The Outer Worlds Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So should I play The Outer Worlds on Switch?

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

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

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

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

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

OK, so what is The Outer Worlds?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What The Outer Worlds isn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

But what do you do in the game?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

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

Cons

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

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And honestly, it surprised me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You better already know how to play the game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What keeps you wanting to play?

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

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

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

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

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

But it looks so… meh?

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

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

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

So what are the downsides?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Thoughts

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

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

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

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

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

Cons

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

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

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 🙂 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. 

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

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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

Pokemon Sword/Pokemon Shield review

Pokemon Sword and Shield Review Welcome
Pokemon Sword and Shield Art
Released 2019
Platform Nintendo Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Game Freak (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category RPG
Collectible/Set Collection

It’s a brave new world for the venerable RPG. Just not too new a world.

Pokemon games have been around for decades. Starting with Pokemon Red and Blue on the original Game Boy, the formula hasn’t changed much in almost 25 years. You take the role of a young aspiring trainer and wander the land capturing Pokemon and building your team to become the best.

Pokemon Let’s Go (reviewed here) was the first significant departure to this formula in a long time. The main storyline and quests were still there, as they ultimately a remake of Pokemon Yellow. What had changed for the first time in a long time was the capture system. It bought in the Pokemon Go style ‘throw Pokeballs at creatures until you catch them’ style play. You could also for the first time see in the world the Pokemon wandering about.

Pokemon Red Blue Gameplay
The graphics have changed, but the core game has remained largely the same

To say the reception was divided would be an understatement.

Long time fans held there breath for the first ‘proper’ Pokemon RPG for the Switch – Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield.

You keep mentioning two titles. Which game are you reviewing?

The very confusing answer to this is “Yes”. Each game has an alternate edition that includes Pokemon the other doesn’t, so you need to find players of the opposing version and trade to complete your Pokedex. While I have only played through Pokemon Shield, everything I am going to talk about is relevant to Pokemon Sword.

Pokemon Sword and Shield – the basics

Nothing has really changed here since my first Game Boy Pokemon adventure. You choose your avatar and begin your quest to become the best Pokemon trainer around.

Your ‘rival’ in this outing happens to be the little brother of Leon, the unbeatable Champion of the Galar region and final story boss fight. What is the Galar region? It’s the area you are exploring, and this time around has been heavily influenced by England. Without getting wrapped up in Pokemon lore, basically, each region of the world of Pokemon has a ‘real world’ equivalent. In most games, you explore new areas, giving a reason for new Pokemon and mechanics to exist.

At its heart, Pokemon Sword and Shield are still light RPG adventures – depending on your definition of light. The path you take is fairly linear, but you can explore the world at your own pace. The story is far from complicated but serves to keep the game going.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Hop and Leon
That's you on the Left, Hop your rival, then big brother Leon

Instead of wandering the land looking for monsters to fight, you instead battle your Pokemon against other peoples Pokemon or even wild Pokemon. You can capture wild Pokemon to complete your Pokedex (your Pokemon checklist). You can also use some Pokemon’s abilities to complete quests during the game.

The first big change – Sword and Shield differ in a little more than just Pokemon!

That’s right – it’s not only a question of which Pokemon are in each version anymore. I am not going to go into details as I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is a slightly different story path in each game. You do all the same things, but you meet two different gym leaders depending on the version you play. It’s not just the leader though, it’s also the Pokemon type they specialise in that is affected.

There are also slightly different items available in each game, but this only really affects your curries which I will talk about later.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Allister
You will only see Allister, the Ghost type trainer, in Shield

None of this is worth it for me personally to play both versions, but it is nice that Game Freak is experimenting with this feature and I hope it continues.

And now you can camp and cook for your Pokemon!

That’s right – you can camp and rest with your Pokemon now. Not only that, you have some Poketoys (what else?) that lets you play with your Pokemon at camp!

But not only that, you can cook for everyone as well. This little mini-game isn’t strictly necessary, but as you find new ingredients and get better at cooking, your Pokemon see in-game benefits.

It’s a bit of fun, but not essential. My Pokemon would sometimes complain of being tired and hungry, and taking care of them increased your relationship. If you treat your Pokemon well, they are more likely to critical hit opponents or hold on with 1 health point instead of being knocked out.

You will only see Allister, the Ghost type trainer, in Shield
Some of these meals I wish I could make so easily!

I have seen this mechanic in a few games now, and I had fun playing with my Pokemon overall. Sometimes it was nagging me to camp more than I wanted to (two-minute intervals sometimes!), but camping was executed pretty well overall.

The next change – the Wild Area

After coming to grips with the game, you are introduced to the Wild Area. This is a vast open area with all sorts of different Pokemon to discover and is easier to just run around and battle in than the original games.

After coming to grips with the game, you are introduced to the Wild Area. This is a vast open area with all sorts of different Pokemon to discover and is easier to just run around and battle in than the original games.

Pokemon of a certain level tend to hang around in specific areas of the Wild Area, but not always specific Pokemon. Depending on the weather and time of day (yes, this does matter in-game now!) different Pokemon will appear.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Wild Area
Bit of fourth wall breaking there 🙂

It is also an area with a couple of mini-games, such as the Rotum Rally. Winning these games do earn you prizes, but for me, they were not essential to play. So I will say they are there, and they are fun enough but know there are little games to play. Describing them makes them sound incredibly dull, and as they aren’t essential to the game, knowing they exist is enough.

Another feature of the Wild Land is the Pokemon Dens. Here you can find watts, a type of wild area currency. But the big payoff is the chance to capture a Dynamax wild Pokemon.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Dynamax Raid
It's four on one - we can get it! Right?

Capture a dynawhatnow?

A change in combat mechanics in Sword and Shield is called Dynamax. Basically, you make your Pokemon really, really big for 3 turns of combat. They get increased health and access to special moved. You can do it once per match in specific areas.

It looks cool most of the time. There can be new animations and looks for the Pokemon, as well as unique special moves. My big issue with Dynamax is once you have seen it a couple of times, I got bored with it. Competitive play has banned its use. I am glad they tried something different, but for me, this isn’t something I hope sticks around.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Dynamax In Battle
Some of the Dynamax Transformations can be a little terrifying!

