Marvel Snap

The Game

Marvel have joined the world of online multiplayer card games with their entry – Marvel Snap, published by Nuverse. The game is card collection and battling game which lets you collect all your favourite Marvel superheroes and villains and put your skills to the test against other players. The actual battles are quite simple and most importantly for a mobile game – quick to play. Each game has 3 locations at which players put their cards. All 3 locations start out hidden with one revealing each of the first 3 turns. Each location will be randomised and have some sort of modifier that can apply to specific cards, the entire location or even the entire game. Players need to try and win 2 out of 3 locations to win the game where each card’s power contributes to the player’s score at a specific location.

The stakes are then raised even more with the snap mechanic – this allows players to up the amount of rank points they get from each game or to force their opponent to retreat early. Winning a normal game would grant 2 points towards the next rank, if one player has snapped that doubles to 4, if both players have snapped it goes all the way up to 8. The game features daily missions that are drip fed every few hours, all sorts of card variants and the ability to upgrade the appearance of your cards. Upgrading cards is also the way players can progress their collection level allowing them to unlock new and powerful cards.

Worth it?

The game concept and mechanics are brilliantly simple yet effective. The duration of the game is probably it’s strongest point – 6 turns (around 3 minutes) present an excellent challenge and even though you sometimes feel like you could do with a turn or two more, pulling off the perfect combo in 6 turns is highly satisfying. The game is extremely fast paced and can turn in an instant. The Snap mechanic also adds an element of player tactics and mind games. There are a few areas where some improvement could be made like access to stats, new mission frequency, perhaps a 30/30 weekly missions target, ability to add and battle friends or view and compare collections. There is also potential for some more weird and wacky weekly game modes with crazy combos – similar to the tavern brawls in Hearthstone.

Overall it’s a great addition to mobile card games and is a truly mobile game in terms of game length – giving it an edge against competition like Hearthstone, Legends of Runeterra or Gwent. While there’s no explicit pay to win, paying for Season/Battle Pass can help speed up progress towards upgrading and unlocking new cards, although at £8.99 it is fairly difficult to justify. The visual upgrading of cards is a nice reward for using them more frequently and the rainbow variants ensures there’s always something to be upgrading and grinding for. The game’s high production value and addictive gameplay make it ideal for both long grinds or quick time-killing sessions.

Tips

  • Try not to fill a location too early in the game, especially if you have no way of buffing those cards
  • You should be able to create an early Ongoing deck quite quickly to get you through the early ranks
  • Only spend credits on upgrading your cards (getting them through the shop is more expensive)
  • Spend your gold on credits
  • The higher tier the card upgrade the more it will cost and the more points it will give you
  • Theme decks around key mechanics and 1-2 really good synergies, and a couple smaller ones
  • You can sometimes snap on the last turn if you’ve already ended your turn but the opponent hasn’t – particularly useful if you have forgotten to snap
  • You can copy and paste deck codes to share with friends (share button in deck creation)
  • Play with different decks, experiment – don’t feel precious about ranks (unless someone has snapped)
  • The higher your collection level the rarer the cards you will get – Collection Level 486+ is where the Series Five/Ultra Rare cards are found

Useful Links

Slime Rancher

The Game

With the recent release of Slime Rancher 2, I went back to the original to see where it all began and what all the hype was about. As the name suggest Slime Rancher (developed by Monomi Park) is a game that revolves around farming and exploiting adorable (but sometimes dangerous) slimes. You explore the open world vacuuming up unsuspecting and rare slimes after which you bring them back to your ranch where they are stored in corrals and fed various foods in order to obtain their most valuable resource – plorts. Each different kind of slime will drop its own kind of plorts, different plorts sell for different prices and those will fluctuate depending on how many you’ve sold recently and the in-game economy.

If a slime eats another slime’s plorts you will get a so called Largo slime – an extra large hybrid slime of the two types (producing 2 types of plorts) these larger slimes are harder to handle as they can’t be sucked up as you can only move one at a time. The danger with these slimes is that if they eat a third type of plort they can become tar slimes – a destructive and dangerous slime that can quickly decimate your ranch and other slimes. As you progress in the open world you will also find Gordos – special extra large slimes that need to be force-fed in order to unlock portals and keys to new areas of the map. New and sometimes dangerous slimes are discovered as you progress as well – some explosive, others radioactive.

