Minesweeper Genius Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch (reviewed), Android, iOS, PlayStation, XBOX, Windows
Publisher Blowfish Games (Website)
Developer Mother Gaia Studio (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Puzzle
Deductive Logic

Far from a new game, but it’s new to Switch, so I nabbed it. It’s not the Minesweeper I remember, but it’s not a bad evolution either.

As an older computer geek, I have had a soft spot for Minesweeper for decades. It used to come bundled with Windows, all the way back from Windows 3.1. It’s only Windows 10 that stopped that little tradition, but you can still get it from the Microsoft Store.

It’s far from the greatest game in the world. But it is a satisfyingly frustrating logic puzzle, and if you just want a little bit of a distraction, it fit the bill fine. Not a game for everyone, but it was free and it scratched an itch.

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through the Switch eShop, and I saw Minesweeper Genius for something like AUD$1.20. So I thought what the hell and gave it a try.

Minesweeper Classic
I almost grew up with the screen. Such a simple concept should not be so hard!

Since when does Minesweeper have a story?

One of the first differences you see from ‘classic’ Minesweeper is that you control a character called Aristotle. You have been captured by aliens or something, and you need to solve their tests.

Honestly, the story isn’t essential or even necessary to understand. I have yet to hit a cutscene or anything along those lines, so you just jump in and play.

So the only ‘story’ you have to deal with is that you need to complete a variety of different puzzles and then get to the end.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Levels
The early levels are very simple - at least, for someone that has already played a lot of Minesweeper

Puzzles? It’s Minesweeper, isn’t it?

Yes, but with a small difference. When you play Minesweeper, you need to clear all the non-mined squares. In Minesweeper Genius, you need to guide Aristotle through the level. It’s a small functional difference, but it is a difference.

What makes me put Minesweeper Genius more into the puzzle category than deductive logic is the fact he can’t backtrack. You do need to find the one path to the level exit.

The initial levels are very simple and let you get a feel for how to play the game. If you judge Minesweeper Genius from the first few areas, you would think it was a ridiculously simple game with little challenge.

Minesweeper Genius - Level Select
Each area is split into 10 levels of the same difficulty level

There are a few unique tiles that allow you to jump a square, or move rows/columns in a direction. As you get into larger areas, more indicators are placed within the level itself, not just the number of mines in a row or column. These take a while to get to though. So there is a bit of ‘stick with it’ for Minesweeper veterans.

Once you get through an area, you unlock the advanced puzzles. Early on, these ramp up the difficulty significantly. So if you are looking for more from the game, this is a good way to keep you interested as you get through the lower difficulty levels. If you are learning, you can come back when you have a better grasp of the game.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Advanced Level
The advanced levels ramp up the complexity nicely

So I just look up solutions online. What’s the fun in that?

So when you play, if you get through a level without dying, you get a 3-star rating. So if you complete every level with 3 stars, I am guessing that’s your completion goal?

I made a few mistakes at an early level, but Aristotle’s body was a grim reminder a mine was there. So I thought I would retry the level now I knew the layout, and keep my scoring streak going.

Reloading the level, it had changed entirely. So no walkthroughs are available – you have to complete the randomly generated puzzle!

This actually made me excited. Once I find an area I can just jump into and play with the difficulty I am looking for, I can play an endless amount of levels. So this isn’t a ‘one and done’ run through, which I appreciate.

So should I buy Minesweeper Genius?

If you are interested enough to look for this review, probably. Especially if you pick it up for sale like I did for only a couple of dollars.

Looking around, it has been released on almost everything. You could get it on your phone, PC, PlayStation and Xbox. Personally, I think mobile and Switch make the most sense, maybe on PC.

Minesweeper Genius is a game you pick up for a few minutes at a time and forget about until you next want a quick diversion. I couldn’t see myself firing up my PlayStation or Xbox for a few games. I have been firing up my Switch while something is playing on the TV though, and it’s been fun.

Minesweeper Genius - Progress so far
The best praise I can give is that I actually want to finish all the levels

Overall Thoughts

Minesweeper Genius is an evolution of the classic Minesweeper game. Straightforward and challenging, it’s a great way to pass a few minutes while keeping your brain engaged.

The music is repetitive, and the visual style could use some variation. Still, Minesweeper Genius is a solid game and a great new take on a classic game.

If you are a Minesweeper veteran though, you will need to spend at least 15 minutes clearing the ‘easy’ levels before getting to a real challenge though.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Clean (if bland) visual style
  • Very accessible and easy to pick up
  • Good challenge difficulty curve for beginners
  • Random puzzle generation leads to infinite playability

Cons

  • The soundtrack can be annoying
  • More suited to mobile gaming than dedicated play sessions

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The Outer Worlds Review

The Outer Worlds Cover Art
The Outer Worlds Cover Art
Released 2019 (Switch 2020)
Platform Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Windows
Publisher Obidian Entertainment (Website)
Developer Obidian Entertainment (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Open World (Hub World)
Adventure
RPG
Sci-Fi

Bethesda doesn’t like it when you call The Outer Worlds ‘Fallout in Space’. That will be because The Outer Worlds isn’t a Bethesda game.

Last year, I wrote about The Outer Worlds in a few Last Week’s Gaming articles. I inhaled this game. As a fan of the Fallout games, I was keen on seeing Obsidian’s take on a new world to explore.

This review was delayed partly because I played The Outer Worlds on Xbox with Game Pass, and my plan was always to buy it on Switch upon release and do a review. Launch delays, and the game coming to Switch just as I started getting busy work-wise, meant that this is a review long in the making.

Before I talk about the game, I am going to get the Switch comparison out of the way.

Like The Witcher 3: Complete Edition, there are visual sacrifices. The Switch is an impressive piece of hardware, but it’s not in the same class as the ‘proper’ consoles in terms of raw power.

There are texture popping issues, and frame rates dip when a lot of characters are in an area. A fight with about 8-10 enemies (which happens a couple of times in the first world), my guess is about 15-18 frames per second in handheld mode? I can only estimate from feel, but the dips are apparent, and if you are in melee combat, this will make things harder than ranged combat.

That said, I am now about 40% complete on Switch, and I have played almost exclusively in handheld mode. Yes, I have had to reload because of the fights I have lost. But I had to do that on the Xbox One S as well. General exploration and gameplay have been fun, and everything works well overall.

The Outer Worlds Sign Not Loaded In Properly
It looks worse when on a big screen, but the sign is only 'half loaded' - this is an example of texture popping

My biggest complaint is the ‘fuzziness’ of the screen when playing in handheld mode. The game is compensating for lower performance by dropping the resolution. When exploring the open world, it’s almost impossible to tell a tree from a human enemy at a distance. It’s not game-breaking, but I was using my gun scope to look at trees a lot!

I also have not seen any of the ‘loading circles’ mid-game other people complaining about at any time. I don’t know why. I have the eShop (downloaded) version, but I do have a slightly overkill for Switch SD card. The exact card from Amazon is: Samsung 512GB 100MB/s (U3) MicroSDXC Evo Select Memory Card with Adapter (MB-ME512GA/AM).

I am not trying to say this is the best card for Switch or anything like that, but if your using a slower card, maybe that is part of the problem? A lot of information needs to be loaded into the world, and a slower card may cause these pauses in play. But because I didn’t experience the issue, it’s a semi-educated guess.

Switch SD Card
This card is overkill normally for the Switch, but I got it on sale. Maybe my game isn't waiting for loads?

