Aug 13, 2017

12.: Getting Insane

Think about Digital Distribution for Video Games what you whant, the fact that it is much cheaper for smaller Studios to self-publish their games and therefor cut off the big Publishers is amazing. Hellblade: Senua´s Sacrifice is the perfect example for this. Because developer Ninja Theory self published this game they where able to really make the exact game tghey wanted to make without any compromises to any publisher what so ever. And Hellblade truly is a game that could only be realised without someone telling the devs what they could and couldn´t do with their game because it deals with a very sensitive topic. Senua, the main character, suffers from a mental illness known as Psycosis. This is a condition that can take various forms, in Senua for example see´s and hear´s things that aren´t there, and you as the player has to deal with that too. Almost all the time you hear various voices around you, some talking you down for you stupid your actions are, some encouraging you, some giving you hints and helping you in combat. To really surround you by these voices Ninja Theory decided to use a Binaural Audio System instead of traditinal 5.1 Sound. Binaural Audio is a System Audio Recording system that allows to position and hear audio from all directions using only Stereo Headphones, and it is really incredible to hear. If you never experienced Binaural Audio yourself search Google for the "Virtual Barbershop", put your Stereo Headphones on and be amazed. Now Imagine hearing various Voices thoughout a videogame. And the more the game progresses the more you begin to wonder if the things that happen to Senua on the screen are really happening to her or not.

Gameplaywise you are solving puzzles, fight against enemies and try to stay sane yourself. The Puzzles are usualy a matter of finding rune shapes in the environment, however this can sometimes be a tricky task because you have to get to the right spot to be able to do this and simetimes it isn´t very clear where or what makes the shape. In general these puzzles are fairly good though since most of them require you to change the landscape around you a bit by finding gates or using masks. The other major gameplay element is the combat system. While it is not very deep it still manages to feel overwhelming at times, especially during Boss fights. Enemies are always stronger than yourself and more often than not outnumber you. Senua has to evade their attacks or block them before she can land some hits on her foes. You can take a look at the controls in the menu, everything else you have to figure out yourself. There is no Tutorial, no on-screen help, no HUD, only the voices in your head give you a hint from time to time. Voice acting is top notch, but that´s to be expected considering the topic Hellblade deals with, the Soundtrack takes a backseat for the most part, but that´s actually a good thing here. Not because it is bad, but because it really shouldn´t be the focus of the sound since music could easily distract and get in the way of the voices. Unreal Engine 4 is really showing what it can do here, Hellblade looks like a big budget game from a big studio, if not better. 

I love Hellblade for everything that it isn´t and doesn´t have. It is not a Dark Souls clone, it has no Skill Trees and no unlockable super weapons, it isn´t a Action RPG and isn´t a large, epic journey like Enslaved was. But I love it at least as much for everything that it is. It is a unique Story set within the very interesting northern mythology, it is an insane trip into the mind of young woman suffering from Psycosis that just whant´s to save her love. It is dark, brutal and unlike anything else you ever played before. At this point I can´t even tell you if the Permadeath feature is real or not. I can just tell you that I dies multiple times during my first playthrough and I didn´t fall victim to a Permadeath, however I don´t know if it really is there or not. It might as well just be something Ninja Theory uses to to play with the mind of the players. Hellblade is well worth the money, it´s a roughly 8 to 10 hour long game, and considering that some games that cost you twice as much are sometimes shorter than this you can´t really complain. Just do yourself a favour and play it with headphones, even a 5.1 Speaker setup would ruin half the experience.

Aug 2, 2017

11: Fast and Furious - The Game

Back when the first Fast & Furious Movie was the hot new shit in cinemas it suddenly became cool to seriously rice out. Let´s just hope that this trend will never come back. EA being EA of course decided to use this sudden horrible taste in car modification and combined it with their most popular Racing Franchise and the result was Need for Speed: Underground. And I love it. Why? Because it is a frikkin great game once you managed to llok beyond all the rice. The heart of the game is the Underground Mode where you are presented with 111 Events that you have to win in order to unlock better cars, more and more tasteless mods, performance upgrades and money to buy all this stuff. When your start the game you get a short, 2-Lap Chance to drive something faster, after that you have to buy something much more boring like a Dodge Neon or Golf Mk4 and with that you have to win illegal races in the fictional Olympic City. Even though the city has a network of roads, many tracks even sharing the same bits and pieces, you can´t drive around the city freely. On the other hand this allowed the developers to put much more details into the surrounding world and as a result the visuals somewhat still hold up today, the fact that the entire game is at night and on wet streets only helps to keep the visuals from looking too boring. Racing is done either and circuits with multiple laps or on point-to-point tracks with variying amount of traffic. Other than that you get Drag Racing wich forces you to use manual shifting and similar to the races you have to deal with random traffic. Drift Races are done on clodes off circuits, so you don´t have to bother with traffic, even your opponents are only represented by their score and not on the track itself. Every once in a while you get the chance to win special, unique parts in a time trial, in these you have to beat a certain time on one of the point-to-point tracks.

At least in the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the game you don´t have to worry too much about your actual opponents since they only get challenging closer to the end of the game. That´s at least if you are like me and you play a lot of racing games. The rendom Traffic can cost you few races though since these bastards can come out of nowhere and sometimes are even placed in a way that you will hit them no matter what when you follow any sensible racing line. Being a Need for Speed game the handling model is very Arcady, but it is always controlable and if you like you can turn off a stability control wich allows you to drift much more easily outside of the actual drift events. The Soundtrack is great mix of Hip-Hop / Rap, Rock / Metal and Electronic Music and you can decide wich tracks you whant to hear and if you whant them in Races, Menus or both. Overall it is a great game and still worth playing even almost 15 years after it´s original release, but you really have to either for whatever messed up reason like all the rice in this game or you have to be able to just ignore it, using the bumper view helps a lot with the later. And before someone asks: I am one of the few people that actualy thinks that the Original Underground was better than the 2nd one, mostly because I think that the open city in the sequel felt a lot like filler content between the races, especialy since all the visual and performance upgrades where spread across 4 different shops. The Original just feels much more Streamlined in many places.

Jul 9, 2017

09 & 10: A Double Pack of Wii Shooters!

