Sunday, May 28, 2023

Pirate101's Sinbad Adventures Continue!

Two years ago, Pirate101 gave us an interesting story update that was completely unexpected and quite frankly made me incredibly excited. As I said back then, "Playing through this quest this morning pretty much solidified in my mind how much I love and have missed playing Pirate101. It's such a great game." Fast forward to five days ago, KingsIsle announced a new update to the Sinbad story line, and I was equally excited! 

Last night I logged on fresh without reading any patch notes and gave it a spin. Albano was there just waiting for me with a yellow exclamation mark, beckoning me on to further adventure!

Albano giving us the deets!

Albano lets you know he's tracked down Sinbad's ship, the Chimera, in the Ravaged Valley of Mooshu. Apparently all the characters you met in Sinbad Part 1 have chumped out and all that's left is Albano. 

Once you get to The Ravaged Valley, Sinbad joins your crew as a new level 71 Privateer Companion! There's no promotions for this companion, but he does come equipped with repel boarders, valor's shield, and a heal, so not the worst, not the best. It's a new companion! That alone gives you a lot of power, right?

New companion, what?!

Eventually you find The Chimera floating above a burning Mooshu tower and head-in in search of Sinbad. What you find inside are a bunch of Yakooza, Ninja Pigs, Goat Monks, and terrifying Tengu wizards! They're pretty tough!

Bring it, Miniboss Man!

Don't let the tower's outside appearances fool you, this isn't a three-story romp and you're done. It's much larger on the inside. Actually, in a way this tower feels a bit like a mini/more-manageable version of the Tower of Moo Manchu with only seven levels instead of 10.

Since I was doing this solo, and I'm a bit rusty on the game, I opted to use some crowns to get henchmen to help me fight my way up. Regardless, I died on floor six when I got a bit lazy on my first run through. On my second time through, I made it to the top floor and the final battle with the terrifying Kharonchi Khan, a fierce tiger warrior from Rajah that uses three clawed rakes as his weapon of choice. His stats were incredibly intimidating! I need a companion fit like this.

Riposte 5, Flanking 5, and Sneaky Sneaky? It's like the designers are trying to kill me or something!

After defeating Kharonchi, Sinbad goes on to weasel his way out of being the bad guy and reveals the true bad guy of the story, a warlord out of Rajah named General Klaw. There's a pretty big hint here that there might be a new windstone . . . to somewhere . . . perhaps Rajah . . . in our future. 

Did you say "Stone"?! As in . . . Windstone?!

As it turns out Sinbad's crew mutinied and now Klaw has the Belt of the Champions, which also means he has a head start on obtaining the infamous Eye of the Liger! In the end, Sinbad actually joins your crew as well! So, it's a pretty great one-two punch of new companions here for finishing this second quest.

Sure! Welcome aboard, Sinbad . . . would you like some pet hunting companion orders?

Here's to hoping we get another game update sooner rather than later! I really enjoy these new game updates for Pirate101 that have been happening! It's still such a great game. Now I just need to find some time to fight this new Dreadnaught I've heard is out there in Cool Ranch. Hmmm.

If you're looking to get into Pirate101, the Steam release is just a few days away! Wishlist the game and get ready to sail!

Happy Dueling!

Friday, May 26, 2023

Making my first Town in A Township Tale

Lately I've been playing a Multiplayer VR Survival game called A Township Tale. On PC you can play this for absolutely free, but on Oculus it'll cost you $10 (or cheaper if you buy it on sale like I did). 

This tip on the intro screen is a really good one btw . . .

The main difference between the versions is that on the Oculus version, you get the ability to make a server of your own. On the PC version, you'll have to become a supporter (subscription based) in order to make your own servers. The other really important note here is that currently as of this writing, cross platform servers aren't a thing, so I can't have my PC friends come join me in my Oculus games and vice versa.

The interesting thing about this game to me is that for a VR title, it actually has a surprisingly robust community. It has 82k followers in its official Discord channel and a really deep wiki to back the game up, which is needed btw.  The game NEEDS a wiki, which by its very nature shows you how intricate (or confusing, based on how you view it) this survival game is. You don't find that often in a VR game.

The game itself is pretty light on tutorials, but it does have a tutorial server that walks you through the basics of gathering stuff, exploring, making tools, and crafting your first backpack. The tutorial server is a public server, however, so I found it . . . interesting. There were a couple kids in the voice chat being obnoxious, and I get plenty of that at home. No thanks. Finding the mute voice chat button while in the tutorial server was my number one priority.

Once making it out of the tutorial server, I made my own server and wandered into the wonderful blank slate of a brand new game. I figured I'd invite people from my work to play this with me if they're interested, and so far the only person I've got onboard is my boss. hehe.

