Update: The Next Review

Hi guys

Sorry for the lack of activity lately, unfortunately the last few weeks at work have been hectic. I haven’t had time to write a review for the games that I’ve been playing recently (although I’ve barely had time to play them as it is). My job takes a lot of my time away but I make sure to keep this blog going cause I just love to write about video games and talk about what I think of the games I’m playing currently. I’ve got one more week till everything calms down a bit again so expect to see the next review on the week of the 12th.

I’ll give you a hint, its a very nostalgic game series for me and I can’t wait to replay these childhood gems in it’s remastered form.

Thank you for your patience.

Flexible Budget Gaming

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Luigi’s Mansion (2001) Nintendo GameCube RETRO REVIEW

After placing this on my last top 10, I couldn’t resist going back to this game and felt I had more to say about it then my initial top 10 so let’s begin.

As many Nintendo fans know, every time the beloved company releases a new console its expected that it will be accompanied by a brand-new Mario game at launch. However, back in 2001 as we all anticipated the Nintendo GameCube: Nintendo decided to throw all tradition out the window and give green Mario a turn in the spotlight. What we got was “Luigi’s Mansion”, a hauntingly fun adventure that overflows with charm and boasts unique game mechanics that makes it stand out among Nintendo’s vast library of first party games. Although “Luigi’s Mansion” fails to escape some issues that hold it back. So, let’s grab our vacuum and Game boy horror and go more in depth with Luigi’s journey into the mysterious mansion.

One aspect that will be familiar for Nintendo fans is the story, Luigi has won a mansion in a contest he didn’t even enter (Sounds legit) and has set off the meet Mario to claim their prize. Unfortunately, Mario got there early and has been kidnapped by the ghostly residents. Luigi meets Professor E.Gadd who supplies you with the polturgust 3000 (love it) so that you could suck up all the ghosts that had escaped from his portrait collection and return them to the gallery so you can then save Mario. A basic Nintendo Mario plot placed into a more unique scenario, but very charming either way.

Nintendo always puts gameplay first and this clear in this game, it’s extremely satisfying to capture all the ghosts in the mansion. Working your way through rooms is very exciting as you don’t know what ghosts will appear and you just feel awesome when you manage to capture multiple ghosts at once. You capture ghosts by stunning them with your flashlight to expose their heart, once revealed the player can then begin to use the polturgust to capture them by pulling them with the analogue stick towards you till their health reaches zero. An incredibly fun mechanic, but not all ghosts can simply be caught in this method. Occasionally as you work your way though the mansion you will come across the portrait ghosts, these acts as mini bosses or area bosses and is where much of the charm that the game oozes comes from. Each portrait ghost has a puzzle for you to solve to expose their heart, this can be as simple as waiting for the ghost to make the appropriate animation such as yawning or manipulating parts of the environment with your poltergust: This thing can shoot fire, ice and water so use it wisely. I adore this part of the game; each portrait ghost has a unique character about them and offer a different experience in every battle. Your Game boy horror offers a brief description of them after they are captured, and their designs are all unique and charming, whenever I look back on this game I always remember the portrait ghosts before anything else. The element of discovery is great in this game, some of the portrait ghosts can be ignored completely if you choose not to venture further into the mansion as well as all the precious treasure that can be found by checking every nook in the rooms. Make sure you find everything you can as the game will inform you of how well you did in quite a fun way at the end.

Unfortunately, there is a fair few elements that hold this game back from being amazing. A big factor is the length of the game, Luigi’s Mansion is a very fun but extremely short game especially if you blast through mansion ignoring the optional portrait ghosts and secrets. It also suffers from frustrating mechanics in the form of capturing boo’s, once you release these annoying fools you must backtrack through the entire mansion to find 50 of them. This is my least favourite part of the game and the way you must capture them is not fun in my opinion, the boos can move from room to room as you try to capture them and occasionally the boo’s love to jump from room to room several times just to be annoying. It’s even worse when they go through a wall that leads to a room in a totally different area which leads to going through a large portion of the mansion to get to them, when it’s entirely possible they will just go back to the previous room the second you go in.

