Warriors of Waterdeep Review

Released 2018
Platform iOS, Android (reviewed)
Publisher Ludia, Inc (Website)
Developer Ludia, Inc (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 with online play
Category Dungeon Crawl
Set Collection
Leveling Up
Different player powers

Mobile game reviews? Really?

Mobile gaming keeps slipping past all of my ‘What did I play this week?’ checks. It’s not intentional. I don’t think I have a bias against mobile games. My stance is ‘Do you enjoy playing X? Then you are a gamer.’ I don’t believe a Twilight Imperium player is any less a gamer than a Call of Duty regular or a Candy Crush fan. As long as you are enjoying your game, you will keep playing games. That’s a gamer.

So in planning a run of reviews to write coming up to and during PAX Aus, I realised something. I have spent the most time on the last couple of weeks playing on my phone. And I haven’t even mentioned that in Last Week’s Gaming.

I spent about 12-15 hours playing two mobile games just last week alone. And I have plans to sit and get into another the week before PAX on the drive down.

So to make up for some of this oversight, let me tell you about Warriors of Waterdeep on iOS and Android, my biggest phone game at the moment.

Lords of Waterdeep got a sequel!

Well, no. But I can see where you might think that. It’s also not what a lot of people would call a Dungeons and Dragons game.

Warriors of Waterdeep has nothing in common with Lords of Waterdeep except for the thematic setting and D&D license. Your warriors getting a mission load screen set in the pub made me smile. Well, the first few times I saw it. Now I want it to hurry up and load.

It’s a mobile dungeon crawler. There are a few variants of this type of game out there, and all share similar traits. Take a party of adventurers that grow as you level up/buy more, beat the monsters, and repeat.

What Warriors of Waterdeep does well is making this such a simple to play experience. The reason I have sat on the couch and played it for two hours straight wasn’t that it was the best game ever. It was the end of the day, and I was tired after work. The couch called to me, and I answered.

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go...

I knew I couldn’t give the truckload of other games on my playlist the attention they deserve. The reflexes needed for Astral Chain were dulled. The logic required for puzzle-solving for Catherine: Full Body was out to lunch.

Do you know what I could do, though? Play a game that only asked of me “Tap the bad guy you want to hit”.

But it’s Dungeons and Dragons – isn’t that deep role-playing stuff?

Ordinarily, it can be. But Warriors of Waterdeep has nods to its D&D roots; it doesn’t try to recreate it.

Your warriors gain experience points (XP) to level up after clearing a room, but the improvements you get are preset. If you want to enable new abilities, you need to arrange your inventory.

Better pants allow for better healing. You are more likely to get a bonus attack with axes instead of a bow. It’s all straightforward – you want that skill? Equip that item. There isn’t layer upon layer of hidden stats and interconnected benefits. “I do this!” is what every item screams, and if you choose to equip the thing you can too.

The primary way of getting more powerful is by powering up your inventory, which you do by collecting cards, but I will talk more about that later. For now, just now that setting up your party isn’t a huge deal. You can get straight into clearing bad guys and not look at the party screen for ages, and enjoy Warriors for the simple diversion it is.

No real choices to weigh up - you upgrade items, your stats increase

The most complicated nod is most items have a chance of activating a bonus ability. There is a dice roll that happens in the background, and if you succeed, you get to do the particular thing. There is also the magical critical hit which plays a unique animation of your attack. But this is again where Warriors makes a nod to D&D, without pushing it all onto the player.

So that’s all you do? Tap on bad guys and level up?

Pretty much. Warriors of Waterdeep isn’t mobile Skyrim, nor is it trying to be. At its heart, you enter a dungeon, clear some rooms, and get rewarded. That said, there are some variants to what you play.

As you explore Waterdeep, you clear out different areas. These areas end up becoming Boss Room gauntlet runs that you can run over and over again. There are some unique backdrops, but there are only so many ways you can layout a 4×4 square room.

The different bosses do have unique attack patterns and abilities, so learning how to get through can be a challenge. You are just replaying rooms of monsters followed by a boss, so the rewards are what makes this worthwhile.

The other thing you can do is Battle, which puts a random group of your heroes against another human team. These fights seem to try and matchmake even teams, based on a score rather than your team. I have been in unwinnable or unlosable battles as a rule. Lose a few fights to lower your standing, and could face off against players 2-3 levels lower than you.

Enter room, hit all the things, move on

That’s a big power difference – and it cuts both ways. You can be working your way up and see a team that is 2-3 levels higher than you. Suck it up and take a breath buddy, it will be over soon ūüôā

I can also see this being the ‘pay to win’ section of the game. I have lost to teams with access to rare/epic/legendary equipment I haven’t got and lost 3/4 of my team in a single hit. Because Warriors is so quick to play, it’s easy enough to shrug off and jump back in. I wish this could be improved, though. Just losing a close battle is infinitely more fun to me than creaming opponents in one hit.

And finally, there are the quests. New ones are added every day. Kill X many enemies, do Y amount of damage, that kind of thing. Your reward is either a bunch of gold or a random card drop. It gives a sense of purpose to aim at something, but it’s just a reward for doing the same old over and over again.

Like Fortnite and the like, daily grind quests give you something to work towards to justify the grind

So overall, it sounds fun! What’s the catch?

Core play mechanics, not much. It’s a light dungeon crawler with RPG ties, which can be just what people are looking to play. Having the ability to run boss gauntlets to level up your characters is a grind, sure. But what RPG doesn’t ask you to do the same thing over and over to level up?

If you don’t have the time or energy to play a ‘big’ game, having something on your phone like Warriors of Waterdeep can be just the ticket.

The issue is the cost of the free game – and not just microtransactions. The cheapest and best way to keep going with bonus chests and prizes is the VIP club. AUD$17 a month gives you access to exclusive chest rewards, mainly in the form of gold. You need gold to pay for levelling up everything in the game. You also need gold to redo those Boss rooms.

You can trade gems for gold, and you buy gems for cash. A fairly standard model, I agree. I am in a position now, where I feel the need to pay for stuff from the shop. Over and above the $17 I paid for the subscription, see where this can get expensive?

And the second problem is what you buy. You don’t buy the mythical axe of opponent stomping, that would be too easy. You get to buy a pack of trading cards like Magic: The Gathering, where the more expensive decks have a higher chance of the rarer cards.

3,000 gems is close to $40. Ouch.

So the theory is that you need the extra cards to level up your characters’ equipment, which in turn levels them up. Sounds reasonable. Except what if you need 50 arrows to level up your ranger, and in 10 booster packs you don’t get a single arrow card?

Long term, Warriors of Waterdeep is a great example of loot crates as gambling. Which in today’s world is not what you want to be known for.

So you are saying stay away?

Not at all. I have had a lot of fun playing Warriors of Waterdeep. Just be aware that it is asking a lot of you in terms of the old wallet.

I have the VIP subscription, and I will probably let it renew for another month. Unless something drastic happens to let me get further into the game though, next month will probably be my last month playing Warriors.

But until then, the relaxation and enjoyment I have gotten out of chilling on the couch and tapping the bad guys have been worth it. But you know what else I can relax with for $17 a month? Netflix. And have change. Microsoft Game Pass, and have lots of games to choose from – with change. Here is where I make the comparison and call Warriors expensive.

Download it, try it out, and see for yourself. If you have made it this far, you are probably interested enough to try it for out. Just before you hand over the old credit card info, weigh up the subscription against what you already have is my advice.

It's still a fun game to play, try it out ūüôā

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot Review

Released 2019
Platform PSVR (Reviewed), Steam
Publisher Bethesda (Website)
Developer Machine Games (Website)
Arkane Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality Experience
Shooter
Light Puzzle Solving

It’s a polished VR Experience packaged as a game – I thought we were past this stage, though?

When I saw the announcement for Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, I was very intrigued. Wolfenstein has had an excellent reputation since being rebooted, and I have wanted to play them for a while. With the release of Cyberpilot and Youngblood last month, I thought this would be the best time to jump in.

Starting things up

You start the game in a room seated in a chair. Looking around, it felt like I was in Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The same model assets are being used in both games, and it makes VR look amazing.

Then you hear the voice of your resistance contact, the narrator and guide for the game. You go through some fairly standard VR intro malarky, and then you are in the game.

You are not allowed past this room. The door says so! :p

What you aren’t into though is into the Nazi killing. That threw me a little bit at first – isn’t this a Wolfenstein game? Shoot first ask questions never?

Instead of shooting, you’re tasked with reprogramming a captured Panzerhund. Again, reasonably standard VR fluff, but well-executed on the whole. Remove a panel with the crowbar, pull out the circuit board, listen to more talking, re-insert the circuit board – it’s all stuff VR has you doing already.

Repairing electronics rarely involves crowbars normally...

Then you get into the combat – well, almost. You get into a tutorial showing you how to move and use the Panzerhund, and then you are into the shooting phase.

