I do enjoy a good puzzle game; sadly, “Flower, Sun and Rain” (Nintendo DS, 2008) is not one of them. I should have realised something was a bit off when Game were flogging it for a fiver second hand and the previous owner hadn’t bothered to save any progress. But no, I thought, it’s by Rising Star Games (who include in their back catalogue Harvest Moon, possibly one of the most effective time vampires going) and Suda51 (who I’m reliably informed is an “innovative game designer”). Must be okay, right?
Wrong. It starts off well enough; slick investigator Sumio Mondo arrives on the leisure island of Lospass, where he’s been employed by the local hotel proprietor to solve a mystery. The introductory film is very existential and pretty, but it goes downhill from there on in. Your first game encounter is very confusing, seeing as neither the characters on the screen nor the handbook see fit to really explain what’s going on and the translation from Japanese into English is distinctly iffy. Part of the game involves you looking for “hidden” mysteries, but I didn’t manage to figure out how to do that until after leaving the first area, only to discover that I couldn’t get back again. Some early hidden mysteries require items found later in the game, but for the life of me I can’t work out how you get back to solve them.
And that is a major problem with this game; you think you’re in an open world that you can explore at will, but it soon becomes apparent that you are going to be railroaded in a single, predetermined direction. Deviate from the designer’s chosen path in any way and the game grinds to a painful halt, leaving you running backwards and forwards trying to work out what to do next. And if the designer doesn’t want you to go somewhere, he’s not above sticking giant purple crocodiles in the way. Seriously, I kid you not. Giant. Purple. Crocodiles.
On top of this, nearly all of the characters are desperately unsympathetic, making it very difficult for you to actually care what happens to them. Awful as it sounds, when the main character starts beating up a kid, I actually found myself cheering him on because the little toad was so vile. There’re even attempts to knowingly break the fourth wall which are supposed to be humorous, but come off as deeply pretentious (particularly as some of them are delivered by said brat).
There are several other major irritations: the memo pad, the graphics and the off-screen explanations, to name but a few. The memo pad allows you to make notes on how to solve the hidden and story mysteries. Only problem, you can’t actually access the memo pad when you’re solving the mysteries as they both use the bottom screen. In fact, most of the time the bottom screen is wasted, showing a less than useful map of the island. The game has been adapted from a much earlier Play Station 2 version and has pretty much failed to make good use of the change of platform, with almost all of the action taking place on the top screen in a very pixellated manner. And when the plot gets too impenetrable for the writer, the screen fades out on the protagonists explaining it to each other and fades back in on a “so you see, it makes much more sense now you know” type comment. And yes, the game sees fit to make jokes about how crap the animation is and how weak the plot is, which just smacks of laziness all round.
In the end, this game became a war of attrition. I was determined to finish it, not because I was particularly enjoying it or gave a stuff about what was going on, but because I didn’t want to be beaten by it. I have no clue what was actually going on in the end, other than it seemed to involve talking pink crocodiles, clones, hyenas and exploding planes; it’s utter tosh from start to finish. Oh, and don’t fall for all the “Groundhog Day” comparisons, its not even close. I only paid £2.50 for it thanks to the credit on my husband’s Game card and I still feel like I’ve been ripped off. Best avoid unless you enjoy inflicting mental anguish on yourself in the name of gaming.
As I traipse around my modest two-bed flat, I am tripping over games. I mean, literally tripping. This morning I fell prey to a copy of Spindizzy Worlds and slid almost gracefully across the living room. This is my life: surrounded by plastic boxes, tripping over console wires and perpetually running out of shelf space. Welcome to my world.
My name (or gamertag) is Neety and my game is…well, just about anything really. I’m as happy filling zombies full of lead on Resident Evil as I am spread-eagled on the sofa with Pokemon Silver (what this says about my personality I dread to think). In addition to my growing console collection, I have my own blog that covers everything from games to music to hot topics. In my spare time, I’m either playing or cleaning up games or chilling with my turtles, who are neither teenage, mutant or ninja.
So I’ve been around a little bit, doing reviews and articles in odd places and now thanks to Donna and the wonders of Twitter I am here, a newbie; my hands hovering over the laptop as if I were Solid Snake trying to pull off the ultimate headshot. From me, you can expect to catch reviews of games from Animal Crossing to Zero Wing as well as my views on what’s right (or wrong) with the gaming world.
