Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Phi Brain: Puzzle of God: The Orpheus Order Review


It’s time to take a look at season 2 of Phi Brain. The first season was definitely a rock solid show. We got a bunch of great puzzles and in general it was a pretty unique show. I haven’t seen many like it so it was good to have the title return. While season 2 does retread some ground from the first season it’s definitely a great follow up. It’s not quite as good as the first season of course, but the quality is very close to that of the original.

The season also does start off with a bang. Kaito and the rest of the Phi Brains are hanging out at school when they are challenged by a new villain group. They call themselves the Orpheus Order and right off the bat they challenge the heroes to a group battle. Kaito and Gammon can handle themselves well enough but can the rest hold their own? The leader of the Orpheus Order is named Freecell (Or is he the leader?) and he seems to have some ties to Kaito from the past. Kaito doesn’t remember this guy or the promise he supposedly made. Either way Kaito has to stop these guys, but the Orpheus Order is more expansive than they can imagine. Kaito may need to call on his old friends from the POG for assistance.

I always like it when the villains make a move right away. Why bother waiting 20+ episodes to appear when you can storm the hero stronghold in under 10 minutes? It’s really impressive just how quickly they move. I also really like the idea of a team battle. It’s basically a 5 on 5 match as everyone plays a square related game. It’d be even cooler to have everyone moving at once, but logistically that’d probably be a nightmare so this makes sense. It’s still super tense because even if Kaito wins his round there is no guarantee that the whole team will win.

One advantage the season immediately has over the last one is that Kaito isn’t sidelined for every other puzzle. In season 1 there kept being a ton of different circumstances that would keep him out of a fight. First we had Cubik come out with something that prevented Kaito’s brain from activating, then he went through an emotional breakdown where he forgot how to do puzzles, etc. There were so many episodes where Kaito could have solved the puzzle easily but then something happened and he had a hard time. Here the only times Kaito is having a difficult experience solving the puzzle is because his opponent is that good. In season 1 a lot of the puzzles were 1 player, most of the ones in season 2 are vs puzzles so you’re actively fighting someone. It makes a huge difference on how you go about solving it this way. Even Nonoha gets to duel in one puzzle which was definitely interesting. Her photographic memory unfortunately isn’t too helpful in most cases, but she always tries which is good.

The Orpheus Order has quite a few members so lets quickly talk about them. First up is Freecell who serves as the main antagonist here. He blames Kaito for the death of his mother, but gradually we learn more and more about his full backstory. He makes for a good villain, but typically he’s at his best when Kaito isn’t around. For example, his confrontation with Klondike is his best scene. It’s awesome and one of the best moments in the whole show. When he’s with Kaito he gets a little more delusional and in some ways is just Rook 2.0. Overall I did think he made for a pretty great villain though. He may not have been the most original villain in the series, but the execution was on point. If anything it’s too bad we didn’t get to see him fight more. I wanted to see his new powers in action.

Then we have Pinochle who is definitely the worst of the group. He’s the kind of guy who goes for mindgames and intimidation right off the bat, but can’t pull it off. As a result he seems more like a try hard and never becomes all that interesting. It’s a shame since he gets some of the most development out of the characters. Next is Mizerka who also isn’t too great, but she’s a step up from Pinochle. She needs to have a use and so that probably makes her the most loyal out of all the members. So long as the leader gives her a task she is happy to complete it. Her character is tied pretty closely to Melancholy so you can probably expect that things don’t go too well for her. She also tends to get psyched out by Ana as Mizerka takes everything very seriously.

Next up is Doubt and since he’s Gammon’s rival you can imagine that he’s pretty solid. (For the most part all of the Orpheus Order members have a natural rival) He can fight which is handy and he always struck me as the strongest main member behind Freecell. By the end of the series it is strongly implied that this isn’t the case. Things actually get pretty dicey for Doubt in general in the second half. Still, I liked his confidence and as the tough guy of the group he served in his role pretty well. It took a while for me to realize that his name was literally “Doubt” though.

Then we have Melancholy who is pretty young compared to the other characters. Still, that isn’t to say that her talent is lacking in any way next to the others. She’s always confident and sarcastic aside from her final scene. I don’t think she really got any closure compared to the rest of the group so it’s a shame that Melancholy couldn’t have gotten one more puzzle battle. Likewise, Whist gets a lot of hype throughout but ultimately doesn’t really get to do anything at the end. He does have a lot of hype moments in between, but at the end of the day he didn’t have the breakout duel that you’d expect. The butler from season 1 was definitely more impressive in that regard.

Klondike is the head of the Orpheus Order so you definitely expect a lot out of him. His role is pretty small, but definitely very powerful. He instantly became one of my favorite villains in the series. The guy’s so good at puzzles that he reached Kaito’s level during his first time even trying one out. The guy’s potential is nearly limitless. He’s another character that I would have liked to spend more time with. I suppose there are just too many characters for them all to keep on appearing, but it’d be nice if he could appear again. I suspect this was probably it for him.