However, I fully believe this is when Luigi became a distinct character and evolved from being simply left as “Player 2” to becoming the cowardly brother who is still determined to face his fears and save the day. I love this game and it’s a childhood favourite of mine and as much as it as many frustrating drawbacks, I still love to go back occasionally and play through this again. I’m very excited for the 3DS remake coming out next week (UK release date) and hope the younger generation love it as much as I did when I first played it. As a budget gamer, if you wanted to play the original GameCube version you’ll probably be paying £40 for it used. I would avoid paying that much just to play the original and wait for the 3DS version which is a bit cheaper. It’s a great game but if you are on a budget I would wait a bit to see if it comes down in price unless you are a big Nintendo fan.

 

A Flexible Budget Gaming Review

 

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (2018) PlayStation 4 REVIEW

When it comes to JRPG’s, I have to admit I’m fairly new to the genre. I’ve always been a big RPG fan but I’ve never really ventured this deep. I played Final Fantasy XV back in 2016 and that was my first step into a JRPG, I loved it: For how mixed that entry into the series was for many people, I will admit I loved it. This sparked an interest to delve into some deeper cuts of the genre. That’s when Ni No Kuni 2 caught my eye,during its trailer at PSX 2016. I never heard of this series before but like many others I was blown away by the beautiful visuals that echoes the marvellous animation of studio ghibli (Who sadly did not return in their involvement from the first game). Although it took me a while to get to it, I knew I wanted to give this game a go. Unfortunately I have not played the first game and I am aware that the combat is much different, however after hearing that this game was not related to the first in story I thought it was okay to jump in from here.

Let’s just get it out the way, this game is gorgeous. Every reviewer is saying this and you cannot deny the beauty of the visuals in this game. All the characters pop within the vast landscape of colour that is the world of Ni No Kuni 2, with each of them having their own unique design that is memorable as well as every town you visit leaving a visual imprint on your memory. The story is wonderfully charming, albeit a bit cheesy at times but you can’t help but smile at certain plot points in this game: Although it may make some gamers cringe a bit at times. I didn’t expect so much humour in the game as well, the story has its dark moments but they are well balanced with moments of levity. Characters develop very well throughout the game, particularly in Evan as he gradually learns what it means to be a king and rule a nation. However, there is one chapter in this game towards the end that seems a bit unnecessary and odd, it came off as a cheap way for the group to attain something they needed.

Now for the game play, this is where the game truly shined for me……most of the time. The combat in Ni No Kuni 2 is now more hack and slash than the original, of course with RPG elements such as magic, items to aid in battle and having equipment that can be attained from exploring or completing quests that you can swap between: Each having their own attributes that help against certain foes. All of this worked great and I loved every battle that I got into, I enjoy making my character as strong as possible you see,before the final battle. The game really does a fantastic job at making you want to engage in random encounters that you face, especially with the incentive of good loot. One of my favourite mechanics in this game is the ability to turn a battle you are struggling with potentially in your favour using the “tactics tweaker”. This feature allows you to invest battle points so you can select whether you do more damage to certain types of enemies, have further resistance to different elements and in general aid you in each fight. You can even choose whether you want to earn more loot or more EXP from fights also, this feature really gives the player a ton of freedom especially if they are struggling.

In the nature of most RPG games, the developers tend to force the player to engage in all mechanics within the game.Sometimes this is a really good thing if all the mechanics are fun to play and you are happy to play more of it, although if there is mechanics that are not fun and become more of a hindrance then the game overall suffers for that fact. Ni No Kuni 2’s pace comes to a screeching halt when it prevents progress as it is compulsory of you to take part in skirmishes and kingdom building. I sadly did not enjoy the skirmishes, this rock paper scissors type combat wasn’t really that fun to engage in and I would have much rather had it just be the polished hack and slash combat that they already did so well. I was even more gutted when one of the coolest bosses visually in the game is nothing more than a skirmish battle. The kingdom building I enjoyed more, however at certain points the game stops you from progressing on with the story until your kingdom is a certain level. If you weren’t developing this as you went then prepare for the pace to slow down immediately for a while. The only redeeming quality of this was that it was very satisfying to see your kingdom fully built and side quests to recruit citizens could be fun, but I think forcing the player to engage in all mechanics of the game can sometimes halt the experience if its not fun to do in the first place.

