Professor Layton and the Curious Village Review

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This game was stuck on the backburner for a very long time. That final puzzle was just insane and I had to quickly confer with the Gamefaq experts. In the end, I do think it was a fair puzzle though as the squares all seemed rather legitimate. This is a puzzle game that actually handles them really well and the game never felt unfair or unbalanced. It’s one that I’d highly recommend and you’ll find it hard to put the game down once you have started.

The tale follows Professor Layton and his sidekick as they enter a mysterious village. There is something wrong with the place as people disappear or seem to be murdered and then show up the next day. If they want to get to the bottom of this, the heroes will have to solve a lot of puzzles and make their way to the suspicious tower. Luckily Layton is a gentleman so he knows how to handle every situation thoughtfully and with purpose.

Layton’s gameplay is rather easy to understand. You click on various objects to see if they have puzzles or hint coins. Each hint coin allows you to unlock a hint for a puzzle, but you have to spend them wisely as each puzzle has 3 hints, but there are more puzzles than coins. As such, you should only use them on puzzles that you really can’t figure out or you will have used them up on all of the easy ones. I was able to achieve a very nice balance as I had coins whenever I had need of them. Even with the 3 hints, the final puzzle was a little too much though. You’ll never have to do anything complex as the puzzles are purely about figuring things out as opposed to any sort of platforming.

The actual plot was interesting enough. Layton makes for a good lead and he’ll remind you of the Adam West version of Batman. He’s very down to Earth and always considers everything. His young apprentice isn’t quite as wise yet, but he’s learning and always makes sure to complement Layton. There are a host of supporting characters who all seem rather suspicious. As with any good mystery novel, you can’t really trust anyone here. The main villain is also reasonably good although he’s not too charismatic. I wouldn’t mind not seeing him in the sequel since he doesn’t add much to the game, but he’s not bad either. he did add a touch of danger to the climax so I’d say that was a good thing. The train plot will probably be a little better for me as I like a good ride. I have heard that the sequel is shorter though which is a little concerning, but I’m sure it’ll be long enough.

The graphics were certainly acceptable here. It’s the kind of game where graphics don’t really mean all that much and aren’t given a chance to show off either way. There were some fully animated cutscenes though so those looked sharp and a lot of DS games don’t even have that so it was impressive. The stills looked good as well and all of the characters were on point so I’m definitely satisfied with how it all went down. The music is rather boring, but it’s probably meant to be that way so it doesn’t get in the way of your puzzle solving abilities. You’re not really playing this for the music after all, though I am of the opinion that fast paced rock music would actually add to the experience.

There is certainly some replay value here as you can go back and try to solve all of the puzzles. I found a bunch of them, but didn’t actually solve them all. I left the most challenging ones of course and I expect that you would do the same in the game. As such, there is guaranteed to be something to do and the game should easily crack 20-30 hours by the end. The actual game’s length I’d say is probably around 10-12 hours, but it took me 16 because of that final puzzle which I spent hours and hours on. I just didn’t want to surrender, but in the end I have to admit that it defeated me. I have a feeling that a rematch would go quite differently though and I aim to prove that in the sequel.

Overall, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a great game. It’s just really fun and I could play it for hours and hours. There is really something to be said for simple puzzle games or any game that has a very clear and easy to understand objective. No matter how hard the individual puzzles may be, it’s not as if you’ll ever be lost and wonder what you have to do next. The challenges are straight forward and it’s simply up to you to meet them head on. I look forward to playing the next title as I already own it and will be tackling it very soon. The game is very streamlined all the way through and it’s easy to pick up and play. It can hold its own against just about any other game and is easily the best puzzle game. I want to play Ace Attorney someday to see how it stacks up even if both games are quite different. They’ve always been natural rivals.

Overall 8/10

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Mario Party Advance Review

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I’ve wanted to play a portable Mario Party game for a long time. I don’t know when exactly I first started to think about this, but it was probably back during the days where I played Mario Party 4 regularly. Advance is a good enough spinoff and the minigames are enjoyable although the story mode holds it down a bit. It wasn’t really constructed well so I’d advise you to focus on Minigame Mode. I do think Mario Party DS and 3DS will likely end up being better.

The plot of the series is that Big Bad Bowser has stolen all of the gadgets in the world and now Mario must steal them back. The townsfolk have taken them all, but they are willing to give them back if you solve their quests. Sometimes the quests involve going back and forth to find something or 1 on 1 challenges. Regardless, you must complete all 50 quests in order to save everything, but Bowser won’t make this easy on you. He plays for keeps!

Naturally, the plot isn’t really the key thing here. The game board is rather large as you would expect from Mario Party and you roll the dice to see how far you can move on the board. Each turn costs a mushroom and once you are out of them, it is game over and you’re sent home. Your progress is saved though as the only thing that resets is your current quest. You can earn 3 more mushrooms every 3 turns if you win a minigame and there are also spots on the board that have the same effect. Watch out for Bowser Jr though as running into him can have you lose a mushroom or be warped somewhere else. Unfortunately, there is no way to dodge him as it is luck based.

This is where the story mode flops a little. Towards the end of the game Bowser Jr starts to appear everywhere. It’s just not very fair as you can be super close to ending the quest, but suddenly find yourself back at the start. It’s not cool to have to retread the ground that you’ve already covered. The last mission that I did before the final Bowser battle was also a little cheesy and I head to check with Gamefaqs to see what the game wanted from me. The characters kept stating that King Bob Omb was hiding in the Condo, but it only had 3 floors. Apparently you had to hit an invisible option and then you can enter the basement. That’s a bit of a low blow if you ask me.

The majority of the missions were fine though. The trek could just be a bit tedious so I am actually glad that there were only 50 missions. Any more would have been a little excessive. The minigame selection was designed well though as you would typically get a new minigame every time you played. Collecting them all was actually pretty easy for a change so that was a pleasant surprise. Most of the minigames are pretty easy to understand, but some of them will likely take you 2 shots to fully understand.

