Tag Archives: ps4

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron (PS4)

aotlboxI simply adore bullet hell shooters. I’m not exceptionally good at them, just mediocre, but boy do I like my shooters with a load of bullets. So imagine my joy when I was told I could review Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron. A bullet-hell shooter, set in an alternate post WWII universe, one of my most beloved historical times (although not actually historically correct –ed.) I was over the moon!

The first thing that sets Aces of The Luftwaffe aside from other games in the genre, is the ability to play with 3 friends in co-op. Each player picks a character and plane, and the squadron then takes off, ready to battle airborne nazis. No friends? No problem: a single player can play just as well. All four planes are controlled at the same time, following the squadron leader.

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At various points in the game, players are awarded with skill points. These points can be spent in the customization screen, where each member of the squadron has a massive skill tree to unlock. Ranging from special abilities to new skills or health upgrades, players have to pick very wisely where to spend the points if they want a perfect loadout. Skill tress are reset easily though, and by replaying earlier levels, extra skill points can be unlocked, so the possibility of having a fully unlocked skill tree is there.

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Also new to the genre, are the character’s flaws. Each of the four characters has a specific flaw, that serves as a setback, temporarily rendering them more or less useless. There’s the character that can’t control his temper, shooting at everything, including squad mates. Then there’s the poisoned one, reacting slower than usual. There’s also the pilot with fear of heights, occasionally leaving the squad behind while she regains her composure at a lower altitude. And finally the narcoleptic, who falls asleep and needs protecting. While these flaws are fun and new, they seem to come into play only at scripted times, never at random.

The gameplay is just a joy. I’m flying around, dodging bullets, laserblasts, rockets and fireballs, all the while dishing out insane damage with equally insane powered-up weapons. I’m loving every bit of it. The visuals, the sound design, the story, the action, the supercrazy villains. Every zany second of it.

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The only major gripe I more than once shook my head at, is the voiceacting. The actors are clearly doing their best, but all too often, it shines through that English is not their first language. What you get is 4 American pilots, and their all talking with a Germanic accent… It’s a bit bizarre to say the least. But again, that’s just this nit-picking OCD reviewer delving deep to find even a single flaw.

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is a most enjoyable shooter, which I’d recommend to everyone. Even if you don’t like shooters: this game will make you like them.

Jan

Rainbow Skies (PS3, PS4, PSVita)

Rainbow Skies takes everything ‘RPG’ stands for and has fun with it: weird in a good way, enjoyable in an even better way. Does the name of the game ring a bell? This tactical RPG marvel comes from the same makers as the fantasy role-playing game Rainbow Moon!

Rainbow Skies promises a colourful and vibrant world, filled to the brim with friends and foes, murky dungeons, turn-based battles, towns, shops and everything else your role-playing heart desires. And the game sure doesn’t underdeliver: characters can be leveled, equipped and customized as you see fit. With side-quests and achievements for the collectionist and for everyone who wants a lot – and we do mean a lot! – of bang for his buck.

The game starts out as almost every RPG does: a spiky-haired hero wakes up in bed. Enter Damion, recovering from one hell of a hangover. Not quite ready for his final exam as a monster tamer. The town he lives in, all up in the sky, is constantly threatened by monster attacks. Of course all hopes are on a new generation of monster tamers. However, Damion manages to botch his exam by accidentally destroying the compound the monsters are held in. While he tries to cover up his mistake with his examiner and friend Layne, things take a turn for the worse. And it doesn’t get any better as he gets tangled up between two rival super powers. His fault: he shouldn’t have gotten up since he knew that is was going to be ‘one of those days’.

This game won’t take you by the hand but isn’t one to abandon you either, as any info about the gameplay is given to you on a need-to-know basis. Which makes for a gentle learning curve with the freedom to get to know the game at your pace. Wether it’s for long gaming sessions or short gaming bursts.

