Review: Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.

Happy Home Designer

 

Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer is not a pure Animal Crossing game, but more of a spin off game…it’s useful to remember this. It sees you become an employee of “Nook’s Homes” an interior/exterior designer if you will. Animals will appear outside the shop each day and it’s your job to pick one customer and design their dream home. They may specify that you must include certain items (most characters unlock more furniture which is then added to your library for use in any home thereafter) but for the most part, it’s up to you. And you literally choose everything, from how the exterior looks, the floor plan, the flooring, lamps, windows and sofas etc. You unlock more design options as you go through the game, and can also design buildings in the town centre too.

Amiibo Cards

Want to design the home of your favourite New Leaf villager? You can leave it to pot luck and hope they show up outside the shop, or you can try your luck at getting them in Amiibo cards packs. The cards can be scanned on “new” 3DS/XL consoles, or via an Amiibo reader and the villager or character will appear onscreen! The Amiibo cards are the only way to unlock the option to design the houses of the shop keepers and other non villagers in the game. (Saharah for example) These exclusives are denoted by the fact that their cards are glittery. Scanning the villager Amiibo figure also reaps a little reward too!

Overall the controls are excellently done and the game strangely addictive, if a little repetitive. You aren’t rewarded for matching items so it can feel a little empty at times, as the villagers are always happy regardless of the type of interior you design for them. However the online feature that allows players from around the world to rate your work makes up for this a little. Limited in scope, but done well, this is a welcome addition to the Animal Crossing franchise.

Villager Amiibo

General Scoring

Gameplay. 8/10  Immensely fun, but a little repetitive after a while.
Graphics. 8/10  Great use of 3D and incredibly cute characters!
Sound. 7/10  Limited due to game type really.
Music. 8/10  Again limited, but the music stays with me after I save and quit the game.
Story. 6/10  Not much of a story, but there doesn’t need to be with the nature of this game.

Wildcards

Value for money 7/10  A little limited in comparison with other Animal Crossing games.
Network Features 8/10  I really enjoy the rating system and being able to look at other player’s designs.
Controls 10/10  Mapped really well, picking up and playing for the first time was easy.
Addictiveness 9/10  Relaxed gaming at it’s best.
 Innovation 9/10  Excellent use of Amiibo. Both the cards and the figure can be scanned in, in an innovative and immersive way.

Total Score = 80%

Continue Reading

Review: Captain Toad Treasure Tracker.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker is such a charming puzzle platformer, that you almost forget how strange it is to play a game from this genre in which the characters can’t jump. Essentially, it’s 70+ stages, in each of which you are presented with Escher like floating dioramas which you must navigate, collecting items, sneaking past or tackling enemies, and using the gamepad to adjust the camera to ensure you’ve explored everything on offer from every angle.

The puzzles occasionally become very smart indeed, and I feel the only real annoyance whilst playing is that the camera control is tied to the gamepad’s gyro sensor, thus the camera can get a little crazy at the slightest of wrist movement. Overall the game is fun, gorgeous to look at, and the stages are different enough to keep things fresh and compelling.

General Scoring

Gameplay. 9/10  Easy to learn, but very compelling in a “just one more level” way.
Graphics. 9/10  Classic Mario styling, in HD.
Sound. 7/10  Some great sound effects.
Music. 8/10  Simple but compliments the game.
Story. 7/10  Predictable, but fun.

Wildcards

Value for money 8/10  A lot in the box for a puzzle game.
Difficulty. 7/10  Occasionally very tricky.
Pick up & play. 9/10  Easy to learn, difficult to master 100% completion.
Variety. 7/10  Pleasantly surprised by the variety of stages on offer.
Art style. 8/10  If you’re a fan of Mario, this is for you.

Total score: 79%

Continue Reading

Review: Pokemon X.

Pokemon X

Disclaimer: This is my first experience of the Pokemon franchise in any shape or form.