It was my birthday recently, so imagine my utter delight when in amongst my presents nestled a copy of Pokemon White.
Since Pokemon has been around since the Year Dot, I don’t feel the need to explain the gameplay basic – and oddly enough, White feels the same way too, starting you right off with your first Pokemon and leaving you to meander off on your path to victory. Come on, it purrs in your ear. I’ve been around, baby, but I’m back to take you on a riiiiide.
As you would expect from an older franchise, there are new features to the game. Following straight on from dual battling in Diamond and Pearl versions, there is now three-way battling. Another prominent innovation is the advent of your ‘lifelong friends’, a boy and girl pair who join you on your trip, popping in and touching base with you every so often. I was quite pleased about this – they’ll friendly battle you occasionally and drop by with gifts, saving you the tedium of running all the way back to the starting town that previous games made you do. There’s even a new enemy – gone are the flaky Rockets and maniacal Galactics to make way for a new threat – in this early stage of play, I can only describe them as PETA with fancy costumes.
Thankfully the game concept itself remains uncomplicated (your basic Adventure/Strategy RPG), making it accessible to Pokemon stalwarts and newbies alike, and it still has the charm of the older games thanks to the gorgeous display on the DS that the Game Boy Colour could sadly never hope to replicate. Controlling is pretty easy; the touchscreen turns into your battle control panel allowing for a cleaner layout during fights, and when you’re exploring it turns into your communications device, allowing you to connect with both NPCs and your friends. Here is my word of warning: if you don’t have DS Wi-fi enabled, do it before you get started. If you’re like me and plunge into the game without reading the manual first (cough cough), you will find that you get to a critical point and have to stop and fiddle about with your router until you can go any further in the game.
Despite this initial hiccup, this is a game I would thoroughly recommend: particularly to newer games who would find themselves less impressed by the aesthetic of the older games.
To cap off my thoughts for the day, I was thinking about how great it is to be a girl gamer. From getting invited to your boyfriend’s mates place and trouncing them all at COD, to walking into a game shop and surprising the staff by going gooey over Batman: Arkham Asylum. The world may pretend to be a big modern man, but there’s no hiding its surprise when a lightgun-toting girl pops up out of nowhere. That’s where I’m in my element. Viva games. Viva girls. Viva girl gamers!
I have to admit, I never thought that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney would be my sort of game. I spend a lot of my gaming time on FPS’s and RPG’s and I haven’t played a point and click adventure in a long while. Also, it’s about lawyers…which didn’t seem like the most exciting premise. However, Capcom were offering the first Phoenix Wright game on the iPhone for 59p so I thought I would give it a go. I now find myself having completed the game, it’s sequel and am now well into the 3rd game in the series.
I have been completely won over by Ace Attorney.
The game is divided into 2 sections; Investigations, where you explore crime scenes and question witnesses and Trials, where you cross-examine and navigate through conversations in order to find contradictions. Once you’ve found a contradiction you can present evidence by yelling “Objection!” None of this remotely resembles a sane legal system. But the game does demand you to think critically from time to time about how the case fits together and is pretty engaging.
But, it wasn’t just the gameplay that endeared me to this game, although the twists and turnabouts and ridiculously dramatic moments as witnesses unravel on the stand are a joy to behold. Mainly, I fell in love with the writing. It can be pretty cheesy at times but each character is a very original creation written with depth and humour. Some you may only meet the once and others recur in the sequels but it’s quite hard to forget any of them. The originality of the characters also holds true for their appearance and animations. Each character has only a few expressions but I can’t help but be impressed with how much personality and emotion was infused into these few sprites.
This game made me laugh out loud more times than any other game I can remember playing since Secret of Monkey Island. It made me wonder why I spend so much time playing as silent, grim heroes. Phoenix Wright’s colourful world of flashy blackmailers, Steel Samurais, haughty prosecutors with tragic pasts, spirit channeling teenagers and old ladies who will just not stop yelling at you was like a breath of fresh air.
I should take this as a lesson and expand my gaming horizons more often. I’ve been guilty of sticking to my preferred genres too long and I wonder what other gaming delights I might have let slip me by.
