Hyrule Warriors Review — A game dedicated to the Zelda fans

I haven’t played a Dynasty Warriors game in close to ten years, but my vague memories of the game recall a repetitive hack-and-slash with missions consisting of going from point A to point B. I also remember a steady slew of sequels not being much different from its last iteration, so I knew that the formula established by Koei Tecmo wouldn’t be messed with. That said, Hyrule Warriors didn’t initially appeal to me very much, that is, until I got to play it. A game that makes you feel like a badass with a sword who can take on dozens upon dozens of enemies at once makes perfect sense for the Zelda universe. Call it shallow, vain or whatever, Hyrule Warriors to me is a game that is entirely good because of Link, Sheik, Midna and the cast of delightful Legend of Zelda characters.

Hyrule Warriors pulls its story from the source material and interweaves past Zelda games into this one mash-up. Fans are kept in mind throughout the entire experience, including the use of familiar chimes and 8-bit nods. To elaborate further on the formula, large scale battles are taking place in the Zelda universe and your job as the “game changer” is to fight through hordes of enemies, win back territories and lead your team to victory — The shifting of which side is winning is entirely in your hands. It is a total power trip, because you see tons of enemies on-screen, but you know that they don’t stand a chance against your sword or whatever weapon you’re wielding.

There is little to no challenge here, outside of pattern-based bosses who are easily conquered once you discover the best opportunity to strike. During the majority of my experience, failure only came about when I was too busy annihilating enemies in one area and didn’t make it in time across a large field to aid my troops. But where the gameplay lacks, Hyrule Warriors makes up for with collectibles and extras. There are plenty of materials to gather to build badges, which help you in battle by building stats and adding new combos. Also, weapons can be found that may or may not be stronger than the one you’re wielding, so finding new loot is encouraged if you want to become the stronger and better. The replayability is there, but it’s not as rewarding as you’d hope.

There is no shortage of characters to choose from as there are over 10 characters and more on the way through free and paid DLC. Adding to the variety, each character also has multiple weapons to choose from, which all have varying effects and completely different animations. For example, Link has the Hylian Sword and Magic Rod and choosing one or the other feels like picking completely separate characters, because of the uniqueness each brings to the table. There are also elemental advantage/disadvantages that come to play for each stage, but the effects are so marginal that it doesn’t make much of a difference – most enemies are one-hit killable regardless.

Visually, Hyrule Warriors looks great, especially if you’ve been craving for Link and gang in full HD. The game runs smoothly for the most part until you reach areas where you’re overcome by enemies. Not only does the game slow down, there are also instances where enemies are popping in and out of sight. Usually these would be huge issues, but with a game like this, it’s understandable that some hiccups occur – it certainly doesn’t happen often enough where it becomes a gameplay problem. Multiplayer also suffers from slowdown, but it’s always appreciated when a Wii U game allows each player to have a dedicated screen, one player on the TV and one on the Wii U gamepad.

Hyrule Warriors isn’t a sophisticated, game of the year contender as other Legend of Zelda games, but it fulfills exactly what it aims to do. This is a Dynasty Warriors game with the skin of Zelda characters and that is exactly as it sounds on paper. If you’re not particularly fond of the Dynasty Warriors style of play, then do yourself the favor and pass on this. If you haven’t played any before or are a fan of the Zelda series, this is solid game that will offer hours of fun.

Hyrule Warriors
Genre: Action, Hack and Slash
Platform: Wii U
Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Sept 26, 2014

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Interview: NHL 15 commentators Emrick & Olczyk share experience working with EA Sports

We got to chat with NHL commentators Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk who were recently featured in NHL 15 with their voices and for the first time ever, live footage. Their presence certainly gives NHL 15 a more authentic feel, presentation-wise and it should continue to be a mainstay feature for future titles. Below were some of the responses we got during a live interview.

BuzzFocus: My first question is, how was your experience working on this project?

Doc Emrick: Well this is the first year working together with EA Sports and NHL 15 and it has been an 18 month process leading up to the release. This is our first of hopefully many and it was a long process – we did our role, but the team at EA really put everything together.