Getting just the right amount of straw to throw in the box to build a stairway to the blacksmith.

The main objective for the game is to find your run-down, vacated ghost town and build it into a thriving city. There are boxes all over the world that ask for various ingredients, and you throw those into boxes to unlock repairs and new features. Outside of this, exploration, hunting, and crafting are your main goals . . . find new things, hunt new beasts, and craft awesome weapons and tools. That's the game.

Crafting a handle for a tool is no joke. Legitimately complex.

I'm highly impressed with the embodied actions for this game. That's what you want from a VR game: to feel like you're really chopping down trees or crafting something. Unfortunately that also means that the easy actions of resource collecting and chopping down trees definitely isn't easy (at least here at the beginning of the game when my tools are a bit primitive). You'll break a sweat!

Things were even harder at first because I didn't know any of the controls, which is something the tutorial attempts to teach you, but doesn't do a great job with. I didn't know at first that you can lower your body close to the ground to pick things up. Instead I was bending over again and again and got completely worn out just from harvesting a few sticks and grass. 

If you're interested in playing a Township Tale, I'd highly recommend watching Mr. Whitty's How to Get Started video series on YouTube. It's an excellent set of tutorial videos for Township Tale. He's got a ton of time saving and helpful tricks that will get you going in game.

Stocking up the community woodpile for our town

My work is going to be having a "fun day" the last half of work today, and I've been prepping for me and the boss to start building out our town during that time. I've chopped down several trees, gathered stones, gathered sticks, found a couple hunting grounds . . . I'm ready for fun! We're going to build out the blacksmith and hopefully hit the mines today so we can start crafting some good weapons and tools. I've also cooked up 24 pieces of meat, so we should be totally set for the play session. 

I'll have to report back on our progress. Can't wait!

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A skiff is "What lies within" for me in Guild Wars 2

Yesterday was a big day for Guild Wars 2! The announcement came across Twitter just before noon that a new story quest was available to play titled "What Lies Within." If you owned the End of Dragons expansion, that meant this new content was available to you as a bonus.

For me it's been several years since I played any Guild Wars 2 content right as it released, and so I decided that I most definitely wanted to check it out. I purchased End of Dragons back when a sale was going on, but I still haven't finished my Icebrood Saga content, so it's just been kind of sitting there waiting for me to catch up.

I logged on and teleported to the far away content of Cantha and opened up my very first waypoint in the continent! 

Cantha is pretty. I spent a little bit of time in the original Cantha in the original Guild Wars, so I wasn't surprised when I saw the eastern world, but I was still struck by its digital beauty.

The beautiful views of New Kaineng City

As for the story content itself, it was pretty interesting. I was lost on who a few of the characters were, obviously, since I hadn't even played all the way through a couple of the story quests, but I got the gist. I love that Guild Wars lets you skip chapters and entire books in their story if you want to. Its freeform nature is a refreshing pleasure. 

Lots of people crowding the quest NPCs for What Lies Within

About halfway into the quests asking me to review my past in the game I got stuck because I hadn't unlocked fishing yet, so I spent an hour yesterday going back to the first part of End of Dragons to learn how to fish, and then I just kept going a bit.

Hmm . . . how to fish? Me no know!

My friend John also let me know that the Skiff mount was available from a heart faction vendor there on the first island as well, so I instead made that my goal for my play session instead of going back to What Lies Within and finishing the current content. I was giddy.

The Skiff was surprisingly easy to obtain. Basically you just finish the two heart faction unlocks on the island, buy a Writ of Seitung Province from both vendors and then use those and 700 karma to purchase a Skiff mount. Easy!

Peacefully floating around in Cantha on my new Skiff

The Skiff mount is great! You get a whole freakin' boat that you and your party can ride on together. It also allows you to go out to fishing spots far from the beach and cast your line.

The fishing game found in Guild Wars is not bad. Basically you cast your line, and when it sinks under water, you hook your fish. After this you use your 2 and 3 keys to move a tension bar left and right as a smaller fish bar moves back and forth. The objective is to keep the green fish bar within the tension bar until you've caught your fish.

My first fish!

I'm happy I got a chance to run around and see the crowds taking on the new content en masse. Any time I can play new content in a game and feel the excitement of the players simultaneously, it's just a unique kind of fun.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, May 15, 2023

Time to ROLL OUT with the Roller Beetle in GW2

After my last ordeal with getting the Skyscale, I have to tell you how nice it was to earn this mount. In comparison, getting the Roller Beetle Mount is super easy. In fact, it was fun! 

Rolling out with the Roller Beetle!

No nested achievements hidden inside of achievements here, the Roller Beetle is just straightforward and not bad to earn at all.