That wraps up the new villains here. Well, we have Ana’s sister, but she really didn’t add anything to the show. I didn’t even realize Ana still needed a backstory although I suppose maybe it was hinted in season 1? She has her big moment at the end of course, but for the most part she’s pretty forgettable. We do see the return of an old villain from the POG arc. I won’t say who, but his role here is pretty fun. Despite the fact that this guy is always whining, he can apparently fight as he actually takes down Doubt. It was definitely intense to see him again even if I don’t really get why the villains humored him for so long anyway. I suppose testing the villains’ loyalty and Kaito’s progression is always good, but I feel like there were other ways to do this.

Rook and Bishop may be on a quest to destroy all the puzzles of fools, but they do take the time to quickly show up here when Kaito is in trouble. Bishop never really gets to duel, but Rook has some nice moments. His tag team duel with Kaito was definitely pretty cool. It’s always fun seeing the old villain show up as more of a rival in the present. It’s a nice character development moment. It would have been nice to see Rook fight with Freecell, but I think that may have ultimately been too much for him. The other POG members show up, but only the celebrity member really gets to do anything. The rest just panic a whole lot.

From the supporting characters, Tamaki probably gets the biggest role. She has to step in as student body president and naturally the villains make a move. The season is long enough where there are several sections in the plot. At one point what the villains would do is go around mind controlling people. Tamaki ends up being one of those targets. Jikukawa as well, although his was a lot more epic. It made for an excellent cliffhanger when he showed up and challenged Kaito. The guy always had an interesting history as he was close to being a Phi Brain, but decided not to do so. I guess this was his chance to test all of that. I do think his plan to put on the ring was a little sloppy, but it all worked out in the end which is what counts.

From the Phi Brain children they mostly just get a role in the first half of the season. By the end they aren’t really able to help out at all and just stay on the sidelines. Ana’s role near the beginning is to annoy Mizerka and of course the whole thing with her sister. Cubik is heavily involved with trying to figure out how the rings work and Gammon tries to teach Doubt a lesson for involving his sister. They’re all pretty consistent with how they were in the first season. In that respect, Gammon’s the only disappointing one here just because he had such a big role in season 1. He was Kaito’s rival while now he is treated more like an underling. It’s clear that they are no longer on the same level. I suppose it was inevitable to an extent but it’s still a shame.

Nonoha still gets a big role of course as she is always ready to support Kaito. She also helps get Freecell to sort through his emotions in time for the final boss. She’s definitely an integral part of the story. Finally we have Kaito. As always he’s definitely a great main character. He doesn’t really suffer from the same levels of doubt he had in season 1. The mindgames still shake him up a bit from time to time, but for the most part he’s gotten past all of that. He’s now in a spot where he can just enjoy puzzles again. He’s definitely a fun main character and his aggressive nature towards solving puzzles has served him well. I’m glad he chose to do the puzzles without the armlet as well. In season 1 he basically surpassed it so that would have felt like a step back.

Naturally the soundtrack is still great as we have a lot of old themes that return. I do miss the classic samba type music that played though. I don’t even know what style of music it was, maybe Mexican? It fit really well for the tombs, but I guess with the change of scenery for season 2 the directors thought it wouldn’t be a good fit. Still, on the whole we get the rest of the epic tunes. Then for the animation it’s pretty consistent with season 1. The visuals are still nice and shiny. It doesn’t stand out too much in particular, but it all looks good I’d say. Most of these puzzles aren’t exactly made to look super flashy anyway.

I think one difference here compared to the first season which does hurt a bit is that it’s more up and down. I feel like season 1 was consistently excellent with high stakes while this one could fluctuate. At its best the hype moments were even better than season 1’s. The Klondike duel, Jikukawa turning evil, the big duels with Freecell, Rook jumping in, etc. These are all show stopping moments with how amazing they are. At the same time, then we have the episodes that feel like they’re just trying to buy time. These include moments like: Ana’s sister, Tamaki turning evil, the puzzle adventures on the island, etc. Not to say that any of these episodes are bad. They just feel like filler thrown in the middle to buy some for the villains to make another serious move. Since season 1’s episodes were mostly all introducing the characters and getting us to know them even the “filler” felt important. It’s a perk that season 1 has which is supposed to be countered by the fact that season 2 can just jump right in. It’s a good balance and as I mentioned before, the seasons are still very close.

Overall, Season 2 is definitely quite solid. I do like the idea of a villain group of geniuses. We do get some cop outs in terms of the whole group being Phi Brains, but the higher ups still delivered with the fights. Phi Brain will continue to succeed as long as they keep thinking of fun puzzles. Season 1’s were still more creative, but this season definitely had enough hype scenes to match 1. I look forward to seeing how season 3 stacks up. Who can possibly challenge Kaito and friends now right? Maybe there’ll be a super Armlet of Orpheus or something like that.