BuzzFocus: How does it differ from some other video game projects you’ve worked on before?

Eddie Olczyk: Doc has done videogames before, I haven’t.

Doc: I did it during an earlier era in the late 90’s and it was a far different experience than this was, because technology was so different. But we never worked together on one until we started sitting down on these sessions – I think the first session that we actually had was a year ago in September and we worked 3 or 4 days in a row, something like that.

BuzzFocus: Was the experience similar to what you guys do on TV?

Doc: Oh yeah, we had to have the floor director straighten our ties and do all of that. Yeah, it was just like doing a telecast – it was just like it, because we had to do an open and then we did both goaltenders before the puck gets dropped and that’s what [EA Sports] is shooting for, they want it to be this experience that’s pretty much the very same as sitting at home and watching live players as opposed to the guys in the game.

Eddie: And our goal is that if you close your eyes and you hear us, you wouldn’t know if you were watching a real game or a video game. [EA Sports] wanted us to not only be part of the game with our voiceover, but also our likeness to be actually us – it’s not animated. Like when the game brings us in, it’s us – so we want to make sure that all of our phrases and the way that we would do a game is the same as we would do for the video game and I think that’s what makes it so unique. And to be a part of it physically with our likeness on there is something that’s great for the game.

BuzzFocus: How often do you guys play video games on your free time?

Eddie: I have 4 kids, I have 3 boys that play video games and have played forever – they play Xbox, PlayStation and they obviously play the NHL games. So I’ve played with them a couple of times with different games and I was just a punching bag.

BuzzFocus: They show no mercy?

Eddie: Yeah, I just refuse to continue being humiliated in front of my kids. But they think I’m pretty cool for this short period of time now that I’m part of a video game. As a kid I used to play Pinball, Pong and Pac-Man and you know whatever. Now if there was a horse racing game (looks to Doc), I would certainly find a way to be in on that. A Jockey, no, trainer maybe.

Doc: I don’t play video games, but back on horse racing the first game I played in the 1950’s had a little arrow that you’d spin and then you would move either Whirlaway, Seabiscuit or Gallant Fox – all of those horses that probably have great grandchildren who are still not retired. But video games, no.

BuzzFocus: Thank you, gentlemen.

Eddie: Take care.

Doc: Thank you.

Early Eyes on ‘Battleborn’ – Gearbox’s Cosmic-Shooter Mash-up

What do day dreaming samurais on Tatooine, the Pirates of Dark Water, Cybermen, Gambit, Alex Rodriguez, Musashi, Kinopio, woodland elves and Dick Cheney all have in common? Absolutely nothing to the average focus group. But to Gearbox Software, those fun-loving dreamers behind Borderlands, it’s the makings of a new shooter mash-up, entitled Battleborn. We got a chance to get an early view of this game in pre-alpha.

Battleborn is designed as a cooperative and competitive shooter, complete with pirates, swordsmen, elves, steroid freaks, mushroom killers and piss-on-the-poor, upper class assassins. The goal is to take just about every character class and archetype from fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk fiction or otherwise and put them all together in a universe where it makes sense for them to coexist – even if it’s in disharmony with one another.

Of course, under-the-hood of every multiplayer shooter, there’s a little story behind the magic curtain to give you a reason to lay waste to a fresh-new, diabolical villain. In Battleborn several factions take refuge on the last star of the Solus system.

Like any dystopian future, survivors start going at each other’s throats instead of hugging out their problems in an effort to control resources. Unfortunately, somebody’s got to wrangle these heroic miscreants together before the viscous Varlesi destroy the entire universe. Eat your heart out Cobra Commander.

That’s where you and your esteemed crew comes in to play. The game breaks down its characters into different factions. It’s like Dungeons and Dragons, which has its adventurers, alchemist, fighter, thieves and assassins guilds.

