TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge (Review)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a side-scrolling beat-’em-up that was released on 16th June 2022 for Windows, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox. The game uses the 1980’s animated TV show as its inspiration and borrows its style from the ’80s and ’90s arcade and console games. In addition, it sees the return of the original voice actors from the 1987 animated series.

In Shredder’s Revenge, the players can pick from one of seven (one is unlockable through story mode), including the original turtles, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello, plus Master Splinter and reported April O’Neil. You work your way through stages fighting opponents such as the foot clan, rock soldiers, and mousers, and each level ends with a boss fight where you go up against some well-known bad guys like Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang, and of course, Shredder. The story mode takes you through various locations in New York City and Dimension X. Each character has their own attributes and abilities and so plays differently. This means you can pick a character based on your play style or, as I did, your favourite (Donatello for the win!).

There are two different modes to play through, Story Mode and Arcade Mode. The main difference between the two is that in arcade mode, you have a limited number of lives and have to complete the game in one sitting as there are no save points. As you play through story mode, you accumulate points which are then converted into bonuses for health, extra lives, additional moves and special abilities.

As well as the single-player mode, you can also play in an up to six-player co-op mode both locally and online. Playing with others allows you to perform special combat moves, share health, and heal when downed.

I’m going to start off by saying I love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and side-scrolling beat ’em ups, so when this was announced, I couldn’t wait to play it. Straight away, when you start this game, you are hit with a shovel full of nostalgia. With the game using the 80′ animated series as its inspiration, you are treated to the original open to the cartoon, and I couldn’t help but sing along with it. It’s been a while since I watched it, but it’s so ingrained in my head that the words and tune were right at the forefront of my brain as soon as I saw what was happening.

Starting to play, I dove straight into the story mode with my all-time favourite character, Donatello. Donny was my go-to character whenever I played any of the other games at home or in arcades. As soon as the first stage opened, another wave of nostalgia washed over me; it looks and feels like the old ’80s and 90’s games, so much so that there was no hesitation on my part, and I quickly got to grips with the controls. The stages play exactly like the old-school ones, and even most of the enemies (from what I remember) are also the same variations. In addition, you can still get several power-ups from destroying objects in the world, like pizza (for health, obviously), one that causes invincibility, and others.

The game isn’t as challenging as some older games (or maybe I’m better at these types of games these days…doubtful, but there’s still a chance) but still has its challenges, mainly in the form of, well, challenges. Each level has several tasks for you to perform throughout the level, ranging from not dying at all during the level, not taking a certain number of hits, getting a combo streak, and many others. These add that little bit extra to the game that will probably bring me back again to complete. The story mode itself isn’t long, which is a shame, but with added arcade mode, there is still that challenge from back in the day of having to complete it in one sitting without save points. The bosses at the end of each level are familiar to anyone who knows of the 80s cartoon. Some are more challenging than others, and they all act differently, meaning you have to devise new strategies and ways to take them out.

Now, the multiplayer. I’m not generally a fan of online multiplayer. In many games, it tends to take over, and you lose some of the game in that, but from the little I’ve played of it in this game, I’m going to be returning to it because it’s pretty fun. As well as the online multiplayer, you can also play it locally, which is also something missing from many new games. This is also a point of nostalgia of sitting crossed-legged on the floor in front of the TV with friends or siblings, trying your damnedest to beat a hard level together. This always added that extra layer of fun for me, and I’m looking forward to more of it when I play it. The addition of team-up moves is also a nice thing. It means that as well as doing your own thing through the level, you can work together to perform moves and take out enemies.

I’m such a big fan of this game. I’ve played it for a while now, and I have yet to find any really bad points. The design is great, the music top-notch and even the multiplayer is excellent. The only thing that kind of lets it down is the length of the story mode, but with the added challenges, collectables, trophies and arcade mode, there is enough to keep me coming back to this game over and over again. I can’t help but give it a 10/10, and it’s not just the nostalgia talking (although there is a lot of it). This game is excellent for fans old and new alike.

As much as I was looking forward to the Cowabunga Collection that’s coming soon; this game has whet my appetite for it even more. All I can say is bring it on, dude!

