January 30, 2019

Tactics Blade: Episode One - Review

 Tactics Blade: Episode One is a game made in SIM RPG Maker 95. A very old and pretty much-forgotten engine made by the same creators of the RPG Maker Engines. It is specialized in making strategy games, similar to the Fire Emblem series. As a fan of strategy games, I had to try it out. Sadly, the game has a lot of problems and I can’t really recommend it.

 The first issue is that it uses the default assets. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but the game has a really bland look. You’ll get tired of seeing the same characters and maps over and over again. This is especially painful because different enemies share the same sprite, and even one of your main characters (Melanie) shares the same sprite as your soldiers. It feels out of place and makes it hard to find her in some situations.

 Speaking about it, you only have two characters for the whole game, Rose and Melanie, with generic soldiers to help you in most maps. I think this is one of the critical flaws of the game. You’ll focus all your attention to these characters, as the soldiers don’t matter at all, they are laughably weak 80% of the time, taking lots of turns to kill a single enemy. It doesn’t matter if they all die or if they get a few levels up, as they don’t get carried to the next map. In early levels, they work fine as meat shields, but by later levels, I stopped caring and I just used Rose and Melanie, they did most of the job anyway. Speaking about them, they’ll level up very quickly, and once I had them at max level I… dropped the game. There’s no feeling of progression as you no longer gain anything from the battles. The game became extremely easy and boring, and I found no reason to keep playing.

 The difficulty is pretty uneven through most of the game. It is kinda easy at the start, giving you time to level up the main characters. That's until Bandits appear for the first time, and they are very overpowered. They can deal 9 dmg to your soldiers, which only have 10 max hp. And they can take around 5 attacks from the soldiers before dying. If you didn’t plan ahead and focused most of the experience into your main characters, you’ll probably fail this mission. After that, there aren’t any more difficulty jumps, and it actually starts to become too easy as you gain more and more levels, while you are still fighting the same bandits. That’s a big problem with the game, it takes too long to show new enemies and when they appear, they are just an old enemy with higher stats and a new name, which feels very lazy.

 I can’t really recommend this game, the good thing is that it is at least playable and it isn’t “offensively bad”. But it gets extremely boring fighting the same enemies with the same characters all over again. Something to note is that it actually has a sequel. I’ll play it someday to see if the dev learned from their mistakes or not. Hell, I’ll be happy as long as it introduces more characters, playing with only two is painful.

January 29, 2019

Milk Quest - Review

 Today we are going play Milk Quest. With a title like that I was expecting a comedy or parody game, and while they tend to be hit or miss, maybe this time will be different, right? Wrong, this game is atrocious, but let me explain why.

 The game starts with a simple request, buy milk. This is pretty simple and nothing interesting happens along the way (except for a few sudden Game overs depending on what dialogue choices you take, but that's tame compared to what comes next.) After you bring back the milk and try to get out of the house, things start to get weird. Is here that I wonder if the dev was trying to create one of those subversive games. Starting with a happy and generic theme and now turning into a bad horror game. With repeated maps (but now with tint effects) and characters now talking in other languages (and badly done, like the dialogues were simply put into google translate).

 After this, the game turns back to normal, and if the game ended right here I wouldn't be so mad at it. Heck, you already bought the Milk, so there's no "Quest" to be done here, but oh no, this is when things take a turn for the worse. Now your objective is to find five stars, pretty easy, but you have to backtrack through the game to find them. While there are very few maps, it still feels like a chore. With the 5 stars in hand, you can now go to the forest maze, and this is where the game reveals its true colors. You have to cross a forest maze, not once, or twice, but SIX different times, with barely any changes each time. It isn't terribly long, but it really feels like it with how many times you have to do it.

 Once you do this to collect another five stars (and after another short "horror" section.) You gain access to the cave, and now you have to cross 4 gigantic mazes. With absolutely zero decoration or anything to break the monotony. Hell, they were made with the random dungeon generator that comes with RM VX Ace, with no changes at all. And you know what's funny? Once you get to the bottom, a character tells you that "Here's some money, go and buy the groceries for the characters in town", which would be fun and would close the circle of the Milk Quest. Except that... to go back to the town, you have to walk through all those mazes ALL OVER AGAIN.