So why is Dynamax in the Wild Area important?

Ahh, here is where it does hold my interest. In the wildlands, you can team up with up to three other trainers over the internet and do a specific Dynamax raid. You only get to use your first Pokemon, but if you win the timed battle, you get a chance to catch one of these special Pokemon.

The problem isn’t the Dynamax raids though. My issue with Dynamax raids is the glitchy online connectivity. But I will talk more about this later.

Even playing offline, you get three computer-controlled trainers to battle with, and the raid itself is still something different. Don’t want to do them? Don’t start a raid. It’s nice having optional combat choices in a game like this.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Camping Games
Anything is more fun than a loading screen. Like playing fetch with Magikarp!

And my favourite change, Jobs.

Previously, if you wanted to level up all of your Pokemon, you need to constantly battle with them. Now you can send your Pokemon out on Jobs and earn experience and items without playing!

This can sound cheap, but there is still a lot to it. You can’t just spam a job with the same Pokemon, you need to match the Pokemon you send to the task required. Sending Fire-type Pokemon to someone that needs help from water-types will not earn you much.

You also have to wait. You can send your Pokemon out for a full day, and I have levelled up Pokemon I haven’t used in combat pretty quickly. Later some jobs let you boost your Pokemon’s stats. Love a Pokemon, but they keep getting knocked out? Send them on tasks for a few days to increase their defence and health!

Pokemon Sword and Shield Pokemon Return From Job
When do well with a job, it's a party as your Pokemon return

That sounds alright, but you started complaining about online?

I’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but as a general rule, Nintendo has made some interesting online decisions. I use Nintendo Online mainly for cloud saves and access to the retro games. Tetris 99 is the only big multiplayer game I play.

When you activate online in Pokemon Sword and Shield, you are continually seeing other players phase in and out of your game world. This is annoying, but not terrible. Trying to get players to join your Dynamax raids is awful. Even if you can see another player waiting and asking for players to join them, rarely can I actually do it.

Most of the time, you sit looking at the screen for 2 minutes for the requests to time out, then you play with computer-controlled players. It has stopped me from even trying to be honest. It’s not the end of the world, as it is an optional mechanic. It is frustrating to see the start of a fun feature that should work in 2019 fail again and again.

What about the complaints I have heard about reused assets and poor graphics?

OK, here I am picking a fight with the internet. The Pokemon games got their start on the Game Boy, and have had their biggest run on the DS consoles. These handhelds, while technological marvels in their time, hardware limitations equalled simpler games.

The Pokemon games are formulaic. They follow the same general structure again and again. Think of EA’s sports titles the 2K series – you keep getting the same game over and over again with small tweaks. Pokemon has been doing this for a long time, and people wanted to see something different.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Metacritic
What do I mean by people slamming Pokemon Sword and Shield? Look at the difference on Metacritic

Game Freak has tried to do things in a new way with the series coming to the Switch. Some things worked, others didn’t. As I have only played select titles in the series, I didn’t realise when I was playing that the same sound file was used for various Pokemon in battle. I was playing, the funny sound played, I was happy.

In the wild area, the ‘generic tree’ doesn’t look great. Apparently, the textures were a direct copy from the DS Sun and Moon games. And it is the same tree over and over again – no variety in the forest.

Personally, it made it easy for me to differentiate a generic tree from a Berry Bush. Because ‘normal’ trees are supposed to be generic, I noticed the difference and moved on. It didn’t ruin my experience overall, it was all a momentary blip. Which I promptly ignored.

People that did notice this and raised it on the internet have a point. This was supposed to be a game built from the ground up for the Switch. Using previous designs/textures/sounds means that wasn’t the case. When this happens, it’s usually because the developers were running out of time. Fixing things like this means delaying the game, it’s part of what ‘Polish’ means when delays are announced.

How is this picking a fight? Becuase there is a lot of yelling from people that haven’t moved on about it. I have seen reviews that have slammed the game because of a tree image reused from the DS. Not poor online connectivity, not game-breaking issues, but because of a time-saving trick used in one area that means nothing to game working or not. Immersion yes, but not the game functioning.

My comment? Get over it. Yes, I noticed it. Yes, you have a point that ‘built from the ground up’ didn’t happen. These are negatives that should be addressed.

But to attack a game and declare it rubbish because of reusing sound files and a tree? Priorities people. The amount of overreaction to small things that don’t affect the gameplay at all has me stumped.

Don’t let people ranting on small issues pull you away from a fun experience. The game is not groundbreaking. I could probably suggest other games for you to try, sure. But hand on heart, you can do a lot worse than the Pokemon Sword and Shield, and if you enjoy Pokemon and/or RPGs, you will enjoy your time with the game.

JohnHQLD

Overall Thoughts

While not perfect, I really enjoyed my time playing Pokemon Shield. The game still had that distinctive Pokemon feel, while pushing the envelope in certain areas.

Some things I would have liked seen pushed further, some I hope to get dropped in future games. Overall though I am glad Nintendo and Game Freak are embracing the idea of change, just not as much as in other titles like The Legend of Zelda.

Not yet, anyway.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Gameplay lets new players in easily
  • Trying out new mechanics while holding onto the classic feel
  • Generally good graphical upgrades
  • Nintendo is embracing expansion by DLC for the first time

Cons

  • The gameplay is still very close to all the other Pokemon games
  • Online is spotty at best
  • The main story is very linear
  • Dynamax bored me fairly quickly

Terminator: Resistance Review

Terminator Resistance Cover Art
Terminator Resistance Cover Art
Released 2019
Platform PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Publisher Reef Entertainment (Website)
Developer Teyon (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players Players
Category Description

The Terminator franchise finally gets a decent computer game

The original Terminator came out in the before days of 1984. I was 9 years old. I can’t remember exactly why, but my Mum let me watch it with her when I was about 14. I remember being bored :p

A couple of years later, Terminator 2 was the BIG THING. My friends and I watched it multiple times. Not the perfect movie by any means, but it captured my imagination in many ways. Time Travel and consequences were simplified. Well, to an extent. It is a convoluted logic train at the best of times. There were lots of explosions, and the T-1000 was terrific to watch morph.

