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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 aboutย isย 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.ย 

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.ย 

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Billionaire Banshee Review

Billionaire Banshee Cover Art
Billionaire Banshee Cover Art
Released 2014
Designer Steven Bailey aka Razlo
Publisher Breaking Games (Website)
Players 1 – 10 (really, any number if you use thumbs up/down for voting)
Playing Time Box states 60 min. About 2-5 minutes per ’round’ depending on conversation.
Category Party
Icebreaker
“Would you rather”
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

It’s a dating game, but so much more. And less. Billionaire Banshee is a game you can make anything you want it to be!

This is probably going to be my shortest gameplay review ever. You have heard me talk about simple games that offer more than they seem in the past. It’s a bit of a cliche in a lot of ways. But it describes Billionaire Banshee perfectly.

Billionaire Banshee is a great ‘getting to know you’ party game. A player draws a Perk and a Quirk card, creating a fictional date for the player. For example, you may meet a Kung Fu Master than can only speak in Rap.

The player then decides secretly if they would date that person. Everyone else chooses if the player would or wouldn’t date them. Everyone reveals their choice, and if you match the player, a point is earned?

That’s it. That’s the game. Play until you have had enough. It’s that easy.

Wait, you don’t know how to score the game?

I use the question mark because Billionaire Banshee is like Who’s Line is it Anyway? – the points don’t matter. You can track points to see if there is a winner, but I treat each game as a getting to know you activity.

You can sit and chat and get to know new players. It’s the part of board gaming I enjoy the most. But sometimes it’s hard to find a common thread to start a conversation. The over the top situations presented by the game are great conversation starters.

Billionaire Banshee Would you date them
Would you go on a date with this person?

How does that start a conversation?

To start with, the premise of the term ‘date’. It’s incredible how many groups I have played this with that instantly assume this means sleep with or marry the fictional person.

Is it a first date? A dinner/movie/see what happens type affair? Do you mean long term? Just that little interpretation of the word ‘date’ reveals a lot about a person.

You then have the list of Perks and Quirks. There are a lot of Quirks as I see as Perks and vice-versa. One perk is ‘Expert Treasure Hunter’. They are intelligent, wealthy and athletic sure. They are also away a lot. I would love to go out for a meal or catch-up.

Would I try to date them though? Probably not, I see this as a negative.

Others might not – they may see this as a positive, as they have a lot of time to themselves to do what they want. This difference of opinion and why opens up the chance for a lot of discussions.

Billionaire Banshee Can be seen differently
Not all cards will fit everyones ideas. A 'sexy accent' is racy?

This is why I think Billionaire Banshee is a great icebreaker game. The ridiculous situations presented sometimes, and watching players react to those situations, is a heap of fun.ย 

I wouldn’t play it over and over, or for hours on end. But to pick it up at the start of the night and find out about people, yourself, and how others see you is a unique thing.

But I heard that there are inappropriate cards.

Yes, there are. If you want to keep the game relatively clean, remove/discard the cards with the teddy bear on the back. These are the racier cards.

I say relatively clean because even in the ‘safe’ cards, there are some perks and quirks that can be read as racy. For example, one ‘clean’ card has a person whose nipples taste like pizza. Read into that as you will.

This is where you begin learning about people very quickly. If someone is offended because a ‘safe’ card mentioned nipples, it tells you a lot about them.

Conversely, if they are overly enthusiastic about the mention of nipples, that tells you a lot about them as well.

Billionaire Banshee Bear
Playing with your parents? Maybe don't draw the cards with a bear.

I have heard this game is pretty offensive.

At the end of the day, Billionaire Banshee present players with a hypothetical situation for a potential date. You don’t have to say yes, just like real life. And like real life, people you may not be interested in might ‘ask you out’.

If you can’t handle the idea of being asked out by someone with traits you don’t like, I don’t think that’s the games fault.

Here’s my take. Yes, some wordings and descriptions could have been worded better. Some things can be seen as negatives because they only appear as quirks, such as ‘Opposite Gender’. There are very valid points raised in this regard.

On the whole, I think Razlo did a great job of leaving a lot up to the player. When you are presented a date option, it’s up to you to determine a lot of details outside character descriptions. Things like gender are up to you to imagine.

Billionaire Banshee Not many components required
These are all the components. Really, you only need the Perk and Quirk cards.

Criticisms about representation are valid, but by the same token, the only bad experiences I have had with the game were because of another players prejudices. This was a one-off, and I have played Billionaire Banshee in at least 30 different sessions with multiple new groups.

There are also ‘safe’ Perk cards that are presented in a wholesome way, but for me bring back negative memories, so I don’t see them as such. Other people will have similar reactions to different cards. People that don’t like to be touched won’t be interested in a Professional Hugger, for example.

So it’s blown out of proportion?

Sometimes. Billionaire Banshee is such a quick and fun game, that it’s easy to bury the gameplay in negatives and potential trigger situations. This makes things sound much worse than the fun game that is generally played.

If you want to have fun with a new group of people or old friends alike, and learn things about them at the same time, Billionaire Banshee is a great game. Just remember that in learning about people, sometimes you will discover something about them you might not have wanted to.

Overall Thoughts

There are cards that could make people uncomfortable, but they are easily identified. The conversations and humour Billionaire Banshee generates make it a great game adaptable to many different play styles.

