Hate Plus

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Steam Page

Hate Plus is the sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story. I played Hate Story on the recommendation of a good friend and I rather enjoyed it. I didn’t write a blog post review on it though because… I don’t know why. I wasn’t really in the habit of blogging at that point. But to put it simple, it’s a bit of a visual novel. You have some degree of interaction in the story, but overall you’ll be reading the same story every time. There are some options that are available throughout the story that change some dialogue, change some endings (I think the first game had 5 or 6?) and the joy is in the core story as well as how the character endings change. Fun stuff. Personally I tend to read visual novels for the women plot and while I tend to be bothered by adding clicks between me and the women plot I generally enjoy these.

I give this game(?) a VERY tentative thumbs up.

Hate Plus… is arguably a visual novel. It’s a visual novel in that you will be reading a story and it’s actually a pretty good story. The story is presented through decrypted diary entries which is great as a narrative device. Even though you’ll probably read the entries out of order, it’s actually somewhat engaging. It actually feels like the diary entries are more fun to read out of order because then we can piece together the visual novel ourselves. The stories are short enough (there’s one main story and a couple of sub-stories) that it’s actually possible to use this narrative style. This method doesn’t scale up well unless you’re really good at tying threads together with skill on the order of George R. R. Martin. These stories are only tangentially related, in A Song of Ice and Fire I don’t think there’s a single unimportant set of details. Yes, even the food scenes.

The characters are all fairly interesting with realistic interactions. I like how the character design is really thought out. There’s not so much on character development (the game is too short) but that’s fine, that’s not the point. These diary entries are just about… life. I guess it makes sense considering that the purpose of diaries is to write about life but I don’t really know any other way to put it.

The biggest flaw in the game is execution. The core of the game’s story is *Mute, the character depicted on the title art (seen at the top of this page). The *Mute of the past doesn’t quite seem to be the *Mute of the present so you get to dig around figuring out what happened, ultimately uncovering the beginning of the totalitarian regime that died out from the first game.

This game has a lot of fluff. That’s to be expected since it’s a diary game; but the amount of fluff in this game seems exceedingly so. In the prequel it took you maybe one to three minutes to read each diary entry. This game takes around five minutes an entry and while that may not seem like much, that’s an increase of close to 100%. The rule is not “Longer is better” but rather “Be as long as you need to be”. Unfortunately, from my point of view, some of these entries are too long. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are legitimately great reads, but they can drag on when you’re in “get to the point” mode.

I think that by far, the worst addition to this game though, is the time restricted setup. Yes, you can change your computer clock to skip it. No, I don’t care. Why was a mechanic like that put into the game in the first place? The rule is, you need to wait 12 hours after reading the day’s worth of diary entries (usually 12-18 entries). Why was this unnecessary barrier to content added? I paid for the whole game today. I didn’t pay for 1/3 of the game today, 1/3 tomorrow, and 1/3 the day after that. This is unreasonable and severely hurt my opinion of the game. There are also several sections of the game where you are literally forced to wait twenty minutes to an hour to proceed. This. Is. Frustrating. Design.

I’m actually going to sit on the fence here. It’s not a game that you can recommend to anyone. I personally found it to be… acceptable. But you have to remember that I’m a little bit weird. I liked the fluff even if it dragged on a little longer than it should’ve. I found the way the totalitarian regime began to be interesting. I like the characters. So while the time delay execution style is retarded, I tried to not let it get in my way. So my last word will be a conditional. If you enjoy fluff and reading about things entirely unrelated to the content at hand (even if only briefly) and you want to learn about the rise of a Confucian society, maybe catch this game on sale. If you need the linear path or even a mostly linear path to progress through your games, maybe give this one a pass. As always, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Hate Plus

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

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Steam Page

You know, I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for Norse stuff. I’m actually wearing my Fenrir necklace as I write this up. There’s just something so… raw and inspiring (and on occasion, messed up) about Norse legends. When I imagine myself a viking warrior, I feel so powerful. I’m a huge Berserk fan, and the word Berserk comes from the Norse language meaning “bear skinned”. Berserkers would wear a bear’s skin to signify that in combat, anyone was fair game. And there’s just something about that I can connect to. So when I saw Jotun, I knew that I would eventually purchase it.