They’re not made to be overly difficult or anything like that so you should breeze through them. My DS has a weak L button so the Chain Chomp game in particular took a little longer than I would have liked to complete, but the actual game was fair. I didn’t care much for the luck ones, but since when do I ever like those? Mario Party does succeed with its minigame selection and while people have mentioned that the games have gotten worse over the years, I have always liked them. The old games certainly had the best selection, but so long as the newer ones still have that classic fun factor, I’m satisfied. Mario Party’s made to be the kind of game that you can just boot up and play. This one fits the bill although I don’t see why I’d ever choose it over one of the big titles like Party 4.

I enjoyed the retro sprites here. The victory celebration after every minigame was a little annoying after a while though. Once you’ve seen it 50 times, you don’t want to see it anymore. Other running gags were more fun though. I liked Bowser’s little laughing sprite that he’d play whenever you’d go to his lair. It made the whole cutscene a little more enjoyable. His line “*sniff* I really liked that gadget too!” was also pretty endearing. You couldn’t help but feel bad for Bowser as he comes across as a kid who just wants some friends, but doesn’t know how to express himself. In the end, he turned out to be a pretty honorable guy and at least he admitted that he had fun. It was a nice ending for the whole cast. I liked the soundtrack as well. The main Bowser theme was a lot of fun and the rest of the tunes also aged well. There’s just not much to dislike here. It’s a standard Nintendo soundtrack, which means that it is well above average.

There isn’t really any replay value to speak of once you complete the game, but as I mentioned before, the 50 quests should be more than sufficient. It’s certainly a long enough game for the low price that you will have gotten it for. It’s just a fun game overall and a good way to spend a few afternoons. I do hope that the story mode is redone for the sequels though. It should just be a little more fluid and less time consuming to get from mission to mission. I don’t even think that a mission mode is completely necessary as a normal Party Mode would be cool although I guess it’d be hard for the GBA to process. Perhaps by the 3DS game as that one certainly has the specs for it.

Overall, Mario Party Advance is another good party game to add to the collection. I’ve played a lot of party games over the years so trust me when I say that the games here are a lot more varied and entertaining than most. If you haven’t played the game yet, then you should check it out. It’s aged pretty well and just take care not to let yourself get burned out on the story. Play it in batches and you should be just fine. As for the Mushroom Condo, just make sure to look at the invisible option and you’ll also be okay. The Christmas batch of games is roughly at an end now. The only two games left are Buu’s Fury and Kirby’s Mirror, but it could be a little while before I finish those two as I’m working on the New Year’s batch and other games may pop up on the side. Regardless, they will be completed though and that means that the GBA era lives on!

Overall 7/10

Assault Suit Leynos Review

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I ended up printing out a coupon for 5 dollars off a new game instead of 10 dollars off of a pre owned one at Gamestop by mistake the other day so I went looking for a new title that I could get for cheap. Leynos showed up and this game always looked pretty interesting. I’d only come across it once or twice in the past, but I like Arcade style games well enough. A modern port is always appreciated since it adds continue points and a saving feature. It’s a fun game and while it is fairly short, the trophies help to add in some replay value. Considering that it’s only 15 dollars new and probably even less used, I’d say that it deserves to be picked up.

The plot is that a bunch of people were sent into space back in the day. Then World War 4 showed up (Yes, not 3. That was off screen) and all of our technology went out the window. We finally rebuilt our civilization and united the world in peace, but we told the space explorers to fend for themselves. They didn’t like that and created their own robot army in order to claim revenge. Can we defeat our own people…and should we? It is life or death as they intend to destroy Earth so I think that ultimately ends up answering the question. We certainly will not go down easily!

The gameplay plays out like a 2D Gundam game. You can equip up to 6 parts on your robot. You can choose to load him up with various guns and rockets or you can equip some boosters and extra armor. I personally went with 3 armors, my Machine Gun, and two sets of rockets. I definitely recommend the Machine Gun and the Armors are great since they add a whole new life bar for each one that you equip. They’re a real life savor. You can also fly if you have the booster and you can aim the guns up and down with the control stick as you go through the levels. You can also punch, but aside from a trophy that you can get for it…why would you ever punch? It’s a joke move in there just for fun I believe.

There are two different modes in the game, Arcade Mode and Classic Mode. Ironically, Classic Mode is the actual one from the arcade game as you play through the whole game and take it down a few pegs. There are less cutscenes and bosses and it feels retro. Naturally, I played the Arcade Mode instead. This one’s a little more modernized with extra features and all the new gadgets. I’ll try the other one out soon for a trophy though so no worries on that. I’ve heard that it’s tougher, but that’s what the save feature is for right? There are 8 levels in each mode and each one can be defeated in a few minutes. The game isn’t very long as a result, but the difficulty level should ensure that you replay some of them a few times which adds to the overall length.

There also is some replay value here since you’ll want to nab the Platinum trophy. It doesn’t sound too difficult, but will certainly take some 2D skills to achieve. For example, one level will have you win without using any guns, that one definitely sounds like it’ll be a pain. I’ll need to equip my best armors for that. Without the trophies, this game probably would have gotten bumped down to a 6. After all, the gameplay may be entertaining, but there’s no multiplayer. That would mean that there are only 8 levels to play and nothing more to gain from replaying it so the game would have sunk due to the fact that it just didn’t have much content. It’s why I am such a big fan of Sony’s trophy system. It really helps all games and certainly adds replay value.

The graphics are fairly retro as they’re supposed to be. The game is clear and you can always tell what is happening though. I’d actually say that they look better than Frogger: The Great Quest despite how much older this one was when it first came out. Some of the level designs will even remind you of Mega Man X. Of course, it would be neat to get a full PS4 sequel for this game with the latest graphics. That would be a lot of fun so hopefully this one sold well enough. The music is also pretty sound. It may not be the most impressive soundtrack of all, but it works well and adds a little more intensity to the campaign.

There’s not much to say about the actual story. It’s pretty decent and hits all of the usual mecha notes. We have the emotional death, the emotionless main character, the emotional heroine, and even the “sympathetic” villain who just wants revenge and to destroy the whole world. It’s good enough for me to still believe that it was good to have the story in the game, but it just serves the bare minimum of what a story should be. It adds context to the battles and gives you something to look forward to after each level. The final level was handled really well with that as you got to fight 4-5 bosses back to back to back. It took me quite a few tries to take that one down, but all bosses fall eventually right?

