Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke, have already investigated multiple mysteries on the Nintendo DS. Previous iterations in the puzzle franchise, the Curious Village and Diabolical Box, have quickly become fan favorites due to their high production value, fantastical storylines and of course, challenging puzzles. The latest adventure for the good professor, subtitled the Unwound Future, keeps that tradition intact.As the title suggests, the plot for the professor now revolves around time travel. Layton and Luke attend a time machine demonstration that goes awry – there’s a massive explosion, and the Prime Minister and scientist in charge of the project vanish in the shroud of the blast. Shortly after the incident, Layton receives a letter claiming to be sent by the future version of Luke. Things only get weirder from there, and the tale unwinds over 12 chapters (plus an epilogue) where you’ll discover the truth behind 10 mysteries. Unlike previous games, this tale shows you an important part of Layton’s past and harbors a great theme about the importance of balancing emotion, logic and pride. If you’ve never played a Professor Layton title before, you shouldn’t worry as the story doesn’t rely on your knowledge of past games.

The production of the Unwound Future is really impressive. The animation sequences and voiceover work in tandem to bring the story to life, and they’re both beautifully done. The voice work still isn’t incorporated throughout the entirety of the game, likely due to space issues, but there’s enough of it to satisfy. The ending sequences were incredibly striking, and there was some 3D model work to complement the regular anime style.

Layton and Luke make some new friends.

If you’ve played a Professor Layton game before, the formula hasn’t really changed. Conversing with folks you meet along your way, or even animals, often results in a puzzle challenge. People everywhere seem to be focused on puzzle solving, no matter what’s going on in the world (massive explosion? Who cares! What’s the answer to this puzzle??), and they either want you to solve the riddle for them or can’t wait to test out their creation on the famous professor. I solved around 100 different puzzles throughout the course of the main campaign, but there are plenty of others scattered around the world as the game boasts 165 total conundrums. Any puzzle that you might’ve forgotten or passed over will be directed to a specific area on your map so you can solve them later.

Of course, you can’t skip over puzzles tied to the main storyline and there are even blockades that prevent you from progressing through the storyline unless you’ve completed a certain amount of brainteasers. Should you ever get stuck, you can always call upon your hint system, though I did come across one puzzle where that wasn’t an option. Normally, hints are unlocked by hint coins, which can be collected by tapping around on environments. In previous Layton games there were only three hints to help you, but Unwound Future includes a fourth option: the super hint. Designed for those puzzles you really can’t grasp, the super hint generally lays out the answer for you, though it’s not a guaranteed “win button.” Although the Unwound Future tells you to use coins sparingly, during my time with the game I found plenty of coins, enough that I was able to freely spend them when I needed to and not worry about running out.

Regardless of whether or not you use the hint function, successfully completing puzzles garners you Picarats, a form of currency that allows you to access even more puzzles in the Bonus area if you earn enough. The amount of Picarats a puzzle is worth usually indicates its difficulty level and should you guess at your answer or get it wrong, the amount of Picarats you earn decreases. This isn’t a huge problem if you’re the cheating sort as Professor Layton still allows you to cheat by saving before a puzzle, figuring it out and then rebooting so you can pretend you solved it on the first try. So, while cheaters supposedly never prosper, they certainly do in the world of Professor Layton.

Ranging from numbers to diagrams, the puzzles you struggle with will likely vary compared to your friends. I’m not a big math person, so any time a number-focused puzzle came up I found myself leaning on the hint system. There’s a great variety of puzzle types, and there were only a handful that appeared multiple times, so if you really hate a specific style you’ll likely only have to deal with it once.

There are some new puzzle modes to complete the package in Unwound Future. Similar to the hamster feature in Diabolical Box, there are now three different areas that can be accessed outside of the campaign – Toy Car, Parrot and Picture Book. All of them are great inclusions as they mix fun, simple themes that can get difficult really quickly. Like a twisted version of Mad Libs, Picture Book requires you to unlock stickers by solving puzzles in the main story that are associated with one of the books, and figure out where the stickers belong to create a cohesive story. This was my favorite of the new additions, but I was disappointed that there were only three books to complete.

Can you solve the puzzles?

