this game blows

[Review] Titanic Mystery aka 1912 Titanic Mystery (Nintendo Wii)

Onward on another adventure reviewing Titanic-themed games. I have reviewed three so far, and show no signs of stopping. Tired yet? No? Then, ALL ABOARD!

I have forever been searching for half-decent hidden object games for the Nintendo Wii…and ever since I found Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident, a great game on the Wii, I held out hope. The game, Titanic Mystery continued to come up in my hidden object searches for the Wii, but it has also been difficult to find around these parts. Funny too, another game called 1912 Titanic Mystery also came up in my search…but impossible to get as it appeared to be only available in Europe.

As you can surmise from the title of this blog post, these games are one and the same. Don’t ask me why, but the packaging for North America calls this game Titanic Mystery, yet the game itself on-screen is called 1912 Titanic Mystery. At any rate, I managed to find a copy at an EB Games, and asked my sweet hubs to bring a Wii upstairs to the living room where I game so I could review this for y’all. What a guy!

A replica of the original Titanic has been built and is set to sail on the anniversary of the sinking of the 1912 Titanic. All of the ancestors from the original voyage are invited to board and experience Titanic II’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic. The media are out in full-swing and everyone is excited to participate… Everyone except for a terrorist who has communicated with you that they have planted a bomb somewhere on-board, and you must find out who has!

Throughout the game you get a bit of a history lesson on the Titanic. You are made to search for missing pages from a diary authored by a young woman who was on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. You get to know some of the characters on the ship – a tad stereotypical in nature, that can somewhat be akin to a poor man’s Love Boat, complete with an Isaac knock-off. The person responsible for planting the bomb keeps dropping notes to you around the ship, and fascinatingly, all the characters seem to know the notes are for you!

Seriously, I am making this plot line more exciting than this game actually is. In truth, the gameplay of 1912 Titanic Mystery is quite dull and repetitive. Hidden object scenes force players to search for the same object over and over. The same mini games are also provided, such as “unscramble the image,” or “find all the birds in this scene.” Yawn.

This game is visual all the way, and unfortunately, the images were super blurry on the Wii version. The Wiimote allows you to zoom into a scene to get a better look, but honestly, in most cases, all you see are blurred images. The hidden object scenes, in particular, give you a headache.

This scene above is pretty much the resolution I got. Now, imagine zooming in on it… 

Let’s also address the fact that the Wii can be glitchy at the best of times if you don’t have your Wiimote and sensor bar configured properly.  When I first started the game, I ran into this issue – my bad. But, once I fixed everything, I would still experience issues with trying to select things on-screen. I am not sure if this was me, the Wii, or the game itself.  Like most of the other Titanic games I have played so far, 1912 Titanic Mystery also has a PC version. Mind you, I don’t know which came first – the Wii version or the PC version – but I’ll put money on the PC version being much better visually and the gameplay being more comfortable.

Thankfully, unlike Murder on the Titanic for the Nintendo 3DS, you are able to skip puzzles in 1912 Titanic Mystery, but the game weirdly penalizes you 10 minutes…odd since the game has never given you a timer anywhere in its gameplay, so I am not sure where this would have any impact except perhaps on achievements, which I never received. Lastly, I might have been rewarded with a decent ending had I finished this. I just…couldn’t do it. The graphics were way too blurry, and because of the repetitive gameplay and glitchy mechanics, I decided to move on.

Maybe the PC version is better?

1.5/5

1912 Titanic Mystery
JoinDots / O-Games
2009

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[Review] Murder on the Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)

I have been on a tear with playing Titanic-themed games lately, and was excited to find Murder on the Titanic for the Nintendo 3DS for sale in the Nintendo eShop, a game with the notoriety of being the first hidden object adventure game being sold there (according to Nintendo). The game seemed decent on preview, with a solid story and puzzles to match. I decided – what the hey…let’s try it. I soon realized this good-looking game was lipstick on a sweaty pig.