Throw the rules to the side, kick back and enjoy the ride. How many games can you pull out a couple of cards and play the first round with a rules explanation in under a minute?

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Quick to teach
  • Fun to play
  • Conversation starter

Cons

  • Some cards could be worded better
  • NSFW cards especially can cause people varying levels of distress

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Boom, Bang, Gold! Review

Boom Bang Gold Cover Art
Boom Bang Gold Cover Art
Released 2017
Designer Alexandre Emerit
Publisher HABA Games (Website)
Players 2-4 (More players are better)
Playing Time 20-25 minutes including setup
Learning game – 25-35 minutes
Category Dexterity
Western
Variable Player Powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Yes, it’s a kids dexterity game. That doesn’t mean it’s not a bit of quick fun!

My mental capacity is flagging lately. I tried playing Doom Eternal last night after a couple of weeks, and it took me far too long to work out a platform puzzle. It wasn’t the controls – I literally didn’t think to look up for about 5 minutes. Fun times! :p

We all get into this kind of mode at times. Especially now with us all locked in. When this kind of mood hits, simple games that can be played on automatic are a great fallback. You get entertained, without having to run a mental decathlon.

HABA games are great for these moods. Primarily made for kids, I have yet to find a HABA game that my games group hasn’t enjoyed as well.

Today, I thought I would share a simple dexterity game with a western theme – Boom, Bang, Gold!

The title describes the gameplay entirely.

The overall idea of the game is simple. Players pick different miners, each able to do different things (player powers). The box is filled with the counters of the game face down.

Each round, players take their wooden sticks of dynamite (yes, they are fun to hold), and throws them into the box. This causes the tokens to mix and flip. Everyone then uses one hand only to quickly grab as many tokens as possible, grabbing the gold.

Boom, Bang, Gold! – see how it works?

Boom Bang Gold Components
It's not often I can show the box of as an actual game component

How does that work? It doesn’t sound fun.

The box has a raised section in the bottom, giving a mini-trampoline effect when the large wooden blocks hit it. It’s hard to describe how satisfying it instantly feels watching the counters go flying!

It’s that instant tactile feedback that hooks you into playing. Everyone wants to throw the dynamite back into the box straight away, but you have to wait for the next round.

Boom Bang Gold Impact
Still don't do justice to the fun of throwing down dynamite ๐Ÿ™‚

There are also more tokens than just gold. There are even two forms of gold – yellow gold and orange ‘illegal’ gold. Various critters are exposed when the dynamite goes off as well. Snakes, Bats, Rats and even Ghosts can be revealed.

Each character is immune to one type of critter. For example, Hank isn’t worried by bats at all. During the round, players can call out whatever they aren’t scared of.

So if a bat is revealed, Hank can call out “Look out – BATS!”, causing other players to stop momentarily.

Boom Bang Gold Miners
A little hard to see here, but when the miner is in front of you storage doubles as your summary card

While Hank continues collecting, the other players must put both hands on top of their heads and call “HELP!”. This gives a player a moment to collect unimpaired.ย 

So this game just went from overly simple to confusing.

A little – especially if you are playing with younger kids. Getting your head around the player delay mechanic can be a bit confusing, but it usually only takes a round or two to get the hang of.

If you are playing with younger players, maybe take out the critter that I could call out. So if I was playing Hank, I would remove the bats. Then you can teach people to look for their token, and show them the penalty action. That way, they only have part of the process to concentrate on and learn by seeing the penalty in action.

Once all the gold is collected, the round isn’t over.

You don’t instantly score the gold you collect. Other little twists can affect scoring.

There is also a Sherrif badge and Revolver to potentially collect as well. The Sherrif badge lets you force all other players to put back their ‘illegal’ gold.

The Revolver forces a bluffing duel. One player takes two bits of gold from their shelf and hides them in closed fists. Really you will either have one piece in each hand or more commonly hide both nuggets in one fist.

The Pick lets a player turn over and collect 5 tokens after a round, but before scoring. Finally the Dynamite (not pictured) lets you throw one more stick of Dynamite. Always fun!

Boom Bang Gold Tokens
Not too many symbols to keep track of

The player that started the duel then picks a hand. If they find any gold, they keep it. The penalty isn’t too bad, but the mechanic adds another wrinkle to the scoring.

For both of these tokens, if it’s too much for the players, just remove the symbols. They are fun additions, but if it’s too confusing, keep the gameplay simple.

So why would I want to play Boom, Bang, Gold!?

The gameplay is quick, taking about 20-25 minutes. It’s a great little filler game, and because of the Boom also a fun game to attract people to your table.

It’s also a fun game to play with younger players, and rules can be altered to suit. At about AUD$50, it might look expensive for a filler/simple kids game, but the quality of the components justifies this price for me.

Would you design a games night around Boom, Bang, Gold!? No. But for a game to have on the shelf for a quick bit of fun, Boom, Bang, Gold! is an excellent choice for any library.

Overall Thoughts

Sometimes, you just want a quick bit of mindless fun. Boom, Bang, Gold! delivers on this for players of all ages.

If you were looking for a first game to start building your game collection, I have a hard time suggesting Boom, Bang, Gold!. While it’s a lot of fun, it’s not a game you can play over and over again. You need other games in between sessions to keep the joy of playing alive.

