Pokémon Sun/Moon 3DS Review

If I had to estimate, Pokémon is probably the video game series I’ve spent the most hours with in my entire life. From the moment I picked Bulbasaur all the way back on my 11th birthday in 1999 I knew I’d found the perfect game for me. The Pokémon series was the first RPGs I’d ever played and it’s a great introduction to the genre. The cartoon that had also started that year was also my first real exposure to anime, save for some badly dubbed 80s cartoons I may have seen. All of this combined into a perfect pokéstorm of new and exciting things and I’ve been on board ever since.

 

Moon and its counterpart Sun are the latest instalment in the main Pokémon series and while it does mark a bit of a departure to the Pokémon formula there’s still some familiar aspects to keep older fans interested.

 

I only played Pokémon Moon but Sun is effectively the same game just with a few version exclusive Pokémon and minor changes.

 

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You start off the game in pretty much the same way you always do. A nameless aspiring Pokémon trainer that moves to a new island/country with their mother. In this case you’re a new arrival in the Alola region which is basically Hawaii. Here you befriend the local professor who gives you your first Pokémon and sets up your whole journey. Your main goal is to collect and train a team of pocket monsters that are strong enough to defeat all rivals and help you eventually become the Pokémon League Champion. You do this by finding wild Pokémon in the plentiful tall grass and water of the Alolan region. Once you find a monster you like the look of you can catch it in a Pokéball then it becomes part of your team. You can then send it back out into battle to level up and eventually evolve into a stronger monster.

 

Right away I noticed some improvements from the older games in the presentation of the story moments. The camera angles and character animations are much more lively and charming than any of the previous games. The world overall feels a lot more alive. When you walk down a path you’ll hear the cries of Pokémon in the area, the various towns people will mill around instead of being motionless statues and sometimes Pokémon will randomly swoop down from the sky or jump out of a bush to battle you. All of this just really goes to show how far they’ve come since those early Gameboy days, it’s even a vast improvement from 2013’s X and Y games. All of these improvements to the world do have a cost though. I experienced a lot of slow down in any battle with more than 2 pokemon, in busy areas of the cities or when big special attacks were used. You can tell this game is really pushing the 3DS to its limits. Supposedly some of these issues can be mitigated by having one of the New Nintendo 3DS’s but I’m still rocking the 4 year old 3DS XL so I can’t personally confirm that.

 

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Speaking of special attacks that’s one of Sun/Moon’s new additions. Throughout your journey you’ll be faced with island challenges which take the place of the classic Pokémon gyms we’ve seen in other games. These challenges are quite different because instead of battling a gym leader at the end you’re attacked by an extra strong wild Totem Pokémon. At the start of the battle the Totem pokemon gets a beneficial stat boost and he can also call in some ally Pokémon making it a 2 on 1 fight. These battles became a refreshing challenge as the game went on because in previous games I’ve always felt pretty overpowered throughout. Once you defeat this boss you’re given a Z-Crystal which can power up a specific type of move letting you unleash a super attack once per battle. These Z-Attacks are pretty spectacular to watch (they’re almost as epic as a Final Fantasy summon) and can often let you easily take out a threat before they do any damage to your team.

 

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As with any good Pokémon game there is always a team of evil doers who try to thwart your progress at every turn and Sun/Moon introduces Team Skull. Normally these bad guy teams are pretty forgettable but Team Skull are beyond charming, they’re just so dumb and pathetic you can’t help but root for them.

 

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They’re basically the Pokémon world equivalent of Juggalos only a lot less gross. All of their lines of dialogue are spoken in rhyme and their appearance is always signalled by a goofy rap beat music track. The way they convey so much personality without any voice acting is a joy to experience and it’s head and shoulders above anything else in the series. There is a much bigger focus on story and characters in this game. It all flows together quite well too, you always know what you’re doing and very rarely stuck wondering where you need to go next. There are some fun twists and turns along the way but overall it felt like there was a bit too much of an anime influence and there were a lot of moments where things got a bit to ridiculous to take seriously.

 

Pokémon Sun/Moon are huge games and when you lay it all out it can seem a bit daunting especially now that we’re up to a total of 802 Pokémon as of this release. The amazing thing is that Pokémon games can be played at almost any level of complexity. You could really dig into the minutia and weigh up all the strengths and weaknesses of your Pokémon in every battle or you could probably just over level your starter Pokémon so that it outclasses everything you battle and ignore strategy altogether. It offers something to people of all skill levels which is probably why it’s been one of Nintendo’s most successful and enduring franchises. Whether you’re a returning Pokémon Super Nerd or a new fan brought in after the phenomenon of Pokémon GO I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to enjoy.