As with almost all games in the genre, gameplay is divided between exploring safe towns, battling your way throughout enemy-ridden areas and tinkering with your characters. You’re probably not even surprised that battles start as soon as your character collides with a monster. Which is when the turn-based fun starts: you get to make your move, the enemy gets to make his move and once you’re close you’ll get singed by a fireball. Bummer. In retaliation you get a bit closer and make the baddie bleed. Of course, it’s only that simple during the first part of the game. Later on, you’ll need to pummel screenfilling crowds. Luckily, your sword-wielding hero is not alone in his quest. He’ll soon be joined by the archer Layne and later on by the spell slinging Ashly.

As a tactical RPG, Rainbow Skies heavily depends on your thinking cap. Heck, you’ll even see those caps during the short and sweet tutorials (which, by the way, can be consulted again afterwards). After the first few fights you won’t survive by just hacking, slashing and burning your way through hordes of enemies. Especially not during boss fights. You’ll need to plan ahead and make smart use of your skills and magic prowess. Not too much use, mind you, as they’ll drain some sort of magic meter. Which, of course, is much better than having your life meter drained. Once a skilled is learned, it can be leveled up by using it during battle. And, oh, did we say they are rather flashy and nifty to look at?

Battles never bore aseach enemy has its own tactic and you often see them in lots of combinations and formations. Stay on your toes lest the enemy tramples them! Speaking of which… The difficulty curve is rather gentle but can be easily adapted to the likings of the experienced gamer. Don’t feel like level grinding? Then don’t. Really! Just customize the game to your liking, whether you’re rushing through the story mission, getting your kicks out of the many side quests or burning through your health recovery potions on the highest difficulty setting.

Rainbow Skies gets big points on running gags. Especially the one on Damion’s spiky hairdo. But the game shows its true colours during hectic battles and even more so with its many side quests. Collectionists will be happy to know that progress and achievements are easily tracked. Heck, there are even awards depending on how many side quests and achievements you completed. The optional content won’t leave you asking for more. There even is a turn-based fishing game. Yes, you read it: turn-based fishing game! Really!

Thinking of upgrading from a PS3™ to a PS4™? Or would you rather play this game on the go? Your money isn’t wasted as the cross-save support has you playing on all systems. Even on PS Vita.

So, what’s the catch? A game this much fun has to have a catch, right? Not exactly. The game’s aesthetics may not exactly be on par with most games, but they are polished nonetheless. And although the humour is quirky and over the top, some jokes may be a bit farfetched or even get stretched out too much after a while. But none of this distracts from the core gaming experience of Rainbow Skies, which is solid, attractive and just plain fun. No level grinding required. The developers sure listened when gamers complained that Rainbow Moon, the predecessing game, was a bit more demanding in that department.

Rainbow Skies is a nice game to start out with if this is your first tactical RPG. Got some or a lot of experience? Ramp up the difficulty and knock yourself out. Even collectionists get their kicks out of this. This is not a question of to buy or not to buy. Rainbow Skies knows how to cater to a wide range of gamers.

Marco

Shantae Half Genie Hero Deluxe Edition (PS4)

shantae half genie heroShantae, half-genie half-human girl, is having a bad day. The calm coastal town she’s the assigned guardian of, is under attack from a menacing pirate fleet. Assigned guardians are not supposed to sit idly around when danger looms, so she jumps in her best skimpy outfit. Armed only with her hair and her best bellydancing moves, she marches into battle.

I’ve been a fan of Shantae for a while now. Not just because every game guarantees a great platforming experience, but also because developer WayForward always has a way of finding the perfect balance between humour, looks and playvalue. With this installment they’ve once again hit the mark.

‘Cause have a look for yourself: those graphics, that cartoonish drawing style… It’s as if I’m in control of an animated feature! I sometimes catch myself forgetting to play, staring at the wonderful backgrounds.