So should I play The Outer Worlds on Switch?

It’s a hard one. I am going to finish The Outer Worlds a couple more times at least, playing with different skill builds and faction responses. 

This week, I had an in-person meeting. The drive had the potential for a lot of traffic, but it was a good drive, and I got there pretty early. Being able to pull out my Switch and do a couple of quest steps and put it away was great.

Again, like The Witcher on Switch, being able to play wherever I am in short bursts like this is the primary benefit. The longest session I played continuously was about 3 hours, and I had to plug the charger in.

If you only have a Switch, you will enjoy playing The Outer Worlds. If you primarily want to play in docked mode and have a PS4/Xbox One (or a gaming PC), I would stick to those versions. The experience is better, but the gameplay is identical.

The Outer Worlds Ada is dissapointed
The humour is present throughout the game, often much more subtly than this

OK, so what is The Outer Worlds?

The Outer Worlds in a lot of ways is a typical RPG adventure. You play a character and become the hero to some and the enemy of others.

The story begins in a way I really enjoy. Short version, two colony ships were sent into the far reaches of space. Everyone was cryogenically frozen for the trip, and the idea was that a new solar system would be terraformed and inhabited.

Things didn’t quite go to plan, and one ship (The Hope) didn’t quite make it. All of the colonists are still in hibernation, and instead of being frozen for 10 years, you are woken up 70 years later.

The Outer Worlds Phineas Welles
You are 'rescued' by fugitive scientist Phneas Welles. Help him, or turn him in - it's up to you

From here, you set out to explore the new worlds. You can try and save everyone from the greedy corporations, or join them and make life very comfortable for yourself. The choice is yours.

Because your character is coming in effectively 60 years late, asking why the world works the way it does makes sense in the narrative. On my first playthrough, I asked everyone everything I could to learn about the world. The second time, I knew which questions to ask, and skipped asking about the corporations or who certain characters are.

The Outer Worlds Opening The Hatch - Switch
The first glimpse of a new world, as shown on the Switch. Now, it's up to you.

What The Outer Worlds isn’t.

It’s not Fallout. Obsidian developed Fallout: New Vegas, a game that on launch I couldn’t play. It was so full of game-breaking bugs I just had to stop. Over time, all of these issues were fixed, and New Vegas became so polished, too many it’s considered the best Fallout game to date.

There are very similar mechanics though, so the comparison for Fallout players is unfortunately natural. You can slow time instead of using the V.A.T.S. system, some conversations lead to side quests, and those quests can end in different ways with the choices you make.

While there is a lot of combat in the game, it’s also not a shooter or first-person combat game. You can solve a lot of problems with violence, but you can also talk your way through a lot of situations. If you have science skill, you can also use that to help/hurt people (and yourself).

The Outer Worlds Time Dilation
When you use Time Dilation, everything slows down and you get some extra tactical information

Fallout was built on 7 character statistics – the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. The Outer Worlds has expanded the character customisation, but also made it still streamlined for a baseline experience.

But what do you do in the game?

Here is where it gets tricky. On the first world of Edgewater, you need a power regulator to repair your ship and leave the planet. Everyone does this, and it’s why I concentrate on only showing this world.

But even with this seemingly linear opening act, you can choose very different ways of reaching your own goal. You can help the people there or make more money supporting some more selfish characters.

You can help the settlement overall, or you can help a single faction for short term goals and let the colony suffer in the long term. Things you set in motion at this early stage can open choices later in the game – or close them.

The Outer Worlds Edgewater Summary
This is how my shenanigans in Edgewater ended. How will yours look?

Oh no, I don’t want an early choice to ruin the game for me!

It won’t. Unlike some adventure games I have played, there is no ‘critical’ choice you can make very early on. You will see the options being laid out, but it will be at least 8 hours in before you can commit to a path.

Character creation follows this methodology as well. You are presented with a screen full of statistics, but until you hit a level of 50 in a branch, you upgrade all skills within. From there, you can choose to specialise in particular areas. For example, you can increase ranged weapons to 50, but then decide to specialise in handguns. You can still use the other weapons without handicaps – you just don’t get any bonuses either.

The Outer Worlds Character Creation
It looks like a lot to keep track of, but the charcter system is very simple and helps you experiment

OK. So why would I want to play The Outer Worlds? You haven’t talked much about that.

It’s tough to talk about The Outer Worlds in detail without either a) spoilers or b) talking about potential story areas you might not see.

The Outer Worlds has a lot of humour to it, but it also has a story that can be as deep as you want it to be. The overall story is about corporate greed, but how you explore this storyline is up to you. You can play the game ignoring the lore, or you can explore deeper and form bonds with your crew and NPCs.

Bottom line, if you enjoy sci-fi and open-world RPGs, The Outer Worlds is a game that should be on your radar.

The Outer Worlds - Loading Screen
I love the style and humour in these loading screens

If you have a PC/Xbox and Game Pass and are on the fence, grab it on Game Pass. You don’t need a ‘great’ video card to play The Outer Worlds on PC, so even if you try it out before buying it for PS4/Switch you will have a great idea of what you are getting into.

Overall Thoughts

Take all the best elements of playing Fallout: New Vegas, and move it into a new environment. Multiple quests, character stats that allow you to play differently, faction relationships – it’s all here.

The Outer Worlds still isn’t perfect. For example, defeated enemies can disappear, making quests impossible to complete. Some of the choices you get are very black and white – not every storyline has nuance.

But if you enjoy a semi-open ended adventure, The Outer Worlds is a fantastic start to hopefully a new franchise.

Best play experience order – PC (mid-high tier graphics card) > PS4/Xbox One > Switch. That said, The Outer Worlds is enjoyable on every platform. The Switch version has the most visual sacrifices, but you can play it anywhere – it’s a pretty good trade-off.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Solid (if cliched) story
  • Plenty of player choice in story and upgrade system
  • Great atmosphere overall
  • Combat isn’t deep, so don’t need to be great at shooters to do well
  • Replayable for different endings/character types
  • On Game Pass if you want to try/play that way

Cons

  • Not a lot of enemy types
  • Hub style open world – lots of loading screens
  • You can get quest breaking bugs, especially when enemies you need to loot vanish.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The Card: Poker, Texas Holdem, Blackjack, Page One Review

The Card Title Screen
The Card Title Screen
Released 2018
Platform Platforms
Publisher D3Publisher Inc. (Website)
Developer D3Publisher Inc. (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Card Games
Poker
BlackJack
Texas Holdem
Page One

It’s like someone looked at The Game and proclaimed “Hold My Beer”. The Card is going to be hard to beat for search engine unfriendliness.

I enjoy poker. Not gambling so much, but poker. Texas Holdem and Omaha Hi-Lo are probably my favourite flavours. But playing these games without going to a casino and spending money has always been a mixed affair.

Home games are fine, but eventually, players always come along that insist ‘it’s no fun without cash on the line’. That leaves video games.

These have always been hit or miss. Years ago I would play the World Series of Poker games. They were fine, but the story mode and animation would annoy me when I just wanted to unwind.

There are some free poker games (mainly online multiplayer), but I find they are full of people that just go all in every hand.

If you want to play snap, please leave my poker table!

WSOP Tournament of Champions
Graphically impressive for the time, but to just 'play' poker the old WSOP games were frustrating

So cruising around the Nintendo eShop the other day, I saw a game that made me think The Game has competition. Not in gameplay, but in being the worst titled game around.