At the time, I didn’t have a computer that could play new games well. Doom was fun, but almost all of us were drooling at the idea of The Terminator 2029.

I remember some of my friends being excited that Terminator 2: Judgement Day was coming to the Nintendo Entertainment System. The gloating during the countdown before they could play it.

What I remember most is the silence after they played it. I didn’t know anyone that enjoyed it, and a lot of Terminator games since had a similar low quality.

The only Terminator game I remember playing was Terminator 2: Judgement Day at the arcade. This was an Operation Wolf style gun game that had very little to do with the movie, but was still a lot of fun.

Terminator 2 NES
There is a reason this wasn't included in the NES Mini collection

The idea of the paradoxical loop presented by The Terminator always intrigued me. It opened the door to so many possibilities – and so many headaches. Skynet wouldn’t exist if it didn’t send a Terminator back in time to give Cyberdyne the push to create the learning CPU.

Doctor Who addresses such paradoxes as ‘Fixed Points in Time’, inviolate events that must occur. This convenient narrative fix came about after decades of debate. Personally, I still prefer the throwaway “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff”, but Fixed Points in Time does stop a lot of arguments. While starting others.

The Terminator films started to get into these alternate theories and complicating the storylines further. Terminator: Dark Fate, the latest Terminator film, basically ignores any films between Terminator 2 and itself. Without seeing it (I didn’t get time at the cinemas), the natural reasoning as to why they are ignored is “Those Timelines didn’t eventuate”. Narrative reset 101.

You know what other story ignores those films? Terminator: Resistance.

So what has all this to do with the game?

Like all paradoxes, nothing and everything. I am a Terminator film fan. I think it’s clear I have a bias toward the franchise and the idea of time travel as a whole.

Terminator: Resistance is its own game. It has it’s own characters, and is set after Judgment Day – a period only glimpsed in the movies.

If you had never seen the first two movies, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. You would miss some great in-jokes and easter eggs, but that’s it.

Terminator Resistance - Intro
The visuals may not be photorealistic, but they nail the source materials tone

Teyon has made a fantastic fan love letter to the original series, and it shows. But the story is it’s own. You play a totally new character, and while you hear the name John Connor bandied about, it is given context within the story. You are given all you need to know to play, and extras are cleverly woven in.

OK, enough of what the game is about, what sort of game is it?

This is harder to answer than you might imagine. I can’t tell you what sort of game Terminator: Resistance is. Why not? Because I don’t think it knows. It’s like a lot of games, but it doesn’t really commit to any style. It is a first-person style adventure game with shooting and character-building elements, similar to Skyrim or Fallout 3. Similar, but not quite.

At the start of the game, you have relatively standard ballistic weaponry. Pistols, rifles, that kind of thing. They do allow you to shoot down drones, but Terminator units? Your best bet is sneak around unnoticed. The semi-open world gives you lots of options to do this, and the goggles allow you to see robots through walls. Think Arkham Batman Detective Mode.

During the story, you meet other survivors of Judgment Day and help them enough for them to get you to the resistance. Or you help them with various other jobs and earn their trust. Think any RPG with quest givers that can influence the story, like Skyrim or Mass Effect.

Terminator Resistance - Goggles
Not having to stick your head out helps to find a path around enemies early game

Rewards for exploration can be trade resources (virtually cash) or items that allow you to craft items. These items can be first aid, weapons or ammo. There are plenty of games that have this mechanic these days. But of course, if you can craft, why not upgrade your weapons? Yes, this is present as well.

There is even a hacking mini-game bought back by games like BioShock. The most significant difference is the old Pipe Dream style game has been replaced by Frogger.

Terminator Resistance - Lockpicking
There is also a lockpick mini-game. I have played better (and worse) versions.

That’s what games it’s like, but what sort of game is Terminator: Resistance?

And here is the crux of the problem. A lot of solid mechanics have been mixed together well. Just not well enough to make Terminator: Resistance its own game.

It’s not an Adventure/RPG, it’s not a shooter, nor a stealth game. It’s Terminator: Resistance, and what it does is done well enough. It’s just not incredible.

I enjoyed playing through the story and getting another glimpse into the Terminator universe. The only characters I can remember that wasn’t John Connor is Baron and The Stranger.

The story depth just isn’t there though. The dialogue is terrible at times, and the choices presented are largely meaningless until the close credits. There are checkboxes to modern features in the game, but nothing shines out as ‘must do’.

Terminator Resistance - Dialogue Choices
This dialogue is here mainly for fans reactions. I was happy when I saw the choices 🙂

And yet…

I really enjoyed playing Terminator: Resistance. For all it’s faults, it is a solid experience. They keep the source materials tone for better or worse. Yes, the twists are pretty obvious. The voice acting borders on ridiculous at some points. The Terminators can’t hit the side of a barn with the first few shots.

But if you watch the sections of the future in the movies, this was just how it was presented. The music and sound effects are movie perfect, and not having the most profound story is appropriate under the circumstances.

So should I buy it?

And here is the problem. If you are a Terminator fan and/or you have nothing else to play, sure. If you want to play games like The Witcher or Cyberpunk 2077, but the scope concerns you? Terminator Resistance is an excellent introduction to what you can do.

Like shooters, but you are learning, or your reflexes aren’t there? Playing Terminator: Resistance on normal won’t punish you for this. Want to be punished? Play on the harder levels, where you don’t have time to react to being seen in the open.

If you buy Terminator: Resistance on Steam, it’s only just over AUD$55. This isn’t because the price has been cut due to poor sales, I think Reef realised that this wasn’t a killer game and priced it appropriately. PlayStation and Xbox are still charging full price though. Buy on console only if you don’t have a PC that can run it.

Terminator Resistance - HK Tank Battle
By the end game, taking out the huge HK tanks is a very straightforward affair

Wait – is it worth a buy or not?

If you want to finish a game that won’t take you 40+ hours and is a solid gaming experience – Do it. If you are a fan of the original two Terminator movies, this is the Terminator game you deserve.

However, if you are comparing buying Terminator: Resistance to almost any other new release, maybe don’t buy it. Teyon, as a developer, is improving in quality in leaps and bounds. Compared to Rambo: The Video Game, Terminator: Resistance is awesome. It’s just not special compared to other offerings out there without the license.