If you were looking for a game to pad your existing library though, Boom, Bang, Gold! is high on this list. The quick setup, general appeal and quality components make this a good choice for many libraries.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Quick and fun gameplay
  • Quality compents
  • Can be tailored to newer players

Cons

  • Can be confusing if teaching younger players everything at once
  • Best purchased to extend your library rather than start it

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Hattari / Yabunonaka Review – or In A Grove in English

In A Grove Box Art
In A Grove Box Art
Released 2011
Designer Jun Sasaki
Publisher Oink Games (Website)
Players 3 – 4 (Best with all 4)
Playing Time 10-20 minutes (First game – 20-25 with teaching)
Category Hidden Information
Bluffing
Trick Taking
Deduction
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

The Deduction, Hidden Information, Bluffing and Trick Taking game all in one tiny package!

Oink Games publish some brilliant games. They also make tiny games. Not always simple, but a lot of their games are smaller than a box of cigarettes. That makes them easy to carry with you, and also limits the components required to play.

Not all games are for everyone, and In A Grove is one of these. The premise is excellent, but when I try to describe it to people, it’s hard to get your head around.

All right, what is In A Grove?

At its core, In A Grove is a mystery trick-taking game. Yes, I know that makes little sense – its part of the reason getting people excited to play is tricky.

There are eight people in a park, and someone has killed one of the group! So you would think your job is to find the killer. It is, but it also isn’t. Your job is more to be the person accused of lying less than everyone else.

Finding the killer is secondary in terms of ‘winning’ the game. Making others choose the wrong suspect is your tactic of choice. But be careful in employing it!

In A Grove - Components
All of the components. iPad (2017) for size.

Wait. What?

Yep. It’s a mystery game where you don’t have to find the killer. Your job is to get more people to believe you, even if you are wrong.

All but one of the eight people have a number between 2 and 8. One is blank – this person is always innocent. These cards are shuffled, and three are placed in the middle standing up. These are your suspects. One card is placed sideways, marking the murder victim.

Each player then gets one of the remaining four people. Not playing with four players? Put these in the box without seeing their values. Each player then looks at their suspect without revealing their number/identity and passes them to their right. You then look at the number on the suspect moved to you.

In A Grove - Typical Setup
What the start of the game normally looks like after setup

The point of all this is to give you some starting information. The killer is almost always the person with the highest value, so you know if you have seen 7 and 8, 6 is the highest possible value in the centre.

You said ‘Almost always’. Mid game rule changes?

Yep. It’s not always as simple as find the highest value suspect. You see if there is a 5 amongst the suspects, the rules flip – the killer is the person with the lowest value. Hence, the blank silhouette is always innocent.

It almost always takes players a couple of rounds to get their head around all of this. The rules aren’t hard, but having to remember rules based on hidden information is tricky.

In A Grove can be hard to teach, especially as everything we have talked about is before the game/round starts – this is all setup.

In A Grove - The Reveal
Normally, 8 would be the killer. But becuase there is a 5, 2 is the villain

If the setup is this hard, what is the actual game like to play?

The explanation can take a while – execution doesn’t. Once you have all the rules straight, the setup can take 30 seconds.ย 

Going in turn order, the first player looks at two of the three suspects. They can also swap the victim for one of the suspects. They then place one of their tokens below a suspect.

The next player can then does almost the same thing. The only catch is they can’t look at the suspect the previous player ‘marked’ with their token.

If you agree with another player, you place your marker on top of theirs. This means accusations/guesses/bluff are marked in piles.

In A Grove - Player 2
So in this case, the player couldn't see the last suspect as marked by the token

So why mark a player? What’s the point of that?

I’m getting there, I promise. When all players have marked a suspect, all of the suspects are flipped to reveal their values.

If you marked the correct suspect, you get your marker back. For the player on top of the pile for wrongly accused suspects, you flip them over to the ‘liar’ side, and you keep the whole pile. Each and every one.

If you get 8 or more ‘liar’ tokens, you lose. If you run out of tokens to mark suspects with, you lose. So as you can see, it’s not so much a case of being right – you just need more people to be wrong.

Who would want to play a game like that?

In A Grove sounds like a niche game, and it is. But the number of people that can enjoy it is bigger than you think.

You wouldn’t play In A Grove all night. It fits well as a game night opener/closer or in-between game choice. Once you know the game, even with 4 players you can belt out a full game in 10 minutes.ย 

You can even play rounds as games if you are passing the time between other games. Just make the player with the most ‘liar’ tokens the loser and reset. This creates a game that lasts only a couple of minutes – excellent as a time killer.

Because In A Grove comes in such a small box, playing it this way is a great way to pass the time in convention queues and the like. It also lets players switch in and out with people around you.

In A Grove - Take Anywhere
Everything you need, in a tiny package that fits in any bag

And this is the catch with In A Grove – trying to explain to people why they might like it, and I usually get glassy-eyed silence in response. Once people see it played, they often want to jump in and give it a go.

This is In A Grove’s biggest weakness. There are plenty of ‘so simple it sounds boring’ games out there that work against it. In A Grove sounds much more complicated than it plays, and people don’t want to overthink a simple game.

Overall Thoughts

That feeling of satisfaction when you can steer someone to take ‘Liar’ tokens is fun. The disappointment at being the person receiving the tokens is palpable.