Overall 8/10

5 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Gunpey DS Review


It’s time to look at one of those random puzzle games that I’ve had in the backlog for quite a while. I’m a pretty big Professor Layton fan so I was ready for some more puzzles. The problem is that Gunpey’s design seems to be a little too based on luck. Of course, the more you play the better you will get at recognizing the patterns and it isn’t all luck based, but it does play a factor. This game also has no way to delete previous save data so if you get a copy where part of the game has already been completed, you won’t get any kind of tutorial. That’s probably the roughest part since you have to learn on the fly. It took some time, but eventually I was able to get good enough to conquer the game. There’s some good entertainment lost in this game, but finding it is too much of a hassle.

The game’s main mode is essentially it’s story. It works like an Arcade Mode as you fight 5 opponents in a row at the ladders. If you beat them all then the credits role and you will unlock a new character. Rinse and repeat if you like to get them all. You are able to use the continue feature as much as necessary (I presume…I only died once during my big victory round) so no pressure. The story will take you around 15-20 minutes since there are no cutscenes and reach round is around 3-4 minutes. Since this game is about being the last man standing it all depends on when the A.I. loses.

Lets talk about the gameplay. So both players have a field with 5 columns and a bunch of rows. The screen moves upwards as the match goes on and you can also speed it up although I recommend never doing this in story mode since it just accelerates your own demise. It’s only good to do that to get a higher score if you’re doing the Score Attack mode or Endless. You have various shapes appear in your board as it rises. There seem to be 3-4 kind of pieces. The idea is to get them to connect across the entire board. Once 5 pieces are connected they all explode and you keep on doing that. Whoever lets a piece make it to the top of the board first loses. Adding to the strategy is the fact that you can’t move pieces horizontally, only vertically. That’s where the luck part comes in as sometimes the right piece won’t show up in the final column until it’s too late. If you want to beat the main campaign the best way is to simply go as slowly as possible.

You can control the board in a few different ways, but using the stylus is easily the quickest and most efficient way if you ask me. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. Once you understand the purpose of the game then the rest will quickly fall into place. You better enjoy the gameplay though because there isn’t really anything else to it. Of course that can be said for many games, but this one just feels like it’s lacking in content. Once you beat all of the stories I suppose you can go back and try to get high scores in the other modes, but that’s about it. You also can’t see your high scores in any of the modes right away. The only way to re-view them is to enter the level again and die on purpose. It’s a pretty lazy set up since showing scores should not be a hard thing to do at all.

As far as the graphics go, they aren’t bad. They’re not particularly good either, but you certainly won’t be able to make an excuse like you weren’t able to see them or anything like that. The game’s certainly bright enough. The soundtrack is super bland though. Of course, I’d expect nothing less. Now, I don’t want to say that Gunpey is a bad game. That’s still a rare distinction that only some games really deserve. That being said, it doesn’t do enough to be a good game either. It just comes across as being lazy. Not being able to delete the save data is really a bad thing since you never want to have to start with a game already in progress. Fortunately since Story Mode is basically Arcade mode it didn’t matter in that respect, but it’s the principle of the thing. Furthermore, no effort was put into the modes. There’s no sense of style with the records not being able to be seen.

Overall, Gunpey DS could have been a lot better. The gameplay isn’t bad, but since the rest of the game had no real effort behind it you just can’t be entertained for as long as you would have liked. Even though you can buy this game for a dollar or two it just isn’t worth it. I’m sure you could find a similar game for free on the phone or computer. It just plays a lot like a free to play game, but with even less effort and excitement. Still, I suppose you aren’t liable to forget Gunpey for quite a while since the gameplay is rather unique.

Overall 5/10

4 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Paper Mario: Sticker Star Review


Paper Mario has always been pretty ambitious for a Mario series. The plots could get pretty serious and were certainly darker than the main series as they selves into Luigi’s psyche and had Peach turn evil. The Thousand Year Door was the peak of the series and could hold its own as an rpg against the mainstream ones like Final Fantasy. Then….this game came out. It’s basically a Mario game masquerading as a Paper Mario title.

The plot is paper thin compared to the old ones as Peach is kidnapped. Bowser has taken her away to his castle and Mario is going to need some help if he wants to save her this time. Fortunately he had a pal named Kersti who is some kind of Princess I think. I can’t remember to be honest but she talks a really good game and insults anyone who gets in her way. She reminds Mario that he will need to obtain the 6 World Crown Stickers to save the world and stop Bowser’s evil plan once and for all. Can Mario do it or will he end up panicking throughout the entire game!?

Right away the game’s main problem presents itself in the form of the stickers. Not only is the entire game built around them, but the mechanics aren’t even fun. You need them to perform any kind of action in combat from jumping to using your hammer. This means you really do need to take the time to pluck them off the walls or you’ll run out during a boss fight. The stage will throw you a few extra ones when you’re empty but only cheap stickers that won’t do a lot of damage. This gets very tedious very quickly. It doesn’t help that the bosses have an enormous amount of hp so the fights drag on for eternity. That’s also why running out of stickers becomes a legitimate concern since you will need a lot of stickers to finish them off.