Basically, you just need to complete the second mission in the third episode of your Season 4 story to begin. Gorrik and Blish are stationed at the Northern end of the Allied Encampment in the Domain of Kourna, and they'll be your quest givers as you make your way toward beetledom.

Basically you need to grab 9 types of beetle juice, gather 7 components for a beetle saddle, and then feed your beetle 7 treats from around the world. Done and done.

I gave Petey a nice greenish Yellow paint job.

I mean, yeah . . . some of the components involve defeating group content, but, I have to say, shouting in the Map channel always seemed to gather support. Probably the suckiest of them all was the Alpha Beetle in Far Silverwastes.  I shouted for help, and all I managed to get was one other person.  On the other hand, we managed to take care of it just with the two of us. 

Look at all these crazy people. What are they even doing here?

The great thing about the Roller Beetle is that crazy speed you can get from it. I was reading through a few of the tricks people had found to get max speed with their beetle and it seems pretty fun to ride and race.

So now that I've earned the Roller Beetle, all that's left to earn (as far as mounts go) are the Siege Turtle and the Skiff. To get those, I need to move on to End of Dragons content, which I haven't done yet. 

It's a long list of mounts!

There's definitely more left to do for me in Guild Wars 2! At least for now I can get from point A to point B just a little bit faster.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Playing The Underdog in Diablo IV

Man, I can't wait for Diablo 4, y'all. Stress Tests Slams and Bust-em-up Beta Beatdowns, here I am! I am in for the hype and all the stupid Blizzard crap. BRING IT ON!

. . . and yet what dumb class am I playing for beta and the stress test? Not Necromancer!  No no no . . . I chose to play the underpowered, underdog class: The Druid. What am I thinking? I'm the Friendly Necromancer after all?! BUT, I love me an underdog.

Large and in-charge . . . Stingite the druid.

Well, it wasn't all bad as that to be honest. The weird thing is, I actually enjoyed myself better on the first go 'round that happened back in March. The main reason being that I found some great gear that made playing a lot of fun.

Basically the gear I had made Boulder a core skill and cut its spirit cost and damage by a bit. In addition to that I had another piece of gear that made core skills deal an additional 7% damage per each active companion, so there was some really nice synergy there. I loaded up 3 companions, and I was chucking boulders everywhere and having a great time with it.

Loved this combo . . .

This time around, I didn't find any Legendary gear.  All I had was yellows, and it was much less exciting. In traditional Diablo fashion, gear makes the game more fun. Meh, it is what it is, and it's not like I had a bad time playing this weekend. I still had fun, and I enjoyed building my druid a bit differently this go around because I was trying to play to what bonuses I had on my gear, which wasn't much.

On both playthroughs the Druid felt more tanky than DPS, and I think perhaps the Diablo team was trying to make some kind of "roles" for characters to fill? No.  It can't be that way. This is Diablo! The main thing any class will want to do is SHRED through things and feel powerful. Right? I've never played a Diablo where every class wasn't DPS. Killing things as fast and efficiently as possible is the name of the game.

OH . . . yeah . . . and, you know, the epic chilling story telling of good versus evil, but mostly evil. That's also a thing. So far, it was delivering.

This quest was. . . pretty disturbing . . .

The most interesting encounter I saw in Diablo IV was the world boss encounter where myself and 10 other chumps tried to kill Ashava, the world boss in Fractured Peaks, which is the wintery area that would typically be called "Act I" in any other Diablo game.

We tried . . .

This Diablo really seems more like the Diablo Immortal mobile game in that you are, in fact, running around with other people nearby all the time. It's MMO-like in that way, and if it's MMO-like and a Diablo clone? Yeah, the Friendly Necromancer is sure to be there.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Skyscale, the litmus test for GW2 Insanity

Well, I guess I should post about this since it was a long MMO project that kind of consumed a lot of free time this last couple weeks in Guild Wars 2. BEHOLD! THE SKYSCALE!

Flap. Flap. Flap. Flap.

The quest to obtain a Skyscale mount isn't an easy one. I'm reminded of the feeling I got from completing the epic weapon quests back in Everquest in a way, but Guild Wars 2 does such a good job at making content more accessible that it doesn't really compare. On the other hand, the complexity of the Skyscale quests in Guild Wars 2 is on another level. So, it kind of balances out.

Props to those that came before me who wrote down and documented instructions on the Guild Wars Wiki. Those are the true time-saving heroes in this world. It's such a noble task. Those crazy wiki people are saints. You know who else is a saint? My friend John, who completely saved me hours and hours of farming by letting me know map currencies are available through the Seasons of Dragons Achievements. THE BEST!