So, Pokemon X…The main objective whilst you explore the region of Kalos, is to battle and capture those cute creatures known as Pokemon. Build up your favourites and form a team to take on more, and catch more. And one of the many strengths of this game in particular, is that this can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. You see, Pokemon come as different types with different strengths and weaknesses (Mainly elemental in nature) as well as unique attacks. So you can pair different creatures for a well rounded battle team.

Things that impressed me during my many hours so far have been the battle cut scenes; mega evolutions, finishing blows…the team have really put in the effort with these and battles are a joy to watch. The avatar customisation is basic, but is there at least. The social and trading elements are the best I have seen on 3DS, with a quick and easy system to swap Pokemon with friends, as well as being able to send them temporary buffs and set status messages. Players can also battle with friends and with random people from across the world.

The environments you explore are varied and look great on the 3DS…Lumiose City being more than a little French inspired is a particular highlight. Signposted scenic points which enable the player to take a screenshot are a nice touch too. The music is good but the chatter and roars of the creatures themselves need work, but it’s a niggle rather than a dealbreaker for me.

The only factor I’ve found to be slightly less satisfying is the main story, you have moved into a new town and receive a letter from a local Pokemon professor inviting you to adopt a Pokemon and travel the world to fill the ‘Pokedex’ by capturing and battling different Pokemon, beat the eight gym leaders (in olden days, these would be known as bosses) and it’s mission complete. I understand the story is kept quite simple as the complexity comes from the battling, but even when other parties become involved later into the game, it is still slightly lacking. Nevertheless there are around 700 Pokemon to catch so there is still plenty to be doing. I see why people put so many hours into these games now, and can recommend Pokemon X for both seasoned trainers and newbies alike. I thoroughly enjoy my time in Kalos.

General Scoring

Gameplay 9/10 The menu system is a little tricky to navigate but it’s a complex game in parts.
Graphics 8/10 Bright and clear, the battle scenes are a particular highlight.
Sound 6/10 Sound effects leave a lot to be desired.
Music 8/10 Great soundtrack.
Story 7/10 Simple and slightly lack lustre.

Wildcards

Network features 9/10 I couldn’t get the voice chat feature to work, otherwise the online features are excellent and well implemented.
Pick up & Play value 9/10 You can choose to have a 20 minute session or an 8 hour marathon, both are possible in Kalos as saving is accessible in most places.
3D visual rating 7/10 Some frame rate drops in battle, and lots of 2D exploration but the 3D that is there is good quality.
Value for money 9/10 Hundreds of hours of potential playtime, but not the most varied of gameplay.
Addictiveness 9/10 The simplicity and urge to catch them all keep players coming back.

Total score: 81%

Continue Reading

Review: Dishonored

Dishonored

 

I know, I know, this review is very late, but then again, I know a lot of people who are yet to pick up this game, so to you guys, this may be helpful! (The short of it: It’s great, try it.)

Dishonored is a first person, stealthy adventure/RPG game, set in a Steam-punk inspired era and world. You play Corvo, a guy who was framed for something, who then spends the game taking down people and attempting to get his life back. I’m keeping that broad so as not to spoil the fun. How you play the game is largely up to you, you can stealthily take people down, or none lethally silence them, whilst you get done what needs to be done. You have access to a range of weapons and methods, and also some strange and intriguing magical abilities/perks.

Although the game itself is fairly linear, it is very easy indeed to become completely immersed in the world, the attention to detail is excellent, the sound design compliments the dark and eerie feel too. Whilst playing, I can clearly see many many influences, Half Life 2, Bioshock, Deus Ex and Oblivion all spring to mind, but Dishonored still sits aside as a unique game.  It’s strengths being the combat, and choice of combat methods, the art style, and the way in which, at just the right moments, the main story takes a backseat and the focus becomes on the smaller side stories you create with each new mission.

The magical abilities are great advantages, but rather than leave that unbalanced, whilst using them, neither your health nor your mana regenerates ..powerful as they are, your resources are scarce, so missions require much thinking, and the game quickly becomes immensely challenging. I’ve replayed missions lots of times as I just get stuck, but to Dishonored’s credit, I still find myself returning for more.