 

★★★★★

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What the Hell is the Nintendo Switch?

You may or may not have seen that Nintendo dropped a trailer for their new console set for March 2017, the Nintendo Switch!

There have been credible rumours circulating for what feels like forever about what this console is but this is the first time Nintendo has officially confirmed it. Thankfully the trailer wasn’t just a teaser, it does answer a lot of questions but also raises some new ones. 

What We Know

True to all of the rumors, the Nintendo Switch is basically a halfway point between a handheld and a home console. It’s like the DS and the Wii rolled into one. You can seemingly play full versions of all the games on your tv or on the go with very little interruption. This means no more rushing to finish a mission before you leave the house. You can just take it with you as long as you’ve got a bag because this doesn’t look like it’ll fit in many pockets. 

There hasn’t been any official dimensions revealed by Nintendo at the time of writing but Ars Technica has been doing some snooping and have figured out some rough dimensions. It looks as though the screen with the two controller parts (or Joy-Cons) attached is about 10 inches x 4.2 inches. It’s similar in width to an iPad or Kindle Fire HD 10 on its side but a little bit thinner vertically. I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable taking this out to play on the bus, maybe if I had two seats to myself. I was definitely expecting the handheld part to be closer to a 3DS XL but Nintendo have their reasons for these dimensions.

All of the processing power of the console is contained in the tablet portion. People have been assuming that the dock that connects to the TV may handle some of the processing power when the Switch is docked allowing for increased performance. However, the day after it was announced Nintendo spoke IGN and told them that “The main unit of the Nintendo Switch is the unit that has the LCD screen”. This is a little worrying to me but Nintendo hasn’t tried to be the most powerful console on the market since the N64, their signature visual style can go a long way on underpowered hardware. 

Nvidia announced that they will be partnering with Nintendo on the console and the Switch will contain a new custom version of their Tegra chip that they use in their Nvidia Shield tablets. While this hardware may not be as powerful as a PS4 it’s certainly leaps and bounds above any Nintendo handheld. 

Cartridges are back! We see a quick shot in the trailer of someone inserting a little SD card looking game into the tablet. A move away from discs is quite exciting. Solid state storage is much more reliable and loads quicker than most disc based methods. Larger sized SD cards are becoming more affordable so you can easily match the storage capacity of the Blu-ray Discs PS4 and Xbox use. 

What We Don’t Know

Does the 3DS have any place in this Nintendo Switch future? I hope Nintendo just goes all in with the Switch. I want all of their awesome portable games like Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Monster Hunter, Dragon Quest and many more all available in glorious HD and ready to play anywhere. Sadly I could also totally see them running the 3DS along side the Switch because they’ve never been afraid of a little brand confusion. 

Nintendo have recently confirmed that the Switch won’t be able to play any physical versions of Wii U or 3DS games so they haven’t ruled out some kind of backwards compatibility in a digital sense. Speaking of digital, I really hope they don’t expect us to buy all of their Virtual Console games again. I think I’ve hit my limit for how many times I’ll re-buy Super Mario 64, Xbox One is an shining example of backwards compatibility done right and I hope Nintendo have taken notice.  

It will be interesting to see what kind of price this comes in at. At the time of writing Nintendo’s competitors Microsoft and Sony are selling their consoles at £250.00 – £300.00 depending on hard drive size and model. I’d expect the Switch to be in a similar price range, Nvidia Shield tablets are around £200.00 by themselves so with the controllers and the Nintendo Seal of Approval that seems reasonable. 

Hopefully some of these questions will be answered in the not too distant future. Gone are the dark days of the Wii U and motion control, it’s finally an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan again. The Nintendo Switch seems like the right step for them in this current console climate. Instead of trying to compete with Microsoft and Sony on power they are offering something that neither of them can provide at the moment. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll be there day one. 

The Top 5 Halloween Video Games

Ah, October is finally here. Tis the season of spookery where we can indulge in all manner of occult entertainment. Video Games have a unique quality of being able to immerse you in another world and this can be really effective in a scary setting. These games I’ve picked aren’t necessarily the scariest but I do think they embody the Halloween vibe and they’ll definitely get you in the October mood.

