Petty Review: Enter the Gungeon

Enter the Gungeon is a game with simple mechanics and ideas but it is extraordinarily hard to master. The basis of the game is pretty straight forward. Get to the end of a procedurally generated dungeon in order to obtain a magic time gun. There are four playable characters at the start. You pick one, enter the dungeon, and then try to survive. Shoot everything that moves until it dies or you die. That’s the whole game. 

The real nerd description that best fits Enter the Gungeon is rogue-lite. My husband described it as such. Of course, I immediately understood what he meant. I had no need to google its definition… Don’t look at my search history, it’s lying!

This game has an old-school pixel art aesthetic. It’s done really well. It has all the vibes of  Dungeons and Dragons combined with good ol’ ‘Murican gun love. It’s fast-paced, with no wasted time on cutscenes after the intro. If When you die one button press is all it takes to instantly restart and try again. Honestly, this made it really fun to play. The combat was simple to learn but hard to master. The fast pacing made it easy to keep trying. I like the style of it, fantasy western with a hint of creepy. 

So why is Enter the Gungeon part of my petty reviews? Because it is hard! Dang hard! Bathing my cat was easier than this game. I died so many times. At least half of those times was just because I was dumb. I kept trying and trying but I couldn’t make any progress. Every time I thought I was getting a little bit better at the game, Enter the Gungeon was ready to “lol. Nope:)” and immediately kill me. While there were moments I raged at this game, most of the time I wasn’t even angry. I died because I was dumb or just plain bad. My normal reaction to “You Died” was “Understandable”. 

Eventually after dying like 15 times without even coming close to beating the first boss (most of the time not even reaching the boss) the effort to get good at the game didn’t feel worth it. I didn’t feel angry at it, I felt tired. I felt tired of continually trying without anything to show for my efforts. The best word for this feeling is demoralizing. Beating the game seemed next to impossible. On rare occasions, I might like a rogue-lite game enough to be determined enough to finish it. This is not one of those times. 

Enter the Gungeon would have been far easier to play if they had added an upgrade system. So that every time you died you would have points of some sort to spend on improving maximum health, stats, or starting equipment. It would have made dying so many times feel less like a pointless slog. Whenever I died I would be able to work towards things that would make beating the game possible. They could have at least added a second mode where that was an option while still having the original “git gud” mode.

Maybe I’ll play it from time to time for fun. But I’ll probably never beat Enter the Gungeon. So I’ll never be able to write a true review of it. It’s a shame because it is a pretty good game. I like its style and gameplay. If you ever do try it, good luck. You’re going to need it. 

*Image does not belong to me. It’s a screenshot of Enter the Gungeon posted on a EuroGamer review

Pocketful of Sunshine Monsters: Pokémon Sun

I may not have owned any consoles as a kid (read about that here), but even I knew about Pokémon. Growing up late ‘90s early 2000s Pokémon had a part in kid culture. There were trading cards, a tv show, and then there were the video games. I only saw a handful of episodes on Cartoon Network. It looked cool, if not odd. 

Later on, I had forgotten about it. I was a busy college student. However, a few of my friends started talking about the new Pokémon Sun and Moon games coming out. It made me remember the series and I decided to finally try it out. I bought myself a used 2DS and got the game when it was released. Pokémon Sun became the first Pokémon game I ever played. 

Verdict

Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Nostalgia Bonus, Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The Pokémon video games series is well known for being formulaic. Add some new pokémon, create a new region, and make new characters then recreate the story of an 11-year-old becoming a pokémon trainer. While graphically, the games improved over time, the gameplay and overall story were repeated over and over with little changes. To be fair, the newest games Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu and Pokémon Sword/Shield made significant improvements in gameplay with how random encounters worked, but the story is relatively the same. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. After all, I enjoyed playing Let’s Go Eevee and Shield. 

Pokémon Sun at least provides a more logical reason for the entire journey. The island challenge is a well-known cultural coming-of-age ceremony. Normally there isn’t much of a reason for your journey, it’s just what you do as the main character. I also got invested in the sci-fi elements of Pokémon Sun. The fact that another dimension exists in this game was really interesting to me. Out of the three Pokémon games, I have played, this is the one that has the best story. This is why I think Pokémon Sun is still worth playing. Not for the gameplay, but for the story and setting. 