Look at it this way – I can’t recommend the original Witcher like I can the sequels. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy The Witcher, it is only that the sequels have nailed the formula that was only forming in the original. But I still want to replay the orginal (again), because I am a fan and know what I am in for. Treat Terminator: Resistance the same way.

Overall Thoughts

If you are a Terminator fan, this love letter to the franchise is definitely a game you will enjoy playing. If you don’t know the franchise, there is nothing you need to already know to play the game.

One of the most significant marks against Terminator: Resistance is that it is a solid game. There is nothing new about any of the gameplay mechanics, and what is used is done well. There is nothing except the Terminator license to make it stand out on shelves. Also, previous Terminator games haven’t been very good at all.

The problem is these days solid doesn’t really cut it in the hype engine, so they get lost. As much as I loved playing Terminator: Resistance, I put 3 games I hadn’t finished before it on my Top 10 for 2019. If you get the chance and are interested, you won’t regret playing – it just won’t stand out in your other memories.

Overall
6.5/10
6.5/10

Pros

  • Obviously created by fans of the series
  • Terminator models look amazing
  • Some great easter eggs for Terminator fans

Cons

  • The gameplay is solid but nothing stands out
  • Enemy AI and level layout are too forgiving at normal difficulties

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Onirim Review

Released 2014
Designer Shadi Torbey
Publisher Asmodee (Website)
Players 1 (technically you can play 2, but really solo game)
Playing Time Physical: 15 – 25 minutes (mainly shuffling)
Digital: 5-10 minutes
Category Card Game
Solo
Hand Management
Set Collection
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Can you escape the nightmares?

Onirim is a game that players either know about or have never heard of. Like all well-kept secrets, not only is Onirim a gem of a game, it is also part of a greater universe – the Oniverse.

Why is it such a well kept secret? I think a big part of this is that the Oniverse are single-player games, and solo games aren’t given a significant push marketing-wise.

The Oniverse shares a common theme, taking place in a dreamscape universe. What more do you need to know to play them? Nothing. That’s something else that the Oniverse games share – you don’t need to know the theme at all. It is light enough for a superficial theme, however, go digging and the lore is surprisingly profound.

So what is Onirim?

If you want to get technical, Onirim is a set collection/deck management game. Make sets of three coloured cards with different symbols to unlock doors, unlock all of the doors to win.

Like all simple games, this does not sound inviting. But if you look at all great games, they all boil down to ‘You just do the thing’. The factor of what makes a decent or good game great is the extra feelings the game can give you, and Onirim manages to get into your head in very subtle ways.

All you have to do is open these doors. What can be hard about that?

So why do I want to keep reading?

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming, I recently started playing Onirim again on my phone. Onirim has been on my solo playlist since it was released five years ago, and when I think of what to play next, it always manages to be on the shortlist.

Why is it always good to play? Firstly, it’s a known quantity that doesn’t ask a lot of time from me. These days, that’s always appreciated. Secondly, it has a free digital version that is spot on in terms of game mechanics and simplifies setup so much.

That’s right – for a change, I can do a board game review AND a video game review at the same time! And because the digital implementation is free, I can also highly recommend playing it to see how you like it.

Got a couple of minutes and want to challenge yourself? Onirim Digital is a great choice

OK, I’m listening. So what is Onirim?

According to the theme, you play as a Dreamwalker trapped in a dream labyrinth. To escape, you need to unlock all of the oneiric doors. Vefore you run out of cards. That’s right – you get to go through the deck once and once only.

When dealing with a random draw pile, getting the right cards is hard enough, but there are nightmares as well. If you are unlucky enough to draw a nightmare card, you will lose cards. The game makes you choose to discard the remaining cards in your hand or the top 5 cards in the deck. When you discard from the deck, if you draw a door card or a nightmare, they stay in ‘Limbo’ and are shuffled back into the deck.

I can discard my hand, but I need the green sun to unlock a door. Lucky I have a key that will beat the nightmare!

You can choose to discard what is left in your hand instead. This makes the cards you lose a known quantity, but sometimes you really need the cards in your hand, so it can be a harrowing decision to make.

Lose track of how many cards you have played or discarded, and you will lose. Get a bad run of drawing nightmares, and you will lose. Each decision counts towards a win, but the luck element has you dreading the next draw. It still surprises me that hundreds of games later (yep, I played a lot over the years), I still get that rush of excitement or disappointment as I win or lose.

I just need to unlock the blue door to win. But I have almost a 50/50 chance of drawing nightmares!

So that’s it? You just play cards out?

Yep. As I said before, just describing the game to someone makes it sound boring and question why anyone would want to play it. But once the rules all click (normally takes one maybe two games), you really start to want to beat such a simple system.

And again, the digital base game is free. You can try it yourself for nothing and decide if you like it or not. Yes, digital expansions will cost but it’s only a couple of dollars each, and by then you will know if you want to add new cards, powers and objectives.

That said, if you like the game I would suggest buying Onirim Second Edition physically. Why? It comes with all expansions and variants, most of which are not available digitally. Use the digital app to try before you buy, and see how much you like it for yourself.

The physical copy. So much potential gaming in those cards - and so much shuffling!

So what can I play Onirim on?

You can get the digital version of Onirim on Steam for PC, and there are Android and iOS versions as well. If the links don’t work for you, just search for Onirim (maybe add Solitaire Card Game) from Asmodee Digital and you can’t go wrong.

Final Thoughts

Onirim is a rare board game. It’s a highly abstract game that makes it easy to immerse yourself. While the core gameplay is simple, the physical version comes with expansions that let you scale the complexity to increase replayability.

Five years later, and I keep coming back to Onirim. I have that much fun with it.

But. Like a match 3/tap to continue mobile game, Onirim is a fun and challenging quick game before mobile gaming was a science. It’s not a campaign/legacy game, and yet it is a game that has continually pulled me back after long absences.

