The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (2007) Review

The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass is the first entry to be released on the Nintendo DS handheld videogame system. It is the fourteenth entry in the series and a sequel to GameCubes Wind Waker.

After the events of the Wind Waker Hyrule is flooded and Link and Tetra are crossing the ocean on their boat, they come across the Ghost Ship and climb aboard looking for treasure. On board Tetra screams as she is stolen and turned to stone, the ship vanishes leaving Link floating in the Sea before he is washed ashore on an island and rescued by a fairy called Ceila.

He finds a ghostly hourglass which holds the sands of time and speaks with an old man named Oshus who sends him on a quest with the help of Captain Linebeck to travel the new ocean, defeat the phantom Bellum and rescue Tetra so they can continue in their adventures.

The gameplay is very similar to the average top down Zelda game with hidden temples needing to be completed, each filled with a numerous amount of puzzles and a boss fight, these are each found on islands which you can sail towards on your boat.

Exploring the Sea in this is slightly lacking when compared to its predecessor due to the fact that while you can technically explore freely you can not physically move the boat but instead you draw a path which is then followed via an on rails segment, you can still jump obstacles and shoot down enemies so there is some entertainment value to these changes.

Speaking of gameplay changes I think the ambition to have the game completely controlled via the touch screen needs to be discussed because I have mixed feelings on this.

The use of touchscreen controls definitely had its advantages when it came to combat, simply tapping or swiping enemies worked really well when combined with using the screen for general movement as well.

My issues with this unfortunately came with swapping between items and drawing symbols.

Symbols are used throughout the game for various purposes, the main function is teleportation between the different areas of the Great Sea and finally for accessing certain parts of temples.

I had a lot of difficulty with getting some of these to work meaning that I had to do multiple attempts, the issue I think lies with how they are drawn, I found that I would draw the symbol perfectly and have no luck but if I drew the same symbol in a slightly different way it would work better.

This issue was so bad that at one point that I literally had to go to google to see if I had missed something but no it was just not drawing the image correctly even though it looked exactly the same as what I was meant to draw!

As for swapping items this worked fine enough but I do wish there was a way to apply some to buttons as near the end game it is necessary to swap items in a shorter space of time.

What caught me by surprise was that the game really focussed on the main story and held back on the side content. This worked so much more in its favour when compared to Wind Waker, this time around a longer campaign with a few memorable side quests was a much more enjoyable experience when compared to the repetitiveness of what we got before.

My favourite side quest involved finding a mermaid for a fisherman which would then end with us being awarded the fishing rod.

Other really interesting side content involved secret puzzles, near the end game a maze island is unlocked which gives you time limits to get through mazes which are full of puzzles and obstacles.

The puzzle on the whale shaped island was really unique having to sketch the islands layout based on clues before finally discovering how to open the doors to the Golden Frog King who teaches us about Golden Frog fast travel points.

Mini games are a staple of the series and here we get the obvious target games and bow and arrow ranges but these games now play an important role in how we explore the open sea.

Fishing allows us to catch fish which we can then take to the fisherman to be rated earning us prizes, I loved this as you needed to physically reel in the rod and pull on the touch screen to make sure you didn’t lose your catch.

The other new mechanic is how we use the salvage arm, here we can use a mechanical device to reach the bottom of the Ocean floor and can pull up lost treasure chests, this will result in either parts for your ship or treasures that you can sell for Rupees.

Customising your ship was a pretty cool new mechanic of the game, it wasn’t anything substantially amazing but allowing us to customize our ship did help me make my game unique to myself.

The use of 3D cell shading helps to maintain the cartoony and more family friendly look of the Wind Waker while also helping to enhance the graphic capabilities of the Nintendo DS considering that it was substantially more limited compared to graphically superior GameCube.

There is a large variety of different layouts and colour choices for the different temples but for me my favourite visuals were definitely the boss designs, each fight was unique and visually memorable my favourite was Gleeok the two headed Dragon followed by Bellum in the end game.

The soundtrack takes heavy inspiration from the Wind Waker it still uses the happier melodies help to maintain the less serious direction this chapter in the series was taking, a lot of the music here is somewhat cheerful but can get a little more intense during temples and boss fights but compared to other entries it always maintains its innocence and sense of wonder and even the re-used tracks from Wind Waker such as Outset Island sound fantastic even with the DS’s barriers when it came to its audio outputs.

Phantom Hourglass is a game I feel is often forgotten about by Zelda fans, Growing up I don’t ever recall anyone owning it and everyone played the Wind Waker.

This was my first ever playthrough of the game and I was left really surprised by it, when I first started playing the touch screen controls definitely took some time to get used too but ultimately worked in the games favour minus the issue with drawing symbols I mentioned earlier.