Back to School Is Out In the World

The second book in the Creatures series, Back to School, was released on Saturday (well, the digital version anyway, the paperback has been out a few days longer), and it was the most successful launch of any book I have published so far and combined with the pre-orders it meant that over the weekend I have sold more books in two days than I have over the last several months. No reviews have come in for it yet, but I hope those who have bought a copy enjoy it. As well as selling new books, I also gave away quite a few copies of Creatures for free. I figured, as seen as BtS is a sequel, it would be good to let people catch up on the story for no extra cost. As rough as Creatures was, it was still quite well received, and in my humble opinion, BtS blows the first book out of the water. From reading it myself after re-reading Creatures, I can see how far my writing has come over the four-year gap between releases.

Now that Back to School is out in the world, it’s time to think about what I will work on next. In some ways, this is a no-brainer as BtS leads directly into the next book in the series. I have already begun writing the third book, which at the moment is titled Into the Badlands; when you read BtS, you’ll know why. This book will be a bit different to the others at it will be set in a more open world and not so much in a small town or settlement. At the time of writing the second book in the series, I considered combing both books, but I felt like it would benefit from being two separate ones, so I already have plenty of ideas that I want to include in ItB.

As well as working on this new manuscript, I will be continuing to post blogs, reviews, etc., and trying to get back into streaming. We recently got a new gaming PC (the old one died during our house move for some reason), so I’m hoping to not only stream from my PlayStation and Xbox as I have in the past but also from our PC. I already have a few games on my radar that I want to stream, but if anyone reading this has any suggestions of ones that they’d like to see me play or review, then go ahead and suggest them in the comments.

For those interested, I’ve got a review of the new game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, coming on Wednesday, so keep an eye out for that being put up.

For now, though, it’s the start of another week and time to get back to work on my new manuscript. Have a good week all.

Another Hip Update

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about this, so I thought I’d update you on how things are going with my hip and how I’m coping with it. After almost two years, I’m finally getting somewhere, but before I get into that, let’s rewind some to how the past few months have been.

I’m still taking some strong painkillers, but the pain has worsened over the past few months. Following the advice of my first visit with a surgeon, I had been going to physio every few weeks and doing the stretches/exercises that I was shown. With this, my hip was getting stronger. I was soon no longer walking with my crutchꟷthis was a big thing that the surgeon wanted me to do before he would put me on the list for surgery. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere, but after months of physio, everything started to stagnate. I didn’t feel like I was getting very far with it and felt as strong as I was going to get. I had an appointment through for another visit with the surgeon, but this just so happened to coincide with my first day of uni. Not wanting to miss this, I had to cancel my appointment reluctantly. I explained which days I was able to do due to uni (it was only two days a week) and was told I would have to wait for another appointment, which was fair enough.

More months of physio passed, and I wasn’t feeling any further benefit from it, but I continued to go because I didn’t want any excuse for me not being on the surgery list. During this time, the pain was beginning to get worse. My GP increased the dose of my pain meds, but there wasn’t a great deal of room to do this, so they did what they could.

I waited for months for an appointment with the surgeon to come through. I rang on numerous occasions to find out what was going on and was simply told that they had no idea when I would next be fit in. I explained how the pain was getting worse and that my physiotherapist was telling me that, as far as he was concerned, I was fit enough for surgery. But still nothing. More months passed, and the pain began to get worse and worse. In the end, as much as I didn’t want to, I had to complain as I felt like I was just being messed around and just wasn’t getting anywhere, and my mental health, with suffering in constant pain, was just degrading day on day.

My email seemed to kick everyone up the arse because within a week or so; I got an appointment with the surgeon through. I only had to wait a few weeks, which was even better. During the appointment, I explained how I was getting on. I had a visit from another physio who assessed my joint and said I was “as good as I was going to get”, and when I spoke to the surgeon, he finally said I was ready to be put on the list for surgeryꟷHooray! Before I had it, though, they wanted me to have another MRI to get updated images of the injury to assess what it looked like now, as it had been quite some time since my last scan. This was fair enough; I’d kind of expected this.