Jotun is the story of a young girl that has died on the seas, being sent to Ginnungagap to prove herself. She does this by going through several worlds, collecting runes, and conquering the Jotun that live there. All of this is for the purpose of “proving oneself to the gods”. There isn’t really any dialogue, just narration that I assume is in the nordic language. I wouldn’t know for sure though, I don’t speak it. The narrators are suitably… husk sounding. Tough sounding. Maybe it’s the language, I dunno.

The game is beautiful. Straight up beautiful. ‘Nuff sed.

The combat feels clunky at times. You have an axe. You have blessings from the gods that give you various buffs when active. You have a fast, weak attack and you have a slow, strong attack. The strong attack feels too slow. I took kendo for a year and the amount of time you spend with your axe above your head for the strong attack is unrealistic. If your weapon is above your head, it’s not protecting your body. This is just unreasonable. It also does less damage than the weak attack does in the time it takes to use. I’d only ever use the strong attack when my enemy was in the air so I could hit them as soon as they land and then switch to weak attack. Freya’s blessing also speeds up the weak attack so it becomes even more useful. You can get Thor’s blessing to power up your strong attack but… too slow.

The game is in 2D but the characters have 3D hitboxes. This becomes especially frustrating in boss fights with enemies that stand (so, almost all of them). because the hitbox when they’re standing is half the size of the one when they’re on the ground. Which, sure, it’s realistic, but it can become difficult to judge whether or not your strike will hit because the hitbox is so weird. The devs were nice enough to show us a shadow of our character when it’s behind a boss, but they weren’t nice enough to show us shadows of things falling from the sky that are behind the boss. So quite a few deaths of mine were caused by attacks I literally could not see coming. Not to mention that if your character is where a titan will stagger, it will get knocked back into those hazards you were avoiding. Extremely annoying.

Overall? Great game even if some fights are exceedingly frustrating. Definitely recommend. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Jotun: Valhalla Edition

Titan Souls

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Steam Page

Titan Souls is not Dark souls.

So Titan Souls is a game in which the only enemies that you’ll find are bosses. If there are any non-boss enemies, I never found them. If there is a story, I was unable to discern it from the various clues given throughout the world. But that’s not a problem because if the game isn’t trying to sell you a story, you don’t have to judge it on its story.

You only have one attack, a ranged one. You fire an arrow from a bow. You have to be stationary to do it. You also only get one arrow, so if you happen to miss, you’re going to want to get your arrow back. If you press the fire arrow button, it’ll actually come right back to you, and the use of this mechanic is necessary to kill at least one boss but helps with a few others. You die in one hit no matter what, but that’s okay because every boss does as well. The boss fights themselves are very well-done, with few exceptions. They’re all creative in attack patterns. But remember that you only get one hit. Your margin of error is zero. Which means whenever you fight an unfamiliar boss, with few exceptions, you’re going to have a bad time. Sometimes I feel like death is necessary to learn the attack pattern and formulate a plan for the weakness.

The graphics are fabulous, but the game suffers from the same issues that (visually) isometric games often have. The problem of dealing with height. As a rule of thumb, if your game is only visually isometric, height should not be a factor. Ever. It’s too difficult for the player to discern height. The usual trick for players in visually isometric games is to watch shadows. Which becomes even more difficult when your enemy is coming from underwater. This is needless difficulty that doesn’t enhance the game.

I feel bad for the music designer. They probably put so much effort into these godly soundtracks, with a different one for each of the 20-ish bosses. But you only get to hear the first ten seconds of them, because you die so fast if you’re not prepared. But sweet jesus. Seriously. Listen to this stuff. I might actually prefer to have bought the soundtrack than the game itself.

Overall, an enjoyable game, but incredibly frustrating. I definitely recommend playing it though. Perfect speedrun bait. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Titan Souls

Momodora III

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Steam Page

It’s weird how memory plays tricks on you. About a year ago I played Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight and I reviewed it.When I bought this game I was under the impression that I had left a glowing review of it. Looking back, not so much. I even said it was overpriced… Huh. Anyway, that was the fourth game in the series. I figured I may as well play the third game. Without further delay, let’s move on to the review.