The plot focussing on the ghost ship was unexpected and introducing a new villain instead of resurrecting Ganondorf again was a really great way of making this game feel unique as an entry to the series.

I loved the introduction to touch screen interactivity with the fishing and salvage arm, it made success feel much more satisfying and rewarding

The visuals and audio are both equally as charming and both used the DS to the best of its capabilities giving us some truly fantastic and memorable musical tracks and creative lands to explore.

Overall Phantom Hourglass is to me what I wanted Wind wWker to be because this game really focussed on that main questline and took on a design approach similar to other 2D games in the series, the few side content that was there was lots of fun but didn’t take much focus away from the main goal, it definitely had its problems but for a game as ambitious as this was its really hard to not recommend it, it followed on from a beloved entry in the series that today is often considered to be a fan favourite and while this one has somewhat been lost the sea of Zelda games not only is it worth playing but I would argue that in a sense and only by a small margin I think this one may just be a little bit better. 7.6/10

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Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One (2021) Review

Based on the character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is the latest Sherlock Holmes videogame, it was developed and published by Frogswares for the PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X with versions for last gen consoles coming soon.

This is an origin story for our favourite detective so you wont be seeing Dr Watson in the game. The Plot actually sees a younger Sherlock Holmes returning to the Island of Cordona to revisit his family home and try to find out why his mother died.

He is joined by his imaginary friend Jon who acts as his conscience but at times seems to have a mind of his own.

While figuring out the answers to one of his biggest family secrets word of his unique detective skills gets around and young sherlock finds himself solving various different mysteries before he can finally get some answers.

The game is an open world Action/Mystery videogame based in the early 1800’s. It differs from a lot of other open world games as their is very little action segments and those that do exist can be skipped with very little effect to the player.

The Main Quest is very short and in order to get the most out of the game you really need to be focussing on the side cases and collectables.

The Gameplay is all very similar throughout the experience, you are a detective putting clues together to solve crimes, there are various ways to do this but some of the most frequent ways to solve a case are by examining a crime scene, you can view certain objects to gather information and you can even check for much smaller details such as blood spots on the carpets or scratches in woodwork etc.

Some people wont speak to Sherlock in his expensive suit so putting on different disguises is absolutely necessary, these can be purchased from various street sellers, you can also purchase furniture for your home from sellers across the island.

There are three archives you can visit, Police (Crimes), Cordona Chronicle (News) and Cordona City Hall (Official/Legal Documents). Depending on your clue you need to decide which will be the most useful to visit, you first need to select your clue from your case file then you can choose three key words to try and match some further information. For example if I was looking for a news article about an escaped monkey in Scaladio 100 years ago I would visit Cordona Chronicle and would search 1700’s – Front Page – Scaladio and that would then match the correct information.

Once you have enough of an idea of how a crime was committed you will be able to enter Sherlocks imagination where he can individually choose positions and actions to determine the most likely possibility of a crime before making his final decision in his mind palace.

Some items you collect during investigations can be chemically analysed to find out what certain stains or substances are. This process requires players to complete a small math puzzle where they need to find clever ways to match the required outcome by either dividing, adding, subtracting or doubling numbers.

The mind palace is where sherlock is able to connect all of his clues and make his final judgement of who is the culprit and how they should be punished, this normally results in whether he lets them go or reports them to the authorities but in more serious cases he can even suggest the death sentence.

The cases are almost perfect from a gameplay perspective you really do feel like a detective but if there is one issue I would say that Jon should have been a developed a little differently, throughout the game he constantly complains when you make mistakes but the game isn’t very clear on what direction you should be heading in, the clues are very complex in areas and I think that Jon maybe should have been used more as a hint system or a way to help players with trickier clues. I used a walkthrough more than once and I am not ashamed to admit that because this game can be really hard at times due to its lack of direction.

While the detective and mystery elements of the game really shine I feel its combat is a little lackluster, thankfully as I have already stated you can skip these but in case you want to do them, the idea is to shoot off armour and use the environment to stun enemies so you can arrest them, you can kill people but you will be penalised for this.

The problem with the combat is that its really slow paced and because of the lack of ways to interact and stun enemies it gets repetitive very quickly, towards the end of the game I found myself really enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to do these parts.

While your running around the island, eves dropping on locals and solving side cases there are actually 24 hidden treasures you can find by using photographic clues given to you by the treasure master.

These are actually quite cryptic and really challenging to find, they are a great way to have a break from the rest of the game which all follows a very similar gameplay pattern and there are some trophies to unlock if you collect these.