And best of all? You can try the excellent base game digitally for free. Even if you don’t enjoy digital gaming, the implementation is spot on. Also, the in-game tutorial is excellent, making the digital version a great try before you buy experience.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Easy to learn and play
  • You can set your difficulty/complexity with expansions
  • Digital version makes games lightning quick to get into

Cons

  • The physical version is a lot of shuffling and setup
  • High luck factor can put off some players

 

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

HORI Split Pad Pro Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch
By HORI (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Category Controller

Big hands? HORI has you covered – with a couple of caveats

I enjoy playing on my Switch. I tend to play docked with the Pro controller, but being able to continue playing when I travel is fantastic. True, the Vita had this first for a few games, but Sony dropped the ball in terms of supporting the undervalued console.

When I travel for work, it tends to be day trips or for the better part of a week. The Switch shines here. I can sit in the airport and continue playing, but unless I wanted to bring extra equipment, I am limited in what I could play comfortably. Astral Chain on Joy-Cons for example words, but it’s uncomfortable and hurts my hands.

The solution? Bring a stand and pair my Pro controller. But putting the Pro controller in my bag worries me. Nothing to protect the sticks, and I also worry about button presses trying to wake it and drain the battery.

There have been a few third party cases that try to emulate ‘full’ controller feel, and they have all missed for me. The extra ‘wings’ to fit in my hand were nice, but I was still playing with Joy-Cons and their stick/button placement. It wasn’t great.

It works well, but not the most easy to carry around setup

HORI has come out with new controllers to address almost all of these issues, and I am loving.

Introducing the HORI Switch Pad Pro (Daemon X Machina Edition) controllers

First things first – Daemon X Machina Edition? Yep. I haven’t seen any other edition, but all it means is a black and red colour scheme with a stylised ‘X’ on the X button. In the future, there may be different game tie ins, but today it just means slightly off norm colouring.

So what is the Switch Pad Pro? Take the general layout of the Switch Pro Controller, break it in half, and slide them into the Joy-Con rails on your Switch. That’s it. You now have a pro controller with a screen in the middle, and it’s incredible.

There is no other way to describe it – that’s what it feels like, with all the pros and cons that entails.

It's not just the angle, the Split Pad Pro has everything that little bit bigger

What cons can there be with a screen inside a pro controller?

Size. Straight up, this makes the Switch longer and deeper. Now for myself, this made playing the Switch in handheld mode more comfortable. I am 6’3″ tall, and not everyone has hands and arms the size of mine – individual experiences will vary.

The changes to the dimensions also make the Switch impossible to not only put in a pocket, but any case on the market I have seen. This puts you squarely back in the ‘take extra controllers with you’ camp, which I was hoping to escape.

It doesn't look much here, but the Joy-Cons have the switch flar and it all fits inside the Split Pad Pro setup

HORI makes Switch cases, I would love them to make a case I can store the Switch with the Pad Pro attached, Joy-Con’s underneath just in case, and maybe a pocket above for carts. This would make the Switch perfect for taking on day trips for me. Get on it, HORI!

What it does Switch Pad Pro does do well is when you are home and want to put the Switch down between sessions. Because the Switch itself is above the surface, picking up the Switch is much more comfortable. I have trouble sometimes picking my Switch up from flat, and that is no longer a problem.

OK, fine, so what’s the Switch Pad Pro like to play?

And here is the crux of the matter. The Switch Pad Pro is like a Pro Controller, but a little oversized and most importantly, not a Pro controller.

It’s tough to explain in words, but while the Switch Pad Pro is great to play on, you still know you aren’t playing on a Pro controller – probably my favourite controller in general.

Everything is oversized on the Switch Pad Pro. Not comically, at least not for my hands, but it’s noticeable. The sticks are just that little bit larger than the Pro, but the same ‘mushy’ feel in the movement. The seems to exaggerate the loose feel to the sticks, even though in gameplay they are quite responsive. It’s a learning curve, but not a steep one. I was playing Astral Chain comfortably within a couple of minutes, and that was after not playing for a couple of months.

Even with one hand for the shot, you can see the more 'normal' placement of the Dpad

Like any controller, the ultimate form is very personal. What do you want in your controller? If you like the clicky feel like the Xbox controllers, this will not feel great to you. I prefer the feel of the Dualshock, but this is softer again. 

If you are comfortable with the Joy-Cons, the Switch Pad Pro will probably be too big for you, but if like me they are too small this is a viable option.

But that’s not all of the caveats!

That’s right – even after all that, there are still things to watch out for. These are not Joy-Cons – and that had a more significant impact than I imagined.

You lose NFC (Amiibo) support and HD rumble. The rumble I was surprised at, the Amiibo support was a little annoying, but if required I can switch controllers mid-game. The big one you lose is motion control.

If you are like me, right now you are thinking to yourself “It’s attached – that’s fine.” and no, no it isn’t. Not for some games anyway. Realisation dawned on me when I tried to fire up Asphalt 9 Legends, thinking the wider grip would help my arms last longer.

I couldn’t play it at all. The vital ingredient that makes Asphalt so fun to play is missing in the Switch Pad Pro. Everything worked, right up to the point I needed to steer the car!

Not a game I would play without the Pro controller previously

Then I tried Pokemon Let’s Go. The game worked as expected, right up until the time I tried to move the Switch to aim. Ooops. Not the end of the world, but not a hurdle I expected to have to deal with.

That sounds like a lot of negatives with not much going for it!

Yes, it does. And it’s important to flag them, not because the Switch Pad Pro is a bad product, but it is a more niche product than I imagined.

There are a couple of features I haven’t touched on. The first is the Turbo button. I don’t know why, but it has one. I have yet to find a use for it. The second though is an on the fly assignment to buttons on the back of the controller. I haven’t used it yet, but I can see times where a simple button press (or even the dreaded L3/R3) combination needs to be used a lot, so you can hit this button instead of taking you thumb off the stick.

This doesn’t change the fact that for a lot of people, the Switch Pad Pro controller won’t be the best choice for all situations.

The assignable button without third party software is nice

So who should look at buying a Switch Pad Pro?

If you find the Joy-Cons uncomfortable and play in handheld mode a lot at home, these will probably do the trick. If you play docked a lot or don’t want to take the Pro controller with you when travelling because of space, this probably won’t be the best choice.

Playing on the plane, I considered playing The Witcher 3 but instead tried Astral Chain again in the more cramped quarters. Playing felt good, and I wasn’t locking elbows more than usual with the passenger next to me. I also didn’t have tired fingers 20 minutes in, a big plus.

