Tag Archives: Professor Layton

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2017

Happy holidays, dear readers! Gather round, gather round, for I have a tall tale to tell…

As always, I’m back to wax and wane about the games I did not get to play this year because I’m only one person with two hands and so much time on them to play these wonderfully entertaining things. My bad, but also–whatever. There’s always next year, and the year after that. To refresh everyone’s memories, because I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature for a few years now, here’s a bulleted list of previous entries, and I do suggest y’all dig in to play detective and figure out whether or not I’ve played any of these games since these age-old posts:

I’ll spoil an entry from that bottom 2010 list that I’ve still not touched, some nearly eight years later: Red Dead Redemption. Oh well.

Naturally, there are more than 10 games that I didn’t play this year, but not all of them are things I was interested in from the get-go. Such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, NieR Automata, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Yakuza 0. I’m sure they are all worth trying out eventually. But enough about those. Let’s get into the ones that I probably would have played if…I could have played them. Er, don’t think too hard about that sentence.

10. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy

Did you know a new Professor Layton game came out this year for the Nintendo 3DS? Yeah, me neither. Huh. I had a pretty busy year on my 3DS, with Ever Oasis and Miitopia taking over much of my handheld gaming time. Evidently, this stars a new protagonist for LEVEL-5’s classic point-and-puzzle adventure series–Katrielle Layton, who becomes embroiled in a casual, quizzical quest in search for her missing father. Y’know, the Professor Hershel Layton. I felt a little burned out after Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, but I think I could dip back into this series next year. Also, screenshots show that you get to redecorate the Layton Detective Agency and dress Katrielle up in different outfits, so I’m more than intrigued, plot aside.

9. Cuphead

I have never been interested in difficult platformers, doing only the bare minimum in Super Meat Boy to get to the end credits and staying away from many of these. Though I did recently beat this weirdo. It sounds like the run-and-gun Cuphead is also just as tough. But I wouldn’t be playing it for the challenge, rather to see every inch of art and animation. See, the game was heavily inspired by the rubber hose style of animation used in cartoons of the 1930s, like the stuff coming out of studios like Fleischer and Walt Disney Animation. It seeks to emulate the most subversive and surrealist qualities, and if you don’t know what that means, look at the screenshot above. Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2018 and get this as a Games with Gold freebie.

8. Thimbleweed Park

I didn’t play Thimbleweed Park, a brand new point-and-click adventure game developed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick for PC and modern consoles in 2017, for the obvious reasons. It’s a spiritual successor to Gilbert and Winnick’s previous games Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, both of which I’ve still not played. Ugh. Send me directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. At least I do have access to both of them, so here’s hoping 2018 is the year I finally tackle those genre classics, and then maybe I’ll see what is going on with that creepy clown.

7. What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch doesn’t sound like a happy time. This follows the titular character, a young woman revisiting her old family home as she recalls and discovers the stories of deceased family members. So, it’s probably a somber affair, though I do know that at some point you turn into a shark and roll down a hill. Shrugs. It comes from Giant Sparrow, the developer that brought us The Unfinished Swan, which I enjoyed a good amount, and I imagine this is a wild ride, the best experienced in one big gulp.

6. Rime

Rime, one of two new games from Tequila Works this year alongside The Sexy Brutale, which made the side-scrolling cinematic platforming survival horror Deadlight back in 2012, sounds like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild minus all the combat. Which, honestly, is perfectly okay with me, considering I often tried my best not to get into fights in that game because I’d just end up losing health, weapons, and arrows without getting much to replace them. It’s about a young boy that has washed ashore on an abandoned island, with the main focus being on solving environmental puzzles. It looks both gorgeous and relaxing.

5. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Speaking of relaxing, that’s the vibe I get from Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. It’s an adventure game set in an open world environment, which doesn’t sound like anything unique, but the tone seems to be real low-key. Hey, welcome–stay a while. The game’s primary goal is collecting magical creatures, known as sprites, to banish an ominous shroud known as the Murk. Along the way, you can take part in non-violent activities like farming, fishing, and crafting while exploring the island, and that’s the part I’m most interested in. Last year, I was all about that sweet pixely Stardew Valley, and this seems to share some of the same traits.

4. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 sounds like the end-all, be-all überlegen CRPG, with content bursting at the seams and a story that reacts to nearly every single one of your choices, no matter how major or minor. That’s cool. Maybe I’ll try it some day. Though there’s that terrible part of my brain that says I shouldn’t until I’ve at least played Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Divinity II, Divinity: Dragon Commander, and Divinity: Original Sin. You can’t tell because this is just written text, but I’m laughing hysterically over here.