The appointment for the MRI came through quite quickly, and I was soon off for another joyous scan. I’m not a fan of the MRI. I don’t mind it in theory; it’s just lying in one position for an extended period. My hip is bad enough when I can move freely, but when I have to stay in the same place for ages, it just hurts even more. Luckily they strapped my leg in position so I couldn’t move it; this meant I could relax the joint without it moving. They gave me a button to hold (the one I use in case I need them to stop or anything), and by the time the scan was over, my arms had gone numb, and I could ‘t move them, so if I wanted to press the button, I couldn’t. When the scan was over, they told me I could have moved my arms, and it wouldn’t have been a problem…useful! The MRI was a few weeks ago, and I haven’t heard anything about it; I’m assuming I won’t if nothing abnormal has popped up.

This week, however, I got a surprise. I had a letter through for my pre-op appointment. Alex tells me that they are valid for three months, so it could be that my surgery will be done sooner rather than later. Over this entire thing, I’ve known that surgery was the way it was going to go, and I was okay with that. But somehow, having this appointment through makes it all the more real. I’ve never had any surgery during my life, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit anxious about it now. The surgeon told me it’s a reasonably routine op and that I should be in and out in a day, but still, it feels like major surgery to me. As much as I’ve struggled with my mental health while suffering in such pain, this letter and appointment have pushed my anxiety up another notch. I know everything will be fine, but some part of me still worries about something bad happening. I hope I will be okay with it on the day, but I don’t know. Judging by past experiences, I will probably have a meltdown the day before and be fine on the day.

So now it’s just a matter of waiting for this pre-op appointment and being told the date my surgery will take place. Until then, I will continue doing what I do. And although my pain is still pretty bad most days, I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I think it will be a little easier to deal with. My next update will probably be after my pre-op, so stay tuned for more.

Ghostwire: Tokyo (Review)

Ghostwire: Tokyo is a first-person perspective action-adventure game that was released on 25 March 2022 for PC and PlayStation 5.

The story of Ghostwire follows a spirit of a man named KK who possesses the body of another man, Akito, after he is involved in a traffic collision. Akito has control over his body other than his right hand, which KK controls. A man named Hannya, who wears a Hannya mask, uses a spell to summon demons all across Shibuya. It is Akito’s task to hunt down Hannya and stop him. KK grants Akito special powers that can be described as karate meets magic to help him defeat the evil spirits that now infest the city and to save the many imprisoned spirits. As the player collects spirits, they are converted into points that can be used to upgrade skills to improve Akito’s moves and abilities.

Ghostwire is a game that I was looking forward to since its initial reveal; it looked like it had an interesting story and a different way of combat that would be compelling. I picked up my copy when it was on “Deal of the Week” on the PlayStation store and got straight into it.

Let’s start with the positives. The story starts off slow as it introduces the central premise of the game and its key players. It has a pretty decent tutorial regarding the main character’s skills. This tutorial isn’t as out of place and clunky as some games out there. It’s slow and not overbearing, but it tells you enough so that you can start playing with relative ease.

When first thrown into the city of Shibuya, I couldn’t help but notice just how pretty it is. It looks amazing. The colours, the lighting, and even the weather mechanics are beautiful and only serve to immerse you in the character’s environment further. The map is pretty big and traversing it, due to many fast travel points, isn’t a chore, and there is a lot to see and do, although this can be a bit overwhelming at timesꟷbut more on this a bit later.

The characters and enemies are well done. The main characters, Akito and KK, have depth, which is nice to see. Too many protagonists these days are little more than 2D caricatures. The enemies are just terrifying. The main enemy you face is slender man-like things that creep up on you with their no face and umbrellas. These come in a few different versions, but the way they move and sound is just creepy as hell. There are plenty of other enemies which are all based on Japanese folklore, for example, the Kuchisake, which is based on kuchisake-onna , AKA “Slit-Mouthed Woman”. This enemy is a tall female who wields a massive pair of scissors. In folklore, the kuchisake-onna asks its victims if they think she’s beautiful, only to reveal her disfigured grin. She then asks the question again, often maiming the victim with similar scars if they lie about her beauty or killing them outright if they lie. These added details only serve to immerse you further into the games world and add that extra bit of realism to it.