So how is the combat?

Not bad – not bad at all. It was fun looking through the eyes of some of Wolfenstein’s harder enemies. The panicked reactions of the soldiers as they realise that their robot ally has turned on them is satisfying to see. And see it you do – graphically, I cannot understate how polished Cyberpilot is.

Using the Move controllers, having autonomous left and right-hand movement makes you feel like a badass. Walking through the streets looks and feels impressive, even if the level design is a bit linear.

The lighting effects are hard to show in a still, but the flamethrower looks amazing!

You don’t sound very enthused though, but you are saying it’s good?

Yeah, you knew the ‘but’ was coming.

There are three types of unit to control, of which the Panzerhund is the first. The next level has you flying a drone with an emphasis on stealth. It felt different from the Panzerhund, but it was another “wait for everything to be explained in unskippable sections” as outlined earlier before you got to do what you wanted.

The last robot is the Zitadelle and was, in most ways, the experience I was most expecting. Rockets on my left arm, minigun on my right, go and mow everything down.

By now, I thought the first three levels were the tutorials for the actual game – something fairly standard in a lot of shooters again. So then I started on the fourth level, where I got to jump between all three robots to complete specific tasks.

Rockets or bullets. Why not both?

Here I was, happy to be finally playing the game – and it was over. There are only four levels to the entire game.

Story wise, there was a bit of a twist (no I’m not going into it) but even that felt rushed and out of place.

Bottom line, this felt like the start of a great game that was rushed to meet an artificial deadline. If this had stayed in development another year with a more fleshed out story and levels, it could have been a great game rather than a good experience.

How are the Controls?

With the Move controllers, everything worked pretty well overall. Tracking was good for the most part, and I didn’t have to recenter myself very often.

The most annoying control issue I had was repairing with the Panzerhund and Zitadelle. In the cockpit, if you put your right hand down to the right and fire, Cyberpilot would often assume you were trying to dock the virtual controller to the frame and initiate repairs.

The other problem I had was the tutorials. They are unskippable and relatively slow. It felt like they were making sure you knew everything you could and couldn’t do in the game.

With the PSVR trying to help you lock onto things, repairing accidently happens a lot

So imagine my surprise when I accidentally find out 10 minutes before finishing the game I could strafe. That would have been nice to know earlier in the game!

So it’s not worth it?

No, by all means, grab it – just not at its current price point, and know that it’s not a game in and of itself.

Cyberpilot is fun enough – if you know it’s only a short term experience.

There are a variety of different challenges to try for in the trophy list, but they feel like they are there for completionists rather than fun things to do.

I do regret getting the physical copy. I bought it for AUD$40 from EB Games, mainly because I added it to my preorder for Youngblood. It’s AUD$30 on the PlayStation Store, and I think it will either be a PS Plus add on or half-price shortly.

Once Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot hits the AUD$15-20 mark, I think it will be better value for money and can recommend more people play it. But by then I think the hype will be gone, so interest in the game will have probably died off to the point not as many people will try this game as they should.

There are little things to discover, but not enough to make you play Cyberpilot again and again
JohnHQLD
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot

Final Thoughts

I don’t regret buying Wolfenstein: Cypberpilot at all. It looks so good, and the fun was there. Not enough to make a concerted effort for a platinum trophy, but it was fun enough. The seeds of an entire spin of series for Wolfenstein are sitting here, waiting to be nurtured.

What Cyberpilot doesn’t have is longevity. It’s like Batman: Arkham VR – it’s a polished and immersive experience, but that is all it is – an experience. This far into the PSVR lifecycle, I was hoping for more.

While the idea of Wolfenstein in VR is appealing, I don’t think that the PSVR is capable of doing it justice. Cypberpilot is a positive experiment and something that I would like to see Bethesda expand on. I will happily get the next game in the Wolfenstein VR series if it happens, but I would recommend picking up Cyberpilot when it’s on sale.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • ¬†Amazing Visuals
  • ¬†Each robot feels different to control
  • ¬†Entertaining especially for new VR players
  • ¬†Lots of trophy challenges to complete

Cons

  • ¬†2 hours tops to complete
  • ¬†Unskippable Tutorials and Exposition
  • ¬†No secrets or collectables to promote level exploration
  • ¬†Controls can be awkward

Donut County Review

Donut County Title
Donut County Title
Released 2018
Platform Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4, XBox One, iOS, Steam, PC, Mac
Publisher Annapurna Games (Website)
Developer Ben Esposito (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Puzzle
Physics-Based
Diversion

Who would of thought playing as a hole could be so much fun?

If someone says a game is a puzzle game, you usually have a good idea of what to expect.  There could be deduction puzzles such as Access Denied (reviewed here).  There could be more 3D type puzzles, such as the Portal games.  You can even have adventure games with convoluted solutions to getting past a goat (Broken Sword!).

But a puzzle game where you are a hole?¬† It took me a while to warm up to the idea.¬† Even the trailer doesn’t really explain the game in such a way that you ‘have’ to try it.¬† Check it out:

But I bought it on Switch and it has been sitting there until I had time to sit and play it.  And with most of my gaming all packed up and a tired brain, it seemed like a good time to try it.

And I am really happy that I did ūüôā

Don’t let the ‘puzzle’ aspect of Donut County put you off – this is a fun little experience.¬† The goal is to almost always just to drop everything on the map down the hole.

You start each level as a small hole, and as things are dropped down the hole it gets bigger.  And bigger.  Eventually, you will be consuming entire buildings!

While you need to work out how to get to some parts, at no point does the game put you in a state where you will lose.  Just keep at it, and you will get through the level.

Donut County Gameplay
How do you reach those high up chickens?

Because Donut County is so simple, there really isn’t much more that can be said about the gameplay itself.¬† It’s a game you knock over in an afternoon, with a semi-traditional ‘boss battle’ at the end of the game.

Eating everything on the screen and seeing how the hole interacts with things though is calming.¬† It’s got a similar zen state as Tetris in this way, and there are two levels in particular I can see myself replaying just for this feeling.

Even though you can drag the hole around the screen with the touchscreen, I used the Switch Joy-cons and it behaved pretty well.¬† For really fine movement the analog sticks moved a little too much. The end result was normally a fun flick of something across the screen, so it wasn’t frustrating at all.

The real fun of Donut County is hidden in the humor and story of the game.  Everything you have eaten ends up at the bottom of the hole, and between levels, the story slowly unfolds as to how everything has come to be.

It’s far from an epic tale of intrigue and suspense, but almost every story put a smile on my face and made me want to see what happened next.¬† There is even a little redemption arc for BK ūüôā

Donut County Story
Between each level, you find out a bit more of what's been happening

Another fun little part is the Trashpedia.  Between levels, all the trash you have collected in the hole gets an entry added to this tome.

Reading the descriptions of the items from a Racoon’s point of view is really fun, and worth the minute or so to flick through the new entries ūüôā

Even some of the level design has elements of humor to them – but I will let you discover those ones for yourself ūüôā

Donut County Trashpedia
Bet you never thought of a snake like this!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Donut County

Final Thoughts

Donut County is a fun little diversion that I can see appealing to a lot of different people.  The new elements are introduced in a logical manner, and I never felt frustrated with the game at all.

I enjoyed this on the Switch, and it felt like the best platform for it.  I can see it working well on mobile, but the required touch screen controls I think would work against it overall.

On PS4 I just looked up it has a Platinum trophy as well.¬† I don’t think I will rebuy it just for that, but if that is something that would sway you think about it ūüôā

Basically, playing Donut County for an afternoon where I was physically tired was a fun experience, and totally worth it.¬† It’s one of those games that I will most likely play again just because of how good it feels to gobble everything up with a hole!

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • ¬†A fun light little diversion
  • ¬†Cute art style
  • ¬†Good difficulty curve

Cons

  • ¬†Short
  • ¬†On a phone, you would block what you need to see with your finge

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 30th Anniversary Review

HHGTTGCoverArt
HHGTTGCoverArt
Released 1984
Platform Web Based
Publisher Infocom (now Activision – Website)
Developer Infocom (now Activision – Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Text-based adventure

Did you know 42 is the ASCII code for *?

Many, many years ago when I was a young lad, playing PC adventure games was very different from today.

For a start, they had no real graphics – they were all text based. The early games that had ASCII art were mind-blowing at the time. We also didn’t have the internet. If you couldn’t figure it out, you were stuck. Get lucky, and a hint book would be published or a guide in a magazine, but these were rare.

So sitting on my parents Commodore 64, I spent the better part of a week trying to get out of a particular bedroom. No, not the room where the computer was. It was the bedroom of one Arthur Dent, and the game was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

That’s right. Douglas Adams (already a programmer) and Steve Meretzky transferred the amazing book into a full-blown game. But while it was fan service, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was far from a cash grab.

HHGTTG00
This was Commodore 64 basic text adventure - this is how we rolled back then!