Ok, lemme just break this down for you a bit in case you don't know how the Skyscale quest works.

Step 1- Play through the entire Living Season World 4 content. It's a long story with some absolutely epic story moments. Really great content, and this part of the skyscale quest is just enjoyment of some PvE content. At that point, then you can start wondering about your Skyscale.

Yes, I flew down an elder dragon's throat and punched its heart until it died.

Now, if you look at the Wiki page for the Skyscale quest, you're like . . . hey! not bad! Just five achievements to get this thing. I can do that! But then and you click deeper, you realize that each achievement has nested achievements inside of it and suddenly that five step quest is now much, much more complicated.

Step 2 - Enter the world of Dragonfall. The first Achievement has you circling the world of dragonfall three separate times. Once looking for 21 scales. Once giving medicine to 14 sick skyscales. and Once looking for 21 skyscale eggs. It's not horrible, just time consuming, but all locations are well documented. You'll probably make a lot of money in Dragonfall while you're at it.

Grabbing an egg in Dragonfall

Step 3- Travel the entire Guild Wars 2 map while charging up 12 eggs with 4 sources of energy each. So you'll be making 48 stops around the world. Some are more difficult than others, but most are cake . . . touch some lava, touch some water, blah blah blah.  You gotta follow the guide though!  Otherwise you'll be backtracking a bunch. The most complicated part was solving the Rune-Locked Doors puzzle.

I love the Rune Back Piece you have during this puzzle! I need a perma version!

Step 4- Hatch that dragon and do some nurturing quests. You'll be spending some gold in this step as if you're like me, you weren't charging up quartz crystals for a couple weeks in advance.  I mean, I had a few, but it's not like I log on and charge a crystal each day . . . (but I probably should as a Blackmarket side hustle). That Crystal is a component for a Mystic Forge recipe to make Skyscale food. That quest is throttled in that you can only feed your dragon four pieces of food each real world day. You'll be stuck here for at least a few days.

Baby dragon loves me!

Outside of this you'll be needing to buy your baby skyscale some expensive toys and hunting down 12 of it's favorite treats from random enemies around the world.  Not bad, just another hoop in the series of hoops.

Step 5- Congrats! Your dragon is now a terrible toddler and its flown away to 21 different locations around the Guild Wars 2 map. The only problem is that most of those locations are at the top of jumping puzzles. It's a pain, but you got this!  You're too deep in there now to give up!

My dude, why do you pick the hardest places to hide!

After that you actually get to play with your dragon. After a fun game of catch and hide and seek, you'll be done with this step.  This dragon play part of the quest felt more fun than challenging. I liked it.

Step 6- Now you have to make your saddle. All you need is 250 of the unique map currencies found in 7 zones and 35 gold and 1,750 volatile magic.  The gold and volatile magic are the easy things to come by.  The map currency on the other hand . . . whew . . . it's a bit soul crushing at first when you realize it could take DAYS maybe WEEKS to collect all that currency.

But my buddy John saved me here. There's a beautiful mega achievement called Seasons of the Dragons, and nested inside this mega achievement are all of the 250 unique map currencies that you desire. All you gotta do is complete "Tier 3" steps for the Crystal Desert, Domain of Istan, Sandswept Isles, Domain of Kourna, Jahai Bluffs, Thunderhead Peaks, and Dragonfall. To do that you'll be harvesting nodes, completing bounties, completing events, completing Adventures, etc. in each of those zones.  It's much faster than the alternative, don't worry.

Awesome Boss Events await you!

Step 7- To cap it all off, once you get your saddle made, you need to do a short test flight with "rental skyscales" in 28 different zones.

Most of these tears in reality are just a few feet away from the rental spot. Not bad, just time consuming

And there you go, after 900 million sub-steps tucked away in the above seven steps, you're done and have an epic mount that can get you to the highest points in the game. 

Really cool to have finished up that mount. Now all I have to think about is if I want the two-rider turtle mount, the skiff, and the roller beetle. (At least I think that's all the rest of the mounts in GW2.) I've got plenty of content still to complete, but I can now join the masses of those who have the skyscale. It's not an exclusive club, but this quest definitely feels like a litmus test for GW2 insanity.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Monsters & Memories Stress Test Day 2

Yesterday around noon central time the Monsters & Memories Stress Test kicked back up and players were once again allowed in to give the servers a workout and get a sneak peak of what the developers had been working on.  I have to tell you that Day 2 went a lot smoother for me than Day 1!

Whereas I was constantly dying on Day 1 and eternally lost, on Day 2 I was able to memorize my skills, put them on the ability bar, and start to really kill some stuff. Those skills being available made a ton of difference.

Killing skeletons! This is the way!