Overall, Assault Suit Leynos is a good game. It’s fundamentally sound and arcade gamers from the olden days will probably be able to appreciate this even more. It’s not a game that I could see myself playing for too long as I’d get burned out at replaying the same level too much, but it’s good for a quick run through. I don’t have time to stick around and replay many of my games anymore regardless so as long as it’s fun for the first run through, then I’m set. If the game got a sequel, I’m confident that I would check it out. I’m still a little behind in Gundam games, but maybe this will spur me on to get one in the near future. I’m always up for any more robot games that aren’t called Armored Core. If you hadn’t heard of this game before this review, then hopefully I helped give you some extra knowledge so you could decide if you want to purchase it or not.

Overall 7/10

Frogger: The Great Quest Review

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Frogger is a character that we all grew up with, but I never got a chance to play his games. I probably got my hands on one at some point or other, but I didn’t have the privilege of owning any of them. Well, I finally took the plunge with this one. It’s a little underwhelming and doesn’t take full advantage of its gameplay style. It’s a decent game, but there were a number of issues which kept it from getting a solid 7. One thing’s for sure, this is definitely not your Dad’s Frogger. This is a whole new monster!

The game starts off with “Frogger” whining about how he wants to start a romance with a Princess. His mentor advises him to go find one then and “Frogger” takes him up on the offer. Unfortunately, “Frogger” keeps on getting “Your Princess is in another castle” messages. Villains are running rampant across the land and the young “hero” starts to get discouraged. Can he find his princess and satisfy his own ego or is it all over by now?

It’s really hard to sympathize with the main character at all. He’s very transparent about the fact that he just wants a kiss and doesn’t care about helping people or stopping villains. He really doesn’t care what happens to the rest of the world so long as he gets what he wants. “Frogger” is definitely annoying and the only really endearing thing about him is his catchphrase. “Whoa!” He yells that at every occasion and when he isn’t trembling in fear at the sight of the villains, he uses this to mask his terror. You’ll want to brace yourself for the big plot twist at the end of the game. It will fully show you that “Frogger” is not what he appears to be.

I do have to give the game some major props on the ending. Not the kiss part with the Princess recoiling in terror during the moment as that was just weird and the transformation was even wierder. I’m talking about the big cliffhanger that the game decided to end with. It’s unlikely to be mentioned in the sequel although I’ll give the next game some props if it does that, but it was great. All of the villains suddenly show up and start flying around the main characters. The flame head and the three stooges return and you realize that “Frogger” may be a little out of his depth here. It’s safe to say that they took him out and now rule the kingdom since the main character could barely handle them one at a time. It’s a rather somber ending, but the game can get away with it because of how few people know about it or bothered to purchase it back in the day. I’d like to see more games end on such a note. Naturally, it’d be great if they could actually acknowledge the endings and continue them in a sequel as well. It certainly beats the super safe Pizza Delivery Boy type endings…just saying.

The graphics aren’t that bad although they could certainly be better. It’s a very retro style with the mouths opening a lot like in the old Sonic DX game. Unfortunately, it hardly matters with the level designs since they are very bland. It doesn’t help that the levels are so large and you’ll easily get lost since each and every turn looks basically the same. That’s one of the big drawbacks to the game if you ask me. When it comes to the voice acting, Frogger is a lot worse than expected. It seems intentional just because of how bad it is. All of the characters have really fake exaggerated voices and just can’t stop themselves as they utter a lot of crazy lines. A lot of parodies of famous characters like Frankenstein are around and they don’t take themselves seriously so I assume that we are supposed to treat them likewise. If you’re looking for a good soundtrack, you can forget about all of that right now. You won’t remember a single tune by the end.

There isn’t much replay value to be found here and that’s an exaggeration. There is seriously no replay value here since there is no level select and you can’t go back to grab any of the lost jewels to complete your figure collection. There isn’t much point to the collection anyway though since it’s as bland as can be in this game. Considering that the game is also pretty short, this one is not worth a whole lot of money. It took me 3 hours to beat the game and that’s including the fact that I spent about 40-50 minutes getting lost in various levels. You should be able to purchase the game for about 3-4 dollars though so that should help considerably.

As for the gameplay, it’s your standard 3D platformer. You walk and jump through levels as you look for things or just aim to get to the end of a long tunnel. You can double jump, glide, and even shoot spitballs. You’ll want to use the latter quite a lot as engaging even with a minion in hand to hand combat will result in you losing a lot of health. It’s simply not worth it when you can spam them with projectiles the whole time. If you lose, no worries. You go back to the checkpoint, but the enemies don’t respawn or gain back any health so just keep going at it until you win. What is going to be trickier is dodging all of the numerous glitches.

Sometimes a door won’t open and you’ll have to restart the level. It’s usually not all that long since there are checkpoints everywhere, but it’s definitely not very fun to have to do so. The reason is that the door opening mechanics are very precise. You have to click O at just the right point and you cannot be moving at all or it won’t register it. One reset was all that I would need though and it only happened twice so I suppose it could have been quite a lot worse.

Another iffy part is how the camera angles are really bad. One level involves you running through a tower for a very long time with the camera constantly moving. It’s very easy to fall off the stairs and have to climb back up all over again. Slow and steady will win this race. I remember how it took me a few tries to jump on a tree in the tutorial. The controls could definitely use some work and it’s a little sad to say that some Wii platformers have done a better job of this. How bad do you have to be to lose to something like Flip’s Twisted World in pure gameplay?

Finally, Frogger is one of those games that doesn’t give you a lot of advice for when the puzzles show up. It’ll just say “Find a way out” and leave you to your own devices. Couple that with the iffy controls and you could be stuck at some of these puzzles for a very long time. Trust me, you’ll constantly be hoping that the next level is a linear one. The game had most of those towards the middle of the game and that was the best part. Each level only took about 3-5 minutes and it was great. Any level that was huge or had a puzzle would force you to brace yourself for what was to come.

