels of Death features no turn based combat. Players cannot fight off their assailants and must instead flee from attackers. Getting caught will result in an instant game over, which can be frustrating. Thankfully the game auto saves whenever Rachel is in immediate peril. No significant progress is therefore lost should the heroine perish. Bypassing traps on the other hand requires some basic puzzle solving. Like adventure games of yore, the brainteasers involve using an item in the right location. The inventory Rachel carries is never large so sussing out what object needs to be picked is usually pretty obvious.

VERDICT

My rating for Angels of Death is three stars. The game doesn’t make a good first impression. I was underwhelmed by the rough looking artwork and the early gameplay. Episode one started with me dying multiple times, during a sequence were you are given seconds to evade a fast moving enemy. I suck when put under pressure and fare even worse when a game hasn’t explained that it’s possible to dash by pressing B. Thankfully things improved after that. As the story progressed I got more invested in the game. I dug the colourful cast of characters that Rachel meets and the mystery, of the building she’s trapped in, piqued my interest. Binding it all together is her relationship with Zack. Prior to buying the game who would have known that I would end up shipping a thirteen-year old girl with a guy who slices up people with bladed weapons?

Those seeking horror may leave Angels of Death feeling a tad disappointed. It lacks the creepiness of Corpse Party and is devoid of jump scares. Players, like myself, who appreciate dark humour should however enjoy their time with the game. The cartoon visuals and silly dialogue counterbalance the plot’s more disturbing moments. Episode four’s reveal, in particular, is not for the faint of heart. Speaking of dialogue, keep an “eye” out for a character named Danny should you decide to purchase the game. I challenge anyone to take a sip of their favourite alcoholic beverage whenever he utters the word “peepers.” I guarantee you won’t reach the end credits before your liver gives out. Maybe I’ll give said drinking game a “shot” whenever I get round to watching the anime.

Review of Harvest Moon: Light of Hope

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Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is technically not a Harvest Moon game. The team responsible for producing the classic Harvest Moon games of yore is currently releasing titles under the Story of Seasons banner. Natsume, the publisher who holds the rights to the Harvest Moon name, has meanwhile decided to continue the franchise by hiring lesser skilled developers to make new sequels. The situation reminds me of the time when Eidos and Sports Interactive parted ways. After the split, developer Sports Interactive lost ownership of the Championship Manager brand. This forced them to release new games under the guise of Football Manager. Eidos went off to make Championship Manager games in house and ultimately run the series into the ground.

OVERVIEW

When I say that Harvest Moon is now in the hands of less talented developers I am not kidding. Just look at this game’s graphics. The characters may look cute, but there is no disputing that these visuals are below the standard one would expect from a PS4 release. In particular the low-res buildings look especially bad on a big screen. Gameplay wise things aren’t much better. The farming on offer hasn’t advanced much from the rather basic Harvest Moon GBA game I enjoyed many moons ago. In order to grow crops one simply needs to plant seeds and water the soil on a daily basis. Fertilizer is only required if you elect to grow something out of season. Seems easy enough. I wonder why Zimbabwe had so much trouble with farming when Mugabe kicked out all of the white farmers.

Still, who cares about farming? In this game I didn’t find agriculture to be particularly profitable. Rather than sell produce I just gifted my veggies to the local townsfolk or cooked them into stamina replenishing meals. If you seek riches I would recommend foraging for seashells at the beach. Those things sell for a surprisingly high price. I also hear that mining for ore can be lucrative, although that venture requires some investment. To crack open the rocks that house gems one needs to first upgrade their trusty hammer. Later in the game you can also trade eggs, wool and milk by populating your barn with livestock. I like how you can name the animals you buy. My cow, lamb and chicken were christened Mooris, Baary and Hen-Tai.

VERDICT

My rating for Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is a three out of five. The game is inferior to rivals Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons in terms of content. Without too much trouble I was able to complete the four-chapter story within a couple of in-game months. Despite its faults I must however say that I appreciate the relaxing experience it offers. Rather than start the morning with fifteen minutes of meditation, I can instead turn off my brain by doing chores for quarter of an hour on Harvest Moon’s virtual island. Even if I have already saved the land, by repairing the isle’s mystical lighthouse, I still intend to continue playing the game for the foreseeable future in short bursts. There are plenty of trophies yet to earn and a mailbox worth of villager requests to complete.