 

5. Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon (2013)

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS

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Mario’s not the only one who can tackle ghosts, ever since his first solo game in 2001 Luigi has been linked to the spirit world. While Mario would take on ghosts with a thundering “Yahoooo!” Luigi is more likely to run from spooks and possible cry hysterically.

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This is part of what makes the game so interesting. At times you feel like you’re forcing Luigi through this haunted house filled with ghouls of all shapes and sizes. He shivers and jumps whenever anything goes bump around him, the character animation is so expressive. Your task is to suck up all the ghosts using Luigi’s ghost vacuum the Poltergust 5000. Sometimes you’ll have to solve puzzles to reveal the ghosts or just check every draw until one pops out (much to his chagrin). Luigi’s Mansion is the video game equivalent of a fairground haunted house… Dare you enter?

 

4. Costume Quest (2010)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS

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Costume Quest is an underrated gem, it’s also one of the only games I can think of that’s entirely set on Halloween night. You and your friends are out trick or treating when all of a sudden these goblin guys come out and steal everyone’s candy! Even more unfortunate for your character your little brother/sister (depending on your gender choice) is kidnapped because they were dressed as a giant candy corn. So you’re forced on a quest to rescue your missing sibling before your parents find out. On your way you’ll have to fight your way through various goblin enemies but the great thing is that when you enter into battle all the kids transform into an exaggerated form of whatever costume you have on.

You start off in a cardboard box robot outfit but when you’re in battle you’re an anime style mech that shoots missiles, wear the Statue of Liberty costume and you can heal everyone with a blast from her torch and my personal favourite is the french fries costume which turns you into a Tim Burton-esque spider with fries for legs that can stun enemies with a shower of grease and salt.

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This game is just a fun time all round. It’s not especially hard so anyone could enjoy it and there are lots of goofy moments hidden around the areas so it really rewards exploration. It’s not a long game either and can probably be picked up cheap these days. It’s the definition of short and sweet… you know? like candy?…I’ll see myself out.

 

3. Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC

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The Mortal Kombat series has always taken heavy influence from horror and action movies. In this latest instalment they ratcheted up the movie references and started adding some classic horror characters into their roster. By the time all of MKX’s DLC had been released you can play as Jason, Leatherface, Predator and the Alien Xenomorph.

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People have been debating for decades about “who would win in a fight…” regarding all of these characters and in MKX is the first time we got to test some of those theories. What makes it even better is that they’ve all been lovingly crafted to include lots of movie references in their abilities and moves. You also can’t forget about the Mortal Kombat cast of characters which includes many weird, wonderful and monstrous people. Put all this together and you’ve one hell of a hyper violent monster mash on your hands and on a dark Halloween night, what more could you ask for?

 

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Platform(s): Xbox 360/One, PS3, PS1, PSP

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night practically oozes atmosphere from the moment you start the game. The opening sees you reenact the ending of the first NES game, facing off against Dracula himself within minutes of starting up. It’s a scripted fight that you can’t lose but it really feels good to blow up Dracula with a rocking guitar soundtrack as your backing.

After this flashback you’re given control of Alucard (the son of Dracula) after he senses a disturbance at the castle. There you’ll have to fight your way through all manner of creatures including wolves, zombies, skeletons, living suits of armor, bats, venomous plants, floating acid skulls, medusa heads, hunchbacks, creepy Lovecraftian horrors and even Death himself shows up. Drac’s castle has everything you need to throw the best Halloween party in the world.

This game is like a good horror movie. It has amazing visuals but some admittedly cheesy dialogue throughout (the intro conversation with Dracula being a highlight) but Castlevania’s hallways full of macabre hell spawn are definitely worth a visit for any intrepid vampire killers.

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1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC

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I don’t often see Batman come up when people discuss their Halloween viewing but he totally should be. The Bat’s rogues gallery is the stuff of Halloween nightmares. A killer clown, a human scarecrow, a crocodile man hybrid, a mad hatter, a roided pro wrestler and this game is all set in the insane asylum that they all call home.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an excellent game whether you’re a Batman fan or not. It can also be devilishly creepy when it wants to. You spend the entire game exploring the asylum after all the inmates have escaped. In between fighting thugs you spend most of your time investigating the tragic histories of famous batman villains. You never know what unsettling situation is round the corner but the game really knocks it up a notch when you meet The Scarecrow.

