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First Impression: Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katerielle and the Millonaires’ Conspiracy (3DS) ~ Miss Layton

layton lady katrielle mystery journey.jpgWikipedia page

To be honest, when I first heard about the release of this game, I thought that Level5 was going to port the Android spin-off Layton Brothers to the 3DS. Since it has a similar concept. A team that solves smaller cases as a detective and try to solve crimes. Yet, to my surprise, the story of this game goes about the daughter of the famous professor Layton, named Katrielle. While the game first released on mobile devices, I played the 3DS version. I’m used to be playing Professor Layton games on the 3DS, so why change that if I knew that a 3DS version was coming. Since I haven’t played the mobile version, that means I won’t be talking about it in my first impression here either. So, I think it’s time that I talk about this game, is it a good entry into the Layton franchise or is it a spin-off that should only exist one time? As usual, feel free to leave your opinion on the article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

It’s Miss Layton now

Laytons-Mystery-Journey-Katrielle-and-the-Millionaires-Consipracy-Screenshot-01.jpgIn this game, you play as Katrielle, Layton’s daughter. She just opened a mystery solving shop in London and she is awaiting her first mysteries to solve. Her motto is “any mystery solved”. Together with her assistant named Ernest, you come across a talking dog. Katrielle gives the talking dog a name, Sherl. Yes, as a reference to Sherlock Holmes. The strange thing is that not everybody can hear Sherl talking. Katrielle’s first mystery is trying to solve why that is. Yet, it doesn’t take long before the first case reveals itself and Katrielle gets distracted by solving that. Not too soon after, Katrielle, Ernest, and Sherl go on different adventures to solve cases.

The writing in this game is very lighthearted and a joy to read. I really enjoy how Katrielle does anything for food, how Ernest is the clumsy romantic and Sherl the dog that knows a lot about how humans live their daily lives. The story can take itself seriously when it needs to, but overall, this is a less serious entry into the series compared to the previous games in the series. I’m currently at the 5th case in the game, so it’s possible that it can change. But, we shall see. The voice acting on the characters is also amazing. I think that the cast did an amazing job voicing these characters and make them come to life. A gold star for that!

I do have one minor complaint about the naming of certain characters in the game. The word puns in some cases made me cringe a bit. They didn’t feel creative, they felt forced in. Like, there was a couple where the lady was called Vic and the male called Tim. There were a bit more names like that and it didn’t click with me. I felt that more day-to-day names like Marc, William, Sara, Marian would be fitted better.

The story is structured in such a way that it more resembles a Saturday morning anime. Each case doesn’t take too long to solve, but each case has a nice start, middle and finale. During the case, you gather clues, that you have to fit in a puzzle. While this puzzle is extremely easy to make, I think it’s a step up from the previous Layton games since it’s more than a button that unlocks in a menu.

I do have one complaint about the story actually. I feel like the focus on the backstory of Sherl is a bit too much pushed to the background in the first cases. For real, the twist the game starts with about Sherl didn’t go anywhere substantial in the first four cases. If it did, I must have missed it.

Layton at its core

Laytons-Mystery-Journey-Katrielle-and-the-Millionaires-Consipracy-Screenshot-02While this game has a different main cast, the gameplay of this game is still the usual Layton gameplay at its core. In this game, you solve brain teasers and puzzles to get information from people. There are over 150 puzzles in this game. While you don’t have to solve them all to beat the game, there are some points in the game where you need to solve a certain amount of puzzles in order to progress. In this case, the game will clearly state how many you need to solve.

As I said earlier, this game is all about solving mysteries and finding clues to solve that mystery. Like I said before, the game is pretty lighthearted, so the mysteries aren’t; well how shall I put it? A missing pet or a missing part of a movie, that is the two of the first four cases. Yeah, I think that explains itself. So, you have to explore the London to find clues to what happened and how to solve the case.

While you are exploring, you can go to various locations and each location has various things to do. Exploration is just traveling from screen to screen. Sometimes you will have to ride a bike to another remote location, but that is about it. Also, you can only go to screens you unlocked. What I mean by this is that when for example, a lady on street tells you that your client lives a bit more down the road, the map opens up to that location.

This is how exploration always worked in the Layton games. Yet, you can do a lot on each screen. You can find hidden collectibles or puzzles, hint coins, progress the story or get interesting commentary about the object you tapped on. I really advise you to look at each screen with a lot of attention since all those things can be handy in solving the future cases. Especially the hint coins, if you can collect them, that’s always a great idea.