The final boss in particular has around 5 phases and keeps healing between each phase. This just drags on the fight more and more as opposed to being exciting. You can’t jump on this opponent either so even though I made it to the final phase with a lot of stickers left, I couldn’t do anything. None of my jumps would do anything but hurt me and so I had to watch as my efforts went to waste. The game is built around trial and error to a large extent which is certainly not how a game should be if you ask me. You should be able to reasonably guess what to expect and win if you thought about it enough as opposed to just needing more stickers from the shop.

You’ll likely need to farm some coins at one point or another so I’d recommend 4-1 for that. There’s a shiny goomba right when you enter the level and a ice flower in the box next to him. Grab the flower and you can beat him in one hit which will get you around 100 coins. You can do this very quickly so just keep at it. I saved to about 2500 coins for the final boss and it was certainly worth it. The super stickers do have cutscenes that are unskippable which is unfortunate but they are worth it for the damage they dish out.

Another massive problem with the game are the puzzles. You probably know this if you’ve been reading my reviews but one thing I’m really not a big fan of are poorly made puzzles. It’s to the point where they can easily lower a game’s score on their own like Final Fantasy VII, Metroid, and Majora’s Mask. The same thing happens here but to a larger extent. Some puzzles require you to go all the way back from world 5 to 2 for example as you look for an ice sticker that can freeze the volcano. I had to resort to Gamefaqs a few times here because these puzzles are absolutely terrible. How could you possibly think to search a new world? Why would the ice be in the desert world instead of…..the ice world? The game is actively trying to troll you which I don’t appreciate and there are so many puzzles here that don’t make any sense. I think the only way you would figure some of these out is if you were planning to 100% the game anyway so you investigate every book and cranny. Even then, the same thing happens with the bosses as you have to try and figure out how to deal with them. My sticker “pal” mocked me after every fight as she pointed out that I used too many stickers so certainly don’t use my tactics.

This game just wasn’t all that fun and it’s a shame because the gameplay minus the stickers was good. Some of the levels had a little platforming so you would jump around and try to reach the goal. It gives you a small glimpse of what the game could have been like without the odd gameplay style. It also makes you wonder what the point of the stickers was because at the end of the day it is still basically a turn based style of gameplay. It’s just far more limited than the usual ones since you always have to worry about running out of stickers which is a really pointless feature. Throw out all of the many, many puzzles and this could maybe will be a good game even with the sticker system. Of course, then we are looking at a completely different game since this one was really built with all of those puzzles in mind.

As far as the characters are concerned, this Mario game plays it by the books. Mario is your classic lead who is always ready for a good time but really does panic at just about everything. Peach gets kidnapped as per usual, but gives a pretty nice speech at the end so that was cool. Bowser essentially gets controlled by the stickers so it wasn’t his best appearance. Seeing all of the old bosses was pretty cool like Gooper Blooper and Petey Piranha. Bowser Jr and Kamek also has pretty solid roles. The main heroine Kersti was also pretty decent even if she was rather generic the whole time. The big sacrifice at the end was certainly a pretty emotional moment when you think about it. Mario didn’t really put up much resistance to the plan but I guess we can assume that he knew about the true power of the stickers and figured it would all work out. The climax was pretty intense and in a main Mario game it would have looked awesome since Mario effectively got Super Saiyan mode at long last. If you ask me, it’s about time.

As far as the presentation goes, Paper Mario’s graphics hold up pretty well. They’re certainly. not amazing or anything like that, but they are good enough and get the job done. The character models are solid and the level environments are pretty striking as well. It’s a oh as good as I’d expect a modern Paper Mario game to look. The soundtrack is certainly less impressive compared to the average Mario games but it’s not bad. At the very least the main menu theme is quite iconic after hearing it so many times. I’m not likely to forget it anytime soon.

In terms of the replay value Paper Mario is fairly decent. There is a set amount of large stickers to obtain so gathering them all would be an accomplishment. You can also try to find Luigi in his 5 appearances which will hopefully trigger some kind of cutscene. The main game is around 15 hours of more if you get stuck so that’s a very good amount right off the bat as well. So technically there is a lot to do here but you probably just won’t be all that tempted to accomplish all of this since the fun factor isn’t quite there. The post game is st least more enjoyable than the main game since the puzzles are already taken care of. It becomes a little more of a straight job from start to finish while you complete everything. Prepare for a lot of back and forth either way.

Overall, it’s rare for me to say that a game is actually bad. Over 90% of the games I’ve reviewed at least make it to 5 and most are over 6. This one just goes way too far with the sticker mechanics and the problem that the game isn’t fun. It’s not really a title that you look forward to playing which is the problem. It has its moments but every time you think the game is hitting its stride it comes back at you with another puzzle. They just keep on coming and never stop so the game could not save itself. I highly recommend playing the other Paper Mario games first as this one will really give you the wrong impression of the series. I can only hope that the next Paper Mario game has improved a lot from this one.

Overall 4/10

6 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Professor Layton and the Last Specter Review


It’s time to take a look at the start of the Professor Layton prequel trilogy! It’s always fun to see the characters first meeting up so I was ready for the big Layton/Luke team up. There’s no chance for them to fight as in most classic prequels, but Luke did manage to be rather mysterious for a little while. Aside from a dreadfully terrible ending that makes you want to delete the game, this is another solid title in the consistent series. It always reminds me of how puzzles are actually a lot of fun if they’re handled correctly.

