Tag Archives: exploration

Review: The Legend Of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass (DS) ~ My first DS game

the_legend_of_zelda_phantom_hourglass_game_coverWikipedia entry

This game has a very special place in my heart. I love the Zelda series and Nintendo’s handhelds. In my eyes, they couldn’t do anything wrong. So, when the DS was released, I waited until the upgraded DS Lite was released  to buy it. My first game was this game. But, does it still hold up today? If you are a fan of the Legend Of Zelda series, should you play this game? Well, let’s take a lot at this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The Ocean King Temple

phantomhourglass_sslg4.jpg

While sailing with Tetra and her crew, you are talking about a ghost ship that’s sailing the seas. Wouldn’t you know it, you run into said ghost ship. Tetra jumps from her ship to the ghost ship. After you hear her scream, you want to you over the ship’s railing to try and rescue her. But, you fall into the water. A fairy awoke you and your adventure began. Your objective is to save Tetra from the ghost ship.

The story is refreshing in my opinion. Since it breaks from the usual Zelda story where you need to save Zelda from Ganon. In fact, Ganon only gets introduced in the opening. When the story of The Wind Waker is recapped.

In any case, the story consists out of two main quests. But, I’m not going to spoil them. Both quests take you on a big adventure and prepare you for the big final battle on the ghost ship.

The writing in this game is perfect in my opinion. I wouldn’t change anything about it. But I didn’t expect less from Nintendo. When I first played this game, I played some parts of the ghost ship late at night. I was supposed to be sleeping, but it was in the middle of the holidays. That night, I had nightmares. The story pulled me in that much. And the fact that I remember an event from almost 10 years ago, is saying something about the game.

If you talk to people who have played this game, a common complaint comes up. That’s the Ocean King temple. It’s a nice idea in concept, but it was done a lot better in Spirit Tracks. It’s a central temple you go through to get a new part of the ocean map. Yet, you have to redo the temple several times making it boring from time to time. Thankfully, some floors had shortcuts with newly acquired items. While the puzzles in this temple are great, the central dungeon in the sequel  had one major upgrade. You could skip to the last floor easily.

Draw on that map

gfs_74258_2_2The controls are not perfect. If you are used playing Zelda games with a controller in hand or by pressing buttons, you will be in for a surprise. Apart from some functions, this game is fully controlled with the touch screen. You can swap between the screens by tapping down on the direction pad. It does take some getting used to, but as a right-handed person, it works. But, it’s a bit awkward to control sometimes. Also, I had issues trying Link to roll. I wasn’t always able to roll him out of harm’s way, which lead to some cheap damage. But that might be just me.

So, in this game, you can make notes on your maps. A feature that returns in a few other Zelda games that followed. This is really helpful since you don’t have to remember sequences or where a certain treasure is buried. You can even find an unmapped island, where you have to draw your own map. This island has a special reward on it, so look for it while you are sailing on the wide sea.

So, you have two major gameplay sections. Firstly, I want to talk about the boat sections. While exploring the endless ocean can be relaxing and fun from time to time. I sometimes wished that the boat you sail on was a speedboat. In my opinion, it goes slow from time to time. Yet, if it had a speedboat feature, some parts of the story wouldn’t have been possible.

You can upgrade your boat by finding parts in dungeons or in caves. Well, honestly, customize the look for your ship. The more you had of a kind, the more hearts your ship has. Your ship gets automatically repaired as soon as you dock at an island. The sailing gameplay works similarly to the gameplay in the Wind Waker. You can jump, shoot cannonballs and similar things. You can also fish for fish and sunken treasure. The fishing mini-game for sunken treasure is different from the mechanic in the Wind Waker. In this mini-game, you have to avoid obstacles and guide your grabbling hook down to the bottom and back up.

The second gameplay part is the exploring of islands and the dungeons. Each area has two major dungeons. Apart from the Ocean King temple, I greatly enjoyed this part of the game the most. The puzzles were creative and they forced me to use some old-school Zelda items in new and interesting ways. It also has a puzzle that took me too long to figure out. One that is solved by a mechanic of your DS itself. That’s all I’m going to say.

