REVIEW: Ghost Trick

About a month ago, a friend suggested I purchase a game called Ghost Trick for the Nintendo DS. He hooked me by saying it was one of the best stories he’d ever seen. Curious, I decided to make the purchase, and I found myself with an absolute gem of a game.

Plot:
 
I won’t spoil this plot because I think it’s something everyone should try, but it is incredible. It starts out simple enough: you’re the ghost of a recently killed man, and another ghost, Ray, tells you to save the girl that is about to be killed right beside your body. It goes on from there. Really, it’s one of the finest plots I’ve ever experienced, and it’s all character-driven. There is only one external factor, and it’s the coolest twist ever. 
 
Characters:
 
All the characters have their own unique personalities and hidden motives for things they’re doing in the game, and it’s cool to see how they all come together to create the plot. My favorite has to be Missile, the dog that Sissel comes in contact with.
 
 
This is a really cool feature. As a ghost, Sissel has the power to manipulate small, inanimate objects, and has the ability to go back to 5 minutes before a person’s death and try to change it. The changing of someone’s fate is the core mechanic in the game, as Sissel must utilize his abilities to manipulate objects to change the past, and thus the future. This comes in the form of puzzles you must figure out, and I have to say, some of them were pretty challenging.
About midway through the game, you’re able to utilize another ghost ability – switching objects with similar shapes.
The only problem with Ghost Trick is the lack of re-playability. Once you figure the puzzles out, you know what to do and you already know how the mystery unfolds, and so replaying it takes away from so much of the game.
——
Ghost Trick is a gem. It’s a game I had never heard of until suggested to me, and I’m glad I decided to try it, and it easily has one of my favorite game plots of all time. This game proves that games can have a deep, meaningful story, and still be an interactive success. If you like puzzle games or a good story, definitely pick this game up!
Score:
 
Plot: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Gameplay: 7/10

Just sayin’

REVIEW: Limbo

Another review! Since school’s ending (my finals week is this week!!), I’ve had a lot more time to play games, so I’ve actually been getting around to playing some of the games in my backlog. Today, I’ll be reviewing a game I purchased during Steam‘s Christmas Sale last year – Limbo.

Plot:

Let’s dive right in with me saying this: I don’t like open-ended and subtle narratives. I hate them. I like to have my narratives laid out in front of me with character as the more subtle element. That aside, Limbo’s plot is fairly simple: you know that you play a boy who is seemingly in Limbo (at least, that’s what I thought), who is looking for his sister. Although simple, that’s enough for the game to be enjoyed.

You do see a few things – a giant spider, dead humans, and even ones that are alive and hostile. What they mean, I have no idea, and this is my problem with subtle narratives – it’s all up to interpretation, and I don’t like that. The ending is the same way (and it’s rather abrupt), so you never actually find out what the story is – you’re supposed to interpret it for yourself. But, despite my distaste for these kinds of narratives, Limbo does do a really nice job setting its world and narrative up, and it really adds to the replay value for those who enjoy these kinds of narratives.

I don’t like it, but Limbo does it very well.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

This is by far my favorite part of the game. Everything’s laid out to you Noir style, so you’re given only black and white, and it is stunning. The faded out backgrounds in grey, the lights and darkness at the end of puzzles, the lighting effects with blurs and shadows – all of it is simply fantastic! It really sets and maintains the mood of the game throughout the entire experience. I especially loved the character model. The few musical compositions are great, and they really invoke emotions when you do hear them since they’re during critical narrative parts of the game. Throughout most of the game, all you hear are sound effects, but those are fantastic background noise, especially once you get to the more city-like areas and you hear the gears and crackling of electricity. It was a game that I felt benefited greatly from the quietness of not really having a soundtrack.

I really can’t say anything more – you simply have to experience it yourself. I think this right here is enough of a reason to replay (and buy) the game.

Gameplay:

I was looking up plot details to see if anything official had been released (there hasn’t as far as I know), and I came across “trail and death” as a style of game, and I think this was a good way of categorizing Limbo. Some of the puzzles I died multiple times just to get the timing right, but while some may find this kind of game frustrating, I enjoy it. The checkpoints where nicely set, so I never felt like I had to do something I had just done over and over, and the difficulty wasn’t even bad – many of the puzzles were thought-provoking, and I enjoy that in a puzzle-oriented game. It definitely has replay value, but knowing the puzzles already does detract from it unless you enjoy time attacking.

Overall, Limbo delivers an excellent experience for those who enjoy puzzle games and a more subjective narrative. I would recommend it to anyone, especially since it’s so cheap! It’s indie games like this that I will continue to buy because they’re always good!

Score:

Plot: 4/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Gameplay: 9/10

Overall: 7/10

Just sayin’.

P.S.: Limbo is currently part of the newest Humble Bundle that is out right now. It’s for a limited time, so I suggest you go get it – it’s got a ton of great games PLUS Limbo, and you get to name your price!

Go here to get it! — http://www.humblebundle.com/

REVIEW: Pushmo

Right after I reviewed Pictobits, my friend Jacob suggested I get Pushmo, another game from the 3DS e-shop, so I decided to buy it when I downloaded the Rayman Origins Demo. Just like Pictobits, it’s another gem that is sure to please anyone!

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

While the music isn’t the best I’ve heard, it is nice, and complements the way Pushmo feels while playing – it’s definitely good background music for trying to solve a puzzle. The actual puzzles are awesome, especially the murals, which range from Mario‘s head to a Christmas tree. All of them are really creatively made, and Tetris-like look of them makes it even better!

Gameplay:

Pushmo is a puzzle game where you manipulate blocks to reach the top of the Pushmo (the puzzle), and save the child whom has been trapped inside of it. It’s a very simple concept that anyone can pick up and play with ease, but the puzzles are so cleverly designed that you’ll find yourself thinking on more than a few occasions, which I find awesome.

