Tag Archives: energy

Casting Relashio on the ho hum Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

I’ve been meaning to uninstall Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery for months now. Yes, I have known for quite a while that this is not the kind of digital Harry Potter experience I want, which means they need to reveal whatever that open-world thing is as soon as possible or I must finally play my cheap-o copies of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the PlayStation 2. Heck, LEGO Harry Potter did a much better job of immersing me in the fantastic and fantastical world of wizards, muggles, and a secretive school for learning magic.

The game is naturally set in Hogwarts, but before the events of J.K. Rowling’s novels, featuring a customized protagonist, who you can see above in this blog post’s prominent screenshot. Yup, that’s me, eating the world’s largest sandwich. Alas, he probably looks like a lot of other players’ avatars because the customizing options are fairly limited or locked behind spending high amounts of your precious gem currency…just to get a different hairstyle. Anyways, your homemade student is a first-year and can attend magic classes, learn spells, battle rivals, and embark on quests. So long as you have the time.

Throughout Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery‘s story, players are able to make choices that affect the game’s narrative. Occasionally, these choices are locked if the player’s statistics are not high enough. As expected, your avatar will be interacting with notable characters from the series, such as Albus Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid (aka, the best character ever), Severus Snape, and Minerva McGonagall. The main plot starts with your character meeting Rowan Khanna in Diagon Alley, a young witch or wizard–I think if you pick a male avatar, Rowan will also be male because Melanie’s Rowan was a young woman–who teaches the player all about the wizarding world. Later, a conversation with wandmaker Ollivander reveals that the player character’s brother, Jacob, was expelled from Hogwarts for attempting to open the “Cursed Vaults,” a hidden vault rumored to have existed at the school.

As a free-to-play mobile game, it naturally features a system with tasks costing energy to perform. Look, it’s just a staple of the genre now, so to speak. You have to tap on the screen–really specific characters or objects–to use energy during quests; when you run out, you can either wait for it to recharge over real time or pay gems to add more (don’t ever do this). The player also gains different levels of courage, empathy, and knowledge via the choices they make, and higher levels of a particular attribute allow the player to choose some different dialogue options or change the interactions of other students and staff. You won’t be surprised to learn that I focused mostly on empathy throughout my short, two Ravenclaw years at Hogwarts, because I’m a caring soul.

Here’s the part that I found really frustrating in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Many of the quests are limited not only by a specific amount of energy, but also time. For example, say you are trying to learn a new spell. Well, you have only an hour to complete the quest, and you end up being a few energy taps short after your first go at it. Obviously, you just need to wait a bit and come back to it, but I don’t like feeling tied to my cell phone all the time, and I’d often only return way later to learn that I had failed the quest and would have to do it all over again to progress.

The game looks quite good, but the writing is disappointingly bland. There are occasional moments of interesting stuff, but the side dialogue during quests is so generic it might as well not even be there. Every now and then you get asked a magic-related question to answer, and the questions are beyond easy, even for someone only faintly aware of the Potterverse. Dueling other students and casting spells is neat, but mostly just involves tapping and relying on a rock, paper, scissors outcome. Honestly, the waiting around for your energy meter to recharge wouldn’t be too bad…if you had more to do in Hogwarts. But everything requires energy. You just jump from space to space, looking for something interesting to engage in, and, shockingly, at a school where a professor can turn into a cat or staircases move on their own, there is nothing special to engage in. What a shame.

Ultimately, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery made me feel like a prisoner of Azkaban, demanding I check in on it sooner than later, and I am deathly afraid of Dementors…so no thank you.

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Help elf people survive in Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure

Lost Lands A Hidden Object Adventure early impressions

There’s a first for everything, and Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure is my initial dip into a free-to-play hidden objects game. Y’know, that mega popular genre where you examine a scene and click on items to check them off a list. Back in the old days, you used to do it on paper, in magazines like Highlights, while waiting in some reception area. It’s strange to see this genre smothered by staple free-to-play elements like energy and special currencies, but it’s free on Steam and sometimes all I want to do is scour a scene for the most random of items, and this kind of fills that desire, but only kind of. Unfortunately, while clicking on crabs, knapsacks, and hidden oars, I also found a number of problems along the way.

Allow me to get the silly out of the way fast and describe the game’s story. Yes, Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure has a plot, if you want to follow it. Right, here we go. A bunch of elves were forced to set sail for a new home after their kingdom ends up in ruins. A terrible storm ends up crushing their ships, forcing them to the shores of a lost island. Unfortunately, despite all the green grass and flowing rivers, this beautiful new world is filled with danger. The elves try to leave the island, but discover it is surrounded by an impenetrable magic storm. Survivors on the island recall a legend about the last of the ancient elves, who they hope will awaken sleeping for a thousand years to help them overcome hardship. Dream big, I guess.

Overly epic plotline aside, gameplay revolves around scanning a scene and finding a number of specific items hidden in the picture. Just like you’ve always done in these games, which my mother was a huge fan of on the Nintendo DS, with titles like Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville in her collection. Sometimes they will list the items by name, sometimes they are silhouettes, and sometimes you have to search the scene at night, which means your point of view is limited by darkness. Each scenario is timed, and if you finish finding everything fast enough, you’ll gain stars (three, two, or one), which feed into upgrading that specific level, allowing you to find more ingredients upon completion. Ingredients are used to complete other quests and help deal with different races without paying gold coins.