Overall, Frogger: The Great Quest could have certainly been a lot better. It made the mistake of not being very polished and taking the easy way out at every opportunity. The level designs were sloppy and the glitches were annoying. Puzzles slowed down its momentum and “Frogger” was not a very good main character. I did enjoy the ending though and the actual story wasn’t half bad. It was entertaining because of how crazy the whole thing was. When it all boils down to it, the gameplay itself wasn’t too bad. It was imprecise and flawed, but I can’t say that I didn’t have any fun with it. It’s short, but if you find it for a dollar or two, then you may as well check it out. Otherwise, I’d recommend sticking to the old Frogger titles.

Overall 5/10

Super Mario Advance Review

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It’s time for another one of the Christmas games. I believe this makes 5 completed and 4 to go. Mighty No 9, Shantae, Mario Kart, and Klonoa have been completed along with this one and the ones left are Frogger, DBZ, and Mario Party. Not bad…not bad at all! I suppose Mario Party will probably be next, then Frogger, and then DBZ, but expect some game interruptions in the middle of those from the New Year’s batch. Anyway, this Mario game is pretty solid. It’s definitely shorter than some of the other Mario games and not quite as polished, but certainly a good game all around.

The “plot” involves Mario, Peach, Toad, and Luigi saving a kingdom from the tricky Wart. Wart will send his army of Birdos to stop you, but the heroes won’t waver. They’re just too heroic and determined. You know, it’s almost odd just how skilled these guys are. Mario’s just an ordinary man right? How can he jump so high and perform all of these feats? Well…just stick around for the ending. Lets just say that it makes everything clear and will answer all of your questions.

Mario’s gameplay has remained mostly untouched over the years, but this was one of the few games that tried to change the formula up a bit. At first, it seems like your usual 2D adventure with lots of jumping and running. The main difference is that the characters can grab things and that’s how you defeat enemies. Jumping on them won’t hurt the villains, but once you’re on top, then you can grab them. Throwing villains into each other will defeat them and you can also throw chairs at them. (They’re basically chairs) You use objects to defeat all of the villains. The backgrounds are also fully in 2D so if you run off the screen on the left, you’ll usually appear on the right. It opens up a lot of possibilities in the stages so keep your eyes peeled.

Attacking enemies with throws instead of stomps is a very different approach for Mario. It’s pretty fun and I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t want this to be the staple. Jumping on enemies is a lot more satisfying and it’s just so central to Mario that it’s hard to let it go so easily. Mario Advance’s large roster (For a Mario game anyway) also makes it interesting for long time Mario fans. That’s because there is really no reason to play as anyone besides Peach. Remember how overpowered she was in Super Mario World? That’s the case here as well. You can cheese a lot of levels by using her float ability along with the super jump. For example, there was one level that involved a lot of precise little jumps. I just chose Peach and floated over the obstacles. You could scale a few jumps with one and that made the levels a lot easier. Did you jump too far? No worries, you can float back a little. Playing with Peach makes everything a lot simpler. I can’t say that there’s any reason to play Toad and for Luigi, getting used to his jump would take a bit of time.

The level designs are pretty solid. Having your second heart is crucial for making the obstacles more bearable. It is annoying to run into an area that’s a dead end though because it becomes your new re spawn point and getting back up can be very difficult. That happened to me once on the last level, but for the most part, the check points are usually next to a heart, which helps a lot. I do like the fact that when you die, you always return to the last room that you were in. Having fewer checkpoints would have definitely made the game a whole lot tougher and more tedious as well since some of the levels were a little long.

There are 20 levels in the game so it’s good that they weren’t standard length or you’d really breeze through the game. As it stands, the length is decent. While it is less than most Mario games, you’re still getting a good value for your dollar and you can add in some replay value for grabbing all of the Red Coins and the Yoshi Eggs from the bonus mode. You can also play the classic Mario Bros game on the side to see how high of a score you can get. That game’s always entertaining and I like how the GBA Mario games always seem to include it. Why not right?

The graphics look pretty good. I wasn’t crazy about these sprites compared to Super Mario World, but they get the job done. The bright levels all age really well and I was a little surprised not to have any fire worlds this time around. Bowser should have made a surprise appearance at the end, that would have been really cool. The soundtrack is solid as always and it’s always fun to hear the old Mario tunes. Nintendo’s always done a good job with that and this game is no exception.

There is one part of the game that’s rather unnecessary and just slows the whole thing down. After completing a level, you can spin a roulette for extra lives. The problem is that it pops up after every level even if you don’t have any coins available. That just results in the game over sound effect and a lot of extra loading time. It should really only pop up if you are able to use it at the moment. Otherwise, what’s the point? It also feels rigged since I only won it once, but that’s another story I suppose.

Overall, Super Mario Advance is a solid game. I still consider it to be one of the weaker Mario titles, but if you compare it to something else then it still ages really well. The bosses are a little more limited since around 80% of them is just Birdo over and over again, but it’s a well designed fight. It’s certainly tougher than the modern Mario games that come out and the difficulty helps to extend the game’s length. It’s nothing unfair, but a good challenge that’ll keep you at a level for a while. The game doesn’t have much plot, but Mario’s never been about that. The gameplay is the important part and the game does that well. I certainly recommend it and it’s a game that anyone can get into.

Overall 7/10

Klonoa: Empire of Dreams Review

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It’s time for another one of the Christmas games that I got. Despite obtaining other big GBA titles like Mario Advance and Kirby, I felt like Klonoa had the strongest gameplay of the bunch right from the get go. After completing it, I can safely say that I feel like my hunch was right on the money. Mario Advance is certainly deeper and tougher, but Klonoa feels the smoothest by far. It’s a very short game and won’t last you very long at all, but some of the puzzles can definitely be quite challenging. Not in a “cheap” annoying way or anything like that, but you will have to take a moment and wrap your head around what’s happening. The best part about the puzzles are that they are all self contained in small rooms so you know that the game has given you whatever you need in order to win. You just have to utilize what they have given you.

