June 28, 2013

Project Backlog – Summer 2013 Update #1

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So, I had all these great plans for June and July. I was going to power through at least 2 games a month to whittle down my backlog. Sounds good, right? Productive, too. Well….

Animal Crossing happened.

I had started Professor Layton & the Miracle Mask which had been sitting on my nightstand since it launched and was neglected when I actually got my 3DS XL at Valentine’s Day because I was addicted to Paper Mario: Sticker Star. I was about 10 hours in when I caved in and bought Animal Crossing New Leaf. The majority of my gaming friends were talking about how awesome it was and I kind of sort of missed the building/collecting/visiting neighbours style of game that Sims Social & SimCity Social (may they R.I.P.) provided me. I wanted to be social without it being Facebook social, if you know what I mean. (more…)

November 2, 2011

Professor Layton and the Last Specter

Status: 1 playthrough complete

Total Time:  19hr 1min
Puzzles Solved: 138 
Total Picarats: 5048

Professor Layton and the Last Specter (or Specter’s Flute, depending on your region) it the first in a trilogy of prequels to the best selling puzzle series. Layton receives a letter from his old friend Clark Triton, requesting his help in the town of Misthallery. A mysterious specter comes out at night, destroying homes in various parts of town, and putting the lives of many innocent people in jeopardy. Layton barely has time to meet his new assistant, Emmy, when the two rush off to Misthallery and solve the puzzle that awaits them.

When Professor Layton reaches his friend’s home, he finds Clark shocked to see him. His friend swears he did not send the letter asking for aid. It is after this exchange that the Professor makes an effort to introduce himself to Clark’s son, Luke. Luke is amazed to meet his father’s dearest friend and asks that he join Layton and Emmy on their quest to find out what is really going on in town. (more…)

December 16, 2010

How I Gamed My Way Through 2010

With only a couple of weeks remaining, major video game releases for 2010 are in the books. Looking over the list of the releases I can remember playing, I would have to say I had a pretty solid year hanging out with my consoles. I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time with my PSP, a testament to the power of the non-Final Fantasy JRPGs that smaller publishers Atlus, NIS and XSEED bring to the handheld.

Below is a breakdown of the games I can remember spending more than three hours with this year, although in some cases three hours was three hours more than they deserved. (more…)

September 16, 2010

Professor Layton & The Unwound Future

Filed under: Nintendo — Tags: , , , — Yukino @ 4:17 PM

Status: 1 playthrough complete

Total Time:  21hr 29min
Puzzles Solved: 164
Total Picarats: 5531

Purchase Professor Layton and the Unwound Future from Amazon

When a mysterious letter arrives in the post claiming to be written by Hershel Layton’s apprentice, Luke, from 10 years in the future only a short period after the two witness a failed time traveling experiment, the two set off on another amazing adventure.

The third installment in the best-selling puzzle adventure series for the Nintendo DS, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future reveals more of the Professor’s past as well as his relationship with his energetic young apprentice. Events from years past and years future collide with Layton and Luke right in the thick of it, eager to uncover the hidden truths behind the letter. Layton and Luke are transported through time by means of a giant clock into what appears to be a much darker and grittier version of London, and must unravel the mysteries which appear to have close ties with the Professor. Where Curious Village and Diabolical Box took us on journeys that introduced us to our crime solving duo, it is here that we discover more about the events in Hershel’s life that have made him into the man he is today.

The streets of Future London are filled with new and familiar faces, all of them with a few puzzles up their sleeves just waiting for you to take on. Unwound Future boasts 165 puzzles on the game cartridge – by far the most of all the games in the series, and will see additional puzzles made available on a weekly basis as Nintendo has offered with the previous entries. There is a wonderful assortment of logic, math, and skill based puzzles to be tackled and defeated. The game also features three new mini-games: Toy Car, in which you must get your wind up car from Point A to Point B while avoiding obstacles and picking up special objects; making special deliveries by guiding your Parrot along a course; and collecting stickers for your story-driven Sticker Books.

