The series is running thin, and the switch to 3D didn't shake things up enough...
The fifth installment in the Professor Layton series delivers what you should expect by now: an over-the-top story that's slowly revealed to you, one puzzle at a time.
Alas, after four games of basically the same formula over and over again, the series is now starting to run thin. The gameplay could really use an overhaul, and I thought the transition to the 3DS would be perfect for that. Unfortunately it was not to be.
While there are advantages to the 3DS switch (more quality cutscenes, more voiced lines, a couple of puzzles with added flair), there are also a few pitfalls that they didn't avoid. Changing the wonderful 2D character animations to 3D ones isn't all it's cracked up to be, for one. While they tried to make the 3D models resemble the 2D ones closely through cel-shading, somehow in the process they lost some of the charm inherent in the artwork, and it hurts the game (especially in contrast with the beautiful and top notch 2D cutscenes). And it also feels like they didn't take full advantage of the new capabilities the 3DS has to offer. Either the console was still too new when this game was in production, or the developers were too rusted in their old ways. Whatever it was, I feel that they left a lot of potential untapped and while this may improve the odds for the sixth game (Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy), I'm not that sure this team will go for it...
I'm not overly happy with the story's resolution either. It lacked a good twist (as the main twist was more or less phoned in from the very beginning), and they kind of shoehorned a certain villain in, just to fit this game into a trilogy. Several of the main characters have really silly motivations as well, so you'd better not think too hard about it (but this holds true for the other Layton games as well).
In the end, though, I still got a game with (once again) high production values, a great deal of puzzles (150 + minigames), and a staggering 365 daily downloadable puzzles. All these combined netted me about a 60-hour puzzle fix, so while this installment may be the weakest of the Layton series so far, it's by no means a bad one. I just hope the devs step up their game somewhat in the conclusion to this prequel trilogy...
Time Played: Over 20 hours
Difficulty: Just Right
Rating by Antrax posted on Jul 21, 2014
It's not a game, it's a demo
The Shivah is insultingly short and linear. There's a grand total of five single-screen locations, dialogue trees are exhausted in 30 seconds flat and the whole thing feels like a very high-quality demo.
The game also suffers from The Blackwell series' awkward interface, where you have to memorize names to later type in a computer, which lends itself to some backtracking, which is the only way people were able to play this for more than an hour. The only stumper is the ending in the form of a lengthy dialogue puzzle, where your goal is obvious but you first need to explore all options to see what they do so you can later figure out how to correctly arrange them to win.
The "multiple endings" are also rather contrived, since the righteous and correct action is obvious in both instances.
In summary, this is an average title that doesn't justify the price.
Time Played: Under 1 hour
Great game but abrupt ending
I loved this game, simply because I love playing with Nina Kalenkov. Luckily this time she had a better voice actress than with Puritas Cordis (I was so disappointed with that game because it wasn't voiced by the same actress as Tunguska).
What I loved most was the music. Perfect for this kind of adventure game.
The puzzles were just right for me, except in a few cases where I missed some objects and thus was aimlessly looking around trying everything on everything countless times.
Playing time was 6 hours, but I really would have liked it be longer. I was surprised to get an ending after some arbitrary task; didn't expect that and was rather disappointed. I wanted more closure of the events themselves, before the "what happened to" segment.
Time Played: 5-10 hours
Difficulty: Just Right
Rating by Antrax posted on Jul 20, 2014
Papers, Please is exactly what the box promises. That means unique and innovative, but also fairly dull and ugly. Arguing with deliberate design choices is rarely fruitful, so I'll just say I could enjoy it more had other choices been made.
The atmosphere is excellent. Music, presentation and the graphical style do a great job of conveying a "Soviet" atmosphere.
The game play, however, is lacking. In part this is deliberate, since you can later spend money to somewhat improve the cumbersome interface. Still, the decision to limit the player's interaction to pointing out discrepancies and stamping passports is somewhat odd. You're supposed to care about your family, but they have neither names, nor faces, nor personalities.
There are several interactions where you wish you could choose the character's reply, instead of standing there and waiting for the dialogue to be over.
You can't refuse bribes, sometimes people just drop money and go.
You can't discard objects, so people can burden you with items there's no way to get rid of.
All in all, it looks like a deliberate choice to limit interactivity so much, but I personally felt the game would've been better served with an occasional player-controlled dialogue, and maybe some sections before/after working days.
Gameplay itself is tiring. This is again deliberate but it wears thin very quickly. The game heaps on requirements, and very soon you need a deft mouse hand to be able to process enough people to make your daily (?) rent payment. There's an "easy" mode that may mitigate some of that - being a decent arcade player I just weathered, adopting some heuristics to ignore some of the lower ROI checks.