In Battleborn, there are imperialists, who are basically the Empire from Star Wars. Then there are the draconian peace keepers, who are like a bunch of over-zealous “do as we say, not as we do” bullies. Next, we have the Eldrid, who preserve the natural order of the universe (aka Pure Bloods from Harry Potter). There’s a rogues group that does whatever it is they feel like, thank you very much. And finally, there’s the aptly named, LLC. These guys have bourgeoisie robotic snipers on their side and speak to the dreaded one percent.

Now, like all cooperative shooters, you’re guessing that this game is built around the standard roster of all-around solider, heavy gunner, medic and possibly some kind of engineer or spell caster character classes.

Yes, those archetypes are all there. However, Gearbox is aiming to add several layers of depth to these classic roles so that no two characters are ever the same. More on that in a bit. Just expect to download new characters and/or faction types for several months following the game’s 2015 (expected) release.

Why should you be excited about this game?

Well, for starters its got the same CG, fantastical visual style of Borderlands. It may be a first-person shooter, but there are several close-quarters, fighting elements inside this bad boy. One character, named Rath, uses swords as his main weapon. Now, any FPS fan who loves melee combat knows that their targets usually hate fighting up close. There are a few moves that we saw that give the melee fighters a chance to engage in pseudo-third person attacks. For instance, Rath has a spinning dash move where he rips through his enemies like a wheel on fire.

Even though the game was in pre-alpha, we saw the kind of carnage that Rath’s attack yielded. Heaps of shredded-robot scraps littered the floor. This is a vital part of carnage that was missing in last gen games, but is now present on the PS4 and Xbox One. We’d like to see more of this damage as the game progresses in development. In this pre-alpha build, several guns seemed to do the same type of damage to the enemy. I’d like the carnage that a gun yields to be as diverse as the guns. The damage from Oscar Mike’s automatic weapons should look different from the damage Montana’s steroid guns delivers. By the same token, Thorn’s elvish arrows should also deliver a visual injury that varies from Marquis’ ever-so distinguished, robotic sniper fire.

The interface for upgrades was also pretty cool. Instead of your those trite row-column setups, that feel like an Excel spreadsheet (yuck), the upgrade window looks like a DNA double helix. Although Gearbox said that this interface could still change, we’re hoping it stays the same. It’s in this upgrade screen where you’ll get the chance to start to blend those traditional team roles. Of course, we all know how upgrading is. If you don’t stick to one path, you end up with several mediocre abilities. I’m still kicking myself for Knights of the Old Republic. Why oh why didn’t I just go dark side one-hundred percent?

The game will utilize shorter scenarios, much like Activision’s recently released shooter, Destiny. So no more worrying about taking two hours to finish a map. And if you do take two-hours to finish a scenario, you really should drop the difficulty.

Battleborn will utilize two leveling systems. At the start of every scenario, everyone will start off on equal footing so that one character isn’t dominating. However, you will also have cumulative levels so that you’re rewarded for playing more.

What are we still waiting on?

Loot. Damn straight. Gearbox President Randy Pitchford promised loot as the game progresses and after scenarios. After building up our addiction to loot in Borderlands, it will be hard to digest anything less – especially since this game totes such a similar visual style.

Team attacks. Remember when Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee did the Cyclone kick in Double Dragon III. I’m still waiting for a shooter that changes the genre with some kind of combo attack. I don’t just want to get a few extra points for an assist. I want to set up the assist like Jason Kidd or John Stockton.

Friendly fire on or off? The Gearbox team is still considering whether to go with friendly fire on or off. We’re pulling for off, or at least a setting that can be toggled off.

We’d like to see more with the Rogue faction. How does lock picking or thievery factor into an attack? How can that be shown visually and not just with a few extra loot drops displayed on the HUD.

Since Battleborn is cooperative multiplayer like Destiny, we hope it isn’t designed like Destiny. We DO NOT want it to require a always-online connection to the internet. That would suck for those who just want to play the campaign. Nuff said.

Click thumbnails to enlarge:

Four things in ‘Destiny’ that need to be changed ASAP

Destiny

Destiny servers have been up for over a week now and there are issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible. Below are some glaring issues. Please note this is drawn from my experience on the Xbox One version of the game, but it should universally resonate with all players.