The biggest problem with the game is the learning curve. When I play with people that have played before, it’s almost always a fun game. When I need to coax people into trying it, players come away disappointed.

My advice – you have basically all the rules in this review. Play with 8 playing cards and some tokens. Use the 2-8 of one suit, and a joker as the ‘blank’.

I encourage people to support game designers always, but In A Grove is a game that you will need to get used to before deciding if you enjoy it or not.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • Quick and simple gameplay
  • Easy to transport or make your own version
  • Retail version very cheap if you can find it

Cons

  • Teaching rule changes dependant on hidden information is tricky
  • Because of the quick and semi-random outcome, players can get put off from playing again

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.ย 

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 –ย ifย 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

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

198X Review

198X Feature
198X Feature
Released 2019
Platform PC, PS4, Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One Coming
Publisher Hi-Bit Studios (Website)
Developer Hi-Bit Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Retro
Story
Arcade
Beat-Em-Up
Shoot-Em-Up
Racer
Action Scroller
Light RPG

Arriving about seven months later on Switch, I still didn’t know one vital facet of the game

Retro gaming is all the rage these days, especially amongst older gamers. Hitting 45 this year, I sometimes feel sad that I am borderline considered a grandpa gamer at this point :p

Checking out the eShop a few weeks ago, 198X came up as on sale. As it was only a few dollars and the title rang some bells, I grabbed it. I knew it was a narrative experience overall, tied together with homages to old school retro games. What the hell, right? Worst case, I was only out $10.

I talked about enjoying it the first time I picked it up on Last Week’s Gaming. Then last week, on the third real try, I finished the entire game. After being stuck on the second level for way longer than I like to admit, I flew through the rest of the game.

It is only on finishing the game did it become clear 198X is the first part in an ongoing series. 198X is an episodic game, similar to the Telltale games like Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. This revelation didn’t lower my overall enjoyment of the game. It did leave me with a sense of disappointment and confusion. Like so much of the game, just as I was getting into the groove, the game just stopped.

Opening Screen
I remember waiting for the arcade to open. It's a suitable start scene.

I know this sounds like I am saying “Bad Game, Don’t Buy.” at the start of my review, but 198X is something different. Unlike my regular reviews where I try and add the downsides at the end, today I wanted to get that out of the way upfront. Usually, I have the negatives lingering in the back of my mind as I write, and I have to wrestle them away. Today, I can kick back and enjoy my memories of playing 198X.

OK, so what is 198X?

If I was overly dramatic, I would say it’s about my childhood. Finished rolling your eyes? Cool. It’s not that far off growing up in the 80s though. The retro flavour isn’t just the games 198X includes, but the story as well.

198X is the story of Kid, growing up in the suburbs and not going through the easiest of times. Everything looks down, and he is generally unhappy. At least, until he finds an arcade that allows him to escape the day to day of his life. This is where the different retro-inspired games come into play.

Each game is a homage to an 80s classic in some form. When you complete the small section of gameplay (usually about one stage or level depending on the game), you get some more of what is happening with/to Kid.

198X Story
It's something we have all heard before. "Back then was a simpler time". Still true in a lot of ways.

The ending is a promise to continue the story, and I am really interested to see where it goes. All of the stories are presented in a beautiful pixel art style with voice acting. The voice acting isn’t stellar, but not bad. I was surprised how the old 80’s comic panel/limited animation style held up in progressing the story.

One thing I both loved and hated was the lack of tutorials. Shows how ‘soft’ I have become ๐Ÿ™‚ Having no idea how to play was what games were like in the arcades back in the day. There were buttons on the cabinet that may or may not be used by the game, and hit them all and see what happens was how you learned. Got used to the far left button being attack? Not in this game! Mwahahahahah!

School
The loner gamer kid may be cliche, but I know lots of kids that felt this way

Be surprised when you waste your super on a different game because standard layouts just weren’t a thing. Even games by the same company would change button layouts between titles. Why make it easy on players, when they just wanted you to put more coins in the machine?

Beating Heart

When you first start the game, you are thrown into a side-scrolling beat-em-up. The gameplay is very similar to my old favourite Final Fight, and the visuals also give me the same vibe. Nothing new, nothing out of place. It was a perfect piece of nostalgia.

The level pacing is about on par for the first level of any beat-em-up. Not too many enemies, cheesy flanking AI, weapon pickups and food drops for health boosts – everything is here. End of the level, the boss was two of the bigger enemies at the same time with flunkies.

The camera then cuts away as the character I expected to be the end of level boss entering the fray. I am still fighting away, but the focus is on the city. This is how storytelling is done in 198X, and it works really well.

Beating Heart
No plot, no warm up, just straight into the action

Out of the Void

Next comes the shoot-em-up, otherwise known as a shmup. Heavily inspired by R-Type, this was another well put together homage. Power-ups, pattern recognition, smooth parallax animation – everything was as it should be.

Out of the Void is the game I spent almost an hour over 3 play sessions playing. Not because I loved it, even though I do enjoy it. I am terrible at these type of games. The difficulty was enough to present me with a challenge, but not to be insurmountable.

Now that I know the stage, I should be able to beat it on a single life each time. I was kicking myself for shutting down when I did, as I was so close to finishing on my second playthrough. Only one or two more tries would have seen me finish the level!