The other two modes, Toy Car and Parrot, are just as enjoyable, but don’t offer the adorable storybook packaging. Toy Car features a matchbox sized vehicle that moves around a grid based on a finite number of directional arrows you have to place, and you usually have to collect a certain amount of goods before you can exit. It’s straightforward, but tougher than it looks, especially as you progress. Another seemingly simple mode is Parrot, where you have a limited amount of ropes you can place to help a feathered friend deliver a package to someone on the opposite side of the screen. Both of these seem easier than they actually are, so it does take time to decipher the solutions.

Don’t expect these new modes to increase the replay value of the game, as just like any other puzzle once you’ve figured it out there’s no reason to try it again. That said, I spent around 16 hours with Layton and Luke and still haven’t even come close to completing all of the puzzles available, so it’s a good value. Even after you complete the story, the game plops you back into a previous point in the adventure so you can continue to solve puzzles that you might have missed. (ign)

  • Published by: Nintendo
  • Developed by: Level-5
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: US: September 12, 2010 , Japan: November 27, 2008
  • MSRP: $29.99
  • E10+ for Everyone 10+

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Fenimore Fillmore: The Westerner (Wii)

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Wii
Tags: ,
If you plucked Guybrush Threepwood off of Monkey Island and plopped him down in the Old West instead, you’d end up with Fenimore Fillmore – a half-heroic, half-helpless cowboy who somehow manages to save the day, even while tripping over his own boots. He’s a character who’s starred in a handful of different point-and-click adventure games on the PC throughout the past 15 years, and now he’s making his console debut. It’s just not in an original adventure.Fenimore Fillmore: The Westerner is a renamed port of 2004’s Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure. It was the second of Fillmore’s starring roles and fairly fun in what it offered (you can read our review of it here), but it was brought down by a variety of glitches and game-crashing bugs. Here on WiiWare, crashes don’t seem to be an issue any more. But there are new problems in place.

All the game’s voice acting has been removed. That vocal work was one of the design’s strengths six years ago, but WiiWare’s digital space constraints must have forced the developers to give it the axe for this edition, resulting in dialogue scenes with oddly silent characters moving their mouths but only having text readouts to convey their speech. It also makes the music seem more repetitive and annoying – with no layer of conversation on top of the background tunes, your ears end up fixating on the same looping melodies, playing out over and over again.

You’d look puzzled, too, if your parents named you Fenimore.

The visuals also take a bit of a knock in the transition, and that’s especially obvious early on – the game’s logo is cut off on the top of the title screen because of the resolution difference (I’d assume). The camera is hard to handle, and you’ll sometimes end up with unnatural and obscured angles when you’re just trying to take a look around. And the characters also appear a bit too lifeless and plastic, too, which may be more attributable to the age of the 3D work than any technical issue – they remind me of PIXAR’s earliest humans. The ones that didn’t look human at all.

Finally, though the Wii Remote proves to be a suitable swap-in for the original mouse-and-cursor control for most of the slow-paced, pointing-and-clicking parts of the adventure, it can prove frustrating in the game’s fast-paced shooting challenges. That’s where my patience for games ported to Wii, instead of developed specifically for the Wii in the first place, runs thin.

Had all those annoyances not been there, the game actually might not have been that bad. There’s a winsome humor to main character Fenimore and his interactions with the farmers, cattle ranchers and mischievous kids he comes across are enjoyably tongue-in-cheek, even without the voice work.

And the gameplay is standard good point-and-click fun, with Fenimore comically grabbing every loose object he can get his hands on to store in his magically infinite invisible inventory, just in case he needs it later to solve a puzzle. And he will, as much of the game’s challenge comes from figuring out which items to use where, or which to combine together. Or what to feed to the horse. (ign)

  • Published by: Nobilis
  • Developed by: Revistronic
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: US: September 6, 2010
  • MSRP: $10.00
  • E for Everyone: Cartoon Violence, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco

As much as I enjoyed Mirror’s Edge on my Xbox 360, after feeling the breeze at my back with the iPad and now iPhone editions, I’m certain this game was made to be played in 2D. By stripping away any of the fussiness of lining up perfect jumps along three axes, Mirror’s Edge loses almost all of its original frustrations and becomes the best unintended rhythm games for the iPhone. Really, this game is about getting into a groove.

