Unpacking: A Calming and Relaxing Experience (Review)

Unpacking is a puzzle game released in November 2021 for Windows, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One, and in May 2022 for the PlayStation 4 & 5.

The game is divided up into multiple chapters for the years 1997, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2018 and within each year, your task is to unpack boxes from your move and place objects in the correct place while doing so. Each year represents a significant life event, such as moving to college, getting your first apartment, and moving in with your partner. As you unpack the boxes, a story unfolds about the character and their life.

So-called ‘cosy games’ are a big thing at the minute, and Unpacking is just one of many that are out there. It’s so-called because it doesn’t have any big scary’s or difficult quests; it’s purely about having the most relaxing experience possible while playing a video game. Some people, myself included, just don’t find there to be enough in many of these games to keep (or even start) playing them.

On the face of it, Unpacking doesn’t have a great deal of gameplay, and the lure of simply unpacking boxes and putting things on shelves or in cupboards just didn’t do it for me initially. However, once you start playing, you realise that although unpacking boxes is the main game mechanic, there is also a storyꟷalthough subtleꟷto be told. As you find items, you begin to learn about the character you play and their life. You follow them through the years until the game ends in 2018, presumably because the character is settled and will no longer move home.

The different levels are mostly set in different locations, with differing numbers of rooms to unpack. The rooms include bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms, pretty much any room that you might find in an apartment or house. Although there are multiple boxes in each room, as you unpack, you find some items that are in the wrong room, so you have to flick between them to place them in the correct room. This isn’t all, though. This game is a puzzle game in that, although a lot of items can seemingly go in multiple places, there is actually a correct location to place them. Once you’ve unpacked all the boxes in the level, red rings around objects will tell you that they’re in the wrong place, and in some cases, it can be a real challenge to figure out just where the game wants you to put them. Although the game has the element, compared to a lot of games, the puzzle aspect isn’t particularly difficult unless, as with some objects, you have no idea what in the hell the thing is, never mind where in the house it goes.

The graphics in Unpacking are very well done pixel art, and especially for the earlier levels, this serves to ground you in that year. The rooms and objects are exceptionally well designed, and some objects, like the DVD boxes, have so much detail on them you can tell which movie they areꟷthrough the game, I spotted Donnie Darko and Jaws, to name just a couple.

The sound is pretty pleasing too. There is no spoken dialogue (I believe this was done, so it didn’t matter if you could understand it or not), and there is little in the way of written text. The sound of the objects being placed and different snippets of music is all you get, so the fact that it’s done so well (in the PlayStation version, it makes use of the controller speaker) really adds to the overall immersion and feeling of the scenes in which you play. One nice little detail was that if you turn music on in one room, you can still hear it, although dulled, in other rooms in the apartment/house.

Unpacking isn’t a difficult game, and if you’re a trophy hunter, it’s a pretty easy platinum, with having to place certain objects in specific locations or interacting with others in a certain way. But the game has enough there to keep you playing, and I think if you’re in a period where your mind is loud, it would be a good game to play just to get out of that headspace.

Another thing that I think really helps is the way it handles. The controls, at least for the PlayStation version, are really easy to use. Even the main mechanic is a mouse pointer it moves smoothly across the screen, and even selecting items to be moved feels fluid.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, Unpacking is a game that I will rush to play, but I found the entire experience calming and enjoyable. So much so that I’m going to give it a higher rating than I thought I would with a 9/10. And I will say that even if you’re not a fan of games like this, you should give it a try. I’m sure that you won’t regret it.

Purrfect Gameplay: Stray (Review)

First off, I apologise for the title; it had to be done.

Stray is an adventure game that was released on 19th July 2022 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. In the game, you take control of a cat that has fallen into a world of robots as it traverses the new environment to return to its family. Throughout the story, you meet numerous robots with different stories and tasks for you to carry out, all while doing things that a cat in the world would do, namely purring, sleeping, and knocking things off shelves to the annoyance of those around you.

