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22 November 2010

Invizimals [PSP]

Plot Synopsis: 3/10
A new breed of animal has been discovered. They are invisible to the naked eye, and can only be detected and seen by a special device (your PSP), hence, being named "invizimals". The scientists who discovered them have asked for your help in tracking down and cataloguing all the various species. Of course, someone shady has also gotten wind of them, and is up to no good. Now, you've been asked to help the scientists shut down the bad guys before they can bring any harm to the invizimals, or anyone else.
I'll give the plot a 3 out of 10. Pokémon did this story first, ages ago.

Game Play: 9/10
Okay, so the basic "gotta catch 'em all" concept is pretty much a direct rip-off of the seemingly ages-old Pokémon franchise. However, there's a catch (pardon the pun…). The invizimals hide in real-world environments, and can only be seen, much like in the game's story, via your PSP, and the special camera peripheral that is packaged with the game. You wander around, pointing the camera pretty much anywhere, until the camera tells you that an invizimal has been detected, at which point, you lay down a trap (a piece of cardstock with a fancy design printed on it, that comes with the game), and go to work actually capturing the beast. Catching the invizimals requires you to play any one of a number of short minigames. Once captured, you can make your invizimals grow stronger, and eventually evolve into stronger forms, by battling others in an in-game tournament against CPU-controlled characters.
I really like the idea that the pokémo… I mean invizimals hide in real-world environments, and the way the game uses the camera peripheral. What I don't understand, however, is why the game was developed for the PSP, which does NOT have a built-in camera, and not for the DSi, which already DOES have a built-in camera.
I'll give the game play a 9 out of 10. The game took a good concept, executed it fairly well, and helped to introduce a new PSP peripheral all at the same time. Can't fault that.

Graphics: 9/10
Well, the "backgrounds", as you search for, catch, and battle the invizimals, are your actual real-world surroundings. The graphics on the creatures themselves are passable, but you aren't exactly going to find yourself peeking out from behind your PSP to see whether or not there really is some manner of creature in front of you.
Cutscenes are filmed on sets with actual actors (why, hello Brian Blessed as a supporting cast member!) and don't look cheesy.
I'll give the graphics a 9 out of 10. Most of the game looked great. The only reason I'm scoring down at all is because of how little the invizmals look like they're actually in their environment. Though, I can't fault anyone for that TOO badly. spending time rendering the creatures as realistically as possible likely would've eaten up a large chunk of the game's expense budget, and wouldn't have been appreciated, once all is said and done.

Audio: 7/10
I have to be honest. As I write this review, I haven't played Invizimals at all for a couple of weeks. Bearing that in mind, I can not remember a single piece of music from this game. I know there IS music, but none of it stood out at all. Again, the cutscenes were filmed on sets with actual actors, and everyone was speaking english, so there was no need for re-dubbing the dialogue with cheesy animé type voices.
I'll give the audio a 7 out of 10. If the music hadn't been so unimpressive and forgettable, maybe I'd have scored this category higher. Oh well. Maybe they'll do better in the sequel that was announced before this game even hit store shelves.

Overall Score: 7/10
With all the similarities, in concept, between Invizimals and Pokémon, it is hard to feel that this game was anything but the result of a "well, I'll show YOU!" mentality from someone who pitched the idea to Game Freak and was turned away. Add to that the forgettable music, and you have a game that's ALMOST as good as it could be.

20 November 2010

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 9/10
At the start of the game, Professor Layton receives a letter from a colleague who has found a box that is rumored to kill those who open it. Layton and his assistant, Luke, go to see the colleague to find out more. However, when they arrive, he appears to have died, and the box has gone missing. Of course, Layton and Luke immediately set out on a quest to find the box and determine the truth behind the rumors about it.
I'll give the plot a 9 out of 10. It's well-written and there are some decent twists. In fact, the story was just a bit more complex than the previous game in the franchise.

Game Play: 8/10
The game play is pretty straight forward. You essentially just point and click in order to move about your environment or interact with things. Puzzles that need to be solved do more than just sprinkle the game. This game did a better job of making sure the puzzles correlated to whatever was happening in the story, at the time. Once again, the point system that is supposed to serve as a difficulty rating, for the puzzles, didn't seem quite right. Some of the supposedly "easy" puzzles could be a bit tricky, vice versa.
I'll give the game play an 8 out of 10. It's simple enough to let you focus more on the story and puzzles.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics in Diabolical Box are virtually identical to those of Curious Village. There are no obvious differences in the style or presentation. As such, I will give the graphics the same score, here, as I gave them in my review for Curious Village. An 8 out of 10.

Audio: 9/10

Once again, the music retained that old-Europe feel, with very obvious French and Italian influences. The voice acting was still acceptable, and refrained from being too over-the-top. No complaints, here.
And so, I give the audio a 9 out of 10. Everything sounds smooth and natural enough that it doesn't become a distraction as you attempt to focus on the puzzles and mysteries that need to be solved.

Overall Score: 8.5/10
The story keeps you working and guessing without becoming boring. The music and voice acting aren't a distraction. The graphics do the job while maintaining a distinct flavor all their own. Once again, the whole game is put together very well.