Momodora III is a platformer action game. I’m not too sure on the story, but again, I haven’t played Momodora I or Momodora II. So maybe those games cover the pieces. You actually do meet Kaho from Momodora IV (and presumably, an earlier Momodora?) and help her with some shenanigans. There’s a mini-story where you can save/kill a fellow Kahonese pilgrim. I usually try to save her but I’m not the best at beating the bee boss so of my three play-throughs I only saved her on my 37 minute run.

Graphics are simplistic but nice. Enemies can be a pain. Especially the ones with bombs. I think bombs do damage every frame after they explode, so I got instagibbed by bombs a few times without realizing what was happening. What annoyed me the most is that when you attack, you’re locked in place. Playing games in… the current year, in almost every game I’ve ever played I’ve been able to move and attack at the same time or at least to some degree. There’s also no roll button which I tend to favor over jumps (because muh invulnerability frames).

So Momodora III feels like it was designed to be a speedrun game. It has six bosses (if I recall correctly) and it can easily be finished within an hour. My first playthrough took me… 1 hour? The second 37 minutes and the last, an hour again. Just depends on which bosses ruin your day. A perfect run can likely be done within 20 minutes, including the time travel section. The characters have limited interaction, though there seems to be a bit of a sidequest if you want the “good” ending. I won’t spoil the endings, but I will say that there’s not much of a difference in terms on content and it’s pretty easy to get both endings in a single play session.

Overall, the game wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. I did genuinely get engaged in some of the boss fights even if I was annoyed that I had no roll button. The game’s a little too easy though. You can obtain an item that doubles your damage shortly after the first boss and you can increase your basic attack’s damage after the fourth boss. I don’t feel like the enemy setups are terribly interesting and at some points seemed outright unfair. I’d say that this is a case of you get what you pay for. It’s a $2 game (at the time of writing). It’s worth it. It certainly makes the sequel seem far more valuable in comparison. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Momodora III

Empire of Angels IV

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Steam Page

I’m starting to wonder whether or not I should continue writing these reviews immediately after finishing the game. Maybe I should stew on them for a few… but then I might forget about the game… blah

So Empire of Angels IV is a game about a bunch of grills on a quest to collect the four Lord Souls Whoops did it again. You collect the four Menhir (or attempt to anyway, spoiler) and you have zany adventures along the way. The plotline makes little sense, even when it’s explained to you and I can’t figure out how the characters wind up in the situation that they’re in. I feel like several situations were disastrously contrived. It’s almost like the developers had a checklist of things they wanted to shovel in. Here’s your rival, here’s your betrayal, here’s your feels trip, the list goes on. And as noted before, they don’t connect well. On top of that, it was hard for me to invest myself in the characters and I think that may be because of presentation. There wasn’t really much of an underlying story to connect me to them.

There are some fantastic CG shots that I just absolutely adore. Holy smokes, they’re beautiful. While the CG shots are beautiful, the rest of the game is far from it. Its graphics remind me of Tales of Symphonia in which the characters could make only one face. Granted in this game, the characters can make a surprised face, the graphics still look incredibly similar. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the class upgrade screen in which the already scantily-clad women became even more scantily-clad.

The game also thinks that it’s Fire Emblem but is a little worse for combat. Every attack has an element (even basic attacks which I found to usually be fire type) and if you happen to… I dunno, fight a fire type enemy, you’re going to have a bad time. The elemental triangle is up to the player to discover. There are many components of combat that had limited use. The lockpicking skill is used… four times(?) in the game and three of those times were in one level. There’s also a change terrain skill which is only really needed for like three levels in the game. It helps in the later stages when you’re in the volcano levels (because of course that’s where the finale takes place) but other than that, kind of a waste.

The level scaling is rather annoying, and you should expect to make a few grind stops later in the game. And I complain about this because my allies were level 35 (even with some grinding) around the time that the level 40 enemies started showing up. And it ramps up drastically over the last few story missions.