Meet The Card: Poker, Texas Holdem, Blackjack, Page One.

So the first thing that people will probably notice is the look of the game. No flashy animation, no avatar, no even real naming options. The tutorials are all text. No cut scenes, and no voice acting.

It looks like a student project. It’s a polished project, but a simple application without any ‘flash’. But it’s also AUD$2.25 on the eShop at the moment. I had $1.70ish in my wallet and points for the difference, so I bought The Card.

Lately, I haven’t had much ability to play the games I want to. A poker game I can pick up and play sounded like a nice distraction.

And honestly, it surprised me.

The Card - Menu
The screens are functional, if not eye catching

It’s just a card game, what’s to enjoy playing solo?

Like any game, card games aren’t for everyone. What had me interested in The Card was Texas Holdem, and maybe Blackjack.

There have been quite a few video card poker games. Most are online affairs, but the ones that focused on solo play also tended to try and give the player ‘a game’.

Not in a ‘how do you make poker more interesting’ type game. All of these games have set rules and changing those changes the game. No, you usually get ‘story modes’ that add objectives for you.

Another addition can be player avatars. These can be further enhanced to show the AI players thinking, trying to recreate the experience of ‘reading’ your opponents.

The Card - Casino Menu
You don't have to 'unlock' games - just pick what you want to play

While interesting and technically impressive, if you just want to sit down and play some cards, having to sit through all these aspects can be detrimental to the experience.

This is where The Card shines. Want to play a couple of rounds of Blackjack? Start the game, select the game, and you are playing straightaway. No downtime, no fluff, just the game.

The Card - Blackjack
Want to just play some blackjack? In The Card, you can be in and playing almost immediately.

You better already know how to play the game.

This streamlined game experience does have some drawbacks. There is no tutorial on how to play, for example. There are ‘how to play’ rules, but they are very short. It’s not like Poker or Blackjack has complicated rules. Still, there is terminology specific to the games that you should already know.

Luckily there are plenty of YouTube videos that will teach you how to play each game. Eventually, I will be looking one up for Page One – I have never heard of this game! But the other three games are well executed, so why not give it a try?

The Card - Tutorial
The information is fine for refreshers, but if you were learning the game like this, different story.

But what’s the incentive to play in the first place?

This is where my usage may be considered niche, but I doubt I am alone in wanting a Card Game distraction. I gave The Card a chance on a whim. It was cheap, and what was the harm?

Where The Card instantly showed me one of its strength is each ‘tournament’ is only 5 rounds. Will you make a fortune playing 5 hands of cards? Probably not. But you won’t instantly go broke trying to ‘beat’ a tournament to progress either.

You can raise bets to be ‘all in’ and push your luck, but it’s not the default play style. This is your only real goal – play a few rounds, hopefully leave the table with more chips than you started with, and build a virtual fortune.

The Card - Customisation
You can customise a lot more than I expected, not just some appearances.

There is no tournament scene to dominate, or local ‘legends’ to beat to progress. Just sit and play some cards.

The best part? You can finish a ‘tournament’ in about two to three minutes, depending on your analysis paralysis level. Without having to watch AI players ‘think’ about their moves or watch pretty but time-consuming animations, the games are incredibly quick.

What keeps you wanting to play?

Really, just wanting to have a small distraction is the reward for me. One of the appeals to Texas Holdem is the real-time probability analysis. And yes, I am pretty sure I just put Alpal to sleep. 🙂

Playing other poker games tends to deny me this. You either have free multiplayer games, but as I said earlier, a noticeable percentage of players don’t play ‘properly’. Just betting everything on a chance of winning big each round is not what I consider playing a game.

Well, it is a game. Just not the game everyone else is trying to play.

So, to just sit down when I have a few minutes and play a few rounds of a card game with no added ‘single-player’ pressures like progression has appeal for me.

The Card - Achievment Earned
'Tournaments' are just limited run games. It's still satisfying when you win though.

But it looks so… meh?

Now don’t get me wrong, the controls work fine. You can use the Switch touch screen (did you forget it had one? I do a lot!), joycons or a pro controller.

What I wish I could remap are the default buttons. To raise a bet, you hit the bottom button (B), and to sit/check/pass or call, you press the up button (X). You get used to it, but this layout seems counter-intuitive to me.

The Card - Poker discarding cards
It may not be the prettiest UI, but it is clear and functional.

So what are the downsides?

There aren’t many. What some people may overlook as not ‘modern’ gaming standards (graphics, avatars, voices) are actually a bonus for streamlined gaming experiences.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t something I wish I could change – the controls.

Yep. But you can change this. The Card has in-game achievements, and making them unlocks customisation options. OK, it’s not much – but it is a nice little touch. I have largely ignored it though.

What you can also unlock is the ability to change the number of rounds you can play. As you win more and more games, you can also increase the number of rounds you can play. Want to play a 50 round game of Poker and try to suck your AI opponents dry? You just have to win games on the lower round count first.

The Card - Achievments
The achievements so far are easy to unlock. Just a little dissapointed they are mostly hidden.

The other thing I would like to be added and made its use customisable is input protection. For example, the ‘all in’ button is R2. Hit the button, and you bet everything you have.

A couple of times now, I have had to put down the Switch to do something else. Because of bad timing (my turn came around while I was putting down the Switch), R2 was accidentally hit, and I bet everything. Once I was fortunate and bankrupted all three opponents on the first hand. You can’t expect this to be a strategy though.

Adding an ‘Are you sure?’ prompt to All in (and folding – I have folded amazing hands by accident!) is usually a common feature of card games. It can get annoying, so the other convention is to make this prompt customisable. Not the wording – just if you want to see it or not.

But really that’s it. For me, the most significant downsides of the game is a ‘can you update this’ and getting used to a control layout. That’s pretty good feedback for a game that costs less than a cup of coffee.

Overall Thoughts

The Card: Poker, Texas Holdem, Blackjack, Page One is a hidden diamond for certain card players. I didn’t realise this game was two years old, and it has flown under a lot of radars.

If you want to play for ‘real’ money or against human players, there are plenty of other options available. But if you are the sort of player that just wants to play a few quick hands of cards without ‘story’ or other video game elements getting in the way, then The Card is a game for you.

I wish you luck trying to Google it though! :p

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • Smooth, quick gameplay
  • No extraneous single-player elements
  • Can play a whole ‘tournament’ in minutes
  • Customisable game length

Cons

  • Need to know how to play before going in
  • Control system is fine, but not as intuitive as I would like

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Blood Rage Digital Edition Review (and physical game thoughts)

Blood Rage Cover Art
Released 2016
Designer Eric M. Lang
Publisher CMON (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (5 with expansion)
Playing Time 20 – 30 minutes per player
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map
BoardGameGeek View on BGG
Released 2020
Platform Steam
Publisher Asmodee Digital (Website)
Developer Exozet (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 – 5
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map

To play Blood Rage alone, this is a great adaption. There are quite a few caveats, though.

The first in a series of games from Eric M. Lang and CMON, Blood rage mixes minis on a map with strong Euro game elements. Released about four years ago, Blood Rage had a lot of hype and for many just faded away.

I still remember my first game of Blood Rage fondly. It was at PAX Aus 2016, and I managed to luck my way into a Loki strategy win. What’s a Loki strategy? I tried to lose more than I won and got to penalise the winners and steal points.