I decided to not bother with the so far usual Photo to proof that I have beaten the games mainly because I´m too lazy to copy them from my Phone to my PC. Abd with that out of the way we jump straight into todays main meal: The Conduit and it´s sequel Conduit 2 for the Wii, a pair of First Person Shooters. You take control of Agent Michael Ford who works for an Agency called "Trust". Ford is send into Washington D.C. to recover stolen Trust technology from a terrorist organization led by Prometheus. However once Ford did everything Trust whanted they turn against him and Prometheus becomes his new best friend. At this point he has deal with his former employer while fighting off an Alien Invader called the Drudge. The Story is neither great nor memorable, heck, they even forgot to give it a proper ending or at least a true boss fight at the end, it kinda just ends after you fought off a few waves of Drudge at the end while trying to open a Conduit (that´s what they decided to call Portals) to escape from Trusts Headquarter / Drudge Factory (Oh, yeah, Drudge are manufactured or something) because that facility is about to self destruct. You never get a chance to to fight John Adams, the Boss of Trust and the very man that tried to ditch you a while earlier. Gameplay wise The Conduit is a solid FPS with nothing too special about it. Weapons are a mix of SMG´s, Shotguns, Pistols and Drudge weapons wich are mostly energy based and IMO more fun to use. Since it´s a Wii game you have to use Motion Controls, though they are fairly good and considering the game doesn´t support the Motion Plus feature it is actualy fairly precise. After the first few levels I didn´t mind pointing the Wiimote at my TV anymore and I began to really enjoy the game. Soundwise there is nothing to complain here, weapons sound like you would expect, voice acting is good, but nothing too special and the Soundtrack is at least not annoying. Back in the day The Conduit was praised a lot for it´s visuals and while it does indeed look rather good for a Wii game, however for the most part, even in outdoor areas, it´s just a bunch of corridors with a few larger rooms in between, but they are at least varied enough to keep it from getting boring.

Conduit 2 picks up right where the first one ended: On the other side of that Conduit-Portal that you used to espace from the Trust Headquarter. You are now on a Oil Platform and right away you start to hunt down John Adams. After defeating a giant sea monster Ford is taken to the Atlantis, the very ship that brought Adams, Prometheus and the Drudge to Earth. There you first get a fancy suit of armor and then awaken Andromeda from her Stasis. She then reveals that whoever is wearing that armor has to destroy The Pathfinder, who just happens to be John Adams. A wild hunt around the world and a few bossfights later you finally get your chance to kich Adams Drudge-Ass. While the story for Conduit 2 isn´t anything special either the game itself takes itself less serious than the previous game. The Weapon selection is similar, but you still get a few new toys to play with and control wise you can now use a Wii Classic Controller (Pro) instead of the Motion Controls, the latter now support the WiiMotion Plus feature. For some wierd reason you can´t use the Classic Controller when Motion Plus is activated in the Options Menu. For the sound departement I have the exact same thing to say as for the first game, the graphics however are greatly improved and I would go so far to say this is probably the best looking Wii game period. You get much more varied levels visualy wise with some of them even having a much more open feel to them than anything the first game had to offer. Sadly Conduit 2 ends on a Cliffhanger with former US Presidents from Outerspace, and I somehow doubt that we will ever see a Conduit 3, wich is a bummer considering the 2nd game made a lot of right design decisions and it had the potential in it to become a bigger franchise than it is. Since you can pick both games up for a fairly low price there is really no reason why you shouldn´t at least give them a chance.

Jun 15, 2017

Wild Animal Kingdom


Can a Wildlife Park with a selection of older Fairground rides be so good that it´s worth visiting despite your time required getting to the Park and back home equals or even surpasses the time you are able to stay at the Park itself? At least for the Serengeti Park here in germany I would say yes without even thinking too much about it. The Park is located in North Germany between the cities of Hannover and Bremen near the town of Hodenhagen. It opened in 1974 under the name of "Wild Animal Kingdom" as a series of Wildlife parks all around the world, all of wich shared the concept of presenting exotic Animals in a Safari-Style environment with a few Attractions added for good measure. In 1982 the american parent company filed for bankrupcy and Paolo Sepe, who ran the Park in germany, took the opportunity to buy the Park and since then it is owned and operated by the Sepe Family. In 1983 they began renovating and expanding the Park. In 2004 they recieved permanent recognition as a zoological garden in accordance to current EU-guidlines and north German nature preserve law. Today it is home for over 1.500 animals living on over 200ha of space. The animals live in large, open spaces and where possible multiple species share their space. Of cause predators like Lions and Tigers have areas for themselves. With a few expeptions, wich are for the most part the monkey´s, you can´t reach the animals by foot. Like mentioned above the Park whant´s to give it´s visitors a Safari-Style experience and because of this you need a vehile to see most of the wildlife. You can either do this with your own car at your own pace or you pay 5,50€ to take a guided 1-hour tour in one of the double decker busses, as a bonus the driver will explain a few things about the animals you see. They even have a area with smaller, harmless animals that acts as a petting zoo. During this Safari trip you get to see Giraffes, Rhinos, Lions and Tigers, both in regular and white flavours, Flamingos, Elephants, several variants of Antilopes and many others. Like already hinted at most of the monkeys are not part of this Safari since those are in a seperate part of the Park and you can get much closer to them than you would on the regular Tour. Some of them are on seperate, man made islands without any fence or cage around them what so ever since they wouldn´t cross the water anyway, some other species have a large fence-like structure around them, however you can enter those areas by foot and get very close to the animals.

The Theme Park portion is for the most part nothing too special and not really worth the visit just for the rides. You get common Fairground stuff like Bumper Cars, a Ferris Wheel, a Top Spin, a Break Dancer and a Log Flume. The Highlight of these was, at least for me, the nowadays very rare Condor from Huss named "Senga". Even their Roller Coaster "Chura Racer" is just a plain, old Zierer Tivoli-large model like many others around the world. In addition to these rides you get a few playground areas for the kids, rowing boats and even a ropeclimbing parcours. And while the later is already something special, the remaining attractions are indeed very unique. All of them are centered around somewhat unique motorized vehicles. The "Jungle Safari" seats guests in the back of an Off-Road capable Truck, the first part follows a different path through some of the Wildlife Areas than the regular tour and then enters a forest-area wich is home to some Animatronics and special effects. The Second is called "Quad Safari" and like the name suggest guests take a seat on a larger Quad, two of these seats are mounted in a backwards position, and the driver navigates you through a special Off-Road course filled with Animatronics.

For me the real stars of all of the Attractions are the two Water Based Vehicles. The first one is "Black Mamba" and it features Jet-Boats capable of spinning around in tight circles. Sadly I wasn´t able to ride this one myself. The other one is the "Aqua Safari" and I did ride this one, it would have been crazy to not do this one. The vehicles here are Air Boats used most famously in Floride. These things are essentialy large steel pans with a few benches screwed on top and 500 BHP V8 Engine in a cage on the back attached to a large propeller. The first part of the rides takes you slowly through a narrow canal featuring scenes of destruction caused by King Kong. Once you reach the more open lake the boat get´s accelerated to full throttle, wich is an insane experience. That V8 in your back is screaming so loud that no matter how hard you try, no one would be able hear you, not even yourself. After this incredible high speed part the experience ends with a large King Kong Animatronic and a few Light and Water Effects. To my knowledge Serengeti Park is the only place in Europe, if not the entire world, that features these boats as a Theme Park attraction.