As you complete story missions you can upgrade your characters to advanced classes. As noted earlier, there’s a bit of eye-candy when that happens. However, referring back into battle, some classes are just useless. There are two types of mages, which for the purpose of this review we’ll call the lightning mage and the fire mage (I call them this because these are the skills I used the most often on them). Well, lategame enemies are fire type, so that sucks. And the third offensive skill on the fire mage is more situational and very difficult to use effectively. So why bother with it? Just use the lightning mage which ultimately was the better DPS. Units overall become incredibly powerful lategame, able to kill in two hits or with huge AoE that destroys enemies. It’s beautiful.

So what’s my call on this? Humph. I think the game drags on a little bit longer than it should, and I can’t actually invest myself in its story. I can’t invest myself in the characters. And maybe it’s my fault. This is the fourth game in the series (presumably) so I wonder if that investment I can’t come up with comes from those games. But that’s not really much of an excuse. I think I’ll have to give it a pass despite the fanservice. Certainly not for full price ($15 at the time of writing). Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Empire of Angels IV

Most Positive Reviews are Useless

This title is likely ironic coming from me, a critic that has reviewed several games both positively and negatively. The point of this post is to emphasize what makes a review useful and why most reviews, particularly the positive ones, are useless. This is another meta post that I’m making to elaborate on how I do reviews in response to feedback on Steam.

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is what is a review? A review is an evaluation of a particular work of art. Since the evaluation is done by an individual, these are often likened to opinion pieces, however there is a key difference. While each individual may disagree on how the art utilizes certain features, most critics should be able to agree to some degree or another what makes a particular quality good. For example, I think you’ll find nary a critic that says Microsoft Excel menu navigation is good, so if a game has Microsoft Excel menu navigation, expect that to come up in the review as a source of annoyance.

Reviews serve two major purposes. First, they are tools for communities to tell other members what to expect when they purchase a product. If I review a product and tell my friend that it’s good except for this one thing and my friend thinks that one thing will make the game unenjoyable for them, then they may not want to buy it. It allows me to save my friend some time and money. This is why the developers get into so much trouble when they start deleting reviews. They are violating the trust of the community. Secondly, they are tools for developers to learn how to make better games. One need not be a good developer to write a good review, but one absolutely must be a good critic to be a good developer. Being able to understand the failings of games is crucial to avoiding the usual pitfalls that make a game unplayable. Being able to understand why good games are good is essential to crafting one’s own good game.

What you should find (at least across my reviews) is that I talk about the components of a game and how I received them. Story, character, interface, map, combat, and anything else I can think of should all be mentioned in every single one of my reviews. Especially the more recent ones, as each review is “practice” and ideally I should improve as I write each review. While you’ll definitely find my opinions within the review (as I do write these to entertain and inform), my opinion is usually backed up by some kind of evidence. And this is why most positive reviews are useless.

Most positive reviews that I see on Steam are “Good game, enjoyed the story, nice work” or something to that effect. This is useless for purpose one, as no one knows why you enjoyed the story (and it is possible to express why without spoiling) and it’s useless to the developer because they don’t know what exactly it is that you liked. Maybe the author is trying to keep it short because people on the internet have the attention span of a goldfish, but you’re doing it wrong. Learning to write shorter reviews that cover the key components is difficult (and it’s something I’m practicing), but you still need to evaluate the game on its merits. Negative reviews don’t often have the same problem, as most people that review a game negatively complain about why they didn’t like the game. In these complaints, a negative review always offers advice on how to improve and also serve to help other buyers make an informed decision on whether they want to buy the game or not.

Positive reviews are also sometimes coloured by how much the user enjoyed the game. One of my recent reviews (at the time of writing) for Kingdom: New Lands likely falls under this category (but I did complain about stuff in it so eh?). This leads to the author sometimes overrating the game, instead of evaluating the game based on its merits.

When I buy games on Steam, I very rarely look at positive reviews. If I’m on the fence, I go straight down to the negative reviews and see what’s wrong with the game. I will still look at some positive reviews, but only the longer ones as these usually tell you the flaws within the game. I guess at the end of the day, what I’m saying is that short reviews with little to no explanation are useless, and positive reviews often fall into this category. When writing (or reading) a review, these short reviews should be avoided because they won’t help a buyer make a decision and they won’t help a developer on their next game.

