Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations – Review (DS, Import)

Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations - CoverThe third entry in Capcom’s Ace Attorney series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, continues with the same core gameplay and presentation from the previous games, but manages to bring a much more interesting story with elements that carry over not only between cases, but as well as from the previous two games. While there’s the usual issues with the text display being naggingly slow when you want it fast, or that there’s a few puzzles that may take a bit of time to wrap your head around, the game is the strongest entry in the series to date. (Of course, it should be noted that I am reviewing the Import version, which has the “early” English localization which does have a few notable flaws, which Capcom says they will have fixed for the North American version. I am ignoring any such problems in my review).

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS) – Review Repost

Ace Attorney - CoverFor those that miss text adventures or LucasArts style games, or like anything offbeat, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attoney for the DS is definitely a fun, strong plot and character-driven game that can fill the niche with some pretty good brain-teasing puzzles.

Phoenix Wright, simply, is one of those odd Japanese games, based weakly on their classic dating sims, that has been translated to English and brought onto the DS platform. In Phoenix Wright, you play as Phoenix, a just-off-the-bench defense attorney on his first 5 cases in court, defending the innocent of murder charges. The game is set in the near future, where the justice system has been radically revises as to have all criminal court cases take at most 3 days, thus requiring a significant burden of proof on the defendant. As the player, you have to work your lawyer-y skills in court to disprove witnesses’ testimony with evidence and information that you collect, and prevent the prosecution from overruling you. The game, while based on the idea of Japanese dating simulations, feels that it has strong comedic influences from the Adult Swim show, “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law” in that shouts of “Objection!” and “Hold it!” stand out like the cartoon onomatopoeia effects from Batman, key points are punctuated with fighting sound effects, and the bumbling attitude of Phoenix, though the game’s plot is still (mostly) firmly grounded in reality. I think it’s more that stateside, without the popularity of Harvey Birdman, this game would have had little chance to succeed without a major media push, but with it, the game can easily become popular by word-of-mouth.
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Pokemon Diamond/Pearl (DS) – Initial Impressions

I picked up Diamond (I know in the long term it doesn’t matter, but still…)

I’ve touched both the GBA and the GC pokemon games before, but never really got my head into them; the DS version however seems much more interesting.

None of the mechanics have changed from the other Pokemon games; you fight and capture Pokemon, make them gain experience and evolve, and try to collect them all. I think the only feature really new from the GBA versions is the idea of a two-on-two battle (typical from the GC versions, but I never recall seeing them on a GBA), but this works out pretty much the same way.

Of course, I (to a point) wished I’ve played those before, because I’ve got a 32nd level Monferno with some killer attacks that can take down most other pokemon in one hit, and the rest of the crew my character is carrying is only around 12-15th level while I’m fighting wild and tame ones in the 15-20th level; it makes it very hard to actually capture these. I would have definitely done the growth differently knowing this, but at least I have a sure fire round finisher.

I wish the text and display was faster; I’ve already turned off battle animations but it still is slow in battle and reporting the results.

I really dislike the day/night cycle idea, as there’s only a certain part of the day that I will usually be able to pick this up. The idea here is that the time in the pokemon world matches your time, so so some Pokemon aren’t available until then, and other Pokemon can only evolve in certain time periods. I like the concept of day vs night changes but this should be independent of what my time is. For a game like Animal Crossing, it’s fine since it’s less a game and more a sim, but for here, the time changes should be accelerated (one “day” in 6 or 4 hours?) so that no player is penalized for a time they can’t play.

I think what will really make this game sell is the Wifi stuff which I haven’t had a chance to try. A lot of it seems to assume you’re always near a Wifi point so the game can constantly use those features should you use them, but I know I’m not the only one where being near WiFi is always true. But again, I’ve yet to touch them so I can’t really say for sure yet.

Sam and Max Season 1 (PC) – Review

Sam and Max Season 1When LucasArts canned Sam and Max Freelance Police back in March 2004 (as well as a sequel to Full Throttle) despite the team making good progress on the game, many fans feared that killed off any hopes for the adventure game genre. However, as word got around that Telltale Games had acquired the rights for the Sam and Max franchise and were working on a new game, joy spread out across the land. Telltale Games, working along with Steve Purcell, creator of the dog/lagomorph duo, has created a 6 part, episodic approach to adventure game, which was released roughly monthly over an 8 month period through several channels, including through GameTap as well as downloadable versions direct from Telltale. Sam and Max Season 1 is definitely a return to classic form for the adventure game as well as appealing to Sam and Max fans everywhere, though the episodic nature of the game does limit the difficulty of puzzles that can be put in while keeping each episode playable without having completed the rest.

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Sam and Max Season 1 Episode 5 (PC) – Review

“Reality 2.0” was definitely a different step compared to the previous games, as both the formula was different in the game structure, but also had several nice nods to the geek culture (including a Mario and a Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy and a old Zork text adventure one).