From a review point, this is a 35ish-year-old adventure game based on a cult sci-fi story. Gameplay wise, think of it as the Dark Souls of adventure games. There is a reason why it took 10-11 year old me a week to get out of the first room. And that was after it had been out for two years!

The story is one we know already, but as you are guiding Arthur there are plenty of new twists and areas to enjoy. The command interpreter at the time was already fairly advanced as well, and it holds up today. There are no controls to speak of other than typing ‘Walk South’ or ‘Get Toothbrush’.

Bottom line though this is an early text adventure. As fun as it is, it’s not comparable to games made today. Replaying Hitchhiker’s Guide was great for a diversion, but I wouldn’t play it over The Witcher.

Purely from a nostalgia perspective, I am so happy this game exists. The remake is the same text adventure tidied up with a nicer interface and some cute images. Even this ‘upgrade’ is a throwback to the old classic style of early adventure games, and it makes me smile.

HHGTTG01
This is as welcoming as the game gets. It does not hold your hand!

I wasn’t joking – even if you know the source material intimately, this is a tough game to finish. The act of getting out of the house stumped younger me for ages. Later in the game, you have one chance to get the Babel Fish – fail, and you cannot win the game.

And that’s just two areas that readers will be familiar with. There are many ways the game will put you in a situation you can’t win. The problem with this is you can play for while without knowing you have already failed. Or it will only kill you. This at least is a quick conclusion to a situation ūüôā

The best way to understand the game though is to play it. And you can anytime – it’s free on the BBC website! I wasn’t aware of this until this week, and I am kicking myself that I have been missing out!

You can log in and have tweets put out on your progress, and you can save your game. The execution is slick, the game remains fun, and it is a window to how we used to game. If you like the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, this will be a great treat for you as well.

HHGTTG02
I can now get outside in less than a minute - progress!
JohnHQLD
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 30th Anniversary

Summary

This article has been light on review. How do you try to get people excited about a 30+ year old text game without spoiling it?

But the game holds up well, and I don’t want to spoil any of it – especially as you can play it right now.¬† For free.¬† And unlike a lot of other browser experiences I have come across, you can fully save and load your progress.¬† This means you can have the full experience, in a nicer format than in the 80s.

If you like adventure games and a challenge, go to the site and bookmark it.  You will enjoy it.

Until next time,

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • ¬†An old classic that still holds up
  • ¬†Browser game format works well
  • ¬†Comes with hints (unlike on the C64!)
  • ¬†Can see the seeds of todays adventuring standards

Cons

  • ¬†The game is designed to be hard
  • ¬†New gamers may not see the appeal

Access Denied Review

Access Denied Feature
Access Denied Feature
Released 2019
Platform Steam, PS4 (reviewed), XBox, Switch
Publisher Stately Snail (Website)
Developer Stately Snail (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Logic and Deduction
Escape Room-esque puzzles

When you want to exercise your mind instead of your trigger finger

While I have been playing some action-oriented games lately, I do enjoy logic problems. Getting a puzzle and working it over and over until a solution is found is an incredibly satisfying experience.

So a few weeks ago when I saw Access Denied on the PlayStation Store, I thought “Why Not?” and spent the AUD$8 on what looked like a promising little title.

So I one afternoon when I was working from home, I started playing. I thought it would be a good thing I could pick up and put down as I was waiting.

What I didn’t expect was to finish after about 2 hours. And that was a distracted 2 hours. But more of that later – let’s talk about the good stuff first.

What Access Denied does well

Access Denied doesn’t hold your hand. You start the game with a control panel and some great rain sounds. Clicking start raises a box, and then you are pretty much on your own.

You can rotate the device before you, and change the viewing angle. The first puzzle is straightforward, but you still need to work out what you can interact with.

When the puzzle is complete, a little hologram orb appears, and the next challenge rotates in. Simple, straightforward, and satisfying when you complete a puzzle.

The difficulty curve I thought was about right as well. New mechanics are slowly introduced, and I never felt stumped. There was always a path I knew I could try.

All in all, it’s a generally smooth experience that allows people new to puzzle games a safe entry point.

Access Denied Level Complete
When you are finished, the game shows you so very clearly

And what could Acces Denied improve?

I have only played on the PS4, but the controls aren’t great. Maybe the touchscreen would be better? Moving the reticle and clicking isn’t too bad, but you have the problem of moving too much or not enough with the analogue stick. A way to adjust the sensitivity of the movement would be nice.

And dials. They are terrible. Using the dials was genuinely frustrating for me. They made straightforward puzzles unnecessarily annoying.

My only other real gripe is the length of the game, but at less than $8 (on PS4) I don’t expect a 40-hour game.

Access Denied Dials
There is a trick to it, but it's still REALLY annoying to turn dials

And then there are the trophies…

On PlayStation and Xbox are the trophies or achievements. Earning them increases your score or level on your platform, and is something either sought after or ignored generally.

For PlayStation gamers, trophies come in four ranks and are awarded for specific tasks in a game. Bronze for small achievements, the backbone of the system. Silver for harder tasks or hidden goals, recognition of extra work. Gold for outstanding in-game actions. Get every other trophy in the game, and you earn the platinum trophy signifying your mastery of the title.

Kingdom Hearts 3, my first platinum since Resident Evil 7, has 46 trophies in all. 32 bronze, 10 silver, and 2 gold – plus the platinum.

Batman – Return to Arkham: Arkham Asylum has 48 trophies. 28 bronze, 18 silver, 1 gold plus the platinum.

The Telltale game The Walking Dead: Season One also has a platinum trophy. It is generally regarded as an ‘easy platinum’ as you only need to finish all of the episodes. Each episode is essentially a mini-movie with the occasional choice, so they aren’t considered ‘hard’ games. The Walking Dead: Season One has 41 trophies over 5 episodes. 30 bronze, 5 silver, 5 gold and of course one platinum.

JohnHQLD Trophy Sample
Day of the Tentacle doesn't count as a short game - I have played it at least once a year on PC for years!

Among these titles, you now have an idea of how trophies usually are shared out in a game. You are given a semi-secret score for each trophy you earn, all of which add up to your gamer level.

What struck me as odd was how much my PSN level jumped when finishing Access Denied. Sure, I had earned platinum which is worth a lot of points, but it still didn’t seem right. Plus it was only 14 trophies; things weren’t adding up. Then I looked at the trophy distribution. 2 silver, 11 gold, and the platinum. Not a single bronze trophy in sight.

For $8 and a couple of hours of my time, I had bought a platinum trophy and more gold trophies than three ‘full’ games. Not going to lie – this left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t consider myself a trophy hunter, but this feels like an artificial sales incentive for Access Denied.

Want to get a lot of trophies quickly? Buy Me!

Access Denied stands on its own merits.  If I had just finished the game with nothing but a few bronze trophies, I would have been happy.  On PS4 at least this trophy grab incentive cheapens the game in my eyes.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Access Denied

Final Thoughts

If the biggest problem I have with a game is a perceived marketing ploy, it really can’t be a bad game.

Even the controls I could work around.  Access Denied is a game you pick up and play in short bursts normally.  Working around issues like that for a short time, especially for the price, is forgivable in my eyes.

If you are new to video game escape room type puzzle games, Access Denied is a fine game if you know it’s shortcomings.¬† If you have more experience, you can still grab The Witness for free on PlayStation Plus for a couple more days.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • ¬†Solid introduction to video game puzzles
  • ¬†Challenging puzzles
  • ¬†Cheap

Cons

  • ¬†Frustrating Controls (on PS4 at least)
  • ¬†Short gameplay overall

Sandiego Inc. Review

Sandiego Inc Title Screen
Sandiego Inc Title Screen
Released 2017
Platform Android, iOS
Publisher Think Tesla Studios (Website)
Developer Think Tesla Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1(ish – can play in teams)
Category Deduction
General Knowledge

How did I not know about this until now?

Many, many years ago when I was still in primary school (gasp!), when we did especially well we would be awarded time on the computer.¬† Now that didn’t mean time to sit and watch YouTube or catch up on Facebook – this was 1986, these things weren’t invented then!

What we could do was ‘play a game’.¬† Most of us know educational games tend to be bad at both being education and being a game, but one rose quickly among the ranks.

That game?  Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Chasing down a suspect that had stolen some national treasure, you had to piece together a description of the suspect and follow general knowledge clues to find them.

All controls were via a button press Рclick to search the library for example, and a little animation would appear.  If you were correct, a little trenchcoat-wearing figure may look around suspiciously.  But if you were wrong, precious time was wasted and you had to backtrack quickly!

Today, it was simplistic and the graphics were awful.  But back then all of the graphics were awful Рyou had to make a fun game to compensate, not the other way around like today!

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego - 1985
This was cutting edge graphics in 85! Image from gamesdatabase.org

And of course, the series only started here.  Where on Earth, the USA, in Europe, and my personal favourite Where in Time were also additions to the series.