But the bottom line is I only want to play Blood Rage with that general group. It was a group of people that know each other reasonably well, and in-game rivalry with smack talk and tit-for-tat making sub-games within the overall game. We all enjoy heavy games now and then, and while Blood Rage has heavy elements, it’s ‘medium’ style gameplay makes it more likely to hit the table.

So when Blood Rage Digital was announced with its own Kickstarter, I was intrigued. A lot of digital Kickstarters get started and go off the rails. CMON was (in my opinion) padding the finding by offering physical copies of the game at higher pricing. So I decided to sit and wait rather than back it.

But the game is here now, and I grabbed a copy.

Well, that’s interesting and all, but what is Blood Rage?

Blood Rage is a Viking/Norse Mythology based game for 2-4 players. This can be increased to five players with an expansion, and the digital version plays 5 out of the gate.

A lot of different game elements are blended into a glorious mess. At its core, you put your army on the board and fight to pillage villages for bonuses and Glory. There is card drafting and hand management, which adds strategy elements to the game.

This drafting also adds memory elements to the strategy. Each player has a selection of cards, you pick one, then pass the remaining cards to the next player. This means players see almost all cards that are available that round. But each round, a certain number of cards are never introduced into the selection, so you never know if someone beat you to a card or if it isn’t in that game.

Blood Rage Physical Components
Before you ask - yes, this takes ages to setup properly

When you are playing, you also have resource management to consider. Most actions cost Rage, so think of them as Action Points in most other games. You can only have a certain number of minis on the board, as denoted by your Horns. When fighting, you will earn Glory (points) for fighting, and you can upgrade the number of points you earn by upgrading your Axes.

Combat is relatively simple – the player with the highest strength in the contested area wins. Each player in combat must play one card during the battle. These cards can add strength, modify abilities, or be virtually ‘blank’ cards.

Blood Rage Physical Cards and Boards
It looks like a lot, and it is, but once you have the basics down information is easily read at a glance

At the end of each phase, Ragnarok happens. This destroys an area on the board and sends any mini in that area to Valhalla. During this part fo the phase, you can also complete Quests for more Glory.

At the end of three phases, the player with the most Glory wins.

Wait, what? That’s a lot of game to follow!

Blood Rage is a simple enough game, but it has a lot of ‘simple’ things to keep track of all at once. This is why I don’t consider Blood Rage a game for everyone. Only certain types of gamer will enjoy this sort of game style.

That said, Blood Rage is a lot simpler than many popular ‘heavy’ games, so it’s an excellent middle ground for a wider audience.

So I should pick up the physical copy?

If you can find one! The physical copy of Blood Rage also suffers from what I term CMON Kickstarteritis. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. :p

Blood Rage really shines with more players. The physical game lets you do up to 5 players with an expansion, but once you play the retail copy you quickly realise you need to Kickstarter exclusives to make the most of it.

It’s almost impossible to track down retail copies this far after it’s release, and if you can find a Kickstarter collection, it will either be a steal or incredibly expensive.

Blood Rage Physical Amazon Listing
This was a snap of Amazon.com Friday, June 5th. Remember, that's USD!

That’s why I was excited about the digital edition. Apart from being able to play Blood Rage far more often with AI players, it also included almost all of the Kickstarter expansions.

But because the physical copy was getting hard to find in 2018 when the digital version Kickstarter launched, it looked like most of the money was going to the physical copy. Only about 12% of the number of backers wanted the digital-only copy. 

That leaves almost 8,500 backers that wanted the digital copy with the physical game add ons. I have no idea how many of those people then added the original game to their pledge to get a ‘complete’ set.

So without being able to see how much would actually go to the development of the digital version, I decided to hold off and wait.

And now, Blood Rage Digital exists. The Good Points.

I have had a few games solo with the AI, at 3 and 4 players. I am still playing against ‘easy’ opponents. Still, as I have won the last 3 games mainly by upgrading my stat tracks, I will be upping the difficulty soon.

Being able to play a few games kicking back and relaxing whenever I want is great, and I have really enjoyed playing the few games that I have.

I can say hand on heart that the game plays very closely to the board game. The feeling of dread waiting for cards to be revealed is all there. The disappointment at missing a favourite card is there.

The pacing of the game is a little slow. It takes a bit too long to resolve quests, combat, that kind of thing. Having to sit and wait without a ‘speed up’ option is confusing.

Blood Rage Digital Drafting
Decisions, decisions. The feeling between digital and physical for if you are choosing right is just as stressful!

Why do I include this in the ‘good’ section? Because when you are learning the game, being able to see each card and each section slowly helps you quickly determine the flow of the game and tactics involved.

Seeing the minis on the board look great. It’s not the best graphics I have seen in a game, but you can play it on almost any Windows machine. I will take a little bit of a graphical presentation hit to play Blood Rage on any device happily.

Access to the information on cards and rules mid-game is also reasonably well done. From the main menu, you can browse all the cards and their effects. Not all digital implementations do this, and I am glad Exozet and CMON included this.

Blood Rage Digital Compendium
I wish more digital board games let you look throught he decks outside of the actual 'game'

And the bad.

A common issue I have with many digital implementations is the tutorial. Blood Rage Digital’s tutorial isn’t the worst I have seen, but it could still be a bit better.

My advice here is to watch a tutorial on the board game. The rules are the same, and some of the intricacies are explained a lot better in tutorials like those from Rodney at Watch it Played.

That’s not to say the tutorial is terrible – there are even sections of the compendium that describe drafting strategies, which is great!

But even as someone that knows how to play the game, there were sections of the tutorial I looked at and was confused why some information wasn’t there. Prior knowledge of the rules going will definitely a plus.

If you want to learn Blood Rage completely within the digital game, everything is in the compendium but it’s a lot of text to absorb. So if you rather learn by watching a video, check out the video.

If you look at the Steam reviews, there is one facet of the game that apparently needs a lot of work – online multiplayer. Apparently, people are having a lot of trouble being able to play against friends online.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I did grab Harls a copy recently as a gift with the idea of playing against him online. Harls is the sort of player I can have a lot of fun playing Blood Rage with, but it’s not much of a two-player game. Adding AI fixes this while letting us play together.

At least, it would if it worked.

Blood Rage Digital Steam Page
If you were just browsing, I could understand skipping the game on this alone

There is also the controls themselves. Earlier, I mentioned that the pacing is a bit slow. Sometimes, you can hit a skip button if you can’t do an action, for example, if you can’t play an additional card. This doesn’t always happen though, which is strange.

I can’t say for certain that this is a design choice. If you play, you will notice at times cards and other screen elements sit over the controls. I wonder if at times you have this speed option available, but you can’t see it on screen.

Blood Rage Digital UI Issues
Why is Skip hiding? And this is at 'normal' screen size

Playing on an ultrawide monitor makes this user interface issue a lot worse. Playing on my ‘game’ screen at 2560×1080, elements like the strength of my army are hidden by my cards.

When 21:9 and similar aspect ratios first started appearing, a typical display issue was the game/application would zoom the screen. The program would fill the width of your screen with the contents, but that would crop the height from what you can see.

Five years ago, with the tech being still new, this was mostly understandable and early adopters needed to work around the issue. In 2020, this just feels sloppy.

Blood Rage Digital Funny Aspect Bugs
You can see where the title and bottom of the banner is being cut off. I am supposed to click on Continue. The button below the bottom of the screen.

Even worse, when finishing a game in ultrawide, you can’t continue on to the final score, because you can’t click on the continue button. So you will never honestly know if you won a game or not.