After taking a dose of his fear toxin Bats starts to hallucinate in some pretty creative and sometimes 4th wall breaking ways. Rooms start to repeat, Batman’s forced to relive the death of his parents and at one point the game resets and the intro sequence starts again making you think the game may be broken.

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You’ll never forget your first trip to Arkham Asylum, it’s masterfully crafted fun house of terror and what I think is the best game to get you in a creepy Halloween mood.

The Top 5 Darkest Pokémon Fan Theories

Being one of the biggest video game series of all time, Pokémon has built up an understandably huge and rabid fanbase. In the few years between main game releases fans can sometime get a little bored and come up with theories to explain things that you never even knew needed explaining. Granted, a lot of these veer off heavily into fan fiction territory but some of them raise legitimate questions. So grab a bowl of creepy pasta and settle down for the darkest fan theories in the Pokémon world.

 

Disclaimer – There will be many PokéPuns throughout this post, I will provide explanatory links for the uninitiated.

 

5. Gary’s Raticate didn’t make it off the S.S. Anne

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Everyone who’s played Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow will remember this rival battle. The S.S. Anne is a pretty tough area, there’s no way to heal on the ship and just as you think you’re done battling all the passengers Gary Oak shows up to halt your progress. In this battle he uses a Raticate that you’ve fought before a couple of times before but unfortunately this is the last time it’s ever seen in the game.

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Some fans have theorised that Raticate was badly injured in the battle and through the confusion of being stuck on a cruise ship Gary wasn’t able to get him to the Pokémon centre in time. This is given credence by the fact that the next time we face Gary he’s in Lavender Tower which is essentially a multi storey Pokémon mausoleum and Raticate is missing from his party.

 

It’s a fun story to explain where it went but it’s more likely that Gary just boxed his Raticate like many of us did because it’s not a very good Pokémon. Or maybe his Pokémon we changed so he wouldn’t be too difficult to fight when you get there. He certainly doesn’t act sad when you meet him again, he even makes a pun that your Pokémon don’t look dead and goes on to say that he’s at the tower looking for a Cubone. Unless of course he’s using humour to cover his guilt? We may never know.

 

4. Gengar is Clefable’s dark reflection

 

Being a ghost type Pokémon makes Gengar’s very existence a dark idea. Nobody wants to think of poor cute Pokémon dying. People have noted some spooky similarities between Gengar and Clefable which have lead them to the conclusion Gengar may be a shadow version of Clefable come to life.

 

The similarities start with the body shape, their silhouettes are very close and the PokéDex entries log them at very similar heights and weights too. Their main types are also a mirror of each other, Normal type moves can’t hit a ghost type Pokémon and vise versa. According to early development art these two were also some of the first Pokémon ever designed so maybe they were supposed to be linked in some way.

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The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t explain either of their respective previous evolutions. Cleffa and Clefairy don’t seem to have anything in common with Ghastly and Haunter. Plus none of the in game material makes any reference to them being related in any way. One thing is that Gengar’s name is probably a reference to a doppelgänger which is a spirit that mimics people so maybe there is some truth to this spooky theory.

 

3. Ditto is a failed clone of Mew

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Being the first super secret Pokémon in the game’s history and supposedly the progenitor of all Pokémon life, Mew has always set imaginative minds racing. Back in the 90s kids would swear blind that you could find him by using Strength on that truck next to the S.S.Anne and you would try it because Mew was so mysterious and there was no internet back then to check. This failed cloning theory however does not seem as Farfetch’d when you look at some of the in game evidence.

 

It is well documented through some journal excerpts you find in the Pokémon Mansion on Cinnabar Island that Mewtwo was cloned from the newly christened Mew after scientists discovered the endless possibilities of its DNA. Throughout these “years of horrific gene splicing and DNA engineering experiments” it’s entirely conceivable that one of these failed attempts could have resulted in a Ditto. That’s not all we have to go on though, Mew and Ditto both have almost identical heights and weights, they are both gender-less and they also share the same colour for their normal and shiny variants. Ditto’s whole gimmick is that their only move is transform which copies the opponent’s appearance and moves. Who’s the only other Pokémon who can learn this? You guessed it, Mew. The last piece of evidence is that from Pokémon Yellow onward you can find Ditto in the Pokémon Mansion which is believed to be the remnants of the Lab where Mewtwo was created.