The game starts with Klonoa waking up in a strange land. For some reason, the people of this country have made dreams illegal and Klonoa is being arrested under that charge. He resists as best he can, but these guys will not be dissuaded. Our hero realizes that the only way to put an end to this is to find the 4 monsters that are being mind controlled by a mysterious villain. Klonoa intends to put an end to the situation at hand and he’ll have to do it with his Pac-Man hat at the ready.

The gameplay is a little different from your average 2D platformer as it’s also heavily puzzle based. Usually that would be a bad thing, but as I explained, it’s surprisingly handled well. You have a ring which allows Klonoa to pick up enemies and objects to then throw them around the board and activate switches and other such gadgets. You have to collect 3 stars in each level and some levels will also have keys that you need to grab. There is no attacking from this, which makes the gameplay easy to figure out. The grab is the only move in the game aside from Klonoa’s unique double jump, which serves as a glide of sorts. It’s mostly useless and won’t help you with just about anything, but I suppose that’s part of the point right?

Klonoa’s a solid lead and you can tell that he’s the kind of character who doesn’t let the villains mess around with him. He even says the only swear word in the game at one point when the villains show up. He believes in the hope of dreams and is an all around good character. Of course, you have to wonder just how much of this is real though because the ending is definitely a little controversial. Let’s just say…..this is a game about dreams right? I suppose you can also just say that memories were wiped and everything, but I actually think the ending just played it straight. It’ll be a little anticlimactic for some, but it also does shed some light on why Klonoa would randomly be in a whole new world with no idea on how he got there. A little too convenient eh?

Klonoa’s sidekick is pretty forgettable. I don’t even remember his name since it was a little hard to pronounce. He’s not bad though and is still more helpful than Navi. He just won’t be remembered quite as well as someone like Clank or Luigi. Most of the villains are forgettable as well. You won’t be thinking about them anytime soon, but I suppose they serve the role of one-time GBA villains well enough. What they lack in design, they make up for in the boss fights. They’re pretty fun and the fact that they all die after 3 hits prevents any of them from dragging on.

At only 5 worlds, Klonoa is certainly shorter than most similar games. It’s also quite a bit easier than most of the others as it’s more about the difficulty of the puzzles than the actual platforming. To help alleviate this, there is some replay value to be found here. Collecting all of the gems in each level will buy you some time. It doesn’t unlock much though as you just get an extra level, but hey…that can still be pretty neat right? For the most part, getting all of the gems won’t take very long at all, but it’s something to do. When you consider the low price point for the game, it’s definitely fine that it’s not super long. Don’t get the wrong idea either, it’s not extremely short like Casper or something like that. It’s still a full fledged platformer and if you take the time to play all of the levels, it’ll give you a few hours of fun.

The soundtrack is fairly good. It gets blown out of the water by Mario Advance and some of the other big mainstream titles, but the music is solid. The graphics are also pretty good as the characters are clear and the level designs are all pretty solid. The worlds all have their unique elements and backgrounds that make the game’s level spread feel very diverse. I dare say that this may be one of the better looking GBA game and the fact that it had cutscenes (picture stills, but we take those) was also nice to see.

Overall, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is a fun game. It’s not going to rock anyone’s world, but it a fundamentally sound game. I dare say that it is underrated since I would easily say that it is one of the best GBA side-scrollers. It’s just not very well known at all since Klonoa himself never became all that popular. At least he isn’t at the point where he is super obscure yet either. Hopefully the series can make a comeback at some point since it definitely deserves to have more games in its arsenal. If you haven’t played this game yet, then I definitely recommend it. It’s certainly very unique and games with puzzles should take some tips from this one. Majora’s Mask and Layton.. (To a small extent. Most of the game’s puzzles were quite brilliant, but that last shapes one…) I’m talking to you guys. Throw Flip’s Twisted World in there as well because the game’s shadow puzzle is just not fair and it’s certainly not balanced.

Overall 7/10

Shantae Half-Genie Hero Review

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It’s time to take a look at another one of the Christmas games. Shantae was definitely a lot of fun to play through and it’s an indie game done right. It’s not super long or anything since it’s a game that is made to be speed runned, but it’s still long enough for you to feel like you got your money’s worth. The level designs are all on point and the game just looks and sounds good in general. I can also finally say that I’ve played a game in the Shantae series!

Shantae was trying to enjoy her beauty sleep when the village has need of her services once again. As a half-genie hero, Shantae protects a village and in exchange they pay her or at least give her a place to live. Unfortunately, the mayor has a habit of firing her. The village is attacked by all sorts of villains, including Risky Boots. Shantae will have to take them all down and save the genie realm, but can she do it?

The game has a nice retro feel to it as the game uses sprites the whole time. The levels are all pretty bright and cheerful. Even the villain levels and burning remains are still bright enough for you to see where you’re going at all times and breeze through. The game has that simple fun factor that the Mario and Sonic titles of the past possessed. It’s something that some games tend to lack nowadays with their artificial length and unnecessary quests. This one had a few riddles that needed to be deciphered, but they weren’t anything too crazy. I found them all in a reasonable amount of time.

Ironically, I managed to find most of the bonus collectibles in the mean time. By the time I was able to get to the next story level, I was very overpowered. I had a large heart collection by then and a lot of power ups that made the rest of the game a breeze. Naturally, all of these collectibles help the replay value section. The main game should take around 5 hours or so, but in order to get the Platinum Trophy, you’ll need to play the game again and complete it in a mere 4 hours. Certainly doable, but it’ll take some practice and a nice plan in mind. This is a game where I actually do plan on getting all of the trophies sooner than later so stay tuned for that. I’ve already got 72% of the trophies and more are on the way.

The music selection in the game was certainly enjoyable. The song that played during the first level was definitely a lot of fun and so was the boss theme and the burning cafe. They helped make the game more exciting for sure. This game definitely really succeeded on a technical level as well as when it comes to the pure gameplay. The creators definitely put a lot of heart into it and I can see why the kick starter people would feel good about their contributions.