Not only that but I actually finished my first Beastmaster quest, which was to collect 2 teeth each from rats, bats, and jackals. Once I had all six, then all I had to do was press combine to make a new necklace. Running back to the Beastmaster Trainer and handing it in produced my first magic item, the Beast's Initiate Cord.

My first magic item from the Beast Master Intro Quest

By the end of my play time (before my family ripped me away to have a movie night watching The Amazing Maurice), I had reached level 3, trained up dual wielding, and memorized a spell that would turn me True North. 

I can't tell you how much I wish a Day 3 of Stress Testing was happening so I could go back in and track down the Beastmaster Spell Trainer. I took a screenshot of him because I was sure I would need to reference it again to locate him, but as I was playing, I completely forgot that I had even taken the below screenshot and failed to ever find him again.

LOL! He's clearly standing in Saltwater Park or whatever it's called. DANGIT!

I did have some fun exploring while looking for the spell trainer though and really walked the extents of the sprawling city, even the parts that I was clearly not supposed to be in because none of the buildings were even finished. They were still greyboxed and no NPCs were in sight.

Hello Sunrise! How I missed you! I was awfully lost in the dark for a while.

By the end of my play session I was selling vendor trash to the hidden vendor I found and stashing stuff into my bank. I know it seems weird, but it felt good to be completely confused in "New Everquest" all over again. Gauging from the /ooc chat in game, it appeared I wasn't alone in that feeling either. 

We'll see if I feel the same way come next stress test / pre-Alpha or what have you, but for now, my general feelings are BRING ON MORE MONSTERS & MEMORIES! HUZZAH!

Happy Dueling

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Monsters & Memories Stress Test 1

I've had my eye on Monsters & Memories since it was announced. In fact, I joined their Discord server right away when I heard about it, and then after a month or so, I realized I couldn't keep up with chat and promptly left. This was way back in, what, 2020? 2021?

Anyway, yesterday I caught wind from Shawn Lord's LinkedIn that this weekend they were holding a couple rounds of stress testing, and I decided to download it and give it a shot. (I used to work with Shawn back at KingsIsle.) 

Of course there were all kinds of padded warnings that came along with their stress test:

"PLEASE NOTE: By registering for, downloading, or logging into Monsters & Memories, you acknowledge your understanding that this is a technical "stress test" of an early development build and not a pre-alpha, alpha, beta, or any other form of test indicative of the game being in a ready-for-release state."

There was even more padding after you installed about the state of the game being buggy and not ready for prime time, BUT there was no NDA or any kind of gag order. In fact, there were people Twitch streaming their gameplay last night.

Oogaooga the Ogre Beastmaster

The game in its current state feels very much like a love letter to Everquest and classic MMOs, and it was every bit as confusing as that first time you logged into Everquest and had to kind of figure out what it was you were doing. At the same time "/attack" worked just fine . . . so it felt instantly familiar.

Of course I got my butt handed to me by a beetle the first time I tried slash attack

The real fun of the game didn't seem to be attacking things right at first anyway. The city behind the gates you spawn at was sprawling and impressive in its size and maze-like qualities.  Just like in Everquest, this was a city you could get lost in.

Looking out upon half of the city late at night from up on a ledge

Eventually the server I was on crashed out, and I had to hop on a second server and try again. While I was there, I finally figured out how to scribe my spells into my spellbook, but I couldn't quite figure out how to then transfer my spellbook spells over to my ability slots to cast them. I wandered the city a bit with my new Gnome Beastmaster and then logged out for the night. 

Somewhere in here, there's a quest giver waiting for me to put a note in his inventory box

I'm glad I was able to add my bandwidth to the stress test. There's another stress test for a few hours this afternoon as well, so I may jump on again. Either way, it was interesting to see so many people there pining for the old days in Everquest to be new again. Can't wait to see where Monsters and Memories is a couple years from now.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Jenga Meets VR Match-3 in Jentrix!

Ahhh, so you're up to your old tricks, eh?  But are you up to your old, Jentrix though!? No? Don't even know what the heck I'm talking about!? Well, I can't blame you!

I'm here writing what is possibly my last review (at least for now) in a series of Match-3 VR game reviews.  Yeah, there's one or two more games I could write about that technically fall in the Match-3 genre, and who knows what's yet to come in this crazy subgenre . . . but I've reached the end of my original list of Match-3 VR games I wanted to check out. 

And how do I end this series of reviews? With a crazy game that's a mad mixup of Jenga and Match-3 in a VR game that has some good ol' goofy physics fun! It's Jentrix! Check it out:

Jentrix is an $8 game on Steam with a "coming soon" store front message on Oculus. Unfortunately at the time of writing, it doesn't appear this game is included with Steam's Puzzlefest going on right now. I'd say the price is still right on the money for the experience. Even better, apparently they just added multiplayer to the game?  I've yet to try it out! I bet you it's a lot of fun.