Dishonored isn’t your “all bells and whistles” blockbuster, but it borrows from many, and all are good ones, the more I play, the more I genuinely hope people will buy this game and try it out, I worry that the majority of gamers have been reduced to buying sequels and very rarely try new franchises or indie titles, this rewards those who still enjoy a surprise.

My only gripes are with game mechanics; context-sensitive actions such as moving onto ledges and opening doors, require too much shuffling around for the right prompt to appear. Frustrating at best, fatal at worst. The AI is inconsistent in some missions,  spotting me a mile away some times, and in other contexts, I’m almost standing next to them and they don’t bat an eyelid.

Even with the weaknesses in mind, the gameplay satisfaction in Dishonored is something I haven’t felt, to this degree,  in a very long time, and I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend with the game.

General Scoring

Gameplay 9/10 Challenging, yet equally rewarding, a point off for mechanics fuss though.
Graphics 9/10 This game looks gorgeous on PC, and pretty impressive on console too, and the art style is very unique.
Sound 8/10 Good, but not amazing.
Music 7/10 Doesn’t really stand out as being present.
Story 9/10  Excellent, even with slightly predictable twists and turns.

Wildcards

Variety 7/10 Linear-esque, with samey missions, but the choices in mission completion methods, and combat, mean this is a solid game.
Achievements 8/10 For hardcore players only, this game is very difficult to 100%.
Art Style 10/10 Unique, and consistent across the world, a very stylish game with great attention to detail, art wise.
Value for money 8/10  A shorter experience than some games, but the variety of gameplay options make a 2nd playthrough tempting.
Immersion 9/10  A small game world, but packed full of detail.

Total Score: 84%

 

Continue Reading

Review: Nintendo 3DS XL

Hello and welcome to October, otherwise known as 3DS month here on the blog. We kick off my first ever hardware review in the shape of the 3DS XL. One important point to remember here, is that I did not own a 3DS, I jumped from a DS Lite to the 3DS XL. So let’s get started !

What I like about it.

  • You know what surprised me? I actually like how big it is. It makes me feel like I have purchased something worth all the pennies, and less like I’ve stolen a 5 year olds toy. This is definitely a console for adults, or at least older kids than I actually see with 3DSs now. The larger screens really make everything that little bit more playable too, I find the games to be slightly more immersive as a result. It’s heavier which isn’t so good, but is much sturdier as a result, which I like.
  • Backwards compatibility, I love love love, this feature in any console, but since I don’t tend to spend money on portable gaming unless I’m off on holiday…being able to play all my old DS titles is a great little bonus.
  • Glasses free 3D! As a specs wearer, this is a truly awesome feature, and works well in the majority of titles for the console.

What needs a little work.

  • The cameras I think were what disappointed me most, far inferior to even the most basic of mobile phone cameras with regards to standard picture quality, but I guess the ability to take 3D pictures will be a winner with some.
  • Battery Life: 3.5-6.5 Hours of playtime with 3DS games and 6-10 with DS games…not enough for me I’m afraid.
The bonus features.
  • The Augmented reality stuff is quite a nice little addition to the console and I’m sure will appeal very much to younger players.
  • Streetpass and Spotpass elements let you exchange game data with friends and download extra content for games you already own.
  • The user interface and menus are intuitive and a very customisable home screen is something I feel that Nintendo haven’t highlighted enough.
Overall the system is a massive step up from my DS Lite, and those serious about portable gaming that have a 3DS may also want to consider upgrading if you spend large amounts of time on your machine. It took a long time for me to decide whether to opt for this, or save until I had enough cash for a Playstation Vita, but the catalogue of games swayed me in the end. The titles for Nintendo’s machine just looked more fun, and catered more for me as an on-the-go gamer. I feel the Vita is technically the superior console, but would advise anyone comparing the 2 to go for the gaming catalogue that appeals to you the most.
Let me know in the comments what handheld you play on/would like to own. (I’m still a massive GameGear fan myself)

 

Continue Reading