Thursday, 15 August 2019

Forager (Nintendo Switch) - Review

It's been a while since I've been as obsessed with a game as I have been with Forager this week. I received the code last Friday, before a busy weekend that included two of my best friends getting married. So Sunday was the first chance I had to give it a look.

So hungover and tired I booted it up, thinking that I'd give it ten minutes and get back to it the next day after the hangover had subsided (or in a few days, as is often the case since I've hit my 30's). My kids were happily playing on their Switches, which allowed me to play this game for FOUR GLORIOUS UNINTERRUPTED HOURS before they asked for food.

I couldn't believe how fast that time had gone. Or that my children hadn't argued in that time. I didn't even feel any remorse at how long I had spent playing. This was the most surprising thing. You've all heard of Mum guilt? Well I have gamer guilt too. Basically, whenever I manage to get a few hours of uninterrupted game time (which is actually fairly rare) I make myself feel awful by thinking about all of the things I could have done with that time. I could have baked with the kids, gone for a walk, tackled Mt Un-Ironed clothes, or even played a different game - maybe one more story driven, or one that's deemed a classic. When I've spent time playing a more simplistic game, this feeling is usually pretty magnified (Farm Together I'm looking at you).

But as I put my Switch on the dock to charge whilst I hastily made my kids a sandwich I realised I couldn't wait to get back to Forager. It had it's hooks in deep.

I'm writing this on Thursday afternoon. Schools are out for summer which means that I am not working and my kids are off school. The weather is crap. We have spent almost every day in the house playing Switch. And unbelievably Forager is the only game I have played in this time. My Switch is still showing it as 'first played 4 days ago' but I will not be surprised if I have already spent 30 hours in Forager.

So, a little more about the game. The store page lists games like Stardew Valley and Terraria as influences and it is easy to see the similarities between these titles. However, going into this thinking it is going to be like Stardew Valley can do Forager a disservice. Whilst the influence is clear, the games are actually quite different, with Stardew Valley taking a slower, more methodical approach. The Forager Steam page also states that this is an 'idle game that you want yo actively keep playing' and I feel like this description more accurately portrays what Forager is than it's influences do.

Upon loading up the game your character is in the middle of a little block of land. There's no real tutorial, you're told to build a furnace and then left to your own devices. This could have been pretty daunting, but luckily Forager is a fairly simple game to get to grips with. Use the tools at your disposal to collect resources. Use those resources to build things like forges, inscription tables and factories - all of which unlock more tools for you to make.

As you progress you will level up, giving you skill points to spend on unlocks. Many of the buildings are hidden in the skill tree, but you level up fast enough that you don't go without a building you need for too long. You can also customise the look of your little sprite. Mine is currently sporting a fetching set of Mercy Wings and a crown, because why not?

Money can be spent on buying new pieces of land, that surround your initial plot. There are a few different landscapes and each are home to different dungeons, puzzles and people. Completing dungeons will give you special items, whilst helping the people and solving the puzzles yields a large treasure chest. The game has a limited amount of these large treasure chests and actually keeps track of how many you have found. As of writing this, I have found 41 of a possible 46 treasure chests and I am working on the next three.

The dungeons are a lot of fun to explore. They're each in a different biome of the map and thus are styled differently. You can finish a dungeon without fully exploring it by finding the main big blue treasure chest, which will place you back outside. I found myself re-entering at least two shrines to make sure I'd scoured the whole place for enemies and treasure.

The enemies aren't very challenging initially, but they do get bigger and badder as the game progresses. Luckily you can upgrade your sword and the damage you do with the Spirit Orbs you unlock throughout the game. Thankfully you can also get more hearts too, as you start with a measly three.

There are wild animals roaming the land too, that you can click on to get resources. Chickens will give you eggs, cows will give you milk (if you have a bottle) and sheep will give you cotton. There are also beautiful moose like creatures that will give you gems, obviously.

I went in to Forager expecting a slightly different game, which actually has worked in it's favour. I initially wanted it to be really like Stardew Valley, but now I have played it I realise that it's better because of it's differences. Lets face it, if I want to play Stardew Valley I can just load it up. Forager offers up something different, albeit not completely different. It's faster paced and for me it has more of a focus on completion. I want to tick all of the boxes in the items list off, whilst in Stardew Valley I want to take things slow with no real objective.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent so far with Forager, and I know that I will be playing it for a while longer yet. This game will be the perfect game to flick back into in between playing some of the Switches bigger, more story focused titles.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Little Friends: Dogs & Cats (Nintendo Switch) - Review

Usually my daughter is pretty unimpressed by the games I am reviewing. She likes gaming and loves her Nintendo Switch with a passion but her favourite games on it include a game where you make towers from cake. She's 7 so I'm letting her off, for now.