What was a pain was taking a bag for my ‘flight’ stuff, the Switch case and the two Switch Pad Pro sides separatly. I really would have preferred a single case I could have lifted the unit out of, but I have already described that.

Travelling with the Switch Pad Pro is about as fiddley as moving with the Pro controller and a stand, but the price is about the same. If you travel a lot, it might be worthwhile, but if it’s occasional, I don’t think it’s worth the select purchase and custom travel storage you will need to create.

HORI Split Pad Pro

Final Thoughts

The Split Pad Pro controller is great for me, but I am not using it as much as I thought I would. Missing motion controls is a pain for some games, but I miss the rumble more than a couple of games.

Because I already have a Pro controller, I am more likely to drop the Switch in my dock and grab it than setup the Split Pad Pro at home. On the move, it’s almost perfect – except for the size and carrying it around safely.

Add a case to hold the Switch and this HORI, put Rumble back in, and everything else can be forgiven.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Feels like you are playing with a pro controller with a screen in the middle
  • Using the controls feels better when playing action games, especially with my large hands
  • DPad is very responsive and works great

Cons

  • Could use more resistance in the sticks
  • An extra item to carry around with you, as actually two controllers
  • Unable to use a case with the controllers attached (May change in the future)
  • Rumble would have been nice

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Jackbox Party Pack 6 Review

Released 2019
Platform PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, XBox, Switch (Reviewed), Amazon Fire TV, iPad, Apple TV, Android TV
Publisher Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Developer Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players Usually 3-8 plus audience – recommend at least 5 players
Category Party Games

Sometimes, all you want to do is sit and mess with your friends. And Jackbox Party helps you do this ;D

I have plenty of party type board games in my collection, but most share a common flaw. They are all niche in some way. Geek trivia, Pop Culture, Dexterity or ‘gamey’ games. Whatever the niche, you are setting yourself up for just that game for a while.

None are bad games, but there are usually people that don’t want to join in because they feel they can’t win. The other issue can be the judging of answers. Even going with the written response, people can argue because there is a person to contend with.

This is where the Jackbox Party Pack shines. There is a central app that controls a series of different games, so any rules disputes are typically written off as ‘bugs’. It’s incredible how much this changes the focus of the group, and makes organisation and hosting game nights a breeze.

So it’s a trivia game? Pass

Like so many simple games, it sounds too simple to be any fun. But that isn’t where the Jackbox Party games shine.

Yes, there are trivia games. Word games. There are even drawing games. Each set features a unique host that has a series of jokes and quips that gets laughs as the game continues. The games each feel unique, even when using tried and true mechanics.

Having a host or forcing a player to get up and read a bunch of questions can make or break a games night. We have all been there. A great host can elevate Even a standard pub trivia night. Here is where Jackbox shines – you genuinely want to know what is going to be said next.

Yes, my friends were trying to skewer me for a small cash bonus. What a group :p

But why would I want to play a video game with a heap of people? No one has that many controllers!

One of the great features of Jackbox Party Packs is that almost everyone already has their own controller.

You need a device that ‘hosts’ the games sure, and in a party environment this works brilliantly on consoles as everyone can see the game on their TV. 

The players need a web browser to join in. And as almost everyone has a smartphone these days, everyone gets to play on a device they are already comfortable using. No mixing up XBox and Dual Shock buttons here!

OK, but how does this help with people that don’t want to play?

Say you are playing a game where you need to come up with clever wordplay. Some people do not enjoy this, and wouldn’t want to participate.

A great feature of Jackbox Party Packs is the Audience feature. You can have a few players competing, but everyone else can still be a part of the game by voting on the winning answers. Everyone always gets to play, and the audience has a vital role to play in picking winners.

The Audience feature is great for everyone at a party, but it has another bonus. If you are into streaming, you can stream your Jackbox game and have the room code as a part of the stream, including all of your viewers as well.

What can I say - I have a weirdly awesome group of friends to come up with words like this 😀

Playing like this has made the Jackbox panels at PAX Aus one of my ‘must-do’ panels each year – it’s so much fun watching the panellists playing, while at the same time participating in picking winners.

Well, that all sounds alright, but what do you play?

Each party pack comes with about five mini-games, each unique in their way. As you can tell from the title, this is the 6th such collection of games, with new packs coming out every year.

There is never the same type of game in each pack. As with every compilation, some that are gems, and some that aren’t.

Dictionarium

Dictionarium is a fun and fast word game. Players are given a word, and then everyone comes up with a definition of their device. Once everyone is finished (or the time is up), everyone, including the audience votes on their favourite.,

Round 2 has players writing a synonym based on the winning response. Once again, everyone votes for the winner.

The final round has players then using their synonyms in a sentence. Once again, the winner is voted for by everyone. Finally, you end up with a definition and usage of a completely new word!

Dictionarium is a great quick game that can start the night or a quick reset between some of the bigger games. While fun, it’s not a game I would want to play multiple rounds of back to back.

Role Models

Role models is a great game for a group of friends or at least people that know about each other. Players vote on a category (e.g. Olympic Sports, Heist Jobs, Girl Scout Cookies), and everyone chooses who in the group would suit roles in that category.

When everyone finishes voting, the votes are counted, and a player is assigned that role. If there is a tie for the part, a mini-game between the players plays out to pick a single winner.

‘Correctly’ guess the player for the role, and you can win the game! But really for party games like this, the end score is usually an oversite.

While this is a fun diversion, I think its more fun when players know a bit more about each other. Most of the fun is seeing peoples reactions to what the group thinks of them. For example, why am I better suited to Curling that Synchronised Swimming? You need to know the people to get the most out of this. Randomly assigning players because you have to isn’t as fun.

Joke Boat

For all of those aspiring comedians out there, Joke Boat is here to let you shine. It is also a great way to get a room of people laughing at Dad jokes 😀

There are three rounds in total, with each round mostly sharing the same steps. First, you have the brainstorming round. Enter a bunch of subjects for people to write a joke about.

Next, players select a setup that includes the topics from the brainstorming. Finally, you write the punchline. Simple, right?

Players get to deliver their joke, and players vote on the best. Do all of this twice, with the final round having players trying to write a better punchline for other players jokes.