Worth it?

Generally speaking the game will set you back around £10 to £15, although with Slime Rancher 2 being released recently I would expect this to drop soon (the game is available for free as part of the PS Plus Extra tier too). Overall the game takes around 14 hours to complete depending on what you focus on, if you’re not out there overfeeding gordos and unlocking new areas it will take you a lot longer (but then again there’s so much to do on the ranch that I don’t blame you). The game is very good at keeping you busy constantly – the “one more day” moment is definitely there and can easily absorb you for extended periods of time. The game concept is simple but very effective and there are plenty of things to unlock and do – from timed challenges to crafting and research. The open world presents a bit of a traversal challenge and sometimes can feel as if you’re trying to break it with some of the areas you can jetpack to, the ability to unlock portals and quicker routes is also helpful as navigating the fairly big open world can get a bit tedious, especially if you have to go anywhere near water with an inventory full of goodies as falling in water will cause them to all be lost.

The game is a fun and generally relaxing experience, exploring and discovering new areas can seem scary but is also actually quite chill as even the more dangerous slimes can be vacced up quite easily or you can always run from them. Even if the farming element gets a bit repetitive, the open world and lore take you on quite the adventure. If you’re after a chill farming type game with some really cute slimes then it’s definitely worth checking out.

Tips

  • Unlock the jetpack early
  • Feed a slime its favourite food for a double plort yield
  • Feed a gordo its favourite food and you only have to feed it half the amount of food
  • Tars spread faster at night
  • Complete daily quests for cash and special rewards
  • Get the water tank upgrade early and always keep it full – water instantly kills tar slimes
  • Phosphorous slimes only appear at night and will die if exposed to sunlight
  • Farming largos allows you to get 2 types of plort from one corral
  • Store and sell plorts when their price is high (when you sell a large amount the price will then drop for some considerable time)
  • Get a farm going early on
  • Getting high walls or a net on your corral can help prevent slimes from escaping (they will try to escape if there’s food nearby)
  • Do not give a largo a third type of plort or it will become a tar
  • You can unlock new areas to expand in by unlocking the overgrowth or the grotto (you can take care of phosphorus slimes in there without a solar shield
  • Completing quests for other ranchers on their ranch can eventually unlock even more area to expand to and other special prizes

Useful Links

Empire of Sin

The Game

Empire of Sin, published by Paradox Gaming is a strategy simulation game with turn based combat. You play as a 1920s gangster during the period of prohibition, competing with other gangsters for control over Chicago and running your various rackets. Rackets range from speakeasies to casinos and brothels and a few extra special buildings. The key resource that you need to ensure you have a steady production rate of is alcohol. You upgrade your breweries and the quality of alcohol to ensure a steady flow and good profits. As the game progresses and you get into the politics of it you can begin to make trade agreements, pacts or go to war with other mob bosses. You hire a team of various gangsters and when you engage in combat it plays out like a turn based XCOM-style battle.

The game allows you to build a badass crew of gangsters from a big roster of unique characters from a variety of classes and in a variety of tiers (differing in price and abilities). Each of the gangsters will have relations to others or can even develop them while you’re in a crew – for example they may fall in love with each other or if you kill one of their friends in a different crew they may refuse to work for you for a while. As you progress in the game your gangsters will unlock new skills, you will find new weapons to equip them with and their loyalty to you will improve.

Ultimately your aim is to take over Chicago by either killing all other major factions or finding ways to buy them out and establish control over all neighbourhoods.

Worth it?

Overall the game will set you back around £15 (or around £5 on sale) and while the theme and characters are quite cool, the game falls a bit short in terms of delivering on player experience. The combat gets repetitive extremely quickly, there’s little variety in the environments you fight in. The game makes you grind other mobster’s rackets and districts, slowly building up your empire but after a certain while you are just spamming upgrades on your rackets and fighting the same fight in the streets and enemy rackets. There are also various known bugs in the game which tarnish the experience even more.

Winning the game feels like an incredibly long grind, it would be nice to see more variety in environments and a bit more diversity in enemies and scenarios. The characters, their dynamics and their personalities are an interesting element of the game and could be built upon. There is DLC which adds an extra racket and new playable gangsters and weapons, but for £10+ it’s a considerable additional cost. Overall the concept, characters, art and theme are good but the repetitive gameplay and a buggy experience, I wouldn’t pay more than £5 and the game offers little replay value (it is free on PS Plus Extra at least).