Skippable cutscenes

Not being able to skip cutscenes is a huge problem for players who are creating new characters or for impatient people like me. Personally, I don’t care much for story and cutscenes in videogames – I find watching videogame cutscenes comparable to watching cartoons/animated movies and, after I hit a certain age, I just can’t get into them anymore. But for those who have seen the cutscenes for certain missions before and can’t skip them under any circumstance is definitely feeling my pain. Being able to customize my character while the scene plays in the background is a plus, but please Bungie, just let me skip it and don’t let it be such a buzzkill.

Dismantling items is too easy

Items can be broken down for parts/glimmer and there should be a prompt before dismantling certain items. I get the fact that players may want a quick process to continue doing whatever it is that they’re doing, but there should at least be an ‘Are you sure?’ prompt when you’re breaking down items that are categorized as Rare and up. I haven’t had the luxury to dismantle any Legendary or Exotic items yet, but I’ve already heard horror stories from friends essentially “deleting” some great equipment by mistake. So until this is patched up, be careful when you press X/Square.

Multiplayer balancing

The Fusion Rifles, Shotguns and certain Super Charge moves need to get nerfed or at least have other guns/moves beefed up. Fusion Rifles and Shotguns are the weapon of choice for most matches and their effectiveness is too good to pass up. I run around with a Fusion Rifle and feel a bit guilty for the amount of mowing down I’m able to do. There should be a better balance for the different weapons and that should come sooner than later while the game is still hot. And if you’ve played multiplayer, you know for sure the Bladedancer super move for Hunters is ridiculous.

Multiplayer rewards

Crucible matches award every participant with random weapons and rewards. This is nice for everybody, but it leaves no big incentive for winning. Sure there’s Bounties that can be completed for doing well in games, but there have been times where my winning team effectively received nothing for a game and the other team was granted rewards. It demotivates and feels like I’m wasting time when Strike missions promise a reward after completion. Bungie needs to motivate players who do well and at least promise something for 1st place or highest scoring players.

Those are some of my major gripes and I’m sure there are some you have, too. Share if you have any or if you agree with any I’ve listed above. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some light armor to find.

Interview: Artists Louw & Pires share experience designing ‘Outcast Odyssey’

Card games are a hot topic right now with many card iterations of different properties releasing recently, including Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and WWE SuperCard. Outcast Odyssey is a collectible card game coming soon to iOS and Android devices from Magic Pixel Games and Bandai Namco Games and with every card game, there comes a load of cards to see. That’s where talents like Warren Louw and Chuck Pires lend their skills to the new video game. The two comic artists are no stranger to the industry of drawing and creating for different projects and they share their experience in the comic and video game industry.

BuzzFocus: How did you get your start in art (best, biggest projects)?

Warren Louw: My first biggest breaks would have to be an ImagineFX cover and workshop in 2009 and doing a cover for DC Comics, Powergirl in 2010.

Chuck Pires: I was about 15 years old, I hadn’t been drawing too long. At school there was a group of us that drew and were pretty into video games, comics and anime. Hey it was the 90’s! All that stuff was still good back then! Anyway, my dad had seen me messing around with a few drawings and, him being a pretty skilled artist when he was in college, plopped his old collection of Frank Frazetta artbooks on my table. [He then said to me] “I’m glad, you’ve found a worthwhile hobby, but yer not gonna get any better looking at that stuff”. So that was pretty much it for me for the next year or so. I must have copied every pose or arm or leg that book had. Then, of course, I read the short biography they had at the beginning of the book, it said he’d been published at 15 or 16 years old. After that, the race was on. In my little brain I had to be published too.

After looking for art jobs online for a while I came across an ad for Hi-Fi colors, a comic coloring company looking for help. I was like yes! I had been messing with digital color for a few weeks so being 16, I naturally thought I was a god. Turned out, they weren’t looking for comic colorists so much as what they call “flatters”. Flatters lay all of the basic un-shaded colors down so that the colorists can easily select them and work more quickly. I took the job anyway and did my best at it for a few months, and even was used for personal projects for guys from the studio. It was paid published work and I was getting better at photoshop and coloring by doing it, so why not. Of course when the first comics I’d worked on came out, I rushed to see my name in print. I grabbed a book, popped it open only to realize most of the time flatters never get credited. So yeah, bummer city. I did flatting a while more after that but after I’d given my portfolio to the guys I was working for and not getting anywhere, I was looking for other opportunities. I was pretty bummed my little goal was squashed, but life goes on.