The plot is rather threadbare, which ties back to the lack of interaction. You're not given any real reason to choose one side or the other, and the game ultimately has three real endings, the other 17 being slight variations on failure. So, while offering some replay value (getting the endings where you side with on faction requires different choices early on), the endings are rather humdrum and I felt justified in picking mine and then watching the rest on YouTube.
All in all it's an interesting experiment and very atmospheric game, but the game play is lacking and the fact it's deliberately so doesn't make it any more fun.
Time Played: 5-10 hours
Rating by Kelop posted on Jul 17, 2014
This is a competent adventure game without any actual flaws but with some space for improvement. The playing experience is actually pleasant, even for an inexperienced player as the puzzles are quite easy most of the time and, on the good side, most often make sense.
The story has a large traveling adventure thread and is reminiscent of the adventures of Indiana Jones in the way that it takes place before the Second World War and involves stopping the German Nazis form obtaining some super weapons. While well constructed, the story lacks some larger ambition that would make it deeper and more memorable. It serves it's purpose while playing the game without providing anything beyond that. Just think of it as watching an Indiana Jones movie. The story is interesting, moves from one place in the world to another, has some plot twists but it's all has been seen before. And there is nothing that would move the audience or incline them to really think about any aspects presented in the game.
The graphics are made in the old 2D style and look very well, possibly a bit simple, but simplicity is often better that unwarranted complexity. The music is good in the way that it's unnoticeable and doesn't hinder the gaming experience. At the same time it's nothing memorable either.
Generally this game has a little of a casual type feel or a feel of a game for a beginner if you like. Combination of the easy and competent puzzles and the interesting but somewhat shallow story create that impression.
For those who like: action focused story, Indiana Jones movies
Not for those who like: deep story, challenging puzzles
PS. As a side note, some people have said that they think that a score of 3.5 is too low for this game while according to some, this game deserves a lower rating. How each person rates this game is a matter of opinion but I would like to point out that 3.5 is not a low score. According to this site's scoring system it actually corresponds to 7 on a 10 grade scale. I would say it means it's a good game but not very good or excellent. Read the score according to the grading scale.
Time Played: 10-20 hours
Great old-school point and click game, though a bit tedious
The game crashed on me 12 hours in, so I had to do that last hour or so again, though this time in ten minutes max since now I already knew where to go and I fast-forwarded the dialogue. And I rushed through the ending as well since I'd been playing all day, it was way past dinner time, and I didn't want to search through the entire island yet again to see what had changed so I cheated and looked up at least WHERE I was supposed to go, but I still saw what to do there on my own if that redeems me ;)
And that's exactly the difficulty with the "So Blonde" adventure game: after every little progress you make, the characters might change location, new objects might show up, so you keep revisiting every place on the island trying to find what has changed where, and how you can interact with it so you can make the next step in your progress, only to do it all over again after that. It's kinda tedious. Good thing it's a fun game otherwise ...
I really enjoyed the voice-actors, loved the graphics though not so much the in-game movies. The mini-games were a fun reprieve from traipsing around the island all the time and the only one I didn't like was catching the fireflies; that mouse work to move Sunny just annoyed me because it was so easy to move her too far, or not far enough.
I didn't like the ending either, it just stops without knowing what happens to the island, or if Sunny gets back home or not. I did some research and there are multiple or bonus endings? Well I just didn't get one, lol!
Total game time was about 18 hours I think.
Time Played: 10-20 hours
Rating by Loh_Land posted on Jul 12, 2014
I haven't played this a long while so excuse me if some details are foggy. I probably could just go and play it again but that would be a big mistake. In reality this is a really terrible game that is borderline unplayable at times but that it even exists in the first place and the humor ranging from vulgar to plain silly gives it a certain charm to prevent me from totally hating it.
So this was an old title made in Adventure Game Studio, and roughly around the time the fifth game came out, or a few years after. Whoever made this obviously did not like it since it takes its share of potshots at it (though I think the game is a masterpiece, maybe not a fully realized one, but one all the same, and crap like this is probably in no position to be calling it out for anything).
So going by the title you'll quickly figure this is supposed to take place between 4 and 5, which is hypothetically correct except the game doesn't give one damn about continuity and so nothing here makes any sense considering the ending of the fourth game. But that's the least of its problems. First, the game looks absolutely terrible. Technically, the map of Spielburg is the same (save for more than a few changed areas) but the character sprite on top of the screen does not blend in at all with the background. I don't know why, but it's like someone walking on a matte painting. And his animations! If you can call them that.