So it's a rare thing that I get to impress her with a review. She was quite excited by Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 - until she actually played it with me and realised that I am the head chef from hell.

When I got the opportunity to receive a code for Little Friends: Dogs & Cats on Switch I knew I had to take it. My son gets to reap the benefits of my reviewing a lot more than she does and I had an inkling she'd love this game.

Little Friends: Dogs & Cats is basically Nintendogs for Switch and I'm sure we can all admit that we loved those games at some point, even I did when I was a teen with much more spare time than I have now at my disposal.

My daughter let out a squeal when I showed her what had downloaded whilst she was at school and immediately opened the game. The game opens and you can pick which dog you want. She went for a Chihuaha and called it Sofia and spent the rest of the evening lovingly tending to it's every need.

Once you reach level 15 you can adopt more pets from the Friends Plaza and each one will have a favourite food. You level up your friendship level with your pets by playing with them, petting them and feeding them.

You can also unlock achievement stamps for doing certain tasks - like walking a certain distance, petting your little friends and teaching your pets tricks. There are also different levels of competitive frisbee games where you can earn a little money, and an opportunity to practice your skills in the park.

My daughters favourite thing about this game is that you can dress up your pets. The clothing shop is full to the brim of ...err...interesting things you can dress your animals in. My daughter delighted in picking out outfits for her dog and two cats, (Rosie and Elsa) as you can see by the pictures below!

You also get to personalise your home in game with new furniture, wallpapers and flooring. This is the bit I prefer - I don't really like dressing up the animals with reindeer horns like my daughter does and would much rather make the house look nice. Luckily we both have separate saves so we didn't have to argue about it! For me, there's just something really weird about putting clothes on an animal, fake or real. My daughter has no such qualms and has delighted in buying her animals an array of crazy outfits.

At the time of writing this review my daughter has spent more than 25 hours playing this game. I can't claim to have spent anywhere near that much time on it. As much as I can see the appeal of this game for young and old alike I'd rather spend my precious game time on something a little more involved. The joy it has brought to my daughter is well worth the price of admission though, and if you have a child (or adult) who would love nothing more than to have a house full of pets they can dress up to their hearts content then this game is a no brainer.

I asked my daughter if there was anything she didn't like about this game. Her answer:

'You have to clean the toilet and that's just a bit weird.'

Spoiler alert kiddo, the toilet in real life doesn't clean itself either.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

World War Z (Xbox One) - Review

I'm sure we can all agree that it's been a while since any of us played a decent zombie slaying game. A few years ago zombies were the done thing, seemingly slammed into any game to make a quick buck (I'm looking at Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare here - though admittedly that was quite a lot of fun). They were popping up everywhere and we were lapping it up, spending untold amounts on the expansion packs for extra maps in the latest Call of Duty's zombie mode. 

Zombie games were truly mindless escapism for me. I'd party up with some friends and we'd mulch through Left 4 Dead together. I had a go at Dead Rising, which never really gripped me - but admittedly my favourite part of the first game was taking photo's. Case: Zero however, the Arcade game released on the Xbox 360 was one of my favourite games of that gen. 

Maybe it's because life generally got busier or maybe it's because there were more open-world games released that caught my attention, but I soon found myself shying away from zombie games. I found myself bored of them and have still yet to complete Season 2 of Telltale's The Walking Dead, despite loving the first one. My few precious hours a week gaming for my own enjoyment are usually spent on my Switch now that my kids are old enough to commandeer the Xbox. The little bugger's don't even go to bed much earlier than me anymore. *sob*.

I'd read World War Z a long time ago and had loved the book. The film, not so much but that's by the by. To be honest I'd forgotten that World War Z the game was happening. I had remembered hearing about it, but it seemed like such a long time ago that I assumed it had been cancelled. Luckily the PR people behind it sent out a fair few emails in the run up to the game releasing, so I sent in my request. 

World War Z's campaign is separated into four episodes in different parts of the world. You can go it alone, but it was super easy to join in with three randoms and jump straight into the first episode set in a New York subway. 

Now obviously this game isn't going to be a huge story driven game, but I have to admit I found more story than I was expecting. There's quite a lot of choice in terms of who you play as, and you unlock their own back stories by playing as them, which is pretty neat. You also unlock tiers within the six different classes on offer - gunslinger, hellraiser, medic, fixer, slasher and exterminator. Each of these classes has different strengths and weaknesses and they're a lot of fun to play around with. Each and every weapon has separate upgrades too, making your weapon of choice stronger the more you use it. 