Mirror’s Edge is the story of Faith, a courier in a gleaming dystopia. Information is a precious resource, rarely flowing freely due to the iron grip of a totalitarian regime. You must slip through the police state’s defenses by blasting across rooftops and burrowing through underground passages. Fortunately, you have both the grace and grit of a lion, able to perform incredible acrobatics. With the swipe of your finger, you’re off and running. Timing upward and downward swipes helps Faith leap over or duck under obstacles. You can defy gravity with wall runs, slide down zip lines, and hop across exposed scaffolding with simple swipe sequences that feel natural. All you need to do is leave one finger anchored in a corner of the screen and make your small but distinct swipes, never obscuring a bit of the gorgeous thrills. This is simply one of the most intuitive action games I have played on any of the iOS devices.

Gravity is not Faith’s only enemy, though. She must take down armed thugs and guards, too. Swipes are your instruments of destruction. These are a bit trickier than the urban gymnastics, primarily because timing is so critical when coming up on a guard just as he is raising his weapon. Do you flick up and then to the side to perform a flying kick? Or maybe a roll that sends him crashing to the ground? How Faith comes out of these attacks often affects survival because you can plant your foot in the face of a guard and then be unprepared to deal with a low-hanging duct. Mirror’s Edge is thrown into slow-motion when you engage a guard, too, which can throw off timing until you get a firm grip on exactly when slo-mo starts and stops.

Some of Mirror’s Edge boils down to a little trial-and-error. If the stages were any longer or the checkpoints not as smartly placed, failure to negotiate some of the trickier elements like timed wall jumps up vertical shafts would be frustrating. But chances are good that you will only need to replay sequences once or twice to get your timing down.

Mirror’s Edge includes a new Speed Run mode which challenges you to race through stages and then post your best times on Facebook. It’s a nice addition to the main game, and definitely preferable to the collection mode from the iPad edition, which was all about picking up hidden messenger bags.

EA has done a marvelous job bringing Mirror’s Edge to the iPhone. If you have an iPhone 4 and new Touch, the Retina display mode is brilliantly crisp and pops off the screen. But no matter which device you use, the acrobatic animations are silken. You just look cool when you perfectly link up a series of jumps and rolls, flying across the gaps in rooftops as pigeons take flight out of sudden fright. The bright, primary- and secondary-only color scheme is taken from the console game, which remains a stunner to me. The use of bright reds to denote critical objects or paths is not only pleasing to the eye, but also makes Mirror’s Edge more fun to play. It’s nice to see aesthetic dovetail so well into gameplay. (ign)

Puzzle Agent iPhone

Posted: September 8, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod, PC, Wii
Tags: , , , , ,
The differences between homage, inspired by, and outright copycat narrow as you move down the sliding scale. Telltale Games‘ new Puzzle Agent is obviously born out of a collective admiration for Professor Layton’s awesome DS adventures. And though the desire to emulate a great game is perfectly understandable, Puzzle Agent adheres so close to the Layton formula of narrative-puzzle-narrative-puzzle that it’s distracting. Hell, you even search scenes for pieces of gum instead of coins to activate hints.However, to outright dismiss FBI Puzzle Research agent Nelson Tethers as Layton without a top hat is to partially miss the point. Once the similarities between Puzzle Agent and Professor Layton have been fully digested, you can begin to appreciate the best parts of Tethers’ adventure: the wonderful art style and the interesting story.

Tethers has been sent to the freezing Fargo-like burgh of Scoggins, Minnesota to reopen a shuttered eraser factory. To do so, he must talk to the locals, piece together an increasingly oddball plot, and, as expected, solve puzzles using a very basic – but also accessible – tap-and-click interface. There are over 30 puzzles in Puzzle Agent; the majority of them are required to sniff out the culprit behind the factory closure. They include math puzzles, logic exercises, and spatial thinking tricks.

Arrange the food, Agent Tethers.


To be sure, the weakest link in Tethers’ case is the puzzles themselves, which would have absolutely devastated Puzzle Agent if it didn’t have charms elsewhere. Looking over the list, I see that only half of them really entertained me. Far too often, Puzzle Agent relies on basic shape-arrangement exercises that are not really brain-teasers. And Telltale repeats some of these puzzles entirely too often, such as returning to a snowmobile pathing puzzle where you drop logs to create an escape route. Another offender is tile-rotating. Twist these worms. Spin those stovepipe pieces. Rotate these hiking routes. Enough already.