Look at that

screen-1For some reason, when I got this game all those years ago, I was convinced that this was a port of The Wind Waker to handhelds. But, now I know that it’s set in the same universe. Visually, this game gives off a Wind Waker-vibe. And it honestly works amazingly well on the DS. I played this game on the DS Lite and on the 3DS. The game doesn’t look dated in my opinion now-a-days, if you have some love for retro games.

The world is colorful and bright. The color pallet makes the world pop even more. While some character models look a bit sharp and early 3D with a lot of polygons, I honestly don’t mind it. This game is eye-candy in my opinion. And the animation is even better. Before this game, I used to play the 2D Zelda games, and seeing everything animated in a 2,5D was amazing. And when the 3D cut scenes came on, man, I couldn’t stop watching them.

The soundtrack for this game is good yet… There were a few tracks that really got on my nerves if I listen to them for an extended period of time. But, these moments were so far and few, I’m not going to fault the game for it.

The sound design of this game really shines when you play this game with a good pair of headphones. Together with the visuals and the soundtrack, it helped to pull me into the game even more.

If you are a veteran Zelda player, this game isn’t too difficult. Yet, to first time Zelda players, this game might be difficult here and there. I think I have died 10 times tops in my whole playthrough. So, yeah. Most of the challenge lies in the puzzles you have to solve.

So, this game also has multiplayer. And I highly recommend it! It’s a lot of fun and it can be really hectic. It’s a two player game. One player controls phantoms and another player controls Link. Link’s goal is to try and get as many gems in the safe zone as possible. The phantom’s goal is to stop Link from doing just that. If you get Link gets hit by a phantom, you have to swap sides.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time to wrap up this review with the conclusion and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Great art for the DS.

+ Good soundtrack and sound design.

+ Great design.

+ Lovely story and writing.

+ Great puzzles and items.

+ Great multiplayer

+ …

The bad:

-Sailing can be boring sometimes.

-The Ocean Temple could have been so much better.

-The controls aren’t for everyone and need to get used to.

Final thoughts:

When I got my DS back in 2007, I got this game as a bonus present. I tried to avoid being nostalgia-blinded in this review, but I failed in my opinion. I played and replayed this game a lot. It’s one of the favorite DS games ever made.

While I admit that this game has flaws, I had an amazing time with this game. The flaws didn’t hinder my personal experience with the game too much. But, I can understand that some gamers are going to have less fun with this game today. Personally, I highly recommend this game to everyone who loves the handheld Zelda games since it’s a blast to play. There are a lot of collectables to keep you going after you finished the main story.

Also, if you want to play or replay this game… This game can be easily found as a eShop download on the Wii U! Just saying. You can easily start playing this game.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing this one. Thank you for reading this review and I hope to be able to welcome you another time on my blog. Have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

First Impression: Venture Forth (PC) ~ Alpha Peek

logoOfficial website

First of all, this is an impressive project. This game is made by a small indie developer and has been in development for over two years. They mailed me because they wanted me to take a look at this game after I wrote about Delver. Since this game is in the same style, they thought I might be interested in it. Indeed, I am. While it took me a while to take a look at this game since I was extremely busy, I finally found the time recently. So, let’s dive right into Venture Forth. This article is written on an unfinished build of the game, this is also mostly meant to hype the game a bit and give some feedback to the developers. Ready, let’s go! Alpha build of the 4th July, here we come!  (And as usual, feel free to give me a comment with your opinion of this game and/or the content of the game.)

Warning: This game is in one of my favourite genres. Also, I wasn’t able to make time to write this article, so I had to push it back for almost two months. And also, when I’m asked to write an article, I try to give the best feedback possible. So, prepare yourself for a longer article then you are used of me.

What needs more work?

Labyrinth 2015-03-02 00-47-36-09

The developer said to me that some of the visuals are place holders. So, I’m not going to talk too much about that. While I honestly think that some items and 3D textures look mighty fine already, others like a potion is just an arrow in this current build.

Most likely, the fact that we are missing a menu for options like key-bindings, starting a new game and all that is something that is still in development. If it’s not, please would it be possible to give the player the option to change how they want to control the game? I live in one of those weird keyboard countries where the lay-out of my keyboard is not qwerty, but azerty.

An annoying bug I found in the game is that when you want to switch from full screen to windowed mode, it kept running in full screen. This game uses the usual enter+alt method, which is no big deal. But they might want to look into this bug. Hopefully it’s not because of my own made pc.