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And that script! Hilarious and well-written. The fine line between gags and the seriousness (if one can call it that) of platforming is never crossed. Not even when subtle references to other games are made, or when characters gently break the fourth wall.

Fans of platformers are in for a treat with Shantae: Half Genie Hero. The game is pure feast. Shantae fights through 5 levels and one endboss, using only her hair. She’s also a mean bellydancer, with new moves to be discovered throughout the levels.  Each move transforms her into some creature. As that creature, Shantae can explore more of the levels and find more secrets, upgrades and unlockables.

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Tons of unlockables are waiting to be found, by the way. The deluxe edition already has more content and some DLC, but zealous players, wanting to complete Shantae 100 percent will have to put in some effort. Fortunately, the map screen shows where and how many extra’s are still to be found.

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Yep, Shantae is back! And because I’m overly enthousiastic, I’ve already had my hair dyed purple, and I’ve enrolled in a bellydancing class.
Damn my enthousiasm.

Jan

The 25th Ward – The Silver Case (PS4)

25covernxgJapanese game developer Suda51 isn’t one for simple, straightforward games. Simple plots are way beneath him. What the man does can only be described as Lynchian. With super stylised gameplay and winks to a thousand popculture phenomena at once.

In The 25th Ward – The Silver Case it’s just like that. Players follow 3 main storylines. One about a detective, one about a reporter with amnesia and one with two morally doubtful secret agents.Trying to explain the plot would be a futile undertaking. I was lost about 5 minutes in. It doesn’t help that the storylines are intertwined and there’s tons of characters to remember. Even characters from the first game pop up now and then, albeit without introduction, so players are just supposed to know them and their backstory on sight.
My head is spinning a little…

Even the gameplay is classic Suda51. The 25th Ward plays as a graphic novel adventure for the most part, but there’s randomly inserted levels with a totally different gamestyle. There’s an entire level of RPG-ing in here!

Graphically I’ve no complaint. Everything is superstylish. The graphics, the neat line and pixel animations,… I’m loving it.

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Controlwise though, there’s a lot to be desired. All of the actions available to the player are shown on a little 3D diamond. With the stick, it can be turned around to choose a new action. Quite often, I couldn’t progress through to the next screen, even though I’ve already did all the actions. Turns out I had to hit “talk” again. And again. And again…
Which wouldn’t have been all that bad, if it wasn’t for that annoying typewriter sound that accompanies all text which appears on screen. And did I mention the text is non skippable? Or fastforwardable? The typewriter sound has to be suffered… The entire game…

The 25th Ward – The Silver Case may be from legendary Suda51, but it just isn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong: I like weird. I like different, but when it gets so weird and so different that I get left behind with a headache, that just means it’s not for me. Sorry 25th ward and all of your 100 (one hundred!) different endings.

Jan

 

Need For Speed: Payback (PS4)

nfsnxgThe latest addition to the Need For Speed franchise is all about revenge. Tyler and his crew of streetracers were betrayed by The House, a criminal organization with ties in streetracing, gambling, and just about everything shady. Tyler, Mac and jess thirst for payback, and team up with a wealthy casino owner to take down The House. In order to do that, they need to start out at the bottom…

Payback has about every feature I want in a racing game. There’s shiny supercars that are upgradeable. A gigantic open world littered with races and challenges. Worshops where cars can be repainted, refitted and get stickered. Collectibles strewn about. There’s just so much to do!

The controls are so straightforward, driving a supercar was never easier. In no-time I’m swooshing through the vast landscape. As always, pedal to the metal, drifting, handbraking and boosting with nitro blasts. Good old fun. Each of the three main characters has his own style, so there’s different types of races to compete in. Drag races, offroad, regular streetraces, police chases… Add all that to the many optional events to be found and there’s hours of fun to be had.