Joke Boat sounds like a lot of fun, and it was enjoyable, but again not a game you will want to play over and over again.

Push The Button

Push the button is a different Jackbox game in that it doesn’t include audience participation. Every player is a player, and each round is a different mini-game on its own.

The setup of the game is relatively standard social deduction fair. Players are all crew on a space ship, but some players are aliens in disguise. The humans must work out who the aliens are and eject them to win.

The time limit is worked nicely into Press The Button as well. The aliens have uploaded a virus into the ships AI and will delete it entirely in 15 minutes.

Each round, a different player takes the role of the captain and picks a mini-game and crew members to participate. Most of the games have the same kind of setup – answer a question. The catch is the humans get one question, and aliens get a different one. You need to look out for the outlandish answers and responses to determine who the aliens are.

As the game progresses, aliens also get the ability to hack the games and can give the humans ‘alien’ answers, or aliens ‘human’ answers. Because everyone is on their phones, it leads to some exciting experiences.

Anyone can vote to ‘Push The Button’ at any time to vote out aliens. The player that pushes the button then nominates who they think are aliens, and everyone not being accused votes if they agree. If the vote passes, the unlucky players are ejected into space!

If one alien remains on the ship, the aliens win. By far the most complex Jackbox game I have ever played, but one of the smoothest social deduction experiences I have ever played.

Murder Mystery Party 2

Murder Mystery Party is probably my favourite of the games in this pack. It’s a typical trivia game, but with a very dark humoured twist.

Players are guests at a spooky hotel, and the host happens to be a serial killer. Each round, players answer general trivia questions for cash prizes. Get the questions right, and everyone continues.

Get the answer wrong, and the host will get to have fun with you with fatal consequences. ‘Losers’ get to play a random mini-game with the host and safe players/the audience. For example, losing players must drink from a goblet. The catch is the safe players have added poison to the drinks!

If you lost the mini-games, you are not out of the game. You become a ghost and continue playing, so no player elimination in the real sense.

When there is one player left, you can then try and escape the hotel. This is done by answering more trivia questions, with each correct answer moving you closer to the exit.

The other players are still playing, and the higher their score, the closer to the exit they are. There is another catch – if you are in the lead, you can only choose two of the three choices, giving the others a better chance of catching up.

With congratulations like this, is winning really worth it? 😀

If you take the lead as a ghost, you steal the life force of the other player and then everyone is against you. Also, just reaching the exit isn’t quite enough. You have to answer the final question perfectly to win.

Murder Trivia Party 2 was by far our most favourite game of the pack.

They all sound pretty good, what is the downside?

Overall there isn’t too much wrong with any of the games. There were some localisation issues as the questions have a significant US bias, but that increased the ‘us vs the game’ mentality of the group.

On the Switch, there were also a couple of times that I had to close the game and start again. Far from the end of the world, but when trying to change games, having it hang was a bit jarring.

Overall though, if Jackbox Party Pack sounds like something you would like to try, grab one of the older packs for cheaper and give it a go. Each iteration has had a standout game for me that has made the cost worth it!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Tetris 99 v2 Review

Released 2019
Platform Nintendo Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Arika (Website (Japanese))
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 (more with Big Block DLC)
Category Tetris
Battle Royale
Online

It’s Tetris 99 – New(ish) and improved(ish)!

Tetris is one of those games I love, but always have trouble explaining why I enjoy it. For that reason, I have been trying to write this review for a long time. How long? Long enough that a significant update was released! How significant? Tetris 99 has officially entered version 2!

This review is more of a journey as to what I like and don’t like about Tetris 99. So apologies if I start rambling or seem vague below – I just kind of assume everyone knows Tetris and how to play it.

OK, so what is Tetris?

Tetris began in 1984, the brainchild of Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov. Yep, it’s a Russian game from the 80s that has nothing to do with the cold war. The idea is incredibly simple – a variety of shapes made up of 4 squares (tetrominoes) fall within a set play area. The player’s job is to create horizontal lines from these shapes, that then clear giving you more room to play. You lose when the tetrominoes reach the top. Simple.

This simplicity is the key to Tetris. You have one particular and repetitive task to do, but the satisfaction of clearing rows is addictive. Incredibly addictive.

Tetris has had a lot of facelifts over the years

The story behind Tetris is also one I find interesting. It’s way too much for this review, but YouTuber The Gaming Historian has a great video explaining it all if you are interested. Even if you just put it on as background noise for an hour (yep, it’s a big story), check it out. I have posted it below, but you can also save the link here.

That’s all? Where is the game?

Like so many simple games, Tetris sounds too simple to be a challenge. That is so completely far from the truth. For one, what I didn’t mention is as you play the drop speed of the pieces increase, giving you less time to plan and react.

For a lot of solo games, the challenge is usually to beat your previous score, and that is the same for Tetris. But there is something else with Tetris that hooks me.

Have you ever meditated? Just being able to let everything go and relax. Tetris does this for me. It doesn’t matter what is on my mind or what is happening. I can usually turn it all off to play a game or three.

This was the first version of Tetris I ever played - the original Gameboy version

Why does this work? I don’t know. All I can say is it does for me. Like meditation, different people have different paths to get there. When I get into that state though, my scores soar. My row clears are three or four lines time after time instead of one or two.

Like in chess, I can see the next pieces coming up and know where I have to put them. You play three or four moves ahead, but without concentrating on it.

Beating your high score wasn't your only reward. Higher score? Better rocket!

There is also another benefit to playing Tetris. So much so, another game was named after it. If you guessed Tetris Effect – you’re right! Long story short, playing Tetris for 30 minutes a day can help your cognitive ability. You can read more about the effect here.

So what is Tetris 99?

When I first heard about Tetris 99, I eye-rolled and groaned loudly. Battle Royale Tetris. The game mode already jumped the shark, in my opinion. Involving Tetris in the format – it was too much.

But it was free with Nintendo Online, so I gave it a go. One game in, I was hooked.

I have played Vs. style Tetris games in the past, and there is a familiar mechanic amongst a lot of them. When you clear rows, you send garbage lines to your opponent, making it harder on them. Tetris 99 uses this same technique, but instead of playing against one player you play against 99 others. And it works well.