Tips

  • Use taxis to travel around the map
  • Don’t rush into hiring too many gangsters, but at the same time their cost remains at the level it is when you first hire them (or goes down) so hiring higher tier gangsters early is better
  • Don’t overextend – secure and upgrade neighbourhoods before adding more
  • Focus on thug-run neighbourhoods – they are easy to take over and won’t affect standings with other mobsters
  • If you kill a gang-leader their districts will all become thug owned, initially with 0 rackets – if you take over the thug depos you will get the district clean with all rackets immediately purchasable
  • Remember to check the black market trader every so often
  • Make sure your gangsters have health items equipped
  • When on the streets try to ambush enemy guards to get an advantage
  • Focus on your character’s bonuses and types of rackets that they scale from
  • Try not to anger the police – don’t kill officers and don’t be afraid to bribe them

Useful Links

Graveyard Keeper

The Game

Graveyard Keeper developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by tinyBuild is an indie game that revolves around managing a graveyard (much like the title suggests). The game is comparable to Stardew Valley in many ways: the aesthetic, the fun characters, the crafting, combat to name few. Graveyard Keeper starts you off in a world you are unfamiliar with (you’ve come from present day) , it seems you are stuck in some sort of medieval fantasy world and you need to figure out how to return home to the present day. As it turns out you are the new keeper of the village’s local graveyard, after the previous one mysteriously disappeared. You are introduced to various characters in and around the village and their weekly schedules and quests (the game has 6 days with various events or NPC appearances being tied to each one).

Over time you develop and fix up the old graveyard and your house, you unlock farming, beekeeping, wine and beer making. As the graveyard gets nicer and filled with better “quality” people you will unlock the church which is where the game really takes off. You will be tasked with doing a weekly prayer, this will help you generate faith which leads to the most powerful unlocks in the game. Doing tasks and work generates points – there are three types of points – red (generated by wood/stone/metal work), green (generated by doing farming work) and blue (generated by researching things and high level item crafting). These 3 types of experience points are used to unlock things in the research trees, and there is quite a good amount of things to be unlocked.

Worth it?

The game is incredibly addictive. It has that typical element of “just one more day” or “just one more task” that keeps you on it for crazy amounts of time. What makes the game even more clever is the way the days work – often times quests will require you to do something that’s basically 5 days away, meaning that you have to wait almost an entire week to complete a phase in a quest (during that time you’re obviously doing other quests or tasks). This has the effect of keeping you super busy all the time, following NPCs schedules and working around having a corpse delivered to you every so often as well. The game’s aesthetic is well delivered and can be very eerie at times (especially when the fog roles in). It’s perfectly matched by the sound design of the game and some of the rather dark and funny humour.

Graveyard Keeper will generally set you back around £10, which at first may seem like quite a lot, but the game really offers quite a lot, it’s also cheaper than competitor Stardew Valley. If you can grab it while it’s on sale for around £5, then you’ve got yourself a steal; it’s worth noting the game is also free with PS Plus Extra. While the game’s ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered and there are 3 DLCs that attempt to answer those, each of the DLCs will set you back around £7-8 and add a variety of new stories and gameplay mechanics (like being able to make zombies to automate tasks). The game is highly addictive and will keep you hooked for a considerable amount of time – overall the story can take around 40 hours to complete, but that could easily stretch towards 50-60 depending on what you end up doing.