Other activities I can look forward to are the monthly festivals. These events allow the player to partake in various mini-games, which include fishing contests and dog races. Thus far my pooch has managed to scoop the top prize, but I have fared less well in the angling tournaments. Most important of all I cannot conclude my Harvest Moon adventure without first getting hitched. From the five available bachelorettes I have my eyes set on the bespectacled doctor. She may not be the most attractive of the bunch, but she won my heart during the tutorial by generously gifting me tons of free cabbage seeds. When it comes to romance the ladies don’t have to do much to make me swoon. I’ll settle for any girl, providing that she doesn’t carry much emotional cabbage… um baggage.

Review of Batman: The Enemy Within

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I am the son of a chemist and a mathematician. People call me iron fifty-nine. What is my name? Leave your answer in the comments section below. Why am I opening this review with a riddle? Well, it seemed appropriate given that the first villain Bruce Wayne faces in Batman: The Enemy Within is the Riddler. I have to say that the aforementioned Edward Nigma is more bloodthirsty than I remember. This version of the character likes to place victims in death traps one would expect to find in a Saw movie. Fail to answer the criminal’s puzzles and you will get zapped or have your fingers sawn off. Ouch! That would make typing out reviews most difficult.

OVERVIEW

Batman: The Enemy Within is the follow up to 2016’s excellent Batman: The Telltale Series. This five-part adventure sees the Caped Crusader take on a group known as The Pact. Apart from the abovementioned Riddler, the group’s members include Bane, Harley Quinn and Mr Freeze. To this day my favourite take on Mr Freeze has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rendition of the character (due to the delightful ice jokes.) Sadly I can’t think of any ice puns to insert into this post, as they have all “slipped” out of my mind. From the rogue’s gallery of baddies Harley Quinn is the one who gets the most screen time. Interestingly she is an established criminal who the Joker has a crush on, rather than vice versa.

Ah yes, how could I forget the Joker. This game chronicles how a former Arkham inmate named John Doe transformed into the Clown Prince of Crime. John made a brief appearance in the last title – helping Bruce escape from the asylum he had been imprisoned in. The pair formed a friendship during the breakout, which carries over into this instalment. How the relationship develops will depend on the decisions made throughout the game’s five episodes. Play nice with John and he may become a vigilante who aids Batman. Betray him however and you run the risk of turning John into a crazed psychopath. Tread carefully when answering John’s questions… just like when your girlfriend asks if she looks fat.

VERDICT

My rating for Batman: The Enemy Within is a four out of five. When compared to other Telltale superhero projects it is a huge improvement over Guardians of the Galaxy and a worthy successor to their last Batman release. Like with most Telltale offerings the game would best be described as an interactive movie. You influence the outcome of scenes by picking from a list of dialogue options. Battles are resolved via quick time events. Compared to its predecessor there are fewer puzzles to solve. Going off memory, the crime scene investigation segments have been scaled down in this sequel. On the plus side The Enemy Within suffers from fewer bugs and visual glitches. You won’t see a pair of flying eyeballs in this one!

If you enjoyed the first game or are a fan of the Dark Knight in general I can highly recommend Batman: The Enemy Within. Telltale once again delivers a great story that isn’t afraid of playing around with the Batman mythology. Character origins are tweaked and prominent figures get killed, leading to several surprises. My only gripe with the script is that for large portions of the game you play as Bruce Wayne, rather than his cooler masked alter ego. Sadly that can’t be avoided, as obese government agent Amanda Waller blackmails Bruce into going undercover. Grr, I hate her. Waller is so fat that when doctors diagnosed her with a flesh-eating virus they gave her 90 years to live.

Review of Metropolis: Lux Obscura

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Puzzle games sure can be raunchy. First there was the sex filled HuniePop and now we get Metropolis: Lux Obscura. This debut title from indie developer Ktulhu Solutions features images of topless women and comic book panels depicting intercourse. Isn’t it silly how some publishers feel obligated to censor swimsuits in their games? Seems like a gross overreaction to me, given that Ktulhu Solutions can sell their mature wares on consoles without causing any controversy. Perhaps the video game industry has finally grown up, sparing us from Mass Effect style lovemaking where participants do the horizontal mambo whilst fully clothed.