About a couple months after I’d stopped flatting I got a book in the mail from one of the guys I’d been doing work for, It was a personal project book that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of now, but right smack under his name was mine. That was pretty much when I decided, “yeah, this is what I’m gonna do with my life”.

After that, I spent a couple years buckling down and trying to improve my work. I took a couple classes at the community college and bought just about any issue of Spectrum I could find. When I was 18 or 19, Corvus Beli, the makers of Infinity, got a hold of me and wanted art done for their new rule book. I learned a lot about art and being a commercial artist on those books, and am still very grateful to those guys for giving me a shot!

BuzzFocus: Is this your first video game art project?

Warren: This would be my second video game art project. My first was working for the mobile gaming company, Phoenix Age Gaming on Castle Age and Underworld Empire.

Chuck: No, honestly, I couldn’t tell you what my first was. There was a time between Infinity rulebooks that I had to just take whatever work I could find. Not being a strictly comic artist and not being a cover illustrator kind of put me at odds with steady work, so when work came around I didn’t ask questions and just did what I could do. Most of the time when I do game work I’m being hired by someone who’s kind of outsourcing to me. A lot of them I haven’t signed NDA’s for the company.

BuzzFocus: What approach do you take differently with a project involving video games?

Warren: Well it totally depends on the briefing, but generally the level of detail and design is a lot more intense since there can be a lot of creative freedom. The level of incredible video game concept art these days can also be very influential.

Chuck: Well, the work itself is inherently different. Video games, you can add whatever crazy amount of detail you want, but it all has to work in 3D so it’s a very different beast from comics. Comics are all about readability and turn around. The work I’ve done in comics has gotten me to simplify and think about working more quickly. Meanwhile my work in games has helped me understand the medium more, and be more thoughtful of the work you’re doing.

BuzzFocus: What challenges or obstacles did you face working on this project that you didn’t expect?

Warren: I totally did not expect how much work there would be with so many separate layers within the card set for Maggie Darwin. Each of the animals, Maggie, and different depths of the background all had to be on separate layers. I had to make sure everything was balanced out in terms of their details, sizes and shapes to all fit together as the card filled up more and more. Often I had to rearrange the layout to also make sure the progression made sense. Constantly going back and forth like that was quite challenging.

Chuck: Well, honestly most of the challenge might have been self imposed haha. For Outcast Odyssey, they initially showed me one of the cards for the game and had told me, “Ok, so we need 4 variations of these cards, each looking more powerful than the last”. It’s an idea I love, there’s nothing cooler in video games to me than feeling that progression, getting that cool new sword or that gnarly new set of armor, so I was all on board for that. They’d showed me a few cards, they were all awesome looking cards, but the transformation from card to card was not as noticeable as I thought it could be. [The] attitude I had with pretty much all my cards, “Maybe I’m not the most amazing artist on this game, but I can have some different looking cards” haha.

BuzzFocus: What’s your favorite part about working with video games? Worst?

Warren: Well, I totally love working with my team and making sure we are all on the same page. Its a great feeling knowing that your client is really excited about the initial concepts and happy with the end results.

The worst would have to be a few of the struggles during the process in terms of the designs. This is where I can often frustrate the hell out of myself, until I create something that looks awesome to me.

Chuck: [Sometimes] I feel like working the way I do, I miss the most awesome parts of working on games. I work from home [and] have for years. A lot of people hear it and they’re like “omg that must be awesome!” Truth is: it is and isn’t. There’s for sure no “office drama”, but you also miss out on making work friends and seeing how the actual game progresses and forms. Plus, it’s also not like a common workplace in that everyone has an inherent common interest. There’s no “hey man, did you watch the (boring sports thing) last night?” or something like that.

