Objection, This is Not a Game! A Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review

My lack of money always stops me from being the avid gamer I’d like to be, but I’ve always bought every game from the Phoenix Wright series. Once I heard there was a collab game with Professor Layton, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series follows the defense attorney, Phoenix Wright, as he covers different legal cases. In the older games he has an assistant, Maya Fey, who helps him throughout Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. They generally cover murder cases and will investigate crime scenes on their own. Whenever you’re not investigating, you’re cross examining witnesses in court to uncover the truth. The game is a text RPG (or visual novel), along with areas you can investigate/examine.

The Professor Layton series is about Professor Hershel Layton and his assistant, Luke Triton. They travel the world deciphering mysteries, helping people in need, and solving puzzles. Their adventures vary from saving ancient civilizations to helping locals with small problems. The game style is an exploration RPG mixed with random brain teasers and puzzles to solve.

You’d think these two games merged together would be something amazing, right? Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I’ve been putting off this article for months, wondering if I’d have a different opinion of the game over time, or if the after game content would soften the blow… but I just can’t like this game. The story wasn’t interesting, the game mechanics were frustrating, and the ending was horrendous. It’s possibly the laziest writing I’ve ever seen, and I’m hoping I never have to again. What really kills the game for me is the emotional and mental abuse the main female character goes through from her family.

Spoilers after the jump!

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Rin Plays: Scarlet Blade

(Warning: the images in this post are NSFW)

I planned to write an article on this MMO while I was still playing it. Unfortunately, it seems as though the honeymoon period with this piece of work was shorter than I anticipated. As such, let’s consider this a postmortem judgment on our time together Scarlet Blade, and no, we are never ever getting back together.

Scarlet-BladeScarlet Blade takes place in the distant future where regular humans have all but been wiped from existence and instead we have Commanders, Arkana, and the baddies. Arkana are perfect beings forged by the one called ‘Mother’ to bring peace to the planet, but working for peace also means working only off the filtered information Mother gives you. Those that choose to fight under Mother’s militaristic rule and her protection become members of the Royal Guards, while the revolutionaries who value freedom and autonomy over all else fight under the name of Free Knights. However, there is corruption and betrayal on both sides of which the Arkana must unravel.

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Hope the Game vs Tropes in Games

The climate surrounding video games today is characterized socially by the “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” series, which is digging ever more uncomfortably deep into the unsatisfying state of women in games. This leaves us all increasingly more aware of the universality of the problem. Part one of “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” is devoted to the Damsel in Distress, which is a theme investigated in a unique way by the new game Hope: The other side of adventure, developed by Mr. Roboto Game Studio (english translation.) By giving the player control of the princess locked in the tower, you are effectively locked in the tower with her. Continue reading

Greatness in Games

What makes a great game? It certainly takes a degree of technical excellence. Although the graphics and sound have to be of a high enough quality to be appealing, what is truly important is a cohesive aesthetic. A great game needs to be absent of game-breaking bugs, too. However, there are two things that really separate certain game from others: is the game enjoyable, and is the game meaningful? These are two very different things, so let us give them both a close look.

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Dark Souls: A Game You Should Care About

Tower NightThe time has come for me to talk about Dark Souls. It has been on the market for consoles for months, but the PC version only just dropped. Also, it became my new favorite game ever after several hours of play-time back in late April. Dark Souls is an action role-playing game developed by From Software as the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, 2009 Game of the Year. I believe Dark Souls is, more than just another great game, a significant and special game which all gaming fans should appreciate even if they don’t play it. It is aptly described as a massively multiplayer, online, single-player game. It is so challenging that its website is preparetodie.com, yet many fans impose progressively more constricting restrictions on themselves to make it harder. Although its Wikipedia page calls the plot minimalistic, Dark Souls features a highly complex and deeply developed plot which continues to generate spirited discussion. It’s a dark fantasy RPG that often feels like survival horror, yet it’s not trendy (maybe that one won’t make sense to anybody else, but I’m so sick of the topical dark fantasy and crappy survival horror that’s been everywhere recently). Because it is easy to describe it in such contradictory and complicated ways, what may be most surprising about Dark Souls is how simple and approachable it really is.

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Captain, You’re Needed on the Bridge

A few weeks ago, The PA Report posted an editorial about Artemis, a game which places you and your friends on the bridge of an interstellar spacecraft.  Check out the article HERE. If you’re a fan of Star Trek, cooperative games, or role-playing, you really need to check this out; trust me.