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I do have some gripes story-wise however. Take that flimsy plot for instance… I didn’t expect Shakespeare, but anything with a bit more depth and a little less clichés would’ve been nice. Same goes for the voiceacting. I don’t know if it’s the actors or the subpar dialogue, but there a so many cringeworthy moments. Onliners like “Nighttime. This is when I come to life.” Uttered in different variants by the main characters are so full of cringe, they made me burst out laughing nearly every time. The whole plot sinks to the level of a bad B-movie. Which would be fun, if it was meant that way. But unfortunately, Payback takes itself way too seriously.

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But let’s not forget the main reason for playing: racing! I can ignore the story, even though there’s so many cutscenes interrupting playtime. Not only plotadvancing scenes, but also action sequences. Nice, but I would’ve rather played through these action scenes myself. Now I’m getting the feeling I’m only allowed to drive from stunt to stunt, but not allowed to perform one.

Let’s stick to racing then. Which is great fun on its own. With each victory I come closer to taking down The House. I need to beat other crews first, and every race has a level assigned to it. If my car’s level is lower, my chances of winning are small to non-existant. I can level up by replaying earlier races. Again and again and again and again… If that’s too tedious, I can also whip some real cash out and buy my way up via microtransitions…

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Payback also found a new way of upgrading cars. Where I expected having to buy and fit parts to my car, there is now the speedcards system. After a victory, I’m allowed to draw a random card. That card is an upgrade for a random part, of a random level and a random brand. If I have no need for the card I’ve just won, I can sell it. It’s all great at first, but further in the game, getting that specific card I need depends too much on luck. It degrades the whole upgrading from an art to a base level of gambling.

What to do with Need For Speed Payback. On the one hand, I like nothing better than racing through the open world with its vast landscapes and detailed vistas. On the other hand, the story, the grinding and the wonky upgrading throw a spanner in the cogs.
One and a half thumbs up, one thumb down.

Jan

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus (PS4)

wolf2nxgThe nazis. Has there ever been a group that’s been used more as antagonist in games? I don’t think so. There’s just something about blasting apart a fanatic that’s so oddly… Satisfying. Even more so when you’re doing it inside the Wolfenstein franchise.

In Wolfenstein 2: The new Colossus, players once again take on the role of Billy B.J. Blazkowicz. At the end of the previous episode, B.J. was left horribly wounded and mutilated. At the start of this new installment, he awakens from a coma to the sound of blaring alarms. Paralysed from the waist down, he already has to repel Nazi boarders from the submarine he and his resistance pals are on. Which is not an easy feat, considering he’s in a wheelchair. Strafing becomes near impossble, rolling forward is incredibly slow and don’t even get me started on shooting with one hand and steering with the other.
Just like real life.
At least, I think so.

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Fortunately, Billy can scavenge some powerarmour real soon. The armour has him skipping about, just like before. What also feels familiar to previous games are a few of the elements that made playing that extra bit fun. The dual wield system, for example. The ability to use two different weapons at the same time is just so much fun. Or the perks, with which one can upgrade Billy’s abilities. New to this game are the assasination missions. At certain points in the game, Billy can find intel. Whenever I have a certain number of those, I can play an optional assasination mission. While short and not obligatory, these missions reward players with gear that was only available through some ingame choices. Take one choice, lose the gear that was behind option number two. Or get it by doing these assasinations.

Visually the game is just rocking it. Wether strolling through a submarine, hiding in the streets of a ghetto or trekking through the New Mexico desert, it just feels real. From the tiniest grain of sand to the gritty interior of an enemy base… I just believe I’m there, no matter how over the top the plot is.

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Storywise everything is perfect as well. BJ and his crew fight against a naziregime that won WWII. The United States are now a Reich territory and that has consequences. These are not the sixties you know. These are sixties without The Beatles, but with German popband Die Kaefer. With urban streets where German soldiers and KKK members are fraternizing. It all makes for a believeable “What if” version of the postwar period, with an extreme amount of detail.