Whilst I was complaining a fair bit there, Ni No Kuni 2 is still a fun time just for the battle game play, stunning visuals and charming story. I’m really glad I picked this one up and its one of those games that gets better as you level up your party. The devs really made this world fun to explore and you could tell they had a blast making this game. However, if there is a Ni No Kuni 3 then I hope that they put stuff like skirmishes and kingdom building to the side as an optional feature. Halting progress in the story did not help the pacing of this game and it became a little tedious at times. Overall though, I would very much recommend Ni No Kuni 2 to newcomers to the JRPG world like myself and I believe hardcore fans can find a lot to love in this charming game. In regards to the budget gamers out there, I consider this game a one to give a try especially if you want to get a lot of content out of a less expensive game. At the minute this goes for £20-£25 in the UK and for how much there is to do you will certainly get more than your money’s worth with this one. This game holds a lot more content than most AAA games that are double the price so its certainly worth the spend.

 

Flexible Budget Gaming

Top 10 Games from my Childhood

After the announcement of the PlayStation classic and the anticipation of Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee coming out in November, I’ve been looking back on my childhood and the fond memories I have of playing classic games in the 90s. These are games I can always go back to, especially when stressed from my job. They just give me this warm fuzzy feeling that I remember when I was a kid. Some of these are arguably not the “best quality” games in retrospective, these are games from my childhood that I loved at the time and are personal to me.

10. Ape Escape (PS1)

You ever have that game that you always remember playing the first few levels of over and over again? Either at a friend or relatives house? This was that game for me. I don’t remember if I ever owned it personally but I remember loving the Saturday morning cartoon fun that this game thrived with. The ridiculous plot and cheesy voice acting aside, the game play was just fun and addictive and was backed by the most happy go lucky soundtrack that has never left my memory since. The devs did a hell of a job in making each gadget useful and fun to use, although this game was hell bent on making sure you knew how cool the new fancy analogue sticks were; it had a very tight control scheme even if its quite an unusual control layout (R1 to jump!?). I always go back to this one every so often and get ko’d with nostalgia from the opening level.

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9. Bugs Bunny & Lola Bunny: Operation Carrot Patch (Game-boy Colour)

Yeah……let me explain this one. One of my most adored portable consoles was my Game-boy Colour, being a very young kid I didn’t really have any idea to what games I would like if it wasn’t my usual favourites. I’ve been told that when shopping with my mother, that soon as I saw a Bugs Bunny game I immediately wanted it and I don’t even remember being a big Looney Tunes fan. The game its self is a basic 2-d side scroller were you play either Bugs or Lola, both with their own unique styles of animation. The level’s progress through a movie set of different genres that are housed with famous Looney Tunes villains. I only ever got to the first main level boss or just kept replaying the first level. However, I sunk many hours into this on family holidays to the point I remembered where every collectable was located and I now have the level complete music stuck in my head permanently. I put this ahead of Ape Escape purely just for the fact that I have a lot more memories of this one and remember owning it and playing for ages.

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8. Odd-world: Abe’s Odyssey (PS1)

This was a game that always fascinated me as a kid, the incredible cut-scenes were so charming and deeply oppressing in the context of the story. Although I didn’t fully understand the concept of the game (as I was very young) I still felt really intrigued to play this game. I never played a game as challenging as this before, having to strategically plan your way round enemies that can kill you by themselves instantly was too much to handle for me as a kid. But the game play and puzzles were so satisfying and it was so rewarding to get to watch the cut scenes, giving me an incentive to keep trying. I was so happy to play the re-imagining of the game “New N’ Tasty” back in 2014. Odd-world has always been a nostalgic series for me every since.

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7. Luigi’s Mansion (Nintendo GameCube)

I still fully believe this game is underrated as hell, as a kid I was actually a bit scared of this game and it was my first step into more “horrorish” games I guess. I remember having to play the GameCube downstairs in the living room with my parents there just to have the guts to continue. However, once I got over that I discovered how awesome and unique this game was. The charm comes from that family friendly horror that is similar to Disney’s Haunted Mansion which is more kooky than scary, although Nintendo made sure to add their own character to it. The boss (mansion family) ghosts were all so unique and I think the ghost designs in general got a bit confused in the sequels. Can’t wait for the 3DS remake, but I could always go back to this game and laugh at those memories of being scared of it during one point of my life.