These display element issues might seem like a problem only for a few users. Still, the fact they are happening at all makes me wonder what other glitches are happening at ‘normal’ resolutions.

The only other thing I wish was available was a ‘save’ system. It can be an XCom ironman type save, where you only have one save slot that happens at the end of each player turn. This way, you can’t go back and try and cheese the game with different strategies until you dominate.

Blood Rage Digital Widescreen Issues
Why hide my army strength? I can count my minis, but once cards come into play, that doesn't help!

Playing solo, a game takes me about 30-40 minutes with 2 AI players. I would love to be able to leave and take a break mid-game. Also, such a system may help when multiplayer crashes instead of the entire games progress being lost.

So stay clear?

Here’s the funny thing – I think Blood Rage Digital is a great implementation, it just needs a lot of fixes. Some are hopefully simple to make, some might take time.

Playing solo, I have had no real problems other than having to change my screen to 1920×1080 when I want to play. I have enjoyed quite a few games, and I don’t regret the purchase at all.

While I am yet to play online multiplayer, until more patches have been made (and to Exozets credit, there have been updates quite often already), I won’t even by trying except as an experiment.

You can’t even play Blood Rage with a screen sharing local game properly, because this will reveal players entire hands to everyone. The multiplayer needs to be fixed to recommend Blood Rage Digital to more than solo players.

Overall Thoughts

Blood Rage is a sound implementation of the original board game and makes for an excellent alternative for solo players.

The low system requirements mean that players can play on pretty much any computer that runs Windows 10. This means the entry-level for a ‘video game’ is easy to achieve.

If you want to play Blood Rage Digital online though, a lot of work needs to be done to get this working properly.

I would rate the Kickstarter version of Blood Rage’s physical copy a 7.5 and the retail copy a 7. But until the issues mentioned are addressed, I couldn’t give the digital version a higher score. Even though it works great as a solo game, board games are better played with others – even digitally.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • A lot of fun to play solo against AI
  • Can play well even on ‘work’ computers
  • Faithful adaption of the board game

Cons

  • Lots of issues with multiplayer
  • Some screen elements seem to be broken or having issues

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

Animal Crossing Cover Art
Animal Crossing Cover Art
Released 2020
Platform Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Nintendo (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1*
Can invite/visit friends islands online or share 1 island with other account holders on your Switch
Category Relaxing
Exploration
Collecting
Customisation
Life Simulation

Well, I finally started to get what all the Animal Crossing buzz was about! Also, Tom Nook is evil :p

I have known about Animal Crossing as a franchise for years. It has never really held much interest for me. I generally like to do ‘something’ in my games, and Animal Crossing has me doing things I should be doing in my real home.

Things like cleaning up the garden, decorating my home and making stuff don’t sound like a ‘game’ to me. I understand that sometimes slow and straightforward gameplay is what you need – I have said it many times. I just like having a goal to work towards, and Animal Crossing is known for having no end.

And then I couldn’t leave the house anymore. I lost the precious downtime of my daily commute. I needed something to try and focus my brain away from work. Multi-tasking in other games is just too much to juggle.

Enter Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I thought I would jump on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, spend 15-20 minutes each day doing a few little odd jobs and relax.

And, for the first few weeks, that’s precisely what I did. I expanded my house a couple of times and ran around my island collecting fossils and fishing.

My museum was my ‘prettiest’ building for quite some time. I just didn’t really know what I was doing. I was (and still am) enjoying my time pottering around my island, fishing and collecting shells and oranges.

Animal Crossing Game Start
From simple beginnings, as they say.

Four weeks later

So I have realised what Tom Nook was trying to tell me for the previous few weeks. I stopped chipping away at paying off the ever-increasing renovation costs of my home and started preparing plots of land to sell.

Visitors have started appearing. I am building up an eclectic little community that I am enjoying talking to each day. I can now see the layout possibilities of my island, and kicking myself for some early “Oh that’s good enough” decisions.

Now, I am starting to get into creating hybrid flowers and turnip sales. I am resisting looking up the plethora of guides out there, but I may buckle in a couple of weeks. See how I go first 🙂

Animal Crossing Meeting Deirdre
You start with 2 other 'islanders', and your population grows

My goal of turnip sales? To make enough bells to terraform my island into my ideal getaway location.

But what is the actual game?

This is the hardest part of Animal Crossing. Everything I have been talking about is the game. It’s why I recognised that it was good for those that enjoyed it, but I couldn’t see how I could enjoy it. 

You can hopefully understand that I am enjoying different things in Animal Crossing. Hearing people tell me about their Animal Crossing adventures was always lovely, but never really enticed me. Why not? Because you can’t really see the goal.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has apparently ‘fixed’ this, but I am not at that point yet. Your goal in New Horizons is to improve your island to the point that K.K. Slider comes and does a concert there. You do this by doing all the things I have been talking about. Decorate the island, get people to live there, and collect records apparently. That’s what Tom Nook suggests anyway. I am pretty sure he just like me paying him 3,200 bells every day for a new album.

Animal Crossing Museum Opening
You can celebrate milestones with your community

So the point of the game is to work on an artificial island to hold a phony concert?

If you are cynical, you can look at it that way. Animal Crossing won’t be for everyone. For me, it gave me a goal to work towards other than ‘enjoy yourself’. Something concrete to aim towards.

If the current world pandemic hadn’t happened, there is an excellent chance I would never have played Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Once I played enough to realise there was a ‘goal’, it allowed me to focus my gameplay.

Today, I am looking forward to what I do after the concert is held. Animal Crossing is a completionist’s dream – or nightmare. Fishing is a simple activity I have little patience for in real life. But the fish you can catch change. Part of this is a random bit of luck, part of this is seasonal.

Animal Crossing Lounge Room
You don't just collect creatures. You can also collect decorations for your island and home

Just like in real life, different breeds of fish appear at different times of the year. And not only fish – there is a plethora of bugs to collect as well. You can donate these to your museum to display along with all of the fossils you find. Art has been added as well.

The museum gives you a great way to display your progress as well as giving you a goal. 

Wait, the content changed? Art has been ‘added’?

Yep. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has embraced the software as a service model. Not only has content been added, but more is also coming. And not just things to collect. The rumour at the moment is there will be a swimming and diving mechanic coming soon.

Sure, this will lead to new things to collect. This is the sort of game grind that can kill many games for me. Destiny 2 ring a bell anyone? Animal Crossing has somehow made this grind ridiculously fun and relaxing. Will I get bored with it eventually? Yes. But I can’t see that happening anytime soon. That’s why I feel that even without fully experiencing all the game has to offer, it’s still fair for me to review it after 45 hours of play.

Animal Crossing Bunny Day
There are also seasonal events, such as Bunny Day when I just started playing

That kind of makes sense. I don’t know if just collecting stuff appeals to me though.

Here is another aspect of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and one I am probably not going to engage in. If you are the creative type, the level of customisation in New Horizons is staggering.

For example, I made my own flag from the site logo. My island tune is an admittedly butchered version of the Chocobo music from Final Fantasy.

You can design clothes, flooring, roads – so many things. This gives you a real sense of ownership and satisfaction.

Animal Crossing New Flag
This made me happier than I thought it would.

Not so much into the artsy side? One of the things that make me smile is people are hosting TV shows from Animal Crossing! The first time I saw this was Outside Xtra and the Show of the Almost Weekend. During the week, I watched another show where Danny Trejo was a guest on the show. Animal Talking with Gary Whitta is a full blown talk show, all done within the game. It’s amazing.

