Hold Onto Your Wallets!

Look out, everyone.

It looks like Steam is rolling out the sales over the next five days and every day will have a new batch of sales.

Just when I thought I’d finished spending money this year!

In My Hands – NSMB Wii & Friends

Dragon Age NSMB

NSMB Wii is awesome, even with a clumsy 5-year old in tow. I’m really enjoying the world of Dragon Age so I figure it’s time to dig into some of the history and lore of the game via the books.

2 Minute Review – Professor Layton & The Diabolical Box

Diabolical Box Art

The Professor and Luke are up to their wacky hijinks again!

Do: Unravel a mystery while solving close to 150 different logic puzzles.

Type: Puzzle/Adventure

Platform: Nintendo DS

Price: $29.99

PL2 Story Screen

Meat: As the sequel to last year’s puzzle/adventure game for the DS, Professor Layton & The Curious Village, Professor Layton & The Diabolical Box comes with some high expectations. You are tasked with guiding the titular Professor and his plucky assistant Luke through a rather substantial tale of murder, theft and intrigue as they attempt to find the Elysian Box, an artifact that kills any who dare open it. This is done by solving upwards of 130 different logic puzzles scattered throughout the tale. Some puzzles are random while some are integral to moving the story forward. Add to that a much larger variety of minigames and you are looking at a game that takes about 12 hours to playthrough with plenty of extra goodies to keep you coming back for more.

PL2 Puzzle Screen

Perks: The art design and music are a slice of whimsy and exotic flair in a world of games filled with too much gritty darkness. While the subject matter in Professor Layton & The Diabolical Box can be quite grim, there is always a sense of innocence about the proceedings. The puzzles in Diabolical Box are integrated into their surroundings much better than they were in the first game, with at least a hint of context given for each offering. Animated cutscenes are sprinkled liberally through the game and are a delight to watch. There has also been an improvement in the localization of the text clues for the word puzzles over the first game, which is a huge plus.

Screams: For a stronger resolution to the core plot. The game spends a lot of time weaving together several plot threads but then seems to rush the ending. The finale is still satisfying but the twists do seem to come out of nowhere and are resolved far too quickly for my taste.

Verdict: Buy. This is the middle game in a trilogy but the story is very self-contained with most of the allusions to the events of the first Layton game summed up nicely.

High Score – GET!

Google’s always awesome Gmail service just got a new theme and it is fantastic.

Just go into Settings, Themes and click on High Score to enjoy the pixels.

Behold your e-mail – High Score style!

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I Felt The Rains…

I couldn’t help myself. After months of resisting and with no idea exactly when the North American version will ship or how much it will retail for, I finally broke down and ordered Afrika, sorry, Hakuna Matata for the PS3.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the game, though most people seem to be of the mind that it is a game that is worth $25 rather than $60+. It should arrive sometime next week, so I’ll post some impressions when it makes it over the pond.

On my overflowing plate…

Sorry for the absence of late. I’ve had difficulty logging into the site since the update but that freed me up to play and purchase a pile of games.

I will have a review of Miami Law for the DS up soon and impressions of SMT: Devil Survivor, Class of Heroes and Crimson Gem Saga as well. I also plan to finish up Ghostbusters within the week and should have a review of the 360 version up soon.

I also want to take this time to bid a fond farewell to my old 19″ Viewsonic CRT monitor as it makes way for my new baby, a new LG 22″ widescreen!

In My (Electrified) Hands

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I sank about 3 hours or so into this last night and I didn’t want to stop. We’re doing something a little different around here though. Nat is going to be a goodie-two-shoes and I’m going to go full bore EVIL. Await our stories of fame and infamy in the coming weeks.

[2 Minute Review] Peggle: Dual Shot

Just when you thought it was safe to turn on your DS…

Peggle DS Logo

The ultimate digital crack is now portable.

DO: Clear all of the orange pegs.

TYPE: Pachinko Simulator

PLATFORM: Nintendo DS

PRICE: $19.99

MEAT: It’s Peggle on the DS with a smattering of extras and tweaks. For the uninitiated, Peggle is essentially pachinko (or Plinko from The Price Is Right) in digital form. You have a board full of blue, purple and orange pegs and blocks and the goal is to launch your ball from the top of the screen and clear all of the orange blocks. It’s an incredibly simple concept that Popcap has been able to tweak into something that rivals the addictiveness of a Vegas slot machine.

