Operation Backlog Completion 2017
Apr 292015
 

I almost titled this blog post “What IS Layton 7?” because really, why is a card game about fortune-telling and vampires being stamped with the Layton name? When Level-5 said Azran Legacy would be the last to star Hershel Layton, I thought any future games would at least keep a similar gameplay style.

The original Layton 7 announcement sounded bizarre and out of place in the series. This sounds nothing like that… but it still doesn’t feel like a Layton game, especially with the “7” in its title implying it’s the next main-series entry. (Note: if it is, I fully expect the fortune-telling to be an elaborate deception, the vampire to be a normal human, and the explanation for how and why this was accomplished to be so convoluted it makes fortune-telling and vampirism believable in comparison.) Why?

If Level-5 really doesn’t want the next game to have classic Layton gameplay, fine. But why Layton 7? Why not a sequel to Layton Brothers: Mystery Room?

Layton-Brothers-Mystery-Room

Layton Brothers: Mystery Room came out in 2013. Like Layton 7, it came out only for iOS and Android devices. Like Layton 7, it doesn’t play anything like a Professor Layton game. Like Layton 7, it is often maligned and ignored by fans.

Mystery Room’s gameplay isn’t fantastic. It plays like an ultra-streamlined Ace Attorney game, with no penalties or other consequences. Yet I still named it an Honorable Mention when I listed the best games I played in 2013, even though I acknowledged it as “mediocre.” Despite its flaws, it won a place in my heart–mainly because of its characters.

Lucy-and-AlfendiMystery Room puts you in the shoes of Lucy Baker, a rookie detective constable at Scotland Yard assigned to work in the “Mystery Room,” where the strangest and most serious crimes are sent to be solved. This makes her the assistant of Alfendi, Professor Layton’s estranged son.

(No, it’s never even hinted at who Alfendi’s mother might be. Some fans even believe he might be adopted, although personally…

Spoilers for Mystery Room AND Azran Legacy

It makes so much sense!)

While Lucy is a fun protagonist, Alfendi Layton is the story’s shining glory. The mild-mannered, socially awkward inspector is considered brilliant for his crime-solving skills, but put him in the presence of an evil criminal and another side of him will emerge…

Warning: this video contains spoilers for an early case in the game.

Alfendi’s split personality is one of the most interesting parts of the game and contributes to the overarching plot, which gets stronger in later cases. It seems a shame to consign Alfendi and Lucy to a single game many fans probably haven’t even tried–especially since it ends with a clear sequel hook!

There is so much a sequel could explore: the mystery introduced at the end of the first game, Alfendi’s relationship with his father, his brother (if he even has one), and of course, more delightful interactions between Alfendi, Lucy, and the wacky cast of witnesses and suspects. A sequel could also expand upon the gameplay mechanics to add more depth so it wouldn’t rely so much on the strength of its story.

Ideally, I’d love to see a Layton Brothers: Mystery Room 2 released for the 3DS, maybe with the first game included Bayonetta-style.If it’s mobile-exclusive like its predecessor, I’d still buy it. I just want a sequel–much more than I want Layton 7.

But hey, maybe Layton 7 is a brilliant gem waiting to be uncovered. Maybe the vampire-revealing card game is only the start of a larger mystery. I won’t give up hope just yet.

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Apr 272015
 

Last October, I wrote a post looking at my top 5 most-anticipated survival horror games. Two of the games from my list, the Resident Evil HD Remaster and Alien: Isolation, have already been released. Fatal Frame V has been confirmed for localization, Routine is (as far as I know), still happening, and that just leaves my #1 upcoming survival horror game, Silent Hills…

…and it isn’t good.

Silent-Hills-logo

The new Silent Hill game was supposed to be a collaboration between Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro, and Norman Reedus. It was revealed through P.T., a teaser disguised as an indie horror game. Players who tried P.T. have described it as one of the most terrifying experiences ever (if, like me, you haven’t played it, you might want to head over to the PlayStation Store to link it to your PSN account before it disappears on April 29) and it increased the hype surrounding Silent Hills.

Sure, some fans had doubts, particularly with P.T.’s first-person perspective and the controversial receptions of recent Silent Hill games, but most people had high hopes for Silent Hills.

However, you might have heard about the recent trouble surrounding Kojima and Konami, which included the Kojima Productions logo being removed from the Silent Hills website. There have been a lot of rumors, but it seems certain that Kojima is leaving Konami after Metal Gear Solid V is complete. MGS fans have their own worries about that, and the news left a lot of people asking, “What’s going to happen to Silent Hills?”

A disappointing answer surfaced yesterday, with the report that Guillermo del Toro said the project was cancelled.