Murder on the Titanic begins with the story of a killing that occurs on-board the Titanic the night of the ship’s fateful voyage. The victim was a coal shoveler down in the Titanic’s engine room. Not to fear, the Captain happens to know the great Inspector Magnussen is on board and calls on him to investigate the death. The Inspector agrees to be discrete as the guests are unaware of the murder, but could cause a frenzy should they find out. You play as Magnussen, searching for clues in hidden object scenes and solving puzzles with the obvious ultimate goal being you find the killer. Of course, all of this seems like foolish busy-work, considering we all know how the evening ends…

I have to say, that I was impressed with the overall look of Murder on the Titanic; the graphics really looked great. The problem I have is with the game’s puzzle mechanics. Like Hidden Mysteries: Titanic (the last game I reviewed), Murder on the Titanic is a port from the PC version, and unfortunately it shows. Clicking around in hidden object scenes was fine; it was if you needed to do anything more, like drag an item or pick it up to move it; sometimes these games don’t do those mechanics well on the 3DS (let alone the DS…). In one scene, I was to use my stylus to move a crate under a pile of fallen pipes. The game refused to let me select the crate…at least not until a game crash resulted in me having to start the puzzle over from scratch. Amazingly, I was then able to move the crate. This glitchy nonsense happened several times throughout the game.

Porting problems from PC to 3DS persist in Murder on the Titanic, particularly in the hidden object scenes. Normally, in any game that provides a hidden object puzzle, a list of items to search for is provided. The 3DS version of Murder on the Titanic’s hidden object scenes oddly provided a shortened list of search items with a fraction of the objects the PC version provides…I assume as much because I was able to click around the scene randomly on items that weren’t listed and still gain points for finding them.

Forget porting issues, I had one serious problem with Murder on the Titanic that is completely inexcusable: You CANNOT SKIP A SINGLE PUZZLE.

The ability to skip puzzles is one gaming mechanic that is a standard in casual gaming, and sets them apart from other gaming genres. If a puzzle is too difficult or boring, one should have the ability to skip past that puzzle so they can continue in the game; they should NOT be held back by that puzzle. Often, when a skip button is provided, gamers are given a penalty like a reduction in points, or are punished by adding or reducing time to their clock, thereby affecting their game achievements. Not allowing to skip past a particular puzzle leaves gamers with only two choices: persevere, or abandon.

Friends, the developers did a massive faux-pas with Murder on the Titanic, and this was made all the more obvious when I wasted spent HOURS trying to figure out how to solve one puzzle. I was stuck but had no choice; it was solve it or bust. No thanks to the internet, I toiled (and boiled…and fumed…) on this one puzzle. And I wasn’t the only one that ran into trouble: this freaking puzzle caused some outrage on forums around the internet from gamers unable to solve it. What makes it worse – the puzzle in the 3DS version differs from what is in the PC version, and with no walkthrough available online for the 3DS version there was ZERO help out there.

You are left to solve this puzzle FOR HOURS while the likes of Inspector Magnussen,
Brendan Fraser and Jessica Fletcher stare back at you…Lawd ha’ mercy…

I eventually figured out the solution to the puzzle, but it cast huge shade on how I felt about this game. What was typical irritation that I get with the usual tomfoolery that comes with a bad 3DS port, turned into frustration, and the conclusion that this game is not recommended to even the expert casual gamer. I hope that anyone reading this to figure out if Murder on the Titanic is for them will understand this fact going in…

HOURS, I tell you…

Maybe the PC version is better?

1.5/5

Murder on the Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)
Easy Interactive
2012

[Review] Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage (Nintendo DS)

As mentioned in last week’s post, this Spring I got onto a real Titanic kick. This inspired me to find some Titanic-themed games, including looking at my own collection of games. I happened to find Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage for the Nintendo DS some time back and decided it was time to dust it off and give it a go.

I have played a game from the Hidden Mysteries series before – Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace was a decent hidden object standard for the PC, and I seem to remember there not being that much wrong with it. How far removed this game is… Hidden Object: Titanic was originally released on the PC, and ported onto the Nintendo DS. Let me tell you, this port ain’t good.