Shockingly, I’m barely paying attention to the plot, only interested in which locations I’m supposed to analyze for the right items. Since you have to deal with a limited amount of attempts, I’m finding myself min-maxing every choice to ensure I’m spending those energy points wisely. Occasionally you’ll unlock a treasure chest, but to open it you need to do a Professor Layton-esque mini-game, like hitting all beams of light in a certain order or connecting colored lines without crossing over each other. I am curious to know if there are boss-like battles down the road, and if they are anything more than gathering a bunch of items to clear the path.

Besides the fact that you can’t simply play this to your heart’s content due to a stupid energy meter, there’s a few other issues in Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure that bring the fun down several notches. First, no matter how many times I select “Click to continue,” the game still wants to force its intro movie upon me, which features an old elf speaking like you might suspect an old elf would speak; thankfully, it’s skippable, but the game should remember that I’ve already seen it. I think having a time limit, and a short one at that, negatively affects my enjoyment, forcing me to often click like a madman in hope of nabbing that last item that can’t possibly be found unless I had all the hours in the world to scan every pixel from left to right. Lastly, I’ve popped a bunch of in-game Achievements, but after nearly two hours with the game, not a single one on Steam has unlocked. Sure, that’s a small quibble, but I need my digital rewards, and I’m not sure if the whole thing is borked.

Similar to Taptiles and Microsoft Jackpot, Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure is a game I will probably check in on daily for another week or two, especially to get those daily rewards, and then walk away from entirely once I feel sated. I don’t care whether the elves make it off this island and are safe and happy and making future elf babies to rule the kingdom. I only care about finding the paw print, butterfly net, and shoe quick enough to get three stars and unlock more loot to finish that quest for what’s-his-name faster. Call me a monster, or call me casual. This is the way it is.

Pokémon Rumble World’s toys are free to play with

pokemon rumble world 3DS2-620x

Another month, another free-to-play Pokémon adventure to experience on the Nintendo 3DS. I mostly wrote that leading sentence as those words don’t come together too often and maybe never will again. Yes, it was only two months ago in February that I was scribbling away about Pokémon Shuffle, Nintendo’s stab at the free-to-play match-three genre. Now we’re here in April, the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with a new free-to-play, pocket monster-starring, potential money-maker called Pokémon Rumble World.

Let me do some quick historical research. Evidently, Pokémon Rumble World is the fourth game in the Pokémon Rumble spin-off series, of which I’ve played none of them. In this one, you control your Mii as he or she helps a king with low self-esteem collect various Pokémon to one-up a local magician who has way more colorful critters than him. That’s the general set-up, and its school playground-esque plot is paper-thin, but acceptable. It’s not like the traditional Pokémon games have mind-blowing narratives. The whole point, as always, is to collect a bunch of Pokémon (719 in total) and aim for being a completionist, though you can also earn money to buy new clothes for your Mii. I already got mine a green hoodie, so I might be good for a while.

And here’s how you go about collecting all them toy versions of Pokémon: use a special hot air balloon to travel to themed locations brimming with pocket monsters. New special hot air balloons cost Diamonds, which are this free-to-play’s second currency, but are time-based to use after that initial purchase, meaning you can continue revisiting locations so long as you don’t mind waiting a bit in-between. When you select a specific area, a roulette of several stages spins around, with each stage hosting different–and sometimes rare, indicated by a star–Pokémon. As you collect more, your adventure rank increases and new Pokémon begin to appear in the wild, inspiring revisits.

Once you are in a stage, you take your wind-up toy version of whatever strongest Pokémon in your collection is and destroy everything in your path. You can do two different types of attacks, all of which vary depending on your Pokémon of choice. Personally, I really like using Chespin at the moment. Sometimes the defeated enemies turn into coins, and other times they are knocked down, ready for collecting; to do that, simply run over them. Strangely, simply moving your selected Pokémon warrior near enemies or barrels causes it to auto-attack, which I did not like. If you’ve StreetPassed with anyone, they will appear in the stage, under duress, and if you save them they will reward you with boosts or even a Diamond; in fact, I saved fellow videogaming blogger Matt Mason the other night from a wild gang of Treecko–you’re welcome. After a few levels, you fight a boss Pokémon and then return to town, replenish your wares, and head back out for more. As your rank goes up, the king will have side quests for you too.

By far, my favorite thing about Pokémon Rumble World is that it plays, more or less, with no restrictions. Sure, you have to wait for your hot air balloon to recharge to use again, but I discovered you can just visit a different location via some other hot air balloon while waiting, which leads to never really waiting. In Pokémon Shuffle, once a day, I played my five turns and moved on, but here one can keep playing, exploring, or organizing their growing list of collected toys for as long as their battery life lets them.I do worry, however, that there could be a bit too much menu-ing in this, especially once you have collected a large amount of Pokémon, many of which are seemingly duplicates, but do differ in terms of stats and attacks.

Having passed up on the remakes Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire last year for reasons, Pokémon Rumble World is turning out to be a good replacement for my “catch ’em all” itch, and the free-to-play elements are beyond easy to ignore, which makes this all the more successful. Wind me up, my Mii–I’m ready for more, as well as on the hunt for a Garbodor.