Review of The Comic Artist & His Assistants

comicartists

Otakus can be surprisingly Meta when it comes to their entertainment of choice. Anime set in the distant future or in far-flung fantasy worlds may be popular, but that doesn’t mean that otakus are averse to checking out more down to earth shows, which dabble with the creation of the comics and cartoons they so enjoy. Perhaps that is why the likes of Shirobako and Bakuman have proven to be such big hits in recent times. Those aforementioned examples are however too classy for yours truly. Fan service is more my forte, so I decided to watch The Comic Artist & His Assistants instead. This twelve episode series deals with the creation of comics, albeit ecchi mangas drawn by a massive perv.

OVERVIEW

Yuki Aito is a professional manga artist and the man behind HajiCafe – an ongoing comic book series infamous for its panty shot packed panels. Much to the annoyance of his long-suffering editor Mihari Otosuna, he is also a huge slacker. Rather than drawing new content for upcoming issues, Yuki wastes a lot of his free time on dating-sims and buying new additions for his extensive collection of female undergarments (the stockpile of undies is purely for research purposes… honest!) Due to his procrastination, in order to meet looming deadlines, Yuki is often forced to employ the services of three attractive assistants named Sahoto, Rinna and Sena.

Teenager Sahoto Ashisu is Yuki’s right hand (wo)man. She dreams of drawing her own manga series some day, but has yet to break into the comic book industry despite possessing the superior work ethic that her mentor lacks. Sahoto respects Yuki’s artistic talents, but that is as far as her admiration goes. Whenever Yuki playfully suggests taking their relationship beyond that of mere co-workers she wastes no time in bluntly turning him down.

Eighteen-year-old Rinna Fuwa is a big fan of HajiCafe, which is somewhat odd given the book’s subject matter. Although she has no skills when it comes to drawing, she managed to secure an assistant job as Yuki forgot to request someone with experience (he only stipulated the need for a helper that looks cute.) Rinna is blessed with a chirpy personality and unlike the other girls, who get exasperated with Yuki’s antics, she’ll often play along with his libidinous ways. The same cannot be said for Sena Kuroi. The diminutive lady, who is a prodigy when it comes to sketching, has a low tolerance for any unprofessional behaviour. Sena has no qualms about pummelling Yuki, whenever he gets out of line, but thankfully for the protagonist her weedy physical strength is unable to exert any painful blows (even with the assistance of a bullwhip.)

VERDICT

My rating for The Comic Artist & His Assistants is four stars. A series about a lustful virgin surrounded by beautiful women sounds like a recipe for disaster, but thanks to its charming cast the show succeeded in putting a smile on my face. The contrasting personalities result in plenty of amusing banter and the characters have some depth, which is a surprise given the show’s restrictive running time. Mihari for example is more than a one-dimensional irritable boss. Over the course of the series we learn how she is insecure about her bust size and that her relationship with Yuki stretches back to high school (where she had a bit of a crush on him.)

Even if the gags are a little one-note, The Comic Artist & His Assistants doesn’t overstay its welcome as it has the sense to embrace its four-panel comic roots. Each episode of this anime adaptation is a mere ten minutes long and comprised of two to three skits, which prevents things from getting stale. Some viewers may feel that concise stories aren’t value for money, but I personally prefer short and sweet over dragging things out. Speaking of value, I would recommend getting the DVD set from Animatsu over the iTunes download. The physical release comes bundled with six bonus OVAs, which is quite a bit of extra content when you consider the duration of an average episode. Overall I can recommend this series to anyone seeking a funny animated comedy. Despite Yuki’s tastes, the show isn’t PANTSu.

Review of Sonic Colours

soniccolors

This is an old review that I wrote for another site back in 2010. Given my blog’s lack of regular content I figured I would post it here. Apologies to anyone who dislikes wordy reviews. As you can see below, I used to write far longer reviews back when I was younger.

I have to say that it is weird seeing Sonic appear on a Nintendo machine. Back when I was growing up the 16-bit console war between Nintendo’s SNES and Sega’s Megadrive was fierce. On one side we had Mario the face of Nintendo and on the other Sonic the supersonic blue hedgehog championing Sega’s cause. The idea that Sonic would appear on a rival’s machine was absurd, but things change. Sega never managed to repeat the success of the Megadrive (shame because the Dreamcast was a fine machine) so they eventually gave up on making consoles and concentrated on software instead.