Out of the Void
Believe it or not, dodging asteroids was a break in the action!

The Runaway

After the quick timing of Out of the Void, OutRun inspired The Runaway was a welcome break. Today, this kind of game I would probably consider boring. Drive your car at high speeds through traffic, and make it to the checkpoints before the timer runs out. Simple.

Without going into spoilers, the meta of changing the game into the story I thought was really well done. Being able to cruise through traffic while merging the story and location really worked for me. Not a title I would select to replay for a quick arcade blast, but for the setting, The Runaway worked almost flawlessly.

The Runaway
Weaving through traffic did make me wonder if Outrun still ran on my PC. Or mini console.

Shadowplay

Shadowplay is a game I hope the developers spin off into a full title of its own. Inspired by classics like Strider, the auto-scrolling ninja game had me cutting through swarms of enemies in various settings. Easily the longest game in 198X, the simple gameplay was a blast to play.

I am not 100% sure, but the controls felt the loosest for me here. It may have just been my joy-con, but jumping in a direction seemed to be a challenge for me. Because you can change direction mid-jump, it was never more than an inconvenience. But the tightness of the controls in the other titles made this one seem out of place.

As I said, I would happily put down $20-$30 on a full version of Shadowplay though. Hi-Bit Studios, if you need a cash injection between episodes of 198X, this is how you get it.

Shadowplay
This doesn't look like much is happening, but I didn't have much time to use the Switch screen cap once things started!

Kill Screen

The final game is a first player light RPG game, similar to games like Eye of the Beholder. Set in a computer world like Tron, the player must level up their character to hunt down and defeat 3 dragons in a maze.

Today, this kind of game is overly simplistic. Back in the 80s though, this was hardware pushing tech. I only remember playing one title like this as an arcade as a kid, and that wasn’t in Australia.

Kill Screen might be seen by some as the most out-of-place game in 198X, but for me, it was probably the most ambitious. Here you get to explore another game genre, while simultaneously revealing the most in-depth clues as to what is happening in Kid’s life.

Kill Screen
As a game? It's OK. But story wise Kill Screen is great in a 198X way.

And then… To Be Continued

I was seriously toying with leaving my review here and coming back next week, to show what impact this screen had on me. Just like that, the game is over. Here I was ready to know what happened next, and I was left hanging.ย 

You keep getting glimpses at everything and want to see what happens next, and then it all stops. While not the most sweeping story ever told, Kill Screen finally succeeded in making me invest in the story, and I was told to wait.

Do we get the rest of the game in future updates? Do we need to buy 198X part 2? I would like definitive answers to questions like this. It’s hard to say that the current form is worth the asking price. It was a fun experience though – it’s just a pity that even newbies can get through it all in 2 hours of straight playing. Experienced retro gamer? Maybe an hour.

Suburbia
I can't wait to see what happens next

Overall Thoughts

I really like 198X. Not I want to like it – I really enjoy it. The little glimpses of retro gaming goodness might be short, but it also stops you playing a genre of game you might not like. The overall story may not be engrossing (yet). Still, for a lot of people, parallels can be drawn between themselves and Kid.

This is what 198X does best. It doesn’t excel in every way, but what it does do, it nails. And in interesting ways. You think you are going the same old route, but there is always enough of a twist to make 198X a game on its own.

For the 2 hours run through and minimal replay incentive, the AUD$15 asking price to me is a little steep. Grab it on sale is my advice, but definitely give 198X a play, even if it’s just to sample different retro game styles.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Beautiful Pixel Art Style
  • Games are well designed and represent their inspirations well
  • Arcade feel translated well to the Switch

Cons

  • Short
  • Unclear if the price is for the entire game or just the first episode
  • Limited replay value

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

One Deck Dungeon Review

One Deck Dungeon Box Art
One Deck Dungeon Box Art
Released 2016
Designer Chris Cieslik
Publisher Asmadi Games (Website)
Players 1 – 2 (4 with special rules and 2 copies)
Playing Time Physical: 30-60 minutes
Digital: 20-30 minutes
Category Fantasy
Dungeon Crawl
Light RPG
Worker (Dice) Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Who could have guessed playing an RPG with one deck of cards was so fun!

I love playing RPGs. Playing in a new world, enjoying the camaraderie both in-game and around the table, it’s a great time. The downside is RPGs need a group of friends. Not the people themselves, but trying to get everyone together at the same time is a massive undertaking.

There are plenty of board games that recreate a lot of the fun of RPGs. Dungeon Crawlers are especially good at this. Exploring an area, fighting monsters, and collecting loot. Some even have a basic levelling system. Almost all of them have one fundamental flaw – setup and teardown.

Mansions of Madness 1st Edition was a great example of this. It would take me 40-50 minutes to set up a game. And I had to try and do it before anyone showed up. There are plenty of other games that I can set up and play in that amount of time.

True, those games don’t have the same feel as an RPG, but it’s quicker to get into. But what if it didn’t have to be?

I have had One Deck Dungeon, and it’s stand-alone expansion Forest of Shadows, for a while now. I have even taken it interstate and overseas on work trips. Somehow, things just never seemed to align themselves for me to sit and learn how to play it.

Well, that changed a couple of weeks ago, and boy have I been playing it!