It’s still as short as the others, but now with the end of the series in sight, it’s definitely looking like a good overall experience.

Touch Detective (NDS) – Review

Touch Detective CoverWith the success of adventure games such as Phoenix Wright on the DS, other titles were sure to follow. “Touch Detective”, developed by Beeworks and published by Altus, is another DS point-and-click adventure, and while the presentation of the game is stellar, seemingly making a game aimed at a young gamer work as an enjoyable game for older gamers, the gameplay and puzzles are lacking the spit and polish that most point-and-click adventure game players will have come to expect.

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Sam and Max Season 1 Episode 4 (PC) – Review

I promise a full review of the ‘season’ once all 6 are out, but I will say that Episode 4 “Abe Lincoln Must Die!” felt a lot meatier than the previous installments, though there are still some issues with it’s episodic nature that can get in the way (which is why I plan to replay all 6 and review at length when available).

There’s a few more twisted puzzles in this game than the previous ones with a bit more reliance on lateral thinking problems.  This one had a couple that I was stumped on for a bit more, and it took me a bit more than 2 hours to complete, so the challenge, one could say, is building.  I also liked the fact that this game felt closer in concept to Hit the Road because of the involvement of Americana within the game (though you don’t travel far at all).  Add in a killer musical number, and I was laughing all the way through this one.

Beyond the length and some of the easiness of the puzzles, I am finding that these episodes are falling into a familiar pattern.  You have basically a 2.5 act show: one set of puzzles leading to a critical event, another set of puzzles leading to a second critical event, and then a final puzzle or handful to resolve the case.  Certainly, knowing how old LucasArts games worked and playing with Inform 7 for text adventures, the separate “act” approach to adventure games is relatively easy to do and can help to box the player in from doing other things you don’t want him to do yet, but I’d like to see a bit more mix-up in that for these episodes.

Still, however, in the barren land of adventure games, this series is still a gem.

Touch Detective (NDS) – Initial Impressions

This is pretty much (to some extent) like old style LucasArts games, save for using the touch screen to touch where you want to go, and what to interact with, which is all pretty straightforward.

The part I’m trying to deal with is that, I want to say it’s a game for yonger female gamers, but the writing is way too witty to be limited to just that.  You play as a young MacKenzie, a girl that’s got a detective agency, and you interact with other girls around town as well as other NPCs, solving mysteries for your friends.  However, besides having the touch screen to show the active area, the top screen shows a closeup of MacKenzie, with facial and body expressions matching her reactions and though bubbles that appear to comments made simultaneously to the conversion on the lower screen.  A character may be going off on a rant, with MacKenzie thinking “Here we go again…”, or MacKenzie may offer to take a case, but be thinking to herself “I have no idea what I’m doing…”.  It’s a very cute mechanic, and if you’re a speed reader (fortunately text speed is pretty good), you’ll possibly miss some of these.  The game itself isn’t hard – it’s just usually a matter of finding the right object to click to discover something new, but I’ve only done part of the first case so there may be more later.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (NDS) – Review

Hotel Dusk Cover Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is another adventure game put out for the Nintendo DS by Cing, following on their early title “Trace Memory”. Hotel Dusk borrows much of the concepts from Trace Memory in a good way, and works in a rather great, multilayered, gritty story with additional good gameplay concepts for a text adventure game. Unfortunately, the game comes off a bit too linear and too easy for it’s target audience, though still is definitely a good “read” for the story it provides.

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Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (NDS) – Initial Impressions

I always though the two current portable systems would make for great point and click adventure games in the vein of the old LucasArts ones.  Phoenix Wright shows there’s definitely a market for story-driven games and the DS is a great platform for it.  “Trace Memory”, a game released earlier by Cing (who are being Hotel Dusk) shows elements that could work for an adventure game using the DS, though the game itself is rather easy and geared towards younger audiences.

Hotel Dusk takes what Cing did in Trace Memory and adds a gritty detective story on top of it, making it much more pleasing experience for older gamers looking for a good adventure game.  Most of the game is spent in conversation but there will be times that you can choose the path through a conversation, note when a NPC gives you a new line of questioning, and the like.  You interact with objects in various ways using the DS pad, and you move about the game world using the touchpad to guide yourself on a floorplan while the simple 3D representation of the world occurs on the other screen, allowing you to then inspect and manipulate objects as needed. (As noted by many, the game has you turn the DS sidewise like a book (similar to Brain Age), adaptable to left and right handedness as needed).

I’m already about 2 hrs into it (real time, I’m only into the 2nd half hour of game time) and I still don’t have a good clue as to what’s going on within the plot.  The art use is wonderful, using limited animated pencil/colored sketches to show the characters speaking and displaying emotions.   The difficulty isn’t too hard – yet, as most of my actions pretty much feel linear (eg I had to get money to pay for the room, but I needed to open the suitcase first, meaning I needed to find a way to open it up to start with), but it feels like the game can get divergent later.