After watching the new Netflix series, nostalgia set in for the old games and I thought I would see what was around.

And I can play the old style game on my phone ūüėÄ

Enter Sandiego Inc

I tried what any person driven to find answers would do on the spur of the moment – I typed Googled Carmen Sandiego Game on my phone.

And there it was – on the Play Store, Sandiego Inc.¬† The tone of the letter from The Boss was right from my memories,¬†but didn’t you get missions from The Chief?

The last line solved that little mystery – a tribute to the Classic Carmen Sandiego.¬† It’s important to make that distinction because Think Tesla has not made a Carmen Sandiego game.¬† But what a fun tribute they did make!

The old school Carmen is in full force here, with missions received via old school terminal PC and fax print out.  The case structure is identical, but the locations images are replaced with slightly easier to recognise hi res versions.

Sandiego Inc A Welcome Sight
Oh yeah. People my age know this screen well - and it is welcomed ūüėÄ

The simple layout of tapping one of a limited number of choices means that the system holds up well on a mobile screen.  Animations and particularly sounds have been updated a bit, but still have that retro charm very much intact.

The controls are very intuitive, and the tutorial does a great job of walking you through what needs to be done.

All of the original core mechanics are in play in Sandiego Inc.  Get the gender of the suspect from the briefing.  Start investigating for clues as to the next destination and about the suspect.  Get a warrant when you can, and catch the crook.

If you catch up to the suspect without a warrant, they go free.  Solve certain numbers of cases to get a promotion, which makes investigations more difficult as you progress.

What you really want to see is the suspect in cuffs.  Here I remember scuffles slapstick style between the trenchcoat wearer and English Bobbies.  In Sandiego Inc, you are rewarded with a pair of hands in cuffs.  Satisfying that you solved the case Рbut not as fun to watch.

I do find it a little confusing because the classic trenchcoat suspect and footprints are here – maybe it was easier and less infringement worthy?¬† Still, as this is the biggest gripe I have, it’s at least a small one!

Sandiego Inc Success
This is what you see when you do the case correctly. Of course, the animations would have been better...

Uh Oh, it’s free with ‘Ad Support’

Yes, there are full-page ads that pay for the game.  So far I have solved three cases, and I have only seen 2 ads.  Both were for about 5 seconds?

There have been plenty of free quick diversion games I thought I would like (and generally did), but any ‘screen change’ meant¬†another¬†ad to sit through.¬† This was a concern with Sandiego Inc, but I am happy to report on my Android phone at least ads have been minimal and unobtrusive.

The bigger concern if you are looking for a challenge is that Carmen Sandiego has always been aimed at kids.

Geography is a massive gap in my knowledge, but even my minimal knowledge of locations and flags has served me well so far.¬† I remember having to look up things like different currencies to find what country a suspect had travelled to, but I haven’t had any questions like that yet.

While I am treating Sandiego Inc. as a fun diversion with nostalgia leanings, if you want a more difficult deduction challenge this is not the game for you.

Apart from 2 ads popping up, the biggest intrusion I have found is when requesting a warrant.  If you need more clues, you can watch a video.  Now on my last case, I got the same clue every time, but that would happen in the old game as well.  At least I get to start the ad if this has been rigged, rather than have it forced on me.

Sandiego Inc Get a Warrant
Watch a video, get a clue - and I haven't felt like I have had to yet

Sandiego Inc can be found on the Google Play Store and iTunes.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Sandiego Inc.

Final Thoughts

It may not be officially Carmen Sandiego, but Think Tesla Studios has definitely caught the elements of the original and shined them for mobile play.

It’s a quick bit of fun that I would have gladly paid $5 or so for, and I will look for more of Think Tesla Studios games in the future.

If you were never a fan, Sandiego Inc. won’t change your mind.¬† But if you think back on those games with a smile, do yourself a favour and grab it – you can’t beat the price!

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • ¬†Same classic gameplay
  • ¬†Clues have been updated
  • ¬†It’s free with minimal ad interruptions

Cons

  • ¬†It is a game aimed at 10-13 year olds, so difficulty isn’t always there.

Resident Evil 2 – 1 Shot Demo Review

Resident Evil 2 Cover
Resident Evil 2 Cover
Released 2019
Platform PS4 Pro (Reviewed), XBox One, PC
Publisher Capcom (Website)
Developer Capcom (Website)
Homepage Website
Players 1
Category Survival Horror

One more time around the block has taken on a whole new meaning

I am a Resident Evil fan – to a point.¬† The series kind of died for me after Resident Evil 4.¬† The more ‘run and gun’ style of 5 and 6 just didn’t quite do it for me, but Resident Evil 7 definitely took steps to bring me back to the fold.

And so it has been with great interest I have been following the news on the Resident Evil 2 Remake.  Remaking a game that pushed so many boundaries with a technically impressive engine was always going to have my attention.

But something other than just a new shiny coat is being applied to Resident Evil 2.  We are getting a true remake of a masterpiece.

The roots of the game are more or less identical, but the details are being tweaked and new puzzles and mechanics introduced.¬† Things that just couldn’t happen in 1988.

The police station is being expanded, story elements are being cleaned up, and the puzzles and paths will be new.¬† If you think you won’t have trouble because you have mastered the original game, think again!

Resident Evil 2 That Timer
30 minutes. It sounds so long, and then you start playing.

So what is the 1-Shot Demo?

It’s more or less exactly what it sounds like – a demo that you can play once.¬† For 30 minutes to be exact.

Now there are plenty of workarounds to this, mostly consisting of starting up with multiple accounts, but there really doesn’t seem to be too much incentive to do this.

You can’t save from what I can work out, so nothing is going to travel across to the ‘real’ game.¬† There may be a way to get an item as a bonus in game, similar to the dirty coin in Resident Evil 7, but I don’t think so.¬† The Resident Evil 7 demo was a long drawn out evolving experience, this is 30 minutes on the eve of the formal release.

But I could be wrong.

So I start the demo and instantly miss the booming ‘Resident Evil’ as you start.¬† Ahh well, it is only the demo I suppose.

Playing the Demo

There is a way apparently to ‘finish’ the demo with both Leon and Claire but I came nowhere near doing this.

I was having way too much fun exploring the police station instead of trying my best to ‘solve’ the game.¬† That said though, I played enough to be excited about the full game coming out on the 25th!

The demo opens at the front desk of the Racoon City police station.  Immediately I was enjoying the light work and feeling of the building, just like I did at the start of Resident Evil 7.

Resident Evil 2 Demo Begins
Ahh. Raccoon City Police Department. The years have been kind!

The controls were the same more or less as 7, so I started running around and exploring immediately.  On-screen prompts began appearing, so if this was your first time playing a Resident Evil game you would know what you were doing pretty quickly.

The updated controls were definitely welcome.¬† The old ‘tank’ controls were a staple, but that doesn’t mean they were great to play with!

Moving around and looking at everything in the over the shoulder view was amazing, and instantly removed a lot of the fixed camera angle frustrations we all had with the original games.¬† Want to look behind the screen?¬† Move behind the screen and look – it’s that simple.¬† No more ‘walk behind and click like crazy hoping you hit the right spot’ shenanigans of the old days.

Resident Evil 2 Whats behind the desk
If you can see it, you can probably walk to it. The footprints also may be a clue someone can walk there.

Wandering around the foyer, I was taking my time and slowly examining everything.  I was enjoying the graphical treat of my eyes, and even playing with the sound coming from my TV I could hear nuances in the footsteps that made me smile.

In the middle of the area, a huge statute with three circular impressions was clearly visible.  I wonder what needs to be put in here?

And this is where some people lose it with Resident Evil.  Why are there three medallions needed to open a secret chamber in a police station?  Why is everything protected by items that require backtracking and weird logic?

Because.¬† It’s not a great answer, but it is the best I can come up with – sorry.¬† If these sort of puzzles annoy you, don’t play Resident Evil, at least the earlier ones.

Resident Evil 2 What Goes Here
Location for 3 empty collectable pieces. It's either a secret passage or a big reward.

Later titles seemed to have easier puzzles overall, but the insane security and inventory management is a series staple – you can either roll with it or go mad trying to work it out.

At this point, I smiled.  I got a warm feeling inside, and I stopped for a minute.  This was indeed taking me back to the Resident Evil I fell in love with, and I was only a couple of minutes into the demo.

My brain had already fallen back into the old style of thinking.¬† I was actively looking for the clues and areas that just don’t fit to find the medallions I needed for the secret passage I already knew was there, even before the story told me about it.

I found what I knew would hold one of the three medallions straight away Рa shield with a curiously round central area and a combination lock. conveniently close to the central area.  Again, this is a staple of the series Рmulti-part puzzle?  The first piece is right next to you, but you will have to go elswhere to work out how to unlock it!