One Deck Dungeon Boxes
Both game boxes. Standard gel pen for scale. These are small!

One Deck Dungeon – What is it?

The best way I can describe One Deck Dungeon is a solo or co-op light RPG dungeon crawler. I know this is a very jargon-heavy description, but it’s really the best way to describe it.

You play as an adventurer making their way through a dungeon. During your dungeon run, you fight various monsters until you take on the boss. The monsters can give you new weapons, skills or experience to level up. Hence, light RPG dungeon crawler!

You get five different bosses in the box and five adventurers. Each boss has different conditions for their dungeon, and combined with the five adventurers means there is plenty of variety. More on that later.

One Deck Dungeon Components
A Deck of cards, some tokens and character boards, and a lot of dice. What more do you need?

So how does it work?

This is where the solo and co-operative part of One Deck Dungeon comes into it. You can play solo with one or two adventurers (the way I have come to prefer to play), or play with someone else using one adventurer each.

Each adventurer has three different stats – strength, agility and magic. Fairly standard fantasy RPG stuff. These stats are represented by different coloured dice. Unlike most RPGs, instead of rolling a dice and adding stat modifiers, you use a certain amount of dice depending on your stat.

So for example, if you have 3 agility, this means you roll three agility dice. Nice and simple! There is also the fourth colour of dice in the box – black hero dice. Hero dice can be earned with experience levels or skills, and are used as any coloured die (wilds).

One Deck Dungeon Adventurers
Each adventurer has pros and cons. Playing one adventurer or two is shown with 1p and 2p on each side.

Shuffle the 56 cards, and put it on the table. This deck of cards is where One Deck Dungeon gets its name. Each card is a different room with a monster or trap, but it’s also almost every other thing used in the game. They are also equipment, skills, experience markers and the game timer. It doesn’t sound obvious, but it works really well!

Each player turn, you burn (discard) 2 cards. This represents time in the game. The very first turn, you spend the first turn exploring. All this means is you draw cards and place them in front of you until you have 4 rooms to explore.

From now on, each turn you can choose to explore or enter a room. Entering a room means picking a card and turning it over to see what’s in it. This is where the card layout hopefully becomes a little clearer.

The card will either be a trap or combat, shown by the icon next to the card title. Below the title is a picture of the room’s contents. To the right of that shows what is needed to clear the room.

One Deck Dungeon Game Start
This is setup. Pick a coupel of characters, shuffle deck, set things out. Done.

You will also notice other parts to the card. On the left shows the extra skill dice you will roll if you choose to take an item from the room. On the bottom shows a skill you can possibly learn, and top right is the amount of experience (XP) you can earn.

If you decide to try and clear the room, you roll all of your dice. To beat the challenge, you need to place your dice onto the various squares on the right of the image. If it’s a square, you need to put a die of the same colour with the value equal to or higher than the number on the card. If it’s a rectangle, you can put any number of dice on that area, as long as the total at least equals the value shown.

One Deck Dungeon Sample Encounters and Rewards
It just looks like four cards, but each card serves 5 functions.

If you cover all the squares, you win! If you can’t cover all of the squares, you still win! You lose some time (discard more cards) and/or health, but you succeed. This helps you build your character even at the start of the game.

And that is basically it! There are some additional rules like mandatory extra requirements depending on which level of the dungeon you are on, hero dice and some other things. But what I have outlined is all you need to know about playing the game.ย 

That sounds rather simple. Why wouldn’t I play Yahtzee instead?

Simple isn’t always dull. Not that I am saying Yahtzee is dull, but for me, Yahtzee is at it’s best when playing in a group.ย 

The amount of depth and immersion in One Deck Dungeon cannot be understated, especially if you are a fan of RPGs or Dungeon Crawlers.

Yes, the mechanics are streamlined, but for a game designed to play solo and quickly do you want a lot of bookkeeping?

There is also the sheer variety of the dungeons. Initially, I believed I would get bored of One Deck Dungeon once I saw all of the enemies. Straight up – I was wrong. I have almost 20 games under my belt now, and I don’t think I have seen all of the cards yet.

One Deck Dungeon Dungeon Bosses
The bosses aren't just different battles, the rules for their dungeons change as well

Forcing you to burn cards during the game pretty much guarantees you will always get new choices each game. Do you take the powerful skill, or use that XP to go up a level and be able to carry more items and get a hero die each round?

That is the challenge and immersion of One Deck Dungeon. Each game is different. Dominate last game mashing a particular skill? You might not see it again for 10 games. Your character can be a relatively weak hitter, but take damage like a champ. Or you could be a glass cannon, dealing damage left and right but only take one hit to go down.

One Deck Dungeon Upgrade Decisions
When setting up a shot, I realised I had not seen the skill on the mage OR the room card before.

But each game, don’t you start again at level 1?

This isn’t as cut and dry. Yes, you start each game at level 1, but this isn’t always the case. For starters, you can choose difficulty level in One Deck Dungeon. Playing on Novice starts you on Level 2 each run.

On top of this, there is also a progression system. While you don’t keep your levels from game to game, you can start with skills, carry more items, heal between levels, all sorts of things.

Like any RPG game, you will need a few games to build up your adventurer. But you will get more powerful, and that old game grind becomes a different experience. You can also level up different groups of benefits and change at the start of each dungeon to tailor your run.