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Add to this a variety of characters who each have their own special power-ups, ranging from multi-balls to having the computer calculate the best angle of attack, and a slew of challenge boards, bonus modes and extra point modifiers and you have a game that will sink its claws into you for hours on end. Peggle DS has also added a Peggle Underground mode that lets you rack up even greater point totals by going into a bonus screen if you hit the new gold peg (which appears after clearing 5 purple bonus point pegs). Another interesting feature of Peggle DS is that you need only to hold your stylus on the screen for a few seconds and it will zoom in on the target area, giving you the ability to fine-tune your shots.

PERKS: New modes; contains both Peggle & Peggle Nights; Ode To Joy is still as satisfying as ever.

SCREAMS: For slightly crisper graphics… That’s about it.

VERDICT: Buy. It’s only $19.99 at most places (sometimes cheaper) and it’s one of the best cost-to-value purchases you can make. And this is coming from someone who already owns Peggle on the PC and XBLA.

Justin Bailey, Eat Your Heart Out

Samus Aran Statue
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Sign me up for one of these, thanks!

[2 Minute Review] Lux Pain

The first rule of Text Club: Don’t talk about Text Club.

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The second rule of Text Club: Don’t skimp on localization costs.

DO: Step into the shoes of a secret agent with telepathic powers tasked with unravelling a mysterious rash of suicides, assaults and other unsavoury behaviour in a sleepy seaside town.

TYPE: Interactive Visual Novel/Adventure

PLATFORM: NDS

PRICE: $29

MEAT: Lux Pain is a visual novel/adventure kind of game much like the Ace Attorney (aka Phoenix Wright) games. The story is a mostly linear affair and ‘gameplay’ consists almost entirely of reading text. That said, Lux Pain has a lot more of what is considered proper gameplay than most games of this nature, as you will have to use the DS stylus to scratch away the surface of the scene you are investigating at various times to try to find ‘worms’ that have infected the characters and environments. There is even a quasi-RPG element to the game, as faster you are at finding the worms, the more XP you will gain, which in turn gives you a bump up in a few different stats.

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The art style is fantastic, with a very anime feel to most of the visuals and characters that is quite reminiscent of Persona’s aesthetics. The characters who populate the town are quite well rounded, with unique personalities that are hard to forget and the intricate storylines that weave a web between most of the population help to keep you interested in the ultimate fate of every character. The music is also very well done, with a variety of themes that recur throughout the game but never wear out their welcome. There are even fully voiced and animated cutscenes sprinkled throughout the game that show that the production values on Lux Pain are definitely a step above the usual for a DS game.

Unfortunately, all of the promise of an intricate plot involving high school social life, teenage suicide, animal cruelty and the deep-seated emotional turmoil of a repressed society is severely hampered by the incredibly slip-shod translation and localization effort that the game received. There are a tonne of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and just plain manglings of the English language throughout the game. It never quite reaches the level of becoming unintelligible, but it comes pretty close at times. Add to this the fact that the English voice-overs rarely match the text bubbles on the screen and you’ve got a very jarring narrative unfolding. In a simple action game, this kind of oversight would have been forgivable but in a game that is almost exclusively based on reading and parsing out text-based clues, it can break the game for many people. There are also a few instances where new game mechanics or time limits are introduced but there is no indication that you could be a click away from a game-over screen until after the fact. Again, this is something that should have been addressed in the localization.

PERKS: A rich, dark, mature (in the true sense of the word) storyline; great characters; one of the best fake BBS message-boards ever to grace a game; a pile of interesting extras to unlock; about 20-22 hours of gameplay; the way that the shinen (thoughts) of the characters is displayed is fascinating; a meaty manual that explains the world of Lux Pain.

SCREAMS: For a translation and localization effort on par with that of similar games like the Ace Attorney series or the more recent Atlus USA localizations; better explanation of some of the game mechanics; resolution to a few of the plot threads that are left dangling at the end of the game.

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VERDICT: RENT. This was a very difficult game for me to give a final verdict to. It could have been on of those games that I’d be singing the praises for years from now due to its fascinating exploration of a lot of taboo subjects and the very quirky Japanese setting and feel of the game and would have easily given it a buy rating. Unfortunately, this is a genre that tends to be niche at best and most people won’t be willing to look past the mangled text to get to the delicious meat of the story. For the absolute fumbling of the fundamental portion of the gameplay, I feel that the game would deserve a pass. A rental would be the best way to decide if the good qualities of Lux Pain outweigh the bad.