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Unfortunately people finally asked the Pokémon creator if this was true at a Q&A and he had no idea what they were talking about… But isn’t that what he’d want us to think? Never give up on the conspiracy! Wake up Mareeple!

 

2. Cubone is an abandoned Kangaskhan cub

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Cubone’s story is already one of the darkest and saddest things in the game. Categorised as the lonely Pokémon it is said to wear the the skull of its deceased mother, at night it cries mournfully which causes its skull helmet to rattle hollowly.

 

There are many references in the PokéDex to Cubone’s mother but it has never been formally named as another Pokémon species. This has lead people to theorise that Cubone could be an abandoned Kangaskhan cub. Kangaskhan is a kangaroo-like pokemon that is always pictured with a cub in their pouch. They are said to fiercely protect their young at any cost, perhaps even the ultimate cost in some cases. Perhaps the abandoned cub was forced to use the skull and another bone for protection thus starting off a new evolutionary line which would eventually lead Cubone to evolve into Marowak. Other people think that Marowak was originally supposed to evolve into Kangaskhan but this idea was scrapped late on in the game’s development. Again, the Pokémon creators have never confirmed any of these claims so we’re just left with our imaginations running wild.

 

1. Ash is in a coma throughout the anime series

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Now this is one definitely crosses a line into the fan fiction. It seems to have originated on creepypasta.com which is a site where people share ghost stories. This theory concerns the Pokémon animated series and doesn’t really have anything to do with the games. In the first episode of the show the main character Ash and his Pikachu are attacked by a big flock of Spearow. In this bout Pikachu uses the power of a thunderstorm to to launch a massive attack on the angry birds which results in everyone getting knocked back by a big explosion. Some people think that in this moment Ash is put into a coma by the electric shock and the rest of the anime plays out in his head.

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The theory is that Ash’s subconscious is trying to protect him from possible brain damage which also lets him live out his Pokémon trainer fantasies in piece. After this incident in the first episode the tone of the following episodes do change a bit. The series bad guys Team Rocket are a lot less menacing after this and become more of a comedy mild annoyance as the series goes on. In the now over 900 episodes of the show Ash has never physically aged a day but other characters have. The police officers and medical staff all have the same appearance and name, this is flimsily explained away by them being identical twins in the show.  His traveling partners could also represent aspects of himself. Brock being a surrogate parental figure and Misty, his ideal love interest. It might also explain why Ash always saves the world and meets all the legendary Pokémon yet nobody knows who he is and he never gets any recognition for it.

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Overall this bit of fanfiction is a bit heavy handed and pretty easy to poke holes in but it would make the Pokémon anime one hell of a dark story if true. If you want to read the full coma story you can get that here.

 

So that is what I think are the darkest Pokémon fan theories on the internet, there are plenty more if any PokéFans out there have the stomach for it but for everyone else here’s the Pokémon theme song to cheer you up!

 

No Man’s Sky – Review PS4

If you’ve tried to follow any of the news about this game over the 3 years since it was announced you’re probably pretty confused as to what this game is. The release of No Man’s Sky has been irreversibly marred by controversy due to one of the creators Shaun Murray being a bit vague about whether or not there is multiplayer. People have been unfairly slamming the game with low user review scores, trying to claim refunds on grounds of false advertising and most disturbingly sending death threats to the development team. I can say up front with 100% certainty that there is no multiplayer at all in No Man’s Sky and honestly I don’t think that would have made people happy anyway.

 

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So what is this game? At its most basic level NMS is a survival game, you explore an environment looking for resources to repair your ship, power your suit and upgrade your items. There have been plenty of similar games like this (e.g. Minecraft, Don’t Starve, The Long Dark) released on PC but NMS’s gimmick that set’s it apart is its huge universe that you can freely explore.

 

Lost in Space

 

You start the game by taking control of a faceless spaceman/woman/robot who wakes up next to a crashed ship on a random planet. This serves as the game’s tutorial mission, you need to repair your ship so you can leave the planet. The interesting thing about this task is that the planet is random so you can have a pretty different experience to another person. I started out on a horrible lifeless planet with acid rain that was constantly ticking away at my suit’s life support. You have to collect various elements like iron and plutonium by mining rocks and crystals then combine them into the missing ship parts. This can take a couple of hours depending on how lucky you get with resources in the area, it becomes a sort of balancing act though because some of these same resources are also used to recharge your life support. The start of this game is very confusing, it doesn’t really make a good first impression. I think it leaves you to figure out way too much on your own which just frustrated me especially because I had to keep running back to my ship to avoid the acid rain.