The game tells the story of Margaret Ashley and her adventure traveling on the Titanic to America. Ashley is a newlywed who boards the ship with her husband, Robert, an egomaniac who is newly wealthy and has some serious concerns around image. Margaret’s mom, Mrs. Brown, was against the union from the start, and is hell-bent on stopping her daughter from leaving England, going so far as to stop her at the boarding gate! After some convincing, Margaret manages to go aboard with her mother satisfied she will see her daughter again. But, not before Margaret and Robert soon discover someone pick-pocketed one of their tickets. Because Robert is no gentleman and needs to board immediately to have a bath and a highball (seriously!), Margaret is left to search the ship for the culprit and ends up shaking down the ship’s ragamuffin, George, a young boy suspected of the theft. She also encounters Mr. Tavalouris, the Titanic’s Shipwright who created a secret hidey hole within the ship where he is living. His sanctum’s entrance just happens to conveniently portal into Margaret’s stateroom (how convenient). Thanks to meeting Tavalouris and George, and having to put up with her selfish husband, Margaret is put on mission after aimless mission, fixing plumbing, running errands and trying to now please all the men on this ship. The story follows the real story line of the Titanic (hits an iceberg, not enough lifeboats…), but seriously veers off-course somewhere around the point Margaret finds a sarcophagus in the cargo hold that is supposedly cursed. Yeah, it’s all random, dumb and unnecessary.

Margaret meets and talks with a handful of people in the game; dialogue choices are given that are supposed to impact the outcome of the story. This impact might have been what happens in the PC version of the game, because I can tell you, it didn’t matter what dialogue you chose, there was little to no consequence when I played the DS version. One example happened when Margaret and her mother were talking before boarding the ship. Margaret had a choice to tell her mother she never wanted to see her again, or tell her she would return to England for Christmas. I played through this part twice (because the game crashed on me…), both times choosing opposing dialogue. The outcome for both was, “I’ll see you at Christmas.” At this point I am concluding the DS version is a very lazy port from PC.

Other port problems persisted with Hidden Mysteries: Titanic, such as vague or confusing puzzle instructions, and often you were left wandering around trying to figure out what you had to do next. The menu system provided a “hint” button that was broken, and not that this was necessarily the game’s fault, but walkthroughs for this game online are scant. There are PC walkthroughs, but following them can be a bit confusing as the DS version is missing several puzzles from the PC version.

Probably the best part about this game was how it looked. The graphics are pretty decent overall, but unfortunately this is counteracted with a crappy menu system, boring story-telling and shoddy game mechanics.

Maybe the PC version of Hidden Mysteries: Titanic is better?

1.5/5

Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage (DS)
Gunnar Games
2009

[Review] Puzzle de Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS)

Last year, my husband returned from the Spring Waterloo Game Swap with a gift for me. A friend (@CanadianRetro?) gave him a Nintendo DS game cartridge without a manual or case…He said to me, “Here…a French Harvest Moon game for you…” Um, thanks…?  I stored the game away until this weekend. I was cleaning up my living room and discovered the cartridge in a catch-all basket under my side table yesterday along with three other DS games. Oops! I should do something with this, I thought.

Full disclosure on two counts: I have never played a Harvest Moon game before now, and it’s been a LONG time since I have delved into anything French (20 years). Now, to address the former concern: in my mind, I equated Harvest Moon to Farmville; a time-management-type farming simulator game where you have to adjust your personal life to log in, farm and harvest crops by making sure you water them on time or else risk your virtual livelihood. I have never liked having my life dictated to by a video game…that is unless I am getting paid to do so. So you can guess how long I lasted with a game like Farmville (one week, tops)…Harvest Moon, I hear, is fun, but I assume similar. So, it has taken me a long time to be excited enough to go in and try any Harvest Moon. Addressing the latter concern around French, I haven’t read or spoken French in ages, and being surrounded by Anglophones doesn’t help, but I figure if there are subtitles in English, at least I should be fine. In any case, when I found the game yesterday, the hubs said I should take my DS out of cobwebs and see if there is an English option within.

Well, people, it turns out, this game is in English. The developers calling the game Puzzle de Harvest Moon was simply to make it sound exotic, I guess? Because, this game isn’t great and I suspect it needed a little sophistication to help get people to play it beyond adding Harvest Moon to the title.

