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Gaming writeups Newer games Retro games

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (PC)

After 20 year I have finally played Halo: Combat Evolved. It wasn’t until I played some Destiny 2 back in 2019 I got the urge to explore the earlier Bungie creations. The tight FPS gameplay in Destiny 2 piqued my interest in Halo.

I bought Master Chief Collection on steam on a sale recently. I decided to play them in release order so I started with Halo: Combat Evolved. As a nintendo fanboy back in the day I pretty much hated the Xbox and Halo. I never was interested in FPS games, not just Halo, but I always wanted my darling Gamecube to be the top dog.

I’m happy that I waiting for the MCC so I could experience the game with more graphics and mouse and keyboard controls. I usually prefer a controller, but for FPS games, I’m a mouse and keyboard kind of guy.

The Anniversary Graphics compared to the Original Graphics

With a press on the tab button it’s possible to swap between the Anniversary and the original graphics. I never used the original graphics when playing, but at times I swapped to them to see the difference.

After playing Halo I actually understand the hype from back in the day. I understand why it was Xbox flagship title and its console seller. It’s still a good game, somewhat dated, but still a very solid game. It’s not a perfect game, but its scope and story are well executed.

Even after twenty years I bascially knew nothing about the story of Halo. I knew some terms I learnt from Warcraft 3 custom maps like The Covenant, The Flood and Halo. I didn’t really know what it entailed. This made the game feel fresh and the plot twist was actually new for me, even after all this time.

A very iconic cutscene

There are some weaker points, for me it’s the large maps without a good way of telling the player where to go without pointing it out too much. I found myself lost a couple of times. The other weak point is the mission The Library, very repetitive, slow and a literal flood of enemies.

After 10 hours of playing I beat the game, and I would actually say it’s one of my better gaming experiences in 2021. It made me a fan of a game that I used to hate (without anything backing my claims). I’m really looking forward to explore this franchise.

Bungie really are masters of good FPS combat, they really evolved it. The weapons feel great and heavy enough to really convey some kind of reality to the player in this fictional sci-fi world.

I would recommend everyone to test Halo: Combat Evolved to see the game that changed FPS on consoles, but also gaming in general. It’s a brilliant game that still are worth to play despite its age.

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Gaming writeups Newer games Retro games

DuckTales: Remastered (PC)

The games I write about are usually games I really like. Mostly because I don’t finish games I don’t enjoy playing. This game is the exception. DuckTales: Remastered is a gorgeous game, the art style is nearly perfect. However the gameplay leaves a lot to wish for. While there has been a few quality of life improvements over the NES original, like the easy pogo, which was first featured in DuckTales 2.

DuckTales: Remastered is one of the games that has frustrated me the most. Weird hitboxes, skipped input, bad mechanics and bloated with cutscenes are just a few things that come to mind. WIth skipped inputs I mostly mean, when walking down a platform it’s almost impossible to pogo or time a jump on the ground below making unnecessary hit a problem. The other huge complain is the hitboxes that doesn’t seem to fit the sprites.

The biggest flaw is probably that the life system. Sue to the previously stated problems, getting two lives after a “continue” isn’t enough. Especially not since losing those lives, means starting the level all over again, with all of the progress of the stage lost.

The brilliance of the original is its simplicity. It’s very straight forward, find the boss, defeat the boss collect treasure. Something that the Remaster unnecessarily butchers, artificially prolongs the levels with forced items to collect before a cutscene that takes the player to the last area with the boss.

DuckTales: Remastered is not a difficult game, it’s a cheap game. By adding stuff to do, I feel the game becomes weaker. It charm of the original is that it’s possible to beat in less than 10 minutes. With the addition of the intro stage and new objectives in the stages plus adding a final stage, the games just feels bloated.

I’ve talked a lot of the the problems, but sadly that’s the impression that this game has given me. Bosses with forced cycles, in addition to taking too many hits to defeat, makes them tedious and not exciting. The absolutely most frustrating parts was the ending sequence after the final boss. The race against Magica De Spell and Glomgold to get the Number One Dime. Instead of a straight rope to the top, the remastered “fixed” a part not needing to be fixed, making it one of the most frustraing parts due to bad controls and mechanics. After that sequence which is the last one on the NES, a new escape part is added. Scrooge has to flee from the rising lava and traverse from chain to chain to ascend to safety. The problem is that climing and especially dropping from chains to grab another one is the worst mechanic in the game. These to parts in combination with having to restart the level when all lives are gone made this a living nightmare. I really don’t like this game.