OVERVIEW

In Metropolis: Lux Obscura players follow the exploits of a baseball-wearing chap named Jon Lockhart. The protagonist of this tale has returned to his old stomping grounds, after serving a lengthy prison sentence. Said stomping grounds happen to be a city where crime rates are so high it would make Detroit blush. It’s a place where bikers harass the populace, a homicidal Elvis impersonator roams the streets and corrupt cops beat up the citizenry (even the Caucasian ones). To make ends meet Jon does odd jobs for a Mafioso named Falcone. Most of the earnings he makes end up going towards booze and strippers.

The story is told through stylish graphic novel cut scenes and how it all pans out will depend on the locations you choose to visit. Every now and then Jon gets mixed up in a brawl. Whether he emerges victorious from these altercations will depend on how the player fares in battle sequences that are reminiscent of Puzzle Quest. To avoid a Game Over players need to knock out their foe before their adversary manages to deplete Jon’s health points. Lining up three or more fist icons inflicts damage. Conversely, forming a row of first aid kits replenishes HP. Watch out for the police badges. If you inadvertently match three of those Jon will suffer pain. The Police hurt because Sting has a bad voice.

VERDICT

My rating for Metropolis: Lux Obscura is a three out of five. I enjoyed the game, but was disappointed by the lack of content. Even with four endings to unlock I managed to platinum it all after just a few hours. I wouldn’t describe the game as challenging; even if I lost the occasional fight due to misfortune with the randomly generated tiles. Yes, bad luck is to blame. I didn’t lose because my puny brain struggles with puzzles! What helps counter the potential difficulty are the abilities Jon earns after every encounter. These upgradable perks allow him to increase the effectiveness of health packs, force enemies to skip turns and can even replace the detrimental police badges with anger themed damage boosters.

Anyone who dislikes match three games can safely give Metropolis a miss, because the story by itself isn’t worth the price of admission. The script feels like a poor man’s Sin City. It’s heavy on cliché and grit, but deficient in substance. I think the top-notch graphics and competent voice acting deserved a better plot. Perhaps that’s why the developer resorted to boobs and fornication? Distract the punters with eye candy and they won’t notice the narrative’s weaknesses. Maybe I am being a tad harsh, as puzzle games aren’t renowned for their fiction. At the very least I can say that Metropolis has a better story than Tetris. The strippers are also much hotter than L-block.

Review of Kirby Star Allies

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The only person more gluttonous than myself is Kirby. Nintendo’s pink puffball devours enemies akin to me scarfing down Easter Eggs. The only difference is that Kirby’s overeating is beneficial, as it allows him to mimic the powers of the foe he consumed. I on the other hand only suffer a trip to the loo, whenever chocolate overindulgence takes its toll. Sitting on the can, with indigestion, isn’t so bad though. Thanks to handhelds I can still game whilst in the restroom. Years ago I would play Kirby’s Dreamland on the Gameboy. Nowadays I repeat the stomachache ritual with Kirby Star Allies on the Nintendo Switch.

OVERVIEW

Kirby Star Allies begins with a hooded figure performing an occult ceremony, which causes dark hearts to rain down from the sky. Anyone who comes into contact with these black organs becomes evil… or eviler as is the case when King Dedede and Meta Knight get corrupted by their influence. Kirby, the adorable protector of Pop Star, sets off to free his rivals from the shackles of dark heart possession. Hampering his progress are three generals (Francisca, Flamberge, and Zan Partizanne) who command elemental magic. This wicked trio are stockpiling the hearts, with the aims of using them to resurrect their dark lord.

If you seek respite from hardcore games, which revel in violence and difficulty, Kirby Star Allies is a good choice. The cute graphics and cheerful soundtrack are the antithesis of something like Dark Souls. Its casual gameplay differentiates it from other platformers, such as Super Meat Boy, which punish those who lack superhuman reflexes. Even an inept player such as myself was able to best Star Allies within six hours. I attribute my success to Kirby’s floatation gifts that allow him to soar over pitfalls. By hurling hearts at an opponent, Kirby can also convert adversaries into loyal bodyguards. This significantly lowers the challenge, as your companions can do much of the work when it comes to combat.