One thing I have to mention that was talked about quite a bit before release is the fact that you can pet cats and dogs throughout the city. These may seem like a superficial addition, but it does actually serve a purpose for those wanting to see all that Shibuya has to offer. The cats, when petted and talked to (yes, you can talk to the animals), will point out various things in the city that the player can collect. The dogs (much like the foxes in Ghost of Tsushima) that you can purchase dog food for will, when fed and followed, dig up coins or otherwise lead you to collectables. These are nice little additions that serve to assist you if you’re going for 100% completion.

Talking about collectables, there are a lot of them to collect throughout the map. They range from bundles of spirits as mentioned above that level your character up, shrines that increase your abilities, Tori gates, that unlock areas of the map by clearing the dangerous fog that shrouds most of the map at the beginning of the game, and various items that can be picked up and traded at some cat vendors for outfit items, music tracks and other things. You also have many spirits to either help, follow or trap. As well as the human spirits that you can do various types of quests for, there are other more traditional Japanese spirits that you follow or capture, such as the Tanuki which are racoon spirits that disguise themselves as various objects around the city. They can be discovered only by the fact that their tail is always showing; even so, they can be pretty hard to spot and require some real investigation. And something that deserves an honourable mention is the use of cucumbers to attract kappas, a kind of human-turtle hybrid spirit.

So, what about the negatives. First of all, is a big one for me; the combat. The combat is unique in its style as you use a combination of three special abilities to damage enemies. The fact that there are only these three abilities that have both a normal and charged attack but don’t have any sort of combo usage isn’t the main issue for me; it’s the issue of aiming. The enemies can move around sporadically, and the targeting system for aiming, for want of a better word, is piss-poor. It’s hard to focus on one enemy at times as the spot where you can hit things is relatively small. So sometimes, unless the enemy is in your face, all you do is miss, and when you’ve only got a limited number of times, you can use each ability; this can be very frustrating at times. I found myself just firing wildly and hoping I hit stuff. Having said this, I have to admit that I found the bow very useful, but this can also be a pain if you’re aiming at moving targets.

Another issue I found, and those going for 100% will probably find it too, is that there are many things to collect all over the city, and I feel like it’s just too much. You could spend hours purely collecting items and other collectables, and it just all gets a little repetitive. This is also an issue with some of the side quests; they can be very repetitive and confusing. It’s generally a case of finding a building or spot on the map, clearing it out of enemies, and then returning to the quest giver. This is nothing new and is an issue in many open-world gamesꟷI’m looking at you, Assassin’s Creed. As I said earlier, the map is sometimes overwhelming and may be seen as a little too big for some players.

All in all, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a fun, albeit at times frustrating, game. There is enough going on to keep you busy for hours if you have the time and patience to see and do everything the game offers. The details of the Japanese folklore are an excellent addition, and even if you know nothing about such things, it can still make sense to you. I never found myself asking why I was chasing a ghost otter over rooftops; I just did it. If this game is on your radar or even seems interesting, I would suggest that you give it a go. The game is far from perfect but is a good game nonetheless, so I’m going to give it a 7/10. I could have given it an 8/10, but the combat just lets it down a little too much.

Revisiting the Creatures Universe: Four Years Later

If you’ve been following along, you should know that the second book in the Creatures series, Back to School, is due for imminent release (25th June 2022, to be exact). It has been four years since I released the first book in the series, and indeed my first book, and it feels like a lifetime ago. Creatures was something that I had to get out of my head, and I decided to publish it on a whim. Little did I know that I would find in writing something that I love doing, and now three (soon to be four) books under my belt, I can’t see me doing anything else.

The writing of Back to School began right after I published the first book. I ended Creatures in a way that if I wanted to, I could continue the story, and I had an idea at the time where I wanted to take it, but I hit a wall with the story and only got a couple of chapters in before I had to stop. As I’ve said before, I didn’t see the point in writing something I wouldn’t be happy with. I moved on to The Next Stage, which would ultimately be my second book. I didn’t even pick Back to School up again until after the release of Blindsighted.