 

Once you fix your ship you’re finally free to start exploring SPAAAACE! I got the hell off my planet first second I could, once you get past the atmosphere you should start to see some planets around the current start system you’re in. You can fly to any of these planets which is a video game dream people have had for years. Your overall goal is to journey to the center of the universe but other than that you’re just supposed to explore the endless planets.

 

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Throughout the marketing cycle they have been boasting that the game contains over 18 quintillion planets which is an almost unfathomable number if you’re not an astrophysicist. Most people playing the game will probably only see around 50-100 before they’re done so the game never really feels that big while you’re playing. I am in no way discounting the amazing technological achievement this game is however, the developer Hello Games have done some amazing things here. In the way Minecraft can randomly generate a landmass for you to play on NMS’s universe has been built in a similar way. Hello Games figured out a formula that creates planets all with random weather, animals, plants, alien buildings and oceans which is how such a small team has created something this huge. Once this had all been generated it was locked in place so everyone playing the game right now is in the same starting universe.

 

Fear of a Meme Planet

 

One of the only interactions you can have with other players is naming things you discover. If you’re the first person to discover something whether it be a star system, planet, creature, plant or rock you will have the opportunity to name it yourself. If by chance someone else were to land on your planet they would be see what you had named it. In my hours of playtime I didn’t come across anything other people had discovered, it seems as these kinds of interactions are extremely rare. How disappointing that barely anyone will get to explore the majesty of my planet Harambe IV in the Dark Naruto 420 star system but I guess that will make it a really special moment if you do find some evidence of another player.

 

On paper this really does sound like one of the greatest games of all time but unfortunately it’s just not that much fun. I ended up getting stuck in a rut just doing the same things over and over again. I would enter a star system, land on the nearest planet, look for a inventory upgrade, sell all my extra items then do it all again. There are definitely others things I could have been doing but none of it felt worth it.

 

NMS dog thing

 

They give you a very vague path to follow which I guess you could call a story but unfortunately it all amounts to nothing. After a while I found myself skipping planets which is not something I wanted to do but they don’t give you enough incentive to explore. A lot of the planets have the same buildings and alien ruins on them and there are no quests or missions to found on the planets. If you meet another alien they usually just give you a random item recipe or teach you a bit of their language so you can eventually understand what they’re saying. The aliens have actually been my favourite part of the game. They found a way to make them really charming even though for most of the game you can’t understand what they’re saying to you.

 

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This game works much better as a passive activity, if you’ve got some music or a podcast to listen to while you play you’ll probably see less of NMS’s downsides. This game was just a bit of a disappointment for me. I didn’t have any ridiculous expectations like some other people on the internet but I did expect it to be more of a rewarding experience. I’ll definitely come back to it from time to time because it can be a beautiful game and it is a pretty amazing technical feat.

 
★★★☆☆

Clicktastic Special: Cookie Clicker and AdVenture Capitalist

Grab your finger sized wrist bands and cue the 80s montage set to You’re the best Around by Joe Esposito ’cause you’re gonna need them to train up those clicking fingers for this clicking bonanza! 

There has been a recent trend for this most basic of games, and today I’m going to be looking at two of those, Cookie Clicker, which is browser based and AdVenture Capitalist, which you can download from Steam. Both are free to play.

Cookie Clicker

0 cookiesWhen you first open up the webpage you’ll see a giant floating cookie. It looks pretty tasty. Clearly, the thing you want to do most is to click it. When you do, because you just can’t resist the draw of the cookie, you’ll be rewarded with one cookie, click it again and you’ll get another cookie. You get the picture. Once you’ve clicked it enough times you’ll notice a little button light up at the side, allowing you to exchange some of your hard earned cookies for a Cursor, which will mean you get 0.1 cookie per second (CPS). The more cursors you buy the higher your CPS, meaning you will get more cookies at a speedier pace. It doesn’t just stop at cursors, there are all kinds of buildings, like Wizard Towers, and Grandmas and Prisms you can buy to boost that CPS, and reach the dizzyingly high numbers and buy more buildings. The price of the building increases with each one you buy, but then you’re also getting more cookies the more you have 

To make things a little more interesting there are upgrades up for sale as well, they can upgrade one type of building or the CPS as a whole, but there’s loads of them and they all have funny titles which give you a little smirk when you buy them. Some of them are much more valuable than buying more buildings, so it can sometimes be a toss up as to which one you want to go for. Every once in a while you might see an extra special golden cookie pop on the screen, you’re gonna want to click on that too, because when you do you’ll get a super duper bonus, which can boost all production for a few seconds or it might be a lump sum of cookies, who knows. Only the click will tell!