And the best part is that all of these Rides are included in the very reasonable Ticket price of currently (2017 Season) 32,50€ for an Adult. The only thing you have to pay extra is the guided Bus Tour, doing the Safari with your own car is free, just like parking. I visited the Park in April with my niece and she enjoyed every minute of it at least as much as I did, if not even more. The fact that it was a weekday resulted in somewhat low visitor numbers resulting in short waiting times for the rides. The only things with wait times even worth mentioning where the four special rides mentioned above. If you like to visit Zoo´s and Wildlife Parks the Serengeti Park should be on your bucket list for sure! The entire staff was very friendly and highly motivated, the animals all looked healthy to me (I´m no expert though) and I really love that they try to keep the animals in a much more true to nature way than most Zoo´s do.

Please excuse the mostly poor quality of the photos I took in this park, but I forgot my camera at home that day and when I realized it we where already almost at the Park, but like someone probably more famous than myself once said, the best camera is the one that´s with you and in this case that was my entry level Smartphone.

Official Park Website: https://www.serengeti-park.de/en/
For more pictures of this and other Parks visit my Flickr Account: Flickr.com

Jun 14, 2017

08: So sweet that you get diabetes from it

As already mentioned in a previous post that I most likely won´t be able to beat the 52 game challenge and to be honest I don´t care too much about it. I play video games for the fun of it and I don´t whant to force myself into playing games only to beat a self-imposed challenge. However, and this is still something good, I get around to finally play some games I had lying around for a while and / or are on my bucket list anyway. It might come as a surprise that in my entire life I never really played any of the Kirby games and therefore Kirby´s Epic Yarn was my first real expirience with the pink fluffball outside of the Super Smash Bros. Franchise. And boy did I enjoy this one! The unique and colorful visuals with absolutely everything made out of yarn, cloth and everything that is diretly related to these two things gives the game a look like no other game. The entire thing just looks right and allows for some creative gameplay elements like the ability tu pull certain parts of the level to you or to change shapes depending of what you whant to do, i.e. instead of running Kirby transforms into a car to move faster. The fact that Epic Yarn is a 2D game helps the visuals a lot, I´d bet my ass that this artstyle would look terrible in 3D.

As with a certain other Nintendo Franchise centered around an Italian Plumber the Story can be written on a piece of toilet paper. Kirby eats a tomato that belongs to Yin Yarn, an evil wizard, and get´s sucked into Patch land where he is turned into yarn making most of his abilities useless while granting him new ones at the same time. In order to get back home Kirby needs to help Prince Fluff to find seven pieces of magical yarn that held Patch Land together. And that´s all we got for a Story and that´s all we really need and it is presented in well narrated Cutscenes, Besides the visuals the other stars of the show are the gameplay and music, the former features super precise controls and enough variation to keep it interesting, it even features a few Shmup-sections for good measure. The music is some of the best I heard in any video game ever. It varies from very catchy tunes to some epic scores that wouldn´t sound out of place in a Starfox game. Well done Nintendo! My only real gripe with this one is the low difficulty, heck, I would even say that it´s too easy for kids since it doesn´t even have a failure state what so ever, a optional, harder mode would have brought this one to absolute perfection.

Jun 1, 2017

Where Michael Bay learned to make Movies

Old Movies that where shot on location can become a great way to see how a place looked at a certain point in time. Just take the 1996 German Made for TV Action Flick Adrenalin as an example. About half of the Movie is filmed inside the Phantasialand Theme Park. This Park changed drasticly since the Movie was made and barely anything that is shown still exists. Or the 1977 Desaster-Suspense Rollercoaster as an example. A large portion of this movie was filmed in the Kings Dominion Theme Park wich opened just 2 year prior to the movies release and therefore some rides now considered classics, like the Racing-Coaster Rebell Yell, are shown in brand new condition. The opening scenes of Rollercoaster where shot at Norfolk´s Ocean View Amusement Park wich was demolished in 1979. And that demolition inspired the creation of The Death of Ocean View Park, a Made for TV that gained a cult status in the Theme Park enthusiast community for it´s footage of the still operating park and a finale that mixes footage of the real demolition with special effects. The Rocket, Ocean View´s Wooden Roller Coaster, is the main star in the explosion filled climax put up a real fight though. Much to the enjoyment of bystanders and fans of the park the ride survived 2 sets of explosive charges and had to be pulled down by a Bulldozer in order to have the ride finally collapse.

Sadly the Movie itself isn´t as good as it´s spectacular end. The main issue seems to be that they had to come up with a plot that ends with the destruction of Ocean View Park. The Setup is rather simple: Norfolk get´s hit by a Hurricane, that surprisingly enough doesn´t seem to have destroyed anything, afterwards some strange things start to happen. Bumper Cars Move on their own during the night, the entire Park looses Power and sandcastles disappear (I´m serious, that really is a plotpoint in the movie). Meanwhile the wife of a teacher that also happens to work at the park has visions of a terrible desaster happening on July 4th during an big event. During all this a socialy awkward boy tries to find a girlfriend. Succesfully. The Film is full of cringe worthy acting, badly written dialouge and luckily decent shots of Ocean View Park. To me The Death of Ocean View Park realy has only 2 redeeming qualities: It shows the Park before it´s final destruction and that ending is some Michael Bay worthy shit. Huge explosions everywhere, no matter if they make a whole lot of sense or not, they just look good. You can find the entire thing easily on YouTube and a few places even sell Bootleg DVD´s of it, just don´t expect a good movie. Or great acting. If you watch this you come for the Park and stay for the explosions.

May 30, 2017

A disapointment 21 years in the making

I know, I have been very silent the last weeks and it´s very likely that I end up failing the 52 game challenge, however I don´t care about that. The reason for all this is more or less my summer vacation, a crazy 2 week trip through Italy and Southern Germany with a Theme Park visit on (almost) every day. Yes, I know, this sounds bonkers, and it probably is, but I´m very excited about that. Plus it gives me a reson to finaly write a bit about Theme Parks. Because I like them and it´s my Blog and I can make up rules and content how I whant. And to kick things off I wanted to talk a bit about the lesser known Walygator Parc in France. Walygator isn´t the original name of this Park, since it´s opening in 1989 it had a total of 4 different names and at least as many owners, and to be honest it is a bit sad to see this because you can see and feel that at least some love and care went and still goes into it, however the current owner is optimistic to improve the Parks Image and Visitor Numbers. I first visited this place back in 1996 when it operated under the name "Walibi Schtroumpf", at this point in time it was owned by the Belgian Walibi Group and it had a Smurfs Theming through most of it (Schtroumpf is the French word for Smurfs). Back in 1998 almost everything related to the Smurfs was removed (you can still find a few hint´s in various places though) and in 2006 / 2007 the back then new owner renovated and re-themed a lot in the Park and gave it the current name Walygator and Wally as a mascot. Since 2016 it is owned by the Spanish Aspro Parks Group wich mostly operates Water Parks. Walygator is home to 4 Roller Coasters, 3 Water based Rides and a roughly 40 other Attractions and Shows and they have something for all ages and sizes. Walygator has various themed areas, however you can get the feeling that they don´t take that too serious, I.e. they have a very lovely Dino-Themed area, however one of the older Flatrides already had a Dino Theming and for whatever reason they never moved it to the Dino Area. At least for me that isn´t much of an issue though, but it would be nice to have already themed up rides in the proper sections of the Park.