The logic puzzles are much better, such as an exercise where you must visualize a line of crows to deduce the minimum number of the birds on a wire. The trouble here, though, is that the difficulty of the logic puzzles is all over the map. And the placement of tough puzzles is also uneven. The final puzzle is a great stumper, but it’s preceded by two softballs: follow a cord through a tangle and arrange some objects into a specific shape. There is no danger of getting puzzles (and there are several object-placement exercises throughout the case) like these wrong, which robs Puzzle Agent of suspense. You just sit there and click around until you have the final shape. There’s truly no need to use hints on these types of puzzles, and they account for a lot of Tethers’ teasers. I don’t necessarily want to be beaten over the head, but Telltale leaves the safety net under Tethers for the whole game.

It’s too bad that the core puzzling isn’t as strong as Puzzle Agent’s excellent art direction. Telltale hired Graham Annable, creator of the spectacularly macabre Grickle strips and animations, to design Puzzle Agent’s look. It was Telltale’s most inspired decision in the creation of Puzzle Agent, as this game looks like no other. The simple line art is both evocative and creepy, especially when the storyline – which I enjoyed quite a bit – takes a dark turn.

Puzzle Agent is blurry and washed out.


Unfortunately, this brilliant art is under-served by the porting process from PC to iPhone. Puzzle Agent looks fuzzy and washed out whenever an element is in motion or part of a backdrop. The moment something stops at the center of attention, typically Tethers in a scene, he looks fine. But the saturation and blurriness around him is distracting. Game-killing? No, not at all. But it does a real disservice to Puzzle Agent’s strongest element. (ign)

Published by: Telltale Games
Developed by: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: US: September 2, 2010
RP for Rating Pending
Also Available On: PCMaciPadWii

The original Dead Rising was packed with weapons that ranged from the deadly to the ridiculous, the mundane to the farcical. Discovering new weapons was a key component of the gameplay, helping to keep players entertained as they cut repeated swathes through the undead.

Dead Rising 2 brings much the same spirit back, but also takes it to another level, with the ability for players to discover all manner of combo weapons. Basically, any item with a wrench icon can be combined with another item with a wrench icon to create something much more deadly, that will net you more XP (well, once you have the requisite Combo Card) and often comes with particularly gruesome custom animations too.

Examples? There’ll be plenty of time for those below young padawan, as we take you through a few of our favourite weapons from Dead Rising 2.

Broadsword

Let’s start out with a good old fashioned weapon – the broadsword. This is easily one of the deadliest weapons in the game, and slices through zombies like butter. While it’s satisfying wading through knots of the undead, parting legs from torsos and so forth, the greatest move for the broadsword is the straight down the centre overhead slash, which literally cleaves zombies in two from head to toe. Absolutely brutal, and incredibly satisfying.

Spiked Bat

Recipe: Take one baseball bat and one box of nails. Jam said nails through baseball bat, and voila! One spiked bat! As anyone who has played Case Zero would know, the spiked bat plays quite a role in that chapter, with the workbench and raw ingredients sitting right there for the player to put 2 + 2 together with. And make 5 in this case. Why? Because while the bat on its own is a good crowd clearer, letting Chuck make good, wide swipes, it doesn’t have the zombie-killing power of the spiked bat. Plus, this puppy has a neat custom animation for strong attacks, that sees Chuck bury it deep into the skull of the nearest enemy.

Drill Bucket

Recipe: Take one metal bucket – doesn’t matter what type of metal: aluminium, steel, it’s your choice, really – and three or so power drills, and position the drills so their pointy ends are exposed inside the bucket. You now have a fancy new zombie hat, as at home on the catwalks of Undead Paris as at the local Undead Mall. Simply position hat on a nearby zombie’s head, with drills running, and said zombie will find him or herself triple trepanned.

Knife Gloves

You’d think that boxing gloves would be a pretty useless weapon against a zombie uprising. And you’d be right. Punching a zombie in the head isn’t going to achieve anything, and doing so with extra padding is going to be even more ineffectual. And that’s where bowie knives come in. Simply strap a number of these to the outside of your boxing gloves to create makeshift Wolverine-style claws. Snickety snick!

