Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright - The First Turnabout Review

The first Ace Attorney game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, was released way back in 2001 in Japan for the Game Boy Advance. Its later Nintendo DS remake was released outside of Japan and gave the visual novel genre a moderate fanbase outside of Japan for the first time. It has since been re-released on many more devices over the intervening years, but it still remains one of the best games in the genre.

The game was split up into episodes and was released episodically for Windows, and Wii. It works well for this style of game, as each episode contains a new case that Phoenix Wright, a young defense attorney, takes on. The game is set within a semi-fictional Japanese law system, where each case has to be dealt with quickly and can only last three days. As this game was released in the early 2000s, the translation tries to remove the Japanese references as much as possible and sets it in the United States instead. This leads to some disconnect with Japan-exclusive concepts such as attorney badges being used in the United States, but thankfully, it's not too distracting, even if you do know about Japanese culture, as these can be chalked up as being part of the game's then-futuristic setting of 2016.

The first case was created specifically to give the player an introduction to the game's mechanics. Phoenix Wright handles a case where his childhood friend, Larry Butz, is accused of murder. Luckily, Wright's mentor, Mia Fey, is with him every step of the way as he works to clear his friend of any wrongdoing. In this game's judicial system, it is up to the attorneys to discover all the evidence they can, so Phoenix will need to look around crime scenes and talk to the defendant and witnesses to discover everything they can about the case.

The main crux of the gameplay comes in the courtroom, however, where the goal is to listen to witness testimony and pick apart any contradictions through previous testimony and collected evidence.  The witnesses will attempt to give new testimony that explains these contradictions, but after picking apart their testimony several times, they will eventually crack and admit to the truth.

The first episode of Ace Attorney is a great way to start the game. Phoenix Wright's mentor Mia Fey is invaluable, as she will help Phoenix through each step of the process. Larry Butz is also a fun character to start off with, as he is completely over-the-top and especially silly.  The later episodes will pack a more emotional punch, but this lighthearted first case is a fantastic place to start.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Host Master Carol

The first game out the gate for the Coding for COVID Coronavirus fundraiser is a sequel to Host Master and Host Master Deux titled A Host Master Carol.

It is a mix of my favorite Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol, and one of my favorite Tim Schafer games, Day of the Tentacle.

To donate to the fundraiser, click here: https://donorbox.org/coding-for-covid.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Coding for COVID Fundraiser for Coronavirus Relief

I'm doing a fundraiser titled "Coding for COVID", wherein I code games while raising money for Coronavirus relief.

I'll be creating games based on my comics, Jenni and Doug the Ogre. I also received generous permission from Double Fine to create games based on some of their properties.

90% of all donations will be split up evenly among Doctors without Borders, Direct Relief, and Actions Against Hunger. The remaining 10% will go to the West Elmira Computer Museum. The latter is my non-profit charitable organization through which this charity drive is being handled.

You can donate to the cause here: https://donorbox.org/coding-for-covid

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Reversion: The Meeting Review

Reversion The Meeting is a much meatier game than its predecessor. It also is a much more fun experience.

Reversion: The Meeting picks up right where Reversion: The Escape left off. The amnesiac man meets with the woman from the hospital, briefly, and then he is left trying to find his next contact.
It is much more interesting than it sounds. His contact is shrouded in mystery and protected by gadgetry, so he must use his ingenuity to get to him. Once he does get to him, he finds himself in a conspiracy, and as he uncovers more of it, he finds that he strangely has vague memories of the mystery that he is uncovering.

On his way, he meets several interesting characters, and new locales to explore. He is given a GPS which he can use to travel around the wasteland that used to be Buenos Aires. There is much more to do this time around, as there are several new locations. The hospital, the sole location from chapter one, must also be re-visited. Doing so even solves one minor mystery left open from the last chapter.

With all of the highlights, there are still a few missteps, mainly in the translation. The Portuguese to English translation is still a bit rough, and there are portions where the English dialog sounds a bit off, or where a question isn't worded exactly right, leading to an unexpected answer. It's nothing too major, as it doesn't detract from the main story. However, it is noticeable.

Reversion: The Meeting vastly improves upon the first chapter with multiple locales, interesting puzzles, and an intriguing story. However, some of the wording gets lost in translation, leading to some awkward phrasing here and there. Ultimately, though, the plusses way outweigh the negatives, and the second chapter of Reversion is miles above the first in every respect. It is definitely worth a play.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Monday, March 2, 2020

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Non-Adventure Review: Sonic Adventure