Stray is one of those games that was a must on my to-play list as soon as it was announced. Of course, there wasn’t a great deal about it, to begin with, but the fact that it was a game you play purely as a cat intrigued me.

On day one of its release, Stray was made available on PlayStation Plus, so of course, I had to get straight into it. The game itself starts off quite slowly as you get to grips with controlling your friendly feline. It shows you how to jump to different surfaces (one of the game’s main mechanics) and how to navigate the strange world that you are thrown into. It’s a calming pace that never really leaves the game, even with those moments when you are more at perilꟷI’ll come back to that in a bit.

When you reach the robot-inhabited town, you learn that there is an elevator that will take you back to the surface, where hopefully, you can reunite with fellow cats after you fell down a hole. The robots themselves are mainly friendly and helpful, and through the slow unveiling of the world, you come to discover that humans are long dead after a pandemic, and only the robots now inhabit the world.

At the start of the game, you discover a small floating robot, B-12, who becomes your companion and helps translate the robot’s language as well as helping you collect objects from the world to further quests, and even gives you hints on what to do next.

As you explore, you discover numerous different locations, from robot towns and cities to sewers that have their own unique challenges for you to overcome. The quests range from collecting items to give to certain NPCs to scaling buildings to fix apparatus, along with sections of stealth where you must sneak through areas undetected to reach your goal.

Now for the peril. This comes in the form of strange creatures known as Zurks that, in certain sections of the game, will attack your cat in swarms. It’s your task to either outrun or just plain avoid these creatures. There are also the occasional sentry bot enemies which will shoot at you should they detect you. Attacks by these enemies are pretty much the only way you can die. There is no fall damage as your cat will refuse to drop to another surface unless there is a clear way down, so this makes scaling buildings and objects that bit easier.

I’ve played about 5-6 hours of the game and so far haven’t really come up against any negatives. But the one thing I will say is a little annoying at times is the camera. You’re allowed to rotate the camera at your leisure, but at times, if an object is in the way, it may block off the camera, so you can’t really see what’s going on. The story, although simple, is well written, and you really do find yourself invested in getting your purry friend back home. The environments are beautifully crafted, and the robots themselves all look unique. The controls are easy to get a handle on, and the gameplay mechanics don’t have anything complicated within them.

As I said earlier, Stray is a calm experience and one where you could spend hours watching your cat curled up on a pillow, listening to the gentle purring through the DualShock controller speaker. There is enough within the game, alongside the main story, that will keep you busy for a good few hours. For example, you could spend quite a while exploring all the first town has to offer on and above ground level. I don’t know how much replayability Stray will have, but if you’re going for the platinum trophy, you could probably have at least a couple of playthroughs and still enjoy the experience. I’m going to give Stray a solid 9/10 and say that anyone, lovers of cats or not, should play this game. It’s a well crafted game and one that deserves recognition. Me? Well I’m looking forward to continuing my playthrough soon.

Slasher Horror Returns: The Quarry (Review)

The Quarry is an interactive horror game released on the 10th of June 2022 for Windows, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox one/Series X/S.

In the game, you take control of a series of characters who are counsellors at a summer camp as they try to survive their last night at Hackett’s Quarry. They are faced with supernatural creatures and crazed, violent locals. Throughout the game, you make numerous choices that impact character development and relationships, along with the plot and, ultimately, it’s ending. Depending on your choices, each of the characters can survive the night or die.

The Quarry is a spiritual successor to Until Dawn and is inspired by teen slasher movies like Friday the 13th. The game features a large cast that includes big names like Brenda Song, Ted Raimi, David, Arquette and Lance Henriksen.

I enjoy games where your choices have an impact on the characters and story. So games such as Until Dawn, Heavy Rain, and the Telltale games are generally a safe bet for ones I will enjoy. I was drawn to The Quarry straight away for its play style, plot and theme, as well as its excellent cast, so I was looking forward to getting stuck into it. The game starts as you control two characters on their way to the titular summer camp to spend the season as counsellors. As usual, it’s at night, and something forces them off the road. From the get-go, there is a creepy feeling to the setting, and when things start to flash up in your periphery, you begin to get an idea of what to expect through the rest of the game. Most of the game relies on quick-time events when action is taking place, but there are also times where you directly control the characters in a more free roam type way, allowing you to investigate the environment and find collectables and key items that move the plot forward.