As for the gameplay, it starts out like a classic Mario game, but with her hair acting as a sword of sorts. As you play through the game, you’ll get gradually stronger to the point where the old levels will suddenly be a piece of cake. You’ll learn how to fly, swim underwater, grab onto ceilings, and also multiply your attack power and speed by 4x. It’s fun to see the contrast to the start as you really begin to breeze through all of the levels. It’s hard to believe just what a difference the power ups make, but they are well worth it.

As mentioned before, the level designs are really good, which help to further make the gameplay shine. The only part of one level that seemed a little overly difficult was the Flappy Bird homage in part 3 of the last level. Luckily, you can cheese it out by falling on the very left of the final spike platform and then turning into a Bat. I somehow think that this wasn’t intentional, but we certainly take those. Anything goes when it’s time to complete the game right?

Shantae makes for a good main character. She reminds me a lot of Lina Inverse from Slayers, but less obsessed with money and riches. Shantae’s just a noble hero who tries to do the right thing and save the day. She even takes time out of her day to chat with the villains when they’re not busy trying to rule the world or resurrect old pals from the previous games. There are a lot of references to the older games, but it’s certainly not necessary to purchase them to understand what’s going on. You’ll be able to get into the game rather easily. Shantae’s grandfather and two friends aren’t that charismatic so I don’t mind that they got a rather small role. This is one of those games that really leans on Shantae as she has the most personality by far.

Risky Boots does the same for the villains. She seems to be the only villain who is totally evil and doesn’t have time for niceties or cracking jokes like the others. Her plan was actually pretty intense and if you get the bad ending, she does succeed in destroying quite a few people. Naturally, I went for the bad ending since the good one needed me to grab more collectibles. I’ll probably see that one when I attempt the speed run at some point. If not, well..I can probably tell what will change anyway, but you’ll just need to find out for yourself.

The sheer fun factor of the game ends up putting it ahead of Shovel Knight and Mighty No 9. There is a lot of backtracking here and helping people out with side quests, but they were all fun to play through. The levels are also short enough where it isn’t a bother to go back and forth as you look for collectibles. It’s just a very well made game and if I were to have any complaints, it would be that you can’t skip the credits, but I suppose that’s cool for the people who pledged to this project.

Overall, Shantae Half-Genie Hero is definitely a good PS4 game and I’d recommend picking it up. It’s certainly not the longest game on the block, but it’s long enough and has a good amount of replay value. If we do end up getting some free DLC for it soon, that’ll be even cooler, but there’s enough base content to make it all worthwhile. Sprites also work perfectly for the game since otherwise the dancing and attires could be a bit much in this desert land, but sprites make everything 20% better. Hopefully this game did really well so we can get a sequel at some point. Of course, if Shantae is added into the Switch version of Smash, then she’ll have enough publicity to last a life time!

Overall 8/10

Mario Kart: Super Circuit Review

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It’s time to review the first of the Christmas games! I ended up obtaining 9, which was a pretty solid amount. For the first time in many years, there were more portable games than home console at 6-3. It’s good to go retro once in a while and this was one of them of course. I’ve always been a big fan of the Mario Kart franchise. While none of the other games will ever come remotely close to taking down Double Dash, the other titles still have a lot of heart. This GBA installment is a rather simple and small version, but it gets the job done. It’s fun for on the go or just to unwind and relax.

As always, the main emphasis will be on Grand Prix mode. You can also play Time Attacks, but most players will probably be going right to the tournaments. There are 4 standard tournaments for each of the 3 difficulty settings and then a 5th that you can unlock by completing the first four. With 4 stages in each cup, that comes down to 20 stages in the game. It’s a pretty decent amount and debatably it is better to have 20 unique stages than 50 color swapped ones. Some of the Wii racing games tried that, but it’s very obvious. Nintendo’s never stopped to such tricks. Each race is only around 2-3 minutes so they go by really fast. Of course, that also means that you’ll be breezing through the tournaments at a very rapid pace.

I completed one tournament on Christmas and then did the next 4 the day after. I also completed one tournament in the other two difficulty settings so I could get a feel for how different they were. The main difference is definitely the fact that your opponents will rarely ever use items on 50CC, but they will use them a lot in 150. Their adaptability also gets a lot better and their cars were already unnaturally fast so it’s tough to stay ahead of them. I imagine that it would be very difficult to come in first on the snow level or the sand one. A bunch of them would be really difficult come to think of it.

Nintendo did a good job on the difficulty with this one. It can also be a little “cheap” at times since you should all be at the same speed, but I guess it’d be hard to program the difficulty in otherwise. As good as the computers drive, getting hit by items would probably mess them up a bit. It doesn’t feel unreachable either though and would probably just take some extra tries. Since the stages are all very short, the replay value is high. Even if you lose, it’s not as if you lost a bunch of time right? I think they should have added some extra incentive to beating the tougher level tournaments though. As it is, you don’t unlock any stages or characters so why would you do it? I believe you get a new title screen or something which is fine…but it could be better. This means that the replay value here mostly just comes from the personal satisfaction of taking down all of the variations of the tournaments. I would mention the multiplayer mode, but a lot of people don’t have GBAs anymore so I don’t expect you’ll find a match. Furthermore, I’m playing this one on the DS myself so I couldn’t play it that way even if I did find someone. The tournaments are enough of an incentive to ensure that you’re not ripped off though. I can’t imagine paying 30 for this, but 5-10? That’s definitely not bad at all.

The gameplay is pretty smooth. Some of the turns can be a little tricky, but it’s the kind of game where you just have to learn when to turn. Once you play enough, you’ll be nailing every aspect of the stage. It is very skill based and with less items being thrown around, you barely feel the gimmicks at times. I know that I need to work on my turning to be a better Mario Kart player in this game. I feel like I lose a lot of speed because I just hit the brakes for every turn. It seems to be the most efficient way to drive, but I somehow just don’t think that this is the case. There’s got to be something that I’m missing. Being able to jump is another fun feature in the game although it’s not all that useful. My L button started to act up towards the end so I couldn’t use the items as well as I wanted to, but you can still get past that with solid driving.