3. Pyre

Supergiant Games is a rad developer with some highly imaginative titles. I loved Bastion, and I was a little mixed on Transistor. Pyre looks gorgeous, but I don’t know if I’ll get into the fantasy sports element since I don’t even like normal non-fantasy sports, but I have to imagine that the plot will draw me into this strange, amazing-looking world. Here’s a quick plot summary, which sounds fascinating: you controls a character who has been exiled from society and quickly meets three other exiles. The three exiles then discover that the player-character is literate and invites them to join their party, nicknaming them the Reader. The Reader aids the exiles and other exiles met during the course of the game in their travels through the land of purgatory as they look to cleanse their souls via defeating other exiles. Yowza.

2. Tacoma

I played a bunch of Gone Home in 2017. It’s still a masterpiece. Fullbright’s follow-up Tacoma is another exploration game, this time set aboard a seemingly-empty space station in 2088. You play as Amy, who has an augmented reality device that allows her to review the actions and conversations of non-player characters that were part of crew that had been aboard the station. These recordings can be manipulated, fast-forwarding or rewinding as necessary in order to see what happened and move the plot forward. It’s another rummaging simulator, but this time aboard an abandoned spaceship, like Prey but without the constant fear of a coffee mug trying to kill you. I also think the polygonal character models look super neat.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

I don’t have a Nintendo Switch, and I probably won’t for a long time. That’s just how these things go, too many consoles, not enough money, space, and time. Thankfully, I was able to play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this year via the Wii U version, which is fine. Then again, when I think about it, I haven’t played many of the big Mario marquee titles over the years, like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, both Super Mario Galaxy titles, and so on. So this isn’t anything new or shocking, but the twist is that Super Mario Odyssey is the first one in a while that I’m actively interested in playing. The hook of using your hat to take over enemies and use their abilities to better yourself seems fun and instantly reminds me of Brave Fencer Musashi. I also really like how organized the game is when it comes to tracking how many moons you’ve collected, and that the collectibles are your ship’s currency to get you to new places.

And there we have it, the top 10 games I didn’t get to play in 2017. I hope I can play one or two of these some time in 2018, but there’s never a guarantee on that (see the previously mentioned Red Dead Redemption at the top of this post).

But that was me, and now I want to know more about you. What big or small games did you not get to touch this year? Tell me all about them in the comments section below.

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At last, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy comes full circle

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I wanted to see Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy end many times since picking it up and putting it down for the last two-plus years, but it seemingly refused to do so. It kept pushing its closing moments and credits further away. The game continued warning me that there was no turning back only to then reveal that, yeah, you can totally turn back to find those hint coins and last remaining puzzles or just meander aimlessly from region to region. I will freely admit that I didn’t help thrust this story to its resolution after I discovered what the whole World Times side quest was all about–don’t worry, I’ll explain more a few paragraphs down–but man, this was all a little drawn out.

First, a refresher on the story. Trust me, I needed one after frequently walking away from Layton’s sixth adventure, and the game even provides you a short summary each time you return, to get you back to speed. Right. The mysterious organization called Targent wishes to use the ancient civilization of the Azran’s mystical power for itself. Targent’s rival and everyone’s favorite mask-wearing, self-proclaimed scientist Jean Descole also wants to harness this power. Neither should wield it, naturally. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy begins with Layton, Luke, and Emmy boarding the airship Bostonius and heading for a place called Froenberg. The three of them received a letter from Professor Desmond Sycamore, an eminent archaeologist, who believes he has found a so-called living “mummy.” Upon arrival, they meet their mummy–Aurora, a girl frozen in ice, closely connected to the Azran civilization.

The story has its moments. I particularly liked searching after the five Azran eggs and seeing where each egg was hidden and how to get it in our meaty paws. For instance, in the jungle village of Phong Gi, the chief of the tribe is only willing to give up his egg to the gang if they can make him laugh. Contrary to that tone, in the windy village of Hoogland, the group learns of a tradition where young women must be sacrificed in order to appease a wind god; thankfully, they discover this is not actually happening and that an Azran machine was creating the stormy winds. Each egg-acquiring section are good, interesting accounts, with many memorable characters taking center stage when Layton isn’t solving a puzzle or two. I will quickly say and not get into spoilers, but the last act of Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is one twist after another, to the point of ridiculousness. It was the closest the game has come to basically being a TV soap opera’s series finale, and no, not in a good way. Sorry, the Emmy thing was too much. I understand this is the last game to star the top hat-wearing gentleman and they probably wanted to go out on a bang, but there was too much bang.