VERDICT

My rating for Kirby Star Allies is a three and a half out of five. Although it is far from Kirby’s greatest adventure it is still a lot of fun to play. What most people will criticise Star Allies for is its longevity. Kirby games are known for being short, but even so it is disappointing that developer HAL Laboratory didn’t use the Switch’s beefier hardware to include some more content. Aside from the story mode you can tackle a couple of mini-games. Once the end credits roll a boss rush mode is unlocked. You’ll also get the option of playing through the story again with different characters.

I suspect the game would have been more enjoyable for me had I opted to play co-op with friends, rather than depend on AI partners. Alas, it is awkward to invite friends over for a multiplayer session when I am playing Kirby in the bathroom (curse that painful belly and those delicious Easter treats.) What I liked best about Kirby Star Allies is copying powers to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. There are close to thirty powers on offer and some of them can be combined. Kirby can pretend to be Link with the sword skill, masquerade as Ness with the ESP ability or role-play a woman courtesy of the cook and cleaning powers. I kid! I kid! Please don’t flame me too hard in the comments section 🙂

Review of The Longest Five Minutes

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Let’s start off this review by clearing one thing up. The Longest Five Minutes takes considerably longer than 300 seconds to complete. I estimate that my playthrough, of this retro style RPG, lasted for around ten hours. That’s lengthier than the title suggests, but still shorter than your average JRPG. I’m not complaining though, because these days I just don’t have the time to finish a Witcher sized adventure. My long shifts are partially to blame and my age is a factor too. Once I hit my mid-thirties I lost the energy required to stay up all night playing games. Then again, my ex-girlfriends would argue that I never had much stamina for “night time activities” to begin with.

OVERVIEW

The Longest Five Minutes sees players assume the role of a hero named Flash Back. When the game begins Flash is in the midst of a five-minute tussle versus the tyrannical Demon King. How Flash got into this predicament is a mystery because he is suffering from amnesia (an ailment common amongst RPG heroes and anime characters alike.) In effect TLFM commences at the finale and gradually reveals how the story got to that point via memory fragments, which are essentially short levels chronicling Flash’s journey from his home village to the overlord’s castle. Joining him along for the ride are a bashful cleric, a Kung-Fu tomboy and a spoony mage who aspires to be a bard.

Gameplay wise The Longest Five Minutes feels like a 16-bit title, due to its turn based combat and pixel graphics. Ah, the 16-bit era. Those were the days! Final Fantasy was still fun, Sonic hadn’t lost his coolness and I could stay up past 10pm without feeling sleepy. What distinguishes TLFM from other RPGs is that the story is broken up into bite-sized chunks, which can be completed in a sitting. That’s great for busy folks, but may be less appealing for gamers who like to grind. Every stage is its own self-contained quest, were your party begin at an appropriate level and with suitable gear to best the challenge ahead. There’s no point in farming for gold/EXP because nothing carries over between stages.

VERDICT

My rating for The Longest Five Minutes is a three and a half out of five. It’s a game I would recommend to those seeking a casual JRPG experience. Perfect for anyone who needs a break from the constant game overs in Bloodborne (currently available to download off PSN for free.) The game doesn’t offer much, in the way of challenge, but I didn’t mind as the charming characters and exceptional soundtrack were enough to keep me invested. I dug the unique “reverse order” storytelling structure. The cut scenes are mostly humorous, as one would expect for an NIS America release, although it must be said that some of the endings on offer are surprisingly emotional.

Right now The Longest Five Minutes can be purchased on Vita, Switch and PC. I went with the Vita version, as the short levels make this RPG an ideal portable experience. Buyers who opt for the PC version can acquire the soundtrack, via DLC, which is a nice perk. Despite enjoying the game I think the £35 asking price is steep. The production values don’t justify that cost nor does the campaign’s length. Overall though, I enjoyed the game. The Longest Five Minutes looks like a game from my youth, but its streamline design makes it ideal to play on an adult’s busy schedule. Why does work consume so much time? The true “longest five minutes” is when I glance at my watch, counting down the end of my shift.