This Dreamcast launch title was the first released three-dimensional Sonic platform game. For the most part, it maintains the speed of his 16-bit adventures, but it hits a few snags along the way.
Sonic Adventure starts out in a city setting, which represents the “adventure” part of the game. There are several buildings that you can choose to go into. This does get a bit tedious, as the stages are contained within the buildings, and are accessed by entering doors within those buildings.
It takes a while to get used to the layout of the entrances, as the camera often pans around you and gives you a different perspective. This can make finding the right entrance difficult at first, as all the doors look alike. Once you get the hang of it, however, it becomes second nature.
You have separate stories that unfold within the main story. Each of these stories is seen through the eyes of characters that you meet within the game. You start out as Sonic, and once you meet another character in the storyline, you can play that character’s story. This is quite a neat concept, even if it’s not a particularly original one. It’s interesting to see the storyline in someone else’s eyes besides Sonic’s for a change. The music is fitting for this game and is the rock-style music as started with the American release of Sonic CD. The voices are fitting for the characters, but the words do not match the mouths of the characters at times. The voice acting is not the best, but it’s acceptable. As for the game mechanics, Sonic’s and Tail’s games are by far the most fun. This is where you’ll find the trademark Sonic speed you’d expect from the series, with Sonic racing to the end, and Tails flying over certain paths that Sonic can’t reach to beat Sonic to the finish. The speed stays fast throughout the game, but it does come with a few drawbacks.
You can’t fix the camera to stay at a certain angle, so it will often wrap around your character at the most opportune times, meaning you might be rushing around a loop and the camera will pan backward. causing the movement to reverse, and Sonic to plummet to his doom.
This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen enough to become bothersome. While playing I also found certain areas where the collision detection was not properly tested, and you’ll find yourself falling through the floor at times if you’re unlucky. These problems are very minute and happen infrequently.
It’s possible that you might be able to play the game through without encountering any problems at all. The Amy portion has you avoiding Robotnik’s robots, and using a hammer to destroy enemies in your way. The speed isn’t as fast as Sonic’s or Tails, but as a result, the camera and collision detection problems are virtually non-existent, making for a pleasant gaming experience. The E102 portion (Dr. Robotnik’s robot) consists of blasting at enemies with a laser and rolling through to the end in time. These missions are fairly fun, and E102’s story is interesting enough to keep you going. Knuckles’ game consists of digging for emerald shards, over and over again. This can become quite tedious, and unless you’re an avid Sonic series fan, you might find yourself giving up before completing Knuckles’ storyline. As tedious as Knuckles’ portion of the game is, it’s nothing when compared to Big the Cat’s.
Big’s portion consists of fishing for a frog in water pools throughout the stages in the game. One can only assume that Sega was testing it’s fishing game ideas later seen in Sega Bass Fishing and Sega Marine Fishing when they came up with Big’s storyline. It’s fun in those games, as it’s expected.
In this game, it’s so out of place it’s almost annoying. Only the truly diehard fans will complete Big’s storyline, as once you complete it you are given the chance to play as Metal Sonic. Everyone else will find solace in the Sonic, Tails, Amy, and possibly Knuckles missions, as those are the meat of the game.
Summary: The music is excellent, and the voices are tolerable. The Sonic and Tails storylines are a blast, but the camera and collision detection problems detract from the enjoyment. The other storylines are more of a filler, as they aren’t nearly as fun as Sonic’s or Tails’. Big’s storyline is a big letdown. Fishing does not work in a Sonic The Hedgehog game. The game is worth the purchase for the Sonic and Tails portions. Only diehard fans will complete the rest of the game.
Final Verdict:
7 out of 10

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Non-Adventure Review: Commander Keen - Marooned on Mars

Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons - Marooned on Mars is a shareware platformer created by Apogee Software (now known as 3D Realms). It is the reason I bought a Super VGA monitor for my DOS computer in the 1990s, and there’s a good reason for it.  Commander Keen is one of the best classic platformers, and my number one pick for the game I’d love to see get a re-release on modern consoles.
Marooned on Mars was the first part of Invasion of the Vorticons, a three-part trilogy was a shareware game by iD Software and published by Apogee.  The idea of shareware was that the first episode was free to download and upload (from dial-up text-only BBS systems before the internet), copy, and share with all of your friends.  If you enjoyed the game, the rest of the episodes could be purchased by phone or by mail from Apogee, who would mail you the episodes on disk.
The trilogy starred the 8-year-old genius Billy Blaze, who built a spaceship out of household parts.  He dons his brother’s football helmet and defends Earth from the forces of evil in the galaxy as Commander Keen.  Part one finds Keen marooned on Mars, where he must find various parts for his spaceship so he can make his way back home.  In part two, the Vorticons have a cannon aimed at Earth, and Keen must go to the Vorticon mothership in order to stop the destruction of his planet.  Episode three concludes Commander Keen’s fight with the Vorticons, as he explores the caves of the Vorticon planet, does battle with the top Vorticon ninja fighters, and discover the secret of the Grand Intellect.
At first, Keen can only jump over creatures or jump on top of the weaker ones.  If he tries to hop on a strong creature, Keen loses a life.  The weaker creatures are only stunned, and snap out of it momentarily.  These weaker creatures just push Keen forward, while the stronger ones kill him on contact.  There are hazards on the levels, such as pits, fire, and spikes, which also cause Keen to lose a life upon contact.  Once Keen finds a laser gun, he can shoot laser shots until he runs out of ammunition or finds another gun.  Located throughout each level are candy treats and soda, as well as things like teddy bears.  Collecting these adds to Keens points, and at certain score levels, Keen receives more lives.
Later on, Keen also finds a Pogo stick, which lets him jump higher when the pogo button is pressed, which can get Keen to higher platforms and collect more treats.  Some levels require exploration, as there are doors that can only be opened by finding the correct colored key (a gameplay concept that iD will later incorporate into its popular first-person shooting games).
The stages in the game become tougher as they go on, with more hazards and stronger and higher concentrations of enemies.  The game sported great graphics at the time for DOS, which was on par with the graphics on the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The music, however, is non-existent. The game was made at a time when most PCs did not have sound cards, and sounds came from the PC speaker, which produced pretty terrible sounds.  So, there are only bloops and bleeps in here for the jumping and shooting sound effects.  These sound effects are not bad though, and the game is engrossing enough that even playing through the game again recently, I didn’t notice the lack of music.
There is a fan developed interpreter, however, titled Commander Genius, which uses the original data files and adds optional music. This is my favorite way to play, as the music adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game.
Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons - Marooned on Mars is a definite classic.  The storyline is interesting, the graphics are nice, and the gameplay is superb.
Final verdict:
4½ out of 5