Thrillseeker can take a ride on the Inverted Coaster "The Monster", a clone of Cedar Point´s Raptor minus the mid-course brake run, the wooden coaster "L´Anaconda" can be ridden by the entire family, "Comet", a Vekoma Looping / Corkscrew Coaster, is blast from the past, especially since it´s old trains became a very rare sight in the last couple of years and the small ones can get their first Roller Coaster experience on "Family Coaster", one of many Whacky Worms around the world, however this one got a lovely Crocodile Themed Train instead of the usual Worm. The Log Flume isn´t anything special, it has one drop, but it get´s you decently wet, however the "Dino Raft" is probably my favourite River Rapids Ride period. Not only is it well themed around the course, but it also get´s water on you no matter what and having the Jurassic Park Main Theme all around the Dino Area almost makes it feel as if it where a official Jurassic Park Ride, this is how you do a good Rafting! The last Water based ride is a Mack Tow-Boat ride similar in Concept to Disney´s "It´s a small World" or Efteling´s "Carnaval Festival", luckily with much less annoying music, however it end´s up being much less memorable too. Sadly this is currently the only thing that truly is a theme ride, there are no dark rides what so ever, the "Terror House" is a overall disapointing walkthrough that tries to shock you with a few loud-ish noises and shaking Animatronics. 

Other than those larger Attractions you can find a lot of smaller rides. Most of them are the usual suspects like a swinging ship or various carousels, the "Space Shooter" aka "Dark Tower" (I really don´t know what it´s current official name is) isn´t anything special either, but the sound of air getting compressed to shoot you into the air on these Space Shot Towers still manages to send a shiver down my spine. The Zamperla Air Race "G-Lock" is worth a mention though. It was my first Air Race and I love it, the amount of Hangtime you get on this thing is bonkers and the speed it can spin you around isn´t anything for the faint of heart either. Great ride, love it. Most of the Park is really clean and well maintained, however in some places you can see that a bit of work is required to bring everything back on the level of everything else, however you can see that there is some ongoing work and my guess is that they are trying to (re) open one thing or another for the 2018 season. Most of the staff is on the younger side, however everyone was very nice, motivated and despite that you often hear that the french won´t speak anything other than french almost all of them where able to speak at leas english, if not german as a 3rd language as well. Don´t expect them to speak a perfect or fluent english / german, but I appreciate the effort none the less.

Sadly, not everything at Walygator is as good as it should be or as you would expect. Some stuff is minor, I.e. it wouldn´t hurt if they upgraded their Vekoma Looper "Comet" with newer and more comfortable trains, however considering the age and the type of coaster we are talking about it is still one of the smoother and better maintained ones out there and I like the look of these old school trains anyway. So yeah, a train upgrade on this ride is more a nice-to-have thing than a much needed thing. Considering the overall good theming of the Park they really need to do something with their incredible Inverter "The Monster", as of now it just sits there on little more than an empty field, the station doesn´t even have a roof on it´s simple steel construction and even the white paintjob with a bit of a light pink on the tracks feels a bit out of place. Other than this "L´Anaconda" is in desperate need of some work, mainly a re-tracking. Considering it´s fairly slow speed through most of the track it is fairly shaky experience. It doesn´t beat you senseless like Bandit at Movie Park Germany, but it could be much smoother none the less. Operations and loading times on both "L´Anaconda" and "The Monster" where a desaster on the day of my visit, however this was most likely because there weren´t that many visitors in the Park (I´m not joking here when I say that there where 2.500 Visitors there tops) and on those 2 rides they tried to send out only trains that where (almost) full and I would bet that on days with more guests these Operations would be much faster. Other than this more or less needed work on the Roller Coasters they really should try to get a decent Dark Ride and maybe another Coaster aimed at the entire Family, something like a Vekoma Junior Coaster would do it and similar to "The Monster" I wouldn´t mind if it where a used ride from a different Park.

You might think now: "Well, this doesn´t sound too bad to me, why was it a Disapointment 21 years in the making then?". Good Question. You see, back in 1996 I didn´t whant to ride "L´Anaconda" because as a kid I didn´t trust the wooden construction and it ended up being the only Roller Coaster in my life that I didn´t ride the first time I had the chance. Over the years it became this one ride I that seemed too scary for me and for some crazy reason I expected it to be good. Now imagine coming back to it 21 years later, now as an adult, standing in front of the 36m high wooden structure realising that the trains are actually a lot slower than you remembered. In front of the qeue line is a giant, artificial tree with a larger than life Anaconda in, the qeue itself goes through a small forest-ish area (wich actualy is a really nice touch for a wooden coaster and is very great on hotter days) eventually leading to the wooden station building. The Trains are comfortable enough, a little bit more legroom in the rear of a car than in the front, however the moment you get a punch from the ride while moving over the transfer track for the service area on your way to the lifthill you get the slight suspicioun that something might be wrong here. The first drop is smooth enough and in the back of the train even fairly decent, however at the bottom of the drop the entire thing starts shaking and bouncing to a level that it stops being fun. The slow speed doesn´t help much either and Air Time is nothing more than a rumor on this thing. So yeah, I was disapointed by a coeaster that probably would have been much more memorable for me 21 years ago, but most likely wasn´t much better back then anyway.

If you happen to be in the Area of Trier / Luxemburg / Metz I can really recommend visiting the Walygator Parc, it isn´t nearly as bad as it´s Image and it really deserves more visitors. Check the Parks Website though because for most of the season it is currently only open at weekends.

Official Park Website: https://www.walygatorparc.com/
For more pictures of this and other Parks visit my Flickr Account: Flickr.com



Mar 25, 2017

07: Open World done right

Back wen Horizon: Zero Dawn was first announced I was sceptical about it. Part because I´m always sceptical when it comes to so called AAA games, part because it is the first Open World game from Guerilla Games and part because I don´t like most Open World games. You can blame Ubi Soft for at 2 least of these reasons. I still picked it up on day one because I liked Guerilla´s Killzone Series and because Horizon´s unique mix of primitive Tribes and high-tech machinery looked very interesting to me. And I´m really happy that I did play the game because in my opinion it turned out to be one of the best games ever made. I´m not joking here, Horizon is one of these rare games that hooked me right from the beginning in a way that I just had to finish it ASAP, heck, I even cared enough to get all of those stupid Trophies. Yeah, making a better Open World game than Ubi Soft is probably not that hard to do and having the combat being focused on ranged weapoms helps to keep at least me interested. Ever since I first played Turok 2 back on the N64 I really enjoy using Bow´s in Videogames, and your main tools of destruction are indeed a variety of Bows. Yes, Horizon isn´t without flaws, but most of it is leaning towards the territory of nitpicking. One of these Nitpicks is, shockingly enough, the basic Story setup.