Okay, now let’s chat puzzles. Mmm. If you’ve played a Professor Layton game before, then none of what is here will surprise you. There are mazes, math equations, general deducing, and some guess-work. I hated the ones where you have to recreate a picture using colored blocks and layering them on top of each other, but those are few and unessential. Of all the entries I’ve touched, which include The Curious Village, The Last Specter, and The Miracle Mask, I have to say that this one had the least exciting mini-games to engage with, and that’s saying a lot because one of those mini-games is basically playing dress up, the only thing I cared about in Grand Theft Auto V and one of the main driving forces behind my time with Disney Magical World 2 now. Anyways, there’s Nutty Roller, Bloom Burst, and Dress Up–I completed none of them, but came the closest on the last item. As always, there’s plenty of hint coins in the environment to pick up and use at your discretion; I haven’t felt shame using them for many years now.

So, this whole time, as I’ve been playing Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, one of the sections in Layton’s trunk continued to update with new details–World Times. These are newspaper clips, often popping up after you finished visiting an area, telling some strange side story of an event or character. I swore I thought they were merely cosmetic, there to make the world feel realer, bigger. Nope. They are basically side quests, which lead to more puzzles and unlockable clothing for the dress-up minigame. See, the problem is that I never went back to any of the story locations after completing them, assuming they were good and done, drained of every hidden object, hint coin, and character interaction. Well, I was wrong, and so a large part of my going back to this game involved tracking down every single World Times quest and completing it, which added to its length for sure.

The animated cutscenes continue to be beautifully done. Every time one came up, I’d get real excited and hold the Nintendo 3DS firmly in my hands and slightly closer to my face. They are heavy on action and scenery, which is a great break from the more stilted, and sometimes overdrawn, dialogue-heavy sequences where Layton is trying to get Luke or Emmy to figure out what he already knows. I really should, at some point, track down Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva simply to marvel in these moments for longer than a few minutes. I mean, if truth be told, the puzzles sometimes are just the means to another gorgeous cutscene.

Well, that’s that. I played the very first game in the series, and then the entire trilogy of prequels. Which is rather fitting, as the end of Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy goes right into Professor Layton and the Curious Village, bringing everything full circle. That connective tissue between the two games feels really special, and makes me think about that first adventure differently, knowing what I now know about Layton, Luke, and even Emmy, though she’s obviously not there for their trip to St. Mystere. I have no immediate plans to find copies of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box and Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, especially since a GameStop employee rudely spoiled how the final chronological game in the series concludes. Still, obviously, the best game in the franchise is London Life, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #80 – Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

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Find ancient relics
Awake civilization
Use lots of hint coins

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Not defending the use of drones in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

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I’d worry that throwaway on-rails action sequences at the beginning of the latest mysterious story are becoming a trend in the new Professor Layton games on the 3DS, but it sounds like Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is to be his final adventure, and so that nips that theory in the butt. I kind of don’t believe this is the end for our top hat-wearing detective, but then again, Nintendo loves to ignore beloved characters from time to time. Regardless, these over-the-top sequences are jarring and contradictory to the series’ quirky charm–i.e., everything else–but shooting drones was at least more enjoyable and involving than guiding a horse down Monte d’Or’s winding streets.

But before I get to talking about shooting down drones in a child-friendly, cute and colorful Professor Layton videogame, let me first give y’all the setup. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is the sixth–and possibly last–adventure. The game opens with our constant prequel trilogy cast of Layton, apprentice Luke, and assistant Emmy Altava heading to the exotic locale of Froenburg, summoned there by Professor Sycamore to assist him in reviving a long-dead civilization. At this point, I’ve played an hour or so, and now know exactly what this Sycamore character wants Layton to help him with, but anything further story details are unknown to me. Unfortunately, some nefarious fellow–who I won’t name–and his goons are also hot on Sycamore’s tail, ready to cause trouble and steal things that aren’t rightfully theirs.

Which leads us to the chase sequence. This time, instead of riding a horse and avoiding barrels, you are piloting the airship Bostonius, in quick pursuit of he-who-will-not-be-named. To slow you down, you-know-who throws out drones to attack your ship, and you must shoot them down. Now, because this is a handheld puzzle game, you’re not pulling left trigger then right trigger to take them out. Instead, you have to figure out which correct drone to shoot through a puzzle, and you shoot them by dragging the cursor over the selected one and tapping on the touchscreen. Some sections ask you to select the one unlike the others, and another might have you tapping them in a specific order. I failed a few parts, too, but the action kept going, so this seems like just fodder, something to do during an action scene instead of simply watching a beautifully animated cutscene. In truth, I’d prefer the latter.

But really now, there’s just something so charming and comforting about these games to me that I can deal with a silly throwaway tapping sequence. The music is bouncy and less like Chrono Cross this time around, and I’ve gotten so used to the 3D models now and Layton and Luke blinking that I don’t even remember how it used to be. I also love the menus and everything in Layton’s trunk and each puzzle, which I never rush through, even if I can guess the answer right away. I guess I’m trying to savor each second.