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Heavenly upgrades

After a while you’ll have a few different buildings under your belt and you’re doing pretty well, but you think that you could have done better and want to try again. No problem, wait for the little blue line at the top fill up, click it and BOOM! You just got yourself a prestige level. This is called ascending and it gives you a permanent 1% increase in your CPS and you get one heavenly cookie to spend in the heavenly upgrades shop, which has all kinds of nifty and very special upgrades that always stick with you, even through and Ascension. You can build up your prestige levels before ascending to get a nice big boost afterwards.

My two favourite things, and the most addictive thing about the game, though are the achievements. Like the upgrades they all have funny names that have been well thought out, but most importantly they are achievable, most are centred around getting x amount of this type of building, so it was easy to just concentrate on one type of building for a while, ascend and go on to the next one. The other is the humour in the game, as I said before, all the achievements and the upgrades have witty titles, there are also fake newspaper headlines rotating at the top which give you a chuckle every now and then.

AdVenture Capitalist

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Adventure Capitalist works in much the same way as Cookie Clicker, apart from having one big cookie to click, each individual building needs clicking, after so many seconds (or minutes or hours as you go up) you get the monetary reward, which can be quite laborious after a while, but you can buy managers for each building which auto clicks it for you, so you can concentrate on buying more of them and more upgrades.

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Welcome to Mars!

Another major difference is the planets. In AC you can travel to the Moon! And Mars! Which is pretty exciting, they come with their own set of challenges and one planet does not affect the other. The Earth base goes at pretty much the same rate as Cookie Clicker, but the other two have some more strange levels, which can make for a more interesting game as you have to come up with very different strategies for each planet. I found the Moon level the most fun as I found it escalated up to the high numbers quickly, and I find it very, very fun to be able to buy many buildings all at once. 

AC has it’s own version of ascension, as you go along you’ll attract angels, which you can claim at any point to get their +2% on production value, you get the choice to reset or not, though not resetting will set you back you twenty gold a rare currency in the game, which can be bought for real money. I don’t really like this ‘freemium’ aspect, but it’s not too essential to the game and you can still play without having to shell out for the gold as you do get rewarded with it every so often, though this is very sparingly.

Clicker games are the ultimate in casual gaming, they’re great for having a little click here and there, set things up, then you can leave them for a while and when you get back you have a decent pile of cookies or money to buy more things with. If you get bored with it, you can reset and try buying buildings or upgrades at different times, see if that gets you more things quicker. A bit of a drawback of Cookie Clicker is the fact that when you close down your browser it doesn’t keep building up the cookies for you (unless you get the heavenly upgrades, which give you a percentage of your cookies per second whilst the game is closed), so you need to keep your browser open and your computer on. Adventure Capitalist, however, does keep ticking over when it’s closed so you can turn off your computer for the night and wake up a nice windfall.

They both have their positives and negatives, though over all I preferred Cookie Clicker, it managed to bring a lot of humour to something so simple, and the achievements are way better and I found it to have it’s own little cookiverse. There’s a Wikia and a community out there sharing hints and tips on the best strategies, and the best ways to hack the game (cheating is not only tolerated but encouraged). The graphics and animations were far better as well. Though it could be a little annoying that I needed to leave the browser open to get the full CPS Cookie Clicker is the game for me. AdVenture Capitalist has the different worlds to explore and makes things a little more interesting with making you come up with different strategies, but ultimately it wasn’t quite a fun as Cookie Clicker.

If you’re looking for something to fill the time and go achievement hunting, if you like tycoon games, but want something bit more streamlined then these games are for you. You’re just limited to these two, there are loads out there. Most of them are free to play and have small differences so you can have a try of a few and find one that fits right for you.