So the "story" to this one is that destroying Baba Yaga's curse actually made the town worse off somehow. The Baron's son has taken over and turned everything to waste. So you being blamed for causing the trouble, you must try and undo the mess you've made. The game does in fact keep intact the choices of Fighter, Wizard and Thief, and they all actually do have some differences in their playthroughs, so pulling that off by himself on an old version of AGS is pretty impressive all things considered. And no, unfortunately you can't import a character you have from one of the other QfG games to here, but that may very well be a good thing considering the game's biggest issue of all: the constant, CONSTANT crashing. Sometimes you'll start up, walk barely a few feet and, crash. If I recall correctly there were other environmental glitches too but I don't know the details. That is why I rank the Difficulty as "Hard." The game itself is not too terribly difficult, but the crashes will make getting through this thing a real struggle. I read the guy behind Infamous Quests (who made Quest for Infamy) and one from Himalaya Studios (makers of the VGA remakes of the first three King's Quest titles, as well as Al Emmo and the upcoming Mage's Apprentice) got hold of the game's code to see if it could be patched or fixed in any way and according to them the code is such a horrible, incoherent garbled mess that they were surprised the game works as well as it did. Their conclusion: it would be much easier to remake the game altogether than to fix it in its current, broken state.
So you'll meet old, familiar faces, some new ones, and you even get extra areas to explore! Around the side of the entrance to Spielburg is some ice mountain, whose graphics apparently were lifted entirely from King's Quest V. Then there's a beach where you can get a ride across the tides (with apparently Monkey Island music playing) to a cave where some treasure or, something, can be found, all the while avoiding the traps set up for you to avoid getting it. Then you meet up with a gang who call themselves the "Homosexual Pirates' (hurf hurf) or something like that, though there's nothing stereotypically "gay" in their behaviors. Anyway they want your treasure so you'll have to find a way out of it if you want to live. This part I actually was stuck on and had to look up the solution too (yes someone was sad enough to put up a walkthrough for this game for people equally sad enough to play it). I forgot if it was that I missed an item or the solution was so obvious in hindsight but in any case, I got out.
The humor is the game's defining feature, yet interestingly I can't even remember any particular jokes from the game. What I recall was that it wasn't as reliant on juvenile or offensive humor that I expected. It ranges from vulgar, offensive, absurd, plain silly or just dumb. Like there's a sign in front of a shop advertising itself as the best of its kind in Spielburg, and mentioning that it has locations in "Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese" and a few others. I thought that was cute.
Combat, is barely consequential. A few of the new Baron's guards, I think(?) will show up on screen, but unlike the first game where they'll follow you screen to screen for a bit, they immediately disappear when you leave the screen and come back. So combat is easy to avoid if you want. But if you want to get all points in the game (which, yes, I did, for some reason) then there's a certain enemy you have to fight who is ridiculously tough. You need to be maxed out in your stats to take this S.O.B. down. And it's because he's the killer of some woman whose spirit cannot rest because of him, then you must bury her body in a church or something. It's the one point in the game where it actually takes itself seriously, and as a side-plot/quest it's not too bad, I can easily see it fitting with even the regular QfG games. Then when you find the den that was once that treasure area guarded by the Minotaur (I'm sorry, it's been a while since I've played these games) before and now has been turned into a bar for hillbillies with Confederate flags pasted everywhere then such moments of poignancy sort of dissipate.
In conclusion, this was a game made by someone who was clearly a huge fan of the series. All the references, effort put into a game with such complex mechanics, and even a decent sense for storytelling and puzzles when he actually tries means he probably could've made something decent if he was not enraptured by his juvenile sensibilities, technical shortcomings, both aesthetic and the ones that make the game a burden to get through (seriously the crashes got so bad at points I was just about to delete the whole damn thing), some really bad spelling and grammar (forgot to mention that, yeah, this wasn't something that was very well proof-read if at all), and that the whole thing was seemingly just thrown together as a joke which shows. It's worth a download for the novelty factor (there are two versions: a DOS version and a Windows versions - one of them doesn't actually even work - I forget which one) if you're a fan of this series, but this is a hardcore case of "save early, save often." Not because it's a hard game with puzzles that'll trap you or kill you at any point, but because you could make some decent progress only for it to CRASH. If you accomplish anything at all, even if it's walking five screens across, save, so you don't have to potentially do that again. Keep that branded into your brain - SAVE SAVE SAVE SAVE. Something in its program is out for you, and knows your weakness - your tendency to play without stopping to save, but you MUST beat it down! Hard! CORE! To the MAX!
Or, y'know, just don't play it, you could always do that, I'm sure there have to be playthroughs on YouTube somewhere.
Time Played: 2-5 hours