Anyway, that’s my stitch. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Most Positive Reviews are Useless

How to Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10

Alright, I’ve been getting some criticism for my reviews, some people pointing out that other people say it’s good, so it’s good. While I don’t wish to negate the input of these other players (that rarely tell you ‘what’ exactly is good) I do want to point out that there’s a good chance that they’re reviewing your game incorrectly. So let’s talk about the 1-10 scale.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scale utilized as poorly as 1-10. The reviewer is offered 10 options to choose from, which may be a bit cumbersome. So cumbersome in fact, that I think people completely disregard some of the scale to make it less cumbersome. If you happen to be a human reading this above the age of… let’s say 15 years-old, I want you to think of all of the people that you’ve rated based on attractiveness. More specifically, the ones you rated on a scale of 1-10. Ladies, you play along too, I know you rate guys. Now I want you to think of the distribution of those ratings. You probably have a lot of 7’s, 8’s, maybe a few 6’s and 3’s, with very few 1’s and 10’s. Those of you familiar with the Bell Curve will no doubt see the problem here, but I’ll explain it for those that don’t.

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This is the general shape of the Bell Curve. This one in particular is a normalized distribution, so it’s designed to show probabilities of an event occurring. And what we see here is that the greatest number of events should be rated 6. This is because 6 is the average between 1 and 10 (Actually 5.5 is but we’re rating using whole numbers so round up or round down. I choose to follow convention and round up). As the ratings deviate from the mean, we should see fewer and fewer uses of these ratings. So there should be more 3’s than 1’s and more 8’s than 10’s. If you’ve rated 100 people based on appearance, you should have very few 10’s. But I’m willing to bet that you have more than the appropriate number of 10’s and not enough 5’s or 6’s. Why is that? Let’s continue

The normal person will likely have a lot of 7’s in their rating database. I believe that when one asks themselves how attractive someone is on a scale of 1-10, they’ve unconsciously set 7 to be the mean. Movie was average? It’s a 6 or a 7. Since this close to the deviation from the mean, it actually produces okay results in ratings. However when it comes to terrible movies, it seems no one knows what to do. Is it a 3? Is it a 4? You’ll likely find that there are more 3’s and 4’s than there are 5’s, despite 5 being closer to the mean. And probably more 8’s than the two combined despite being aligned with 4 on the distribution.

Are you just seeing more terrible movies than slightly worse than average movies? Are you seeing more great movies than more terrible movies combined? That’s a distinct possibility. After all, who willingly watches a movie that they expect to be terrible? Who willingly plays a game that they expect to be terrible? But in that case, we should see a slightly shifted curve, rather than, well, a non-Bell Curve. If you look at seasonal anime ratings on MyAnimeList, you will see many 7’s and not nearly enough 5’s or 6’s. This is evidence of a shifted mean.

I’m not judging anyone for this behavior. I used to engage in this myself, particularly regarding anime and manga. But once I sat down and asked myself why I rated SAO a 6 and several of the Monogatari series in a similar range (5-7) I realized the problem. I thought back to the humans that I had rated based on appearance and saw a similar trend.

Bringing this back to what the problems with ratings, people seem to exclusively use a 3-10 scale instead of a 1-10 scale. The removal of 2 ratings might not seem significant but you’re talking about 20% of your rating scale not being used much at all. And then we need to remember that the lower ratings 3-5 are not used much at all. So you’ve pretty much turned the rating system into 6-10 with an average around 7, which actually lines up with general public nicely. If we turn it into a 1-4 system and equate 7 with 2, then 50% becomes the mean and that’s about what we want.

So I guess it’s not that you’re not producing a Bell Curve properly, it’s that you’re producing it for the wrong range of numbers. If you want to use a 1-10 scale, you need to USE the full scale. You can’t toss out 9’s and 10’s like candy because you felt something was phenomenal. You need to think about all of the games you’ve played up until now and see if it’s not really an 8. And don’t forget about the lower numbers. Don’t just hate a game or a movie and say, “Yep, that’s a 3”. Think about what you didn’t like and compare it against all of the others you’ve seen before.

At the end of the day, the method is up to you, but by adhering a bit more strongly to a 1-10 scale, you can make your ratings on the 1-10 scale be a bit more meaningful. I want to encourage you to really use the 1-10 scale and not the 6-10 scale. Anyway, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

How to Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10