In my opinion, that’s the best thing about working on video games, unless its YOUR game. For instance, we all met up at San Diego Comic Con and I had a blast talking to everyone who worked on it about the game. This is not just some cash grab game, Jonathan Durr made the prototype in his spare time and Magic Pixel and Namco Bandai have come together to make it happen because they believe in it. Those kind of stories and people are what’s great about working on games to me.
As far as the worst? I dunno, turn arounds? Haha I hate those.

BuzzFocus: Are there any big or jarring differences between working on comic and video game art?

Warren: Hmm… Well in the comic world, you need to stick with the current designs for the characters and world involved. In gaming, you generally create new characters for brand new games, or updated designs for characters in the sequels, so there’s a lot more room for creativity, even in terms of the environments depending on the game.

Chuck: Well in one single project I’ve gotten to do both so I have a fresh perspective on it. First and foremost, it really really depends on the people you’re working for. You can have a fantastic or horrible experience in either, depending on who your bosses are. Thankfully this project has been one of those rare fantastic ones, so it’s just been about getting the job done.

Comics and games both have their pro’s and con’s, it really just depends on the personality. I’ve seen some guys that you can just go, “hey! I need 40 different kinds of space containers for a space game set in space!” and they can whip it out before lunchtime. Those dudes belong in games. Likewise, if someone can draw 22 pages the same 4 people hiding in a house from zombies for 4 issues, THAT guy belongs in comics. It’s all about what you find interesting as an artist.

In a lot of ways Outcast Odyssey wasn’t a traditional kind of game, as far as creating the art was concerned. Usually games are all about character designs, environment designs and about 20 versions of everything. This game is the first in what (we hope) will be a series so there wasn’t that need for continuity or previous reference material. We pretty much designed a lot of the characters right on the cards as we were going, so it was a lot of fun!

BuzzFocus: Any future or current projects that you would like to announce or share?

Warren: I’m currently finishing up a bunch of super hero related artwork for an anatomy art book, 21 Draw, being funded through Indigogo. Its been a real fun project to work on which will also be featuring 100 amazing artists from the entertainment industry.

I will also be doing my own personal studies of which I will be getting my fans involved in, so make sure to follow me on my Facebook page for that – https://www.facebook.com/ArtofWarrenLouw

Chuck: For right now, I’m working on the Outcast Odyssey web comic to help promote the game. Outside of that, I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about yet!

BuzzFocus: Is there any dream project or game that you would love to work on?

Warren: Wow… well I’ve been a huge fan of the characters from Soul Calibur, so working on such a project would be incredible! I think Im still a far way from being talented enough for something like that, so hopefully one day!

Chuck: I’ve been doing this kind of work since I was 15 so there’s been a bunch. If you would have asked me when I was 15, I would have said for Joe Madureira to crash through the walls of my high school in an awesome car and tell me, “I need your help finishing Battle Chasers!” haha. In my early 20’s, I had “a proper sequel” to Final Fantasy Tactics I’d been working on and designing for almost a year in my spare time. Nearing 30, I have more dream projects than ever! From Joe Abercrombie to call me up and say “I want you to adapt Half a King into a comic!” to about 3 different ideas for games I have a burning desire to make before I die. I figure I have a pretty good shot at least one of these crazy ideas to come to fruition.

BuzzFocus: Thank you for your time, gentlemen.

Warren and Chuck: Thank you.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review

It can safely be said that two of biggest titles to make a name for themselves on the Nintendo DS are Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright. Their respective gameplay styles were tailor-made for the dual-screen, touch screen format and could not have possibly worked as well on anything else. Both also feature logic and thinking over flashy gameplay and already have more than a handful of titles under their belts with no signs of slowing down. Their similarities are plentiful and it has led to this singular moment, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — A crossover of epic proportions. Expectations are high and this mash-up certainly has a lot to live up to for fans of both series.

