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    Mar 2nd, 2008 at 03:08:49     -    Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

    Maybe I was a little too quick to recommending this game. Sure, it’s a good game but you see, I’ve been tricked. The first time that I put this game into my DS, I was simply shocked. I’ve had my DS for nearly 3 years so I thought I had seen all there was to see but the production values in this game are astonishing. The first cut scene shows you Luke and the professor as they journey to the St. Mystere. You’ll be charmed by the hand drawn characters and you’ll be shocked at how well the 3D objects interact with the 2D ones without feeling dramatically different. There are beautifully animated, hand-drawn cut scenes the move the story nicely along. Above all, the most surprising part of the game is certainly the voice acting. I have never seen such extensive voice acting in a DS game and the first 15 minutes of the games are entirely read aloud by the DS. It not only gives the characters more personality, the less I read, the better I feel. (You might be wondering how a point-and-click genre lover such as myself doesn’t like to read. It is indeed an oxymoron but I just wanted to let you know that it is possible.) But alas, I have been tricked by the game. While the first 15 minutes will show you 3 cut scenes, the other dozen are scattered throughout the game and voice acting disappear for the entire game, with the exception of those cut scenes, of course. Looking at the game as a whole, it has an amazing intro which leaves you wanting more, but you’ll be looking far and wide without finding it.

    There is another reason to applauded Level 5: their puzzles are well integrated with the story. Trying to find your way to St. Mystere? Solve a map puzzle! Trying to lower a bridge? Solve a puzzle about cogs! Trying to cross a river? Maybe there is a river-themed puzzle! There are also clock puzzles, cat puzzles, candy puzzles, hat puzzles, and even a filthy jar puzzle. It’s the fact that there are many different puzzles that keeps the game interesting and it’s the fact that they are related to the story that makes the two parts of the game feel like a cohesive whole.

    But let’s not forget the other part of the game: the puzzles. It seems appropriate to now introduce idea of picrats, Professor Layton’s point system that attempts to deter guessing while rewarding players for sharp, quick thinking. To some degree, it works well. If a player guesses for a puzzle but gets the problem right on his the second try, the player will be rewarded less picrats. If the player still cannot answer the problem after several tries, no more possible picrats will be deducted. It assures that players will come back to the puzzle. Imagine a player’s disappointment is he wasn’t rewarded for getting the right problem because he tried too many times. In this way, the reward system works well.

    Unsurprisingly about Professor Layton is the fact that it is a single-player game, like all other point-and-click adventures. This does not mean that game deters social interaction using the game as a common ground. Online, I have seen so many boards come together to offer hints to players of this game ass they talk about the possible answers and ones that have already been confirmed wrong. It is also noteworthy to mention that there are even Youtube videos showing the right answers and with hundreds of hits per each of these videos and the recorders promising to offer more, Professor Layton is incredibly social.

    Even on a local level, it is a social game. I was playing the game at the same time that my sister was and we were both having a wonderful time playing the game as 8 pm turned to 3 am in a blink. We were talking about the problems as we progressed and even traded the answers to a couple of problems (Is that cheating?). And though I had finished the game by the time that my roommate started, we would frequently talk a bout the puzzles. “Is the answer 3?” he would say to me. I would answer with “Maybe.” or “Did you remember to read the last line?” It’s conversations like these that prove that single player games still allow for social interaction which is certainly a plus for Professor Layton.

    In the end, I wholeheartedly recommend Professor Layton and the curious village. Sure, Nintendo could have been more on-task with it’s supposed promise of weekly downloadable puzzles, and Level 5 could have added more voice acting and cut scenes to the game, but these are just blemishes to the otherwise outstanding game that is Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Buy it, and you won’t regret it… or at least you’ll have me to blame, anyway.

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    Mar 2nd, 2008 at 02:19:34     -    Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

    The Professor Layton series has taken Japan by storm. Since its original debut in Japan nearly a year ago, it has gone to sell thousands of copies with Level 5, the game’s developer, turning Layton into a DS trilogy. Now the first game has reached Americans. Professor Layton and the Curious Village, one part story-driven point-and-click adventure and one part puzzler, is 100% fun for the Nintendo DS.

    I admit that I’ve always wanted to be a detective but reality has given me the occupation of a student. And so you can imagine the delight on my face as I played through this game. The story is very unique for a point-and-click game, and for narratives of video games as a whole. Professor Layton and his wide-eyed apprentice, Luke, explore St. Mystere in search for the Reinhold Golden Apple, an object never seen by the residents of St. Mystere. Its only mention was Baron Augutus Reinhold’s will, which promised his entire estate to the person who finds the mysterious object. True, the story starts slow, with the first objective being a fetch task. However, after that, players will dive deeper into the story which involves a murder and a kidnapping. And if that wasn’t puzzling enough, there’s always the architectural catastrophe at the center of town that is often referred to as “the tower”. For those who want a good detective story like myself, look no further then this game.