Layton may be a mild mannered professor during the day, but he is also a master sleuth and archaeologist. He receives a letter from an old friend of his requesting some help. As he is about to head off, a girl named Emmy shows up and claims she is now his assistant. Layton tries to get out of this situation, but she won’t take no for an answer. The two of them head to the town where a giant monster shows up and knocks over a lot of buildings. Clearly this is an enemy that Layton is not going to want to underestimate, but is there really a monster or is it just a fake? A kid named Luke seems to be able to predict whenever it will appear which is rather suspect. Between the suspicious mayor, the underground gangs, and the corrupt police, Layton will have his work cut out for him.

Emmy’s a great addition to the cast in this game. I like her more than her current timeline counterpart and the fact that she can fight is really great. We get several cutscenes of her taking down gangs and defending Layton. A gentleman resorts to violence as a last resort of course and as such Layton doesn’t have a whole lot of combat training. I’m definitely going to be interested in seeing why she decides to leave Layton by the end of the trilogy. Maybe she’ll end up appearing in the new 3DS game that is coming out soon.

Layton is a solid main character as always. He stays firm even as he gets threatened by various characters. He’s always tipping his cap when greeting others which is nice of him and has many plans at the ready. Villains rarely catch him off guard. There’s not much more to say about him that I haven’t already said in the older games. Luke is also pretty similar to the other games even though he is quite a bit younger. He’s not really ready to solve too many puzzles this time around, but always manages to try his best regardless. Luke’s father didn’t look very good the whole time. He just seems awfully shady without and never seems like a nice guy. Everything is a mystery though so keep an open mind.

The graphics are pretty good of course. As always we get a number of fully animated cutscenes at the ready which was great. The fact that we had multiple action scenes during them was also pretty neat. The scene of the monster destroying the town of Emmy comboing the gang were both quite exciting. I’d also say that the soundtrack is pretty good, but I’d like some new themes. I felt like they were all recycled from previous games. I can get the nostalgia appeal of course, but new themes help to keep the games fresh and relying on old ones can be a bit lazy.

I enjoyed the array of puzzles. A lot of them follow the same style as older ones, but there are some new ones as well. It’s not as if there are a whole lot of different ways to make a puzzle after all so you’ll inevitably have some recycled ones. Still, they’re always enjoyable to get through and the game does its best to make them all different in some way or another. The game will last you around 12 hours and there is a lot of replay value as you work to solve the rest of the puzzles and complete the minigames. It’ll probably take you around 20-30 hours to do all of that so it’s really worth the price. Even without the replay value, the main game has a lot of value.

Unfortunately there is one thing that holds the game back…the ending. Spoilers will commence so skip this paragraph if you want to avoid that. I always figured that the mysterious monster wasn’t actually a monster so that was no big deal. If anything, I was surprised we got a monster at all, but it turns out that there was one hanging around. He was fighting the robot at night and immense plot hax made this look like a giant monster to the audience. Honestly, the game didn’t try too hard with this moment as there’s just no way it could have happened. Beyond that, the big issue is that at the end the monster dies from overexerting itself. It keeps hitting the walls of the town until it finally shatters them and the little girl is saved from her disease. It’s an emotional tale, but why did the monster have to die? He should have lived and then the ending would have been perfect. As it is, the story took a rather gritty turn there and instantly made this the worst of the Layton adventures. It really is a shame since the rest of the game is so solid, but I couldn’t overlook this. The game crossed a line that it should not have crossed.

The game is definitely leading up to something big in the next one as the villain gets an after credits scene. He’s not bad so far and should make for a good antagonist. I prefer him to the guy from the first two games, but Future Luke is still the best villain in the series. I aim to get the next game fairly soon so prepare for that, it shall be Epic! There’s not much more to say about the game. The gameplay is all as streamlined as it can be at this point and you can tell that the company is very experienced with the Layton game. It’s easy to pick up and play at any time and while the story is fairly long it never gets dull. Something is always happening.

Overall, This game is a lot more low key than the last one as this is only the start of the trilogy. It still gets off to a more exciting start than the first ever Layton though. Unfortunately the gritty ending does shave off 2 whole stars from the game. An ending is supposed to make you feel glad that you played the whole game, not make you shake your head in disbelief. I’m confident that the next two games will go back to the quality that I’ve come to expect though as the rest of the game is quite sound. I’d still recommend this game to all gamers, just watch out for the ending. See how many puzzles you can solve before you have to resort to the hint coins. I’d be immensely impressed if anyone could solve all of the main puzzles without hint coins since that honestly seems almost impossible. Before the next Layton game, it’s going to be time to play something a little less intellectually stimulating.

Overall 6/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review


Time for the next Layton game. This is the big one folks. We assemble all of the characters from the first two games and throw in the most fantastic plot yet for epic results. While I don’t really care for some of the final twists in the game, I can’t really go into detail or else it would spoil everything. Needless to say though, the series has always been very grounded in reality which is something to keep in mind for this game. I like to think about what could have been had the twist not occurred, but it is what it is. It’s still a fantastic game and the best Layton title.