Time to get your Berries, Bananas, and Peas in a row

So in Jentrix you slide elongated fruits out from a Jenga-like stack of elongated fruits and try to match up three of a kind. You gotta be careful though since the slightest upward or downward pull can send your whole stack of fruits tumbling. To make matters more frantic, you have pieces that are actually mini-crocodiles, birds that somehow freeze your pieces in blocks of ice (don't ask me, I can't explain it), and a timer that spits out pieces to the top of the stack every few seconds. If your fruits fall on the floor, you have a limited time to pick it up. Let too many fruits fall on the floor and it's game over.

Still lots of progress to make on the Jentrix campaign map!

The game has 20 achievements, and a good majority of them have to do with progression along the campaign map or with achieving high scores in arcade mode. So far in campaign mode, it seems like it's all about reaching point goals. When you achieve a certain score for the level, you win and progress to the next node of the map. It feels like I'm about 1/4th of the way in currently and I'm not sure what new mechanics they'll throw at me as I progress or if it will be just turning up of the five difficulty knobs they seem to have:

1- pieces fall in a faster cadence
2- new and different pieces
3- more and faster freezing birds
4- increased point goal markers
5- fewer allowed mistakes

I'm kind of excited to see what else they've got!

Giving a frozen strawberry smackdown to a red bird

This game isn't really meant to be played sitting down. You've gotta stand up to get all these angles. You'll also be doing a lot of toe touches as you bend down to pick up fallen pieces. So for a puzzle game, there's actually a lot of physical movement you need to do to play Jentrix.

I think my favorite part of this game isn't necessarily its gameplay, but rather its colorful skin and humorous physics fun. It's fun to grab these fruits and slot them in to the puzzle.  It's also pretty funny when you just spill the whole tower and wait to start over. That said, they've somehow allowed for a certain amount of leniency with the game's physics and made a pretty great system in what seems an impossible scenario of stacking.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 24, 2023

Rainbow Reactor Fusion, A Futuristic Match-3 VR Game

Back over to the Quest 2 today, and I think I've discovered a pretty cool VR Match-3 game that might just be my favorite of the bunch yet! 

Rainbow Reactor Fusion comes in at a little bit of a higher price point at $15, but I'm finding it absolutely worth it. At first I thought this game was only available through the Sidequest, but their Sidequest link led right to the Oculus store. Unfortunately this game isn't yet available on Steam, but it says it's coming soon. Check it out!

At its heart, Rainbow Reactor Fusion is basically a VR version of a carnival ball toss game. Balls of paint roll down at you from ramps that are to the right and left of you, and you have to grab them and toss them on to the game field. When you toss a ball in a spot where it touches 3 or more colors, all those colors are removed and you score points. Throw a ball out of bounds, and you'll earn a strike. Three strikes and it's game over.

To make the game more interesting, they've also made it where you can fuse colored balls together to create one ball of a different color. The fusion doesn't really work in true color wheel fashion, but once you start fusing colors, you start to get the hang of it.

Red and Green make Yellow, Yellow and Teal make Green, Green and Blue make Teal, etc.

Now, if this game was just what was stated above, it probably wouldn't be worth $15.  What makes this game worth more is the factory-wide restoration/puzzle-solving story game you undertake while playing the above game . . . and its charm. Yup, this game is also oozing with fun Portal 2-esque character charm while solving the factory's mystery.

At the start of the game you find yourself standing in an elevator, watching a black and white video of one Alfred Luzan von Hoffenhasselbrock as he breaks down the history of the Rainbow Reactor Factory and how it all works.  Once the tutorial video is over, you're introduced to a little robot buddy named Dottie. Dottie guides you in restoration efforts from this point forward.

Dottie welcoming me back to the Rainbow Reactor Factory

Over time you'll purchase an axe, a wrench, a brush, and other tools from an in-game shop. These all help unravel the mystery of the factory. All the while you'll be playing the Rainbow Reactor Fusion Match-3 game as part of it all.

I haven't yet made it to the end of the game, but it is getting more challenging the further up the factory I go. Multiple colors on the board make the game interesting and the speed at which the color fusion paint balls start coming toward you also raise the challenge. 

The game itself makes really good use of VR as a medium for the match-3 game and it is a very physical experience. The UIs bend around transparent screens and look like they are a part of the world.

Notice how the game UI makes sense in the world and doesn't look slapped on the screen?

Overall, this is just a really well put together game. I'm happy to have discovered it in my hunt of VR Match-3 games.