    In addition to the story, all the puzzles were well thought out with many presenting varied challenges. Some will involve careful reading, some test your visual thinking. There are matchstick puzzles, and weight puzzles, match puzzles, shape puzzles logic puzzles and so much more. The sheer variety will keep you on your toes and pressing further into the game. Some puzzle won’t leave you, even long after you’ve turned off the game and put down your DS. My favorite puzzle was one that asked how many times triple digits showed up on an AM/PM digital clock. It is hard and I won’t give you any hints here. Well, how about one: it’s not 11. That is all that I will say, but you’ll come to realize in a couple of hours how much you want to know the answer and you’ll understand why I kept coming back to the puzzles of this game. Even now, I feel like my incomplete puzzle haunt and taunt me.

    This is a good point for me to return back to the game...

    This entry has been edited 2 times. It was last edited on Mar 2nd, 2008 at 02:22:37.

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    Feb 17th, 2008 at 16:42:51     -    Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

    There is a unique state of adventure and curiosity that Super Mario Brother 3 is able to put its players in. Part of this is due to its level design. There is a sense of awe created by looking at the giant “?” blocks of World 4 and there is a sense of wonder for players that jump to and from floating winged red shells. The game rewards players for exploring the levels by providing shortcuts and special items for advanced players. The flute, an item that will warp players to later levels, can only be found in certain levels where the player must travel into typically unseen areas – only discoverable through immense exploration. This keeps the game continually interesting and adds much replay value into every stage.

    While I didn’t grab the attention of any bystanders, I can say that Super Mario Brothers 3 is a social game by the fact that many people have been exposed to it. Even a decade after its initial release, I can still invite friends over to play this game with me because they still fondly remember and still want to play the game. And even though one of my roommates despises the game, we can still hold a conversation about it. The fact that I can still talk about a nearly two decade old game makes it a highly social one.

    An aspect of the game that is particularly interesting is the game’s hub system. Prior to this Super Mario Brothers 3, few platformers used a hub system. Instead, these games had players traveling from level 1 to level 2, and from level 2 to level 3, and so forth in a very linear fashion. In Super Mario brothers 3, players are given the option of which level they want to play in the hub world. Of course, that is not to imply that the levels lose their linear feel. For example, in the first world, level 2 must be played after level 1 but after that, players are given the option to play either level 3 or 4 to reach an item or to bypass those levels completely. It is this sense of an open world that makes it unique compared to older platformers.

    Also innovative was Super Mario Brothers 3’s use of the camera. At that time, traditional platformers had camera systems that panned only left and right. Therefore, to allow for exploration of the 2nd cardinality, characters were displayed fairly small on the screen. The unique camera of Super Mario Brothers 3 allow for more detailed sprites without sacrificing the 2nd cardinality of play. As a matter of fact, the new upward scrolling camera allows the developers to further explore the potential of object is the sky and much higher then a simple jump. This new design aspect demanded a new ability, the raccoon tail, for players to fully explore the skies above – something impossible to pull off using the old camera.

    In the end, Super Mario Brothers 3 is a highly enjoyable game the never ceases to amaze me. There is no doubt that it was ahead of its time and is still fondly remembered today by many players, myself included. If you've never played this game before, you should.

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    Feb 17th, 2008 at 03:56:32     -    Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

    The year was 1990 and America was eagerly anticipating the third Mario – the one that promised new graphics and game play. Controlling the plumber who needs to save the princess yet again, players control a fully running, jumping, swimming and flying version of a character that they have already come to love. As a 2D platforming game, it remains one of the best. Even today, Super Mario Brothers 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System needs little introduction.

    Truth be told, the characters are not especially defined. Mario is, well, just playing that same plumber-saving-the princess role that he always was. The princess’ reason for being kidnapped is not explained and Bowser’s motives are as puzzling as they always were. Compared to games like Donkey Kong which make an honest attempt to tell the story in-game, the story of Super Mario Brothers 3 is disappointing, lacking and unoriginal.

    Unsurprisingly, the very first enemy that Mario encounters is a goomba and to destroy the goomba, Mario once again must jump and land on it. An introduction like this makes one assume that Mario hasn’t changed since his last adventure, but that would be wrong. So much has changed. For example, the reward system has been redefined to motivate players through every step of the game. In addition to simple rewards like coins and basic power-ups from previous games, Mario can now hold power-ups in his inventory and collect cards to gain one-ups. Rewards are scattered throughout each level and are plentiful enough as to keep players interested and challenged throughout the game. With so much positive feedback, players won’t be able to put down the controller until the credits for the game finish rolling.

    Let’s face facts: most people know who Mario is. To live in the 90’s was to live in Mario’s era. Mario was plastered onto everything that we loved: cereal, cartoons, bed sheets, backpacks, and even window curtains, to name a couple of things. There is a reason why Americans were once obsessed with Mario and that reason is the excellent gameplay of his video games. Look back on this game, its ability to differentiate between walking and running, something that would normally seem trivial in a video game, is worth noting. It is important that unlike more modern games which use analog control sticks for more accurate walking controls, this game used a simple directional pad as was standard at the time. Yet, Super Mario Brothers 3 featured a walking system that was so advanced and precise that it makes controlling Mario second nature. It even featured a meter to display how fast the player was moving. It’s a eye for detail that made this game simply amazing.

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    1Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS)Stopped playing - Got frustrated
    2Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)Playing
    3Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)Playing
    4Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)Playing
    5Wii Play (Wii)Played occasionally


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