The game starts off with the Prime Minister being kidnapped. Layton and Luke head over to investigate when they are told a fantastic story. The Minister has been taken 10 years into the future and they can go over there as well to find him. Layton is skeptical, but he always keeps an open mind about these things so he heads on over. In the future we meet up with Future Luke who is now a genius who can compete with Layton in battles of the mind. He lets them know that Layton has turned evil in the future and rules the city with an iron fist. His gang is in control and the cops are no more. Layton wants to meet his future self and save the Prime Minister, but it will require some brawn as well as brain this time.

It’s just a very ambitious game and the new setting was a lot of fun. All of the usual supporting cast members got to come to the future as well which made for some fun interactions. The cop and his bumbling sidekick are here, Flora is here, the main villain from the first two games is here, etc. Everyone is back which makes the game feel pretty grand and the old villain even gets a backstory. I think the game maybe tried a little too hard to make him a nice guy all of a sudden who Layton treats as a rival, but I can roll with it. The standout character here is definitely future Luke. He had the perfect voice for the character and we just haven’t seen a really overconfident genius until now. They were either all very polite like Layton or not the genius type. Luke was just a nice contrast and any scene he was in was pretty great. It’s no exaggeration to say that he is my favorite character in the series. He was just really awesome.

The rest of the characters are really good as well of course. Layton is still a great lead who always stays calm and collected no matter what happens. He just stays in control of the situation and always has a plan up his sleeve. Honestly, I could have done without his flashbacks, but I suppose this way we finally learned about his past. It wasn’t the most interesting of tales, but I guess it gave him his motivation for why he became a genius. Young Luke is the same as always. He’s pretty eager to help out with the cases and he is actually very smart, but still lags behind the others. He’s nice enough.

I definitely enjoyed the story and it certainly went by quickly. The game is of a pretty decent length as it will last you over 10 hours, but the pacing is just really solid. It’s also still funny how everyone will randomly challenge you with puzzles for everything so you’re always solving. It’s sort of like how everyone duels you in Yu-Gi-Oh. The more forced the situation the better. That being said, I did have some problems with the final twists. I’ll try to go about it in the least spoiler way possible. Just skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to learn about the twists.

So, the big twist is that there is no future and the characters were just taking an elevator which took them to the basement of a building where the main villain created an exact duplicate of London down to every building and street. I get that the whole future thing didn’t work since it wasn’t realistic…but is this any better? I just have a very hard time believing that a duplicate London could be built without anyone knowing about it. You’d need an incredible amount of resources and time to do it. It would take at least a decade and probably more. Not to mention that at least one worker would have likely squealed at some point. I feel like the entire story doesn’t work as a result and I could not wrap my head around the twist. It happened though, so I just gotta hold that L.

The graphics are pretty good as usual. It’s still very impressive how the game has complete animated cutscenes within it. The normal levels also look really good and the puzzles are pretty clear. The soundtrack is actually better than usual and it’s easily the best Layton soundtrack. Again, you can tell that the creators of the game really put their all into this one. It’s just very well done on all accounts.

If I had another minor gripe, it would be that the puzzles can be a little unclear at times. You just don’t know what they want you to do and that can naturally make them difficult to solve. On the other hand, the game is more generous with the hint coins than usual so you should usually have enough to help you out with the tougher ones. A lot of other puzzles you can also guess through as there are a limited number of answers so you’re bound to run into the right one sooner or later. All in all, it was a solid puzzle selection though. To help with replay value, you also have parrot minigames and a car one. I didn’t play around with those much, but they’re not bad. There’s also the extra puzzles that you didn’t solve during the story. If you count all of that, the game will definitely last you a long while.

Overall, This was a really fun game. Everything is smooth, from the interface to the controls in the puzzles. I’ve definitely enjoyed the Layton games a great deal and can’t wait to buy the next one. The next game is apparently the start of the prequel trilogy so for all intents and purposes, this was the big climax of the series. You should really play the first two games to appreciate this one more, but it’s pretty new gamer friendly so you’ll be able to get into it either way. I already own the next game so I’ll certainly be starting it soon after a quick break to play through LBX first. Imagine if all puzzle games were like the Layton series, I’d be playing them a lot more.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review


Lets look at a game by Cashcom…I mean Capcom. Ghost Trick is one of those games that I never heard of and probably would never have found if I wasn’t looking around Amazon. Fortunately, I like to browse Amazon’s game selection quite a lot to find these hidden gems. Ghost Trick is one of those and I can safely say that it was worth the Swagbucks money. It’s one of the best mystery games on the block. Come to think of it, it may be the first pure mystery game that I’ve played. Sure, there’s Layton, but it’s usually a “fun” mystery where there isn’t any real danger. This one plays out like a mystery novel with plenty of twists and lethal stakes all around.