One of the positive aspects besides the graphics, is the music. Jake Kaufman’s original tunes and the arrangements of the classics are good, really good. You can really hear it is Kaufman, which is something I love. Doesn’t save the game as a whole, but it’s one of the redeeming qualities of the game. Don’t know if the music is improved, but I enjoy both the remastered tunes and the originals.

I would honestly not recommend DuckTales: Remastered to anyone, because I know I’ll never ever play it again. I think it a really bad remake. Really happy it’s over.

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Gaming writeups Newer games

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4)

The darling genre of the Indie studios, Konami’s not so secret weapon on the GBA and DS. I am of course talking about Metroidvanias. Koji Igarashi’s winning concept has left Konami and entered the Indie scene and Kickstarter.

When I first saw Iga’s newest project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, it looked like the 2.5D lovechild of Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, but animations looked stale and did not impress on me. I waited over a year before playing it because I told myself that I wanted to play the PC version. Last fall I could not wait anymore, I had heard so many good things about Bloodstained so I bought it on PS4. It did not disappoint. I wasn’t wrong in my first assessment, it really is the lovechild of Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, which I really enjoy since they are my favorites of the Igavanias.

The shard mechanic is ripped straight out of Aria of Sorrow’s Soul system, which is my favorite skill system in the GBA games. Rest of the game feels very Symphony of the Night, the gothic aesthetic, music and last but not least, controls.

Miriam the protagonist is a shardbinder, which means she can absorb shards from demons and gain their abilities. This does though slowly turn her into a shard lore-wise. The story is engaging and balanced but not very deep. It’s very Igavania to say the least. The rest of the cast have great personalities and most of them are memorable like the swordsman Zangetsu from Curse of the Moon-fame.

There are many Easter eggs for the initiated, mostly from SotN. Which makes it enjoyable and adds to the nostalgia. The game is cryptic, the map is big and full of secrets all over the castle like bosses and overpowered weapons.

Also, the music, it’s very SotN without being a rip off. Which is a huge plus in my book. The music accompanied the game excellently and I don’t have much to complain about.

The one point that I’m not overly happy with is the graphics and the animations. It looks okay, but animations are pretty stale, event hough better than the first look of the game. Despite that, it’s an very enjoyable game that no metroidvania fan should miss.

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Gaming writeups Newer games Retro games

Super Mario: Sunshine (Switch)

I beat Super Mario Sunshine for the first time this weekend, this time for the Switch. Not being the biggest fan of 3D Mario, which I usually am quite vocal about, made this more of a nostalgia trip rather than an enjoyable moment.

That aside, Sunshine is a charming game. Charming but very frustrating… And it’s like the first appearance of one of my favorite Nintendo characters. Pretty much my favorite, Bowser Jr.

I do like the game, it’s my third favorite 3D Mario after 3D Land and Odyssey. Playing Sunshine made me very aware of the facit that I playbgames for story and exploring nw worlds. With a story as thin as a thread and also an ending that I already knew about, all that was lett was game design and mechanics. Salt it’s not the games strongest points. The best part of the game is the cozy atmosphere and unique charm.

I knew I needed to collect 50 Shines to be able to complete the game, so that’s what I aimed for. I did however, not know that it was a set of particular 50 stars. When I got 50 stars, and the for the time, aptly named Corona Mountain did ger available, I was disappointed. I wanted the game to end. I did also get stubborn and was not about tonquit. So, I powered through, collected all remaining stars I needed and conquered Corona Mountain.

What a shitty section Corona Mountain is. A Long trail of Lava where there is a boat that doesn’t burn Up when in lava. But IF an obstacle would look at it, it would just give up and let Mario melt in the lava.

After the lava section, the final boss was the only part left. I knew what to do, but the mechanics being kind of unfair at times, it took longer than I want to admit.

When the boss was beaten and the credits started ro roll. All I wanted to do was to put the game on the shelf and not play it anymore. Maybe follow Mario and Peach’s examples and to just watch the sun set. No more Sunshine.

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Hardware writeups

Hori Joy-Con

I just got a Hori Joy-Con as a replacement for my drifting original blue Joy-Con. The first thing I noticed is that it is super light-weight, which is understandable since it does not have a battery.

It look pretty good, being a officially licensed product I’m not surprised. The plastic is kind of transparent. The Zelda print is cool. It is weird to not see the neon-blue colour on the left side, so that throws me off.