Resident Evil 2 What could be found here
I need round things, and this obviously has a round opening. Could it be connected?

And where would you go?¬† To the big door that says ‘Keep Out’ obviously.¬† True, this is partial knowledge from trailers and other players talking about their experience.¬† But really, if you have finished any Resident Evil game, you know what to do.

And from here I will stop explaining what I was doing and thinking as I worked my way through the game.¬† If you are smart, you won’t spend the first seven precious minutes looking around the first room of a timed demo like I did.

But I loved every second I spent doing it!

Resident Evil 2 Now where should I go
Keep Out. Good advice. No one would ever leave anything in here I would need later.

What was right

The controls were great and felt even more responsive that Resident Evil 7.  Audio, as I mentioned, was fantastic barring a couple of hiccups I am hoping are demo related.

There was an area of wet floor that you splash as you enter, then have ‘normal’ footsteps in water up to your ankles.

As I said, hopefully it was just demo related, but playing Resident Evil 2 with the PlayStation Surround Sound headphones is going to be amazing if Resident Evil 7 is any indication!

Graphically the series has never looked better.  I enjoyed the look of Resident Evil 7, but the same run-down areas got a little boring after a while.  Looking through one floor of the police station, each office and room had its own particular feel.

Sometimes it was visual, like the administration area or locker room.  Sometimes it was the audio again Рwooden floors vs tiled for example.

Also the zombies Рoh the Zombies.  In Resident Evil 7, while characters looked great the Molded all looked very samey.  Here, each Zombie so far has had a distinct look that has been interesting to watch.

Resident Evil 2 Exploring the Station
You may wonder what is so amazing about the graphics here. Play it and see - trust me ūüôā

There are also some new mechanics and tricks I either don’t remember from the original or have been added.

One such trick is you can now board up windows in the Police Station to stop Zombies from breaking in.¬† I am assuming this will come in handy later in the game, helping to create choke points so you don’t get overrun.

Not all changes help you though.  For example, your combat knife Рa required tool to get past that otherwise indestructible yellow tape Рknow can break.  Yep, weapon destructibility (at least for one weapon) is now a part of Resident Evil.

I don’t mind a challenge, but items breaking is rarely something I appreciate.¬† It’s not enough to put me off at all, but I know players that won’t play Breath of the Wild because of items breaking.

And end game shenanigans remain in full force apparently!

Once you finish the demo, you get to see some new trailers.  One such trailer confirms Hunk returning, otherwise known as the 5th survivor.

This was a harder mode where you played a smaller story with all of your items given to you at the start of the game.¬† While you begin well armed, you need to keep your items close as you can’t pick anything up during the story.

If you can beat this mode, there is also one of the most ridiculous and hardest modes I ever remember playing – the Tofu survivor.

Resident Evil 2 Tofu Survivor
The toughest piece of soy product you will ever meet.

This may be a joke scenario and character in a lot of ways, but this is the hardest mission in Resident Evil 2.  Basically a replay of the 4th survivor, but you have only a combat knife and a few herbs for the whole game Рonly the best can finish this mode.

I was never one of them in my youth.

But everything I played in this demo confirmed my hopes and soothed a lot of my concerns.  Resident Evil 2 2019 is on track to be an amazing game for series veterans and newbies alike.

There is still plenty of opportunity for Resident Evil 2 to let me down.¬† You can’t rate an entire game on a 30-minute window of playtime.¬† But almost all of my concerns have evaporated.¬† I am truly looking forward to playing Resident Evil 2 again.

Resident Evil 2 Good Tidings
Such a happy place to come back to after all these years

I just hope Square Enix is taking note.  Want to rebuild a fan favourite?  Looks like Capcom has nailed how to do it.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Resident Evil 2 - 1 Shot Demo

Final Thoughts

It’s a free demo, available for another couple of weeks.¬† You can grab it on Steam for PC, or the PlayStation Store/Microsoft Store for PS4 and Xbox¬†respectively.

If you are unsure of what a Resident Evil game is, grab yourself a copy of the demo.¬† If this doesn’t grab you, neither will the full game – that simple.

But for me, I still have one major regret.  Why does Resident Evil 2 have to come out 4 days before Kingdom Hearts 3?  Too many great games coming!

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • ¬†Demo shows not just a nostalgia cash grab
  • ¬†Taking an ambitious project to new heights with modern tricks

Cons

  • ¬†30 minutes flies by
  • ¬†It’s a Resident Evil game – not for everyone

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Review

20190102 AstroBot
20190102 AstroBot
Released 2018
Platform PlayStation 4
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment (Website)
Developer Japan Studio (Website)
Homepage PlayStation.com (Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality
Platformer
Collectables

The little bot that could

One of the first ‘games’ you get (or should get) with PlayStation VR is called The Playroom VR.¬† Essentially a few mini-games showing off the VR tech, The Playroom VR is a great introduction to different nuances of VR gaming.

One of these mini-games is Japan Studio’s Rescue Robots.¬† The idea is simple – you control a single robot through a 3D world and try to find all your missing friends through the level.

The catch Рyou are actively in the game.  Your avatar is a (relatively) huge vacuum looking robot that floats through the level on a set path.  Your controller is visible on the screen at all times, as it is part of the game.  You can shoot out a rope and grappling hooks to create tightropes and pull down walls.

It was a very immersive experience and a highlight of the package.

Robots Rescue PlayRoom VR
Rescue Robots was definitely one of the most popular Playroom VR mini games

And now Rescue Robots is all grown up

Now, Rescue Robots has evolved into its own game – Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

The basic gameplay is almost identical, but a bit of polishing has happened.  On starting a new game, you get to see the Bots and their sentient mothership attacked by an alien.  The ship is ripped apart, and the alien makes off with the ships PSVR visor.

So you control Astro, captain of the ship, and set off to explore five different worlds and find your friends.

Story-wise, this will never win awards.¬† It’s all a thin premise to get you where you need to be for the platforming, and that is where Astro Bot Rescue Mission shines.

On the surface, it’s a very straightforward platformer.¬† Control Astro and explore the stages, collecting coins and finding your missing crewmates.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Opening
The more of your crewmates you save, the more greet you on the opening screen

Some crew are out in the open, some are hidden in various ways.  The great sound of the game lets you hear the bots cry out for help, and the 3D sound makes it easy to home in on where you should be looking.

What it doesn’t do is home in on how you should be looking – and that is a great element of Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

If you think of yourself as a camera moving around on a dolly, that would be fairly correct.¬† But you aren’t fixed in your seat.¬† There will be times you will want to stand and look ahead or behind you for secrets and hidden paths that your initial view hid with perspective.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Exploring the World
So the little guy looking up is Astro, the guy up inm the air is one of your crewmates, and the big huge thing in the screen is you!

And that’s just part of it.¬† Some of the bots are hidden, but not all of them are calling out for help.¬† Some are quietly lazing around, minding their own business until you knock something or turn around to see them.

This kind of thinking is slowly introduced through the levels of the game.¬† In the first level, the fact that a bot in it that is lazing next to an enemy subtly teaches you that just because enemies came from there, doesn’t mean that a crew member can’t be around.

Then you get into the environmental controller bonuses.  Some levels give you different ways of interacting with the world directly.

The first tool is the grappling line, similar to Rescue Robots.  Create tightropes or pull down walls to make Astro new paths.  Shurikens are another bonus, allowing you to embed them in certain walls to make platforms.  Another is a water hose, letting you grow plants and vines as paths in the Garden levels, or cool lava to make a path in Volcano levels.

And of course, there is the old fashioned mini-gun ball launcher, to knock over everything in your way ūüôā

Astro Bot Rescue Mission New Item Unlocked
Trouble from above? Mini ball blaster unlocked! You have to play yourself, it's not all on Astro!

But it’s not just the gameplay

Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a great traditional platformer with not so traditional twists.¬† And as I have said, the story isn’t going to win any real prizes.

But the characters.¬† Initially, you think ‘Oh cute’.¬† But I actually started caring about not only the Bots but the ‘enemies’ stopping me and the others that help you along the way.

Having Astro look at you and wave as it makes its way around the level was fun, and a few times I actually found myself waving back!¬† This is a world that you don’t think about when you start playing, but truly pulls you in completely.

The cutesy graphics style may make Astro Bot Rescue Mission look like a kids game, but don’t let that fool you.¬† There is a lot happening here, and the simpler graphics not only establish the world but let it play smoothly on the PlayStation hardware.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Cute little game
There is no way you can say the characters don't have personality

On the whole, the controls worked great.¬† There were a few times that I would go ‘out of field’ with the headset, but just moving back fixed that and it never happened at a critical moment, only when I was physically walking around exploring.

Once you put the PSVR on, you are in the world of Astro Bot Rescue Mission, and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

So what’s wrong with it?

Honestly Рnot much.  The controls have a little bit of a learning curve, as the direction you push to send Astro is relative to where you are looking.