Witches are the theme in Layton vs Wright and it’s up to the two to get to the bottom of what is happening in the medieval world of Labyrinthia. The characters from both franchises get transported to this alternate world and the story develops from there. The game starts off quite slow and alternates between the two respective games a few times before the two main characters actually meet. The game eases new players into the different play styles and gives a good recap for seasoned fans. The game also gives you the option to skip some of the tutorials, which is much appreciated. Noticeable is the lack of challenge from the game overall. The puzzles and challenge in previous Layton and Wright titles have proven to stump me good, but not so much this time. On top of the lack of challenge, characters established from both worlds are also lackluster with only one more mainstay character from each title. Layton brings along with him his trusty sidekick Luke and Wright is followed by close friend Maya.

What plagues Layton vs Wright are some of the issues prevalent in each series. Layton games are a series of puzzles tied together with a point-and-click story; they can be a bit too hand-holdy and there is never a shortage dialogue. Every time the brilliant voice-over work is used, I breathe a sigh of fresh air from the constant reading, but it only happens so often. Also, I can’t imagine how hard it would be for my old man eyes to play a text-heavy title like this on a regular sized 3DS/2DS. It may be because Layton games are targeted to a younger audience, but the impatience I have with the title is the same I have with watching kids cartoons now — it takes forever to get to the point.

Phoenix Wright games are riddled with court sessions that you will have to read and decipher where a contradiction lies or where evidence will disprove a claim. It’s a fun system that works wonderfully when your brain is actually in sync with the direction the game is going. Unfortunately, my brain (and I’m guessing other people’s, too) often goes in another direction and whilst my reason for contradiction is 100% plausible, it’s written off as wrong. And even if you are right in guessing where the game is going, you have to figure out how to present it the way the game wants. For example, I knew that one of the contradictions was that a person could not hold two things at once and had to highlight this in a piece of photographic evidence — Turns out I picked the wrong hand and then had to choose the other. It is moments like this that make the game incredibly rigid and frustrating and what I wind up doing is picking every line of text for contradictions until I get it, because there’s no way of accurately knowing otherwise.

The two varying game styles never quite come together in a brand new way that I would have imagined, but there are elements that find their way into each other’s styles. Layton series staple, hint coins are usually used to help solve puzzles, but can now be used in the courtroom to highlight which lines to press or evidence to use, which turned out to be extremely helpful. Layton also finds himself alongside Phoenix in the courtroom to lend a hand in deducing evidence and putting pressure on the eye-witnesses. It’s a bit odd to see the two stand next to each other with their very different art styles, but it is goofy enough to work.

The sounds for this game is absolutely the shining star. Both series had iconic and memorable tunes and this mash-up brought the two minds behind the music together for some brilliant stuff. When the two styles of music is actually woven together, you can hear how much they actually complement each other in a magnificent way. Players who have never played either game will appreciate the stuff here, but there’s something extra special when you’ve played both games for so long — If only the game itself came together as magically.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney serves its purpose well as a game where two iconic characters finally come together. Disappointment comes in the fact that so much more could have been done. The two games never stray too far away from their comfort zone and each take a significant hit in challenge and series lore. There are so many characters and stories from each franchise that could have been used, but sadly none of it comes through. There are some big missed opportunities here and here’s hoping the next game (if any) gets the job done right.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Level-5, Capcom
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Aug 29, 2014

Rating: 7 / 10

Dreadnought hands-on preview

Dreadnought is an aerial armada action game coming to PC and if you don’t understand what that means: it’s a game where you control air crafts and battle other ships in space. It’s epic, good-looking and is arriving for PC free, too. I’ve gotten a chance to play an early build and as long as the game takes balancing and competitiveness seriously, it’s looking to be a solid game. The only mode I experienced was a deathmatch style battle to the bitter end between two teams of five.

Dreadnought takes all of your favorite Sci-Fi movie ships and brings the spiritual embodiment of them into an all out war. Whether you’re a Voyager fan or Millennium Falcon guy, you’ll find something that suits your taste. The five different ships available include Dreadnought, Corvette, Artillery Cruiser, Destroyer and Tactical Cruiser. Each ship brings 4 different skills to the battle and, although no solid number has been confirmed yet, there should be more to pick and choose from when the title is fully realized. After each death during a game, you can choose another ship or “loadout” similar to your popular shooters.