Tips

  • Get the teleport stone from the Dark Horse tavern as soon as you can afford it – it makes moving around the map so much easier
  • Try to only put high quality corpses in your graveyard, red skulls reduce the appeal of a grave
  • Focus on opening the church in the early game so you can unlock the weekly prayers – these will generate faith for you and unlock the church basement where you can do alchemy and craft new types of items
  • Meet Clotho to unlock the alchemy workbench and skill tree
  • For a perfect 12 skull corpse you will need to have unlocked and use the various embalming injections
  • Blood and fat always remove 1 red skull, organs will account for a random amount of red/white skulls in each body, flesh will always remove 1 white skull
  • The Quarry lets you set up a little base where you can mine iron, stone and marble for extended periods of time – just make sure you have enough materials to build the workstation and storage there
  • Save blood – there’s a late game quest (and speed potions) where you will need quite a lot of it
  • The dungeons save your progress – so if you’ve killed half the mobs on a floor and exit it, that will be saved when you return
  • Throwing bodies into the river is ok, but if you have a poor quality body you’re better off burning it as you still get the burial certificate
  • Once you unlock alchemy and the tier 2 bench get speed potions – but only take them after you’ve had a sauerkraut (as it increases the duration of buffs)
  • Gravestones and fences generate a lot of blue points when being researched
  • You can purchase books containing a specific number of red/green/blue points from the astrologer

Useful Links

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

The Game

Marvels’ Guardians of the Galaxy is an 3rd person action game developed by Eidos-Montréal with some interesting combat and puzzle mechanics. Fight as the 5 guardians and utilise their unique abilities to progress the story and fight off your enemies. The game sees the iconic Peter Quill, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and everyone’s favourite Groot appear in a story based just after Thanos’ end and storyline. The Guardians quickly end up triggering an unfortunate series of events that sees them let loose an ominous world destroying energy upon the galaxy. They quickly get themselves into even more trouble with the Nova Corps. As the team embarks on the adventure Rocket and Peter end up in a bit of a quarrel. As the team manages its dynamics and learns to work together effectively they also work their way around the galaxy making new friends and enemies. Characters such as Lady Hellbender, Mantis, Adam Warlock and Cosmo the Spacedog make an appearance to help the Guardians on their way.

Each character has 4 unique abilities that can be unlocked and used in combat. They will also have various skills that can be used outside of combat in order to traverse the world. This makes for quite an interesting gameplay experience. Different skills will synergise differently, making for some very exciting combinations and combat mechanics. Overall the combat is quite fun, Peter makes use of various elements that different enemies are weak to. The others make use of AoE or CC moves or alternatively focussed heavy hitting moves. The boss battles prompt some thinking and interesting combinations of characters, overall it’s not difficult, but reasonably challenging – making it quite fun.

Worth it?

The game will take you around 17 hours to complete, currently the game will set you back around £20-25 on most gaming sites, up to £60 on the PlayStation store (or free if you have PS Plus Extra). The game is a great addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise keeping the good humour, great music and awesome characters. The environments, worlds and monsters are all beautifully modelled. The rather basic combat is made much more engaging with the different character abilities and the different elements that Peter unlocks throughout the story. There are times where the signposting could be a bit better and it’s possible to get a little confused or stuck (especially the Creepy caverns), but as long as you keep a look out for interactive objects and listen to the dialogue or prompts from your teammates you should be ok.

While the game is very linear the choices offer some small variations in how exactly the story pans out – most often offering shortcuts and quicker ways out of certain situations or some alternative dialogue. Overall the game lasts around 25-30 hours, it doesn’t really offer great replay value other than for completionism, it does offer a new game plus mode for an extra challenge, but realistically you will likely only play it through once. The game is definitely worth playing, especially if you can pick it up on sale (avoid paying £60.00) or free from PS Plus and even more so if you’re a fan of the franchise.

Tips

  • Unlock the visor ability to see /show spare parts as early as possible
  • Keep a look out and destroy the dark material whenever you see it
  • Decisions don’t really impact the overall game, but can sometimes make it a bit quicker to get through a certain area, depending on the choice you make. Overall however the game is quite linear.
  • Make use of elemental weaknesses – you will tear through enemies a lot easier if you hit them with the right element from your guns
  • Look around and behind you when you start/enter an area for spare parts or unlockable skins
  • Unlock the ability to scan enemies in combat – it will tell you what the best approach to taking them down is and of any weaknesses
  • Look out for things you can use in combat that are triggered by your team mates
  • Try to fill stagger meters for easier kills

Useful Links

Maneater

The Game

Maneater is the spiritual successor to Hungry Shark that we’ve always wanted. Developed by Tripwire interactive, the game lets you take control of a mutant shark and wreak havoc on the local wildlife and humans in a satirical version of Florida where the waters are rife with toxic waste and pollution. The game is narrated by comedian by Chris Parnell, which makes for some fairly comic moments.