The game in action:

Craving a Relationship, I Turned to a Game

It’s a game without any definition of your character’s gender. It’s a game without any clarification of your character’s race. One of the most appealing aspects of games is the prospect of experiencing one of the epic adventures we read about or watch onscreen. Many times this experience is diluted in games and we never get attain that catharsis we seek. You should care about this game because it fulfills the promise of experience right down to the sensory and emotional levels. It’s a significant step forward for the medium because it is art; it is literature. It’s an interesting game, to say the least. Journey feels like, well, a journey.

Journey begins with you taking control of a character, apparently meditating or resting in a vast desert. My first impression left me feeling as though I was looking at a woman, but after playing for a small while I identified with the character so directly that she became a he, just like me. All you can see is a mountain in the distance and vast, desolate desert. You instinctively move towards the mountain, the correct direction, thanks to the perfect visual design. There is no instruction manual, no overt tutorial, and no explanation of what is going on. Indeed, the only facts you know are that you are alone, and you don’t know what is going on. This leaves you feeling uneasy about your environment, anxious for direction, and eager for help – just like you were wandering alone in a desert. The sand glistens in the bright sun. Things happen in this world that you don’t understand, and you only come to understand the rules that govern you in terms of what you can use to your advantage. As you become confident in your own abilities, anxiety about your survival disappears, and you journey on.

Since there is no explanation about what is going on, the short cut-scenes you view are welcome treasures, almost as though they are prophetic dreams giving you purpose while you rest. Eventually you see another wanderer just like you. This is another human playing the game online. Journey’s multiplayer, you see, works under the assumption that every player is connected to the internet. So, it pairs you with another individual when you are both at the same point in the game. You cannot interact with this individual; in fact you can’t speak or communicate with any language. Whether you join up or go your separate ways, your journey continues. I was so relieved to see someone else during my first play-through that I instinctively clung to my new, anonymous partner. Just as I had come to relate to my character as myself, I related to the other wanderer as another human being. The game can be played solo if you so desire, but, since the multiplayer component is additive and nonrestrictive, doing so limits your experience.

The visual presentation is done to perfection, and not just to the purpose of establishing setting, but even to narrative significance. The brazen sun and shimmering sand don’t make you feel hot sand in your toes and dry air in your lungs. Instead, the bright light from the sun makes everything blend together, and the sparkles in the sand give you reference. It all leaves you feeling very uneasy and confused. You loath the sun’s brightness and the endless ocean of sand, yet it is what you know best. This is how the setting and presentation become narrative, how you become the wanderer, and how you seamlessly acquire instincts befitting of yourself, the wanderer. Making cut-scenes a positive experience is no small feat, making you see a character on screen as a real human being is even greater, still. The journey is authentic. After completing a play-through, you contemplate your experience as though it were real. You search for meaning and context. What you don’t need to search for is satisfaction. Each journey feels complete, yet leaves you hungry to journey again. Oftentimes there is a real emotional connection with the other people you play with, and so the game graciously gives you an opportunity to communicate with your partners after the conclusion. The experience engrossed me so fully that my heart broke at the end when I realized I had in fact played with half a dozen separate people, and I began anew in the hopes of finding a partner to travel with from start to finish. Craving a relationship, I turned to a game.

Subtlety is perhaps the most aptly wielded tool by Journey. Without realizing it, I made emotional connections. Without realizing it, I searched for true meaning and found it. Without realizing it, I forgot about all boundaries of culture, race, gender, or otherwise. Devoid of even the slightest hint of any pretentiousness or presence of a soapbox, this game makes a powerful social statement. If you ask me, it achieves this by allowing the consumer to find the message within him or herself as opposed to scripting a lesson. This is why Journey matters; it is a significant mile-marker not only for games, but for narrative itself.

With a score of “Universal Acclaim” on Metacritic, it has been very well received. Journey was developed by ThatGameCompany and is the third and final game in fulfillment of a contract with Sony. As such, it is a Playstation 3 exclusive title. It comes after Flow and Flower, respectively, and is a wonderful capstone to this otherwise unrelated set of games. Feeling wholly natural, making profound statements, and expanding games’ possibilities, Journey fulfills that promise of games, to allow us to experience in ways impossible for any other medium.