The graphics are great, and the lighting and ambience really set the game up for a creepy playthrough, although, at times, it can be difficult to see what’s going on due to the darkness of certain scenes.

The characters are interesting despite most of them being the typical tropes that you see in most slasher movies. However, through your time playing, you begin to feel something for most of them, and there is a genuine want to keep them alive as long as possible. The threat of the enemies feels real and adds that survival horror element to the game. Having to act quickly during the quick time events means that you have to really be paying attention to what’s going on to figure out the best move, as some will have dire consequences.

I like that through your exploration you discover things in the scenes that set up events later in the game. These can include things like ladders, windows or doors that you unlock or register the presence of and make use of during quick-time events later on in the story. If somehow you miss one of these or interact with it incorrectly, this can have repercussions on the characters and story. In your explorations, you can also find tarot cards, which come into play after each chapter as an old woman, a gipsy-like character, explains and shows future events based on the cards you pick up. Again, if you miss any of these, you might miss out on clues on how to react to certain situations. This adds that little bit extra to the game and makes you explore the scenes that little bit more.

I’ve played a lot of games of this ilk, and unfortunately, The Quarry doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre. It has a really interesting story when it gets going, but it’s still one that is pretty similar to games and moves that have come before it. Having said that, I was engrossed in the story from the beginning, and although I was yelling at the screen for characters not to wander off on their own, I found it drew me into the character’s world. Not everything is revealed at the beginning, and like the characters you control, you’re left to figure out what is actually going on at the summer camp.

The cast is excellent, and it’s terrific to see people like Lance Henriksen, David Arquette, and Ted Raimi. But there is something a little bit off about the acting in this game. All the people involved can do so much better. I don’t know if it’s the writing where it falls down or maybe the motion capture animation, but something is just wrong with most of the stilted way that dialogue and acting comes across. I’m not going to lie; it does detract slightly from the horror and suspenseful nature of the game.

One addition to the game I like is the way several tutorials are presented to you. Rather than just having the button presses pop up to the side of the screen, The Quarry has short animations that show and describe how to perform specific actions. For example, one game tactic is to hold your breath while an enemy is close to avoid detection. The animation for this shows a character hiding from an enemy while holding their breath, but also shows what happens when you release it too soon, namely death.

The Quarry has its good points and bad points. However, for me, the good outweighs the bad, and I mostly forgive it as it is trying to be a campy 80s slasher flick after all, and what’s cheesier than that genre of movie? I would recommend this game for lovers of story-driven interactive games like Until Dawn or the Dark Pictures Series, and I give it a solid 8/10.I will return to this game to see what other endings are like.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human (Review)

Dying Light 2: Stay Human is an action horror action role-playing game released in February 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.

In this sequel to 2015’s Dying Light takes place 22 years after the Harran incident, which saw the death of every one of its citizens. After this outbreak, the GRE (Global Relief Effort) synthesised a vaccine for the virus, putting an end to the zombie pandemic. However, the GRE continued to experiment with the virus in secret and in 2021, a mutated variant escapes the GRE labs and starts a second pandemic that spreads across the entire world. The previously created vaccine and Antizin are ineffective against this new strain, but it can be held in check by the use of ultraviolet light. The game is set in the year 2036, 15 years after the latest pandemic, where civilisation has dwindled to only a few settlements, with the European city of Villedor being the last known city on Earth. In Dying Light 2, you take control of pilgrim (someone who travels between settlements), Aiden Caldwell, as he traverses the city of Villedor trying to find his sister after they were separated during vaccine trials when they were children.