You would like this game if

  • You like animals. 
  • Want the gameplay of rock, paper, scissors taken to the extreme.
  • Are a collector at heart
  • Want to play a chill game that doesn’t require much effort or brainpower.
  • You have played so many Pokémon games, now you just want that sweet, sweet nostalgia. Ahhhh….. So comfy….

Story

Like all Pokémon games, this is a coming-of-age story. The main character and their mom move to Melemele Island, one of the Alola region islands. Alola is Pokémon’s version of Hawaii. When you get there you learn of the island challenge, a series of challenges set by the trial captains throughout all of the islands. You and a local boy named Hau, decide to undertake the challenge together. After all, no Pokémon game is complete without a rival. The two of you meet a girl named Lillie and her pokémon Nebby. Nebby is a unique pokémon that is often targeted by kidnappers looking to exploit him. Naturally, you help her out and become friends. 

Along the way, you encounter the local gang, Team Skull. This gang is made up of the people who quit the island challenge and now exist to cause trouble. They aren’t the only group you come across. While completing the island challenge, you are introduced to the Aether Foundation and its president Lusamine. The Aether Foundation aims to shelter pokémon when they are threatened. When visiting the Foundation’s base a strange dimensional wormhole appears and an unknown pokémon emerges from it. Despite your best efforts it retreats before you can defeat or capture it. This event adds a new layer of intrigue to your quest. What exactly are these extra-dimensional pokémon? Why are they appearing? Continue your journey to find out!

Gameplay

The gameplay of Pokémon Sun is very simple. It’s like the game was designed for kids instead of the twenty to thirty-somethings that make up the bulk of the players. Weird huh? You play as a spunky 11-year-old girl or boy starting their journey to become the very best like no one ever was♩. You travel along the paths to get to new towns and islands. In towns, there are Pokémon Centers and Poké-Marts. You can buy items at the Poké-Mart. Pokémon Centers are where you can get your pokémon healed. As you travel and defeat trial captains you progress through the story. You can freely interact with the environment and the people in the world. People will always talk to you and at times give you gifts. There are hidden items scattered about so it’s important to explore. Sometimes you will encounter an obstacle in the environment. Later on, you will acquire a skill that will enable you to get past these obstacles.

On the paths between towns, you encounter wild pokémon and pokémon trainers. The wild pokémon are in the patches of tall grass along the trail. When you enter the tall grass you can see rustling where there is pokémon. Once you walk around in the tall grass for a few seconds you will encounter a wild pokémon! You can either defeat the pokémon for EXP or try to catch it. There are other trainers along the trails. As soon as they see you they will challenge you to a pokémon fight. You can try to avoid them by walking around them but it doesn’t always work. Beating trainers in combat is how you earn money. I know it doesn’t make sense. Video game logic… don’t question it too much. 

The combat in this game is turn-based. Every time you encounter wild pokémon, trainers on the paths between cities, or do a trial challenge you will enter combat. You can have a total of six pokémon on your team. The pokémon in the first row will be the one that you start the battle with (by default that is your starter pokémon). Once the battle starts there are several things you can do: attack with one of your pokémon’s skills, use an item, switch your current pokémon for a different one on your team, and when facing a wild pokémon throw a pokéball to attempt to catch it. After your turn, the opponent has their turn. Most of the time they choose to attack. Sometimes trainers will use an item or switch pokemon but not very often. 

This battle system is easy to abuse. Every pokémon has a type or combination of types. Each type deals extra damage to certain types and takes heavy damage from particular types. For example, a fire-type pokémon is “super effective” against grass-type pokémon and is weak to water-type pokémon. If you abuse this system and constantly hit enemies with their weaknesses it makes battles a cakewalk. Note: if you are trying to catch a wild pokémon you don’t want to defeat it. Instead, you should try to lower its health then try to catch it with a pokéball. 

Worst Parts

  • Random Encounters. It would have been nice to know what pokémon was in the grass before running into it. At least you have the option to run past most areas where they spawn to save time. Not a bad mechanic but it does get tedious. 
  • It was easy to beat the game. I know, it’s a kid game. But still for the most part it was easy to breeze through challenges by picking out the optimal team then abusing the type matchup system. I’d like a little more challenge. I think Pokémon should add a hard mode.
  • All of the dang trainers along the paths. I just want to get to point A to point B. Can’t we do this later? I want to explore right now, not grind. 

