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06 July 2011

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 10/10
The game starts with Junpei waking up disoriented and locked in a room on board a large boat, when the room begins filling with water, forcing him to find a way to unlock the door in order to escape. When he does, he finds 8 other people who awoke in a similar situation. From there, the 9 have to work together in order to survive being locked on board what appears to be a sinking ship. How they got there and why they are there is a mystery that needs to be solved along the way.
I'll give the plot a 10 out of 10. It's not often you see a relatively original storyline with a sense of real urgency.

Game Play: 7/10
At it's core, 999 is a point-and-click, search for clues, interact with your surroundings type of game along similar lines as the Myst series and Trace Memory. Unfortunately, it is also VERY text heavy, which disrupts the action and the urgent pace of the game. It tends to feel a bit jarring, at times. Though, I suppose that can also make the player sympathetic toward the disorientation that Junpei is feeling. I don't know. I'm giving the developers the benefit of the doubt, here.
The game play gets a 7 out of 10. You point and click to find things, then you solve puzzles to proceed. Nothing new, and nothing that needs too much improvement. Not that the developers seem to have tried...

Graphics: 7/10
Typical generic animé style visuals. On the plus side, everything is easy to read, and you typically know exactly what you're looking at. I just can't help but feel, though, that animé style visuals are extremely overdone, and other styles could have been used to greater effect, given the nature of the game.
The graphics get a 7 out of 10. They're decent and clear, but boring.

Audio: 5/10
There is no voice acting, in this game, which I will count as a blessing, given the relatively disappointing production of the game. The music is rather disappointingly generic and unimpressive techno-inspired background noise. The only thing I will say in the music's defense is that it is typically fairly fast-paced, lending to the sense of urgency in the majority of the game. The occasional sound effects are accurate, for what they depict, but a bit loud and jarring compared to the music.
I have to give the audio a 5 out of 10. The music was disappointingly bland, and the sound effects weren't balanced, volume-wise, with the music.

Overall Score: 7.25/10
I was actually somewhat disappointed by this game. The concept was really impressive, but it seems like that's where the risk-taking stopped. The music was bland and unappealing. The visuals followed a style that runs far too rampant in the gaming industry and has almost become a cliché of itself now. I expected better of Aksys.

Plants vs. Zombies [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 8/10
Um. Well, there's not much of a plot to be had. Zombies are invading your house. You plant various types of plants throughout your yard to stop them. If you succeed, you move on to the next increasingly difficult level. That's all. No need to slow down a pretty simple concept with too much story. Some concepts just work better with little to no explanation or back story, requiring the player to just suspend their disbelief and just go with it. This is one of those games.
I'll give the "plot" an 8 out of 10. I know it sounds silly to essentially rate a LACK of a plot so high, but I'm giving it a high rating because I think the game would have suffered if the developers insisted on adding an actual story to everything.

Game Play: 8/10
The game play, here, is like a dumbed-down version of those real-time strategy games where you have to position your troops in the right places in order to stop the enemies' advance. The zombies approach your house, and you place plants in their path to stop them. Different plants do different things, but all can act in your defense.
Also, this game is a great time-waster. If you've got time to kill, each level can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. The game then autosaves when you finish a level, and gives you the option of returning to the main menu instead of proceeding to the next. When starting up the game, it will auto-load your save file and let you start at your next uncompleted level. So, you can easily power on, play a quick level or two, then quit out of the game and power off.
As you play through the game, you can also unlock various minigames and extras, once you hit certain milestone numbers of levels beaten, adding to the game's replay value.
The game play gets an 8 out of 10. It is a very simple concept. The difficulty comes from trying to fend off increasingly high numbers of increasingly strong zombies at once.

Graphics: 8/10
PvZ's graphics are very cartoon-like in appearance, which is fitting for the rather silly game concept. It's not supposed to be scary, and the developers aren't shooting for any awards for beautifully rendered cutscenes. They're just trying to make an entertaining game.
Plants vs. Zombies' graphics get an 8 out of 10. Stylistically, they match the silliness of the overall concept. They're easy to read. You can tell what you're looking at, at any given moment.

Audio: 6/10
There isn't much voice acting, in PvZ, beyond the occasional typical zombie moaning and groaning, which is all perfectly adequate. The music is also best described as adequate. It does the job, being light-hearted when the game calls for it, and being slightly ominous sounding for some of the more intense levels. Nothing jumped out at me as being particularly good or bad.
I'll give the audio a 6 out of 10. The music isn't bad. The developers took such a deliberately relatively minimal approach to so many aspects of the game, I just think it could have benefitted from slightly better music.

Overall Score: 7.5/10
This game is a whole lot of fun. I can't rightly say that not much went into the production, but the developers clearly knew what did, and what didn't, need to be done in order to make a better-than-average game. They kept the gameplay simple, the concept light-hearted, the graphics silly to match, and they didn't go overboard on the writing of the music. I actually feel a little bad that the audio score brought down the overall score.

05 July 2011

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 8/10
Ghost Trick is, at its core, a murder mystery. However, you are the victim. As your spirit leaves your body, not only do you realize that you've lost your memory, but you also learn, through the help of what appears to be a talking lamp named Ray, that you have special abilities that you can use to avert people's fates. Except your own, of course. That would be far too simple. You learn this as you witness another woman get murdered after checking your corpse for signs of life. Thus, you decide to use your newfound abilities to rewind time and avert her fate, saving her life, in the hopes that doing so may help you to learn who you are and why you were killed. Solving the mystery starts there.
I'll give the plot an 8 out of 10. It's relatively original, and it does have a few plot twists that I legitimately did not see coming at all.

Game Play: 9/10
Ghost Trick's game play is quite simple, really. The player simply has to mash the A button to get through the cutscenes between puzzles, then drag the main character's spirit from one object to another, interacting with some objects on the way, in order to get to change enough things around that a given character's fate is averted. The complexity comes from determining what exactly needs to be done in order to avert the particular character's fate in the first place.
I'll give it a 9 out of 10, for having just the right amount of simplicity and difficulty.

Graphics: 7/10
The graphics are alright. Not spectacular, but I've seen far, far worse. They're fairly simple, and have a distinctly cartoony look to them. Some characters have blue skin. Others have purple skin. It's a bit unrealistic, to say the least, but still looks interesting. Things are easy enough to read to make it through the game without too many issues.
I'll give the graphics a 7 out of 10. I'd consider them to be slightly above average.

Audio: 6/10
There is no voice acting in this game. The music, much like the graphics, are adequate, but nothing spectacular. The songs are well written, and fit the scenes, but are easily forgettable.
I'll give the audio a 6 out of 10. The music is okay, and no voice acting is better than bad voice acting, but nothing about it jumps out at me.

Overall Score: 7.5/10
This game is a lot of fun. The pace keeps you wanting to play. Each chapter is short enough to get through without it feeling tedious. The story keeps you guessing. All in all, I found the game to be entertaining, and well worth playing.