The right stick lets you target different sort of opponents. You can target people targeting you, random people, people with the most badges or people in danger of being knocked out. The left stick lets you focus on specific players, but honestly, I am usually to overwhelmed to use it.

First game results. Yeah, I was pretty happy with that 😀

And then you play Tetris. You get on-screen warnings when people are attacking you, and you can see a stack of garbage that is coming for you. Clear lines yourself, and can remove rows from the queue.

When you knock out more players, you collect badges. The more complete symbols you have, the more garbage you send and clear when you clear rows. You can also chain row clears which add multipliers as well.

So apparently I annoyed 4 players before the game started?

There is a science to playing Tetris well, but like all simple games, you will become aware of them as your skills increase. One such technique is called T-spins. When you rotate a piece to fit in where it can’t merely drop-in, that is called a T-spin. It takes practice, but what skill doesn’t?

So I can’t win a game without hours of practice?

Probably not. Not win. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do well and enjoy the game. Think of it like any other Battle Royale game – you don’t expect to win your first game, but because you can drop into another match, you still have fun.

Getting beaten over and over is frustrating. But you don’t need to win to make progress. The higher up the ladder you finish, the more points are awarded. These points go towards a level system. The levels themselves are purely aesthetic, allowing you to get new avatars shown in ladders. Now there are a few other things to let you do this, but more on that later.

So Close! But every game lets you progress, so keep at it!

The Grand Prix events

Where this point system can be seen working is the roughly monthly Grand Prix events. I completely missed the first, but I have joined every one since.

The event is just a weekend of regular Tetris 99 with a goal, usually a free theme. To win the prize, you don’t need to win a round of Tetris. It helps, but it’s not necessary.

All you have to do is earn 100 points during the weekend, and you ‘win’. So while it’s time-consuming, if you just entered 100 rounds, you will win whatever the prize is.

Play a few games, get a free theme. It's a fun way to get people on for a weekend.

The one exception was a Grand Prix where the 99 best players over the weekend (read highest-scoring players) won 999 points in the Eshop – effectively a $10 discount. I spent a lot of time playing that weekend and was lucky enough to score in that top tier.

But here is the thing – during that event, I only won 3-4 matches tops. It’s not the fact of how many matches I won that mattered – it was points earned during the entire event that count. So don’t let being new to Tetris be a factor in not playing the game. Persistence is the key and will be rewarded.

And I didn't 'win' many games, I just kept at it. There has only been one of these events though - so far.

So what is this Version 2 stuff?

Version 2 adds quite a few things, but also more of the same. There isn’t any change to the core gameplay, but how you play those games have gotten tweaked. 

The most significant change is Tetris Invictus mode. It’s still Tetris 99 online, but this time you need to have won to join. That’s right – it’s Tetris 99 hard mode!

Because you know everyone you are playing in Invictus mode has already won, you are going in expecting a battle. What I wasn’t planning on was starting a match with faster drop speeds from the get-go.

So there isn’t the usual slow set yourself up like I find in a standard game of Tetris. You get thrown in the middle, and off you go. The only downside I have found is it takes longer to start a game. I am guessing it’s merely fewer people joining the Invictus games, but it was noticeable.

If you play here, you know you are in for a challenge

So, a hard mode. What’s the big deal?

Invictus mode is a new mode, but that’s not all. There have been a few other changes as well.

For one, daily missions have arrived. Yes, Tetris 99 is following the Battle Royale formula to the letter 🙂

So far, the missions I have seen have been relatively simple to achieve, but have forced me to play Online and against the CPU. This only way to do the second half is buy buying DLC, but I will talk about in a little bit.

Completing missions gets you tickets. Tickets let you buy new themes and avatar symbols, so the rewards are mainly cosmetic. So far there are a handful of items, but I have been sticking to the ones I have won from Grand Prix.

Play a few rounds each day, and use the tickets to 'buy' customisation options

There is a legend of Zelda one that appeals to me. The background is the map of the original game, which puts a smile on my face. Just not enough to have actually ‘bought’ it yet 🙂

Did you mention DLC? I thought this was a free game!

Yes, Tetris 99 is free. But there is also DLC known as Big Block DLC. From memory, it was $15, but I can’t find the price as I have already bought it.

Big Block DLC primarily gives you the ability to play offline. I bought it as I was going to fly, and a couple of Tetris battles sounded great. You can play a CPU battle where all of the opponents are AI. You can set their difficulty level, and also give yourself a boost by starting with badges. It makes a pleasant diversion or practice mode, but that’s it.

The other version and the mode I play more often is Marathon mode. Marathon mode is closer to old school Tetris, where you keep playing as long as you can. For a quick challenge, I play the 150 line mode, where the game ends once you clear 150 rows.

Want to play a traditional game of Tetris? Try Marathon mode

Hang on this is a review – shouldn’t you play it and tell us about it?

Ordinarily, I would have gone out of my way to do that. But there is a catch with Tetris 99. The DLC and extra game modes are precisely that – extras. The main game is the Battle Royale, and that is what I spend the most time playing. Hence, for the review, I have spent the most time talking about the online battle.

Tetris is Tetris, and if you would like other ways to play offline, there are different versions around that may scratch that itch better than Tetris 99. Admittedly not so much on the Switch, with Puyo Puyo Tetris being the only real alternative. Puyo Puyo Tetris is an excellent game, but I had issues playing the Puyo Puyo sections due to colourblindness. There is the same drawback as Tetris 99 for offline play – the main game is different to what you are looking to play.

So if you want to play Tetris, stay away from Tetris 99?

That’s not what I am trying to say, but I can see how it can come across this way. I went into Tetris 99 as a solo Tetris player but converted quickly. I think most Tetris players will have the same experience.

If you are looking to learn how to play Tetris, playing on another console or playing the Big Block DLC will help. But I genuinely think that just jumping into the free online games will be fine. Just jump in and enjoy it.

Marathon mode is fine, but I don't see why it had to be paid for

Almost all Switch owners I know have Nintendo Online, so it’s a free game that at worst you delete. What I don’t recommend is buying Nintendo Online to play Tetris 99. Borrow someone else’s Switch and try it out before putting money down.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD