Ongoing Investigations: Case #215

My roommate recently bought the Humble Double Fine Bundle to get a PC version of Brutal Legend and the upcoming Broken Age game. But that left him with Steam keys for the other three games in the pack that he already bought in an earlier sale. Therefore I wound up with three new games for free. As I already played Psychonauts that gave me two new games to try out. The first game I played was Costume Quest.

On Halloween night two siblings are out trick-or-treating when one of them is kidnapped by evil candy stealing trolls. So it is up to the remaining relative to team up with other children to defeat the monsters, get back the candy, free the kidnapped hostages, and save Halloween in general. Along they way the gang can get new costumes that give them new powers both in and out of battle.

I went out of my way to be ambiguous about the gender of the protagonist. As it turns out the main characters are fraternal twins. So you pick if you want to play as the boy or the girl in the beginning and then spend the game recusing your twin of the opposite gender. As video games begin to make VERY SLOW progress to realizing a little gender equality won’t kill them this is a nice nod to both genders in the mean time. You don’t have to make a Princess Zelda saves Link mod for this game. It lets you choose which gender is heroic from the start.

There are some distinctly unique facets to this game. The fact that it is a turn based RPG was defiently surprising. Seeing a company like Double Fine work on a somewhat passed by genre was a little surprising but not outside of their normal MO. Then again up until recently adventure games were considered an all but dead genre. Now they are hardly FPS in ubiquitousness but nor are they rare crystal unicorns anymore either.

The setting is very fresh feeling. Combat trick-or-treating is not the most overused setting in video games. The costume based combat is fun. You will distinctly go out of your way to get new costumes just to use them in battle. Also they are timing based functions to increase damage and defense which makes combat much more interactive. There various costumes and battle stickers let you change-up your combat style quite a bit as well.

The biggest disadvantage of the game is the initial game is three parts but once you played the first part you pretty much have seen 85% of how the game works. While the puzzles and bosses are different in each section the quests are almost always the same in each part. There is always a bobbing for apples mini-game, you always can trade cards with the other kids, you always have to trick-or-treat at X number of houses to fight the boss which lets the party move onto the next section of the game. The game is short so the little changes between sections is enough to keep to interesting but adding 2 or three more section could have easily turned the game into a slog.

There was also a slightly bell-shaped difficulty curve. The beginning of the game is fairly easy. After that the second section in the mall was fairly tough for a while. I was often losing battles and usually only winning by the skin of my teeth. I later found out that later in the section I got a third-party member. Her addition made everything significantly less difficult after she joins. Other than some bosses I never faced anywhere near that level of difficulty again. I think I was supposed to avoid those initial battles  and the go back and with the added party member and clean house. It was an odd bump in difficulty and I’m not sure it was intentional.

There was also an additional Grubbins on Ice DLC episode. It takes place after the main game and adds an extra act on the game that takes place in the monster world this time. On the plus side it adds some great new costumes and a very different setting than the main game. On the downside the overall mission formula is exactly the same as it was for all three sections in the first game. The story is fun but if you were getting tired of the somewhat repetitive game-play than this section with seem like more of a grind. Also while you can pick the gender of the main character the person kidnapped in this DLC is always female. That sort of takes away a bit of the flair of the original game.

Overall it is a fun little story that you can easily find for dirt cheap. I knocked out the whole game in a single weekend where I also went to Free Comic Book Day and played D&D. So if you want some sort of Disgaea styled 100+ hours experience then your going to be sorely out of luck. But as an innovate return to the turn based RPGs it is a good piece of bite sized entertainment.

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The plot really picks up in Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro vol. 3. Not only do we learn more about Nijuku and Sanju’s creation, we get some surprising turns in Kuro’s search as well. The ending is really surprising in a cliffhanger-like moment which was a welcome piece to this unconventional 4-koma.

Allegedly this series is ongoing but I worry we may never get the answers we are looking for.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2011

We are here on the red carpet in scenic Brooklyn for the 5th annual Reverse Thieves Anime and Manga Awards. All the stars are here and decked out in their finest. There has already been a bit of drama outside before the awards tonight. We saw Hayao Miyazaki punch out Gendo Ikari over a seating dispute. Then one of the K-ON! girls was seen with a male escort which raised a few eyebrows and possibly caused several suicides. There were also some red faces when Sheryl Nome and Ciel Phantomhive showed up in the same dress. But all that aside we are gathered here today to look back and praise the best and the brightest while scorning the foul beasts that waste our precious time. The viewing audience at home is also encouraged to send in their own votes to see how they stack up to the votes of the academy.

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S.W.A.T. Reviews: Summer 2011

Four years into the blog has taught us, to a degree, what works and what needs changing. When we started the blog the season reviews were some of the most popular posts but as time went on we have seen a distinct decline in interest. A large part of that has to do with Anime News Network now doing a seasonal review and in a very timely fashion. In response, we sat down to decide how to revamp the seasonal review to stay relevant. Our idea is to do micro-podcasts instead of a whole article. The premise behind the S.W.A.T. (Season Watching Anime Taskforce) reviews is simple: watch the first episode of a series and then immediately sit down a record a review podcast. The reviews are five- to ten-minutes long and entirely off the cuff. The reviews have been going up on Anime3000 but in case you missed them there we collected them here for your listening pleasure.

Blade: We review the classic tale of a half-vampire VS. vampires. Now with extra Marvel/Madhouse blandness.

Blood-C: We review the OTHER vampire vs vampires anime. Now with CLAMP. Which sadly does not help.

Bunny Drop: We review the tale of an ace sniper and pathological lair who is a brave captain of the sea. Sorry. That is Usopp Drop.

Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth: We review (up soon!) an anime about France that is not The Rose of Versailles. We are as shocked as you are.

God’s Notebook: We review the spiffy keen NEET detective agency. The main character is a Speaker for the Dead.

The IDOLM@STER: We review a show about idols in training that is better than you would think it would be. That does not make it good.

Mawaru Penguindrum: We review the new Kunihiko Ikuhara anime. In fact, we are wondering why you are not watching this RIGHT NOW!

Mayo Chiki!: We review what proves that on all lives a little rain must fall. If you watch this, there shall be a downpour of sadness on your heart.

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian: We review (up soon!) the autobiography of Otaku USA’s Caleb Dunaway.

No. 6: We review the most obtuse remaking of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner.

Sacred Seven: We review (up soon!) a Tokusatsu show cleverly disguised as an anime. But with maids, butlers, mecha, and Greek mythology.

Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love 1000%: We review a show about idols in training that is better than you would think it would be. But is also actually good. We cannot forget to mention: Norio Wakamoto. ‘Nuff said.

Yuruyuri: We review a show of boy-friendly lesbians in training that is just as bad as you would think it would be.