Although Sega’s machines didn’t sell all that well their mascot Sonic still does. He has appeared in numerous games on pretty much every console and handheld that will have him. Ironically enough he seems more at home on Nintendo’s Wii as opposed to the PS3 or 360. Sonic even teamed up with Mario in an Olympic game and was a character in Nintendo’s popular Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Many old school fans however like to hark on that the newer 3D Sonic games aren’t any good, especially when compared to the 2D classics on the Megadrive.

I feel that is unfair as I personally enjoyed playing the Sonic Adventure games. I even liked the team based Sonic Heroes and spin off Shadow the Hedgehog. I cannot however defend some of the later Sonic titles such as Sonic 2006, which I gave up on in frustration due to its plethora of bugs and glitches. I also failed to complete Sonic and the Secret rings due to the clunky motion controls. Will the new Sonic Colours prove to be another dud? Let us take a closer look and find out.

STORY

Sonic’s nemesis Dr Eggman (some of you may know him better as Dr Robotnik) says he is sorry for his past evil deeds. To make amends he has created a theme park that orbits the earth for the general public to enjoy. Sonic isn’t convinced by the announcement however and sneaks into the park to investigate. Once there he learns that all is not well. The theme park is made up of a number of small alien worlds. Eggman has enslaved the alien inhabitants called wisps and is using their energy to power a mind control ray he intends to use to conquer the world.

Players take control of Sonic as he goes from level to level trying to foil Eggman’s scheme by freeing the aliens and smashing the generators that power the theme park. In terms of story this isn’t as epic as the plot of the Sonic Adventure games. For better or worse Sega have opted to keep things simple in this instalment. It’s just Sonic and Tails taking on Eggman, as it was in the older games. I much preferred the Sonic Adventure stories over what we get here, but I understand that some people didn’t care for those due to their large cast of supporting characters.

I think the story we got in the Sonic Adventure games was aimed more at teenagers whilst Sonic Colours is targeting a younger audience. The cut scenes you get after completing a few levels feel like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon filled with silly humour, which kids may like but older players will find corny. We get a number of lame jokes were Tails unsuccessfully tries to translate what the aliens are saying along with Eggman yelling at his idiotic robot henchmen. I personally didn’t care for the cut scenes, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the game. Story isn’t exactly a big deal when it comes to platformers and if the story clips really irk you it is possible to skip them.

GAMEPLAY

As with most platformers the aim of the game is to move forward and reach the end of the stage. Standing between you and the goal are Eggman’s robot lackeys and numerous obstacles including pitfalls, spikes and flooded areas. I like the way the levels are designed, as they give you a nice balance of challenging areas were you have to be careful and wide open stretches were you can appreciate the speed Sonic is known for. Although you just have to head forward to reach the end you will often find that there are different paths you can take to complete a stage. This is nice for people who like to explore a stage or those trying to find the quickest route to clock the fastest time, which will earn them more points and a higher rank.

Sonic has a number of moves at his disposal, which will aid him in his progress. As always he can jump into the air and curl into a spiky ball to destroy enemies. Other moves he can perform include a sliding tackle to squeeze under low ceilings (and knock down enemies), a stomp that breaks destructible blocks and a wall jump, which has him bouncing up between walls. When travelling through the stage be sure to collect the rings that are scattered about as insurance. Like with most Sonic games, getting hit by an enemy means that you lose your rings. If you don’t have any rings when hit you lose a life – taking you back to the last checkpoint (or start of the stage if you are all out of lives.)

WISPS

Why is this game called Sonic Colours you may ask? It’s due to the different coloured wisps you encounter in the game. As you travel through a stage you’ll come across these little guys trapped in glass capsules. If you smash the capsule and set them free you will be granted the wisp’s power for a short period of time. Each wisp gives Sonic a unique ability and these are…