The biggest complaint I would have is the game length, and even that is a relative complaint.

There are five game worlds, each with four levels and a boss.¬† Once these are cleared, there is one ‘final’ boss – the alien from the start.¬† This is a pretty short game to get to the end overall.

But there is a lot more to do.¬† Each level has a chameleon you have to find, and finding these unlock challenges.¬† This adds 26 extra levels to the game, adding a couple of hours overall.¬† It’s a welcome addition and requires skill and practice, but unfortunately, it also feels a little like padding.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Challenge Levels
Just when you thought you were done...

There is also a ‘grabber’ mini-game where you spend your coins.¬† This lets you rebuild levels inside the mothership to play and explore in.

Grab a bomb, waste some coins.¬† Levels can be replayed to farm coins, so it’s not a massive issue, but the mini-game is more for novelty than gameplay value.

That said, I have put Astro Bot Rescue Mission on the ‘I am going to Platinum this’ list for 2019 – and hopefully before the end of January!

Astro Bot Rescue Mission In The Mothership
When you get the grabber items, you get pieces for fun mini levels in the Mother ship. Ride an abducted cow anyone?

Even though the game is relatively short (a dedicated day to finish everything is my guess), it is a lot of fun to play and well worth the price of admission.

As long as it’s on sale.¬† AUD$55 is a bit much I think for the amount of game you get, but the AUD$31 until 19/01/2019 is pretty much spot on.

But there really is no better way to understand Astro Bot than by playing it yourself.¬† And while it’s not as good as having the controller in your hands, below is my first video of 2019 – finishing the first level of Astro Bot Rescue Mission with all the secrets!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Astro Bot Rescue Mission

Final Thoughts

It’s fun, immersive, and has that ‘one more go’ factor that makes great games great.

In small doses, Astro Bot Rescue Mission might even be a good trainer for getting your ‘VR legs’ if you experience motion sickness in VR.¬† Either way, a heap of fun and another great game from Japan Studio.

MORE PLEASE!!!

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • ¬†Lots of fun
  • ¬†Great use of VR systems
  • ¬†Great start to a potential new franchise
  • ¬†Friendly learning curve

Cons

  • ¬†Can cause Motion Sickness
  • ¬†Relatively Short

Pokemon Let’s Go Review

Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Released 2018
Platform Nintendo Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Game Freak (Website)
Homepage Pokemon.com (Website)
Players 1 (2 player is a little deceptive)
Category Light RPG
Collectables

Let’s Go on so many levels indeed!

To call Pokemon a marketing phenomenon would be fair.¬† Even if you are not into games, it’s even money you know Pikachu.¬† You may not realise what Pikachu is, but you know the little yellow mascot by sight and possibly the call.

This all came to a head a couple of years ago with a massive surge in popularity due to Pokemon Go.  Droves of people were walking everywhere trying to catch all the Pokemon.  True, initially it was probably the sizable number of fans that always wanted to catch a Pokemon themselves, but the media frenzy that followed definitely got a lot of people that had never played a Pokemon game loading Pokemon Go onto their phones.

So what is Pokemon Let’s Go?

To say Pokemon Let’s Go is a remaster of the original Gameboy Pokemon Yellow isn’t quite right.¬† A lot of the story elements are there, the basic map and abilities are all present, but a lot of the game has been modified as well.

Pokemon Let’s Go is a new gateway game to the world of Pokemon, with many nods to the old school fans.¬† Gameplay has also been tuned to make the game accessible for the players that Pokemon Go is their only background to the world of Pokemon.

Pokemon Lets Go Meeting Oak
Your first meeting with Professor Oak! This time you don't pick your partner Pokemon first.

This made the initial reception to Pokemon Let’s Go mixed for some.¬† The hardcore audience screamed that the series had been dumbed down, while some new players were overwhelmed with the adventure and complexity of the world compared to Pokemon Go.

My take: Game Freak, Nintendo and the Pokemon Company took the opportunity to not only update a 20-year-old game, but to update the entire series in such a way that a whole new way of playing was introduced.

And it works well.

The Story

I’m not going to beat about the bush – the story isn’t anything super special.¬† If you want a deep narrative that rivals the greatest literary works, this isn’t it.

Yes, you get to beat the 8 gym leaders and then take on the elite 4 to become a Pokemon Champion.¬† You get to stop Team Rocket and their ‘evil plans’.

The overall story is enjoyable but predictable.  As I said Рkids game.

But.

There are moments that are beautiful.¬† Playing with your Partner Pokemon is adorable, even if it’s not part of the story proper.¬† And reuniting Cubone with its mother pulled more heartstrings than a story like this deserved.

Pokemon Lets Go Facing Brock
80's kids already know all about Brock, the first Gym leader you meet on your travels.

Describing the story of Pokemon Let’s Go is like describing a day out at a park or something similar.¬† You remember the highlights and the individual moments¬†and somehow gloss over the mundane things that you did for most of the day.

Yes, like any adventure game you grind facing other trainers to be strong enough to battle the next leader.  You run around for hours catching various Pokemon.  But the individual moments make it all worthwhile to see it through to the end.

The old school changes – the story run

One of the biggest changes to a traditional Pokemon game (even ones as recent as Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon) is the random battles required to capture Pokemon.

You used to walk around and wander in fields of grass and hope that the Pokemon you wanted to catch would appear.¬† Then you had to battle it, and hope you didn’t knock it out, then when you wore it down, you could throw your Poke Balls at it to try and catch it.

This worked and allowed you to give your Pokemon experience to level them up and improve their stats.¬† Just like any other RPG, your individual stats don’t matter, it’s your parties stats that count.

Unlike most other RPG’s however, you aren’t the hero of the quest battling whatever comes along – that’s what your Pokemon do, so they need to increase their skills.

While fun, this quickly became repetitive, the very definition of ‘the grind’ of RPGs everywhere.¬† Coupled with the random chance of Pokemon appearing, this quickly put off a lot of casual gamers in the past.

Pokemon Let’s Go takes advantage of the much-improved graphics and storage capabilities of the Switch to change this up.¬† Now as you explore Kanto, you can actually see the Pokemon inhabiting the land around you.¬† Don’t want to capture any more Weedles?¬† Don’t walk into them, and problem solved!

Pokemon Lets Go Seeing The World
Being able to see the Pokemon around you makes it both easier to collect them, and more immersive.

You also don’t have to fight the Pokemon first.¬† Taking inspiration from Pokemon Go, if you see a Pokemon all you have to do is capture them.¬† Better Poke Balls give better odds of capturing them, and you can use different berries to stop Pokemon from running around the screen or like you a little more to help.

Pokemon can run away, which can be frustrating.¬† You can throw a lot of Ultra Poke Balls at a Pokemon,, run out and capture the same Pokemon with a standard ball first time.¬† But what you can’t do is accidentally knock out the Pokemon, stopping you from attempting the capture at all.

Pokemon Lets Go Catching Pokemon
Catching new Pokemon is almost the same as Pokemon Go - just time the throw with the circle, and see how you go!

The Old School Changes – Post Game

For those that screamed ‘It’s too easy!’ when Pokemon Let’s Go launched, this is where they should probably have stuck with it.

A lot has been added to the post-game content.

You can hunt down and catch some legendary Pokemon, such as MewTwo, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres.¬† Not that unusual as post-game content, but it’s there!

Finding the Mega Evolution stones should also be on your list.

Also on the cards are the original two rival trainers, Red and Green as well as Blue.¬† Finding more powerful trainers sounds standard as well, but these aren’t the only three.

Pokemon Lets Go MewTwo
The legendary MewTwo. Guess who I am running around with post game?

Pokemon Let’s Go also has Master Trainers.¬† These are trainers that have trained one specific Pokemon to level 75.¬† Not only do you have to beat them with the same Pokemon, but without any items or assistance as well!

Now people were complaining about levelling up Pokemon as the main experience source was catching Pokemon, and Poke Balls cost.  Unlike any other Pokemon Game I have played, you can continue to face Gym Leaders and the Elite Four for experience and a cash boost at any time!

Pokemon Lets Go Master Trainers
Not only do you have to train all of the Pokemon, you have to find the right trainers as well

While not everyone will want to do these activities, this should be what every hardcore Pokemon player was hoping for.  Yes, you have to finish the game to get to this, but this becomes the biggest collectible/side quest Pokemon I have ever seen!

And fair, I have only finished Yellow, Sun and Ultra Moon until now – but that’s kind of the point.¬† Pokemon has been almost the same game for over 20 years – it’s great to see something new in the mix!

Pokemon Go Integration

A game heavily influenced by Pokemon Go, many including myself were intrigued by the idea of importing between the two games.

I managed a connection once, imported Ditto, and then didn’t do it again.

