Monday, 11 March 2013
What’s on the menu today darling? Monster’s Flesh darling! MMM MY FAVOURITE!!!
If Shakespeare would have added the extraordinary element of eating monster’s flesh to remove a curse into his classic tale Romeo and Juliet, you wouldn’t be far off from having yourself the twisted and unusual Japanese love story, Pandora’s Tower. The main reason behind this analogy is how they both feature forbidden loves that nobody but the two main characters in this tale Elena, the princess of Elyria and Aeron, a former soldier of Athos understand since both nation are in a war against each other. I don’t know if the great English writer thought this element would enhance or damper his love story but for Pandora’s Tower, it just works.
When you switch on the game, you aren’t give the back story as to what the hell is going on like in other story’s or games, instead you first see the couple walking with a strange lady called Mavda and her Jack Skelton-esque husband on her back, towards an observatory, your home based for the rest of the game. Elena is covered in a blanket covering up her mutated body and Mavda explains the basics involving the curse. If Elena is left untreated for too long then she will become a monster, with no human memory or emotions, she will be left to kill whatever is in her wake. But there is a silver lining; the only way Aeron has to lift the curse is to feed her the flesh of master monster of each tower whom live in the thirteen towers around The Scar. Now I know what you’re thinking, why can’t the flesh from the normal monsters who roam these towers suffice Elena’s need? Well these bits of flesh will delay the curse for a short period but won’t eventually lift the curse. Add to the mix Elena being a vegetarian and you have one high maintenance girlfriend!
So Aeron sets off to the towers with a sword twice the size of him and the Oracles Chain that Mavda gives you to ultimately save Elena. You notice straight away who similar the gameplay, the settings and predominantly the combat is to The Legend Of Zelda. You attack and dodge similar to Link and the chain is just an upgraded version of the hookshot (or the clawshots from the last Zelda title), letting you climb up the tired towers broken walls and being an alternative of defeating monsters. Though the striking your foes with your weapons may become frustrating at times with no lock on enemies feature, your chain does make up your satisfaction. Swinging small monsters around you, hitting other monsters in your path proves fulfilling but the real technical side of the combat resigns in taking on the big monsters. There are three ways to tackle the big guys; either catch their legs so they can’t move, their arms so they can’t attack or their heads where you can rip off their armour. When you grab the monsters in anyway, you can then charge up your chain to let out a mighty rip on your foe. This seems to be the real primary attack in this adventure with the Master’s only succumbing to a weak point that only the chain can get to rather than your mighty sword.
Each individual tower has their special charm to them. From a crystallised canvas to lava pouring infernos, each has their unique print stashed forward with their own mazes and puzzles to solve. Each of the Master’s of the tower sit at the top behind chained doors. Aeron must destroy the root of the chains to get anywhere near the Master flesh he so desperately needs. The further into the game sees more and more chains attached to the door so much exploring and puzzle solving is needed which gives a touch of freshness to the difficulty setting opinions. Rather than just having easy, normal and hard options, you are thrown into the deep end so to speak to learn the ropes. The first two towers are a doddle but then the introduction of newer, tougher enemies as you go, more chains are added to the door and the puzzles get more challenging. It’s like you start off on easy mode but finish on hard which gives a real sense of achievement when the end is in sight.
Now there is a dilemma when going through the towers; do you rush through the tower or explore every corner to find new equipment. Since Pandora’s Tower is an adventure RPG game, Aeron gets stronger by defeating as many monsters as possible. Your weapons get stronger by visiting Mavda who acts as the merchant/blacksmith in the game. Finding the necessary items to improve your weapons strength and combo range encourages new tactics in the later stages. However, as I mentioned before, this is only if you want to experience a variety of killing your opponent because the chains power increases every time you defeat a Master so will get stronger. By searching for new items, you slow the game down as you will need to go back to the observatory a number of times to give Elena more flesh and store items in the case there since you can’t carry many items on your person. You will also notice that every tower has a locked room in which you can only get the key to open them before the last boss from Mavda. This then means you won’t be able to maximise your weapons potential until right before the last boss which is a huge flaw since your chain is the only item in your arsenal you need here.
The only real exciting case for extending the game rather than just beating the bosses quickly is for getting one of the multiple endings. There are 6 different endings available from S ranking being the best and D being the worst. There is even a ‘bad’ ending which is only played if you are really poor or slow. To get one of the endings depends on your relationship of Elena. I haven’t mentioned Aeron’s relationship with Elena as of yet because I wanted to get the other points of the game out of the way. Let’s focus on the protagonist and his maidens love struggle. When speaking to Elena for the first time in the game, a tutorial pops up to inform you on Elena’s feeling towards you with the yellow bar on the left representing her happiness. To increase this bar, you need to talk to her, give her gifts, ask her to translate old text and of course, give her Master Flesh. When I say raise, I mean nudge up ever so slightly. It takes a lot of effort to see Elena friendly bar go half way let alone to the top of the screen. The most effective way to raise this is to give her gifts, where do you get gifts, through Mavda at extortionate prices. So you’ll need to go back to the towers and kill monsters and break boxes to find enough money to make your lady satisfied. The only thing you need to put yourself through when doing this is listen to the drowning conversations and extracts from the poor dialogue in this game. There’s no real emotion binding these two together and unfortunately you control a dull, lifeless puppet who you rarely get the sense he cares about Elena. When comparing this to Zelda, I know Link doesn’t have a personality but that game isn’t spiralled around his love towards princess Zelda, this one is. It’s a real shame as the story is well thought out and is beautifully written but instead it’s like a Hollywood film giving the lead roles to the cast members of Hollyoaks.