If you have played Layton games before, most hiding spots of the hint coins won’t be a surprise to you. Otherwise, try to tap on everything and it won’t take long before you will start to understand how this whole system works. So, why are these hint coins so handy? Well, let me tell you. You can get a hint when you are stuck in solving a brain teaser. Believe me, some will get you stumped and make you think. A great advice from me is to have a pen and notebook handy and maybe a calculator too.

While you can take notes and draw on the touchscreen while you solve the puzzle, I always felt that this system didn’t work flawlessly. If you want to input an answer, you have to exit out of your notes. In addition to that, I love writing my thoughts more on paper or on a bigger screen than the 3DS’s screen to solve puzzles.

The puzzles that you can solve in this game will range from math riddles to mazes you will have to solve. If you are stuck, don’t hesitate to think outside of the box. Since a lot of answers will simpler then you think. Something I didn’t like about this game is something that Level5 stopped doing in the previous entry in the Layton series. In the first games in the series, they explained the answer. In this game, they don’t always do that. So, when I didn’t understand why I had to answer in a certain way, I was disappointed to see a simple screen saying “you do it!” and nothing more.

Compared to previous Layton games, this game has also some side quests you can perform. During your exploration, you come across various characters who give you a new puzzle that is saved in Katrielle’s trunk. Like a puzzle where you need to solve a maze with the least amount of steps and finding the perfect meal with a cryptic description. Actually, I wouldn’t call them side quests, I think a better name is a side activity or a side puzzle.

Each puzzle is worth a certain amount of picards. The side puzzles aren’t worth any picards. So, what do these picards do? Well, the more you earn, the more bonus material you unlock after finishing the game. So, try to gain as much picards if you can. Since, if you give a wrong answer to a puzzle, the number of picards you earn from that puzzle drop. Keep that in mind if you want to unlock everything.

Visual eye-candy

lady layton 2.jpgThe visual presentation of this game is just amazing. This game has some amazing artwork and is a real piece of visual eye-candy to look at. While the game doesn’t use 3D that often, or at all, I think I can’t decide which art style I like the best for the game. The overall game is 2D, but the character models are rendered in 3D. While in cutscenes, everything is in 2D. I think the screenshots will explain it better than I can with words.

But, there is one thing that I didn’t like about the presentation and that are the cutscenes. To be honest, most cutscenes are just too short. Some cutscenes aren’t longer than one sneeze and blowing your nose. This is a shame since the cutscenes look so well made. I really wish there were longer cutscenes to enjoy. I feel that they are just an afterthought, while they feel like a nice reward for finding a breakthrough or solving the case.

The music for this game is enjoyable as well. The soundtrack isn’t one where I would listen to when I’m doing other things, but it adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game and I have no complaints about that. The music really fits the Layton universe perfectly, if you didn’t know better, you would say that it’s a soundtrack from another Layton game earlier in the series. The sound design also feels right at home. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, when they are used, they are used to give the world a bit more life or the story a bit more punch.

Like previous Layton games, this game also has daily puzzles. But this time, I feel that the reward is better for solving them. As you might know, I’m a game collector and I love seeing artwork from the games I played. So, when you solve a daily puzzle, you will get museum points. If you get 100 museum points, you can unlock artwork from any of the previous titles. This is such a great feature since it pulls on my nostalgic strings so much. To be honest, I spend a lot of time-solving the daily puzzles. I really enjoy solving most of them and I wish that time went a bit faster so I could receive my puzzles a bit faster.

While most of the issues I have with the game are minor, I think this game is still a great game. Some issues I have with the game or some minor, they became a nitpick. For example, I really liked how in previous games, each save slot had a different character from the main cast presenting it. In this game, it’s Katrielle for all three. Yeah, major nitpick right there.

Another minor issue that I have are some parts of the controls. While you can use the “A” button, and strangely enough the arrow buttons, to continue dialogues; you can’t use the psychical buttons for anything else. Besides solving some puzzles. Everything is done using the touchscreen. I really miss some shortcut keys. Like using the circle button to move your looking glass around or the shoulder buttons to open the movement menu or a button to open the trunk like “Y” for example. That would be a great addition.