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The game is quite long, and still has a great replay value. Wolfenstein 2 is rich with extras. Star cards, gold,… Each level is bursting with collectibles that players can only find if they search every nook and cranny of the environment.

I can not recommend Wolfenstein 2 enough. A must-have, a great game, a nazishooter deluxe,… Call it what you will, but go get it right now. Your Playstation/PC/Switch/XBOX deserves it.

 

Jan

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PS4)

lisbtsWow.

That’s all I could mumble after playing Life is Strange: Before the Storm’s first episode. I was that impressed. As I’m used to doing with these types of games, I played this episode in one sitting. Me manning the controls, the wife on the couch next to me acting as moral compass, the little padawan snoring happily in his bed and our cat Dame Lemmy Von Motörhead nestled warmly in my lap. Nothing could go wrong.

Yet several things did go wrong… For our protagonist Chloe. And I liked it.

In Before the Storm you play as Chloe, who appeared in the previous installment of Life is Strange, but this episode takes place three years before that. Chloe is struggling at school, is rebelling against her mom and stepdad. She misses her father tremendously and tries to deal with her best friend Max leaving. She’s still writing letters to Max, but never sends them out. It seems Chloe is stuck in a downward spiral until Rachel, the school’s most popular girl, suddenly takes an interest in her. The pair seems destined for each other, and together take a decision that sets the mood for upcoming episodes.

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When expecting a lot of action or rewind-based superpowers, you’re better off sticking tot he first game. Nothing of that here. Chloe is your average run-of-the-mill angsty teen, but equipped with a quick wit and snarkiness. The only superpower she has, is an uncanny aptitude for backtalking. The game tries to incorporate this in special dialogue segments. Each time Chloe enters one of these, players have to keep an eye on whatever the other character says and try to react accordingly. There are, of course, many different ways a conversation can go, and every one of them has consequences along the road. Mindless playing is discouraged at all times!

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As much as I was blown away by the story, the art-style and the soundtrack of the game really completed the package for me. I paused the game regularly to browse to Chloe’s awesomely drawn scrapbook, and my foot was tapping rhythmically along with the shoe-gazing soundtrack by London-based band Daughter.

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So yeah: Wow. I can’t wait for episodes 2 and 3 and the bonus episode that comes with the special deluxe edition.

Jan

Injustice 2 (PS4)

i2Oh dear. The DC universe is once again in turmoil. Loyal fans will remember the events of Injustice: Gods among Us. Superman went insane after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane. He executed the clown and became a tyrannical SOB bent on world-domination. He even wanted to bring order to the world by killing all criminals. He nearly succeeded, if not for Batman and his loyal band of do-gooders.

Injustice 2 continues after the events of the first installment. Five years after his victory over Superman, Batman is hard at work restoring order to society. His work is disrupted by the appearance of a new league of villains, led by Gorilla Grodd. Batman and co must stop Grodd, but in doing so discover an even bigger threat to humanity. One that may require Superman’s help…

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Injustice 2’s gameplay is similar if not identical to that of its predecessor. Characters kick, punch, block and jump at the press of a button. Combo’s are thrown in abundance and pressing the correct buttons in a specific order unleashes powerful attacks. Again, as in the first Injustice, there’s a supermeter. Once that’s filled up, characters can unleash a devastating attack.

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Completely new is the gear system. After a fight, players are awarded with gear drops. These include equipment, pieces of costumes, that can be used to level up a character. The more we fight with a character, the stronger or more experienced it gets. Think RPG, but in a fighting game. Never thought I’d see elements of these two genres combined, but somehow it works.

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Comics and fighting games: two things of which I’m a fan. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise I’m die-hard into Injustice 2 as well. I’m already playing the (relatively short) singleplayer campaign again, just to see the alternate ending. I’m still playing single fights in a vain attempt to collect all the gear. And I keep bashing my friends’ skulls in, just because it’s so much fun!