Games like Little Big Planet and Dreams give you tools to make amazing things. The things people have been making in Animal Crossing: New Horizon have blown me away.

Long story short – Animal Crossing is the relaxing time soak I knew it would be, and the community has made it so much more.

Overall Thoughts

Games where you ‘get out of it what you put into it’ are always hard to classify. They can sound like people just want to like them, or just can’t convince you to give them a try.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons falls into this category. Giving it a try more out of desperation to try to get some downtime than ‘real’ interest in the game, my expectations were low.

I was wrong. I am enjoying the daily grind loop. My joy at finding an island full of Bamboo plants was real. The eye rolls from Rabbit when I show her the next silly thing I have done are also real. 🙂

The only reason I am giving Animal Crossing: New Horizons 7.5 is because I know I won’t be playing it in 10 years. That’s not how my ranking works. But I would guess 90% of people that jump into Animal Crossing for the first time and stick with it even casually for a week will begin to fall into the same trap I did.

Damn you, Tom Nook! :p

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Quick, what you want to do gameplay in chunks of time you decide.
  • New things to discover and are being added at a steady pace.
  • A relaxing game that gives you an escape.
  • Lots of complex systems to discover.

Cons

  • Early game is prolonged.
  • In-game tutorials aren’t always as helpful as I would like.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Resident Evil 3 Review – Seeing S.T.A.R.S.

Resident Evil 3 Cover
Released 2020
Platform PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Capcom (Website)
Developer Capcom (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Survival
Horror
Action

2019’s Resident Evil 2 may have set some expectations too high.

I am one of those people that grew up playing the Resident Evil series. I was in my early 20’s when I first played the original, and I still jump when the dogs first jump through the window.

Resident Evil 5 and 6 have not had a great time review wise over the years. I appreciate Capcom’s attempts to try new things. Still, I didn’t get excited about Resident Evil 7 until I played the demo. Gone was the heavily action-oriented gameplay. ‘Returning to your roots’ is on overused cliche description, but here, it fits.

First, let me clear the elephants in the room.

To play through Resident Evil 3 doesn’t take long, especially compared to modern games. My first playthrough was about 6 hours of playtime. For a fully priced title, this has some people crying foul.

Here’s the thing – the original game was also short. Replay was promoted in trying to achieve multiple endings, which can be fun to watch. It doesn’t change the fact that you play vast portions of the game over and over again.

The remake removes the multiple endings, and also some gameplay mechanics as they were linked. But if you stick with it, the higher difficulty modes add back a lot of the elements people were saying was missing. Playing on nightmare randomises enemy types and positions, but most people haven’t highlighted this in their scathing reviews.

Resident Evil 3 PlayStation Original
20 years ago, this was cutting edge graphics

The more significant issue to me is the price. Bottom line, Resident Evil 3 2020 is a bundle game. You get the remake, and you get a new multiplayer game – Resistance.

I am not interested in blind multiplayer games. I don’t want to join up with a whole lot of people I don’t know and play a game. Now, this is a personal game decision – I would rather play with people I know and have a fun catch up as we play.

As such, I haven’t even started up Resistance. But I have had to buy it to play the game I do want to play. I can see both sides on this one.

Getting more Resident Evil is rarely a bad thing to me, but I would rather have paid AUD$60 per game or maybe have an AUD$100 bundle option.

Resident Evil Resistance
I'm not saying it's a bad game, just I am not interested in it

If you do want to play Resident Evil 3 but like me don’t like the online multiplayer vs type games, wait until it’s on sale. But this review is all about the main Resident Evil 3 game, in all its single-player glory.

This definitely isn’t your standard Resident Evil build-up.

Resident Evil, and survival horror in general, have a formula. You start the game, have about 10-15 minutes of slow and ‘safe’ exploration, and then the game starts properly. It’s usually about an hour or two before your first boss fight.

Resident Evil 3 starts you off in a dream sequence with Jill Valentine, the character you play. Even if you don’t know anything about the series, this sequence gives you the information that Jill has problems with Umbrella and with dealing with the existence of zombies.

Then, you get a phone call that is interrupted by the games big bad Nemesis breaking through your wall. There is no subtle build-up here – you are thrown into the deep end straight away. You get that sense of adrenaline like the opening of a high impact action film.

Resident Evil 3 Here's Nemesis
I don't care what anyone says - this is the 'classic Jill' uniform :p

How can you keep up with pressure like that for the whole game?

On your first play, the tension is high, and all you want to do is get away from the monster hunting you down. But, this tension is only felt the first time.

This is where I say Resident Evil 2 may have set the bar a little high. When Mr X pursued you through the Racoon City Police Station, you never knew what to expect. In contrast, Nemesis only appears at set points. You always know when to expect him to make your life harder.

Resident Evil 3 And They Pull You Right Back In
You think you get away...

I have heard a lot of people talk about how this is a negative of the game. Personally, I think this is positive. But I will get into the reasoning of why I believe this when I talk about replayability. 

I tried Resident Evil before, and the weird puzzles and backtracking are frustrating and annoying.

Yep. The original PlayStation Resident Evil trilogy and the later Resident Evil 0 all have this problem. Having to go from one end of the map to the other to pick up weird components in order is a problem. Picking up too many items not knowing what to when, and having to drop vital health and ammo, is frustrating.

You don’t have any of this in Resident Evil 3. Not really. There are a couple of puzzles, but they are very streamlined if you have to do them. And that a great change – if you have to do them. A lot of puzzles are optional, and while you get rewards for doing them, they aren’t vital.

This kind of ties into people saying with Resident Evil 3 is so short. Streamlined puzzles and smaller areas that you can’t go back to cut out hours of ‘pointless’ exploration.

Resident Evil 3 Optional Puzzles
Don't wan tto solve the puzzle? Only a couple are now mandatory

So you don’t seem to be talking much about the actual gameplay…

I am kind of glossing over it in this review. This is for two particular reasons.

Firstly, the game looks fantastic, and the controls are great. Any of the screenshots and video footage demonstrate this. Based on the same technology as Resident Evil 2, this was pretty much guaranteed. Hence, going into the great graphics and flawless cutscenes (even if the content can be cheesy) is pretty skippable.

Secondly, as I said in my First Impressions, the Racoon City Demo is very representative of the final gameplay. You can download it on any platform, and decide for yourself if you enjoy Resident Evil or not.

So what makes Resident Evil 3 replayable?

When you first play a Resident Evil game, you can enjoy the (admittedly convoluted) story that makes the series unique.

Once you have finished the story, you can then continue to play to reach higher ranks and earn rewards. Some rewards are aesthetic, like costumes. Some make future runs easier, like infinite ammo rocket launchers.

Resident Evil and its set gameplay make for a magnificent training ground for learning how to speedrun. Did it take you 20 minutes to find the combination to a safe? Now that combination is known, you can cut out that whole section of gameplay.

Resident Evil 3 The Shop
You can even pick your own rewards with the new Shop system

It was also the series that got me interested in Completionist gameplay, long before trophies or achievements. Finding all of the documents and files around the world fleshes out the lore of the Resident Evil universe.

This still doesn’t sound like a game I would be interested in.

Doing this with the original games takes a lot of patience and dedication. Many players have given up because the grind to get to better rewards is too much. This is more than fair – Resident Evil isn’t for everyone, and not just because of the theme.

Resident Evil 3 has made the series accessible. Not easier – don’t get the two confused.