A nice-looking Joy-Con

The stick feels fine, the D-pad though, is very spongy. Which is not a good thing, it does not feel exact at all. Also the capture-button and the minus buttons are rubber and not hard plastic like the original which is also a down-grade. It is however a cheaper replacement for handheld play, which is why I got it.

The “inner” side of the joy-con does not have the L and R buttons, which is a no-brainer since the joy-con does not work in wireless mode, only attached to the switch.

No buttons on the inner side of the Joy-Con

One aspect I DON’T like, is the release button for the joy-con itself. It’s not as shallow as the original. This annoys me since the button actually gnawing on my finger when I play.

The release button sticks out. Which makes no sense to me.

All-in-all I’m pretty happy with it, but I have to get used to the notch sticking out into my finger. I am very happy to have a joy-con that doesn’t drift. It is no super cheap, but cheaper to buy a original, and since this is officially licensed I feel it’s fine. Being a fan of Hori controllers in general I was happy to learn they made the cheaper joy-cons.

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Gaming writeups Newer games

Dishonored (PC)

Back in 2012 I didn’t play that many single player games. I was studying and was watching a lot of speedrunning aswell as trying to speedrun myself. It was a couple days before October 12th. I logged onto Steam and found a game on the front page that was about to be released. The game was Dishonored, a title that I’d never heard or seen before. I thought it looked interesting with its very unique look with a more stylized choice of graphics.

I was gonna have a pretty slow weekend, so I wanted a game to play by. When I saw Dishonored, I bought it, preloaded it and at release I played it. I WAS HOOKED! The dark nature in the parallell victorian universe, really spoke to me. Revenge stories are also always interesting to me. I was actually watching the TV-show Revenge at the time.

The overarching story is that Corvo Attano, the Royal Protector, framed and accused to have killed the Queen he swore to protect. He is obviously framed. You follow the story of Corvo, getting revenge on those who framed him. With a little help by The Outsider, a mysterious man with otherworldly powers, Corvo becomes a very dangerous threat to his enemies. The most stand-out ability, that really defines the way you play is the Blink ability, making Corvo able to teleport a short distance to reach new places.

Being set in a alternative/parallel Victorian England where whale oil is the the main source of energy, really give the game a special flare. I love games that do quirky things, but explains them so they work in the universe of the game. Just small things like the guards sing “what shall we do with the drunken whaler” just adds to the atmosphere.

Dishonored has a lot of things going it. Free roaming levels that encourages exploration, but there is still a set goal to beat the level. How to beat the level does however often involve a choice. This is what makes the game stand out. Almost everything you do is followed by a choice, but the choice are often anchored in gameplay, not just a dialogue menu choice.

Do you want to go berserk and slaughter the enemies. Do you want to go stealthy, lethal, non-lethal? Do you want to hide the knocked out or killed enemies so you don’t alert other enemies, or do you not care about it? Sometimes there are different ways to get to an objective location. This makes it very exciting play the levels in different ways. Leaving a lot of dead bodies around may increases the amount of rats and Weepers (Zombie-esque monsters) in following levels.

There are alternative objectives to find during the levels that can help you and also alter the outcome of the level or a future level. In addition to the main and alternative objectives there are collectibles, runes and bone charms. These are helpful to customise Corvo to the player’s liking.

I am very happy that I chose to purchase a completely unknown games for me, even before it was released. It’s one of the best gaming experience for me. Dishonored has been a benchmark for me when it comes to level design and stylized graphics for 8 years.

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Gaming writeups Newer games

God of War (PS4)

One of the most anticipated games in 2018. A reboot that people were a bit nervous about since it’s so different from the original games. From being a pure hack ‘n’ slack with hordes of enemies to slash through in an almost wave-like fashion. I did prioritise Spider-Man over God of War in 2018, but in early 2019 I went on a journey that I would remember.

With God of War (4) being my first experience with the series other than quick glimpses from the speedruns of the first two games, I was completely oblivious what was in store for me. I just knew that I liked third-person action/adventure games, and boy did God of War not disappoint!

Kratos is a very likeable character even though you really feel the burden he bears from his past. Especially though his relationship with his son Atreus. One of the more wild card factors in this reboot. Atreus is a key point story-wise but also in combat. The whole story revolves around Kratos and Atreus journey to release the ashes of Kratos’ wife at the worlds highest peak.

In a beautiful world inspired by the Norse mythology and environments mostly associated with Norway, with vast mountains and beautiful streams. The mix of Greek and Norse mythology is something fresh, and even though it doesn’t follow the the lore of the Norse mythology, but Santa Monica Studio made it work.