You start out the game as a full grown shark on the hunt for some human flesh and quickly encounter your arch nemesis – Scaly Pete. A rather absurd character Scaly Pete is a professional shark hunter who you engage in battle with and sadly defeats you, only to find a baby shark inside your stomach, which manages to eat his arm and escape. This is when you really begin your adventure as this newly born baby shark. You quickly learn how to eat and survive in the harsh environments around you. You can upgrade your shark and it’s abilities in mysterious caverns marked by fairly lights.

As you progress through the regions you take on bigger and bigger wildlife and you can also eat your way up the list of Shark Hunters in order to unlock other special upgrades. You quickly begin to realise that this is no ordinary shark and that you are actually creating somewhat of a monster.

Worth it?

Overall gets repetitive towards the end, but still quite satisfying to play. The game is very easy to complete and if you’re playing on PlayStation, it’s one of the easiest Platinum Trophies you can get. There are various CD Keys where you can get the game for around £5 or up to £20. It’s free with PS Plus Extra. It’s hard to justify more than £10 for this game, especially without the CD as it’s quite basic and quite repetitive, it’s also extremely easy to complete. However when it comes to senseless violence and being a fun sandbox game, Maneater really excels. Simple concept, crazy upgrades and Chris Parnell’s narration make this a very amusing game that will keep you busy for around 8-12 hours depending on whether your 100% it. The Truth Quest DLC only adds an extra hour or so of gameplay.

Tips

  • You can explore all landmarks in the first areas quite easily – do this to gain access to the Shadow upgrades
  • There’s a sewer pipe with a grate (Teen) connecting Fawtick Bayou to Dead Horse Lake – I had issues finding a way out of the first zone as I just kept missing this
  • The bone build is best for taking on boats
  • Don’t be afraid to mix and match various body parts – the shadow jaws, electric fins and bone for the rest make a nice versatile build
  • For the final battle with Scaly Pete use the electric fins to dodge and disable his torpedoes – this makes them very easy to pick up and tail whip right back at his ship
  • You can always hide in a grotto, no one will try to get you there
  • When taking on tougher enemies try to avoid their attacks and study their moves to find an opening during which you can attack them
  • Once you’re an adult you can grab and fling stuff with your tail whip – a carefully aimed such shot can open gates or be used to hit targets/prey

Useful Links

Melvor Idle

The Game

Melvor Idle developed by Games by Malcs and published by Jagex brands itself as a Runescape inspired idle game. The premise of the game is quite simple – a huge variety of interconnected skills that you can level up in various ways. The list of skills includes things like woodcutting, mining, smithing and farming with even more being available in the premium version. You can grind these while you afk or idle, as each skill level increases you can unlock more aspects of it. All the various skills are interconnected – the items you get from one may be used on another skill, which then in turn will impact or allow you to do something in yet another. From crafting items to fishing there are plenty of ways to make money in the game.

The premium version will unlock quite a few additional skills that will allow you to develop even further, explore new areas in combat as a Slayer. It adds some pretty interesting elements like summoning which can give you the ability to enhance the yields from other skills each time you complete them. The combat also has a surprising amount of depth with a variety of enemies and areas to fight in, dungeons to take on and even Slayer quests that challenge you to take on specific enemies.

Worth it?

The full version of the game will set you back around £8.99 but for that you do get quite a good amount of new skills to level up. Getting the premium version early in the game pays off as a lot of that early loot can be used to level up a lot of the other abilities. While it does feel like it is a bit on the expensive side it does provide quite a lot of additional gameplay so it can be somewhat justified. 15-20% cheaper would make it an obvious choice.

Overall the game is highly addictive, the sheer amount of skills to level up and the way they are all interconnected make for a really good idle experience. The combat also adds another layer to the game, especially for more active play. The game is well thought out, simple and really delivers in terms of depth. As far as idle games go, this one is definitely worth checking out and will keep you coming back for ages.