If you wanted to get started in Resident Evil, I would have said start with 4 and warn people that it takes a while to warm up to. Resident Evil 2 last year made this more manageable in terms of access, but I still would have said to people don’t be afraid to have a walkthrough handy.

Now, if you have any interest in Resident Evil, Resident Evil 3 is a great introduction. You can get a feel for the world, the logic of the series, and have it in a relatively bite-sized piece.

I know Resident Evil. Are saying it’s a series tutorial?

Not so fast. Yes, if you are a veteran to the series, the difficulty curve is lower.

Play on Hard. Give yourself the challenge. Then try Nightmare mode. Everything you are expecting from a Resident Evil game comes out to play. New combinations of enemies, locations, even adding randomisation of item locations. Nightmare mode is the real hidden gem of Resident Evil 3.

My biggest complaint is that the mode was so hidden in the game, and that very few reviewers are highlighting it.

Resident Evil 3 New Difficulties
Two 'hidden' modes - and it's not just tougher enemies!

For the first time, I have to ask an open question on some of these reviews. It feels like that they played Resident Evil 3 in Assist mode (the easiest way where you also start with an assault rifle) and called their game the entire experience. If that’s the case, I feel bad that they missed out on the experience they wanted. It was right at their fingertips.

Overall Thoughts

Resident Evil 3 is a solid new entry, and helps to solidify some of the series canon lore. It’s an enjoyable game, that I am on my third playthrough, and may try to Platinum Resident Evil 3.

I also enjoy the return to the ‘old days’ with demo versions that let you try before you buy. Really, take that I am enjoying the game and I think many would enjoy Resident Evil 3 as a recommendation, then try the demo.

I only wish they had greenlit Resident Evil: Code Veronica rather than Resident Evil 4 for the next remake.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Let’s you explore more of Racoon City
  • Increased enemy AI and new dodge mechanic are satisfying
  • RE Engine is beautiful on every platform

Cons

  • For series veterans, best experience is hidden
  • While the bundle value is there, if you only want one game it makes the other expensive
  • Segmenting sections stopping backtracking doesn’t feel right

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Control Review

Control
Control
Released 2019
Platform PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher 505 Games (Website)
Developer Remedy Entertainment (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Adventure
Paranormal
Third Person Shooter
Abilities
Exploration

Ever wondered what happened if you mix Twin Peaks with a shooter? Control is the closest thing I have ever found.

Remedy’s Control is a game that sounds like it was made for a niche. The storyline is laced with paranormal elements. It’s a shooter that emphasis exploration and interaction.

On PC, it was hailed as the ‘right’ way to implement Ray Tracing. I know a few gamers that were put off. The thought they needed to buy a new graphics card to enjoy Control.

Like a meal that sounds wrong, if you are brave enough to take a bite, the rewards are worth it. This is one of those times where your worst fears are unfounded.

So what is Control?

You play as Jesse Fayden, and all you know is you have walked into a government building. That is empty. You have no idea what is going on, or what your goal is.

You get some objectives to give you direction, but you have no context to help you. If you watch an action movie, you know the first few minutes are the setup justifying the ensuing mayhem. The first few minutes of Control are you investigating an empty office building.

Jesse talks to herself, and then suddenly you realise she is talking to someone. She reacts to a soft geometric ring that we see as the player. At first, I thought this was an immersion technique, where Jesse talked to the player.

Spoiler – I was wrong.

Control First Document
Security checkpoint in Federal building. Normal. No one investigating why you set off the alarm though...

Eventually, you pick up a weapon. In the world of Control, this makes you The Director of the Federal Bureau of Control. No, it makes no sense. But it becomes a substantial part of your game world.

From here, you explore The Oldest House (the office building) and help others to stop a potential invasion while finding your brother.

Why play a game that makes no sense?

Why stick with a television series that makes little sense to you? There are small elements that promise potential and draw you in. For me, I just had to know what was going on.

Remedy nailed the opening story pacing. I spent maybe three minutes walking around thinking “Huh? What’s all the hype about?” Twenty minutes later, I knew I was playing until I couldn’t anymore.

That’s a bit vague. Details?

I know Control came out a while ago, but I also know that many people haven’t tried Control. Because of this, I don’t want to spoil any of the stories for anyone.

Yes, stories. Control evolves from a relatively short story game (maybe 6-7 hours?) into the story you want to make. Side quests can be a massive grind in adventure games, but I was genuinely looking forward to helping others in Control.

Now, these side quests don’t change the ending. There is a definite ending, and The Foundation DLC picks up right after this ending. There is no ending for this story yet in the traditional sense.

Control Objective Found
The screen stays pretty clear. Objective in the top left, markers fairly obvious.

That said, the ending of the main game isn’t a cliffhanger. I would describe it more as a good season 1 ending where you don’t know if season 2 is coming.

OK, so what actually is Control?

You can sum up Control as an adventure game with light RPG elements and shooting. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?

This is where I try to get across that Control is greater than the sum of its parts. The exploration of The Oldest House is satisfying. Even though I got the Platinum Trophy, I have much more to explore. I grabbed the Deluxe version on sale on PS4, and now I have even more to explore.

By introducing the Astral Plane and having The Oldest House literally move, it makes progression feel satisfying. When you unlock new powers like Levitation, areas you have already explored suddenly have new paths available to you.

Control Astral Plane
The Astral Plane has a few uses, the most obvious being the tutorial mode for new abilities

The Service Weapon, your gun in the game, changes forms. Having one weapon sounds boring, nut you unlock these forms as you play. It means you get a pistol, Gatling gun, rocket launcher and sniper rifle all at the same time. It also makes sense of how you can carry so many weapons at the same time.

Most of the previous paragraphs sound strange, and yet in the context of Control makes perfect sense. Every character looked at in isolation is just weird, yet make perfect sense in the story. Actions and powers you utilise or set pieces you come across make sense.

Control Dr Darling
These video presentations actually feel right in the game

Even the Threshold Kids, the video series that initially freaked me out, became fun things to find. The lore you come across in the form documents and videos is interesting. Files and letters redacted nature serves as a hook rather than an annoyance. Videos that made you pull a face suddenly make something else click later.

But. There is always a but.

Yep. Control is no different. Side quests are fun, but some of them are so hidden that many people can pass straight past them. One of these quests was a room investigating luck. The instructions for how to ‘solve’ the puzzle were in plain sight, but there was no mission in my objective list.

The missions that are spelled out for you are relatively obvious fetch/hunt type quests. There aren’t many, so the ‘fetch grind’ that many adventure games suffer from. You can skip most of them, but if you do, you won’t end up as powerful as you could be.

Control Alternate Suits
Doing optional missions can unlock some new looks. This one is a paid DLC bonus.

The other catch is the action. People that don’t like shooters (like myself) can get turned off by an action-oriented game. While Control has a lot of action happening, it rewards patience and practice. Boss too hard? Level up and come back. These bosses tend to be optional – such encounters aren’t a wall.

The biggest hurdle to me is the story itself. It won’t click with everyone. A lot of people could give up purely because they are lost in the story. Every other ‘negative’ of Control has a subtle fix, except for this.

If you don’t get the story – ignore it. Control will let you do this very easily. I am not trying to say the story is irrelevant. People that dig will be rewarded. But you can focus just on the next objective and levelling up your powers and enjoy it.

Console, PC, RTX?