 This is just ridiculous, whoever thought that walking through the same mazes over and over again is fun must be crazy. I know that this is probably one of those "troll" games and that it's supposed to be annoying, but good god, I can't stand it. There's absolutely no redeeming value because even without the mazes, the rest of the game is still boring and generic trash. Avoid it at all costs.


The Rebellion - Review

 Sometimes I wonder... Why am I doing this? Reviewing something so short and pointless. I spend more time and energy writing about it than what I spent playing it. This is the case of The Rebellion, the abandoned demo of a game that promised a little more, but ultimately fell short.

 The story is about a guy named Alex. He wakes up in a rainy day with his friend Jon telling him to follow him outside, because "something is going on". What's it? Well, nothing, apparently, as you get outside and everything looks alright, there's even a kid playing in the middle of the rain. But the other townsfolk keep telling you that "Something is happening". This could fit very well to set a horror vibe, but nope, is the dev failing at conveying information to the player. Eventually, you reach a small house with a guy on the front asking you "Hey, you are here for the secret meeting?" Well, it ain't a secret anymore buddy. Next, he says "Do you want to join the rebellion?" I'm just starting the game and I have no idea of what is going on in this town, but the game is called "The Rebellion" so I guess there's no choice but to accept.

 Things get a little weirder once the meeting starts. Some guy is talking about opposing the King, because "He joined the war that was not accepted by all, so therefore he must be stopped." After this, one guy in the audience thinks that this is too crazy and wants to leave the rebels, but before he can run away he gets murdered by one of our own "allies", and nobody bats an eye. Okay, how am I supposed to trust these guys? After that, we get outside and the king's guards are already waiting for us. A few short battles later, the leader of the rebels kills a high-class soldier, and it is revealed that he was actually his brother. Woo.

 After a little bit more of dialogue, we can finally get out of this town and explore the rest of the world!... Oh wait, the demo ends right here, after only 5 minutes of gameplay. This game is a complete waste of time, maybe if the developer added more content to the game it would be fine, but the game has been abandoned almost 10 years ago. Maybe I sound a little too harsh, but that's probably because I've been playing a lot of bad games lately. But it doesn't matter anyway, this doesn't have any redeeming values.

An Unwanted Engagement - Review

 An Unwanted Engagement, one of the most amazing games ever released. I would even dare to call it the best of the decade. It is full of charm, amazing graphics, memorable characters, awesome soundtrack and deepest plot of all time. A masterpiece that can compete even with the best commercial games ever created...

 But of course, that's a lie. The "original" game was made for a game-making event, but after realizing that they wouldn't have enough time to finish it the developers decided to rush it and make a small game before the time ran out. The original game will probably be lost forever but at least we still have something to play.

 Named by the devs themselves: "The Shittiest Game Ever", it is actually, kinda decent? It's not a good game, but it is far from being the shittiest one. There's no point in explaining the story or any of the context because there isn't any. Basically, you control a team of four characters and you advance through an island fighting all the enemies in your path until reaching the final boss. What's interesting, is that you can fight the final boss from the very start, good luck beating it though. Most of the fights are optional but it is recommended to do them, as you gain items to improve your characters stats. It is the best way to get stronger as anything in the shops is too expensive and there are no level ups.

 I don't know why, but I had plenty of fun with this. Must be the relatively quick pace, as there's no story or anything like that, you just beat the enemies and get new items. Or also the combat system, which had unique moves for every character instead of the classic Attack and Magic. Of course, it has its flaws, namely on how bad the maps look and the very simplistic dialogue. These were made on purpose just to finish the game as fast as possible, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. The combat also feels somewhat unbalanced, with 3 of the 4 characters having a water elemental spell but few enemies weak against it. Or the physicals attacks that feel kinda very weak. And the last character, Sheri, feeling pretty useless, with somewhat bad skills and low stats.

 Overall, give it a try, it is pretty fun despite its shortcomings and very short too. It can take you from 15 to 30 mins depending on your playstyle.


Twilight Fantasy - Review

 Twilight Fantasy is a short game made in RPG Maker XP. The last demo was released around 2008, a little more than 10 years ago.  With no news since then, we can safely assume that the game will remain unfinished forever. It is also the first project of the developer, and it shows, but as always, let’s go with the point by point first.