Balancing will be key in Dreadnought if the plan is to keep all the diverse ships and varying skills. Some ships can teleport/blink away from danger and it’s important that the start-up animation or cooldown times are just right in order for the game to not be broken. Other ships have skills such as being able to make 180 turns on the fly and those give a huge advantage in the heat of battle.

Teamwork is also key and the winner of a game is usually determined by which team communicates best. The simple game plan is to team up on one ship at a time and focus fire, but there are also other strategies that come into play such as taking out the ship that’s healing the others first. Eventually, my team lost focus and lost the game after a breakdown of communication (and my overall terribleness). It was fun and I’m sure with more time and understanding of the game, it just gets better.

So far so good and the development team behind Dreadnought, YAGER is seemingly treating this game like a triple A title as opposed to a free-to-play, quick buck. We look forward to seeing more and learning more soon.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 2 Review (Xbox 360)

Like any great TV show or episodic story-telling, playing the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is an absolute must in order to get the full experience from season 2. After such high praise and critical-acclaim for the previous 6 episodes, expectations were high for the next 5 episodes. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise or the types of games Telltale has been pumping out, The Walking Dead is a point-and-click, choice driven game. It’s more of an interactive story than a video game, but the choices you make will affect the story and put it in different paths. You can play an episode and compare notes to a friend who has played the same episode and realize you two have experienced a totally different part of the story — and that’s really cool.

Season 2 revolves around Clementine, who played as a supporting role in the first season and she is a totally transformed person this time around. She has matured greatly, but the game reminds you she’s still a kid with moments like awkward exposure to sexual and drug/alcohol related topics. It really humanizes her and you feel her pain as she is forced to grow faster in this dark and hallow world.

Blood-pumping, anxiety-inducing and haunting. I can go on and on about the many emotions brought upon me throughout season 2, because it was such a trip. Each episode put Clementine and the group of zombie walker survivors in more dire situations where the stakes became bigger and decision making tougher. By the end, I was struggling even behind the safety of my video game controller to make a choice that would determine the fate of the on-screen characters who I have become attached to emotionally.

I am as cold-hearted and stoic as the next gamer, but each life or death scenario felt weightier than the last. I can kill 500 people in a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto V and not feel a thing, but one death here felt like a huge loss and that’s a big accomplishment in my book. There are moments in the game where Clementine is simply chatting with characters and learning about them which helps build depth with each person you encounter.

After each episode, the cliffhanger left me wanting more and the pain to endure another month or so wait for the next episode gradually worsened. Luckily, if you’re reading this and haven’t played an episode yet, then you get to binge play/watch the entire season in one sitting. Each episode takes about an hour and a half to complete so it is reasonably doable in a day if you’re dedicated enough.

Noticeably different this time around was the lack of puzzle elements. Although season 1 wasn’t super heavy with puzzle solving, there was still some figuring out to do. This time, the game flows with little to no possibility for error or interruptions because you weren’t paying attention for a moment. This really puts the focus on the story and compelling narrative and much less on being a “video game”. The finale had me on the edge of my seat more so than the previous episodes as all the build-up has finally led to the pinnacle of Clementine’s story. It’s so hard to describe without spoiling anything, but it is certainly awesome.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead season 2 is a major testament to the genius behind the game. The writing is great and comparable to the stories told on the TV and comic series — maybe even better! It seems Telltale is getting better at this type of gaming play style and it also seems like they’re not slowing down anytime soon. If you’re looking to get into season 2, pick up season 1 first to get a better grasp of the story; the best part is that these games are well priced, too. This review is light on word count, because there really isn’t much to say that wouldn’t spoil the story. It’s simple, easy to play and the story is amazing. Go get this!

The Walking Dead Season 2
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3 and PC)
Developer: Telltale
Publisher: Telltale
Release Date: Season finale August 27, 2014
Rating: 9.5 / 10