From what I’ve gathered from the earlier entries in the series, it’s the combat that’s in focus and not the story. This time it’s flipped, but that doesn’t mean the combat is forgotten. You really feel every slash and chop. The Leviathan is a wonderful weapon, and the choice to being able to throw it really adds to the combat.

The Leviathan isn’t just a good weapon for cleaving draugr, it’s also an excellent way to solve puzzles, and there are plenty of them. Most of them are optional, but I would say they are vital since solving puzzles unlocks chests and chests contain weapon and health upgrades.

After playing the game I do have mostly good memories. That said I actually though it was pretty boring the first four-five hours. I pretty much knew that everything a group of enemies came towards me, I was gonna die. After getting the hang of the controls and also exploring the skill tree and customising it to my style of play, it went better and better. This feeling of progression really added to the experience, so I’m happy it was a slam dunk from the start. The game made me work for it and really awarded me for it!

I liked the game so much so I actually played it though 100% and got the Platinum throphy. Something I just do with games that I really like.

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Gaming writeups Newer games

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC/PS4)

The world is in a Witcher craze right now. After the Netflix series the interest for the games and the book was renewed. The game that was release in May 2015 during a time I didn’t play that many games on PC or home consoles. I had just discovered the wonderful world of the 3DS and was reliving the worlds of Mario and Pokemon among other, though in more modern take than before. I did, however pick it up in 2018 when testing a gaming laptop and needed a game that would be demanding for the hardware.

I can’t say that the Witcher craze didn’t effect me, I did play both Witcher 1 and 2 for the first time during the first months of 2020. I even played through Witcher 3 for the third time. This gave me a opportunity to make different decisions from the past playthroughs. I have to admit, I do like the choices I made in prior playthroughs so I did stick to some of them this time aswell. Just because there was another option I didn’t systematically choose the other. It had to feel right.

Geralt in beautiful White Orchard

Feeling right, is one of The Witcher 3’s great strength, the atmosphere, the almost magical feeling the world emits everywhere, from its environments to its creatures, as well as the people and the choices, that I the player makes for them. I have many times wondered what’s so unique about the Witcher world, perhaps it’s the source material, perhaps its Polish heritage, I don’t know. What I do know, is that it is something special. Something to cherish.

Choosing a different set of armour, changing playstyle and focusing on a new skill set, making this playthrough a different experience all together. This time focusing on alchemy instead of signs really affected the way to play the game. Instead of hiding the perhaps weakest part of the game, the combat, behind accessible magic I had to go head first into battle with just my dodging skills to rely on. To add to this change I also played on the difficulty “Blood and Broken Bones”. Luckily I was made aware of that the alchemy route is extremely powerful which made my journey very pleasant.

I also got to revisit an old “friend”, the card game of Gwent, which is the only card game that I’ve ever been into, that I’ve found fun and appealing. This meant that I had to get a full deck, even though it’s one of the more time-consuming ventures in the game.

Geralt in the free city of Novigrad

After a while, and approximately 100 hours I was in a position where the main story was the least interesting part. This just added to my play time since I avoided the main story as much as I could. To think of it, this is crazy, because the main story is a very well told story with interesting twists and turns, likeable characters and difficult choices.

One part I don’t particularly like about the main story is game’s wish to force Yennefer and Geralt together. Since I did not opt for Yennefer this time around, it was very frustrating that the game actively set up scenarios where they got close. Making Yennefer the most important woman in the game instead of Triss that was chosen this time. Might feel like a small thing, but it retracted from the feeling that I, the player was in control of what was happening.

Eventhough there are small annonying elements, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an excellent game that will be on my top games list for many many years.

I like it so much that I got a Platinum trophy on PS4, and only missing one Steam achievement to get all at both platforms.

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Gaming writeups Newer games

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)

After rejecting the franchise for many many years, I late 2017 reluctantly bought the Ezio Collection for PS4. This opened up a new world of games for me.

After playing through the whole Ezio story in less than a month, I knew that I liked the narrative and the feel of the Assassin’s Creed games. I did however not, dive into more traditional AC games except a short dive into Assassin’s Creed III. After playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Witcher 3, I had found an appetite for open-world games. After a friend saying [about HZD] “Amazing game, probably ties for GOTY last year with Assassins Creed: Origins”, that really piqued my interest to take a deeper dive into the franchise. Its newer open-world concept that seemed to fit me perfectly.