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6. Tekken 3 (PS1)

Anyone got siblings? If so I bet you have fond memories of having that one fighting game that was the decider to who was the cooler one and who was the maniac button masher who still somehow managed to win every time. That was me. I was the younger brother who would button mash on Tekken 3 as Law or Eddie and just destroy all, Tekken 3 is just such a masterful fighting game on the PS1. The amazing backdrops, improvements to the 3-D fighting but just the general amazing polish that can be seen when you look back at Tekken 1. I’ve never been a big Street Fighter fan, but Tekken was always there to fill that spot as the childhood competitive fighting game.

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5. Crash Team Racing (PS1)

I prefer this over Mario Kart 64. I’m sorry it’s just so good, the boost system and the complete chaos that is the Crash universe perfectly depicted in a kart racer. Occasionally, myself and my brother would stay overnight at my uncles house and these were nights were we would bring our PS1 round and play loads of games with my uncle. The game we always went back to and competed at was always Crash Team Racing, whether it was racing or battle mode; it was always the most played game during those nights and I hold so many good memories with my uncle because of it and the fact it was such a fantastic game. The track design was so good in this game, so good that when I returned to it a few years ago I was able to remember all of the tracks and their layout: That isn’t completely down to nostalgia, that’s just how good the level design was.

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4. Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (Ripto’s Rage in the US) (PS1)

The Spyro trilogy has always been up there with Crash as one of my favourites from my childhood. The first having this magical fantasy land that always reminds me of when I was a kid, but the second game has much more importance to me. As people know, the second game was much better in game play and featured a wider variety of mini games and level variety than its debut. Same with the Crash series they both laid their foundations with the first and then perfected it with the sequel. But the importance this game holds for me is that its the game that me and my best friend from my childhood neighbourhood would play every time we saw each other. We were next door neighbours and our parents were long time friends so we saw each other a lot, he introduced me to Spyro and the second game was what we sunk the most hours into. We don’t really see each other anymore, but we both have those memories as kids thanks to Spyro 2. Imagine if we got together to play the reignited version.

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3. Crash Bandicoot: Warped (PS1)

I love all 3 of the Crash Bandicoot platform games, with Cortex Strikes Back being my favourite game out of the series in terms of quality. But does anyone remember those play area/restaurant places in the UK? In my town there was one called Charlie Chalks which then became Brewster Bear, well I already loved Crash Bandicoot at this point and this particular establishment held a PS1 kiosk with Crash Warped ready to play, every chance I got I tried to play it and was able to get the gems on the first warp room and beat Tiny till eventually my mother told me to go play in the play area which was also awesome. Fantastic game with the same consistent and excellent platforming levels, gets a bit bogged down by the overabundance of vehicle levels. However, playing through Toad Village and Orient Express now is incredibly nostalgic to me and brings me back to that play area where I sat like the sad child I was.

God bless the N.Sane Trilogy.

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2. Pokemon Ruby (Game-boy Advance)

Potentially a controversial choice for a Pokemon game? I loved Gold & Silver and Red & Blue, but this was the entry that I truly invested myself fully into as I became much more able to take advantage of the systems that Pokemon offered at the time. This game was my childhood, the Hoenn region was beautiful and all the new Pokemon designs were incredible to me. I have so many memories with this game that I would be going on all day, but I remember its element of discovery most of all from all the secrets within the game with my friends at primary school. Meeting my friend after school after he was telling me he found a legendary green dragon Pokemon in a tower, seeing Rayquaza on his screen was amazing and we sat there as he helped me retrieve the Pokemon as well as discover the regi’s and more. I replayed this game several times and I remember playing it everywhere, at my grandad’s when I stayed over, at school, on planes, at home. I love this game so much that I still have my original cartridge that I got for Christmas all those years ago and I just refuse to get rid of it.