Don’t be put off by this though – if you are a keen Pokemon Go player with all of the Pokemon to transfer, the ability to play with Pokemon in Let’s Go is amazing!¬† You just don’t need to do it to play the game, and I found the process annoyingly unintuitive.

Pokemon Lets Go Transfer with Go
Exchanging Pokemon is a whole lot of fun. There are even cool descriptions I won't spoil ūüôā

Biggest issue – Pokemon Let’s Go doesn’t like sharing Bluetooth connections.¬† If you have a Fitbit or similar tracker, prepare for some issues.¬† But once it was working, the experience was fun, and it’s a great way to bring in some missing Pokemon if you don’t have anyone to trade with for the missing Pokemon between Eevee and Pikachu.

Poke Ball Plus

I already talked about this in my Poke Ball Plus review, but this was a fun add-on to the whole game.

Controller wise, it worked reasonably well.¬† The motion controls I actually found better than the single Joy Con.¬† I wasn’t as happy with the fact that you had to shake the ball to use the Y button though.¬† Overall this isn’t an issue, but because¬†shaking in battle brings in a partner, if you don’t know exactly what a move does (bought up by the Y button) you are in trouble.

But taking your Pokemon for a walk makes up for all that in a lot of ways.¬† Read the review for my full thoughts, but if you are only going to get Pokemon Let’s Go, it may be an expensive luxury.

Poke Ball Plus Battery Level Check
If the light is green, the trap is clean! Wait, wrong franchise...

What’s this about 2 players being deceptive?

The one thing I was hoping to try was playing with my Partner, but timing kind of killed that.¬† In some ways though, it’s kind of lucky it did.

It’s true you can have a helper in the game, the second player.¬† But that player controls one of your party¬†and uses your Poke Balls to try and catch Pokemon.

They don’t get any benefit at all other than helping you out, and you don’t even need another person.¬† Pokemon is turn-based, so if you are having trouble in a fight you can just play both ‘trainers’ yourself with a second controller.

Now this is great if you have little ones that are having trouble in a fight or catching Pokemon.¬† You will be playing together and helping rather than taking over the game.¬† But playing the whole game like this?¬† I feel it’s a little less than advertised.

Pokemon Lets Go Two Player Roaming
The help works, but it's not what I would describe a true two player game

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Pokemon Let's Go

Final Thoughts

I didn’t play constantly, but I enjoyed Pokemon Let’s Go every time I picked it up.¬† Personally, I don’t have a preference for Eevee or Pikachu so my choice was dictated by my partner getting Pikachu.¬† Both games are almost identical, with a few Pokemon only available in the other game.

If you are interested in Pokemon or are curious about turn-based role-playing games, Pokemon Let’s Go is a great choice for you.¬† Light enough with a little handholding in-game to teach you the ropes, but enough in it to keep the interest intact.

Even as a relatively hardcore RPG player, Pokemon Let’s Go was a fun experience that I will probably keep picking back up to beat all those Master Trainers for some time to come.¬† It has a surprising amount of depths and layers around it, making it one of the better examples of ‘the game you want it to be’ for quite some time.

Overall
8.7/10
8.7/10

Pros

  • ¬†Modern take on a beloved franchise
  • ¬†Playing with your partner Pokemon is amazing
  • ¬†Great to pick up and put down as you need to

Cons

  • ¬†Music is so repetitive
  • ¬†Second player isn’t really a second player
  • ¬†Veterans may not see it through

Poke Ball Plus Review and Guide

Poke Ball Plus Feature
Poke Ball Plus Feature
Released 2018
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Category Augmented Reality Controller

Reviewing the little controller that is hiding so much more

So you would have seen in the last couple of Last Week’s Gaming that Pokemon Let’s Go has been my go-to game of choice lately. This is for a few reasons. It’s ‘simple’ – there are puzzles to solve of a sort, but nothing that has stumped me. Collecting Pokemon is still fun, but the ‘battle grind’ is gone. I don’t have to worry so much about random encounters – I can see Pokemon in the game world.

Now all of this is great, and I will review the game when done. I need to finish the game first, and I want to try teaming up and a few of the other new features before going there.

But one of the new features isn’t in Pokemon Let’s Go itself. New controllers aren’t exactly a new thing for Nintendo – just look at Super Smash Brothers as an example. But the Poke Ball Plus earns the plus by being more than ‘just’ a new controller.

Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Eevee is happily sititng on my head as a walk around Professor Oak's office

The Poke Ball Plus itself

Being based off a Poke Ball, the Plus doesn’t have a lot of room to move in terms of design. The Poke Ball Plus is smaller than I expected, but not terribly so. On the ‘top’ of the ball is the B button, mostly hidden with a small circular indent in the red section. The centre of the Poke Ball holds the control stick, and pressing the stick (like L3 on PlayStation or L on XBox) becomes the A button. It’s straightforward and fairly intuitive once you have it in your hand.

At the back of the ball is a strap, and at the base of the strap is a small cover that comes off to reveal the USB-C charging port. I thought this cover would be more of a pain than it is, but it has proven fairly functional. You do need a little bit of fingernail or something to help pull it out, but as long as you use the recess on the left-hand side it’s a simple process.

Poke Ball Plus Front
If you look at the top of the ball, you can see the slight indent - this shows where the B button is

Also attached to the strap is a plastic ring section. This is supposed to fit around your finger as you play, as another measure to stop the Poke Ball Plus from flying if thrown. I also use it to hook the Poke Ball Plus to my jeans when I go for a walk. Becuase the ring is flexible, don’t forget to also secure the Poke Ball with the strap itself – while mine has survived a couple of drops relatively unscathed, why push your luck?

Poke Ball Plus Rear
USB-C for easy plugging (Yay!) and the cable just sits beside the Switch dock.

Playing Pokemon Let’s Go with the Poke Ball Plus

You would think this would be fairly straightforward – sync Poke Ball Plus with the Switch, play the game. And to a degree, it is this straightforward – just not like any other controller I have even synced.

Normally to sync a controller you slide the Joy Con into the Switch or plug in the controller via USB (Pro Controllers for example). Not so with the Poke Ball Plus. Start your Pokemon Let’s Go game, and you will be presented with a screen asking which controller to use. You can see Poke Ball Plus on the screen, but it’s not obvious how to select it.

All you need to do is push the A button on the Poke Ball Plus, and after a few seconds, you will see the controller change colour on the screen. Press A again, and you are most of the way there. The controls are now shown on the screen, and you can decide to back out and change controller if you want to.

It sounds simple, and it is simple. But when the instructions in the Poke Ball Plus state only ‘Follow On Screen Instructions’, and it’s so different from every other controller, a few people got caught out initially.

Poke Ball Plus Connect Controller
Normally to connect a controller you connect then play. Not the Poke Ball Plus!

Once that’s out of the way though, into the game you go. Playing is just like any other Pokemon game, and exploring the game world is a breeze. As I only really played Pokemon Yellow on my Game Boy, and then Pokemon Moon on my DS, the two button system made sense to me and off I went through the world!

The tutorial on how to catch a Pokemon came up on screen and was easy to follow. Really all you do is hit A to ready your ball in game, and then ‘throw’ the controller (action only – don’t send it flying!) in time with the capture circle. There aren’t curve balls or advanced techniques to worry about, so it was all pretty natural and fun. And the feeling when you feel the Poke Ball Plus vibrate and you hear the sound of the Pokemon come from the Ball? Talk about immersive!

Poke Ball Plus Throw Poke Ball
Capturing feels fun with the Poke Ball Plus. You get the on screen reminder to throw, but it just feels right.

The only downside is Pokemon Let’s Go takes advantage of the + and Y buttons in the game. Most screens will let you shake the Poke Ball for these extra controls, but not in combat. Shaking the Poke Ball Plus allows Partner moves (Special timed moves), so if you can’t remember what a move does you can’t bring up the info during the battle. It’s annoying, but not enough to stop me playing. I do pay more attention to the Pokemon while out of combat now to learn the moves a bit better, which is really all the system is asking of you.

Gaining a Mew

So one of the big bonuses of the Poke Ball Plus is that it comes with a Mew – a Pokemon that everyone swore you could get in earlier Pokemon, but I never worked it out.

Firstly you need to be far enough into the game to unlock the ‘Communicate’ panel. I don’t think this takes long – I had just started off on my quest from Professor Oak when I connected my Poke Ball Plus for the first time and everything came up on screen. You will also need to make sure you are able to connect to the internet, and that the Poke Ball Plus and Switch are charged. When you connect the Poke Ball Plus for the first time, if there is still a Mew available (remember, one per BALL not¬†one per game you play on!), you will hear the ball make a shrill sound. This will let you know you are good to go.

Poke Ball Plus Communication Menu
Hitting B on the Poke Ball Plus brings up the main menu. You are looking for Communicate.