Tesla Ball

See that car battery on the ground over there? Yeah? Go bring that to me. Thanks. Okay, now, do you know what a Bingo Ball Cage looks like? There’s a million of them in Vegas, so go grab me one because it’s a bad-ass conductor of electricity. If we combine the two together we’re going to be able to fry a crowd of zombies in one glorious sparking shower of electricity. Why fight zombies with traditional weapons when you can use the Power of Science?!

Frying Pan

Second only to vinyl records as a comical zombie-killing tool, the frying pan returns from the original game, as does the ability for players to heat it up on a stove, transforming it from a zany piece of physical comedy to a brutal instrument of impending death. Beaning the nearest zombie in the face with a red hot piece of metal leaves it horribly burnt and even uglier than before. Okay, so it’s still kinda funny.

Handbag

Alright, so this is hardly the deadliest weapon in Dead Rising 2, ranking up there with rolled up newspapers and bags of trash in terms of zombie-killing efficacy, but there’s something so ridiculous about running about surrounded by swarms of zombies wielding naught but a handbag, that we still find ourselves stocking the handbag in inventory from time to time. Not all handbags are created equal, either, as sometimes a ‘massager‘ will drop out when you pick up a bag.

Tenderizers

Necessity is the mother of all invention, and in this case ‘necessity’ means ‘holy crap I’m surrounded by zombies, I’m going to have to kill a few hundred of them’ and the ‘invention’ is Chuck spying a pair of MMA gloves and a box of nails. Gaffer tape a bunch of nails to the gloves and – BAM – you’ve got the perfect embodiment of the expression ‘it’s all fun and games and then a zombie loses an eye. And then it’s still fun and games’. (ign)

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Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Blue Castle Games
Genre: Action Adventure
Number of Players: 1-4
Release Date: US: September 28, 2010 . Japan: Q3 2010
MSRP: $59.99
M for Mature
Also Available On: Xbox360, PlayStation 3, PC

Drawn: Dark Flight (PC)

Posted: September 4, 2010 in PC
Tags: , ,

Recently, there’s been a resurgence of classic point-and-click adventure games in the casual, downloadable space. The Drawnseries is one of the standouts in the category, featuring an engaging storyline and creative puzzles. Drawn: Dark Flight is the second game in the series and delivers an even more satisfying experience than the first game.

Developed by Big Fish GamesDrawn follows the story of a young princess named Iris, whose family has been killed by an evil tyrant. During the attack, Iris was entrusted to a friend of the family who kept her hidden in a large tower. The first game, Drawn: The Painted Tower, had you fetching Iris and getting ready to place her on the throne where she belongs. Drawn: Dark Flight picks up right where The Painted Tower left off, tasking you with lighting three beacons in the city in order to remove the shadows and restore the kingdom to its former glory with Iris as its queen.

The gameplay is that of a classic adventure game. You’ll see environments in the first person and can zoom in and interact with or pick up objects along the way. You’ll need to solve puzzles to advance through the various areas of the game. One of the unique aspects of the Drawn series is the ability to jump in and out of magical paintings created by Iris in order to help you reach your goal.

Some of the puzzles in Dark Flight will offer a challenge to even the most seasoned adventure game player, and are a nice step up from the first game, which felt a little on the easy side. But Big Fish has done a great job keeping the game accessible to all skill levels by allowing you to skip any puzzle that has you stuck. There’s also a tiered hint system that players can utilize if they wish. The first hint will be a vague nudge in the right direction, while subsequent hints will get more and more detailed until the game will tell you exactly what to do. What’s nice about both of these features is that they don’t keep more experienced gamers from enjoying the challenge of figuring everything out on their own, while at the same time providing complete help to players that need it. I think this is a great way to appeal to multiple audiences without dumbing down the game to the lowest common denominator.

The Drawn series has a great aesthetic that mixes a variety of art styles from lush detailed paintings to simple sketches to stylized pop-up books. However, there’s very little animation in the game, and even the story sequences are told through a series of stills. Additionally the voice acting feels a bit overdone on all of the characters, but especially the evil tyrant.