Puzzle de Harvest Moon is a strategy game, the objective of which is to compete against opponents to harvest as many crops as possible to gain the most points. The first thing I did when I fired up the game was try out the in-game tutorial so I knew what I was up against. It seemed relatively easy…You are given a plot of land you share with three other “players” (the Nintendo DS’s A.I. if playing Single Player). You play over the course of “four seasons” (or 4 to 8 minutes, depending on preference). Each player is given seeds, watering cans and fertilizer to use to tend to their crops; these tools are provided at random. Each crop is colour-coded to denote which player owns which crop. As you farm using the tools provided, your crops will tell you what they need (water, fertilizer) with tiny graphic indicators. Animals are also provided to use to distract and prevent other players from tending their crops. For example, chickens can be used to eat up freshly sowed seeds, but, these animals can also be used against you in the same way. Your crops grow and eventually become ready to be harvested. One can harvest crops one of two ways: Baskets are provided to harvest your crops, but these are given at random, it seems. The other option is to use the stylus to reap crops by scribbling on the crop of choice, which then dissolves the crop from the plot. For every crop you harvest, you are awarded points. What do you do if you have run out of your own crops? Well, now there is a solution for that! Go on and steal harvest the crops of your neighbours, not for them, but for you! I don’t remember that gameplay tactic in the Farmville manual…

When it came to the actual gameplay outside the tutorial, this is where things were confusing and inconsistent. I chose a character (one of 12), that I think are original to the Harvest Moon franchise, but whose strengths or background seemed to have no benefit to the outcome of the game. The first time I played, I planted my crops, watered, and fertilized them as I was supposed to. My crops were ready to be harvested, but I got no baskets to use. I tried the other trick of using my stylus to scribble the crop away, and that didn’t work for some reason. The game then ramped up, and all the other players were able to plant and harvest to their heart’s content. I was only given two seeds to plant the whole round, so I lost miserably. Giving the game the benefit of the doubt, I studied the tutorial one more time…was I missing something?

I played as Elli…and as you can see from the points, I am killing it.
I am also not trying very hard…

I tried playing again several times to get the rhythm right. After over 20 rounds, here is what I discovered: I didn’t actually have to do much crop tending at all! I concluded all that labour watering, fertilizing and tending to my crops was for losers! Seriously, I could win the game by a large point margin simply by sitting back and letting the opponents do all the heavy lifting labouring over the plot. Then, like shooting fish in a barrel, I could swoop down with my stylus and scribble away everyone’s fully grown crops to win the game! That’s right, I became a parasitic gamer! The competition in Puzzle de Harvest Moon became less about tending crops, and more about how quickly you could scribble on crops to harvest them. There wasn’t much point to this that I could see – I could scribble the DS’s computer under the table!

I was on fire today…I also just scribbled the entire time

So, does that make this game fun? Um, not to me. People, I think there are Nintendo games that are less confusing, more consistent, and much more fun than Puzzle de Harvest Moon. Oui, oui mes amis.

2/5

Puzzle de Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS)
Natsume
2007

[Review] Crime Scene (Nintendo DS)

I was so looking forward to playing this one! After I completed Unsolved Crimes for the Nintendo DS, I went searching for other DS games like it, and the game, Crime Scene, kept popping up. (I can hear readers scream “Phoenix Wright”….don’t worry, folks, I have it in my library…) Crime Scene is a rare title and difficult to find in my area…but after six months of searching, I finally found it at my local EB Games. Crime Scene wasn’t cheap ($19.99, new for a game from 2010). I was anxious to play it over my vacation, and started playing it immediately…And darn it, if I have anything good to say about it. It blows.

As it often goes with these Cop Shop type games, you play as Matt Simmons, the newest and eager forensic investigator of the Crossburg Police Department. Using your instincts, know-how and latest forensic equipment, you investigate the 5 murders plaguing Crossburg by interviewing suspects, analysing evidence and reporting back to your Superintendent, Alexandra Malone. Your skills are tested every step of the investigation. You better study hard and have a steady stylus hand in Crime Scene, or Malone will send your ass packing quickly.