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Button Bombers, a creative match-3 VR mashup

For anyone that owns a Quest 2 headset (affordable VR woot), I'm not sure how many know they can unlock the immense library of Sidequest games that you can play from little known developers. Just think of Sidequest as the Roblox of VR development.

To actually make your way on to the Oculus Store as a legit game, you have to undergo a certification QA process that seems to stop many in their tracks. That's where Sidequest comes in. People can load their un-QA'd games up to a third-party download site like, make a trailer, set a price, and BAM . . . you're a VR developer.

On the other end, as a player you have to configure your Quest 2 in a certain way to play these games, but it's not rocket science, just follow the tutorial.

The reason why this review has all this padding is because I'm starting to exhaust the library of VR Match-3 games that are out there and today's game comes from Sidequest.

Button bombers!  It's a VR Match-3 Demo from a fella named Andrew Stout. He's actually put quite a bit of work into this demo and it plays really well. Check it out:

The style of match 3 found in Button Bombers is the upward elevating style. The game that instantly comes to mind for me was Wizard101's Wizardblox since I played so much of that game. (Wizardblox wasn't the only match 3 that used this technique -- just the first that came to mind). Basically, you start with a board that is 2/3rds full and new matching pieces come from the bottom of the board as they slowly rise upward.  If an object on the gameboard hits the top, then it's game over.

Besides the basics, what Button Bombers has going for it is creative flair. On the "Button" side of the "Button bombers" equation are a ton of sewing puns and head nods.  Your match pieces are buttons, your training grounds are a "sewing dojo" (although I think he should have just gone with "Sewjo") that's decorated with needles and scissors. 

Even the volume controls are on zippers in the options menu

The game pieces have sewing themed mechanics to them. Your buttons can get "pinned," and you have to make matches with them to unpin them. Your buttons can be stitched together, and you have to make a match underneath them to break the stitching. Your buttons can instead be "snaps" that act as bombs. It's a sewing themed match 3.  

there's a lot of mechanics going on here . . .

ON the "Bombers" side of the "Button bombers" equation are a ton of warfare puns and head nods. Your match 3 games are 1v1 battles against AI. When you or the AI make large matches, you throw bombs, bricks, and torpedoes on to the other player's game board. You travel a war map defeating opponent after opponent. Your opponents are on a sewn together ship that you're trying to sink with cannon fire from your ship.

On a ship, looking at a battle map, ready to bomb some buttons!

So not only are you creatively meshing VR and match-3, but you're also meshing sewing with warfare. It's a combination that makes absolutely no sense, but somehow works at the same time.

In addition there's a strange dialog system mechanic that probably has some future meaning to it where you can earn +1 scores to traits that don't currently do anything. Add a +1 to my confusion! Where was he going with this system? Will we ever know?!

At the end of the day here. Yeah. I don't really want to offer criticism of this project. It's a free demo. It's a single dev. It's something where you can tell a lot of heart and thought was put into the project -- probably a lot more than some of the other VR Match-3 games I've been playing

I hope he finishes it because I had fun playing it. If he ever happens to read this post, here's me wishing you the best of luck! Thanks for adding to the VR Match-3 genre.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Match it! A Simple and Surprising VR Matching Game

Not going to lie, I'm kind of excited to show off today's matching game. The past few days I've been doing a few reviews on match-3 VR games, and in my search for games I stumbled upon "Match It!", which is a colors and numbers matching game.  The best part of Match It! is that it's absolutely free, so there's absolutely no buyers remorse at all.

Now, just to be fair to the Match-3 VR genre, this isn't a match-3, but it is a match 2. I had "match 3" so firmly embedded in my mind that as I started to play this game I was grabbing hexes and trying to drop them on top of other hexes. It didn't work. You need to use both hands to play . . . like so:

There's zero instructions on this game, but after experimenting a bit, I quickly came to find out that you can do this one of two ways, either by simultaneously clicking on matching hexes or by grabbing one hex and holding it with one hand and clicking on the matching hex with another hand . . . the latter being more effective with larger boards, but the former being more of a mental workout and faster on smaller boards.

What's genius about this game is the tension they're able to bring into it by making the leaderboards an active part in gameplay.

As you begin clicking and playing, you're elevated up between a cube of skyscrapers. You have this feeling of being ON TOP of the world as you start clicking and begin your game.  Then you begin your descent as you slowly drop a step each time a faster past leaderboard entry is reached. For some reason, feeling your descent in VR while simultaneously hearing a descension note as you drop a place on the leaderboard is absolutely genius. It gives this really nice competitive tension to the game and makes it an experience I hadn't yet felt in VR. 

I need more copycat games that use this tension, please!