Don´t get me wrong, the Story is presented in a very interesting way because neither the player character, Aloy, nor anyone else knows who the "old ones" where, why there are these machines and why they are a threat to humans. Probably everyone who has seen a couple of Sci-Fi movies can easily guess that humanity itself created the machines, screwed up in the process and the machines took the world over. And while this Story setup isn´t exactly anything new, the execution of it is still amazing and there are even a few twists and turns thrown in for good measure. In Addition to uncovering history you have to deal with religious extremists and prejudices. A lot. If you feel like taking a break you can always play one of the mostly really well done Sidequests, I only really disliked the majority of everything that has to do with the Hunters Lodge because it felt mor like busywork than actualy doing something worth your time, and the only reason this sticks out so much is because unlike Ubi Soft´s Open World Games Horizon isn´t filled with truckloads of busywork. Other than the Main- and Sidequests you can do some optional content like climbing the Tallnecks (these huge Giraffe-like machines) to uncover the map faster, clear out Bandit Camps and Corrupted Zones to make travel safer, enter the Cauldrons to be able to override more machines (override turns machines friendly for a while and they will fight against other machines) or do the busywork of grabbing all the collectibles.

Luckily the world itself isn´t stupidly large for the sake of being stupidly large, it actualy feels like a fairly small-ish map for an Open World game, however when not using the fast travel system you are mostly traveling on foot. And you have to visit a place once before you can use the fast travel to that location. You visit deserts, a dense jungle, snowy mountains and areas that will remind you Northern Mythologies by just looking at them, so all your landscape bases are covered here and everything is insanely beautiful.  The Soundtrack while being really good lacks any really memorable pieces. I could listen to any piece of music from the game right now and I probably wouldn´t even know that it even is from Horizon, but that´s a problem that I happen to have with a lot of more modern games. What is a bit unusal is the Photo Mode that is implemented into the game. Outside of Racing games I very rarely, if ever, see any sort of dedicated tool for Screenshots. And it is a mighty powerful tool at that. at any point during gameplay that is outside of cities or settlements you can make full use of all features, you can move the camera around, change the FOV, decide weather or not you whant a dept of field, adjust the focal plane and what f-stop to use (yes, they use some proper Photography-terms here), play around with exposure settings and various filters and it even gives you control over the daytime so you don´t have to wait for the proper lighting to make your Screenshot extra cool. This is all the proof I need to whant this in each and every game now.

One of the weakest things about Horizon are the pointless crafting and Skilltree "features". You can craft pretty much all consumables you may or may not need during the game, this ranges from multiple ammunition types to traps and potions, but I don´t see the point of even having this when the gaming is throwing out so much crafting recources that you have unlimited acces to everything. At that point you might as well lock the traps & potions behind cooldowns after being used and make the ammo capacity bigger and make the player buy them from merchants or at least make the recources more limited. Skilltrees can be a great way to offer different gameplay styles if done right, however when the game throws at least a dozen possible skillpoints more at you than you will ever need to unlock all skills the whole system becomes useless. If you happen to have a PS4 you should own this game, It´s a really great experience and probably the strongest new IP in recent years and I think that every gamer that complains about most games being sequels should support this game to show that we whant new IP´s, 

Feb 12, 2017

06: Is it a game or a movie?

Love or hate the games from Quantic Dream, but one thing is for sure: You can´t say that they don´t at least try to deliver a experience that is different from most other games. The problem is, and this is where a lot of hate towards their games comes from, that with the exception of Omikron: The Nomad Soul all of the Studios other games shifted more and more towards the realm of Interactive Movies with gameplay often consisting of not much more than choosing Dialouge Options and Quick Time Events. I tend to enjoy their games. What they lack in gameplay they more than make up in Storytelling. Just take Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy as an example. In this game you play both as the Agents working on a Murder case and the guy who did it. As the player you both whant to get the guy you are after yet at the same time you don´t whant to get caught. The Story get´s a bit more complicated than that, but overall it is a insanely great way to kick the game off. Beyond: Two Souls takes this Interactive Movie aproach and just runs with it in every way possible. The game runs in a 21:9 Aspect Ratio at all times to give it more of a movie feel, two of the main characters are acted, both in voice and motion capture, by real actors and the ingame models are modelled exactly after them. These are Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, both with Hollywood fame prior to this games release and their acting isn´t bad either. Cutscenes and gameplay sections often have transsitions so seamless that sometimes you end up making controller inputs during cutscenes. 

You play as Ellen Page´s Character Jodie and the Entity Aiden that is with her at all times. At first Jodie grew up with foster parents, however after an incident where Aiden almost choked a boy to death during a snowfight Jodie is taken to the Department of Paranormal Activity (DPA) in an attempt to understand and control Aiden. Once at the DPA she grows up there until she enters the CIA as a Teenager shortly after she was able to shut down the reactor for an experiment gone wrong that was intended to get acces and control the world of the Entities, now dupped the Infraworld. At the CIA Jodie taks part in a couple of Missions, however after she learns that the CIA lied to her about who the target of one of her missions really was she decides that she no longer whant´s to be a part of the Agency and runs away, living homeless on the streets for a while and hiking through the country and making a few friends in the process. After some time she get´s back to the DPA and agree´s to go on a last mission with the CIA to shut down a chinese developed Condenser before it is used to attack the US, in return Jodie get´s offered a new Identity to start a new life. The Mission is a succes, however the CIA doesn´t really keep their promise and they whant to put Jodie in a coma-esque condition. Nathan, one of the Doctor´s Jodie grew up with at the DPA, decides to shut down the containment field of the Black Sun dubbed Condenser in an attempt to reunite with his dead wife and daughter in the Infraworld. During the Shutdown Jodie learns who Aiden really is and she has to decide if she want´s to stay alive or if she whant´s to join the people she lost on her Journey in the Infraworld.