Right on the heels of that news, Norman Reedus expressed his disappointment.

Konami says the Silent Hill series itself will continue on, but confirmed to Kotaku that the “Silent Hills” dream-team collaboration has been cancelled.

So now we’re right back where we were prior to P.T.’s release. Where will the Silent Hill series go from here?

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Apr 242015
 

Alien-IsolationIt’s been a long time since I started playing Alien: Isolation. I liked it immediately, but a personal hiatus from horror caused a massive delay. Now, at last, I’ve beaten it… and I can say without hesitation that every survival horror fan should give Alien: Isolation a try.

For fans of the original Alien movie, Alien: Isolation is a tribute at its finest. Instead of feeling like fanservice or a successor in name only, it captures the tone and aesthetics of the film with startling attention to detail.

When it comes to survival horror, Alien: Isolation provides a modern spin on classic mechanics. Unlike modern survival horror games like Amnesia and Slender, you don’t play a helpless protagonist. You have weapons, and you can fight–but pick your fights wisely, because you’re far from a powerhouse and too much noise could attract the Alien’s attention. It brings back the fight-or-flight elements many horror games have lacked lately. Locked doors, backtracking (oh, it feels so good to return to an older area and see a locked door you now have the means to open), minor puzzles, and scattered notes to help tell Sevastopol Station’s story all revive the mechanics of classic survival horror without feeling dated.

And what Alien: Isolation accomplishes best of all is instilling a persistent sense of dread and tension. Maybe it isn’t the scariest game. Something like Amnesia (or Justine) might have it beat for brief moments of sheer terror. But if you want a game that will gnaw at you, leave you feeling anxious and unsafe, and torment you with quiet, unrelenting dread, Alien: Isolation is the one for you.

The Alien, the xenomorph itself, is the same sort of menacing presence from the original film. It can kill you in one hit, don’t even think about running from it, and its ability to travel through the space station’s vents means it can get around very quickly and pop up just about anywhere.

You’ll spend a lot of time hiding, sneaking, watching your motion tracker (but be careful the noise doesn’t attract it!), and possibly using distractions, but if you try the same trick too many times, the Alien will eventually catch on. Yeah, it’s smart. Just what you wanted to hear, right? Conventional weapons don’t work on it… molotov cocktails and the eventual flamethrower will make it back off, but only for a short period of time. Everything about the Alien is designed to make you feel vulnerable and paranoid.

I mentioned combat earlier, and that’s because the Alien isn’t your only enemy. Many other human survivors are hostile, and Sevastopol’s resident androids, the Working Joes, are out to politely kill you. They’re also deliberately in the Uncanny Valley.

A lot of the Joes’ dialogue falls somewhere between black humor and pure nightmare fuel. As they calmly say, “You are becoming hysterical” while throttling you or remind you of proper safety protocols while hunting you down, they remind me of the Taken’s bizarre lines in Alan Wake… but much more sinister. As I crawled into a vent and listened to the android outside tell me how patient he is, I was almost as tense as if the Alien was after me.

Almost. At least Working Joes can be killed, if not easily.

In addition to standard weapons, Alien: Isolation has a crafting system. I devoted most of my crafting resources to making medkits, molotov cocktails, and EMP mines, because my lack of stealth skills made it easier for me to risk taking damage than to try to use distractions. Still, the number of craftable items means you can approach different situations in a variety of ways.

So the gameplay is brilliant survival horror and the atmosphere is perfect… what about the story?

As a standalone experience, Alien: Isolation doesn’t have the strongest storytelling. You play as Amanda Ripley, who goes to Sevastopol Station after it obtains the Nostromo’s flight recorder. Her search for her mother is the game’s premise, but even that is overshadowed by the survival story. As a sequel to Alien, however, the story’s little touches and shout-outs make it more notable, but the plot still isn’t its strong point. None of the characters were particularly memorable aside from Amanda’s sheer will to survive, but all the same, it has some moments that resonated with me.

Click for spoiler

Now, one of the biggest complaints about Alien: Isolation is that it drags on a bit. That, I have to agree with. Near the end, its plot twists started to feel less like plot twists and more like forced setbacks to make the game go on longer, which was a little aggravating. I don’t think it should have been much shorter, but a couple of the final chapters could probably have been cut to the game’s benefit.

Even so, this was a great experience and I’m happy I played it. It’s one of the most enjoyable survival horror games I’ve played in a while, and I’d love to see The Creative Assembly explore the genre further. If you’re a survival horror fan looking for a new game that lives up to the classics, I have no qualms about recommending Alien: Isolation.


Buy Alien: Isolation from Amazon
Buy Alien: Isolation from Play-Asia
Buy Alien: Isolation from Steam

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