Despite some really great puzzles, there are a few that are simply more frustrating than challenging. I felt like the game made it unnecessarily difficult to execute some of the solutions to the puzzles, and some of them simply dragged on too long. While the story is pretty good, I found the ending to be very anticlimactic and not much of a pay-off for the time spent playing the game. (ign)

Published by: Big Fish Games
Developed by: Big Fish Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: US: August 31, 2010
E for Everyone: Violent References
Also Available On: Mac
Also known as: Dark Flight

Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)

Posted: September 4, 2010 in PC
Tags: , , ,

Amnesia: The Dark Descent ScreenshotTrue survival horror games are rare these days. Games like Dead Space and the most recent Resident Evil titles can be scary but tend to be just as focused on action as they are on atmosphere. InFrictional Games‘ Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you get no gun. When a gruesome shambling creature rounds a corner on wobbly knees and its yawning rictus comes into focus, you can only succumb to its onslaught or flee in terror, hoping the shadows will provide safe haven. It plays more like a first-person adventure game than anything else, and borrows many of the environmental manipulation mechanics of Frictional’s previous Penumbra series. It’s a fairly short game, but one that’s near impossible to forget.

If you’ve ever read an H.P. Lovecraft story before you’ll find a lot that’s familiar here. Much of the horror and structure of the plot is inspired by the 20th century author, as sanity is eroded the closer you draw to the sinister heart of the tale. You play as Daniel, who awakens clueless on the floor of the huge and hauntingly empty Castle Brennenburg. Soon after coming to, you discover a note written by your past self, instructing you to find and kill Alexander, the master of house. Unraveling the history of the place is part of what lures you forward, discovering how exactly you got to this point, what Alexander did to deserve an early death, and who is responsible for the grisly acts committed in the castle’s depths.

What follows is a tale told mostly in flashback as you’ re beset by ghostly visions and uncover journal entries on dimly lit desks that tell of scientific expeditions that lead to the discovery of ancient terrors. By itself the story is strong enough, and told effectively assuming you take the time to explore and pick up a majority of the notes. Yet what really adds a quality of unsettling authenticity to the tale is the unshakeable feeling of pursuit and inevitability of some kind of horrific climax.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent PictureThe sensation is created by a combination of implied and observable events. On the soundtrack, scratches, clicking and footsteps from unseen spaces imply an expanse of unknown rippling just beyond the limits of your perception. Visual cues are also crucial to reinforcing the sense of terror, as Daniel’s vision is affected by ghastly sights and revelations of gruesome acts to which his previous life was connected. Sanity degrades while in the dark, causing the scene to shift like the webs of light across sands under shallow water as sounds intensify, controls are muddied, and eventually insects crawl across your field of vision. It contributes to an feeling of isolation and helplessness that adds to the sense of terror.

Staying in the light is the preferred course for those who prefer to maintain mental focus. A lantern is always available to light up corridors, provided you’ve enough fuel to keep it lit. Tinderboxes are also scattered around amidst ancient books and in dusty cabinets and used to spark torches to illuminate passageways and candles within kitchens and torture chambers to make it less psychologically taxing as you explore. You can still see in the darkness if you’ve run out of both oil and tinderboxes since Daniel’s eyes will eventually adjust to the deep-blue murk of darkness, but there’s a moment of adjustment, mimicking the dilation of his pupils to altered intensity of light. Sometimes the transition is harmless, but during the momentary blindness that besets Daniel as he stumbles into blackness it’s entirely possible a shambling monster could round a corner and slash him down. It’s not something that happens often, but the lingering threat is enough to make you tread carefully even if the way forward seems clear. It also sets up a gameplay dynamic between dark and light — do you stay in the shadows to hide from enemies but risk your sanity, or light up everything you can to keep your wits?

Amnesia: The Dark Descent PicturePuzzle solving is the heart of the gameplay, and like in Frictional’s Penumbra games, manipulation of objects is handled in a way that gives you a greater sense of connection to the character. To open a door, you must click and hold the object with the left mouse button, then draw the mouse back or push it forward depending on which way the door swings. To open a drawer it’s the same mechanic, requiring you to pull back on the mouse once the handle is grabbed to open it. Occasionally you’ll need to toss items around rooms to break down fragile walls and shatter chains, but for the most part this kind of manipulation is used to keep you more firmly rooted within the game world and add a touch of realism, strengthening the horror aspect.