  1. White: Touching a white wisp fills up the boost bar at the bottom of the screen. Providing that you have some boost stored up you can press the relevant button to make Sonic dash faster than usual. Handy for making a quick escape or zooming over water (take that Jesus.)
  2. Cyan: Unleashing the cyan wisp’s power will transform Sonic into a laser for a split second. As a bolt pure energy Sonic can ricochet off walls at super fast speed allowing him to get to hard to reach places.
  3. Yellow: The yellow wisp turns Sonic into a drill, which can bust through blocks and tunnel underground. The drill form even works underwater allowing Sonic to move faster than usual in the watery levels (helpful as the blue hedgehog can only hold his breath for so long before drowning.)
  4. Blue: A very versatile power. It turns Sonic into a cube that can destroy blocks. It also turns blue rings into solid platforms for a short period of time allowing Sonic to traverse over long gaps.
  5. Orange: Probably my least favourite power. It turns Sonic into a rocket, which sounds cool but all the rocket does is fly straight up. You cannot control the ascent and once it wears off Sonic just plummets down to earth.
  6. Green: If you want to fly forget the orange rocket and get this guy instead. It allows you to turn into a spaceship that can hover over obstacles. The spaceship form doesn’t move too fast, but it can perform a quick ring dash whenever you come across a line of rings.
  7. Pink: Turns Sonic into a spiky ball. In this form he can grip onto walls and even the ceiling. Very helpful for getting past certain stages or reaching hidden powerups.
  8. Purple: The craziest form of them all. It turns Sonic into a snarling beast, which rushes forward eating up any enemies that get in his way (or even solid objects.) A little hard to control, but good fun while it lasts.

GRAPHICS / SOUND

Compared to other Sonic games and other Wii titles I would have to rate Sonic Colours favourably in the visual department. The cartoony character models are nothing special, but the levels are impressive with backgrounds full of detail. Like in Sonic Unleashed the point of view keeps switching from a side scroller, akin to the old Sonic games, to a third person view (were the camera follows Sonic.) Despite the changes in angle and stuff on screen the action moves at a brisk pace with no slowdowns. I was also pleased to see that unlike the Sonic Adventure games I didn’t experience any issues were the camera position made it hard for me to see where I was going.

Sound wise I noted that once again the characters are portrayed by different voice actors. This new voice cast, in my opinion, did a better job than the last group. Sonic sounds much better and the guy playing Eggman did a stand up job with the maniacal laughter and evil speeches the doctor spouts. The in game music was top notch although I imagine some people may not like the game’s cheesy theme song. I much preferred the rock tracks used in other Sonic games, but cheesy as it was I have to admit that the main theme is catchy.

LONGEVITY

I would have to say that the game’s lifespan is its biggest flaw. At first glance Sonic Colours seems like a sizeable game. Along with some short introductory stages and final level you get six worlds to beat. Each world is broken down into six acts and has a boss to defeat. Unlike older Sonic games you also get a choice of what order to tackle the levels. After finishing the first part of the game I got a choice of two worlds and beating those unlocks the final three. The main game is single player only, but there is also an optional world, which can be played with two players or a computer controlled partner.

Sounds like a lot until you get to the end and note that that main story can be completed in just five hours. You get some acts that are a decent size, but there are also a few that won’t even take a minute to complete. This may not be too bad for someone who likes beating a game quickly, so they can move onto their next purchase, but if money is an issue you may want to rent this or wait for the price to go down. You can extend the game’s life span by replaying levels to find the hidden red medals and get the highest rank possible for each stage, but if you are not a completionist there isn’t much else to keep your interest.

OVERALL

It looks like Sonic’s reputation will start to improve if they keep releasing more games like this. The franchise’s stock took a dip after some sub par releases, but Colours is good return to form. It does however feel like it is missing something. I enjoyed playing the game, but it wasn’t one of those titles that hooks you in. I was content to play a bit here and there over the course of a week until I finished it unlike other Sonic games, which I just couldn’t put down.

Fellow Sonic fans should however enjoy it. The only reason I am not rating it higher is due to how quickly it can be finished. That was due to the short length of some acts and not due to the difficulty. Although the game isn’t all that challenging there were a few tricky sections that I had to retry a few times to complete. The only other complaint I have is that they reused the same bosses a couple of times, which is a bit lazy. They tweaked their appearance and their attacks, but they were essentially the same boss. Very strange as normally the Sonic games have some creative and varied boss designs.

Don’t let all that put you off though, as this is a fine platformer for the Wii (and there aren’t many of those not featuring Mario.) Younger gamers, who Sega seem to be targeting, should like this (as well as older Sonic fans.) Props to Sega for offering four different control types. I played with the classic controller, but the game also supports the Gamecube controller, Wimote by itself or with the nunchuck. After my experience with the Secret Rings it’s nice not having to worry about motion controls.