 The story is about some hero that killed the big bad evil a long time ago. Pretty standard stuff, but there’s a little nice twist in that the hero used a Dark sword that slowly consumed his soul. Now you play as Sirria, a young adventurer that, as you guessed it, finds this sword and now has to learn how to control its power. The story slowly shows the backstory of Necros, the hero that wielded the sword so long ago, and apparently, it is also the name of the dark power behind the sword. Too bad that the game is unfinished, making impossible to know the true origin of the power.

 Aside from a few graphics here and there, the game is made entirely with the RTP: The enemies, the graphics, the skills, everything. This by itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but the way it is used is very awful. The maps are weird because some maps look completely fine (The first dungeon, some town and interior maps) while others are horrible (The first town looks really bad, some interiors are too big and empty.) The encounter rate is very high and the enemies seem unchanged from the default database. And while they die very quickly, 3 or 4 hits from them can kill you easily, and there’s almost nothing you can do about it. There’s not much reason to fight anyway, because the economy is completely crazy. The enemies give a pathetic amount of XP and Gold, around 12 G per battle. Sleeping in a inn costs 50 G in the first town and 100 G in the second, while new weapons and armor go around 400 G and go up to 1.300 G. I don’t think anyone has the patience to grind in this game, not even for levels as you’ll always end up losing a lot of money. Thankfully, healing items can be found almost anywhere, so is hard to be in a situation where you are hurt and you don’t have to money to heal yourself.

 There two things that I found interesting. First, it seems like it has multiple choices, whether you want to embrace the darkness of the sword or try to be a good boy and not use it. The sword is really powerful, it triples your attacks and makes the encounters trivial, while also providing more tidbits of the backstory. The only downside is some very small max HP and MP reductions, but they really don’t matter. The “good” path is a lot harder and boring, and there is no reason to try it other than for completionists. The game is short enough anyway that you can play both back to back without problems.

 The second aspect that I’ve found interesting is that through the world there are different spots that you can examine, asking you to input a code. The problem is that there’s no mention of how to obtain this code anywhere on the game. There’s also a chest in the smith shop that is locked by another code too, and while I found some clues to open it, none of them really helped me (I found a piece of paper that said “The second number is 2”, another piece of paper that spelled “C, I, A, H” and a girl in the other town says that someone knows the code, but after talking to everybody, it seems that this is just a red herring.)

 After just saying fuck it and starting to mess around with Cheat Engine, I managed to get inside a secret room that told me a code: 09-15-89. This gave me access to a secret cheat room in the first town where I could increase my stats, get free money, and fight a boss (this last feature didn’t work tho). Weirdly enough, this worked on one hole but not on others I’ve found hidden in the grass. So the mystery of the holes remains unsolved, along with the chest in the smith shop. With the development of the game abandoned, seems like we will never discover all the hidden secrets.

 Aside from that, there’s not much else to add, it is just another run of the mill “my first game” experience. It is pretty short, you can beat it around 15 mins and at least it is not “offensively bad” as some of those games can be. But overall, it is a very underwhelming experience.


January 27, 2019

Last Week - Review

 Last Week is a horror game originally made in Thailand, now translated to English with the help of a few dedicated fans. Now, I wonder how the indie game scene must be in Thailand? But anyway, this is definitely an unusual game that is worth a look.

 The story is about a mysterious school where many strange things have been happening, more specifically, every year that ends with a 7, a student disappears. The last time this happened, the student that disappeared suddenly came back, and after that, a massacre happened at the school. Now you play as Napa, a girl that feels as if the school is calling her. She decides to explore this abandoned place, which thanks to the graphics, looks great and adds to the creepy atmosphere, they really add a lot of style to the game, the only problem would be a few maps that look so... boring and empty, and sometimes is hard to differentiate between them.

 The gameplay, however, is… annoying to say the least, it’s the classic “go explore everywhere, not really knowing what to do”, this in some cases would kinda work, but here, the problem gets worse as two things don’t let you explore so freely. First, there are a hunger and a battery mechanic, the hunger gradually goes down as you play the game, but it can be replenished by eating food. The battery is required to use your flashlight, and thankfully, you can find batteries around the school and even some chargers that allow you to refill it for free. So it’s not a big issue, the hunger though, more than adding depth to the game it feels like a chore.