Then again, there are things in the game I really like. Like how you can decorate the mystery solving office to how you want. Changing the Fengshui if you want. Depending on how many puzzles you solve, you get a ticket to “buy” a new item to change up the decoration of your office.

That isn’t the only thing you can change, there are also outfits for Katrielle you can buy. Some even as DLC for a small fee. While they have only a visual purpose and nothing else, the ones you can buy as DLC have an additional puzzle for you to solve.

About the costumes, there is one minor flaw I have to bring up. You can change Katrielle’s costume at any time you want. Yet, I noticed that Katrielle wears special outfits during other chapters. For example, in one chapter she dresses up in a nice dress since she is going out to see a movie with Ernest. If you exit that case and go to a different case to find hint coins you missed, Katrielle is still wearing that special dress. This is a bit out of context in my eyes and shouldn’t happen. Oh well, only a minor complaint?

Oh yeah, you can go back to previous cases in order to find hint coins and puzzles you missed. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no indication when you missed another collectible in the case. Even an indication on the case brief screen would have been nice. Since, if you skipped over one collectible, have fun looking for it, since the game won’t help you there. On the other hand, I think it’s a great move that you can visit back and solve puzzles you haven’t solved or found and looking for hint coins you missed. The only tip the game gives you there is the screen you missed it on. So, have fun looking for what you missed.

So far, I’m enjoying myself with this game. While the game isn’t flawless at all, I think that the positives outweigh the negatives here. If you are still deciding if this game is for you, know that it’s a more lighthearted Layton game with the same atmosphere and gameplay but without Layton, Luke and the usual gang. This game has a completely new cast of characters. It’s a breath of fresh air for the series and I can’t wait to see where Level5 takes this. I would love to see Katrielle and Layton meet one day.

That is everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

 

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Review: Tomb Raider Legend (PC) ~ The Sword of King Arthur

Tomb_Raider_-_Legend

Wikipedia entry

I remember picking up this game quite well. I was hyped for this game. Not too long before the release of this game, I got a new computer that was able to run to this game quite well. It even ran with the next-gen graphics. Back then, I finished this game and I remember that I had a lot of fun. Eleven years later, I decided that I want to write a review of this game. So, I took my copy from the shelves and booted up my Windows XP retro game pc and restarted playing this game. So, does this game still hold up or is this game just good in my nostalgic filled mind? Let’s dive into the Legend of the Tomb Raider. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section below. 

Thrill ride

160089-lara-croft-tomb-raider-legend-xbox-360-screenshot-use-your

The story of this game starts off with a young Lara on a plane. She is flying with her mother through a thunderstorm when suddenly, the plane crashes.

Lara finds an ancient sword and touches it. Her mother pulls Lara away and then pulls out the sword and disappears.  We fast forward a few years when Lara starts the journey to try and find out what happened to her mother.

In my opinion, the story is pretty good. Not great, since some parts of the story a bit too predictable. I was able to guess what was going to happen in the last parts of the game. I really liked the twist at the end, setting up the next game Underworld perfectly.

I know that Anniversary released before Underworld, but it has really nothing to do with the story of this game and Underworld.

In any case, the voice acting in this game is pretty good. I loved it when I played the game for the first time when I was a child and I still love it now. My favorite voice actress in the game is Keeley Hawes. She voices Lara Croft in this game and she does a pretty great job, just how I imagine Lara Croft sounding like.

Most of this game story is told in cutscenes. But, if you already finished the game, you can skip the cutscene by tapping the pause button and choose for “Skip Cinematic”.

I have played this game on two different systems for this review. One that can handle the next generation content and one that can’t handle that. The next generation content is nothing really special in my opinion. It just adds some additional visual fluff to the game.

Something I did notice, is that when I played it on my more than capable retro gaming PC, one that his the recommend specs perfectly, there is a lot of flickering in some stages and textures not fully loading in. I mostly had this problem when I did the motorcycle bit in the snowy area.

There is a lot of variaty in this game. You have driving sections, QTE, platforming and shooting sections. Wait, Quick Time Events? I know that some people really hate this, but I personally don’t mind them too much. They aren’t too frequent and they are over quickly. To be honest, I enjoy most of them.

Exploring Lara’s house

Tomb Raider Legend

It’s a shame that the game has some graphical problems here and there. Maybe it has to do with the fact that old PC has an ATI device in it, and the other PC has a NVidea card. It does display at the start.

