Posts Tagged ‘DS’

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review

It starts with a murder. Yours, to be precise. You wake up dead one night in the role of Sissel, a snappy dresser with wonderful hair, who has just been murdered but has no memory of his former life. Quickly Sissel learns that his life is not the only one in danger and he only has until dawn the next day to figure who killed him and why. Fortunately, Sissel has the ability to manipulate the objects around him, but will this be enough to crack the case?

It’s been a long time since master storyteller Shu Takami burst onto the scene with the Game Boy Advance classic Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, but now he’s back, with an all-new tale to tell. The difference this time around is that it’s not set in the courtroom.

As with its spiritual brothers in the Ace Attorney series, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a very wordy game. For a DS title, it’s got possibly one of the longest scripts going, as each chapter provides its own mystery that needs solving, as well as adding an enormous chunk to the overall mystery of the game. Luckily, as with anything written by Shu Takami, the dialogue is a total joy to behold. Cast members come alive through the subtle differences in their speech patterns and the always-brilliant character design to a spellbinding degree. A particular favourite is comic foil Lynne provides an excellent backbone to Sissel’s metaphysical discussions, bringing the comedy double-act so dearly loved in the Ace Attorney franchise in a new direction.

Backing up the marvellous writing is some of the best character animation ever seen on the DS. Every single character has their own unique way of walking and interacting with other people, from the flamboyant poses of Inspector Cabanela to the panic-stricken dancing of the Prison Guard. Even the singular appearance of the police chief is livened up by an amusing animation, and it all combines to form a world of humorous and bizarre immersion.

Happily, there’s also a heck of a lot more gameplay in this tale, thanks to Sissel’s excellent titular Ghost Tricks. Because Sissel can only possess objects within a certain range, you often need to get smart about how exactly you move around. One early chapter sees you quickly learning the ropes by unfolding a bed, rolling a tire down a ramp and using a gust of breeze from a fan to your advantage. Items are displayed on the top screen, along with the specific way that they can be manipulated. The tough part is figuring out how to use that to your own advantage.

The real meat of the game is the task of preventing the unnecessary deaths of Sissel’s companions. Any time Sissel enters a new area, there’s a good chance that he’s just missed a murder or an accident or possibly both. This presents Sissel with the opportunity to go back in time to four minutes before the death and try to figure out how to stop it from happening. The earlier chapters ask very little of you – move item A so that item B never connects, and so on – but later chapters revel in forcing you to race against the clock, often squeezing your efforts into those final few seconds in order to make a last minute adjustment. It’s an intense experience that will sucker you in completely and make you think about a huge number of things simultaneously.

While the game is a cracking successor to Ace Attorney and a worthy title in its own right, there are a number of minor complaints. The game has a habit of holding your hand far too much when it doesn’t need to, before dropping you in the deep end and forcing an irritating amount of trial-and-error into the harder sections. It’s also a bit of a shame that the plot – so carefully constructed, so brilliant and so damn mysterious – goes completely bonkers for the final third of the game. It’s not as distracting as, say, the final case of Trials and Tribulations, nor is it as annoyingly drawn-out as the finale of Ace Attorney Investigations, but it does derail the reality of the story up until that point.

In summary, Ghost Trick will be loved by anyone who enjoyed the Ace Attorney games. It’s also a lot more accessible, thanks to the increased presence of actual gameplay instead of hours of dialogue. In short, it’s a fun, satisfying game with a compelling mystery and some fantastic characters. Recommended.



Iron Man 2: The Videogame (DS) Review

Ah, games of films. They’re always around when you need them and nine times out of ten they’re a big load of bum droppings. Mercifully, Iron Man 2: The Videogame (subtitle added in case you thought the film had accidentally been released on DS) continues this gloriously crap tradition.

In the film, Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark teams up with James ‘War Machine’ Rhodes to overcome the combined might of Ivan ‘Whiplash’ Vanko and power-mad weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer. In the game, Iron Man and War Machine split up to take on lots and lots of identical robots to stop ULTIMO, an evil supercomputer. So about as close to the film as gargling camel sweat is to making music (and about as enjoyable an experience.)