Best Parts

  • Catching and naming pokémon. Some of them are so cute! There’s also that collector’s drive that makes it very satisfying. 
  • Poking fun at the logic of the world. Ah yes, I am 11, time to start my journey! Navigating dangerous wild areas, traveling to new cities, and taking down the local gang are all things that I, an unsupervised child, am capable of. All to become a master in animal fighting rings. 
  • Customizing your character’s style. 
  • Z-moves. They are flashy extreme anime moments of the game. 
  • Trading pokémon with friends. It was always interesting to see how they named the ones they caught. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Pokémon Company, Game Freak, and Nintendo.

Petty Reviews: Monster Hunter World

I’ve seen Monster Hunter World many times. I always thought the game looked really pretty. The box art, in particular, is fantastic! There’s something epic about playing as a small human trying to take on massive, powerful creatures. I never got around to buying it though. There were always other games that I wanted more. Also, there were the games I already owned that I still had to play through. Lucky for me, Monster Hunter World was one of the games included on the Playstation Plus Collection. Since it was the low, low price of free, I thought I would give it a shot. 

I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be committing to a full playthrough right now. I have other games to finish, on top of having the rest of life’s endless hectic to-do lists. Instead, I decided to play just far enough to experience the combat. I wanted to see what the game was like. So I played through the introduction and the first quest. It wasn’t very long but it was long enough to put this game at the bottom of my priority list. 

There wasn’t one big thing that I hated in Monster Hunter World. Instead, several annoyances just piled on top of one another. None of these irritants is game-breaking. However, I didn’t feel like expending the time and energy to adjust to the controls. Maybe eventually I’ll return to this game if I ever finish all my games on my To-Play List. 

One of the first things that you have to adjust to in any game is their menu system. In Monster Hunter World there is a whole lot of things to look at in the game’s menus. It was hard to easily discover what was important, not without paying close attention to what you’re reading. There is too much information all at once, most of it irrelevant until you make more progress in the game. The text of the menu is a little annoying to read because the font is small. Maybe that’s not a problem on PC? It was certainly a problem on the PS5, playing on the couch several feet away from the tv. There are way too many pop-up tutorial windows to read. They had similar problems. Both have small text and a lot of information all at once. 

The gameplay itself felt odd. It had controls I wasn’t used to. I was playing with the PS5 controller. In most games X is attack but not in Monster Hunter World. In this game attack is Triangle and Square (or Circle? can’t remember). It felt awkward to play on the controller. Fighting felt clunky and unintuitive. I did not feel like an epic warrior that the art portrayed. My character was just as clumsy as I am. I ended up choosing to use a long-range option because it felt a little less awkward than the melee weapon options. The use of the trigger buttons to aim and shoot felt familiar to me after playing shooting games like Borderlands 2 and 3. Sadly while I found this easier to get the hang of, for what little I played, it’s not as much fun as swinging around a big sword.  

Another nitpick about the gameplay is that I can’t jump. The character automatically interacts with the environment. This is fine but not my preference in an open-world focused on combat and exploration. It would have been nice to have that additional freedom while running around. Especially since the beauty of the environment is the big selling point in this game.  

If a game’s story is engaging enough and the characters are likable and well written, I will be willing to overlook a lot of flaws in a video game. It’s why I like playing older games as well as modern ones. The experience is worth the frustrations. Unfortunately, Monster Hunter World doesn’t have much of a story. It is a basic setup. The main character belongs to a hunter guild and goes to a new area to do their job. The characters weren’t interesting, except the Palicos they are perfect. Character development and story are meant to be in the background. Instead, the focus of Monster Hunter World is the environment and the creatures you have to fight. That would have been fine by me if the gameplay was up to par. I didn’t start this game for the story, I wanted to see giant monsters and try to bring them down. Instead, it was a struggle to adjust to the basics of playing the game. 

Monster Hunter World has the potential to be a fun game. For me, the time and effort it will take to adjust to the controls and figure out how the mechanics of the game work aren’t worth it right now. This game would have been better for newcomers if they had gradually opened up menus and abilities based on story progression. The story itself is lacking, borderline boring. The game provides the bare minimum as a framework for how the world works and the main character’s motivation. Surprising how a world with such fantastical creatures could be so bland. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Monster Hunter World developers.