But, the overall presentation is good. The environments and tombs you explore in this game are pretty well designed. The animation is great too. Some death animations really send a shiver down my spine. They felt a bit too real, but some became funny when Lara keeps sliding more than you expect and falls off a cliff.

You can also explore the Croft Manor in this game. In this game, the Croft Manor isn’t the tutorial like we have seen in all previous Tomb Raider games. Now, you can unlock certain training areas to explore when you finish a certain level in the game. I personally recommend that you play through the Croft Manor when you either want a relaxing level or a post-game thing to play.

There are also secrets to find in the Croft Manor. These extras range from character profiles to object models. There is also a special surprise if you collect them all. Thankfully, it’s quite easy to replay a level to try and find secrets you missed.

One thing that really annoyed me was the saving mechanic. It works fine and the autosave points are placed perfectly, but the loading of save games is just a bit broken. Tomb Raider is known for difficult jumps sometimes or multiple jumps you have to do in a row. I like to save after I did a few of them so I can load the game when I did something wrong. In all the previous titles, that I played, when you load; you start right back at the position you saved. Not in this game, you start at the beginning of the jump bit or sometimes even earlier.

The soundtrack of this game is great. I really enjoy listing to it and it added a great atmosphere while you are exploring the tombs. The orchestral soundtrack of this game really impressed me as a kid and it still does as an adult. The sound design for this game is good as well.

Put that gun away, Lara!

tr7_ghana

If there is one thing that could use some improvement in this game is the controls.

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t terrible in any meaning of the word.

There were just a few times that I pressed the grab button, but Lara didn’t grab a ledge. Yet, it isn’t the wrong thing about the controls. There isn’t a “put your gun away” button. And if there is, I wasn’t able to find it. This was really annoying when you were done fighting some enemies and you wanted to start a jump puzzle and Lara doesn’t grab the ledge because she is still holding a gun.

Also, the default layout for the controls is just bad for some functions. For example, to switch your weapon, it’s “End”. To switch your light on or off, it’s “Del”. Medkit is “Home” and your binoculars is “Page Down”. So, I highly recommend you rebinding those controls when you want to play this game.

I don’t know what was causing this problem, but sometimes, the camera moved without me moving my mouse at all. This happened multiple times when I was swinging on a rope.

That’s enough complaining about the controls. Let’s talk about the rest of the game. There is a sort of help system in the game. The PDA. It’s helpful, but I rarely used it. The only time I used it was when I returned to the game after a long while to check what I needed to do.

But, the binoculars can help there as well. With them, you can see what you can use and plan out your route. Yet, the level design is so clear, you barely have to use it when you pay attention to what’s around you.

The difficulty in this game is spot on. No complaints there. The UI of this game is pretty well crafted too. Again, no issues there.

The combat in this game is really enjoyable. My favorite moments are when you enter a sort of bullet time mode and you jump on enemies shield to launch you into the air and shoot the defenseless enemy.

Before we go to the conclusion, I want to touch on one final thing. This game’s length is spot on. It isn’t too long but it isn’t too short either. If you decide to complete this game that is. Since, if you rush through this game, you might be able to beat it in a day. Since it’s 8 hours long. If you want to complete this game, you double your play time.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Good story, while predictable sometimes

+ Great voice acting.

+ Good level design.

+ A lot of variety in gameplay styles.

+ ….

The bad:

-Some visual issues on some computers.

-The controls, while good, could use some polishing up. The default layout is just bad.

-The game is too short if you rush through it.

Final thoughts:

This game didn’t age too well. As a kid, I thought this game was one of the best games I have ever played. But, looking at it now as an adult, I see the flaws of this game. It’s by no means a bad game. The story, voice acting, level design… they are all good.

The big issue is that they aren’t great. The sequel games, like Anniversary and Underworld, are so much better in my opinion.

In general, this game has its problems. Some are noticeable, others aren’t. I do remember having adrenaline rushes when I played this game for the first time. When I played it for this review, I had them too but way less.

In conclusion, I think that this game is worth it. I would recommend it to any fan of Tomb Raider and adventure games. If you have a decent enough computer that can run it and doesn’t get affected by the same graphical issues I was. Since I can tell you for a fact, I didn’t have them on my old childhood computer. This game is good, but not great. It could have been better if there was a bit more polish.

Thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

Score: 70/100