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1. Metal Gear Solid (PS1)

What else can be said about the amazing Metal Gear Solid series? Incredible game play, a sleek cinematic style mixed with some of the most well thought out game play for the time from the genius that is Hideo Kojima and his team. However, there is a much more significant reason to why this made the list. My dad initially bought this game to play through himself, he isn’t much of a gamer but he was very fond of the PS1. I have some treasured memories of myself and my brother watching my Dad play this game and swapping the controller round as he showed us how to play it. I used to be terrified of the alert sound and always would call surveillance cameras “major cameras”, I have no idea why but my dad found this amusing. I go back to this game a lot and enjoy it for how amazing of an impact it had as a game, but also for the nostalgic memories of myself, my brother and my dad playing it when we were younger. This game is truly special to me and it led to me becoming closer to my dad.

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Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018) PlayStation 4 REVIEW

Let’s go back in time to E3 2016, I’m up way too late watching Sony’s incredible conference live and being unable to sleep from the hype. We seen some amazing things such as Resident Evil 7, the return of Crash Bandicoot and Death Stranding. However, once it was revealed that Insomniac was creating a Spider-Man game exclusively for the PS4 that was when I felt that my flexible budget was going to be tested. This was one of my most anticipated games and I made sure everyone knew it.

There are only a few words that can describe the quality of Spider-Man for the PS4. This game is “spectacular” (Yes I went there), the clear amount of passion developers’ Insomniac games brought to the city of New York and the world of Spider-Man in its story and gameplay is inspiring, it really shows how talented the studio is. It feels rhythmically satisfying to swing around New York and to fight thugs in the streets whilst hearing Spidey shouting quips at his enemies as he swiftly kicks them in the face. Controlling Spider-Man felt very natural and the character was very light in his weight, accurately adapting the agility of the character. The swinging makes sense to your environment and the game innately teaches you how to build the most momentum and it all feels very smooth.

Combat is very exciting and echoes the style of the fantastic Rocksteady Arkham trilogy, but with more finesse. Spider-Man is more acrobatic and a very fluid fighter unlike the brute force of Batman, often using his environment to his advantage. The combination of webs, punching and kicking with air combat, as well as the stylish finishers brings an extremely satisfying Spidey version of the great combat from Arkham. Although Spidey is very quick, the fighting feels smooth and is always a joy to web thugs to cars and buildings. It echoes Arkham but becomes its own identity with its focus on acrobatics and fluidity. With Peter being a mechanical genius, he’s able to create a wide variety of gadgets for the player to use to aid them in combat, they can be regularly changed in whilst fighting and all of which have a purpose to making the fight approach different or just flat out more satisfying. Spidey also has an upgrade system to improve his abilities in combat, whilst it’s very basic and doesn’t reach its full potential in showing massive changes to gameplay, it does make fighting much easier and gives you more approaches to consider. One of the best parts of Spider-Man is being able to choose from multiple suits, all of which have their own custom suit ability that can change the tide of the fight. Marvel fans will get a kick out of some of the suit choices in the game, although I still believe a few could have been swapped out for much cooler suits from Spider-Man history. I won’t spoil the suits, but you will find yourself cycling between two or three favourites.

The story of Spider-Man is a highlight whether you are a Marvel fan or not. The chemistry between characters are so well written and I was rooting for Peter the whole time. Watching him as a 23-year-old research assistant who is struggling to pay his rent whilst trying to balance his personal life with being a superhero was just so fascinating to watch. Famous villains also show up and although their appearances can be short, its very charming and their designs are all excellent. The 8-year gap is filled through brilliant character moments with classic Spidey characters such as MJ, Miles Morales and Aunt May, who are all brilliantly played by the fantastic voice cast. Miles particularly has a moment in the story that stuck with me and was a highlight of my playthrough. The only issue is that this is a very traditional Spider-Man story beat for beat, many comic fans will be able to predict some twists (one of which I saw coming for a while) however because it was so well written and charming to watch, it never bothered me that some parts were predictable. This is a spoiler free review, so I won’t say much, but I have to say the ending was perfectly crafted and felt earned because it was so tightly put together.

The open world of New York has been masterfully recreated by Insomniac, with key New York sights being the highlights (This includes famous marvel sights too). The city looks beautiful in all weather types, unfortunately the lack of a day and night cycle is a missed opportunity for an open world as beautiful as this. Regular crime alerts can happen at any time and they variate in scenario a good amount but are always fun to get involved in, no spoilers but I would advise players to not ignore them or you’re going to have a very angry podcaster in NY making you feel bad for not helping.