And just like with Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, along with all the puzzles found in the main game, you can also connect to the Nintendo Network in order to download additional puzzles. For a whole year. These puzzles are made available weekly for a year following release, with seven puzzles made available each week; there’s some new categories to learn, as well as a few repeats from the previous edition. I am not excited to the see “bounce the ghost light off the mirrors” puzzles back for another swing.

So yeah, I’m excited to see more of the story unfold, so long as there are no more pointless action sequences wedged between intelligent sleuthing and being thorough on every scene for hidden hint coins and special items. I suspect I’ll even be sad to see it all end.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #36 – Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

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A casino town
Plagued by dark, dire miracles
Make way for Layton

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

Puzzling my way through the City of Miracles

When the time came to buy Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask last Sunday, I literally said the following to the GameStop guy:

“Hi, I need a copy of Sticker Star and the new Layton game, whatever it is called. The newest one.”

He laughed. I laughed in return, and we had a brief comment or two about how it is pretty hard to keep these games in line, seeing as they’ve come out almost yearly since that first magical gem of Curious Village hit the Nintendo DS and kind of blur together in the end. Granted, I still need to experience the other two titles from the original trilogy–Diabolical Box and Unwound Future–but I absolutely loved The Last Specter and its built-in mini-game, and so I was highly interested in seeing how Layton’s first foray into the 3D realm would go. So far, it’s been strange.

First, the song that plays on the main menu screen is pretty dang close to “Time’s Scar” from Chrono Cross. I mean, all it is basically missing is some sharp violin action and a kick to the pants about a minute in, but that soft, slow build sounds the same in both tunes. Pretty weird. Not sure who did the music for Miracle Mask, but either they are the same person from Chrono Cross or just a big fan that doesn’t know the meaning of encroaching.

After that, it’s a lackadaisical climb up as the story starts, with very few puzzles and an odd action element to boot. Professor Layton, Emmy, and Luke have just arrived at the fictional city of Monte d’Or, sometimes referred to as the City of Miracles, driven there by a vague letter requesting their help. They arrive just at the same time a carnival of sorts is happening. Alas, that bit of pomp and parade gets ruined when the Masked Gentlemen shows up and turns people into stone before vanishing. Who is this Masked Gentleman? No idea. Through the usual investigation methods and a dip back in time, Professor Layton and company will try to unravel it all.

The Professor Layton games have always been about two things–story and puzzles–and balancing them properly. That said, the beginning of Miracle Mask fails hard, giving us one puzzle over a stretch of twenty-five to thirty minutes, and then throwing a decidedly odd chase segment at us. Okay, let me gripe about that part. You are chasing after the winged Masked Gentleman, riding horseback below. The game switches from a cutscene to a third-person perspective, with Layton on a horse, charging forward down Monte d’Or’s streets “on rails.” You can select a new path now and then by sliding the stylus left or right, and picking up carrots allows your horse to have the strength to straight up bust through barrels. This goes on for a minute or two, and then it just ends. It’s a bizarre gameplay section that I’ve never seen before, at least not in Curious Village or Last Specter. It felt out of place and rightly so–also, a revealed plot point later makes this whole happening quite disturbing, especially for those of you with horse fetishes.

And lastly, some comments on the part that truly doesn’t matter–but at the same time, totally does: the graphics. We’re on the Nintendo 3DS here, and that means 3D models. More depth and layers and effects to hit you between the eyes, like Layton pointing at you when you do a good job. Though, seeing how nice the diorama look turns out for Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it seems unnecessary for Level 5 to switch everyone over from that wonderful Studio Ghibli 2D art to full polygons. They look creepy, and maybe for reasons I can’t say; it’s possible I’m just not used to seeing these characters defined like so, but something about Luke’s wide-eyed expressions really bothers me. You too, probably. But yeah, it’s a little hard to swallow at first, especially the way some of the characters animate, like the clowns and Nanna Gram.

Otherwise, I’m enjoying it mildly. Tara and I are playing this together slowly as I juggle Sticker Star and Pokemon White 2, and working out puzzle solutions together is fun, and the second brainpower is sometimes needed. The mini-games from the trunk look okay, though I’m not really interested in raising a talking bunny, but the shop and moving robot are good brainteasers. Plus, by hopping onto WiFi, one can download a bonus puzzle a day for the next year, which will definitely keep us busy long after this Masked Gentleman is unmasked. Will report back if there’s any more odd gameplay elements; I really hope not.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Professor Layton’s London Life

Start in Humble Homes
Stop comet from killing all
Crumm wants more Swinefish

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.