★★★★☆

Stardew Valley – PC Review

I don’t have that much of a history with farming games. I’ve tried the odd Harvest Moon game over the years and I am a fan of the Animal Crossing series but there’s never really been a farming game that held my interest for very long. Perhaps the living through the dark days of Farmville on Facebook soured me on the whole concept.

 

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But Stardew Valley is nowhere near as insidious as a crappy Zynga Facebook game, it’s actually one of the most pleasant gaming experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

 

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In Stardew Valley your character starts out working a soul crushing office job for the evil Joja Mega Corporation. Just as your character is at their lowest they remember a letter they received from their grandfather informing you that you’ve inherited the family farm in the picturesque town of Stardew Valley. So you quit your office job and move out in the country to start your new life. You arrive late at night and only have time to chat to the mayor before you turn in. Once you wake up on the first day of spring this is where the game really begins.

 

The first thing you’ll notice is that the farm is a little bit of a dump. The ground is covered in rocks, grass, trees and fallen logs and you’ll have to clear a path so you can actually plant anything there. Luckily you start off with a full set of tools you’ll need which was the first pleasant surprise because usually you have to scrounge around for your tools in Animal Crossing and that’s always the most frustrating part. Every time you crack a rock or chop a tree down you also get resources like stone you can use for building, hay you can feed to your animals or tree sap you can craft into fertiliser.

 

This makes even the most mundane tasks fun because there’s an extremely satisfying pop sound every time you pick something up, it just feels so good. Speaking of sound the music in this game is great, every season has a slightly different theme but they’re all relaxing and very easy to get stuck in your head. One of the spring songs is so catchy I miss it when it changes to summer but it just gives me something to look forward to when spring comes back.

 

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Daily Grind

 

Once you get into a bit of routine most of your days will consist of getting up and watering/harvesting your crops then selling them so you can expand your farming operations. There isn’t really a set goal in the game, you’re pretty much free to make money however you want. You get some quests that will slowly introduce you to some of the different mechanics like building a coop for chickens or encouraging you to explore the landscape.

 

One of the things you’ll want to explore is an abandoned mine on the outside of the town. This is where you can get ores which you’ll need to upgrade your tools and to build some of the more complicated farm buildings and machines. You can find precious stones here too that you can donate to the museum for rewards or sell for some extra cash. This is also where the game becomes more of an rpg. There are monsters down there which you’ll need to take out before you can mine in peace and you can also equip your character with armor and better swords to make it easier. The deeper you go down in the mine the better the potential rewards can be so any items that speed up your spelunking adventures really help.

 

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Time Enough at Last

 

Almost every action you take in the game slowly drains your stamina meter, this means you won’t always be able to do everything you need to do in one day. Your character also can’t stay up past 2 am which I found out the hard way while exploring the mine. If you exhaust this meter or stay up too late all that happens is you wake up in the doctor’s office but they do charge you about 500 gold which at the start can be a bit steep.

 

You can easily use half of your energy just watering your plants in the morning so you really have to plan before you head off into the mines. You can take food with you to top yourself up but you don’t want to be eating too many crops either. Sometimes it can be a lot to think about but there aren’t really any strict time limits, you can keep playing forever because the year just loops.

 

One thing you do have to watch out for is the seasons because you’re spring crops will instantly fail if you haven’t harvested them when summer comes along. I got caught out by this on my first summer but it’s the kind of thing you’ll only mess up once. The game has a bit of a harsh learning curve at times, I do think they could have included some more tutorials as there can be a lot of trial and error when you first start out. There have been a few times when I’ve had to consult the Wikia just to figure out the basic game mechanics which I don’t particularly mind but it might put new gamers off.

 

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Rancho Relaxo

 

The main thing that keeps me coming back to Stardew Valley is that it’s one of the most relaxing games I’ve ever played. Granted there can be a sense of urgency when you’re delving deep into the mines and it get’s a bit late but even then there isn’t much of a penalty if you mess anything up. The game lets you do everything on your own time which is great if you haven’t got the chance to play for hours on end. It also borders on addictive at times, I always find myself wanting to just do one more day which can often turn into about 20 more.

 

On it’s surface Stardew Valley seems like a simple game but there’s immense depth to be uncovered if you’re willing. It’s all the more impressive when you learn that this game was all made by 1 person (Developer Eric Barone). I really can’t recommend this game enough, its PC specs are so low almost any PC can run it and at the time of writing it was £10.99 on Steam so it’s definitely value for money.

 

★★★★★