Tips

  • Sometimes you need to scroll down once you’ve selected an option to see more details
  • Mining is a good skill to focus on initially as it links to smithing, which is a great way to make money, armour and other useful items
  • Coal is really important in a lot of smithing recipes
  • You can get coal from firemaking or mining
  • You can get seeds for farming from woodcutting (via bird’s nests) or from fighting farmers in the farmlands
  • Check what upgrades you can use your bars (or other items) for before selling them off
  • Don’t bother with armour upgrading until you’re at least with Mithril armour or higher level
  • You can view your pets and their bonuses from the completion tab
  • If you need to improve your block/attack rating for new gear you can just grind an easy mob for an extended period of time
  • Try and get the Amulet of Looting as early as possible from the Spider Forest dungeon
  • Check out the beginners guide on the wiki: https://wiki.melvoridle.com/w/Beginners_Guide

Useful Links

Stray

The Game

Stray developed by Annapurna Interactive is an adventure puzzle game that has been in the works for some time. Before you proceed, this review may contain some light spoilers – so if you want to fully fresh experience avoid the screenshots and maybe go play it first. Announced a couple years ago, the game really got cat lovers around the world hyped. The game lets you take control of an adorable kitty in a post apocalyptic world where humans no longer exist. After a misadventure with your fellow kittens you end up deep underground in a forgotten structure where you find some rather strange larvae (known as Zurks) and a hidden city of friendly robots. On your adventure you befriend a little drone, known to you as B12. The drone seems to remember a time when humans existed and the things they used to do. The robots in the city, known as Companions have adapted to the underground way of life, but some of them yearn to return to the Outside once more and to see the sky once again.

As you find out more about this world and the Companions you are tasked with collecting various items, exploring parts of the city and ultimately making your way to the outside. The core gameplay loop focuses on really satisfying puzzles that are delivered in a variety of ways: from jumping (parkour or is it catcour), to following cables, pulling levers, stealthily avoiding enemies or completing tasks for various Companions. The story takes you on a captivating adventure in a beautifully designed and crafted world with amazing attention to detail.

Worth it?

While it’s not the longest of games (first playthrough may take around 4-5 hours depending on how much you mess around and explore) the game certainly delivers in charm and story. The beautiful world, satisfying puzzles and amazing story will make you want to complete it while at the same time wishing it doesn’t end so you can explore and learn more. The game does also autosave quite frequently which allows for shorter play-sessions. The simple controls and short playtime also mean that you could hand it to a “non-gamer” and let them enjoy the experience (although they may need a hand with the Zurks). The game will currently set you back around £25, but I expect we will see it in some sales later this year, but even at this price it is worth getting. For PlayStation extra members it is included in the available games at no extra cost. There are currently some speculative rumours around an Xbox release, but it will be some time away with the earliest being October, some estimates even saying 2023.

Overall Stray is a beautiful game, with a captivating story and really satisfying gameplay. It goes above and beyond being simply a cat simulator (although it does that pretty well). It is a pretty unique game in terms of allowing players to see the world form the perspective of a cat which will make it a firm favourite amongst cat lovers (maybe also dog lovers alike). It is really hard to fault the game and it even has a bit of replay value in the music sheet or plant collection side quests and the memory collection element. The game also provides a solid base for the speed-running community and it will be interesting to watch some of those attempts as get better at it. I’d highly recommend checking this game out.

Tips

  • Follow red painted air conditioning units with orange streamers
  • Follow orange lights, cables, wires or arrows
  • You cannot go back for the music sheets after leaving the slums to go into the sewers
  • Hide in boxes to avoid sentinels, or in other areas where you break their line of sight
  • Scratch things when you can (pretty much anything that isn’t a carpet will lead to something)
  • The purple, yellow and red plants can all be found within Antvillage
  • Meow to distract/attract enemies
  • B12 can remind you of your current objective should you forget
  • Your backpack will light up if you can interact with nearby objects/NPCs
  • Interact with vending machines in order to be able to get all of the Barterman’s items
  • Talking to companions can give you hints or other objectives that will help you along the way

Useful Links

Pokémon Unbound – FireRed ROM Hack

The Game

Whether you are familiar with ROM Hacks or not, Pokémon Unbound by Skeli Games is an absolute must play for Pokémon fans. The fan made game outdoes pretty much any of the official games in every single aspect. Pokémon Unbound features Pokémon up to Gen VII, a completely original story and region known as Borrius. In addition to this there are a bunch of amazing quality of life improvements like the ability to auto-run, turbo modes on bikes and surfing, the ability to use HMs without having to actually teach them and exp share amongst the entire team.