This first level starts off easy enough, but if someone on your team isn't pulling their weight you will soon notice. Luckily enough for me I was in a team of people who had all played the game much more than I had. 

There was a point in that first level that had me in awe. If you've played it you likely had the same experience. The zombies in World War Z - or 'zekes' as they're known in this universe - are fast and numerous. They will clamber over everything in their path, resembling a giant wave. The first time I saw this I honestly just watched it. I thought the animation of this was brilliant. Then the bastards came crashing through the glass and into the building we were holed up in. 

We had set up a couple of traps and were all equipped with plenty of weaponry but a few of us went down and needed reviving. They were running up the stairs towards us and I thought we had a handle on them. Then I realised I was receiving damage and turned around. Behind me the zombies had formed a what is basically a zombie pyramid and had used this to climb up and surround us. 

Honestly, that first level of World War Z really made me fall for this game. I was surprised by it. Seeing that first huge wave of zombies crashing down the road was unforgettable. I had doubted that this game would feel the same as either the book or the film and I was wrong. 

Continuing through the campaign will see you visit Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo in turn. There isn't really much to say about the objectives in any of these areas. Let's be honest if you were in the middle of World War Z, would you be bothered about anything other than fighting for your life? There are, of course, some objectives but these are mostly used to lead you around the map and keep you in certain areas for long enough that you can get swarmed. 

Yes this can get repetitive. But what game can't really? In my spare time I'm currently playing Assassin's Creed: Odyssey - a huge open world game that has fort after fort to 'complete'. This gets repetitive too, but I'm still playing it 40 hours later. 

World War Z looks better than I was expecting too. I mean this is a game that literally has hundreds of moving parts on the screen at any one time, but I never saw it stutter. Is it the prettiest game I've ever played? No. But it certainly couldn't be described as ugly and there's a level of detail I honestly wasn't expecting. 

There are a few online modes too, which I have to admit I haven't ventured too heavily into, choosing to replay the campaign levels instead. I don't often get time to play online anymore, but there seems to be plenty here to keep the more active online gamer happy. 

The long and short of it is whether or not you have fun with a game and I really have had fun reviewing World War Z. I challenge any of you to play it and come away honestly stating that you were bored. I'm betting that the numbers would be low. 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Outward (Xbox One) - Review

My son was very excited when Outward turned up in the post. We had decided earlier that week that we needed to put a little bit more effort into spending time just us two, before he's a teenager that doesn't want to admit to gaming with his Mum. We don't game together half as much as I'd like to these days, mostly because his friends will spam him with invites to play Fortnite and fill the split screen that I'm using until I give up and let him do it. This seemed like a good game to try out together after his little sister was in bed, and would hopefully be less frustrating than playing Lego games with him when he was smaller. 

It wasn't.

In fact, it may well have been more frustrating, but for once this wasn't down to my son. The days where he apparently couldn't follow simple instructions are long gone (hallelujah!) so there was no repetition of 'go to the left. No, the left. THE LEFT!' which made a nice change. We changed his settings to appear offline too (why didn't I think of this sooner?!) so my screen was my own. 

YES Outward is a couch co-op game - not many of those around anymore are there? I think this fact was the biggest draw for me and my son. It's nice to be able to sit down and play a game together, sat together, you know, the old fashioned way. A lot of the couch co-op games we do have (mostly Lego) have been played to death by now. We needed something new. 

We loaded up and made our characters. And I'm just gonna say it - man this game is not pretty. I don't want to descend into slating a game just because of how it looks, but the graphics on offer here make the game feel much older than it is, which is a shame. I'm not as fussed by graphics as my son is, but even I was taken aback. It's been a while since I've played a game that isn't visually stunning. That isn't to say I've stayed away from games because of their graphics - not at all - but more that games in general just seem to be presented better these days. 

The tutorial is huge and weaves around a big map which allows you to skip over certain parts if you want to. This game is pretty in depth, with a lot of different mechanics to learn. If I'm honest a lot of the tutorial went in one ear and out of the other. I felt like it was too much information - without much time to digest it. I learn by doing, and really you could just read the prompts and continue. I would have liked it if the tutorial required you to do a number of different things in succession to make sure you had a firm enough grasp of the concepts. Instead there was a room per concept, with a quick info panel to read and a dummy in the room to try it out on. It didn't really give you an idea on tactics. We wandered around what we hope was the whole of the tutorial level and entered into the game proper. 

The story is pretty interesting, but as ever I won't spoil that here. Suffice it to say that the world they've created has some pretty interesting ideas. Unlike some other RPG's you do not begin this game as a hero. In fact you're a very normal somewhat downtrodden, citizen of a town called Cierzo. 