There is a story in here somewhere but, to be honest it’s so awful your brain will escape from your ears to avoid taking it in. Just enjoy the heavily-pixellated mug of Samuel L Jackson and try not to read the terrible dialogue.

Playing the game is like slamming your hands in a car door, only not as rewarding. As Iron Man, you fly left-to-right, destroying grey robots via the button controls. As War Machine, you fly left-to-right on the same levels, destroying the same grey robots but with touch screen controls instead. Die and you’ll play a touch screen game of dot-matching to carry on, something that’s irritating as hell when you’re playing as Iron Man.

There are plenty of secrets lurking in the levels (good luck navigating their appalling design, though), such as the completely useless comic book covers, unnoticeable suit damage upgrades and bonus outfits from the characters’ long history. None of them make slightest bit of difference to the game at all and the visuals are so ugly that it’s hard to tell any of the suits apart.

Also, as a reward for defeating certain numbers of enemies, you unlock combat simulation challenges where you, um, get to destroy more of the same enemies. Thanks?

Completing the levels gives you points to spend on moderately useful attack upgrades. While the features for Iron Man are complete rubbish, War Machine’s upgrades actually make a difference to the gameplay. In fact, there’s so much more thought gone into War Machine than Iron Man that the game should be called ‘big grey robot smackdown’.

All in all, Iron Man 2: The Videogame is pure bollocks. Playing as War Machine is the closest thing you’ll find here to something resembling mildly interesting. The rest of the game is a fun-sucking, soul-destroying harpy of a game. Go and watch animals get hit by cars instead – it’s just as depressing and much cheaper.


Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

The Ace Attorney series is notable for two things – firstly, it made the jump from being an obscure Japanese Game Boy Advance game to a global DS phenomenon. Secondly, after four games in the franchise, it hasn’t updated its core gameplay mechanics at all. Well, that’s all about to change now for the fifth game in the franchise, as you finally get to take control of one of the series’ most likeable personalities: prosecutor Miles Edgeworth.

This time the action centres around five cases, all of which have a hidden thread tying them all together, as you jump back and forth in time to unravel a complex mystery that haunts both Edgeworth and his new assistant, Kay Faraday. Along the way, some familiar faces crop up, including Detective Gumshoe and Franziska Von Karma. As the body count rises and the killers get more devious, both the player and Edgeworth are going to need all their combined mental prowess to crack the cases.

Of course, ‘mental prowess’ refers to one of the many changes to the usual formula in this new instalment. Instead of just blundering through an accusation like a certain defence attorney, Edgeworth has ‘Logic’, the ability to collect certain bits of information and pair them up to open new trains of thought. Unfortunately, this never gets any more complex than matching ‘there’s a key on the hook’ with ‘there’s a locked door’.

In addition to this is the new third-person perspective on the unfolding case. Instead of the normal first person lawyering (FPL?), you can now walk Edgeworth around a crime scene and gather evidence. It is, admittedly, very jarring to see legs for the first time in the series and some characters look downright weird in the new animation angle (the judge, in particular). It does add just enough onto the game to be classed as a new feature, but only just – while you will have a lot of time to investigate, you’ll spend several hours more watching the animations as they chatter away in the series’ trademark brilliantly scripted puzzles.

The game is as lovingly crafted as all the others have been, with the right mixture of humour, character and contradictions laced into the reams of text as well as any other title in the series. In fact, this might be the best scripted game of the lot so far. What does make it disappointing is that, for every new feature added, something else has been taken out.

While exploring the crime scene in more detail is a great new idea, all the touch screen and microphone features established in the last game have been discarded, as well as the crime scene recreations and video introductions. Testimonies and cross-examinations are now ‘arguments’ and ‘rebuttals’ – not that it makes a jot of difference to the gameplay – and the character animations are the same as the old GBA versions. Even the music is original series’ bleeps and blorks instead of the silky DS remixes. In addition, the murderer never makes it to court, meaning that you spend all your time at the crime scene, looking at things and pointing fingers. While it makes for a refreshing change of pace, there is still the overwhelming sensation that it feels less like justice and more like a witch hunt.

