Yoshi's Island DS is the sequel to the greatest 2D platformer of all time, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. In my mind, this is a super tall order for the game to live up to, and unfortunately it doesn't, but the DS sequel is still a great game on its own and is definitely one of the best platformers on the system. If you've played the original you will be right at home with Yoshi's Island DS, as the basic gameplay is exactly the same as it was 13 years ago. This is a good thing but they also spent some time adding a few things here and there.
And maybe it's just me, but this game is hard, harder than the original. Especially if you plan to collect all the points in each level, which I did a few years back for the SNES game, and am currently attempting now for Yoshi's Island DS. Let's just say I need to wear a wrist strap so I don't chuck my DS across the room. Let's get to the review.
Geometry Wars: Galaxies is a multi-directional shooter and in my opinion, the ultimate descendant of the classic arcade game, Asteroids. This is a full retail game that expands on Geometry Wars and Retro Evolved that appeared as bonus games and on Xbox Live Arcade. It was released on the Nintendo DS and the Wii, and I played it for the DS. There are a ton of levels and there is so much more variety than just the familiar giant box with enemies appearing from the corner. I was really impressed when I encountered my first really small level and was forced to basically hole up in a corner and defend myself for a few minutes.
For those unfamiliar with the series or the concept of an Asteroids clone/descendant, it's basically you against the universe in increasingly overwhelming odds. You pilot one small ship and more and more bad guys appear constantly. The enemies are color-coded and distinctly shaped, so you always have an idea how some will act and react to you. Some just float around aimlessly, others rocket at you at incredible speed kamikaze style. There are a lot of new additions from the original that make this a worthwhile playing experience.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a Nintendo DS point and click adventure puzzle game. The game features 135 brain-busting puzzles that will seriously give you a headache by the game's end, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience beating them all. In between all the puzzles is a somewhat interesting story about Professor Layton and his young apprentice, Luke, exploring the village of St. Mystere and uncovering its many secrets. There's a wide cast of characters and all the art and backgrounds are hand-drawn and looks really great. There's even some voice acting thrown in that's actually good, but the real star in Professor Layton are the puzzles.
Within the curious village, residents will constantly offer you challenging puzzles to tackle, and clicking on certain items also triggers a puzzle from either the Professor or Luke. The puzzles range from 30 second quickies using pattern and object recognition to 30 minute Tylenol-taking nasties using advanced techniques such as shortest path, eight queens, playing card probability, and moving one giant block through a mess of smaller ones. Since there are so many puzzles, there is a ton of variety and only a few "repeats with new conditions."
None of this probably makes any sense, so let me just get to my review.
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a new Nintendo DS adventure that is actually a port of a 1995 Super Nintendo game released only in Japan. Shiren's gameplay is based off the classic computer games Rogue and NetHack. This means randomly generated stages, turn-based gameplay, and harsh character death penalties. Games today are wussified to the point of being able to save anywhere and three hour long tutorials that wean you into the game, Mystery Dungeon is kind of a breath of fresh air. Even if it is a 13 year-old breath, it mixes up the portable scene a bit.
Not much left to say about Mystery Dungeon, I think the review and screenshots will explain the game pretty well.
Drawn to Life is a Nintendo DS game that takes platformers a step forward by allowing you to draw your own character among many other objects throughout the game. It also takes platformers two steps back with its awful gameplay. Before I rip into the game though, let's take a look at the product as a whole. Drawn to Life was released in September of last year and really advertised itself as a game that would allow for so much more creativity in a genre rather lacking lately. The game is targeted for children, but I'll brave anything if it interests me, and Drawn to Life definitely did.
Anyways, awful is a rather strong word but while I'm playing a game, I'm constantly thinking about its current overall score and how it's doing in the individual categories. Drawn to Life started at around a seven (a nice number, giving the game the benefit of the doubt that it is above average), drawing your own character was kind of cool, and I put a lot of work into it because I knew I'd be staring at "me" for the next few hours. Then the real game starts, and we're faced with an empty village and a whole bunch of villagers to rescue. This got me really excited because last year I played Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, a truly stellar title that also focused on expanding a town and opening up new things as the game progresses. So I might have bumped up Drawn to Life to an eight at that point for its potential. However, the first platforming stage begins, and I was instantly able to recognize that this game is going to be painful, I'll get more into this during the gameplay portion. Between platforming levels, you wander around town doing other painfully boring stuff, more on this below during my story review. Overall, it's a constant back and forth between crap gameplay and crap story, ending in my biggest "WTF?" moment of the year.
Enough of this, straight to the scores out of 10.
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga is the combination of the first two Lego Star Wars games (The Video Game and Original Trilogy) in what is an obvious attempt to sell more copies of the games and reach that same Star Wars audience that will only buy the DVDs when they're all available in one, giant box set. So basically we have all the levels from the first game, plus all the levels from the second game, plus some more (minor) stuff in case you already own the first two. I received this game for the Nintendo DS, which is essentially my platform of choice of late, and played the heck out of it for the last week and a half. And surprisingly, I loved every minute of it.