The start of the game gives you a bit of backstory about the region, the story of a war fought between regions, rulers and Pokémon, until an ultra-powerful Pokémon was used by the king of Borrius to end the war with some unforeseen consequences. We are also shown a trainer who throws a powerful Pokémon into the sea, hoping it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (which predictably it does). 15 years later your adventure begins: the game starts you out with a character customisation screen, quite unlike most traditional Pokémon games. After you’ve just from a decent palette of skin tones, hair colours, clothes colours you are ready to embark on your journey. Things take a turn quite quickly though and you are abducted to the secret base of the local evil organisation where you get to chose your started – Gabite, Beldum or Larvitar and you also get to meet your rival. Once you’ve fought your way out you meet Professor Log and your adventure begins in earnest. The game follows the age old recipe of 8 gyms, elite four and champion with a good deal of interaction and distraction from the Shadows – the evil organisation attempting to end the world. The story is really gripping with plenty of plot twists and surprises. You see and fight loads of legendary Pokémon and are even transported to other dimensions.

There are loads of nods to other games and regions, there are even Sinnoh trainers like Cynthia or Candice that appear; in the post-game you even run into Red. The game is so packed with content that it puts most “real” Pokémon games to shame. The questing system provides an entire new layer as you can keep track of all the various tasks you’ve accepted to help people around the region and earn some really nice rewards. The game will also allow you to Mega evolve Pokémon, battle and catch Gigantamax Pokémon and use Z-power moves. And if the main game wasn’t enough the post-game has been fleshed out with a Battle Frontier, the ability to catch virtually every legendary Pokémon ever released, different challengers after beating the Elite 4 and many more quests and surprises.

Worth it?

This game, like all ROMHacks is 100% free. Made by a passionate and dedicated community this game easily outshines many official release Pokémon games. The game allows you to catch and train Pokémon from some of the newest generations and will keep you busy for tens of hours. The game also comes with completed post-game and daily events adding even more hours of content. There is also plenty of information about the game on the wiki and various reddit pages, although admittedly some of it is for slightly outdated versions of the game. The configurable difficulties and scaling enemies also ensure that you’re always being challenged, but be weary of over-levelling any of your Pokémon as that will raise the level of your enemies. My only criticism (and it’s been really hard to come up with some) is the ability to skip some of the sliding puzzles after several attempts or time that has elapsed.

Overall the brilliant story, amazing original sprites, attention to detail and quality of life improvements make this an absolute must play for any fans of the traditional Pokémon games. Get a good mobile emulator like MyBoy! and you can play this on your phone – almost as good as playing it on your GBA or GBA SP. I highly recommend this to any and all Pokémon fans, especially if you’ve got a case of nostalgia or if you have played all the old games and are looking for something new.

Tips

  • You can get a shiny Elekid egg from completing the quest “The Rogue Electivire”
  • There are houses dotted around the map with people who will give you a choice of the 3 starters from a specific region, they will give you the others depending on how many gyms you have – Gen IV is in Dehara City, Gen V is on route 5, Gen VII is in Seaport City
  • You can get the eggs for Gen I and Gen VI starters from the Day-care Man’s sister in Magnolia town
  • Every 5 Pokémon in the Safari zone you will get a chance to catch one of the Gen III starters
  • Most routes have a special elite trainer who will only battle you after you’ve defeated all other trainers on that route
  • You don’t need all lights on in the Dehara Gym – some need to remain off in order to pass all the gates
  • The Regi caves will unlock after you complete the Tomb of Borrius – Regice cave is in the forest near Blizzard City, Regirock cave is in the Great Desert, Registeel is on route 18 just to the west of the waterfall before Victory Road
  • After completing the Regigigas mission for the guy in Tehl Town he will upgrade your Amulet Coin/Luck incense to increase the amount of cash they get you by giving him Big Nuggets
  • You can earn Big Nuggets by completing the daily Pep Quiz in Magnolia Town
  • A lady in the Mission HQ in Fallshore City will upgrade your Lucky Eggs in return for Big Pearls – you can get these by using thief on Clamperls when diving
  • You can avoid being spotted by the Dusclops in the Tomb of Borrius by disabling auto-run
  • You can get the starters you didn’t pick by visiting your rival’s house and the secret base that you’re abducted to in the beginning of the game
  • The best way to farm Light Clay for the ADM is by catching/using thief on Baltoy in the Ruins of the Void. If you use a Pokémon with Compound Eyes that will increase the chance that the pokemon holds an item. Get your hands on the DexNav as well in order to chain the Baltoys
  • You can use repels with the DexNav in order to EV farm and increase your chance of shinies
  • One of Professor Log’s assistants in Frozen Heights can let you look at a Pokémon’s IVs and EVs, along with all the moves they can learn and even give you an item to do so when you please
  • Most missions that have multiple objectives to collect can be expanded to see the location of these
  • Legendries that don’t appear from portals usually just require you to stand in a specific place (usually in the middle of a cliff overlooking an edge – like the birds, Rayquaza, etc)