Review of Noragami

noragamibox

Having previously watched Good Luck Girl and Kamisama Kiss, the time has come for me to once again check out an anime featuring Japanese deities. Noragami is a twelve episode series based on the manga written by Adachitoka. If rumours are to be believed it is also one of the last Funimation properties that Manga Entertainment will be releasing in the UK. Given the number of quality shows that Funimation localizes, for the sake of British animation fans out there, one can only hope that other distributors will step up to the plate and licence future Funimation titles in Manga’s absence.

OVERIVEW

Middle school student Hiyori Iki has been suffering from out of body experiences ever since an automobile struck her one fateful day. When she least expects it Hiyori becomes an incorporeal being, complete with a cute tail protruding from her hiney, leaving her mortal body behind in an unconscious state. This is most troublesome, even if her pals don’t seem to be overly concerned by Hiyori’s comatose spells. As far as they are concerned Hiyori is simply suffering from narcolepsy (a condition that causes sufferers to randomly nap.) I used to work with someone who had narcolepsy – although if you ask me his symptoms were more the aftereffect of partying to excess at night and having to endure a dull job the following morning.

Seeking a remedy for her ailment, Hiyori decides to hire the services of Yato – a tracksuit wearing god who is presently saving up to buy his own shrine. For the generous sum of five-yen Yato will take up any job, be it slaying suicide-inducing phantoms or scrubbing a client’s bathroom spotlessly clean. Even though Yato’s divine powers are unable to cure Hiyori of her spiritual disorder the pair become firm friends over the course of the series. The contents of this two disc DVD set has Hiyori getting embroiled in Yato’s adventures, which see the penniless deity tangle with a rival from his past and even a scantily clad goddess who rides atop a lion. A hot blonde whose preferred mode of transport is a panthera? If you need an example of why anime is so cool look no further.

VERDICT

My rating for Noragami is three and a half stars. It’s a well-produced anime although for me it lacked that unquantifiable something that makes certain shows special. The series’ mix of action and humour is entertaining, but I can’t say that I was rushing to watch the next episode once the ending credits started to roll. My scapegoat for not enjoying the series more would have to be Yato’s petulant sidekick Yukine – a human spirit who can transform into a Katana. Yes, we get that your master lacks the prestige of other gods and that you envy the living. Deal with it and stop whining. Granted the character matures as events unfold, but given that Noragami has a good supporting cast it’s a shame that the brat’s screen time wasn’t supplanted on someone who is less grating.

Noragami also suffers from being one of those shows that lacks original ideas. Goofball protagonist with a dark past, humanoids who morph into weapons, heroes who save the day for chump change and comic relief characters who are mightier than they initially appear. These are all things that I have spied elsewhere (first person to name an anime that uses those tropes in the comments section gets a free cookie*.) On the plus side, even if the source material won’t win awards for originality, studio Bones have done a stellar job adapting the story for the small screen. The latter episodes, were Yato crosses swords with a fellow calamity god, are blessed with some very impressive artwork and animation.

So there you have it. I didn’t love Noragami as much as some other people, but I certainly liked it. With the groundwork laid down I am keen to see how the story progresses in the second season, which is due out imminently. Okay, that’s enough typing for today. I need to go and clean my toilet… how I wish that inexpensive godly labour was a real thing.

* Delicious chop chipped biscuit will be delivered to the winner once my blog hits one million followers.

Review of Xblaze Code: Embryo

xblazeboxart

They say that good things come to those who wait, well if that is the case Xblaze Code: Embryo should be an exceptional game. This prequel to the popular BlazBlue series appeared in Japan back in July 2013, but has only now reached European shores. I suppose we should just be grateful that the title ever saw the light of day over here, as visual novels aren’t very popular in the west. Thankfully the times are changing. On the PC side of things Steam is doing a bang up job of accommodating consumers with a steady stream of digital reading material, whilst handheld owners have in recent times been treated to some quality titles including 999 and Danganronpa.

OVERVIEW

Xblaze Code: Embryo stars Touya Kagari, an unassuming high school student who works part time as a waiter at a local curry house. One evening, after serving spicy dishes to the restaurant’s patrons, he ventures into the Restricted Ward – a dilapidated area where his mother vanished a few years prior. Drawn to the location by the sound of a ringing bell, Touya encounters a crazed magic user amongst the ruins of a research lab. The insane mage attempts to assault our teenage hero, but he is thankfully rescued from harm by a blonde cutie who sports a ginormous sword and even more ginormous chest.