 The second big problem that really hurts the game is the random deaths and jumpscares. You will get tired of these, and you will find them all the time, I hope you save often because anything can kill you here: a hole in the floor? (I think it is a hole.) Touch it and [b]SPLAT[/b], game over, even if you just wanted to see what it was. A ladder going down? Touch it and yup, another game over. There are also ghosts around some rooms but you can never know if you can talk to them or if they will give you a jump scare and a game over. These are really annoying and makes you not want to explore as anything can kill you in this game.

 Another problem is that it feels unpolished, as there are many “invisible walls”, parts where you can’t walk over them for absolutely any reason, plus a few other passability problems where you can walk over the tables. I think the invisible walls are there thanks to the ghosts, because in an area (I think it was a pool.) I interacted with a ghost when I had the flashlight on, and after she finished talking, she disappeared. The problem was that I couldn’t walk over the space she was occupying, if you do this in a certain spot, this actually can get you stuck with no way to escape other than reloading the game.

 Lastly, there’s the problem in that the game really doesn’t tell you what you can do. I got stuck for a while and after pressing random keys to see if any of them did anything, I discovered I can run with D and use the shovel to attack with S. I knew that S and D (and other keys too) are usually reserved for “special” commands in RPG Maker games, but some players may not know this, and even then, the keys are somewhat buggy and don’t work all the time. I also found keys named “Shop 01” and “Key 124”, and well… How I’m supposed to know where I should use these?. There aren’t any indicators that tell you what rooms are each one, so you just go examining every door to see if it works with any of them.

 I genuinely wanted to enjoy the game, the graphics and story look pretty nice, but these minor problems add up and kinda ruin the experience. You really need a walkthrough to play this game properly. I don’t want to give it a low score just because of that, but I think a 2.5 is reasonable.

January 26, 2019

Double Trouble - Review

 Double Trouble is a very unusual game, because not only is one of the only two games made in RPG Maker 95 uploaded to RPGMaker.net, (the other one being Dragon Kingdoms III, but that one seems like it has a convoluted way to make the game run) but on top of that it's a very ambitious game for its time. It is probably as long as your usual retro RPG, which is interesting as it is the first game ever made by his developer.

 First, let’s take a look at RPG Maker 95. Is impossible to talk about one without talking about the other, and I’m sure few people are familiar with this weird and forgotten version of RPG Maker. Let me start by saying that the engine has aged a lot far worse than RM 2000 or 2003. Running the games can be a hard task for most modern computers, and using the engine is even worse. The very limited graphical options, the lack of a robust events system (there are only 256 switches available, and there are no variables) the very simple battle system ( You can only do physical attacks or magic, and spells can only deal damage, heal or set a status effect, with very limited options for the amount of damage you can do) There are even many users are reporting random crashes while editing the database or adding events to a map. And the worst of all, the games are slow, and I mean, very slow. We’re talking Dragon Quest I levels of slow, with some of the most clunky menus that can crash your game in any second. All of this is probably the reason why people abandoned this version while RM 2000 and 2003 are still being used today.

 But what about Double Trouble? First of all, yes, it is a reference to Team Rocket, the recurring enemies of the Pokemon anime series. Thankfully, aside from the name, a few references here and there, and the overuse of their motto every time a plot battle appears, they are mostly their own characters with a very different story. So if you live under a rock, you could probably play this game without knowing what Pokemon is. Anyway, the story is a mostly generic plot about a group of friends fighting against the evil empire after they attacked their village, something we have seen a hundred times before. There are a few pieces of originality sprinkled through the game though, like one character using a bomb so powerful that it destroyed a little town and a castle, or the mirage tower, which is invisible but only from the inside.

 But as I’ve said before, the biggest problem with the game is probably how slow and clunky it is. The movements, the battles, the menus, that little second that the game takes when loading a new map, it all adds up. Making something that should only take 5 minutes to take 15 minutes, making the game feel longer than it really is. This is mostly the fault of the engine, but really, it makes the game almost unplayable and is not like I have a short attention span. I’ve finished the firsts Dragon Quest and Phantasy Star and yet this game is really testing my patience. One thing that really helped me is having Cheat Engine and activating the speed hack to make the game run at double the speed all the time, and you know what? It still feels slow and clunky.