So here is a big one. I bought Control on PC cheap on the Epic Store, and again for my PS4 Pro. The PC version I bought to show how good it plays on my laptop compared to my PC, and that comparison is coming. I haven’t played it on any system that can take advantage of Ray Tracing.

A few people have commented that I am an RTX hater. This isn’t correct. Two years after the release of the Nvidia RTX line, only a handful of games take advantage of it. That is changing this year, but right now it’s still a very niche tech.

What does RTX bring to Control? Real-time reflections, beautiful lighting and realistic shadows. The cost to do this though is pretty staggering. I personally wouldn’t play Control on PC with Ray Tracing on with less than a 2070 Super.

This video shows Nvidia’s examples of Ray Tracing in the game.

Differences between my laptops 1660Ti and my desktops 1080Ti were slim. I don’t remember any difference in the experience. Sure, if I examined individual frames, I am sure I could spot differences. The feeling of awe is what I remember, and Control looked great on both.

Control 1660Ti
Jacket looks a little flatter but details are still crisp on my laptop 1660Ti
Control 1080Ti.png
Control on my desktop 1080Ti ultrawide

I only played a tiny portion on PC though. I played the game ‘properly’ on my PS4 Pro. Even at 1080p, there were some very noticeable frame rate drops on PlayStation. These only occurred in larger battles with a lot of powers in use. Not enough to ruin the experience, but it’s evident that Control is pushing the older consoles to their limits.

My personal feeling is paying anywhere from AUD$300 to AUD$2000 more depending on your graphics card (e.g. RTX 2060 Super to RTX 2080 Ti) is a lot to make one game look better. Hands down it looks a lot better, but I can do a lot more with that extra cash!

Digital Foundry did an excellent tech review of the different technologies implemented in Control you can check out below. But bottom line, I think you will enjoy Control on any platform you want to play it on.

Overall Thoughts

Comparing Control to Twin Peaks is very apt. The story is deeper than it appears, but it doesn’t drag everything out while feeding you the lines to follow. It also allows the player much more choice than might be immediately obvious at first glance.

The story won’t be for everyone. The action won’t be for everyone. But the way that Remedy has blended everything into an experience that is both familiar and unique is phenomenal.

If you are on the fence, with various sales now that it has been out for a while, Control is a safe buy for many people.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Gorgeous graphics
  • A lot more room to explore and customise than it appears
  • The balance between story and playing is pretty spot on
  • Much more to discover than the objective lists suggest

Cons

  • You get over close-ups of Jesse quickly
  • Frame rate dips even on PS4 Pro in battles with lots of enemies and powers can be distracting for that battle
  • Paranormal heavy storyline not for everyone

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Final Fantasy 7 First Impressions and Thoughts

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Logo

It’s been 15 years since this has been teased as possible. Now Final Fantasy VII Remake is here.

Final Fantasy VII was my first Final Fantasy game. This is a big reason why to this day it has a special place in my heart. I have found for most people this holds true.

Before anyone jumps up and down, no Final Fantasy VII isn’t the best one. Final Fantasy IX has that honour in my opinion. Final Fantasy X until now was my recommendation for people new to the series.

But enough gushing and praise for Square Enix – want to see me play the first little bit?

As I said repeatedly, if you aren’t sure – get the demo!

This is one episodic series I wouldn’t wait for them all to come out either. It could be years before the next part. Luckily, with 30+ hours of gameplay, you will have plenty to stick your teeth into. 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Resident Evil 3 First Impressions and Thoughts

Resident Evil 3 Raccoon City Demo Capture 2

Everyone’s First Impressions on Resident Evil 3? STAAAARRRRS!

Resident Evil 3 is finally here, and I have captured my first impressions! Don’t worry if you don’t get all the STARS references that will be flying around – it’s an injoke from the game, that you will get quickly if you play 😀

There is only one game I have been waiting for with more anticipation, and it is teasing me on my shelf.

Final Fnatasy VII Deluxe
It teases me :p

I am waiting for April 10th to look at this one. Not just because of the request for no spoilers from Square Enix, but day one patches and the like aren’t available. So, my plan is to do my first impressions as per normal – even though the start should be the demo that was recently released.

But enough of that teaser, on to todays game – RESIDENT EVIL 3! Resident Evil 2 blew me away last year, and the only reason I haven’t Platinumed it is because I haven’t had the time to dedicate powering through the later skill and time based challenges.

As much as I have been trying to stay away from reviews, headlines have flashed before me. Apparently the game is a ‘mixed’ experience. So what do I think after a half hour of gameplay?

Only one way to find out!

Is Resident Evil 3 a game you have been looking forward to? I can tell you from the demo, it plays equally well on PC, PS4 Pro and Xbox One S so you should have a great time playing it if you do!

Not sure if Resident Evil 3 is for you? Play the Racoon City demo – it is very representative of what Resident Evil 3 is like.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Tokaido Review with Digital Gameplay

Tokaido Cover
Tokaido Cover
Released 2012
Designer Antoine Bauza
Publisher Funforge (Website)
Players 2-5 (best 3+)
Playing Time Physical: 10-15 minutes per player
Digital: about 20 minutes
Category Set Collection
Variable Player Powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

If you can’t go out and about, why not play a game where you explore the Tokaido pilgramage?

It’s Friday, and I bet you were wondering where the review was?

I decided to try something a little different today. Instead of trying to write up why a game of movement and collection is fun, why not show you?

So as a bit of an experiment, I hope you will join me as I play through the tutorial game of Tokaido in digital form!

So I present to you a full game, as well as some rule explanations I feel the digital implementation was lacking. Complete with Rambling Old Man Thoughts! 🙂

After filming, I did indeed confirm that right now Tokaido is free on the Google Play store, and AUD$1.27 on iOS!

I was playing the Steam version, which right now is AUD$13.89 on the Steam store. I play mainly on my phone, and it’s great to sit back and relax with. You really can’t go wrong with either version!

Tokaido Second Game
I managed to get a win on the game I started when the tutorial game was over

I also mentioned that Tokaido was getting to be a bit pricey and harder to find.

What I didn’t say in the video was to watch out if the expensive versions are the Collectors version. This comes with metal coins and painted miniatures, as well as the crossroads expansion. While still expensive, the cost is a little more justified.

The other reason some places aren’t pushing Tokaido as much is because a follow up is about to be released – Namiji.

Not a sequel as such, but similar mechanics are used with different options available when you stop on the road.

I haven’t playing Namiji yet, and I won’t be in the first wave as I didn’t back it on Kickstarter. Be sure I will be checking it out in the future though! 🙂

Namiji Cover Art
Similar mechanics, but a very different game

Overall Thoughts

Tokaido is a game I have had ‘serious’ players talk down about. Comments like “Too simple” or “Not enough to do”. For me, this simplicity is what makes Tokaido shine.

Sit down with a non-gamer, and explain they are taking a holiday. It really helps the scoring mechanisms click. Don’t want to paint? Go shopping. Don’t like shopping? Relax at the hot springs and talk to various people – you never know what you can get out of it!

Tokaido is a great game to sit and enjoy the company of others with, as you don’t need to spend all of your time concentrating on the game. Playing digitally, it’s a great way to play alone and just enjoy yourself. Plus you can play online with others if you wish!

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Gorgeous art style
  • Random setup helps for great replayability
  • You can play relaxed or competitive – it’s up to you

Cons

  • Digital implementation needs a better tutorial or a reference for new players
  • Wish you could speed up AI animations

Until next time,

JohnHQLD