The plot follows a man named Sissel. He is mysteriously murdered one night and wakes up as a ghost. A mysterious lamp tells him that he is now a spirit who will fade away once dawn strikes. Sissel wants to find out how he died before that happens so the lamp advises him to save a young detective who is about to be murdered with his Ghost Tricks. Sissel has the ability to manipulate non living objects which is quite handy. He can also use telephone wires to travel from place to place. Finally, Sissel’s most important ability revolves around time. If he comes across a dead body, he can time travel to 5 minutes before his/her death so that he can prevent it. Naturally this doesn’t work on his own body and not every death can be prevented simply by manipulating objects. There’s only so much Sissel can do. Still, he needs to figure out what happened since he lost all of his memories by dying. Can he solve the mystery?

Ghost Trick is impressively long. There are 18 chapters in the game and most of them are of a good length. You’ll be playing this tale for quite a while and it’s engaging from start to finish. The story goes in many directions that I didn’t expect. Some of these additions are real game changers. I won’t even really go into the plot at all since the mystery is what makes the game so much fun. The cast gradually gets larger and larger even though it was initially quite small. Everyone that you meet during the game serves as pieces of the puzzle so there are no one shot characters. The credits even take time to show them all off with various epilogues. Most importantly, the cast is likable.

Sissel’s a heroic lead even if he can never admit to it. He always claims that he is just helping out so that he can remember his past, but he really can’t watch anyone die on his watch. He insists on saving everybody and gradually develops a bond with the people that he helps. In particular, he gets along best with Lynne and Missile. Lynne is a young detective who is always very cheerful and energetic. She dies multiple times during the game, but always takes it in stride and doesn’t mind being dead so much. Of course, dying isn’t as scary when you know that someone’s there to bring you back to life each time. Some of the ways that she dies can be a little funny like being squashed by a giant chicken. Hey, it happens to all of us I suppose.

Another big character is Jowd. He’s an example of a second half character as he doesn’t really do much until you’re at least at chapter 10, but quickly becomes a massive character. All I can really say about him is that he supposedly murdered his wife, but Lynne doesn’t believe this. She is working to prove his innocence, but it is tough since he keeps claiming that he is guilty. He’s a pretty good character even if I didn’t like him for most of the first half of the his screen time. He made a lot of the wrong decisions. There’s also Inspector Cabanela who had a pretty spiffy entrance whenever he’d appear. The guy was consistent, I’ll give him that. He never forget any part of the routine and used it every single time he appeared. He’s definitely a fun guy and he makes for a good rival. It’s always hard to guess what he’s thinking and he definitely dances to the beat of his own drum. That being said, he’s certainly very clever and someone you should keep an eye on.

Finally, there’s Missile. Missile is a dog who wanted to help her owner but couldn’t do much in her physical form. Sissel does get to talk to her once the place is ransacked and Missile is a casualty though. Missile is always upbeat and very helpful throughout the game. Missile even makes the hard call of staying dead a little longer so she can help out. She also has special abilities, one of which is that she can swap objects that look the same, at least from the direction she is viewing it from. It’s a pretty handy ability even if it is one that’s a little more specific than Sissel’s.

Yeah, that’s definitely all I’m going to touch upon with the characters and plot details. You’ll have to play the game to find out more. Meanwhile, I have to give the game a lot of props for the graphics. The sprites that the game uses were crafted very well. The characters appear to be very expressive throughout and the pictures are just at a very high quality. Just as impressive is the game’s soundtrack. There are a bunch of really catchy themes here and I dare say that it may have the best soundtrack in a DS game. That’s very bold so I’ll have to think about it a bit, but it may have earned that title. It’s just way ahead of its time and has good variety as well. It’s difficult to overcome such a combo.

I can’t forget to talk about the gameplay! Each level is effectively a puzzle and it’s sort of a point and click game. As I mentioned, you move around by possessing objects in ghost mode. From there, you go to normal mode and activate the object if you want too. That is the crux of the gameplay. Each level has several objects to possess though and the villains will do all they can to keep the murder going. You have to use strategy to know when and how to use your ghost abilities. This gets more complicated as the levels go on and you have to use new abilities. The game does give you hints though and you can keep rewinding time as often as you need too until you figure out what to do. It’s not a hard game in that sense since you can just try everything out until it works, but you do need to pay attention so you can understand the timing. After all, you could pick the right option but do it too soon or too late. The gameplay’s not super thrilling or anything, but this is one of those times where the plot picks up the slack. Furthermore, it is very unique so that’s certainly a positive.

Overall, Ghost Trick is a fantastic game. It’s a pure mystery through and through. There is no replay value here as completing the game leaves nothing more to do. Still, it’s a long game and one that will grab your attention. With the solid soundtrack and graphics behind it, the story can really shine through. The story never really dropped the ball either. I was maybe not too impressed with the final revelations on who the men in blue were, but it was worth it for other twists. Either way, their design was awesome. Also, watch out for the comet cutscene, it’s easily one of the most impressive moments that I’ve seen in the DS. I highly recommend buying this game ASAP, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Review


After finally finishing the last Professor Layton game, I quickly jumped onto this one. I was pretty close to wrapping up Little Big Planet, but Layton is one of those elite series that takes precedence over just about anything. It also helps that the game is fairly short so it’s not as if it’ll be holding onto that spot for a long time. This sequel is very good and while the first one is certainly the better game in my opinion, this one had the better plot.