Touya’s attractive protector, who answers to the name of Es, is an agent for the clandestine Mitsurugi group – an agency charged with hunting down out of control mages (better known as Unions.) When it becomes apparent that Touya has the ability to sense the presence of Unions, he is promptly recruited by the Mitsurugi Agency who require his skills to track down a serial killer known as The Ripper. With Es in tow, Touya sets off on an incredible adventure that will pit him against both The Ripper and three rogue members from the powerful Ten Sages faction. Hopefully he will survive the ordeal, as I am peckish for a curry and a good waiter is so hard to find.

VERDICT

All in all, Xblaze Code: Embryo is a decent sci-fi visual novel that will appeal to anime/manga fans (specifically connoisseurs of the harem genre.) Aside from Es, the emotionless bodyguard, Touya gets to interact with a bevy of other good-looking girls. The list includes Hinata the bespectacled childhood friend, Mei a spell caster who has a short fuse and Kuon an apprentice sage hailing from the magical kingdom of Ishana (her mix of pigtails and sorcery reminds me of Rin from the Fate franchise.) During key moments in the story players will receive various written articles courtesy of the portable TOi app. In a system reminiscent to Steins;Gate’s mobile phone messages, the articles you choose to read will ultimately determine which girl Touya hooks up with.

Despite not being acquainted with BlazBlue’s lore I found Xblaze Code: Embryo to be an enjoyable read. Compared to other visual novels I was impressed by the title’s production values. There’s a good selection of background music to listen to and the script’s dialogue is fully voiced in Japanese. Unlike other visual novels, which rely on static pictures to tell their tale, the onscreen visuals contain a fair bit of movement. Character portraits zoom across the Vita display during battles, camera angles frequently change position mid-scene and whenever someone speaks their lips actually move. These neat little touches make Xblaze feel more like a high-end motion comic rather than a text heavy novel.

My final rating is three and a half stars. I don’t know how fans of the action packed BlazBlue brawlers will react to this slower paced wordy prequel, but for what it’s worth I enjoyed it. Given the opportunity, I would gladly check out the recently released follow-up Xblaze: Lost Memories. Hopefully Europe will not have to wait another two years for a localisation to reach us!

Review of Kevin Toms Football

kevintomsfootie

Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I am a geeky dork who spends his days consuming copious amounts of anime and manga. Back during my teenage years I did however pursue more “manly” hobbies. Specifically speaking, I was a football fanatic who would watch practically every match Sky Sports would air. As with most sports I was hopeless at playing the beautiful game, but on the virtual field I was a goal scoring superstar hero when it came to Sensible Soccer. Aside from Sensi I also enjoyed management sims such as Premier Manager. The first sports management game I ever played was Football Manager on my dad’s Commodore 64. Kevin Toms, the talented chap who coded Football Manager, is still releasing footie games to this day. Motivated by nostalgia I decided to give his recent iOS release a go.

OVERVIEW

Anyone seeking state of the art graphics should steer well clear of Kevin Toms Football, as the game’s aesthetics are purely retro. In this latest venture Toms revisits his past by mimicking the visuals found in the original Football Manager – a game programed entirely in BASIC. Wow, that’s rather impressive. The best my crummy BASIC skills can muster is making a smiley face run across the screen. Still, who cares about graphics? Management simulators are essentially glorified spreadsheets, so my only concern is if the game is any fun to play. Well I am pleased to report that, despite lacking the complexity of Sport Interactive’s PC management offerings, Mr Toms has once again delivered a game that budding coaches will find highly addictive.

Kevin Toms Football is a soccer title that loosely simulates the English league. Presumably, to make seasons go by more quickly, the divisions are made up of just sixteen clubs and the fixture list only requires that teams play each other once (rather than home and away.) If you’d rather manage in La Liga fear not as the game comes bundled with a handy editor that allows you to rename all of the teams. You can even rename the roster of players to keep the data current with real life transfers… or if you want to have fun you could christen the footballers after your friends and family. Given that I am a self proclaimed otaku I could not resist calling my top striker Captain Tsubasa (star of a classic anime that featured guys who could rip apart goal nets with their fierce kicks.)