Professor Layton games have always included assistance should a puzzle stump you. The first comes in the form of Hint Coins, wherein tapping certain spots on the DS screen such as a window or a railpost will give you shiny gold tokens you can trade in for a little bit of helpful advice. In the first two titles you could only spend up to 3 Hint Coins per puzzle. With Unwound Future, Level-5 has added one more hint level: the Super Hint. When three hints just aren’t enough, you can spend 2 coins and purchase the Super Hint, which practically gives you the answer you need to advance. And as always, if you miss any puzzles during the course of your investigations, they will be sent to a special location for you to access and cared for until you are able to devote some time to them.

Not only does Level-5 bring us amazing cut-scenes and incredible voice over work, but the amount of it seems to have nearly doubled with Unwound Future. I have always been amazed and astonished at just how much they’ve been able to fit onto the DS cartridge, as they always seem to be pushing the limitations of the format. The quality remains unchanged, with rich voice work and stunning graphics showcasing the heart and souls of the world without sacrificing game play to achieve its goal.

Overall Opinion

It’s no secret that Level-5’s Professor Layton series is a worldwide hit with gamers from all backgrounds. Their tried and true format is easily picked up and challenges the player to exercise brain muscles that we might have neglected spending too much time with our shooters and fighters. The wonderful storytelling, brilliant locations and challenging puzzles are what keep me going back time and time again, yet to be left disappointed when my time with it comes to an end. Once more, Nintendo and Level-5 have brought DS gamers an experience that will not soon be forgotten. No previous experience is required, although it is recommended in order to truly grasp some of the events and humour contained within.

May 5, 2010

Professor Layton & the Diabolical Box

Filed under: Nintendo — Tags: , , , , , — Yukino @ 8:59 PM

Status: 1 playthrough complete

Purchase Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box from Amazon

Reviewed for GamingAngels – Aug 27, 2009

Repost of review:

Hershel Layton and his young assistant Luke return this fall as they investigate the murder of the professor’s mentor and the disappearance of a cursed box the scholar had been in possession of. A train ticket leads them to hop aboard the Molentary Express, where they travel along the rails, investigating the passengers as well as exploring the towns they pass through.

Several interesting characters join the ride, providing some wonderful mystery and humor: Molentary Express’ owner Mr. Beluga, the outrageous Babette and her little Tom, and rocker train conductor Sammy Thunder, to name a few. Some friendly faces from the first game also make appearances (but will not be revealed as it could ruin the story for some of you.)

As well as enjoying the train ride, you will also visit countryside towns such as Dropstone and Folsense, towns which are linked by some unknown past. The addition of adding the different locations to visit is a wonderful touch, as there is so much more opportunity to show off the power of the DS and it’s ability to hold all this information on a single cartridge.

Treating us to over 150 puzzles, with more to come via downloadable content (new puzzles to be released each week), the search to retrieve the Elysian Box (the Diabolical Box)  provides similar puzzles and more advanced puzzles than our first experience with Professor Layton. There is everything from math to word to map puzzles and a whole bunch of other brainteasers, some of them becoming harder each time you talk to the puzzle’s “owner”. Just as in the Curious Village, you are going to find that everyone and almost everything has a puzzle for you to master. And don’t worry if you missed a puzzle here and there. Granny’s Puzzle Shack is back, as she sets up shop conveniently along your path. Hint coins are also scattered about, hiding in lampposts, garbages, and other such spots.

New mini-games are also included: creating new teas with your Tea Set, snapping pictures with your Camera, and taking care of an overweight Hamster (I named mine Mochi). By sharing teas with people you can get more information and clues to help you figure out who has the Box. Using your camera once you have restored it to working order unlocks hidden puzzles. Look for the camera icon underneath  the Professor’s  Trunk icon to see if there is a hidden puzzle on the screen somewhere.

Professor Layton proved with The Curious Village that the DS is a powerful little machine, providing high quality full motion videos and top notch audio, including wonderful voice-over work. The sequel offers even more in the voice and FMV department, which makes me wonder why other developers can’t seem to pull this off. Instead of only giving us voice work during cutscenes, we also are blessed with audio during text screens. I cannot help but get a huge smile on my face whenever I have the opportunity to listen to the wonderful voice over work. By far, it is some of the best work in a video game I have ever heard, across all platforms. The game’s musical score is also terrific. Each song is completely fitting to the backdrop or scene it is tied to.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box is a wonderful journey with a well construed storyline that is easy enough to follow and allows the player to truly become a detective in her/his own right. Come to your own conclusions and see if Layton and Luke can confirm your predictions yet again.