 Another problem is the battles, and how it feels like you don’t have a good idea of what are you doing a there are no descriptions for any of the items or skills. For the items, this is a big problem when buying in town. there are so many items and you never have a clear idea of what they do, you just pick whatever increases your stats the most and tend to ignore the items used in battle. For spells, you just go with the classics, Firaga? Quake? Megaflare? Those are familiar to any RPG player, but Shakira? (yes, Shakira, and it's, in fact, a second level earth spell, the next level of “Shake”) Aura? (Is actually the group healing spell, but is confusing because after casting it, it says that team recovered MP)

 But honestly, none of that matters, as 80% of the battles can be beaten with just activating "Auto Battle." The game isn't too easy, it actually has some kind of uneven difficulty, in some parts, your team will just destroy anything in the way, but for others, you are gonna need to grind a few levels (thank god leveling up is relatively quick.). There are also some very long sections with no rests in between, one special case is when escaping prison and you have to save your companion of being executed. There are around five battles with regular enemy formations, and two boss battles, every battle one after the other, and that’s without counting the random battles on your way there, and after all of that, you will be left with only one character, not healed or anything, and you have to walk all your way alone to a town in the middle of the desert just so you can finally use the inn again, Jesus Christ.

…I’m not proud of admitting that I never beat this game, I think I dropped it around a little farther than the mid-game, but I had enough, it was really starting to suck away my energy, can you imagine that? A game so bad that instead of being fun, it actually worsens your mood? I’m never touching this thing again. I think I've gotten far enough that no matter what plot twist or new mechanic appears in the game, it wouldn’t change my feelings towards it. Stay far away from this game as you can, because yes, it's that bad.

January 21, 2019

Adventure Academy - Review

 I've decided to review a few games in rpgmaker.net, and what is the best way to start than just hitting the random button and playing the first game that comes in your way? The quality will be highly variable. From hidden gems to bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. But the themes and ideas will also be wildly different and we can see a few sparkles of creativity and skill every now and then. This time is a game that would be perfectly described as "good idea, bad execution".

 Adventure Academy tries to follow the steps of the "Raising Sim" genre (most famous for Princess Maker) while adding a few extra touches of Dungeon Crawling and lots of Comedy. It seems like a nice mix that can lead to a good game, right? Well, not so much this time. I don't want to sound overly harsh, but everything in this game goes from "mediocre" to "bad", let's go point by point.

 Oh yeah, and don't be fooled by the images, these were taken from the game page.

 First, the Raising Sim elements. I was really hoping to get some good here, as there aren't not enough Raising Sims out there, and every single new one is greatly appreciated. But how was it implemented here? Well, early on, you can work to gain both money and raise some attributes. You raise them so you can, later on, change classes depending on your stats: high STR, AGI, and CON turns you into a Warrior, high INT, FAITH, and CON turn you into a Mage. Later on, you can receive classes, which greatly raise your stats for a fee. You also unlock a "second-tier" of classes, like Spellblade, Archer, Sage, Black Mage, etc. The problem with this system is that it feels... kinda superfluous? You have a screen that tells how many points in various attributes you need to change into a specific class. Early on you have to pick which path to take and just raise the stats enough to fulfill the requirements. There's almost no incentive to keep raising them or even experiment with weird "builds". The only thing you get is some very small bonuses to your combat stats, but not enough to make it worthwhile. On top of that, there's the problem that the amount of money you get from working is always the same amount. Unlike other Raising Sims were the better your stats for a job, the better you'll do in it and the more money you will get.

 Well, what about the Dungeon Crawling? You have access to only three generic and boring dungeons. Mostly because they were done with the random dungeon tool that RPG Maker VX Ace has, but with barely any changes. Just a few treasure chests here and there, and lots of random battles. By the way, the first option whenever a battle starts is Auto Battle, this is a blessing because the battles are very boring and easy. Just letting the AI spam their best attacks works for all the battles, even the final boss! Why include fights if they are going to be so boring?

 And lastly, the final nail in the coffin, the "Comedy", or more like the writing in general. It's too juvenile and stupid, with nonsensical scenes and some of the most one-dimensional characters ever. This destroys any fun you could had with this game because every single dialogue is trying to be "funny" but fails miserably. The screenshot above can give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

 Well, there's not much else to add. At the start of the review, I didn't want to sound too harsh, but the flaws were starting to really bother me. When I read the description of the game, I genuinely wanted to try it out, but I only got disappointment. I think there's a little sparkle of potential hiding in there, but the bad heavily outweighs the good, and I just can't recommend this game to anyone. At least it is short enough to be beaten in one sitting I guess?