The graphics hold up well for the GBA. The character designs are all fun and retro. It’s cool how they haven’t changed all that much over the years except for Bowser. I have to say that he looks quite different. Between the CD-I games, the Mario comics, and this title, it really goes to show how this style completely died out. The old design was fun, but I probably do prefer the new one. Both have their moments though. The soundtrack is great as always. The tunes are fun to listen to as you play and Nintendo is still at the top of the line when it comes to this. Most Game Boy Advance games did have a soundtrack, but a lot of them were either very limited or only had a few catchy songs. This is a bit of a bold generalization since we do have quite a few RPGs and other franchise titles with fans who are ready to tell me differently, but aside from Sonic Advance and the Pokemon games, what other GBA title has such a solid all around soundtrack? I may be forgetting something myself, but this game is certainly up there.

Overall, Mario Kart: Super Circuit is a solid game. It’s also cool to see some of these old stages for the first time in a while since they were present in Mario Kart Wii as part of the crossover appeal. I like to think that I kept my skills from those other titles which is why I was dominating the computers here for the most part. It’s clearly not as expansive or awesome as Double Dash, but this was a nice way to keep the series going. I’m now one step closer to being caught up with Mario Kart. I just need MK7 and MK8 and then I’m back in biz. It’ll be fun to play those as they’re a lot more modern so it’ll be a very large contrast. If you haven’t gotten this game yet, then it’s still not too late. You’ll have a blast, regardless of how long it’s been. Good gameplay doesn’t feel the same wear and tear that other mediums can get blasted with. Just look at Galaga or Pac-Man.

Overall 7/10

Mighty No. 9 Review

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It’s time to take a look at the controversial Mega Man homage game. This is also game number 2 from the Christmas batch. It’s definitely a very solid game when we look at pure gameplay, but it could definitely use some work in other aspects. The main culprit here is the level design as some just don’t make a whole lot of sense and are pretty unfair. The game has a habit of not telling you anything either, but I’ll take some very slight blame on that since I guess I could have experimented with the controls a little more. Given that the price crashed so quickly though, it is definitely worth purchasing.

The game follows Beck, The Mighty number 9, one of the last robots who is currently not corrupted. His fellow Mighty numbers have also started running amok and are causing terror in the streets. Doctor Sanda and Doctor White instruct Beck to save the day by defeating the robots and clensing them of the violent bug. It’ll be tough, but Beck is the strongest robot ever created so he should have the edge here. Who is controlling these robots though? Doctor Blackwell is a suspect since he has had many iffy crime dealings in the past, but he is currently in prison. With only one other actual character in the game, that means that we have 2 suspects. Well, lets start taking back the city!

Beck’s a decent lead although it’s hard to say what his personality is. He seems kind of sassy during some brief points, but for most of the game he is basically Mega Man when it comes to personality. He doesn’t like fighting and he’s super heroic to the point where you have to wonder if he’s faking it. He’s a good guy, but there just wasn’t much to him and you would barely even guess that he doesn’t like fighting if Call didn’t mention it a few times. Call is basically the Roll of this game. She gets one level to herself, which is cool since you get to fight as her, but she is given a terrible moveset. Her blasters deal next to 0 damage and she can’t power slide so you have to crawl the old fashioned way. Her level was also one of the very bad ones when it comes to design. She was a good main heroine though and I am glad that she isn’t reluctant to fighting.

All 3 of the doctors are fairly bland. Blackwell is easily the best of the three. He was framed and arrested so maybe the guy isn’t all that bad, but Doctor White certainly doesn’t like him. The game seems to be setting White up to be the villain of a sequel, which would certainly be interesting. White is even hiding the fact that he is related to Blackwell by changing his last name. Blackwell doesn’t like robots, which seems to be how the game is leaning him towards the dark side, but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy yet. The sinister design is probably an indication that he will do something drastic at some point, but he’s certainly no Wily yet. Sanda is the comic relief guy who constantly panics and stutters throughout the whole game. He definitely won’t be turning evil, but I wouldn’t want to see too much more of him. He doesn’t really serve any purpose in the story and is just there to be there.

The Mighty Numbers are fairly decent. They all have different personalities and none of them appear to be all that bad. They’re like the classic robot masters, but the game did a good job of not making them too identical. There is an obvious Proto Man homage, but we definitely did need a rival in the game. All good franchises develop one at some point. He was easily the best one in the game of course. Trinity was also pretty cool though and she is easily one of the stronger bots. I’d expect her to play a major role in the sequel unless they nerf her for some reason. Now that would be a shame.

As I got the PS4 version, it came with the free Ray expansion pack. I’ll definitely play that at some point, but for now that’ll go on the backburner. The character definitely looks cool though and I expect that he’d be a really good antagonist or rival figure. When I play that mode, I’ll upload an update post so that I can discuss it properly. I need to do the same with Shovel Knight at some point although this game certainly feels a little quicker so it would be higher on the list.

Lets talk about the gameplay. The positives are that they worked with the classic Mega Man style and improved it in some ways. Being able to air dodge is a lot of fun. It can be a little sensitive, but nothing too crazy. You may only slip and die a handful of times. I also like how strong the normal Mega Buster is. You’ll rarely want to use anything else, although the missile is certainly a very handy backup weapon. One thing you should know is that pressing on the PS4 touchscreen will let you use a health pack that you may have obtained during the level. If you see a blue icon under your health bar, then that’s what it means. You’ll lose them when you lose a life so use them before you die. I didn’t know about this until I was at the final boss. If I had only known earlier, I could have beaten the game way sooner and the final boss wouldn’t have been so difficult. The game never really mentioned anything about it though and I wasn’t going to surf the tips section until I found something. Again, I won’t blame the game too much, but this was a fairly important detail. You can also do back jumps while shooting by hitting the R2 button and that’s also very useful for the final boss. It only has niche uses though so you won’t be using it all that much.