As you progress through the game, multiple different types of side missions and collectibles are littered around the map for you to complete. Most of them are extremely fun to collect, most notably Peter’s backpacks. These contain little mementos from Spidey’s 8-year history and it drove me to collect them all to see what little memento you will unveil next. Some collectibles are a little tedious, although unlike the Arkham games, there aren’t hundreds of them that it just gets annoying (looking at you Riddler trophies). Side missions are amusing and don’t overstay their welcome, but I think there could have been a bit more character to these side missions to make them more memorable.

However, as good as this game is there is some negatives that held this game back from being perfect. To variate the gameplay, at some points players will take the role of MJ in some short stealth sections; usually to catch the player up on some story elements. These short segments felt like a pace breaker and became very tedious. I felt like if they were removed it might have benefited the pace. As the game progresses, Mary Jane slowly becomes more equipped for dealing with enemies and these sections become more enjoyable. It’s great to see MJ as a strong female character in this world however and in the story, she is written very well. My only other complaint that I can mention comes with the movement of Spider-Man, the character moves and controls perfectly in the open world of New York. Unfortunately, in some sections of the game you will be in much smaller indoor environments and this can lead to Spidey bouncing around a lot, causing the player to have to slow down to get their footing to take down thugs or move forward in the level.

Overall, this game has lived up to the hype that has been building since that late night of E3 2016 and in some elements the game surprised me with how tight the story is written and how natural it is to control Spider-Man. The open world has been lovingly created by Insomniac and is charming to both fans of Marvel and gamers who aren’t as familiar. There are only few drawbacks from making this game nearly perfect but they are only small tedious problems that I hope Insomniac can improve or iron out for a future sequel. If you have a PS4, I would highly recommend picking this game up as soon as possible, if you are a budget gamer like me this is the game you will have saved for, even if it means that some other releases will have to wait. Make them wait for Spider-Man.

A Flexible Budget Gaming review

Welcome!

Welcome to Flexible Budget Gaming!

A blog that’s all about video games, whether it be game reviews (modern/retro), Top 10 lists, my thoughts on news within the gaming industry such as announcements and press conferences or just general rambling about something I want to talk about in gaming. I may invite some friends along to chat with also.

You may be wondering, what is the deal with the name “Flexible Budget Gaming”? Well, let me explain. I have been an avid gamer all my life, however my passion for the industry and games really flourished when I was at university studying a music degree. Instead of spending my free time during my studies clubbing and drinking like an absolute LAD (cringe), I was in my student house playing games. After receiving a 3DS for Christmas, I was once again hooked on the world of gaming. Shortly in the new year I saved up money for a PS4 (I was brought up on PlayStation and Nintendo) and was smacked across the face with the palm that was the next generation of gaming. So……..back to the blog name, As a student, I didn’t have much money to spend on myself as it went to rent and food etc. I was always waiting for the latest games to go down in price and I was usually on some form of budget, but I made sure to play as many games as possible on my limited budget. Always trying to balance things and be “flexible” so I could pay for what I needed and be able to buy games as much as possible.

This flexibility was needed further once I graduated, as I struggled to find work for a while and it led to me replaying a lot of games (old and modern), so when I decided to fully embrace my video games and start this blog I wanted a name that kind of suited the way I’ve had to balance things to ensure I could still get into gaming as much as possible. I believe many other gamers can relate to it too, we are all in different situations but finding a way to be able to still have fun and play video games. I mostly really want to help my readers decide what games they should spend their limited budget on when they are able to, many gaming YouTubers such as Caddicarus, Somecallmejohnny etc did the same for me. It’s also a catchy name.

My content will feature all console platforms such as PS4, Nintendo Switch, 3ds and Xbox One. I’ve grew up with PlayStation and Nintendo but I hold no bias (but PlayStation is still my bae).

So once again, welcome! Watch this space for upcoming content, the blog will be getting updated as I go to make it easier to get around once more content is uploaded. If you like my stuff I would love to see some comments and engage with any readers who want to share feedback or their own views.

Thank you

-Flexible Budget Gaming