I'm not sure why it took so long for someone to realize that Legos are awesome, Star Wars is awesome, and video games are awesome, so why not put them all together. But it finally happened a few years ago and it was like my childhood fantasies were coming together for one last amazing adventure. Somehow though, I never played the first one (Episodes I-III) but got the chance to play The Original Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI). I thought the game was fun but short. The Complete Saga has allowed me to play the first game and replay the second, giving me a much more satisfying experience. It took me a solid 21.5 hours to achieve 100% completion and I'm a little sad to say goodbye. Thankfully though, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman are only a few months away... Now let's get to the review!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations (longest game title ever?) is the final game in the Phoenix Wright trilogy, a series of defense attorney games for the Nintendo DS. If you are unfamiliar with the series, you will probably be stunned by the following description: You play as the young attorney, Phoenix Wright, in a justice system where your clients are presumed guilty until proven innocent. You are accompanied by a young woman who can channel dead spirits and murder cases are brought to court the day after the crime was committed. And finally, finger pointing and yelling "OBJECTION!" is your most powerful court room ally.
Ace Attorney games are broken up into two types of gameplay: the first is the actual court room, where you will argue with the prosecutor and cross-examine the incessantly lying witnesses until they crack. The second gameplay type is the on-site investigation. Phoenix Wright himself will head out to the scene of the crime (though often crimes follow him almost like he's Angela Lansbury) and perform investigations, interview witnesses and suspects, and gather evidence. If you haven't figured it out already, this game has a LOT of text. This game is so demanding on your A button I thought mine would fall out by the end. Trials and Tribulations is driven by its story, and it assumes you have played the other two when it comes to the characters and events. You don't need to have completed the previous games to beat Phoenix Wright 3, but it will be a much more satisfying experience if you have.
My category reviews should describe the game well, so read on for the scores which are out of 10.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a point and click adventure game for the Nintendo DS. It was released early last year and features both interesting graphic styles and gameplay controls. As far as the graphics go, the characters are hand-drawn with a pencil and use no colors except for pencil shadings. The game is actually played quite differently too, instead of holding the DS like normal, you turn it on its side like you're reading a book. This gives you two vertical screens side-by-side that seem like it would be better for telling a dramatic story. It's definitely something to get used to when you first pick it up but it makes sense for the style of game it is. Speaking of the style of Hotel Dusk, something about this game reminds me of the old school scary game, Uninvited. Well, it scared me on the NES when I was eight years old!
Hotel Dusk is actually my first portable first hour review! Not sure why it took me 26 reviews to get to one, as I play portable games just as much as console and PC games. By the way, do you know how hard it is to get good screenshots of a portable game? Nearly impossible. Now let's get to the review.
For my review on the whole game, please see my Hotel Dusk: Room 215 review at Beyond the First Hour.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is the direct sequel to Final Fantasy XII for the Nintendo DS. It was released late last year and was the first game I received for Christmas and thus the first game I decided to play through. Revenant Wings is essentially a real-time strategy game on the small screen, something that is not attempted very often and especially not from a company like Square Enix. They do have plenty of experience with strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics, but surprisingly the game does not play like that at all. It's much more focused on split second decisions and fast action.
The game brings back most of the main characters from Final Fantasy XII and also integrates a few gameplay elements from its big brother. The game is also long, clocking in at around 40 hours depending on how many extra levels you want to play. This is pretty typical for a Final Fantasy game, but it seemed really long for a portable title! Thankfully though, the game is designed to be digested in small chunks, so it still works very well as a portable game. Here's the review for Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings (from now on this game will be called Revenant Wings and the PS2 original will be called Final Fantasy XII).
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a recent Nintendo DS release and the direct sequel to Wind Waker. It features cel-shaded graphics and complete control using the stylus, pressing buttons is entirely optional and you can only use them for shortcut keys anyway, no controlling Link. This probably makes Phantom Hourglass the most unique Zelda game in terms of control (even considering Twilight Princess), but other than that it is a pretty standard Zelda affair.
Phantom Hourglass picks up where Wind Waker left off, with you and Tetra sailing the high seas. Of course, something bad happens and we basically get a repeat of the opening of Link's Awakening (a game I always considered to be sort of a sequel to Wind Waker even though they were made 10 years apart with probably no intention of relating to each other). Anyways, the game focuses on exploring the four quadrants of ocean on a treasure hunter ship and saving your girlfriend. Treasure and women is usually a good combination and Wind Waker doesn't disappoint. There is a surprisingly amount of repetitiveness, however, as the game forces you to repeat a particular dungeon something like five or six times over the course of the game. This is the only part in which the Phantom Hourglass actually has any meaning and it just feels a little rushed and slopped together in this sense. Anyways, time for some scores out of 10.