Layton and Luke head onto a train, but their adventure is quickly derailed when they find out that someone was murdered over a mysterious box. The heroes dig up some dirt on it during the first town they stop in, but the real evidence starts to appear once they hitch a ride to a ghost town. They infiltrated the royal deluxe suite in order to get in and the only problem is that they might not be able to get out again. That’s fine, they’re prepared for the dangers that may arise, but will their intellectual skills be up to the task?

It’s certainly a solid follow-up to the last game and it acknowledges the first one by having their new partner Flora show up. We also get the big villain from the last game to appear again although the main villain here is a big improvement. There are a few new characters along with some old ones like the Inspector. One of the main reasons why I found the plot here to be better than the last game is that it gets to the meat of the story right away. The first game gave you a lot of time to get used to the characters and the plot didn’t start until you were well into the game. Since people are dying from the box, the stakes are higher than the first game from the get go. Things really heat up during the climax as well since we get a sword fight through one of the cutscenes and the heroes actually get kidnapped.

I have to say that the whole kidnapping plot was pretty odd. The heroes hallucinated about a large gang and then the butler acted as if everything was normal. I suppose that the hallucinogens got to the heroes, but it was still an odd scene. It was an epic one as well though so I’ll take it. The game was just very entertaining and exciting from start to finish and you won’t want to tear yourself away. As always, the game paces itself pretty well. It is noticeably shorter than the last one though as I beat this game in a little over 9 hours while the last one took me around 16. Granted, I got stuck on a puzzle for a while in the last game so it should have been a lot shorter.

I do think this game was easier than the last one though. Perhaps some of the test players said that the first one was too hard so they fixed it here. It’s still not extremely easy to the point where you will be bored, but now a lot of the puzzles have limited answers. This means that instead of figuring it out rationally, you can just guess all 5 or 6 of the possible choices until you get it right. The final puzzles are surprisingly easy as you will be able to solve quite a few of them at a glance. I’ve heard that the post game quests are quite challenging though so that will probably bump things up a notch. On the other hand, I do think this is possibly a smart move if the developers wanted to get more kids to play. I still don’t think a kid would be able to solve some of the puzzles from the first game.

On a technical level, this game is quite solid as expected. The graphics are very clear so everything stands out nicely. You can always see a puzzle with absolute clarity so you can focus on figuring it out as opposed to thinking about what it is supposed to be. The fully animated cutscenes look really good as well and I feel like there are more of them this time around than in the first game. Having a fight in one of the cutscenes was also a blast to see. The music is also pretty catchy. It’s fairly simple, but that’s what makes it effective for the puzzles. There also is a good danger theme which plays during some of the game’s more tense moments.

There is a lot of replay value here which should more than make up for the 9 hour story mode. I only beat around 90 of the missions which means there are still almost 50 left to go. That’s a lot of puzzles and naturally the ones that I left are the trickiest ones of all. I never had to stop at any point in the story mode to solve more puzzles to get to the next chapter because I had fun beating a lot of the quick n easy ones in the mean time. This does mean the toughest ones will take longer and unless you’ve got a lot of hint coins stashed away (Which is feasible since this game was really generous with them) you’ll find that this game could get to an RPG’s length very quickly. I don’t personally plan to go back and beat the rest of them soon, but maybe someday.

Another aspect that helps the series is the colorful cast of characters. The Inspector is a nice ally to have around. He may not correctly guess who the culprit is most of the time, but he does try his best and is a likable enough fellow. Luke is a good kid who continues to improve when it comes to riddles. Flora is a good heroine as well and while she’s not much of a detective yet, she does like finding new riddles. Layton steals the show whenever he appears and managed to basically be a perfect lead. The recurring villain is rather bland and won’t leave an impression on you, but they can’t all be winners. I did like the voice that the game gave him when he was coming out of a disguise. The new villain was great and Katia was good enough. Poorly written characters could have held the game back so I’m glad to see that this was not a factor here.

Overall, Professor Layton is a series that I’m glad to finally be apart of. I’m definitely going to get the third game as soon as possible and will probably order it once February hits. This series is just so much fun and in a way it’s good that I took so long to start it because it means that there are more games to catch up on. I believe there are 6 at the moment so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. It makes me realize that if the Switch had gotten a Layton game for launch, that could have made things very interesting. Ah well, it’s never been a big console title anyway, but that would be fun to think about. If you played the first game then you already know what to expect. If you haven’t, you can still get into this game easy enough, but I’d recommend playing the first one first since this one builds off of that. Not to the extent where it is unplayable, but it’s nice to see the characters reference the past events. At this rate, I don’t see how a Layton game can get under an 8 so long as they don’t mess something up with the formula. It’s just a really fun and exciting game that you can play whenever you want. The controls are easy to pick up and you’ll be a whiz in no time.

Overall 8/10