After playing Origins, which I liked very much, enough to put over 100 hours into as well as getting the Platinum Trophy, I started Odyssey. 15 hours in I lost interest. The shift to more decision-making in conversations and the – boat/ship/whatever – didn’t do it for me. I ended up upsetting the guards and spent most of my time trying to kick soldiers off roofs until I died to a mercenary stronger than me. It wasn’t much fun.

This takes us back to the present, when over 115 hours has been invested in this huge adventure. Odyssey was easier to appreciate after a hiatus from Origins.

I like Odyssey very much, but it’s far from a perfect game. The sea combat is still one of the weaker points in the franchise as a whole, and it’s the same for this game. The story is good, but with the vast world and many targets it does get tedious at times. I didn’t feel it became grindy, I always had something to do, side quests or other objective to gain experience in a way that felt worth my time.

I do understand the critique with the game being to big for its own good, but for me that want a relaxing experience that doesn’t end too quickly it was a very pleasant journey.

Kassandra does feel a bit rigid and bland, but the story around her is full of life. With multiple choices the experience is a bit more taxing on the player, since some of the choices aren’t easy. The problem is that it doesn’t feel like the choices really matter. The dialogue options leading to the different outcomes are also not always conveyed in a way to the player knows what outcome each option leads to.

Ubisoft has always been good at the visuals, be it 2D or 3D. Odyssey is no exception. The scenery is amazing and one point that really trumps Origins, where the environment can be described as:

Sand, sand, sand, sand, gravel and dust, what a f***ing country. It’s the desert!

Crude Translation of Robert Broberg’s song “Öken”

The islands are beautiful, so is the ocean. Finding synchronisation points are always a joy since they often overlook a very stunning view. This is probably the main advantage Odyssey has over Origins, its more pleasing locale and scenery.

I am currently playing the first DLC, Legacy of the Blade. Which seems to tie the rather non-Assassin’s Creed-like game that Odyssey to earlier games. In what extent I do not yet know. It’s possible that I will write about my experiences in the DLCs aswell. But at a later date.

I do recommend people to play this game if open-world games are your cup of tea and you aren’t too tired of the UbiTower concept.

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Gaming writeups Newer games Retro games

Castle of Illusion (2013) (PC)

There are remakes and then there are remakes. Sega of Australia’s first (and sadly, only) game is a re-imagining of a Sega classic from the early 90’s. Castle of Illusion was released for the Mega Drive back in 1990 and is still considered as one of the better platformers on the system. If that’s true or not can be discussed for hours. Me, I do not love the original, I very much prefer the port for Sega’s 8-bit machine the Sega Master System, a different game in its entirety, but not relevant right now.

One game I however like quite a lot is the remake of the Mega Drive game, which confusing enought has the exact same name, Castle of Illusion. In my circuit we usually refer to it as HD to differentiate it from the Mega Drive (and Game Gear) and SMS versions with the same name.

There are a lot of 3D sections where Mickey can move freely in every direction

Castle of Illusion (2013) is a complete re-imagining of the same, mixing 2.5D and 3D. The overarching story and world themes are the same, but everything else i completely new. As for the story, Mickey and Minne are on a romantic picnic. This is unacceptable for the witch Mizrabel, so she kidnaps Minnie. Mickey is of course not happy, so he goes after them.

When it comes for differences from the original there are so much to talk about. For starters the game now has a hub where there are doors to be unlocked. To unlock these doors you have to collect diamonds and beat the different world bosses. You may reenter the worlds if you don’t manage to collect enough diamond. In addition to diamonds, there are other items to collect, that doesn’t do anything for progression but to unlock costumes and achievements.

The Hub World

As the games has been transformed a bit into a collect-a-thon it very appropriate to have Grant Kirkhope of Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie and Donkey Kong 64 fame rearranging the score. The music feels natural and it is mainly just the original tunes that are reworked to fit in with the new aesthetic. There are however a few parts that are new and very Kirkhope-esque.

Mickey controls very well and mechanic-wise it’s very solid except a couple of minor bugs that sadly won’t be fixed since the studio was closed down short after the game was released. Luckily they did have time to release v1.1 which added 60 FPS-support which is a must-have.

This is for me an example of a remake done right, and I’m glad I’m opted for this one and not the Duck Tales Remaster that was released around the same time.

The 2D sections are 2.5D, so the paths are noy completely straight, but you can only move in two directions.

The game is pretty short just like its original so it’s faithful in that regard. There are however plenty of stuff to collect even after finishing the game.