Actually solving the puzzles shouldn’t be too difficult for anyone who’s played adventure games before. Despite the bizarre and often disturbing states of the sewers, morgues, and downright revolting torture chambers later on, the solutions often require you to collect a few objects and combine and apply them in simple ways. The game makes this easily manageable by confining solutions to set areas, meaning you don’t need to worry about backtracking all the way to the start of the game if near the end you worry that a particular puzzle might require an overlooked item. Frictional’s done a good job of pacing the game as well, gradually expanding the area and complexity of the puzzles and mixing in jaw-clenching pursuit sequences as you plunge deeper into the mystery. All the while you watch as bare stone walls are overtaken with pulsating masses of organic material and as hints of malevolence are made manifest and stumble after you through the dark and mists, establishing an inescapable mood that sticks with you long after the adventure is complete. (ign)

Tales of Elastic Boy: Mission 1

Posted: September 4, 2010 in Wii
Tags: ,

So, anyone remember Mister Slime? It was an innovative little platformer project that came to the DS two years ago and generated a bit of a buzz. Craig was a bit underwhelmed with the final product, giving it just an average score and wishing its main mechanic hadn’t felt so tedious, even though it was inventive. Ring a bell for you? Well, surprise, Mister Slime is back — and this re-branded WiiWare sequel manages to address some of the concerns that brought down opinions of his DS debut back in 2008.

Tales of Elastic Boy is the series’ new title, as developer Lexis Numerique starts fresh with the same gameplay idea, same characters and same world, but moves the whole production up to the big screen and swaps in Wii Remote motion control for the old stylus tapping. The concept is centered on stickiness — your slime character can extend his four stretchy grabbing arms to stick himself to floating pegs, moving one by one across them by reaching out for those ahead while continuously detaching himself from those behind.

It’s the same idea that we saw with in the DS original, but it’s made a lot more fluid here. Mister Slime on the DS demanded slow, methodical work managing each of your slime’s arms, tapping them one at a time with the stylus to detach them and dragging them back out of his central body to grab toward the next peg in sequence. It became tedious work, and was ultimately one of the main things that made Craig dislike the game overall.

That same action, though, is now streamlined in this WiiWare sequel. Instead of individually dealing with each of the slime’s arms and making slow, tedious progress, you can just use the Wii Remote’s pointer functionality to point and highlight the next peg you want to move to. Your slime will react automatically, detaching his own trailing limbs and quickly swinging forward. It’s like you just paint the path you want him to take with the cursor now, and he’ll speedily follow your instructions.

It’s a great boost to the overall feel and fun factor, as it feels like the game now gets to be a game instead of just an extended exercise in character management. The improvements aren’t absolute, as you’ll sometimes still have to point and detach specific arms to get your slime to go the way you want him to, particularly at the end of a long sequence of pegs when there’s no longer a next peg to grab on to. But it is much more playable now, and the fun can now come through.

I’m also a fan of the connections the developer included to the first game’s plot, as though Mister Slime didn’t gather an enormous audience there will still be those (like me) that recognize this as the sequel it is. The Mister Slime hero from the DS game is the old, wise sage of the village of slimes now, and he’s the one who teaches you how to roll, stick to pegs and attack enemies in the game’s first level.

This download is just “Mission 1” of Tales of Elastic Boy, implying that we’ve got at least one more adventure on the way that can improve even further on the foundation found here — but it also means there isn’t a ton of content here for your investment of six bucks. You’ll be left wanting more single-player levels to explore, though you can go back through cleared stages again with unlocked characters and try to improve your item collection score. And there are some multiplayer options too, if you’ve got another human there who’d like to get slimy alongside you. That’s enough to earn an overall thumbs-up from me. (ign)

Published by: Lexis Numerique
Genre: Adventure
Number of Players: 1-2
Release Date: US: August 30, 2010
MSRP: $6.00
E for Everyone: Comic Mischief

Space Trek (Wii)

Posted: August 25, 2010 in PSP, Wii
Tags: , ,

Space Trek Screenshot

Space Trek comes across as kind of cocky. Probably because of its snarky, snippy protagonist Captain Jay constantly making fun of the aliens whose world he’s invading, and because his quips are always actually funny and apt – he insults them, they insult him, then he beats the level and gets the last laugh. It’s cocky, but done well. So it works.