Pandora’s Tower falls short of what could have been a real classic on the Wii because of the little details we gamers love. The weapon system is a flaw that cannot be ignored. Why have weapons if you’re more inclined to pull enemies with your chain? Nothing beats the true joy of tearing your foes apart with combo after combo. Though it has to be said when the story unravels itself, it truly is remarkable. I won’t give out any spoils on the main story or the endings as you will need to experience them for yourself but be warned over the butchered dialogue is fairly cringe more often than not. That being said, you will find yourself lost in the beauty of game. The detail in the monsters especially the Master’s are something to behold. And if you get yourself the limited edition case, you will get the art book which features the original drawings for the game. For what can be said about Pandora’s Tower is that it’s certainly a love story that can only come from Japan, William Shakespeare eat your flesh out.
The Verdict: Would recommend this game for anyone who loves adventure games as you will get lost in its beauty from time to time. Unfortunately with the hick ups presents, it cannot be classed a great game but it is a very close call on your preferences. 78/100
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
If you enjoy the antics of the Nintendo character we all love to hate, Wario like myself, then you would have got yourself a copy of his most recent adventure on the DS Master Of Disguise thinking that this would be another handheld classic. With memories of the infamous Wario Land series on the Gameboy, where Wario became the first playable hero who was actually a villain, there is always high hopes when the rotten thief gets another outing. However, since the Wario Land franchise has been transferred to home consoles, the DS outing for Wario is a massive disappoint in nearly every department.
The relatively unknown company in the West Sudak seemed to put a lot of effort into this title, creating an in-depth story and new enemies and gameplay features to bring a ‘new’ lease of life to the character. But in the grand scheme of things, I would have to give Sudak 100% for commitment but a mere 10% for execution.
This isn’t because I find the game so different to the other games that I hate it so much, it’s because there is very little going for Master Of Disguise that would make it anything more than the black sheep of the Wario series.
The main problem with this game is the story. My god it’s boring. The gist of the game is that Wario is watching TV in his grotty flat when a TV report on a thief and his disguises comes on. For some reason, Wario gets mad and creates the Telmet to help him transform into the TV. First of all, this is way too random, even to pass in a video game. We have not seen Wario have an magical powers in the past so why does he suddenly have them now. Then, Wario goes into the TV and steals the thief’s wand which gave him the power to change disguises. If Wario is suddenly got magical powers, why does he have to have a wand to make him change disguises? It just doesn’t make any sense and the dialogue between Wario and the other thief who we find out is called Count Cannoli of the Cannoli Clan is dire. I just wanted to get into the action and play the game but instead we were treated to some pointless story that doesn’t make any sense.
Then you have the gameplays delivery and the unique attributes the game possesses. The premise sees you needing to acquire different disguising in the various levels as well as updates in the costumes abilities. To get them, you need to find the green chests in each level and complete a colouring in challenge. Though all the mini games are quite simple and very repetitive, that is not the main bump in this annoying cycle. When you do get the disguise you need to draw a shape on Wario to transform in the costume you need. Some are simple to do like drawing a circle on Wario’s head to get the spaceman suit to use a laser but there are some which are tedious to do. This would be the dragon and the bat costumes. To get the dragon, you need to draw a triangle tail at the back of Wario and to get the bat you need to draw a wing. The problem is with the detection of the DS touchscreen and at times the speed your using the stylus, you are more often than not going to get the right one and in most cases, loose some life. This gets even more infuriating with the professor ability at the boss battle of Stuffy the Dolphin. Performing jumps in a tight room in a short space of time is one thing, but when you have to quickly draw a mirrored P on Wario to use his springing boxing glove technique at a precise moment, then bring your head round to the fact of doing this in three stages and that if you fall in the water, you have to repeat the process again, then you have one frighteningly tense, frustrating, annoying, over the top bosses I think I've ever come across.
I would say the instance where I literally thought 'what the fuck' was on the fourth stage and you had to answer random riddles to please the sphinx in the museum. You went around the museum and saw what should have been clues in the exhibitions but were placed next to other clues randomly so you didn't get the link right away. You're just asking yourself when thinking of the answers, 'what's the point?' The riddles are neither clever nor are they fun. I don't mind a game trying to be a bit educational but questions like, 'What animal pals around with cats on rainy days?' with the answer being dogs are not what children should be learning.
I hate talking about one of my favourite characters in this light but I can't help it. Apart from a few clever platforming puzzles to solve, the game proves to be a disappointment and would not be featured on either the Virtual console or rehashed game collection anytime soon. My advice would be to only play this game if you are a Wario fanatic like myself and even then be wary. I am still hopeful of another Wario adventure classic on a handheld console, hopefully Nintendo can deliver on the 3DS with a renewal of the Wario Land saga of if not, something that resembles closer to that style rather than this drivel.
The verdict: Only get this game through a free gift on any purchase over a fiver. Very poor.