Manipulating blocks is really simple. You can pull out a row three times as long as there’s solid ground behind you, and you can pull a block that you’re not standing on sideways as long as there’s solid ground to the side of you. A lot of puzzles require you to push a block in to be able to pull another block sideways out or in, and then re-pull or push a block back in or out to create a series of steps that you previously couldn’t access before. There are multiple ways to solve some puzzles, and only one way to solve certain puzzles, so there’s some flexibility and creativity in the way you can solve them.

And don’t worry, if you mess up, you can turn back time by pressing the L button or press the reset switch to restart the level.

After a while, ‘gadgets’ come into play, such as manholes and switches. Switches push every block of its color out 3 rows (the maximum), and the manholes let you reach areas you couldn’t by just jumping or manipulating blocks. Once those come into play the puzzles get a lot harder, but way more fun. I found myself really enjoying the gadgets, as they allowed the puzzles to be structured much differently, and many of the puzzles still are simply pushing and pulling.

Another feature (that I have yet to try) is Pushmo creation. You can create your own puzzles using an editor and play them and share them. I want to finish the game before I try it, but it looks absolutely awesome, and I’m really excited to try it out.

Pushmo has a lot of content for a game under $10, and it’s perfect if you’re a fan of puzzle games. The puzzles look great and are really satisfying to solve, and, like Pictobits, you can pick it up, play it for a few minutes, and put it back knowing that you can play it again later and still enjoy it. I’m glad my friend recommended it, because I’m loving it!

Score:

Atmosphere: 8/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Overall: 9/10

Just sayin’.

REVIEW: Pictobits

Every month, Club Nintendo releases a set of games that are available on the Wii Shop Channel or the 3DS e-Shop as rewards for coins. These are usually priced at 150 coins, and, like with Super Mario Kart, some of them are absolute gems. Pictobits is one of those gems.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

It’s 8-bit! Who doesn’t love 8-bit? The puzzle pieces look very similar to Tetris, giving it a very nostalgic feel. The music, remixed versions of the original songs (still 8-bit!) are great! I got into it and started playing to the beat of the songs, and it was awesome to hear the originals remixed with 8-bit, keeping everything simple and themed.

I found myself replaying a few levels just because the music was that awesome!

Gameplay:

The gameplay is actually relatively simple. Colored blocks are falling from the sky, and you have three rows of various colored blocks to make a column or row of 4 or a 2×2 box minimum by manipulating them with your stylus. You can make a row stretching across the entire screen if the falling pieces present themselves that way or a 5×2 box – the combinations make up a big part of the way the game plays. If the falling pieces hit your blocks and don’t make a match, they turn into blocks themselves.

Once you make a match, time freezes, and any pieces attached the to completed piece start to fall faster after the completed piece disappears – this gives you time to set up blocks so that they fall into matches and link together. You can go up to a maximum of 9 links, and I’ll explain why in a second.

You can touch an untouched block with your stylus and have the entire block of puzzle pieces fall quickly to extend your combo if you’re quick enough, and any match you make during the time freeze will extend your combo.

So, why only a maximum of 9 before it stops counting? Because of the goal of the game. The goal of the game is to uncover the level’s hidden character(s). You do this by completing puzzle pieces. If you complete a column of 4, then 4 bits fly to the top screen and fill in 4 bits of that character. If you do a combo, you’ll get 8 bits for 2 links, 12 bits for 3 links, and so on and so forth until you can get a whopping 36 bits for link 9, and that’s only for combing with 4 bits. If you combo with larger blocks, rows, and columns you can get into the 60’s of bits!

The difficulty increases as you complete the character. In the beginning, the music is just some beats and a very small rhythm. As you complete the character, the music begins to fill itself in with the parts of the game pertaining to that character, and once you’re 3/4 of the way done, the entire song comes out and plays as you finish the character. As the music picks up, the puzzle pieces fall faster, making it harder to combo.

It’s actually pretty simple, but the game throws a few curveballs in – there are blocks that can’t be moved (marked by an ‘x’), so they must be completed to disappear. There’s also the Pow Block and coins. Completing a 2×2 or higher block gives you one coin, and any unmovable blocks give one coin when matched – but what are they for? Besides buying the Dark levels (harder versions of the original levels) and music to listen to, they’re for restoring spaces in your block holder.

At the start of any level, you can store up to 10 blocks to then put down and make matches. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself in a tight spot, you can press the Pow Block in the lower left-hand corner to erase a few lines of your stack and make the rest come crashing down to the bottom of the screen. However, it comes with a price – you lose one spot in your block holder, meaning you now can only hold 9 blocks. If you have 5 coins, however, you can buy one spot back. It’s a very balanced system, and extremely useful during the later levels when you’ll be using the Pow Block more than a few times.

There’s some replay value in Pictobits, but only in its Dark levels that need to be unlocked and in getting enough coins to unlock all the music. Or, for those who are hardcore, you can try to get the highest score, and if that’s the case the replay value is great!

And finally, the controls – in short, the stylus works wonderfully. There’s nothing more to say about it except I’m glad it used the stylus instead of the D-Pad.

Pictobits is one of those games that you pick up, beat, and then come back to when you have a few minutes to kill and want to play something you know you’ll enjoy – it’s got great music and intuitive gameplay, and it’s something I’ll be playing whenever I’m bored or want a puzzle game with fantastic music! If you’ve got 150 coins to spare on Club Nintendo or a few extra dollars, pick up Pictobits; you won’t be disappointed.

Score:

Atmosphere: 9/10

Gameplay: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

Just sayin’