I’ve wanted a sequel for Dying Light since I played the original back in 2015, and the fact that we’re still waiting for Dead Island 2 means that I have to find something else to fill the hole left by its absence. But how is it? Well, I’m here to tell you…

The gameplay is very similar to the original game in that you traverse the city using your parkour and melee weapon skills. There are a number of different infected that you come across throughout the city, including degenerates, biters, virals, howlers, goons, and bolters, each requiring a different strategy to either avoid or take down. The game employs a double skill tree system that allows you to improve either your combat or parkour skills with new moves and abilities. While you play, you also have use of a sense ability that allows you to see usable objects such as doors, chests and bags, and ziplines, as well as ay enemies that may be in your immediate area; this can come in handy when your scavenging through dark zones (buildings infested with infected) or just hopping roofs for gear and crafting ingredients. Similar to the original game, the day is split between night and day; in this sequel, however, it’s not just the increase of infected that can get you at night; the lack of UV light can also cause you issues. Aiden is infected to a level where if he stays out of UV light for an extended period of time, he will turn. As you explore the city, you can make use of UV lights at settlements or bases, as well as crafting or using items that increase your resistance to the virus. This new addition means that you have to think more about what you’re going to do and when and makes you consider what items you take with you when you head out, and really makes the subtitle of Stay Human make sense.

The story is a pretty standard story; the main character wants to find a loved one, there’s nothing new here as far as that goes, but the way that you go about finding your loved one is up to you. There are a number of points within the game when you can choose which path you take; this can be deciding between helping a character or not or as big as assigning a faction to a recently liberated key position. This sort of choice wasn’t present in the first game, which made it a fairly linear story. I’m all for games where you have choices to make that make a real difference to the way the world treats your character, so this was a big plus for me. With some of the characters and locations, I can’t help but be reminded of the Metro series of games (in a good way, of course), especially the fact that the Peacekeepers, or PKs, control the metro stations and lines.

The voice acting isn’t anything special. When you’ve come from games like the Mass Effect series or The Last of Us, Dying Light 2 doesn’t really give you anything that even compares to these games, but it’s not bad per se; it just seems a little flat at times. This doesn’t really detract from the experience you have playing this game, there’s enough going on that you don’t really notice a few lines of poor dialogue. I would say, however, that it is an improvement on the first game.

Combat, oh the combat. What can I say except smashy smashy. Okay, there are long-range weapons in the game too, but the majority of fighting that you’ll be doing, especially at the start of the game, will be using various melee weapons that you beat or slice things to death with. This, of course, is always fun, but the infected in Dying Light 2 seem harder to fight than those in the original; they seem to be able to move faster and are more agile when it comes to climbing objects after you. There are human enemies as well, and these also think and react to what you do, i.e. they dodge your thrown weapons, and if you keep attacking in the same manner, they will just block you, this again makes you think about your plan of attack more than you did in the previous instalment.

There is a lot to explore in the city of Villedor, from normal buildings to dark zones, settlements and gang hideouts. As you parkour your way across rooftops, you can liberate windmills, water towers and power plants that you can assign to different factions within the city; this will affect how the other factions will treat you; they may allow you safe passage or attack you on sight. The parkour is very much the same as it was previously, but with the skill tree, you can improve aspects such as jump distance and climb speed, which can really come in handy when you’re running away from the infected, let me tell you.

Overall, there is a lot to like about Dying Light 2; yes, it has its flaws, but they are few and far between, and what it lacks in things like voice acting, it more than makes up for in gameplay and combat. This is a big game with a lot to do and see, and it’s well worth every hour that you’ll spend slicing limbs of infected and parkouring across rooftops with a devil-may-care attitude; it gets a shiny 9/10 from me and a hearty recommendation to any lovers of the first game or of this genre in general, it builds on everything you’ve seen so far.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits (Review)

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure game released in September 2021 for PlayStation 4, Playstation 5 and PC.

In the game, you control Kena, a young spirit guide travelling to a sacred mountain shrine. Throughout the game, she collects little fuzzy spirit companions called Rot, who help her solve puzzles and traverse the environment. In order to be allowed to have safe passage to the shrine, a masked spirit tells her that she must help several trapped spirits throughout the land.