Jan

Little Nightmares

lnnxgBetween all the noise of racing games and first person shooters, finding a nice little adventure games sometimes seems difficult. Just recently, I came across Little Nightmares, a funadventure/platformer type of game. In it, you play as Six, a tiny girl in a yellow raincoat, roaming a giant world known only as The Maw. Six is trapped within the Maw. Together with other captive children she awaits a terrible faith: to be served as dinner to the Maw’s monstrous visitors. Six decides not to become dinner, and tries escaping the Maw and it’s guardian. Armed with only a lighter, I venture out…

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As I roam the giant environment, which seems to be designed by Tim Burton, many obstacles block my path. Every room seems to have one ore more. These range in difficulty to having to open a door with a lever to avoiding deadly enemies, jumping over botomless pits or climbing wobbly stacked crates.

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I’ve already mentioned being armed with a lighter. It helps to lighten dark areas and light lanterns. All you pyromaniacs out there who are already planning on setting enemies ablaze, will be disappointed. Six seems to be a strict pacifist, never going on the offense, always opting to run or hide from enemies.

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I really like Little Nightmares. Visually it’s one of the most attractive games I’ve seen in a long while. The sound design is excellent. The perfect mix of suspense and anxiousness. And a veery satisfying gaming experience to boot. One can easily sink in an hour or two without actually realising. Struggling to put down the controller, not wanting to leave Six behind. Which leads me to the only negative about Little Nightmares: its length. After a few hours, I’m all done and longing for more…

Neveretheless: two thumbs up!

Jan

This Is The Police

titpcovWhen I was recently given the chance to become commissioner of the police for 180 days, I jumped at the chance. My disappointment was huge when I learned the offer didn’t entail an actual position within the force. Just a copy of the management sim This Is the Police.

Disappointment quickly fades away though. Almost immediately I’m filled with enthousiasm again due to the upbeat jazzy soundtrack blasting through my television’s speakers. Great, minimalistic drawings tell the rather depressing story of police commissioner Jack Boyd. Soon to entering into (forced) retirement, abandoned by his wife, often found intoxicated at the local stripclub and looking desperately for half a million dollar to supplement a meager retirement fund. It doesn’t take long before the mob comes knocking with an offer that cannot be refused…

The stage is set for a round of This Is the Police. I now have control over officers and detectives spread into two shifts. Using them, I need to keep crime in check, lend a helping hand to local businesses and provide the occasional favor for the mob. All the while keeping an eye on the physical and mental well-being of my officers.

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The game is controlled via a fluent menusystem. In the left part of the screen, the different calls made to dispatch appear. With a simple touch of a button we answer them. Every call has a level of urgency. The higher the urgency, the more officers we can send out. Next to these calls, there are also major crimes. These require detectives. Once they start an investigation, they’ll regularly report in with new details i.e. frames. These frames are to be put in the right order before a case is solved. Once solved, suspects can be arrested by officers. It all sounds simple, but nothing is further from the truth.

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For I’m bombarded from all sides with dilemma’s. City hall demanding I hire more female officers, for example. If I meet their demands, it means I’ll have to fire some experienced male officers. If I ignore city hall, then city hall is bound to ignore my requests for a higher salary or more detectives. The more I progress, the more calls there are to be answered. With a limited force it’s virtually impossible to answer them all. More often than not, I’m struggling to choose. Do I send a squad to the little boy that’s home alone and thinks he heard something downstairs or do I send that squad to the man on the bridge threatening to kill himself?

All hell breaks loose when a second crime family vies for control with the mob. Jack is forced to pick sides and whichever side he chooses, they’ll often need help from my officers…

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This Is the Police is a fun little sim, but it dangerously skirts close to becoming repetitive. Calls start to look more and more alike, and soon I catch myself playing automatically, without paying too much attention to what’s actually going on. The increasing difficulty somewhat helps in creating a more entertaining gameplay, but at the same time I can imagine beginners in the genre being turned off by it.

Jan