This is just a feature suggestion of mine. The map is set up quite interestingly, but what if you give each area a different colour on the map. Makes it easier to see which area ends where. Just a minor thing.

Something that’s not that minor is the lack of lighting in some areas. Don’t read me wrong, I think it’s nice that they went for the realistic approach and make the areas where natural light can’t come through, it’s extremely dark. But when you use a torch, it gives off barely enough light to even properly navigate the dungeon. The area “The Nest” was a perfect example of this.

Labyrinth 2014-10-22 02-49-56-15I could complain about the lack of a tutorial yet, the game controls and plays like any other typical dungeon game. One thing I think they should really change and that is the starting area. You start out having to jump down a ravine. Not once, but if I recall correctly, about three times, you loose some health and this will set off a handful of players to not play the game. It’s not really inviting and it gives the game the first impression of using cheap tricks. At least in my opinion.

Same with some puzzles. This game uses a few puzzles where you barely get any hints. Without spoiling too much, let me tell you. When you are stuck and have nowhere to go, try a staff. It took me way too long to figure this out. I’m not saying it wasn’t rewarding to find this out, but a subtle hint when you enter the area would be nice. But really subtle. In the current version of the game, it was a nearly see-through wall. Hinting that there is something at the other side. But before you got there, it was a long hallway. Maybe put in the rocks an image that looks like the staff somewhere in that hallway? That’s what I mean with subtle, something you wouldn’t notice or easily miss.

Before I move on to the more positive parts of the game, I want to talk about something that won’t help with the first impression as well. The first enemies you encounter are a bit too strong in my taste. Actually, that’s just a nitpick, since if you know what you are doing, the enemies can be quite the pushovers.

What is already good?

Labyrinth 2015-06-04 19-04-46-54

I’m not going to give criticism on the music. Well, honestly, the ambient music that’s playing in the background. The reason is that it helps building the atmosphere quite well. That there is only one melody/track that plays, I can understand. It’s an Alpha after all. If they weren’t planning to add some more music, then a problem could arrive. Some players would get annoyed by the repetitive music and this would turn up as a negative in various reviews.

Earlier I talked about the map system. As a fan of these style of games, I could start complaining about the difficulty to see rooms and all that… Honestly, I think the map is one of the best features in this game. It’s a fully 3D view of the world you play in. It also shows some hidden things in the map, most likely put there from the developer to control the game. (read: spawning enemies or helping with the lighting of an area.) Which is a really cool touch.

That the enemies aren’t shown on the map is something I’m on the fence about. On one hand, you could say it’s annoying since you can’t plan your strategy. On the other hand, it really helps build fear into the game. You never know if an area is safe to cross or not.

The game runs quite smooth already. I got a steady 60fps, which is quite nice. The sound effects are actually perfect for this game. There weren’t many sound effects I would change. I would add a few here and there like for when an enemy switches equipment.

Yes, that’s a thing. Later in the game, the enemies will switch weapons. Long range combat, they will use a bow. Short range? Well, prepare for a sword fight. In this game, you can also prepare a few load-outs. Choose carefully though, since this game doesn’t offer an inventory system. So, that means, when you want to use your potions, you will have to use a load-out. You can also equip two items and armour. Logical, since we only have two hands. This is the reason why you need to plan out your strategy quite well.

Labyrinth 2015-05-10 05-04-07-93

So, the actual controls are mighty smooth. While I think they should add a run button in the full release, the aiming and such is extremely nice for an alpha. Also, this game would benefit from a crouch move where you can’t fall off ledges, like in Minecraft.

I think I talked about everything I wanted to talk about so it’s time to wrap up this article.

Conclusion

I really love where the game is going. I understand that this game is still in alpha and needs some polishing. But truth to be told, the base game is there. The core idea is present and it puts a new spin on exploration. It’s not simply a clone or just an explorer game. It tries to do something new with the different load-outs you can easily switch between and the amazing map.

It can become a great game, if they worked on expanding the first impressions that the game gives you. If I would give it a score in it’s current state, while keeping in mind that it’s an alpha build, it would be around a 7/10.

Thanks for letting me play this game, I actually enjoyed myself. Don’t be afraid to send me a review copy when it’s fully released guys, I will for sure write a full review about it then.

Anyway, I think I will leave it at that for this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed preparing and writing it. And please, give their official site a look, they deserve it.