Kena is a game that Alex first noticed and told me about; although I liked the sound of it and couldn’t deny it looked like it would be a good game, I still wasn’t sold on it, but I ended up buying it for Alex at Christmas, and it wasn’t long before we were both well into the game. The design of the game was excellent, the environments were beautiful, and the levels were well designed. Unlike some games in a similar vein, the puzzles weren’t too complicated, and you could tell it was probably designed for the lower age groups of players, but that’s not to say that adults can’t find something to love in it. One thing that I think everyone will love, I know Alex and I do, are the Rots. The Rots are small fuzzy black creatures that follow you around the game and are used to perform certain actions like opening doors or moving objects and within battles performing certain attacks. The little buggers are so cute and lovable, and the fact that you can buy them all sorts of hatsꟷyes, hatsꟷthat don’t do anything of real value, they just make the Rots even cuter. The hats range from elf hats to pumpkin tops, mushrooms and various masks, and they add to the charm of the game.

The gameplay mechanics are quite simple and easy to grasp, so there’s no time spent frustratingly trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Even if you put the game down and come back a few days later, it’s easy to pick back up where you left off. The puzzles aren’t of a high level of difficulty either, and most involve getting your Rots to do something like moving rocks to deflect the magic from your cane or pots to stand on to reach higher levels. But this simplicity isn’t a bad thing; in a way, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a game that’s too overly complicated and makes you want to angrily throw your controller at the screen.

The characters are well crafted, and besides, the high quality of voice acting allows you to be further immersed into a world where you’re surrounded by spirits, good and bad.

The combat at times is a bit clunky and difficult to control; the camera spins around in a way that means you can’t see what’s going on. Although it’s easily rectified, it can be a bit annoying. But with the assistance of your little Rot dudes, the foes can be defeated

There is a lot in this game to love; even I, who isn’t the biggest fan of 3D platformers, which this game is at a base level, enjoyed this game. It’s not a long game, so if you have a couple of decent game sessions, you’ll probably finish it quite quickly, but there is quite a bit to do other than the main story, such as collecting “spirit mail” this is mail that you have to deliver to the home in the town it’s meant for and therefore allowing more spirits to rest. You can also try to find all the flower shrines, cursed chests and Rot hats; this alone will take you a few hours.

I wasn’t sure about this game, to begin with, but I’m glad that I gave it a chance, and although there could have been a little bit more to it, it’s still a fun game and well deserves a rating of 8/10. I would recommend this to anyone, and I’m sure if you’ve got kids, they would love it too.

Addition:

For the trophy hunters out there, most of the trophies are easy to obtain; they’re either from completing sections of the story, collecting all of something, e.g. Rot hats, or performing certain moves or attacks within battles. The one that is the killer is finishing the game on “master” difficulty. Some of the battles are hard when playing it on the normal setting, but on master, they feel almost impossible at times. But, if you keep chipping away at it, you’ll get it done.

Books I’ve Read This Year (Reviews)

Books, books, books. Books everywhere. They’re on bookshelves, in drawers, on my phone and my Kindle, and yet so far this year, I’ve read nowhere near as many books as I would have liked to from my list. This is because of a few reasons, some being writing my own stuff, gaming and reviewing and now going to University. That being said, since I’ve started uni, I’ve managed to get a few books under my proverbial belt, and in this blog, I will be talking about some of those, and although I’ve had issues with some of them, I would recommend each and every one to you, a fellow reader. The below books, by excellent authors, are ones that you have to check out.

Just as a side note, I’m not used to reviewing books so these are a little short. I’m hoping once I start doing them I can do more detailed ones.


Dear Annabelle by Scout Dawson

Five years before his wife’s death, a grieving widower made a promise to his beloved Annabelle that he would paint the “real” her, to immortalize her image forever. Drowning in grief, he commits to his promise, but the cost of perfection is greater than he could have imagined.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dear Annabelle is a gothic tale the likes of Edgar Allan Poe. The imagery created in this macabre short story is exquisite in its excellence. It’s a quick read and one every lover of Gothic horror needs to read.


Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith

In these three dark and brooding short stories, set in and around the US state of Nevada, a cast of disparate characters struggle with greed and temptation, and the cursed lure of easy money… an old man goes in search of his son in the aftermath of a terrible storm, a couple down on their luck make a life-changing discovery and an ex-cop has one last impossible decision to make

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

This trilogy of dark stories are expertly woven into noir tales of greed, struggle and temptation. Each story stands on its own as it follows its respective characters through their struggle, with each one being linked in some way to the others. I read this as part of my kick with short stories, and I wasn’t disappointed. My one minor qualm is that I would love to have seen these characters more and perhaps have a little bit more to each story. But despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Nevada Noir, and I’d recommend it to any lover of dark, gritty tales.


Early Adopters: Rogue Elements by D.T. Wilby

They thought they were going to save the world…

Maybe someday.

First they need to save themselves.

Over a decade ago, a group of misfits underwent genetic editing under the auspices of scientific research. They thought they could make a difference. They thought they were going to be superheroes, but MiliTech turned them into their own living, breathing weapons.

Outside of their honeymoon period, they are disavowed and relentlessly pursued by their creators. Disparate, they do the best they can to stay one step ahead, stay out of each other’s way and maybe do a little good where they can.

But as MiliTech’s net closes in, these Early Adopters need to make a choice – will they keep on running forever or will they take a stand? Can they work together to free a forgotten hero from a golden age, or will they just make everything worse all over again?

The age of gods and monsters is upon us as the Early Adopters Universe begins in Early Adopters: Rogue Elements – an anthology of nine entangled stories developing into a single explosive narrative. An action packed love letter to science fiction comics and graphic novels.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Dark Twist on the Suberhero Genre. Going into this book I’d already read the “Star Crossed” short story that is a part of this collection, and it made me want to read more of this universe.
In this collection, each story is separate compelling read with we’ll crafted characters and environments but at the end they all link togther into an intertwined and tense finale.
Wilby has a firm grasp on his universe and leads you through it with a dark vision.
I look forward to reading more about these characters and settings.


Kerwall Town by S.D.Reed

After two strangers appear in the dilapidated 70s’ town of Kerwall, the lives of every resident change. Members of the community are forced together as the number of bodies and secrets increase with every passing moment. As tensions rise and the inhabitants reach breaking point the question is raised: is it Kerwall’s newcomers draining its inhabitants or are they simply slipping through the cracks which have existed all along. With knowledge as their only tool against the world’s deadliest predator, the hunt for power commences. Kerwall’s hope rests on the shoulders of its youngest residents, forcing them into the depths of the earth, questioning everything they’ve ever known.
Will Kerwall ever be safe, or is the whole town trapped in the grasp of these outsiders?

Warning: DO NOT ENTER ALONE. Drag someone with you and if you are unable make sure to leave with your sanity in tact.

This nod to classic horror will leave you feeling as isolated as every character, constantly checking over your shoulder until the very last pages. Beginning the universe in which Reed’s future novels will take place, Kerwall Town demonstrates the scope of genres which can be expected from him going forward.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

An absolutely riveting read, this book draws you into the town of Kerwall from the very first page in a very Kind-esque manner. The world and characters are so intricately crafted that you believe that you are a guest in the town and are walking it’s streets.
The plot is a slow boil with many a creepy scene that keep you reading.
My one criticism and why I didn’t give this excellent book 5 stars, is that the ending appears and disappears so quickly. The book builds up to a conclusion that doesn’t give the rest of the story justice and, for me, it fell a but flat.
Having said this however I would recommend that you visit Kerwall and enjoy your stay, while you can.


Thank you to all the wonderful authors out there that continue to put their work out there. I know that it’s not easy at times but you persevere despite that. Thank you.