One Deck Dungeon Progression SHeet
You earn different symbols by playing harder dungeons

OK, so what’s the catch?

So the game is ultra-portable and a blast to play. But using cards for everything as well as tiny dice makes for a fiddly experience. For someone like me with large hands, I find myself spending as much time cleaning up my play area as I do playing the game.

I found a perfect fix for this, though.ย 

I’m Listening

Some of you may be wondering why this review appears in both Board Game and Video Game Reviews. That’s right – there is a digital version! And it’s a perfect translation from the physical copy. In fact, because it’s digital, it takes advantage of being able to move the level challenges to the room you are facing. This means you only have to look at one area to see all of the dice and values you need to clear a room.

There is also the added bonus of getting a sixth adventurer for free! Mist from Aeon’s End is a promotional card that you need to hunt down or buy for the physical version. Mist comes for free on the digital version, or at least on Steam.

You aren’t restricted to Steam either – you can also get One Deck Dungeon on your mobile. I am not buying it, as I am honestly worried about how much time I would spend playing it when I should be working ๐Ÿ™‚

One Deck Dungeon Digital Character Selection
No knocking dice, no covering cards accidentally - let the game manage the fiddly bits
One Deck Dungeon Digital Progression
Everything works the same as the physical version
One Deck Dungeon Digital Boss Fight
Rolling a bunch of physical dice is so satisfying, but the app manages everything so well

Overall Thougths

One Deck Dungeon got a lot of love when it came out a few years ago, and today I can say it deserved it. While not the perfect game, it scratches that Dungeon Crawl/RPG itch for me in a solo experience.

The portability of the game is excellent for throwing my bag on trips. The digital version means a small install on almost any PC as it has meagre graphics requirements. Basically, if you can run Windows 10, you can play One Deck Dungeon. Don’t take a PC with you? Grab it on mobile!

While the dry explanation of gameplay can make it sound like another dice game, actually playing One Deck Dungeon throws that idea out the window. I can highly recommend One Deck Dungeon to everyone that enjoys an adventure.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  • Simple to set up and learn
  • Incredibly customisable experience
  • Replicates the feel of Dungeon Crawling/RPG very well
  • Can play solo very quickly
  • Portable both physically and digitally

Cons

  • Using cards can be awkward mid-game
  • High random nature of exploration may put off some players
  • Hard to describe how fun it is unless people can play it

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Luigi’s Mansion 3 Review

Luigi's Mansion 3 Cover
Released 2019
Platform Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Next Level Games (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1-2 (Campaign)
1-8 (Party Games)
Category Light Puzzler
Collection
Cute Horror Theme

Who you gonna call? Luigi! Wait, wrong franchise.

It’s an appropriate crossover, though. Luigi’s Mansion was a hit when released on the GameCube way back in 2002 (2001 for Japan). I got to play it in early 2019 when re-released on the DS. I say play it, as I started playing but never finished it. By then, the Switch was becoming my portable console of choice and other games called.

But even then, I knew Luigi’s Mansion 3 was coming. I got to pick up my copy when I got back from PAX Aus last year. And a couple of weeks ago, I finally got to enjoy it ๐Ÿ™‚

So what is Luigi’s Mansion?

The series has Luigi somehow trapped in a situation where he needs to capture ghosts and save his friends from King Boo. Professor E. Gadd helps him in this by providing Luigi with a Pultergust – a vacuum that can capture the ghosts. Along there way there are collectables you need like keys to progress in the story. Eventually, you will work your way to King Boo and set everything right ๐Ÿ™‚

The plot isn’t any more profound than this in any of the games. You don’t play Luigi’s Mansion for the riveting story. Luigi’s Mansion is a 3D light puzzle and collection game, and a whole lot of fun. That’s why you play it ๐Ÿ™‚

OK, so what about Luigi’s Mansion 3?

You start the game on a bus with Mario, Peach and some Toads. Luigi has won a holiday at a new hotel, and everyone is looking forward to a well earned holiday.

Things go south quickly, and Luigi is the only one not captured in a portrait. Fleeing in a way only Luigi can, he lucks into Professor E. Gadd’s car. Armed with the Poltergust, Luigi then sets out to rescue Mario and all.

You need to get up to the top level of the hotel, but the elevator buttons have been removed. Gameplay wise, this means you have to solve the puzzles of each individual floor before beating the boss. Defeating the boss gains you another elevator button, and eventually, you unlock all the levels.

Welcome to the Last Resort
Everything looks like paradise when you arrive at The Last Resort

Unique Levels? Isn’t it a hotel?

You are in a hotel, but plenty of hotels are built around themes. Instead of having say the Disneyland Hotel with rooms tailored to different characters, the hotel in Luigi’s Mansion takes things further.

The lower levels and first few floors are standard kinds of floors. They look like most high-class hotels. Shopping, Lobby, Restaurant, that kind of thing. But as you continue to go higher, the levels take on their own themes.

Garden floors that have multiple levels, Film Studios, a Museum, even a dessert. You don’t have too long to get bored of any level. This is one of Luigi’s Mansions strengths and a weakness – the games are not very long.

Garden out of Control
The first 'strange' level is a multi level gardening nightmare

So how does a vacuum let you capture ghosts?