The manuscript for the first book in the series wasn’t perfect, so I decided I would go back through it, sort out any issues and republishꟷone of the joys of self-publishingꟷand this made me want to continue the story and made revisiting the Creatures universe seem like the right thing to do at the time. During my re-editing process, I really enjoyed re-reading the book. I hadn’t read it since its release and had even forgotten some of what happened. I would have ultimately had to end up reading it again anyway to write the sequel, but with the dual purpose of editing at the same time, I killed two birds with one stone.

When I picked Back to School back up (it was still just called Creatures 2 at this point), I finally knew where I wanted to take the story and characters. I had a clear idea of the story that I wanted to tell and how I would do it. Once I started writing it again, I just couldn’t stop. I found that the words just flowed through me and onto the page. I was having such a good time writing the old characters, and being able to create new ones and bring them into the universe was great.

Of course, like in the first book, there are many deaths­ꟷI’m not going to go into them because I don’t want to spoil the storyꟷand there are some particularly gory ones. I found that I’ve been able to flesh out the original characters more and give them a little more personality and growth; I just hope that readers will like what I have done with them. There are many new characters introduced, some major and some minor, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ve done them justice.

Story-wise Back to School follows directly from the first book, and there are many references to the original story throughout, so I would suggest if you’re planning on giving book two a read, then you should read book one firstꟷthere will be a discounted Kindle offer of the first book in the next few days running up to the release of Back to School so keep an eye out for that.

I’ve enjoyed working on Back to School so much that I’ve already started work on the third book in the series. I’m hoping that it won’t take me another four years to release it, but who knows; I could have another idea about one of my many other projects that I decide I have to work on first.

As I said at the top of this post, Back to School is out on 25th June 2022, that’s only five days away, and I’m really excited to get the book out there. Having said that, due to Amazon KDP being a little more on the ball than usual;, the paperback version is available early, so if you head over to the books page on Amazon, you’ll be able to pick up a copy early. You can also preorder the ebook version on Kindle, Kobo, and Google & Apple books.

I’m excited about the release, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people think of it. I hope that people enjoy revisiting the Creatures universe as much as I did. And like I said, keep an eye out on here and my social media for news about the offers on the first book.

Update + New Book on the Way

It’s been a busy few months, what with university, writing, and other stuff, so as much as I wanted to revive this blog sooner, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write anything worth posting. But now, with the imminent release of the second book in the Creatures series, Back to School, I thought it would be a good time for a catch-up.

I’ve now finished my first year (foundation) of university, and I have to say that I did much better than I expected, save for a few assignments (although I did pass them), I got some decent grades which I’m really pleased with. At times I found the experience a little daunting, and I did have a few very anxious times. I found it hard to start some of my assignments, but once I got going, I was fine. I found the foundation year a useful step before going into my degree proper. It gave me a taste of what to expect and also allowed me to prove to myself that I do have the skills needed to do the degree. I’m now on the summer break, and I’m really looking forward to going back in September.

As far as writing goes, it’s been a bit hectic. I was getting in somewhere I could, before and in between lectures. I didn’t have it in me to write in my spare time at home. I just felt like whatever I wrote wouldn’t be great, and I didn’t see the point in rushing it and hating what I’d written. To begin with, I was doing a lot of work on my paranormal thriller, And Then I Killed Her, and although it was going pretty well for some time, I hit a wall with it and just didn’t know where to take the story. Again I didn’t see the point in writing for it to be nonsense that I’d have to completely overhaul, so I moved on to another project. This project had been in the works for four years, and it was the sequel to Creatures. I’d started writing it as soon as the first book was released, but for one reason or another, I just didn’t carry it on. This time, however, when I picked it back up, I could see what story I wanted to tell, and since finishing uni, I have blasted through the remainder of what I wanted to say.

If you follow me on social media, you’ll probably already know that Creatures 2: Back to School is almost ready for its scheduled release on 25th June 2022, which is exactly four years after the release of Creatures. I’ve done several rounds of edits so far, and I’m now doing my final round by going through the paperback proof. This is my favourite part of the editing process and the part that I feel is most important. As I’ve mentioned before, having a physical copy of my book and going through it with highlighters and post-it notes at the ready allows me to find things that I have missed previously. I don’t understand what the difference is, but I thoroughly recommend doing it with your own books if you’re a fellow writer.