No doubt, the game looks great! The imagery is crisp. But, don’t be fooled by its appearance, as its mechanics are broken. The “charm” to Crime Scene is the part where one collects evidence using a number of different given tools – latex gloves, cotton swabs, an X-acto knife, tweezers, fingerprint powder and tape, and luminol & black light. The police department is counting on Simmons knowing how to use these items to solve the crime, so the game equips players with an integrity meter that gauges how well you as Simmons are doing. The game provides you with confusing instructions on how to use each of these tools while in play that one must figure out while the clock ticks down fast. When time’s up, your integrity can take a nasty hit. The tools are used by dragging them with the stylus and holding down the L or R bumper. Sometimes they don’t work properly at all and the game penalizes you severely. In one situation you are to take a blood sample as evidence by dipping a cotton swab in solution, then rubbing it on a blood stain. I couldn’t figure out why my swab kept breaking mid-sample, causing me to have to re-take the sample. Every time I “broke” a swab, my integrity meter would decrease. In another scenario, I had to cut evidence out of fabric using an X-acto knife, and I’ll be damned if I could get the knife to cut anything.

The actual analysis of evidence is treated in a series of mini-games, which at first blush seem fun enough. In one game, you use a pipette to draw a sample of blood to place on a microscope slide. Once the slide is prepared, you use a laser to zap red blood cells. Reading this back, it sounds like it’s lame…and really, it is especially if you were asked to repeat these mini-games several times within the case. And like I said, if you don’t get the tool mechanics just right, you lose the game, so make sure you save often so you can re-start the game at a save point (that is… if you plan on playing this). I, for one, was sent packing many times. It never got easier.

Many of you will NOT remember when I reviewed the CSI: Dark Motives game for the DS…mainly because it was the second or third game I reviewed for this blog over three years ago and no one was paying any mind back then. At that time, I said you were better off eating a Mr. Big chocolate bar than play that game, mainly because the game was confusing, unforgiving and had broken mechanics; your only consolation was to eat a Mr. Big. Same goes for Crime Scene, only this time I’ll take a Coffee Crisp, please, because, if I gotta replay that damn crime scene one more time, I might as well gnaw on something that tastes like delicious coffee wafer dipped in awesome chocolate, thanks.

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2/5

Crime Scene (Nintendo DS)
Dev: Nobilis / South Peak
2010

[Review] Sudoku Ball – Detective (Nintendo DS)

Anyone like Sudoku? If you are not familiar with this challenging grided number-placement puzzle, get going! Along with crossword puzzles and search-a-word, it is my favourite pencil-to-paper puzzle game. I started enjoying them about 15 years ago when we’d occasionally get a free newspaper delivered to our house. Now, I have a couple of Sudoku games on my tablet and phone. It’s fun and challenging enough to give the mind a little exercise. So when I discovered a Sudoku puzzle game for the Nintendo DS, Sudoku Ball – Detective, I was all over it! And imagine: Sudoku tied into a story-based murder mystery! What a great concept! I’d buy that!

…and I did. And the game is…ehhh…

Edward G. Bannister, a retired Scotland Yard detective, is investigating the sudden death of his close friend. The story is all too familiar: you play as Edward as he interviews suspects, picks locks and lifts fingerprints to search for clues…except instead of you doing any of this, you play Sudoku Ball, a variant of Sudoku where the Sudoku grid is bent in a 3D sphere shape. Once you complete a puzzle, you get a clue which is used to carry the story. The puzzles in the game vary in level of difficulty and from timed to untimed. In the timed components, if the clock runs out, there is no real penalty, as you are able to restart the puzzle after rewatching a short clip.

I have encountered some terrible DS games in the past, and although Sudoku Ball – Detective is not the worst I’ve played on the system, it is on this side of mediocre. I wanted so much more for it than I got especially since I like Sudoku, and there are FREE Sudoku games in the mobile environment that look and play better than this. To be fair, Sudoku Ball – Detective is from 2009, so time hasn’t been kind. The graphic rendering of the characters looked ghastly, and the Sudoku puzzles are pixelated and blocky. One thing I hand it to this game and the DS for that matter – it has very decent handwriting recognition whereby you fill in a Sudoku square by hand-writing in the number with your stylus. The DS then replaces your handwritten number for a typed equivalent. It was quite intuitive – it even got my lazy lefty chicken-scratch pretty well! But alas, this is where the good ends. The tale wasn’t all that engaging and after awhile, I quit paying attention and just played Sudoku. If you wanted to, you could bypass the story and play the 90 standalone Sudoku puzzles, but again, why would you want to? Those puzzles just look terrible on the DS.