VERDICT

For all intents and purposes Kevin Toms Football is an enhanced version of the legendary Football Manager. From a tactical point of view it’s nice that you can pick what formation you wish to play, rather than just naming a starting eleven (this comes in handy for marking opposition players.) Be wary of picking players out of position though, as this will negatively impact their performance. Players will also underperform if they are injured so rotating your squad is always a sound strategy. Once a match kicks off the action is presented via a bird’s eye view, which easily trumps the stickmen highlight reel found in the original Football Manager. The player AI sometimes does weird stuff though. During my management tenure I witnessed keepers trying to score goals and players run off the pitch (presumably to kung-fu kick a heckler in the stands.)

My final rating for Kevin Toms Football is three and a half stars. The only real negative that comes to mind is the game’s simplistic transfer market. It would be nice if you could be more proactive in bolstering your squad. At the time of writing the only way of acquiring new talent is by accepting/rejecting weekly trades proposed by rival teams. That minor quibble aside, I had a lot of fun playing this App. Current gen management games are too time consuming for my tastes, so it’s nice to find a game were I can breeze through a season without worrying about inconsequential stadium improvements or talking to the press. The speedy matches work well for a mobile game meant to be played on the go and the price is just right. £1.49 for hours of fun beats buying expensive FIFA Ultimate Team packs any day.

Review of Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls

danganronaultra

Who says that the Vita is a dying system, which lacks any noteworthy exclusives? Despite what some naysayers may proclaim, Sony’s handheld is currently the gaming machine that I play the most – thanks chiefly to its library of unique titles. Two of my favourite games in recent times are Danganronpa and its sequel – a pair of releases, which Western gamers can only play on the Vita. As a fan of the franchise I wasted no time in picking up the latest instalment “Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls” once it became available to download off the European PSN store. The purchase was a bit of a gamble, as this spin-off is very different to its predecessors, but I had faith that Spike Chunsoft could complete a hat trick of stellar DR titles. In terms of storytelling they once again delivered the goods, but the same cannot be said of their QA practices.

OVERVIEW

Chronologically speaking, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls takes place sometime between the first two Danganronpa games (you should however tackle the series in release order, as Despair Girls’ finale spoils some of Danganrona 2’s mysteries.) Players take control of high school girl Komaru Naegi, who has been imprisoned in a flat by the anarchists responsible for plunging the world into despair. The game’s opening sequence sees Komaru escape from her cell, after the heroic Future Foundation assaults the building she is trapped in, but her safety is far from assured. The underage Warriors of Hope have declared that Towa City should become a paradise free of adults, which is bad news for Komaru. If she is unable to flee from the kid governed metropolis she will be executed for the crime of hitting puberty.

Unlike its predecessors, which were visual novel murder mysteries, Ultra Despair Girls is a much more action-orientated experience. To be exact, the game is a third person shooter (akin to Resident Evil 4) although instead of blasting Latino parasites this game has Komaru using a megaphone to protect herself from hordes of bloodthirsty robot bears. Thankfully Komaru is not alone in this adventure. Aiding the teenage protagonist in her endeavours is Toko Fukawa – a self-loathing novelist who transforms into the serial killer Genocide Jack whenever she loses consciousness or sneezes. Mental note – be sure to keep pepper pots well away from Toko. When things get dicey players have the option of temporarily controlling Jack. She is invulnerable to damage and proficient at slaying teddies with her twin scissor fighting techniques.

VERDICT

Being the bipolar reviewer that I am, I am going to give Danganronpa Ultra Despair Girls two scores. My personal rating for the game is one star. Why such a low score I hear you ask? Well, the answer is that my save file got corrupted shortly after I defeated the final boss. This forced me to watch the twenty-minute epilogue on YouTube and denied me a number of unlockables that become available once the ending credits roll. Perhaps my overpriced memory card is to blame? Nope. From reading NIS America’s official forums I have learnt that the game has a glitch, which may corrupt your file should you save after a chapter ends. I guess shipping broken games isn’t an Ubisoft exclusive practice. I expected better from NIS America, especially as the game has been out in Japan for over a year.