If you haven’t played the original Professor Layton title, I strongly recommend that you do so before playing Diabolical Box. It doesn’t really affect the story much if you haven’t, but there is crossover between the games that is more enjoyable if you have finished the first. You can check out my Professor Layton & the Curious Village review here.

My total play time: 16hr 30min     Total Puzzles Solved: 122 puzzles     Total Picarats: 3478 Picarats

Professor Layton & the Curious Village

Filed under: Nintendo — Tags: , , , , — Yukino @ 8:56 PM

Status: 1 playthrough complete

Purchase Professor Layton and the Curious Village from Amazon

Reviewed for GamingAngels – Jun 19, 2009

Repost of review: (Note – This was the old format for reviews which changed in Summer 2009)

The Story:

Professor Layton and his young assistant Luke travel to the mysterious village of St. Mystere, at the behest of Lady Dahlia. The last will and testament of her late husband, Baron Reinhold, mentions that whomever can solve the puzzle of the Golden Apple will inherit his fortunes. Investigating this matter requires that Layton and Luke solve the various puzzles the villagers of St. Mystere are fond of.

Gameplay:

The game is broken into chapters, each one revolving around mysterious happens which present themselves to Layton and Luke as they try to discover of the secrets of St. Mystere. As with most DS titles, you are going to be using your stylus in order to play this game. Your two main screen icons are the Professor’s Trunk, where you will find your Journal, save option as well as others you will unlock, and the Shoe icon. Tapping the Shoe will allow you to move from screen to screen by tapping the yellow arrow buttons or the hand icons which allow you to enter certain buildings. Also hidden within each area are Hint Coins. You will want to collect these in case you get stumped on certain puzzles and need some help. Each puzzle allows you to unlock up to three hints, should you need them.

Puzzles are what drives the gameplay of Professor Layton, and there are over 120 puzzles in the game alone for you to discover. These vary from simple math problems to sliding blocks, brain teasers, hidden images and the like. Nintendo also offers downloadable puzzles to expand your database and test your knowledge. Finding other hidden items like Art Scraps and Gizmos will unlock new bonus areas for you to explore.

Graphics/Sound:

Professor Layton has some of the best graphics and sound that I have seen in a DS game to date. The backgrounds for each screen/location are very well detailed. The village is drawn so well that the character of it oozes off the screen, reminding you of those quaint European villages and towns you see in pictures. The animations during the dialogue screens are vibrant, and I love the silly facial expressions that sometimes appear. Layton is always calm, holding his chin thoughtfully, while Luke will get wide eyed and anxious.

I was most impressed with how well the voice overs come through on the DS. Layton, Luke and the other characters who are voiced during the few CG scenes were done wonderfully, and they come through so clearly. This really showed me that the DS really has the capability to do some amazing things. And having those brief moments with voice over helped bring more life to the characters. You could “hear” them talking in your head as you read the dialogue throughout the rest of the game.

Fun Factor/Replay Value:

This game has wonderfully witty and charming dialogue between Layton, Luke and the villagers. Even some of the names of the people living in St. Mystere are delightfully funny. It’s hard not to fall in love with or hate some of the characters in the game. And if you missed a puzzle, don’t fret! It’s probably been sent to the shack by the Clock Tower for you to solve at a later date. You can even choose to try a puzzle that you have gotten right previously to see if you can user fewer moves, etc.

Female Aspect:

St. Mystere has some very interesting (and important) female characters inhabiting it. The Lady Dahlia, Beatrice the Inn Keeper, and Claudia the snobby cat, to name a few. This game appeals to both male and female players simply because the puzzles and story are so compelling.

Yukino’s Comments:

I loved this game! While it did get put aside for a while, I managed to power through the last half of the game within the last few days. Some of the puzzles reminded me of ones from my childhood. Others really tested my brain. I am anxiously awaiting the second installment. I really want to know what is behind that hidden door in the bonus section, and I can’t discover what it is until I get the clue from the next game!!

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