I went and bought Super Street Fighter IV when it came out last Tuesday, and playing it I am having a lot more fun than I expected to! All the characters have lots of nice upgrades, the 2 new characters (Juri and Hakan) are great, and you don’t have to unlock ANY of them. As I play different characters (or rather, friends come over and play them), new costume colors and victory speeches are unlocked. Great for me, because I always like to dress my toons in green.
Now to the “but…” ….My thumb is all blistered (gonna be a callus soon, I just know it) from playing this with a PlayStation controller. I’ve never played this game outside of the arcade setup, so I’ve had a really difficult time adjusting to making all the combinations on the PS3, since I don’t have the arcade pad. My boyfriend has also been trying to help me learn how to play the game with a controller versus joystick (I’m so happy we can play this together). When I first started playing the game, it was a blast, until I got into some of the harder levels and simply didn’t stand a chance against the CPU toons due to my inability to string combinations with the PS3 controller. I definitely don’t have fun playing games where it isn’t even a challenge any more, it’s literally having NO CHANCE at beating the stage. I’ve gotten better at it now, though, and the game has become MUCH more enjoyable again! The new challenge: beating people online! So far I’ve gotten my butt kicked 11 times. It’s okay, though. I’ll get better, then kick all their butts.
In other news, I’m playing that Super Mario 64 game for the Nintendo DS. There’s another game with odd controls, my hands are sore from adjusting to that one as well. The game is fun, I like that I can play as different characters throughout the adventure, and back when I played that game on the Nintendo 64, I can’t even count the amount of times I played it through. I remember when people would compete over how little time it took to finish the game; just a couple hours. I remember people competing over Zelda: Ocarina of Time playtime as well. Oh, those days…
Lesson learned: Grow Calluses or tape up your thumb to play Super Street Fighter IV. I also heard some people tape quarters to the joystick. I’m not trying that, though!
So game-wise, I’ve got a lot piling up on me. For one thing, I still need to finish playing the last 2 parts of the Monkey Island 5-part finale. The game is a total riot, but I stopped playing it because it was holiday season and I simply didn’t have time any more. Then, of course, the usual. You get out of the groove and it’s hard to get back. I’m concerned now because I’ve started playing a few games recently that I want to finish as soon as I can. That way, I will have my time free’d up for other stuff in the next month or so. The games I’m playing now? Final Fantasy XIII (PS3), Borderlands (Steam), Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS). I must say, so far FFXIII has been very disappointing. It’s beautiful, but I was hoping for more. Maybe later on in the game I’ll enjoy myself, but I hate that I have to play upto a certain point in the game (15+ hours, I’m told) before it actually gets interesting. It’s ~15 hours I feel like I got ripped off when I purchased the game.
Borderlands continues to be fun for me, but I’m trying not to play it to death. If I sit in front of that game for hours, chances are I’ll just lose interest. I’m at a phase where it’s still pretty challenging, because I’m still low level and haven’t enough EXP to just blow through the missions. I’m also still really enjoying the artwork. As for Phantom Hourglass….holy epically long game, Batman! WILL IT EVER END?! Geeze… on the one hand, it’s great that it’s taking me so long to beat it, I’m saving money that I’d be spending on more DS games. On the other hand..I’m so ready to just finish the game and move on already. Apparently, there is such a thing as too long of a game (when it has an end, of course).
What I’m dying to play when it comes out: Doctor Who! I’ve been watching the new series with friends, and they got me hooked. Now we found out there’s a free game for PC coming out in June! The other game I’m anticipating is Super Street Fighter IV. I’m usually not one to buy those fighting games, but I was sold on one of the new characters, Hakan. Hakan is an oil wrestler from Turkey, who from what I know is looking to make the best olive oil on the planet, and he loves his daughters, “They are so pretty!”. I highly recommend all of you readers to look up his trailer if you haven’t seen it. If anything is going to sell you on that game, it’s him (if you share my sense of humor, anyway). His special attacks are ridiculous and hilarious! I’ll even go a step further and provide a link to you tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK3oMkNvQrI No excuses!
So, I have a lot to look forward to. SSFIV comes out next week, and I want to have time to play it. At least I only work 2-4 days a week…
My computer has been having “issues” this last couple weeks so that’s my excuse for no content. It’s still broken though so I’m posting this from work when I should actually be working.