One area where the gameplay failed is switching between weapons. Why wouldn’t they leave it simple like in the Mega Man games by just hitting L1 and R1 to instantly switch? Instead, that allows you to cycle through and then you have to activate the switch with triangle. It’s too many steps and will likely cause you to get hit once or twice during a boss fight. I also have to take a shot at the level designs. Purple spikes KO you instantly, but some levels have a Mario Maker esque moment where you’ll fall down and just bump into them. There’s no way to know that they’re there so you’ll always lose a life the first time that you encounter this. As the game is pretty short, there aren’t too many of these moments, but the ones that are there will certainly get on your nerves. Some segments have various jumps around the purple spikes and one death can send you pretty far back. Some of the checkpoints simply weren’t placed well.

The graphics are definitely pretty sharp and this is how retro inspired games should look if you ask me. It has the retro side scroller feel to it, but you can still see the updated graphics through the character designs and level layouts. Everything looks pretty smooth and modern, especially the aerial boosts. The game definitely looks quite good and that also helps get you into the game. The actual plot may have been somewhat underwhelming and the graphics never looked good for the cutscenes for some reason, but the actual gameplay visuals were always on point. The soundtrack is also pretty solid. Some of the themes are rather generic, but they are generic futuristic themes, which is still a win for me. The themes go very well with the moderate to fast paced gameplay. There were no “bad” themes in the game, which is always good as well.

There is a good amount of replay value to be found here. Getting that Platinum Trophy will take a very long time since the trophies are very hard. Can you imagine beating the whole game in 30 minutes or completing it on hard without any continues? Those two in particular sound crazy and there are a slew of others that will be just as hard. It would take dozens upon dozens of hours to do this unless there is some kind of save stalling technique that I’m not aware of. It’s certainly possible I suppose, but it would still take quite a while. Getting all S ranks on the normal levels will also be tricky and then you’ve got challenges and online leaderboards to worry about. It’s quite a lot of content so that’s a good thing considering that over 70000 people backed the game and that it got way more money than it ever needed. The controversies surrounding the game were certainly interesting to follow along back in the day.

Overall, Mighty No. 9 is a solid game. The level designs and the plot help to keep it from getting an 8 though. The main story won’t last you all that long either so if you’re not a big fan of the bonus content, then this game wouldn’t really be worth the 30 dollars for you. It currently goes for 10-15 though so that’s a very reasonable price if you ask me. This will also help alleviate the wait til the next Mega Man or Mega Man X game since it seems like it’ll be a very long time before Capcom gives us another one. I don’t get how a company can drop the ball so hard on one of their franchises, but that’s Cashcom for you. So, I definitely recommend this game and it was about what I expected, if not a little better. This is controversial, but I think it’s even better than Shovel Knight so that would make it my top indie game. It’s a little murky as to whether or not it counts anymore I suppose, but given that it was from kickstarter, I think we can still call it that. We’ll see if Shantae can take the crown though. The gameplay is pretty sharp and the plot is much better, but Mighty No 9 does have some advantages like the soundtrack and the graphics. Only time will tell and that review shouldn’t be too far off either!

Overall 7/10

Marvel Contest of Champions Review

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Just looking at that cover should remind you just how changed Marvel is from the good ole days. We have a lot of heroes trying to replace the classic ones and most of the old ones have had drastic makeovers. No worries though, this game manages to include an enormous amount of characters so the classics are still here as well. With new characters constantly being added to the game, I don’t see Contest of Champions ending anytime soon. It’s simply too expansive at this point and I’m glad to see it doing well. The amount of content can be intimidating, but it also shows that you can do quite a lot even when under the free to play format. Someone should have told Super Mario Run about that.

There’s actually a plot this time. The Collector is having another game and has decided to pit the Marvel heroes against you. You are the chosen one and your opponent is Kang. Both of you collect Marvel heroes and duke it out until there is only one fighter still standing. The plot will probably have some wrinkles along the way though because there are dozens and dozens of levels. I only played about 10% of Act 1, which was already fairly long. Since they keep on adding new chapters and acts for special events, I can easily see this reaching an RPG’s length by the end. The story isn’t all that engaging so you’ll be playing it for the gameplay. Console games are still my priority though, which is why I didn’t play the game for too long. I played it enough to see what it was all about and then it was time to delete the app.

The gameplay is fairly straight forward. Tap the screen for standard attacks. Swipe forward to dash or back to dodge. You can also use charge attacks and special moves. Each battle will play out in pretty much the same way and the various special abilities will all blend together after a while. This is still a game with a reasonably small budget so you can’t go in expecting Marvel vs Capcom. Still, the graphics are very impressive considering. All of the character models are on point and it’s pretty surreal to see Marvel’s large array of characters all show up. The soundtrack is rather bland, but decent.

One issue is that the gameplay can get a little repetitive. I suppose that can be said about most mobile games, but other titles like 1010 and Pokemon Go are super fun anyway. You may be doing the same thing hundreds of times over, but it never gets old. Contest of Champions will get old after a while so you shouldn’t play it for too long at a time. If you play it seriously for collecting all of the heroes though, then this may not be a factor. I also have to give the game some props for not making the pay to win element too prevalent. You can still play for a while each day before hitting your limit and that’s a good thing. Madden Mobile got annoying for how quickly you hit the daily limit along with Pokemon Shuffle.

The main menu is a little cluttered and complicated, but at least it shows that there is a lot to do here. There are all kinds of modes to explore and crystals to earn. It just never stops and you can be lost in the menus for a good 20 minutes before deciding what to do. The replay value here is endless and that’s what we’ve come to expect from these apps. With this one gone, it’s going to be back to Pokemon Go for me. That’s really the only long term app game that I need. These other titles are good, but ultimately can’t compete.

Overall, Marvel’s Contest of Champions is a fun enough game. The graphics are sound and assembling your team of heroes can be addicting. Eventually you’ll either start to get frustrated by obtaining duplicate heroes even though you only have 5 or 6, or you will be completely into the game by then and just hooked on all of the future updates. If you’re a big mobile player, then I recommend adding it to your roster. If not, then this one can probably be passed. It’s good, but you could always just buy Marvel vs Capcom instead for the superior fighter. I know that DC also got a very similar fighting game on the app store, but I don’t plan on trying it out anytime soon.

Overall 7/10