Ingame the Story is presented in a non-linear way. At least that´s what the game does by default, because the PS4 Version has at least the Option to play it in a Linear presentation. Why this wasn´t patched in for the PS3 Original is a mystery to me. The real issue is that both the non-linear and the linear aproach of telling the story aren´t perfect for this game. With the non-linear variant the game jumps around in it´s timeline that it get´s confusing at times, but that isn´t the real problem here, the actual order is. For instance you take part in a mission for the CIA in a Warzone, however because at that point you already played sections of the game where you are running and hiding from them, and because of this you already know that there can´t be any real threat for Jodie here because you know that she obviously didn´t die during the mission. With the linear aproach the game takes a real long time to pick up the pace, and at that point you might have lost interest in the game. With the PS4 Version you can at least pick your poison. Gameplay for the most part is a mix of Quck Time Events, manipulating objects or people as Aiden and fighting against other people or Entities. When fighting against other people it really is a slightly different form of QTE, in those fights, and some other instances the game will slow down and you have to push the right stick in whatever direction Jodie is moving. Sounds simple enough, but somehow it isn´t always obvious wich direction the game expects you to input. Luckily you are allowed to fail these inputs as much as you like because in an attempt to keep the Story going Beyond; Two Souls doesn´t have a failure state, but there are different ways in wich the scenes can end.

I played the PS3 Version and it is one of the best looking games on the system. It is really amazing what Quantic Dream did here with the system and the visuals are on such a high level that the very rare low-res texture and jagged shadow stick out as if a flashing arrow where pointing at it, but that´s really nitpicking here. Sure, the game has some Slowdowns, however considering how incredible the game looks and that the PS3 was already 7 years old by the time the game was released you can´t really complain that much. Both the Sound Effects and the Soundtrack are on a similar high level, but the Soundtrack isn´t memorable, it is just there. All of the Voice Acting is really well done to a point that paired with the visuals you can really mistake the game for a CGI movie at times. Sadly the game never really explores it´s gameplay capabilities to a full extend. Especially the Missions you do for the CIA and DPA show how much fun a game could be that gives you control over an Soldier and an Entity that allows him to control the enemies or to manipulate the world around him in his favour. As it is Beyond is a fun experience and it is worth at least a try.

Feb 5, 2017

05: I´m doing Science!

Somewhat similar to the original Doom a little First-Person Puzzle game called Portal has grown to be a regular game to play through over the years and so far it still remains to be fun. Sure, by now I know the solution to all the puzzles from memory and I got promised cake every time and never got it, but GLaDOS is always capable of getting a smile on my face and that´s what I like this game so much. The Developers of Portal where hired by Valve after said Students created a short Proof of Concept game called Narbacular Drop wich already features a lot of the concepts later used in Portal. The Player wakes up in a glass chamber, a really catchy tune playing on the radio, a timer on a wall is counting down from 60 Seconds and a computerized voice welcomes you to the Aperture Science Enrichment Center and you now have to find your way through 19 Test Chambers using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device and you are promised a cake at the end of the last test. The first few Test are designed to ease you into the concept of how the Portals work and what effect they have, or don´t have, on your movement. At first you can´t even create Portals yourself wich is quickly changed and you get your first version of the Portal Device wich is limited to creating blue Portals and after learning a few more tricks on how to use Portals properly you get upgraded to the full device and you are allowed to create both the blue and orange Portals and the real fun begins. You can create Portals on any non-metallic stationary surface that is large enough to have a Portal on it. If the surface moves your Portal on it closes itself.

Aside from the rules for the Portal placement you don´t have to worry about much, you don´t take fall damage, brownish-green steamy stuff will kill you as will electro-ball thingies that are needed to power a platform or lift. In the beginning all this testing seems to be mostly legit, however the computerized voice glitching out and not knowing your name or where you come from seems a bit off and while avoiding a whole bunch of turrets you begin to get that wierd feeling that you where never supposed to leave this place in one piece. This might be because GLaDOS, that´s the AI that is talking to you throughout the game, went bonkers at some point and tried to kill everyone inside the Enrichment Center by flooding it with a deadly gas and aside from GLaDOS herself the place seems to be abandoned but for reasons never explained left powered on. In the end you are able to shut down the AI by using brute force, your escape however, well, that´s another thing. And I won´t say anything about it. For the most part you won´t really notice much of the Soundtrack, but it is great stuff and the Credits Song "Still Alive" is probably one of the best known pieces of music ever created for a video game. Portal is a masterpiece in gamedesign and it teaches how it works without an obvious, forced tutorial, the humor is amazing and you should play it!

Jan 18, 2017

04: Sand in my Shoes

OK guys, this is my 4th attempt on getting a nice introduction for this one, but Spec Ops: The Line doesn´t make it easy for me. At first I wanted to talk about how I don´t like 3rd Person Shooters that much, but it felt unimportant. Then I tried to approach it from the controversy that sourrounds this game and again it felt wrong. What I tried to say was: I get what Yager Development was trying with this game, but at least for me it doesn´t work because I think that Yager themself missed their own point. I do get that they want to take an anti-war position with this game and in both the cutscenes and the Storytelling itself it really works. They show you what effect your actions have, the characters question if their actions where necessary or not or if it was even the right thing to do. And the twist at the end really comes as a surprise and it works. I love the game for this, I really do, however it sadly still falls flat on it´s face and leaves you with very mixed feelings because the gameplay doesn´t support the anti-war approach the game tries to take. The big issue here is that Spec Ops is just a run off the mill cover based 3rd Person Shooter with a few turret-sections mixed in for good measure. And to make matters worse the violence during gameplay sections is way over the top with heads exploding with huge amounts of blood leaving bodies with a clean cut at the neck. It just feels wrong to have a splatterfest while mowing down waves of enemies and then trying to tell the player "Look at this, this is how bad war is and it does bad stuff even to tough soldiers!", it just doesn´t work.

This issue is even sadder when you realize how much Yager managed to get right with Spec Ops. Sure, the gameplay isn´t anything special, but Dubai covered and partialy buried in sand from a series of Sandstorms makes for both a very unique and in places surprisingly beautiful setting. In other places you really feel that this version of Dubai is a place where people have to fight to survive and fear for their lives on a daily basis. The environmental storytelling works and it feels like a lot of thought went into building a believable place. The Soundtrack is a mix of a less memorable original score and much more memorable licensed music by Deep Purple, Jimmi Hendrix and Bjork among many more. Amazingly each of these Songs fits the scene they are used in perfectly. The Story itself? A somewhat forgettable mess. Like mentioned above Dubai was hit by a series of Sandstorms and while the rich and wealthy upper class left the city before things got too bad the working class got trapped in the city. When Colonel Konrad, leader of the 33rd Infantry Battalion heard about the Sandstorms he vouluntered the 33rd to help and ignored orders to abandon the city. When the Storms got so bad that the city got cut off from the outer world Konrad declared martial law and the 33rd began to commit atrocities to the civilians left in the city. Some members of the 33rd didn´t like this and they tried to stage an coup d´etat, wich failed and got them exiled. The CIA then send in a Black Ops Team to investigate, as a part of this plan they started a revolution with the civialns to bring Konrad down. After a looping radio transmission get´s out of the city a three man Delta Force Team is send in to gather information.