From here, as per the onscreen instructions, select Communicate, then select Mystery Gifts. You will see a bunch of options, select ‘Get with a Poke Ball Plus’. The Switch will connect to the net, and after a few seconds you will see the Mew emerge from your Poke Ball! The Pokedex screen will then appear, and the transfer is complete ūüôā

Poke Ball Plus Mystery Gifts
As long as you heard Mew in the Poke Ball, it's all automatic from here

From what I understand, the Poke Ball Plus is the only way to catch a Mew in the game, making the Poke Ball Plus a must buy for the true completionists. If that’s all you are after though, it’s up to you how much you would pay for owning a Mew. Because I am not far enough into Pokemon Let’s Go to experiment transferring Pokemon Go characters I don’t know if this would work assuming you have a Mew in Pokemon Go.

I think the Poke Ball Plus would be pricey for just a Mew, and that is where some bad feedback was thrown Nintendo’s way pre-launch, but time will tell if this is how it will all play out.

Taking your Pokemon for a Stroll

This is the feature that has grabbed my attention the most. I thought the idea sounded cute – take your Pokemon with you kind of like an old-school Tamagotchi, and ‘play’ with it now and then. But it’s more.

As you walk around, the Poke Ball Plus has a kind of inbuilt pedometer to keep track of your steps, and it counts how many times you play with your Pokemon. If your Pokemon is bored and calls out, all you have to do is hit the A button to play with it, and you are rewarded with a rainbow set of lights to show it worked.

Poke Ball Plus Stroll Results
This was Monday's effort. I scored 10,000 experience from doing this!

For someone like myself that usually gets to play in very short bursts, this was an amazing ability. All I need to do to help boost a new Pokemon or work on my better ones is essentially wear a new key ring. This is probably what I would call the most pay to win feature of the game, but man is it helping me so far.

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming, I got a very base level Magikarp and walked around with the ball for a couple of days.

Nothing sustained or over the top, I think a shopping trip was the most steps in a single trip. But Friday night when I bought back my Pokemon from my Stroll, Magikarp evolved into Gyarados.

No grinding battles, no switching from the first Pokemon out to maximise XP, just keep the Poke Ball Plus on me, and my Pokemon has evolved.

Pokemon Lets Go 20181210
$500 Pokemon Dollars for a Magikarp, a couple of days walking around with the Poke Ball Plus and bam - instant Gyarados!

And what is the benefit of all this? In game XP. You don’t even have to be playing Let’s Go to strengthen your Pokemon – just walking around like you do every day. The more you move, the more you will be rewarded obviously, but especially early in the game any experience boost is a major advantage.

The process is fairly simple as well. On your Save screen, choose ‘Take your Pokemon for a Stroll’. This will start a screen asking you to connect your Poke Ball Plus – even if it was already connected, you have to do this again. Once synced, hit the A button and you will be given the choice of walking your Partner Pokemon (Eevee or Pikachu) or opening your Pokemon Box. Select the Pokemon you want to take for a Stroll, and after a bit of data transfer all is set!

Poke Ball Plus Prep for Stroll
It's hard to miss the Stroll choice as you will be saving Pokemon Let's Go often

Now you can only take one Pokemon for a stroll at a time – but I suspect that is per Poke Ball (as you have to connect the Poke Ball). Now I don’t think it would be worth buying multiple Poke Ball Plus to stroll your whole team, but I believe this may be possible. I will try this over the Holidays once Rabbit has gotten into playing, as I don’t want to do anything that may cost her a Mew.

To bring your Pokemon back, just do the same thing – the Switch detects that there is a Pokemon in your ball, and you get to bring it back. Here you will see the results of your Stroll and all that Experience – plus rewards like Candy for taking your Pokemon out! While not essential to the game, all of this is saving me so much time and giving me bonuses, I am surprised how much I have gotten into the Strolls.

Poke Ball Plus Return from Stroll
Returning is a little unintuitive, but that can be said for a few Poke Ball Plus options

Playing with Pokemon Go

Here is where things get a little more complicated, but not by too much. There are a couple of things to remember though. First, Pokemon Go must be running in the background on your phone. This will probably cause the most problems, as some phones will cut background apps silently. Secondly, you have to pair the Poke Ball Plus with your phone. While this seems obvious, you will also have to unpair your Poke Ball Plus from your phone if you want to play on your Switch. I would have preferred the disconnection to be automatic when joining back up with the Switch, but oh well.

To connect your Poke Ball Plus with Pokemon Go, first select the Poke Ball icon in Go, then select Settings from the top right menu. Scroll down until you see Poke Ball Plus, then select it. At the bottom of the screen, you will see Available Devices – it should be blank. Hit the B button to make Poke Ball Plus appear as an option.

But wait – it’s not over! From here, on the Pokemon Go screen, you will be able to see a dark Poke Ball symbol in the top right. Tap your A button on the Poke Ball Plus, then tap this icon. All going well, this will then pair with your Poke Ball Plus. I say all going well, because I haven’t gotten it to work yet! I haven’t gone too far into troubleshooting though, as until I find Go Park in Let’s Go I don’t really want to sync the two.

Poke Ball Plus Pokemon Go
The first part is easy, assuming you know to look at the bottom of the settings

Once it is all synced, as long as the game is running in the background and you have taken a Pokemon for a stroll, any Poke Stop you travel near will be automatically spun. If you see a green ring on your Poke Ball Plus, this means there are Pokemon near for you to catch. Hit B to throw a ball. If you are successful, you will see rainbow lights on your Pokeball. Well done! If your Poke Ball Plus starts to glow red, this means you don’t have space for any more Pokemon, and you will need to have a look at your phone to clear space or buy more space.

As I said, I haven’t been able to do this yet, so screenshots and images are a bit limited unfortunately, but hopefully soon I will be able to show how this works in more detail.

Some more undocumented tricks – Sound and Battery Levels

So a couple of days in I thought I broke my Poke Ball Plus. I could feel vibrations when I played with my Pokemon, but no sound. Turns out all I had managed to do was mute my Poke Ball Plus! If you hold the A and B buttons together for a second and then release, you will feel one vibration. This is letting you know the Poke Ball is now muted. Do it again, you will feel two vibrations and sound is restored.

Preferred playing mode – Handheld, Joy Con, or Poke Ball Plus?

This is a little tricky. I enjoy handheld mode for the most part, especially being able to use the touchscreen to play with my Eevee. But catching Pokemon is a lot fiddlier and you have to twist around more, which motions control improve easily.

What surprised me though is that the motion controls on the Poke Ball Plus are more sensitive than the Joy Con. Lack of buttons aside (more on that in a bit), the smaller Poke Ball Plus does seem to be the better controller of the two for Pokemon. Moving your character and button selecting is better with the Joycon, but picking up on the throwing of a Poke Ball or the finer control of feeding your Pokemon definitely feels better to me on the Poke Ball Plus.

My main gripe with the Poke Ball Plus, especially when docked, is the inability to put the Switch to sleep from the Poke Ball. You either have to have a Joy Con beside you to be able to hit the Home button or get up to hit the button on the docked Switch.

To check the battery level, the easiest way is when the Poke Ball Plus is off. Press and hold the A and B buttons for about 5-6 seconds, and you will feel a vibration and the ring will glow.

  • Green means your charge is good (>2/3)
  • Yellow means it’s OK (<2/3)
  • Red means low (<1/3)

Once you know the reading, just click A again to shut the Poke Ball Plus back down.  Simple when you know, but some instructions in the box would help!

Poke Ball Plus Battery Level Check
If the light is green, the trap is clean! Wait, wrong franchise...

You can check the Poke Ball plus on the Controllers screen in the Switch system menu, but the amount of mucking about makes this a bit of a pain in my opinion. You have to start Pokemon Let’s Go, go to the Home menu, select Controllers, and then you will see an oval-shaped controller – this is actually the Poke Ball Plus.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Poke Ball Plus

Final Thoughts

Cash grab?¬† If all you want is a Mew, yes.¬† Pay to win?¬† This is a little harder to answer.¬† Some of the features such as Auto Poke Stop spins in Pokemon Go and the Stroll in Pokemon Let’s Go definitely make your life easier.

I am happy I got mine, and if you were thinking of getting Pokemon Let’s Go I would recommend the bundle deal of game and Poke Ball Plus just for the immersion of playing on the couch.¬† That feeling and sound when you catch a Pokemon, gimmicky as it is, is undeniably satisfying to me still.

Bottom line though, the Poke Ball Plus is a $50-70 investment, which to be honest is another game.  If you have any doubts about the Poke Ball Plus, this is where you should spend your dollars.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • ¬†Finer motion controls than the Joy Con
  • ¬†Comes with Mew
  • ¬†Allows you to grow Pokemon as you walk around – great for ‘casuals’
  • ¬†Allows you to play Pokemon Go without using your phone

Cons

  • ¬†It’s AUD$70
  • ¬†Advantages have a slight feel of pay to win, especially for ‘dedicated’ players
  • ¬†No real manual on use outside of Let’s Go