There's actually a leaderboard for each variation of match it game. These leaderboards certainly don't feel faked if they are.  If you happen to download it and see "It Stings" with a time of 8.64 seconds or better on the default numbers, 4-color, 32 blocks game . . . let me know!


I found the REAL fun of this game was the numbers, 8-color, 128 blocks game. Awesome and such a workout as you spin around trying to find a random number between 1 and 64.

So there's not much to this game and it's very simple. It's all it needs to be, and it's 100 percent free. No complaints from me.  If you're looking for a great intro to VR matching game experience, Match It! appears to be a great starter game.

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Cutting the Cubes in Quest for Runia, Match-3 VR

Yup, it’s that time! Time to match another group of colored things together in a VR Match 3 game. Who doesn’t love matching things together? Who cares if they’re cubes, not gems?! Quest for Runia doesn’t care!

Quest for Runia is actually a pretty good bargain for the size of game it is at $5 on Steam. It has an astounding 27 achievements, at least 7 environments (maybe more?!), and some zen-like play that’s only moderately difficult at times. 

Ok, here’s the whole shtick with Quest for Runia. Basically, you have a big staff in one hand. You use this staff to shoot out a colored cube that snaps to other colored cubes in a color cube puzzle. If you match at least 3 colors together, then all the matching colors that are touching sides will be stripped away.  The object, remove ALL the colored cubes on the playing field. If you are super efficient, you’ll 3 star that puzzle. If you’re mildly efficient, you’ll 2 star it. If you are just kinda clicking things, you’ll either 1 star or fail the level. Fail the level, and you have to try again.

A beginner intro puzzle in Quest for Runia

While this is 3D space in VR, the puzzle stays in front of your field of view for the most part, and you don’t need to move around much at all. Save for the boss levels, where the big bad of the story, Karos the magician, puts you in a color cube prison, and you have to make matches to get out.

Don't let the evil Karos fool you, He is way more diabolical than Orco from He-man!

Environments are set up as kind of floating islands, and as you beat one puzzle, you progress to a different location on the island until you beat all the puzzles in the environment. As any level designer for match 3 games can tell you, one of the best moments in crafting a level is when you get to shape it like something.  The most common being “the heart” shape, for example. You can tell the level designer in Quest for Runia had a lot of fun making these tear-away matching puzzles. Sometimes the puzzle would look like a cauldron or a ship or what-have-you. Kind of cool! Most of the time it was just a mess of colors in big cube shapes with plenty of holes in the middle. 

Check it out!

Now it’s time for all my complaints. I’m sorry! Yeesh, me and my complaints! Only a couple here:

The big complaint – there is nothing more frustrating than when you want to place a cube somewhere in this game, and the slightest movement of your hand while you click your trigger button to place it, somehow makes a cube end up somewhere else besides where you intended it. 

It’s hard to explain it, but here’s the scenario: say you wanted to put a blue cube on the top of another blue cube to connect two rows of blue cubes together, thus removing both rows of blue cubes with one click. BUT, if you ever so slightly move your hand down a touch when you’re clicking to place your cube, then BAM . . . aww crap, I placed the blue cube on the FRONT of a cube instead of the TOP and then only end up removing one of the two rows. (You can actually see something like that happen at the 1:41 mark in the video above)

For a zen-like game, having any moments of frustration is a big turn off. I’ve been kind of wracking my brain thinking, hmmm, if this was my game how would I do that differently.  I think it comes down to the controls they give you.  The only method for alleviating this is to “spin” the 3D structure of cubes around by pressing a button and hoping for a good angle as the puzzle shifts in 90 degree increments. In a perfect world, I’d change this so that I could grow or shrink a puzzle through pinch and pull movements and allow the player to drag themselves around the puzzle instead of always having it stuck in front of me. If I could get INTO the puzzle’s nooks and crannies, I’d be a match-happy friendly necromancer. I suppose that could be considered just part of the challenge, but . . . really? I don't think so.

Next big complaint – VR is a tricky medium to work in when it comes to UI. A player’s immersion gets really killed by floating UI elements. It’s like, you have this low-poly charming world around you in Quest for Runia, but it’s kind of ruined by this slapped on UI that floats at the bottom of the puzzle area. It’s a real challenge to incorporate UI into the environment so it feels more natural. I don’t know how I would have done it differently, but just know there’s kind of a UX no-no going on here. Not to mention the UI icons look like temp art, but then again, the game is $5, so you get what you pay for, right?

Anyway, those things aside, this isn’t a bad game. You progress through worlds filled with puzzles getting some light story with a little zen-like match 3 that has an occasional point of frustration because of controls. Ok. It’s better than a lot of these other Match 3 VR games I’ve played, so there you go!

Happy Dueling