Unlike my other books, I’ve been able to put the Kindle version of Back to School up for pre-order. If you head over to the Amazon page, you can pre-order it so that it will automatically be delivered to your device upon its release. I’ve already quite a few (more than I expected, to be honest) of orders, and it’s great to see people are willing to pre-order my books. Of course, with this comes a little bit of extra pressure. I need to get all my edits for the book done and uploaded before the 21st ready for release. It’s going to be an interesting few days.

I’ve spent this morning doing some background admin for Back to School. You’ll notice on this website that it now has its page next to its predecessor, along with its current links for where to buy it. I’ve added a page on Goodreads so you can add it to your TBR list, as well as being able to link the two books as a series for easier navigation. I have also scheduled a free book promotion for Creatures on the days leading up to the release of Back to School, so if you haven’t read the first book in the series, you can grab a free copy to read before you read the sequel. This is kind of important because the new story follows on directly from the first. I do intend to make this new book available on other platforms (Google & Apple books etc.), but this may have to come at a slightly later date; but I will keep you posted with any updates on this.

Well, I think that’s about it for now; I better get back to editing. Keep an eye out for more updates.

Book Covers: How? Why? When?

Recently I’ve been thinking about book covers and what other authors do to create theirs. As usual, I asked my followers on Twitter for their thoughts:

Don’t judge a book by its cover, the old saying goes. But let’s face it, we all do. A cover is usually the first thing that you see of a book and can cause you to predetermine if you’re going to enjoy the book or not. For those that self-publish, like me, covers can be a source of great frustration and could be a stalling point for your creative process. After all, if you can’t get a decent cover for your novel, how are you going to release it?

For me, covers are a double-edged sword; I both love and hate creating them. Like many members of the self-publishing writing community, I create my own covers. Mostly because I can’t afford to pay anyone to create them, but also because, like publishing my own books, I enjoy the creative process and control that it gives me. Of course, the issue that comes up every time is my lack of skills. Now, I’m not completely clueless; I have enough skills to put together a basic coverꟷas evidenced by my booksꟷbut when it comes to more elaborate designs, I fall short of doing what I want to do. I have these extravagant designs in my head, but when it comes to putting it together, it just doesn’t work. Ideally, I would love to have someone else put them together. I could just throw ideas their way and see what they come up with, but alas, that’s probably not going to happen for a while. But having said that, there are plenty of resources that the ‘broke’ writer can avail themselves of. Websites such as Canva and apps such as Desyner are my go-to’s. They are relatively simple to use and provide a whole host of images and fonts that are free to use.

But, as I said, I also love the process of designing a cover. The cover design is something that, when I’ve hit a wall with writing, or I’ve got some time and don’t want to write, I can pick up, have a play, and see what happens. Like when writing, if I have an idea, I have to do something with it, or it will be lost forever like the fabled lost city of Atlanta (I know what I said). For example, with my current WIP, I’m about three-quarters of the way through the main story, and last week I decided to have a break from writingꟷbecause, let’s face it, sometimes we need itꟷand to do some work on the book’s paperback cover. I spent the next few hours knee-deep in PaintShop Pro and came out the other side with something not half bad. I would like to show it off, but if I’m honest, it’s just not ready for viewing yet. I’m not 100% happy with it, but that’s okay; I still have time to work on it. But what I will say is that I have that urge that I had with The Next Stage and re-design my existing covers…I need to stop it.

My covers are simple, but simplicity isn’t always bad. In fact, I find more and more books that are going the simplistic route; look at books like The Fault in Our Stars, which have a simple but effective cover. However, as I progress with my writing, I’m also getting more adventurous with the design of my covers. My last book, Blindsighted, finally had an image, which was a big thing after my previous two books, and I have a feeling my next one will be more, let’s say, complicated and (hopefully) better.