Simple, you vacuum them up! The ghosts themselves aren’t exactly keen on this idea. You flash them with your flashlight to expose their hearts, then you can catch them in your vacuum. Once you have them like this, but they try their best to get away from you.

When this happens, you need to pull away from them. This drains the ghost’s health, but do it long enough, and you can get a firm hold on it. Once you do, you can slam the ghost around. When you have them like this, you can slam it into other ghosts, using them as a club.

Capturing Ghosts
Watching the boss ghosts finally get caught is always fun

That sounds like it would get boring.

It does, but Luigi’s Mansion doesn’t have you doing the same thing for too long. Mostly you are exploring the floor looking for a key to get into new areas. Combat like this is all through the game, but it’s not a constant activity.

There are only a few types of ghost in the game, but they get tricky as you continue. They start wearing sunglasses, for example, so the light doesn’t affect them. This turns new encounters into mini-puzzles that need to be solved as well.

Fair enough, but just collecting elevator buttons doesn’t sound like a lot.

You need to collect elevator buttons to get through the story. But that isn’t the only thing you can hunt for in the game.

There is a bunch of cash hidden in the hotel. The more you collect, the higher your score at the end of the game. I spent a bit of time vacuuming everything and ended up with just over $80,000 collected. This gave me an A rank.

Elevator Button Acquired
Game progress is marked in how many buttons you have collected so far

With this kind of ranking system, there is usually an elusive S rank. No one is reported to have this, so I am not sure if it exists in Luigi’s Mansion 3. But if I was to replay the game, it gives me something to aim for.

There are also six gems hidden in each level. Collecting all of these gives you a sparkly plunger. Each gem is uniquely shaped based on the floor’s theme, and finding the first one got a smile out of me each time.

Once you have cleared a level, you can also go back and try and find a Boo hidden on each level. I found a couple when the mechanic was introduced but didn’t spend a lot of time hunting them down. Each Boo has a pun name. Some made me laugh, some made me groan, so the puns were spot on ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, until I got to the second last floor. Then I went back and spent about an hour getting the boos and any gems I missed. The beauty of both collectables is that they are entirely optional. If you do decide to hunt them down, it doesn’t add much to the playtime, but it never got dull looking for them either.

Gem Display
You have standard collectibles as well.

What about the second all green Luigi? I have seen him on the cover.

This is a new mechanic introduced in Luigi’s Mansion 3. The bright green fella is Gooigi. As I was playing solo, I could use him to solve puzzles by switching control between Luigi and Gooigi.

You can also play Luigi’s Mansion with a friend. One player plays as Luigi, the other as Gooigi. If you are playing with two players, I would suggest the more experienced player plays as Luigi. Gooigi has health, but if he ‘dies’ he can be respawned very quickly. If Luigi runs out of health, it’s game over.

Gooigi taking center stage
Taking control of two characters can be a challenge, but opens up lots of puzzle possibilities

The biggest thing I grappled with in Luigi’s Mansion 3 was the controls. Mostly I could work around the sometimes overly helpful control system, except for one mandatory area.

There is a level with a lot of water that has you floating in a duck-shaped floatie. You turn left and right to pick a direction and suck or blow with the poltergust to go forward and backwards.

Going through the level, this was a little annoying but not too bad. The real hassle was with the boss fight and is the only time I stopped playing out of frustration.

B2 - the water level
While fun initially, this levels boss fight was very frustrating

Speaking of multiplayer, there are also two other games you can play – ScareScraper and ScreamPark. These are competitive and cooperative player modes to play as well. These are fun diversions, but I haven’t tried any of them yet. Not because I am not interested in trying them, I just haven’t had the chance.

Who should play Luigi’s Mansion? It doesn’t sound like a lot of game.

This is one of those questions that I get a lot but sometimes have trouble understanding. There are more narrative-driven games and games with better graphics. Not that Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks terrible, it’s just no Red Dead Redemption 2 for example.

After coming off the 80ish hour Final Fantasy XV, the relatively short 20 hour run through of Luigi’s Mansion 3 was a great palate cleanser. The puzzles are engaging without being harsh. The length of the game meant I could always be progressing. I didn’t have hundreds of side quests to distract me.

If you want to sit down for a serious gaming session, Luigi’s Mansion 3 isn’t the game. But to just sit down and pick up a fun experience that keeps you engaged, it’s just about perfect.

Just about perfect?

Every game has one big downside for me. The controls never quite seemed to work the way I expected them to. There are some motion aspects where you can tip your controls to adjust the height of what you are aiming at. This isn’t too bad, but it did take a bit of getting used to.

Once I had the boss fight worked out though, it only took me two more attempts to get through it. It wasn’t the end of the world and didn’t reduce my enjoyment overall, but if I had to pick on something, this level is the only frustrating part for me.

Overall Thoughts

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a great in-between game. If I had started expecting a long story-driven game, I would have been disappointed. Instead, you get a medium length light puzzle game with just enough elements to never get bored overall.

While I haven’t played any of the multiplayer games, I do appreciate their inclusion. It does help justify the full retail price for a short solo experience.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Light hearted game play that is still engaging
  • Good balance between exploring and combat
  • Extends campaign with multiplayer party games

Cons

  • Controls can be a little tricky
  • Campaign is a short for the asking price
JohnHQLD