But that playful back-and-forth banter is the best part of the package – the rest of it is only average. Space Trek is a pseudo-on-rails flying game. Half of the levels have you zooming around the alien homeworld of the Knagar, searching for lost humans to save with your automatic tractor beam – these are somewhat free-roaming as you can move around to the left and right and backtrack as you like, exploring the area, but your ship’s restricted vertically. It can’t gain or lose altitude – the up-and-down is always locked and never under your control.

The other half of the levels are even more restricted, and play out like a cross between Star Fox’s forced forward progression andF-Zero X‘s Death Race mode – you fly constantly forward blasting a set number of baddies until you’ve met a quota. If you don’t get enough in the first pass, the level just loops over itself again and again to give you more “laps” to work with. (ign)

Published by: Calaris Studios
Developed by: Calaris Studios
Genre: Adventure
Number of Players: 1
Release Date: US: August 16, 2010
MSRP: $7.00
E10+ for Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence
Also Available On: PSP, Wii

Diablo III’s Artisan System Revealed

Posted: August 18, 2010 in PC
Tags: , , ,

Diablo III Picture

Jay Wilson, game director on Blizzard’s highly anticipated action-RPG Diablo III gave a presentation at Gamescom 2010 to talk about a new feature for the game, the artisan system. These are NPCs that help you out during the game that craft and manipulate items for you. Wilson focused on the blacksmith for the duration of the presentation, but also touched on the jeweler and mystic. While you won’t start out your questing in Diablo III with these artisans, you are able to collect and maintain all three at the same time.

Initially you’ll need to do some tasks for the artisans when you first meet, earn their loyalty, and they’ll then join up and follow along from town to town throughout Sancturary. One of the goals with Diablo III was to add a crafting system, but the team didn’t want one where the player needs to spend a lot of time in towns and slow down the pace of the game.

The blacksmith, once recruited, will set up shop in town and is surrounded by anvils, a cart and item racks. He’ll act as a vendor where you can buy and sell items, and can also craft items. He tends to produce armor and heavy weapons more geared for melee characters, though there’ll be crafting options for every class. More interestingly, he can add sockets to items and can repair them as well. If an item doesn’t have sockets, then he can socket it so you can add gems to any item regardless of quality.

All three artisan types can be improved as the game progresses to enhance their crafting skill set. Once upgraded, you’ll also see the effects visually around the vendor areas in town. For example, in the blacksmith’s area the anvil and weapon racks and wagons surrounding him will be more ornate and elaborate, with pieces of armor attached to the wagon and fancy fires burning with chains wrapping around. Blizzard doesn’t want the items crafted to be entirely predictable.

When actually ordering the vendor to craft items, there’ll be a mix of predictable and unpredictable elements. A recipe for a dagger can have a set range of damage, but may also come along with two random properties. Some craftable have more predictable combinations than others, but Blizzard’s idea was to have a certain amount of randomness for every item. To gather the materials for crafting, you’ll need to salvage existing items. To get materials you’ll be able to put unwanted items you can drop them in a cube-like device (not the Horadric Cube, but similar) and break down the items, which you can do anywhere, to kick out materials. Higher level gear and quality items without high sell prices are generally the best to break down, and there’s some items that give you special drops.

For the other artisans, the mystic can enchant items, adding additional chance to crit or whatever you like, as well as identify items, craft wands, staves, and smaller armor items like bracers. The jeweler can pull gems off of items without destroying the item or the gem, and can also craft special items like amulets. Jeweler can also combine gems into better ones, replacing the function of the Horadric Cube from Diablo II, and in all there’ll be fourteen levels of quality for gems, though above level five the requirements for upgrading will be especially steep. All three artisans can follow you simultaneously and be fully upgraded, so there’s no need to pick one over the other.

We’re still waiting on more announcements about Diablo III, including the release date (which is still “when it’s done”), but we’ll be talking to Wilson later today and will update if we hear anything more. In the meantime, what do you think about the artisan system?

(ign)