With all this in mind, though, we all know that a cover can sell (or not sell) a book. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, it is an important part of the package that, if done wrong, can be a disaster that your book might now come back from, so if you’re not confident that you can make something decent, it might be a good idea to get help with it. But whatever you choose to do, enjoy the process, it’s your book, and you should love every bit of it.

Horizon: Forbidden West (Review)

Horizon: Forbidden West is an action-adventure RPG released on the 18th of February 2022. It is the sequel to the acclaimed Horizon: Zero Dawn. Much like its predecessor Forbidden West sees you in control of main character Aloy as she traverses a land ravaged by machines and rogue AI from a terraforming system that was meant to protect the world and save the human race. This sequel sees Aloy travel west into forbidden lands, after the events of the first game, to follow the AI known as Hades, where new machines, bandits and challenges await.

The gameplay for Forbidden West is very similar to that of the first game. You control Aloy and mainly use your bow for combat alongside a couple of other tools. As you progress, you can spend skill points in skill trees that improve things like your skill in combat, stealth, potions, and control over the machines you discover. You can choose to take part in many challenges, such as hunting grounds, cauldrons, contracts for salvagers, and melee combat rings. There are a few differences, though; for example, you get the ability to glide using a holographic paraglider which can help you reach difficult areas of terrain or get you down from high up places. This is quite a good addition as you no longer have to worry all that much about fall damage. The other notable addition is the Pullcaster which allows you to pull down walls and move objects around the environment to help you climb harder to reach places. Of course, you still have the same traps, trip wires, and potions available to you that unlock as you progress through the game. Alongside the main story quest, there are plenty of sidequests that will keep you busy, some longer than others. They really add to the narrative and help you feel more immersed in Aloy’s world.

Graphically there isn’t much difference between Zero Dawn and Forbidden West. However, there are noticeable improvements to environmental locations and character design, and it has been advanced for the PS5 version. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous game, and navigating through the different environments is amazing; it just feels like it’s not really been built on from the last game.

Like the graphics, the voice acting in Zero Dawn was top-notch, and it’s the same in Forbidden West; it’s great to see some characters return and have more of a part to play. I’ve found that some of the side characters have a little more personality though now, some characters felt a bit wooden at times in the first games.

One issue that I have found is that the camera can be a bit fiddly at times, especially when you’re trying to jump to something behind you. It tends to flick from one side to another, and you end up missing the ledge and dropping down, so you have to do the entire thing again. But having said that, there really isn’t anything to complain about in this game. So far, I’m around 12 hours into it, and I’ve been loving every minute–except those damn ledges that I mentioned.

Overall I’m going to give Forbidden West a 9/10; what it lacks in some areas, it more than makes up for in others. If you enjoyed Zero Dawn, then you’ll enjoy Forbidden West. But if you haven’t, I would advise that you go back and play it, as a lot of what is going on in this sequel directly results from actions taken in the first game. I know that I’ll be playing this game for many hours/days/weeks to come, and I look forward to how the story evolves.

Chapters: To Name or Not to Name

Chapters, some books have them, some don’t, and everyone has an opinion on them, so I asked my fellow writers over on Twitter for their thoughts. Below are some of the responses.

As you can see, the responses varied. Some people like short ones, others long, others don’t care as long as they work with the story being told. Another contentious issue is the naming of chapters. So what are my thoughts?

When it comes to reading, I enjoy a short chapter. It appears to make the book easier to read. I say this because I’m one of those people who likes to put a book down when it reaches the end of a chapter. When I stop in the middle of a chapter, I don’t particularly appreciate going back into a book. It simply makes it more challenging to read. So, because the chapters are short, I can say, “I’ll just read one more,” and it won’t take me long. I’ll probably save it for another time if it’s a long chapter. I’ve seen really long chapters and ones that are only a paragraph or two long in my reading life, but the responses I received from my fellow authors/readers are correct; if it works for the storey, it doesn’t matter how long the chapter is. Of course, some books, such as Terry Pratchett’s novels, do not even have chapters. When I’m reading these, it’s all about finding that logical stopping point in the narrative, like switching to the voice of another character. Some people may find this off-putting, and I understand how they feel; it took me a while to adjust, but it works well in his novels.