Like I said the Story is a bit of a mess, heck, most of the time I wasn´t even sure if the CIA and their followers where on my side or not and at some point I stopped caring  about who it was I where shooting at. Sure, this may have been the intention of the developrs, but at the point I didn´t care anymore about my enemies the whole idea of the game already fell flat for me. Don´t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the game as a cover based 3rd Person Shooter, and as that it is great, but in my opinion the anti-war message they tried to get across doesn´t work when the gameplay doesn´t support it. For that the game schould have been much slower with much fewer enemies and a more realistic approach to violence. Yes, I do know that a slow, realistic game with an anti-war message would have been much harder to sell and andvertize, but I feel that it is the only way to really get the message to the people that play the game. I still recommend that you play Spec Ops: The Line yourself, just don´t expect that everything feels like it should belong in the same piece of media.

Jan 8, 2017

03: Virtua Fighter RPG

Today we have the first big one for the year. Shenmue ist just the perfect game to play around Christmas or during winter in general. But unlike Doom I don´t play this one that often, in fact it was only my 2nd complete playthrough and the first one was a few years ago. My overall opinion on this game changed a lot during this playthrough, after I finished it for the first time I would have recommended this game to everybody, but now I wouldn´t do that anymore. You see, Shenmue´s biggest strenght is the insane amount of freedom and attention to detail it has, and in the end that is also it´s biggest downside. You can open (almost) every drawer and closet you see and pick up a lot of things in the gameworld, most of the time you won´t find anything that is usefull or even needed, however in some cases you are requiered to do just that, and if you are not the type of person that just explores and tries random stuff in games anyway you could easily end up running in circles for hours without ever knowing that to do. I.e. around halfway through the game you have to sneak into a warehouse to meet up with someone. Once you arrive there you quickly realize that you can´t find anyone there. What you are ment to do here is to pick up a certain Item from one of the shelves to trigger a cutscene, however prior to this you where never required to pick up any item in the gameworld to progress in the game, you might as well still don´t know at this point that you even can pick up almost anything. But I´m getting a bit ahead of myself with the issues I have with the game.

The Story is a simple and basic one: Your father get´s killed and you want to revenge him. Lan Di, the man that murdered your father, is after the Dragon Mirror that your father owns, according to an old legend this Dragon Mirror is the key to great power, however it is useless without it´s counterpart, the Phoenix Mirror. As it turns out your father had both Mirrors and Lan Di obviously didn´t know that. You play as Ryo Hazuki and you have to find out where Lan Di is. And right there is this really big issue I have with the game: Ryo knows who is looking for, he has a name, he knows how Lan Di looks like, he knows that he uses a rare fighting style, so chances are that someone else with a Martial Arts background could know who exactly Lan Di is and where to find him. And considering that Ryo´s father himself was a Martial Arts Master with his own Dojo and, as it later turns out, unique fighting style chances are high that Ryo knows a couple of people that could help him. Obviously that would make way too much sense and it probably wouldn´t make a interesting game and because of that you have to find him the hard way by finding clue after clue the hard way by asking people, beating some guys up with a fairly in-depth fightinh system similar to Virtua Fighter and not screwing up completely during a Quick Time Event. I do understand why Ryo doesn´t ask if anyone knows where to find Lan Di, but it would be much more believable if the didn´t have the name from the get go, and considering how much attention to detail the game has and how realistic the entire experience is, this one detail really sticks out once you start thinking about it.

And the. at least by todays standardts, small Open-World really is very realistic, it was modelled after real, existing places after all. You can enter many Shops and Restaurants, you can talk to every single NPC you see and every single one has voice acting. Sure, many will only say that they don´t have time or don´t want to talk with you, but at least you get a fully voiced reaction each time you approach a NPC. You can also buy certain items at the super market, mostly cassete tapes with music from the games Soundtrack and food for a littke kitten you can take care of, you can buy capsules with random little toys in them to build up a collection of various characters from Sega games. cars and random objects or you can visi the local Arcade to play Arcade-Perfect Ports of Hong-On and Space Harrier as well as a game of Darts and a QTE-Trainer. If you have some time to fill, and you will often run into a situation where you have to wait for something to happen, you can also visit the Dojo or various other places like Parking Lots or small Parks to train your fighting moves. Stores are only open during certain times of the day, NPC´s do different thing at different times of the day, the weather can change over the course of a day and you have to be at home at 11 PM the game will just send you back home becase it´s time to get some sleep. And if you get told to meet someone at a certain time you have to wait to further progress. All this really helps to make the game feel believable, and don´t forget that all this was done back in 1999, back then hardly any other game felt so realistic and even today you won´t find many games that will let you interact with so many random, useless objects as Shenmue does.

Visualy the game still holds up very well. Sure, the overall Texture Quality is low by todays standardts, but especialy when played with a VGA Box you can make out a lot of details. In addition the main cast of characters has very detailed character models down to the hands being modeled with individual fingers. Some of the models used during cutscenes, like i.e. Lan Di or Shenhua / Sha Hua are so detailed and well textured that they wouldn´t look out of place in some modern titles. Overall the visuals can compare to some of the games released in the middle of the PS2´s life span. The Sound is on a similar level. The Soundtrack is incredible and unlike most Dreamcast games it´s played mosltly by the Dreamcast´s Soundchip in Realtime instead of using compressed Audio Files. This gives the game a very high quality to it´s music tracks. Most of the Sound Effects you hear throughout the game come with fairly high quality as well, however the same can´t be said for most of voice acting. I don´t know if the same is true for the original Japanese version of the game since I´m only familiar with the english voiced PAL Version of the game, but a lot of the spoken dialouge has very obvious background noise from the compression, to make matters worse some of the voice acting is on a very amateur-level in terms of the actual acting part and some if it even has a slight hint of echo that was probably left from the original recording session. But considering how much voice acting the game has and how much I love the bad voice acting in the original Resident Evil I can´t and won´t complain too much about this.

Even though the game has a lot going for it on the technical side and in terms of world building, the controls can be really annoying at times, especialy during the first few hours when you play Shenmue for the first time. Your modern gamer senses want to control Ryo with the single Thumbstick the Dreamcast controller has, however that only controls the camera. Ryo himself is controlled with the D-Pad with A being you main Button to interact with the world and B to cancel most interactions. The left and right triggers are used to switch into a first Person view and to run, and it´s up to the player wich trigger does what. The Y Buttons opens your Inventory wich has all the Items you bought or found, you can view your notebook from here, view the list of moves you learned, view your collection of capsule-toys and listen to cassette tapes you own if you found the cassette player. In addition you can save the game from the inventory at any point in the game to resume at the exact place where you saved. The issue with these controls is that Ryo has the turning radius of a cargo ship when running and even when walking you will have trouble to enter a small passage because when you turn left or right while standing you automaticly move a bit forward as well. Sure, you get used to the controls, but some people might be scared away right at the start. Every once in a while you get involved in a fight, most of them are during the last third of the game. These fights feaure hand-to-hand combat with everything you would expect from a fighting game or brawler and with the expection of one or two fights even people that don´t play fighting games on a regular basis won´t have too much trouble winning these fights.