Useful Links

Pokémon Gaia – FireRed ROM Hack

The Game

I have always been a massive fan of the Pokémon series of games – especially the older GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS versions of the game. Games like Pokémon Sapphire or Pokémon FireRed were my childhood. Recently I have replied a lot of them on emulators (which I will review in a separate post) on my phone and it has been an amazing nostalgia trip. As I replayed these games I started discovering ROMHack versions of the games. I have known these exist for a while but never bothered giving them a go, and I was really missing out.

Pokémon Gaia is a FireRed ROMHack made by Spherical Ice. The hack completely alters the game with an amazing original story seeing you through the typical storyline of beating gyms and the league, defeating an evil organisation all while creating the ultimate team of Pokémon. The game is set in a fictional region known as Orbtus. The game features Pokémon from up to Gen 6 from the regions of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova and Kalos. The game includes updated move sets, items, mega evolutions, fairy types, reusable TMs and more.

The story follows the established model of a young teen who leaves home in the quest to become an amazing Pokémon trainer. As you and your rival progress through the world you will encounter members of an evil organisation intent on controlling the world by using the power of legendary Pokémon (in this case it’s Regice, Regirock, Registeel and Regigigas). Battle them and the many trainers of the region, discover all Pokemon from newer generations and take on the Pokémon League in this amazing fan made passion project (which might as well be an original release). The region of Orbtus is well fleshed out with a variety of cities, biomes, areas and an interesting history.

Worth it?

Replaying old Pokémon games on an emulator is free and an a great nostalgia trip. Playing these fan-made ROMHacks is also free and an amazing experience. Like many other ROMHacks this was made by fans of the franchise, working for no profit but purely the love of Pokémon games. The game story, the amount of detail and work that has gone in are truly remarkable. Being able to catch Pokémon up to Gen 6 and use all new moves or functionality (like Mega Evolutions) is awesome – especially for those who don’t really appreciate the new style of games as much, who haven’t had a chance to play on DS or Switch or who would like to relive new experiences on the older engines.

Overall, if you have not played any ROMHacks before, Pokémon Gaia is a good introduction. While in its current state there isn’t much of a post-league game, the story, events, gyms and Elite Four are all really well done and fleshed out. It would be nice to see the Regis as catchable after the main story concludes and maybe some additional challenges or high-level trainers. The game really feels like it could be an official entry to the series. The use of the Regis as the legendary Pokémon for the focus of the story is quite different and almost provides a bit of a fictional backstory. For me the ideal way to play is on my phone and a good emulator will set you back around £3, but there are some decent free options too. The game will keep you busy for quite a while, especially if you decide to take your time and talk to people or help out where you can.

Tips

  • You can get Deoxys once you have Strength in the Cosmic Caverns
  • You can catch Rayquaza once you have waterfall in the Emerald Peak just outside Nestpine Town
  • The best place to use the VS seeker is in the area just before the nurse on Victory Road – there are 3 Ace Trainers in view which are all quite easy to beat
  • You can find the coin case inside one of the warehouses in Telmurk city – the same one with the Rotom appliances
  • You can get the Amulet Coin quite early on by buying it from a guy in Aerous City for $5000
  • You can turn fossils into Pokémon at the Professor’s house – upstairs
  • You can play on 2x speed with most emulators which makes the whole experience that little bit better
  • To set up the ROMHack download FireRed (Squirrels) and then apply the patch to it, then simply load up the newly patched FireRed (you may want to rename it) into an emulator and off you go

Useful Links