When I’m writing, my chapters are pretty short. This isn’t a conscious decision, mind you; it just seems to be the way things turn out. I have, however, written a few long chapters when a scene calls for more detail or fleshing out. However, there are some advantages to this writing style, particularly when it comes to editing. It means I can keep using my “just one more” method and not stop in the middle.

The naming of chapters is also a topic of debate among authors and readers. Some people may interpret chapter titles as a spoiler for what will happen within the chapter, which could ruin their reading experience. I understand this, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ve read many books, and there’s a lot of naming, not naming, and even adding timestamps and other things. It’s never ruined my enjoyment of a book for me, and sometimes I don’t even notice what a chapter is called. I don’t read “Chapter 4” and pay attention to it, so chapter names/titles don’t bother me.

I’ve used a variety of styles in my writing. My first book, Creatures, had numbered chapters, but it was divided into three distinct parts, each of which had a name, but would anyone have read these title pages? I’m not sure. I used numbered chapters again in The Next Stage, but this time I added time and date stamps to show when the action in the scene occurred. This, I believe, not only aids the reader in determining what is happening and when, but also aids me in editing by allowing me to get the timing correct within the storey. Incredibly useful! The only thing that Blindsighted had were chapter numbers. I started naming them, but I gave up halfway through because I saw the names as minor spoilers that, in a way, ruined the mood I was trying to set in the book. However, in my most recent WIP, the second book in the Creatures series, I’m still using “Part 1, Part 2, etc.,” but I’m also naming my chapters. I’m finding it helpful to name them in this case because it helps me remember what happened in each; whether I’ll keep them in the finished manuscript is another question; I haven’t decided yet.

I believe that the debate over chapters will continue as long as books are written, and that the way they are organised may change over time. So whatever method you prefer, stick with it and enjoy writing/reading the way you want.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – 2019 (Review)

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is an action-adventure game that was released in September 2019 for Nintendo Switch, it’s a remake of the 1993 version that was released in 1993 on the Nintendo Gameboy.

This game sees Link washed up on the shore of Koholint Island after his ship is caught in a storm and destroyed. Link soon embarks on a quest to retrieve the eight musical instruments of the Sirens and to awaken the legendary Wind Fish in order for him to leave the island. This remake has updated visuals in a top-down cartoony style that lends it a certain charm. One addition to this game that wasn’t in the original is the ability to create your own dungeons and complete them for rewards.

Link’s Awakening is in a style that will be familiar to fans of the series. You are able to explore an open world and battle through dungeons to gain hearts and gear. Each dungeon has a number of puzzles for you to complete as well as bosses to fight.

I’ve been a fan of the Zelda series of games for most of my life, but somehow I missed the original version of Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy so I went into this game with an open mind with none of the nostalgia that other players might. I’ve always preferred the top-down Zelda games, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the 3D games like Twilight Princess or Breath of the Wild, but there’s something about the top-down perspective that I love, it dates back to A Link to the Past which, if you follow my blogs, you will know is one of my favourite games of all time. The design of the game is, let’s say, cute, but this cartoon-like style works so well, it’s not a million miles away from the way it looked on the Gameboy (obviously it has more colour), and so takes me back to the older games in a similar way that A Link Between Worlds did.

The gameplay is similar to pretty much every other Zelda game – other than maybe Breath of the Wild ­– in that, you explore the world freely, but mainly have to hop from dungeon to dungeon and defeat bosses while gaining gear to open up other areas of the map and dungeons. Some players might feel like it’s a tired format, but it works, and if it works then where’s the problem? One thing I did enjoy about this game is the references to the Mario games. It ranges from images or objects of characters/enemies, to side-scrolling sections that look like small Mario levels. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it does have a decent story that keeps you playing.

I’m pretty biased as far as Zelda games go, I’ll always play them where I can and generally enjoy them. I say this despite the fact that it did take a little while to finally get into Breath of the Wild and I couldn’t really tell you why. But Link’s Awakening brings the games back to the style of games that I grew up with and will always go back to. This game deserves a 10/10 from me and a definite recommendation.