Like I mentioned earlier Shenmues greatest strenght and weakness is the great freedom it gives you, and because of that you absoluely have to be the kind of person that want´s to explore a games world and try stuff for the sake of trying. You need patience for the game because sometimes you have to play the waiting game and even though you as the player might already know what you have to do to progress you might have to do something else before you can actualy progress. In a sense Shenmue is a evolution of the Adventure-Genre, similar to those classic Point & Click games you spent most of your time with garhering information and solving a few puzzles along the way. But if you are not the types of person that likes to explore in their games you will hate this game because sometimes it will require you to do stuff that you might not know is even possible. Since I already played Shenmue 2 in the past as well I already know that it is the better and somehow more streamlined game and in comparsion the first game feels more like a technical demonstration of what the Dreamcast can do. Instead of playing the game you might as well just watch the official Shenmue Movie that came bundled with the XBox Version of Shenmue 2, that Movie is mostly made from the cutscenes to tell the entire Story, in terms of actual gameplay you wouldn´t miss much that way.

Jan 7, 2017

02: I´m a terrible Badger-Mom

The giant sea that is the Indie-Segment of gaming is home to a lot of unique, little games that the huge publisher would never pick up, however thanks to Digital Distribution these games don´t need a big publisher, or any publisher for that matter, anyway. And even though Steam features a whole bunch of great Indie games I still think that Itch.io is the much better Plattform when it comes to the really good stuff. Just go to the Itch.io site right now and play Right Click to Necromance, play some Powerwolf Songs in the Background and then come back and tell me how great that experience was and how much you got your ass kicked. Today´s game also falls in this "unique and great idea"-category and even though I really wanted to like Shelter it didn´t appeal to me. You play as a Badger-Mother that has to protect and feed her 5 cubs while they move through the wilds, avoiding Birds and various natural dangers like a Forest Fire and Wild Waters. And I really like the sound of that idea, but sadly it is executed in a way that it left me with a mere `meh´ at the end. The main reason for this is that the game failed to make me care enough if all cubs would make it. Sure, your mileage might vary here a lot, but for a game about a Mother and her Children it is a bit wierd that you don´t get any reaction from the Mother when one of the Kids dies, heck, I only know for sure where and when I lost one of them, and from the other two that died on my run I have a slight idea for one of them, but the third one just vanished into thin air for all that I know. In Addition the game fails to give you a reason why the Badgers even left their nice, little dirthole at the beginning of the game in the first place.

Gameplay itself is very simple, and for this game that´s absolutely OK in my book, your main focus is to gather food for the kids, for this you have to run against trees for apples, pull some carrots and other stuff out of the earth and catch a few smaller animals like frogs every now and then. However you have to make sure that each of the 5 cubs get´s enough or they starve (wich might have happened to the one that just disappeared suddenly now that I think about it) or they could end too weak to deal with hazzards if they didn´t get enough food to grow. With the Birds you can usualy take your time since they can´t find you when you are hidden in high grass, and because the game is nice enough to show you the shadow of the birds you can easily plan your movements. The other hazzards like the rushing water and the Forest Fire have either a very easy to understand patterns and / or are easy to avoid anyway. Only the section where you have to avoid the Fire and a Bird at the same time could end up a bit dangerous for your family. And that´s really it for the main game mode, and the optional "Nurture" Mode doesn´t add that much. In this Mode you once again play as a Badger Mother and like in the main mode you have to feed and raise your 5 cubs. However this mode takes place entirely in the first area of the main game and you have to come back to this mode each day to gather more food. When the cubs get big enough over time they will leave you to start live on their own, in the end, it´s only you that is left. And yes: This mode requires you play it for a few minutes every 24-ish hours or so.





From a artistic point of view this game is beautiful. The low-poly models and environments combined with the fairly low-res textures with only little details and the pale color palette end up looking really great, in fact it looks much better than it probably should. Add great nature sounds and an beautiful Soundtrack and you have something that really stands out between all the Pixel Art Retro-Inspired games that the Indies love to do. It´s a real shame that I don´t like the game itself enough to play it again just because of it´s visuals and atmosphere. Maybe Shelter 2 or the Spin-Off Paws are more my cup of tea, but I won´t touch those anytime soon after this disappointment. It´s a nice game to distract animal loving children for an hour or two, it´s violence free (at least on a graphical level, there are still animals dying here) for the most part it very calming, however it fails to deliver any emotional impact that the loss of a child should have, and in this case this one reason is enough for me to not recommend this game, especially not for the full asking price.

Jan 1, 2017

01: New Year´s Doom

The year isn´t even a week old and I have already beaten the first game in my attempt at the 52 Game Challenge and it is a regular one for me and that´s because of a little tradition of mine. You see, every year on January 1st I play through the original 3 Episodes of Doom. I have done this for the last decade or so and I do this to, in a methaphorical sense, show everything that went wrong in the previous year who is the boss. Why only Doom and not Ultimate Doom? Simply because I don´t like the 4th Episode. And even though I have played through it so many times by now using a lot of the official ports and fanmade sourceports I wouldn´t consider myself to be an expert when it comes to this game. The highes difficulty I can beat it at is "Hurt me plenty" and I don´t even know all the secrets on E1M1. The gameplay itself is easy enough to understand: Kill everything that moves and that isn´t you and find the exit. To find that exit more often than not you have flick some switches, collect different keycards and try to not get lost in the labyrinth-like levels. And these well designed levels can get fairly and complicated due to how the Doom-Engine itself works. Maps have to be build around the limitation that you can´t have multiple room´s above each other, and you probably won´t notice that unless someone point´s it out to you. Some of the maps make it even more confusing with teleporters that move you all around the map. The original PC-Version has a really awesome MIDI-Rock / Metal Soundtrack that is inspired by Hard Rock and Metal Songs from the late 80´s and early 90´s and it fit´s the fast gameplay really well and with the much more recent XBox Live Arcade / Domm 3 BFG Edition version of the game this Soundtrack really comes to live. To make all the Demon-killing easier you get small, but varied set of guns, my personal preffered tools of destruction are the Shotgun and the Chaingun, depending on the enemy I´m dealing with, the plasma gun get´s rid of larger groups with ease and the powerful rocketlauncher is something you have to use with caution because you can easily kill yourself with the blast radius. Your Pistol becomes obsolete the moment you get the Shotgun and the ultimate demon destroyer is the now legendary BFG-9000, this slow firing beast destroys everything hat´s comes a bit too close to it. This game comes highly recommended, even more than two decades after it´s initial release.