Perhaps what’s most disappointing about the prosecuting experience is that it doesn’t actually feel any different. As a prosecutor, your job is to accuse people of crimes and prove it was them, but before that, someone else will be arrested and you end up trying to clear them. For a prosecutor, you do a suspicious amount of defending.

As for finally controlling Edgeworth himself, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. While Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice were both underdogs, Edgeworth is somehow too perfect, with his own train of thought only sometimes meshing with the player’s own. You’ll either be three steps behind him or one in front – the bond between player and protagonist seems slightly off.

That isn’t to say that it’s not a good game, because it really is. Like the rest of the entries in the Ace Attorney series, Investigations is chock full of stunning revelations, incredible plot twists and jaw-dropping conclusions. It even manages to ditch its longest-running gameplay flaw – this time around, it’s actually very difficult to get helplessly stuck, thanks to a crafty script and intelligent puzzles.

Investigations, like the previous four games, isn’t going to be for everyone. In fact, if you’re not already a fan of the series, this side story instalment is probably going to be the most difficult to get into of the lot. It’s perfectly enjoyable, deliciously humorous, mentally taxing and beautifully written, which makes it all the more disappointing that it isn’t the series evolution we were promised.

78 %

GTA: Chinatown Wars Review

Rockstar’s last attempt at the world of handheld car stealin’, drug dealin’, civilian killin’ fun was the technically-brilliant-if-far-too-short PSP (and later PS2) Vice City Stories. Continuing the theme of big console releases making playtime for their smaller counterparts comes GTA: Chinatown Wars.

While not initially as impressive as the PSP releases, it is definitely in a league all on its own in terms of Rockstar’s mastery of the DS hardware. The Liberty City familiar from the massively overhyped GTA IV serves as the main hub for all your criminal doings, while the perspective has changed the classic bird’s-eye-view as seen in the early GTA games. The scope of the city is incredible – individual locations memorable from the last tour are all present and correct (save for the ‘haunted swingset’) and the entire premise has been completely redesigned around the DS’ touchscreen capabilities.

Cars can be hotwired in any of three different ways – unscrew the dashboard and connect the wires, stick a screwdriver in the keyhole and turn it on or even by connecting a computer to the security system and stopping the numbers as they flash by to hack the alarms. Explosive weapons can be thrown by tapping the icon and flinging it away with the stylus. Tattoos can be drawn on, cards can be scratched, Molotovs filled at gas stations, the list goes on. Just about the only thing you can’t do is chop up crack with a credit card and inject it directly into your character’s eyeball.

You play as Huang, a Chinese immigrant on the way to deliver a sacred family heirloom (a sword won in a card game) to Uncle Lee, who has taken over the Triad family in the wake of Huang’s father’s recent assassination. Unfortunately for Huang, he is robbed, shot and left for dead in the worst place in America… Liberty City.

From there the game delights in giving you an outlandish number of absurd missions and, while most of them involve driving, none of them are ever dull or repetitive. This is a massive contrast to IV, where seemingly every mission required ten minutes of driving to the opposite end of the map for one gunfight, followed by another lengthy drive home. This time, it’s all about the game and the fun. One moment you’re gunning down a drug lord on his boat, the next you’re dropping bombs on groups of suspected informers from a helicopter. The only real flaw to the game is that the gun’s aiming scheme chooses to aim at the closest person to you, even if that means you’re firing into a wall while a goon blows off the back of your head from a few feet away.

The world is so vast and stuffed with so many things to do that you’ll be playing long after the credits roll. In fact, the moment the game does come to its close is a real downer – the story is so good and the characters so brilliantly scripted it feels a massive shame to let it end. But end it must, and if there’s any justice in the real world, the DS will get many more truly excellent GTA games.