For anyone else, I think Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls is worthy of four stars. Hopefully a future patch will sort out the tech issues or at the very least anyone reading this review will not suffer my misfortune (creating multiple save files is a wise precaution to take.) Compared to other shooters the game may not be anything special, but it more than compensates for its shortcomings via lashings of humour and good storytelling. I also appreciate how the change in genre didn’t dumb down the franchise. Aside from pulverizing automatons, Komaru’s megaphone has a number of features that aid with puzzle solving. Over the course of the story you’ll use the detect mode to scan for clues, the link bullets to hack into enemy bots and the move beam to traffic cars out of the way (Towa City is an environmentally friendly place saturated with electric automobiles.)

It’s a shame that an eleventh hour bug tarnished my opinion of the game. Although I had a lot of fun playing through Danganronpa Ultra Despair Girls I will always remember it for being the game were sloppy QA cost me twenty hours of progress. The title certainly lives up to its name – once I realized I couldn’t reload my last checkpoint I was plunged into a state of despair.

Review of Limbo

limbo

Thanks to PSN Plus’ monthly bundle of “free” games I finally got around to playing Limbo – the indie darling that took the world by storm back in 2010. Limbo has been on my gaming radar for quite some time, thanks to all the critical acclaim its garnered, but until now I hadn’t gotten round to downloading it. I guess I was distracted by more “bouncy” releases such as Senran Kagura and Akiba’s Trip. With Limbo now crossed off my gaming bucket list I find myself penning a review that I suspect will fly against popular opinion. Sorry for being that dissenting voice, which questions the mainstream, but what exactly is so special about Limbo?

OVERVIEW

I usually like to begin my reviews with a synopsis outlining the plot of the game I am covering. This isn’t possible with Limbo however, as the title is devoid of story. Playdead (who developed the game) claim that this is intentional, as they wanted to leave things “open to interpretation.” Frankly, I am not convinced. It seems to me that the creators coded a platformer, which is narrative free, but thanks to its eerie visuals players are convinced there is some deeper meaning behind it all. Of course I could be mistaken and am just too thick to appreciate Limbo’s subtle approach to storytelling. If so please forgive me. After watching too many Michael Bay films my brain has eroded to the point were scripts have to spoon-feed me exactly what is going on.

Extensive research (I browsed Wikipedia) has led me to believe that Limbo follows an anonymous boy who is searching for his sister. His journey begins at some woods located on the edge of hell and concludes at a factory situated in a ruined city. From the game’s title we can speculate that the young tyke’s quest is occurring after his death. My, the afterlife is not how I pictured it. I had always envisioned that I would end up living atop fluffy clouds or toasting down below with that horned chap who likes pitchforks. Evidently I was mistaken. When we expire we are destined to spend our days in a derelict urban settlement infested with giant bugs. Aside from the insects, our protagonist will also encounter other humans. Some will flee and commit suicide upon spotting the youngster. Others will try to brutally kill him. Why? Um… that’s open to interpretation.

VERDICT

Limbo is a no thrills puzzle platformer that has you overcoming obstacles by leaping over dangers and interacting with objects. The brainteasers are designed in such a way that you won’t get stuck on them for too long, but you’ll still feel suitably brainy once you suss them out. The game is at its most enjoyable early on, even though I didn’t care for its trial and error style of gameplay. On your initial play through you’ll often perish at the hands of hidden traps, so progress is more dependent on memorizing where ambushes are placed rather than on skill. My passion for Limbo began to wane towards the end when the puzzles were gradually phased out in favour of sections that demand precise jumping to survive. Thankfully checkpoints are plentiful so there isn’t much backtracking whenever you inevitably die.

My rating for Limbo is three stars. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I can appreciate that it is competently designed. The film grain noire graphics steal the show and I give props to Playdead for having the guts to make a game were children are not spared from gruesome deaths (immediately making the title more ballsy than Fallout 3.) It is hard to recommend playing the game today, as it has since been surpassed by other indie titles. In terms of similar games, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons elicited a more emotional response from me. The under rated Nihilumbra is also worth checking out, as it boasts similar aesthetics to Limbo in addition to having more creative puzzles.

Overall I don’t know what to think about Limbo. It’s not terrible, but the abrupt finale that comes out of nowhere left me feeling unsatisfied. That said, had the game lasted longer than four hours I might not have had the stamina to complete it. Perhaps my expectations were too lofty? Had I played it back when the indie market was less rich I may have been more impressed. On the flip side, had I paid full price for the download I may have felt more aggrieved and given the game a lower score. Much like its title, my feelings on the game are in a state of limbo.