In order to leave town you will need to collect some items that you will not be able to survive without, a weapon, a backpack and a waterskin. We quickly found these items and ventured outside. 

We died. 

You come to within the walls of Cierzo. My bag was somewhere near the gate but first I had to take care of the negative status' affecting my character. Bandages were applied and we took it in turns to rest on a bedroll. And we left again. 

We did better the second time, but still ended up being taken back to Cierzo to recover. Outward is a really challenging game, that required a lot of trial and error on our part. It's safe to say in our first hour, we didn't get far. 

My son really enjoyed it though. And I have to admit I am surprised. I thought that he would lose patience with the repetitiveness required to get better but I was wrong. He picked himself up and tried again, and even gave me a pep talk on not giving up. And when we finally killed out first monster he high fived me gleefully, more proud of this accomplishment than he's ever been of a kill on Fortnite. 

We're since spent many more hours exploring the world of Outward together and I have to admit they've been some of the best hours I've spent gaming in a long time. The game has many issues and I have to admit, I don't think I'd play it alone. But playing it with my son has been an immense pleasure that we've been unable to find anywhere else. It's a game that challenges both of us, which has allowed him to help me out of sticky situations. This doesn't happen with the Lego games we usually play together. 

It isn't the prettiest game you'll play this year. Hell, it probably isn't even as pretty as some games you played ten years ago. But the story is interesting and the world they've created is great. It's not massively populated, but it works well. And this game isn't going to break the bank. 

Friday, 12 April 2019

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 (Nintendo Switch) - Review

I first played Cook, Serve, Delicious when it was an iPad game and I was hooked immediately. It was fast-paced and frantic and I loved that about it. Couple that with control over the menu and having to think about the "buzz" your restaurant received and I played nothing but that game for hours on end. It was basically all I used my iPad for.

So when Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 came out on PC in 2017 I had to play it. Something didn't gel right with me though, and I spent nowhere near as much time with it as I thought I would. On paper it sounded right up my street - more food items, more challenges - but something just wasn't clicking. 

Fast forward to 2019 and it turns out the game is coming to Switch! Which has fast become my favourite console because it is actually accessible to a Mum of two game-obsessed kids who keep stealing my Xbox One. Not only is it coming to Switch, but it's coming to Switch on my birthday! I reached out to the developer with my fingers crossed and happily received a code. 

I downloaded it immediately and in the week prior to launch (and my birthday) I put in numerous hours of burger-flipping and latte making. I work in a school and the code happily coincided with my two week Easter break so I played it A LOT. I even played it whilst I re-watched Game of Thrones from the beginning ready for the new season. I am hooked. 

I don't understand why I didn't feel so positively about the PC version of this game after playing it on my Switch for the last fortnight. In 2017 I (mistakenly) believed that the original iPad game was the best version of the game and that the sequel had not managed to come anywhere near as close. Playing it again, two years later on a console I adore has completely changed that for me. And I haven't even been using the touch screen controls that have since been added. The button controls work really well. I mean, yeah it can be stressful to try and find the right button fast - especially when you also play Xbox and the X and Y buttons are switched which leads to much confusion - but it only adds to the pleasure of the game. 

There is so much content here too. The new console releases are up-to-date with the current PC build which is fantastic. There are so many different restaurants you can work in in the tower to unlock things for inside your own restaurant that, honestly, I don't know how anyone could get bored. All of the different restaurants offer different cuisines, which in turn, offer new ways to cook. 

The game also offers a co-op mode which is perfect for the Switch. Though be warned, it could quite easily lead to domestics. I played it with my son and ended up delegating him to just the chores. I couldn't handle watching him slowly read the ingredients and take an age to press the corresponding button. Hey, nobody is perfect. I'm working on it. 

Yes you don't just get to cook gorgeous looking meals in this game. As in real life a food prep station comes with chores. Take the trash out, do the dishes and flush the loo that your customer can't quite seem to get the hang of. Typing it like that it sounds a lot like my actual life with the tiny humans I've spawned. Luckily I don't have to set many mice traps in real life though. 

I am having so much fun with this game and honestly don't see myself getting bored. At just £12.99 this game is a steal for how much content there is and I can't see how anybody at all could say they didn't have fun playing it. The Switch is the perfect home for it, but for you guys who haven't yet bought one Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 is also out on Xbox One and I'm sure it will provide just as much fun. And that version will have achievements! I'm fairly sure I'll end up double-dipping and if that's not telling you how fantastic this game is, I'm not sure what will.