If you come across a copy of Sudoku Ball – Detective, feel confident in passing it by. There are so many free methods of playing Sudoku that are so much better than this.

1/5

Sudoku Ball – Detective (Nintendo DS)
Dev: Playlogic
2009

[Review] Silent Hill: Downpour (PS3)

Silent Hill is a survival horror franchise that I have a little history with. I played Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on the PSP five summers ago and was terrified most of the time. I reflect back on that survival horror game, and consider it one of the first from the genre that got me into playing scary games in the first place. When the hubs suggested we play Silent Hill: Downpour together on the PS3 this past December, I agreed to it. Together, we slogged through it over a couple of weekends.

You play as Murphy Pendleton who is, at first blush, all kinds of bad. In prison serving an unknown wrap, Murphy is making enemies everywhere he goes, including officer Ann Cunningham, who has a serious bone to pick with him. It is while being transported to another penitentiary that Murphy’s bus crashes, killing everyone on board but Murphy. He is left to his own devices in the forest, but before he can even think of his freedom, he finds himself amid the eerie, rainy and somewhat abandoned town of Silent Hill, a perpetual hell where there is never any escape. While in Silent Hill, Murphy is pursued by monsters which he must defend against. He goes searching through the town, exploring abandoned buildings to find clues about his fate and objects he can use for his escape. Silent Hill’s gloomy buildings can transform spontaneously into a parallel universe where the walls turn dark, blunt obstacles turn sharp, and red shadows chase and disorientate Murphy.

Murphy’s back story is a mystery from the get-go. You are given very few details about him, and as the game progresses things eventually fall into place (sort of), but it’s a long winding journey. The gamer is provided with flashbacks periodically that lift the curtain a little on Murphy, but I have to say the pacing of the story was very slow, and I soon found myself impatient, wondering why the hell this guy was in Silent Hill, and why the heck I should bother saving him in the first place.

You direct Murphy in third-person gameplay. Like other Silent Hill games, Downpour had some jump-scare moments, especially when Murphy suddenly entered into the evil parallel world where he was being chased, or gets confronted by a monster. To that end, I found the combat in Downpour was pretty lame. You are only able to pick up one weapon at a time, each often felt pretty ineffective. Along the way you are given a gun, but the aiming sucks, so it barely did anything. Beating a creep down with any weapon, in fact, felt like an exercise in futility, and we often found ourselves running away from a monster as a more effective method than sticking around.

Wild guess: Which screenshot comes from Silent Hill: Downpour and which is from Alan Wake?*

Throughout my experience with this game, I couldn’t help but think the game designers of Downpour took inspiration from Alan Wake, nicking some key plot tropes from one of my favourite games. In fact, I can think of at least 10 similarities between the two:

  • A gloomy landscape
  • Forest hiking
  • Use of a flash light
  • Flocks of birds that attack
  • Flashbacks to the past
  • Riding a Gondola lift
  • Breaking into spooky buildings
  • Trespassing through diners and gas stations
  • A Female police officer
  • And look out for gusts of wind and fog; the monsters are coming!

There are more but, this list is a start. Whether by accident or coincidence, Downpour has really tapped into obvious parallels with Wake. The whole time, I turned to the hubs and said, “I feel like I’ve played this before….This feels like Alan Wake…” Except, Alan Wake is two years younger than Silent Hill: Downpour…and does things a lot better than this game; the story, weapons and general gameplay were much more enjoyable.

I can’t help but feel disappointment with Silent Hill: Downpour, especially since Shattered Memories was so engrossing. Take a pass on Downpour – there are better survival horror games out there.

2/5

Silent Hill: Downpour (PS3)
Konami
2012

*Alan Wake is on the left, Silent Hill: Downpour is on the right.