The game is lacking in its visuals, graphically its not really up to scratch with the modern hardware its been released on however that is not to say that it isn’t impressive. This is not a triple A game and it had a much smaller budget than some other games on modern systems, It doesn’t even have a physical release which says a lot in how much money was able to be pumped into it, what is really impressive is how the developers managed to make the world so realistic and immersive. The 1800 style really works in the games favour for being pretty cool to explore especially for fans of history. The load times are really fast and there is no issue with background items loading in too late. The developers were really clever with how they managed to hide invisible barriers, by putting Sherlock on an Island they are able to allow him to explore almost anywhere that he can walk too, he cant jump so he is restricted to the ground and since he cant swim the only barrier is the ocean which drowns him when entered. Smart game design like this allows players to remain immersed in the gameplay without obvious blocks taking away from the experience.

The soundtrack isn’t too special but I don’t think it needed to be, the small music tracks it uses are very simple and mellow, I does pick up during combat for the most part you are so focused on solving cases you forget the music is even there, so unfortunately I don’t have much to say about the OST here apart from its neither good nor bad.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One was a lot better than I expected, I really enjoyed the freedom that came with the open world, I spent a lot of time focussing on the side content and really going after all the trophies which I did manage to pull off, they are quite easy to get and a good chunk are rewarded for making certain moral decisions and doing Jon’s various challenges.

The main quest line is fine enough but its very short especially on a second playthrough so again you really will want to do everything to get your moneys worth with this one, especially since you will be paying a fair bit on money as the game is not cheap for digital only.

Overall I really enjoyed this game but even with all of impressive features its got some pretty serious issues in its gameplay, the combat is creative but badly pulled off, again you can skip these but that’s still no excuse, the main puzzle solving and the mystery parts are really cool but a little bit too cryptic at times which can effect peoples enjoyment as just little hints would have been useful to help get us in the right direction without having to use the internet.

However I did get excited to play this game whenever I got the chance, even though I did use a walkthrough a couple of times I was still really invested in the story and cases I was solving, I thought the world was really well animated, it felt how I would imagine the 1800’s to be and the characters were all really interesting. I think it was a great choice to do an origin story as well before Sherlock becomes famous, who knows maybe one day we will get another game in this style, perhaps with Dr Watson?

6/10

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Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (2007) Review

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Developed by Naughty Dog and Published by Sony as an exclusive for the Playstation 3, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was the first game of the now very popular video game series.

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Treasure hunter Nathan Drake is on a fishing boat along with reporter Elena Fisher, Elena is trying to film a documentary while Nathan wants to discover his dead ancestor Francis Drakes coffin to try and find a clue to finding the lost city of El Dorado.

After an Attack from Pirates they are rescued by Nathans long time friend and father figure Victor Sullivan. The two adventurers ditch Elena to try and find the treasure together but not long into the adventure Sully is shot and Elena shows up leaving her and Nathan to try and discover El Dorado and escape the island they are trapped on.

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I can confidently say that Uncharted is heavily inspired by Tomb Raider but it has a few differences which I really enjoy, you will be climbing buildings and cleverly figuring out the safest and best way to get across dangerous terrain and unstable structures which is easy enough to do and is a lot of fun.

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The game-play is varied throughout the adventure, you have action segments, beautiful environments to explore with treasures to discover and really fun driving areas, I particularly enjoyed the speed boat area because you had to be careful as well as fast to avoid explosions and shoot the bad guys.

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There are a few puzzles in the game but they are far too easy, I figured them out within about 10 minutes and none of them were challenging,  they helped to advance the plot but I would have preferred trickier scenarios.

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The majority of the game is action based and requires the player to shoot down enemies to progress, I really enjoyed this part of the game, all of the guns are fun to use and racking up head-shots was very satisfying.

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The story of the game is really good and very memorable but the villains kind of suck. I never really felt that they were that threatening and I couldn’t even remember their names, It really is annoying because the rest of the plot is so good that a great villain really would of made the story fantastic.

The soundtrack was composed by Greg Edmonson who also did the soundtrack for the TV series Fire Fly. The music in this game is without a doubt absolutely breathtaking. Every track fits the mood and atmosphere perfectly and this is one of the best video game soundtracks I have ever heard its atmospheric and genuinely beautiful.

It may seem that I have really complained a lot about this game but I want to make it clear that I do think it is a great game I just wish that it had better antagonists and that the game as a whole felt more like an adventure with more difficult puzzles to solve and a little less action while focusing more on exploration and discovery. I don’t really think its fair to compare the game to Tomb Raider even though the inspiration is clearly there. Uncharted is a great game it is addictive and a lot of fun to play through, it is very short but overall the experience is very satisfying 8/10

I hope you enjoyed this review of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune

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Sam and Max Hit the Road (1993) PC Review

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Sam and Max Hit the Road is the first release of the popular point and click adventure series which follow two anthropomorphic animal detectives as they try to solve various wacky crimes, the games are based on the original comic book series Sam and Max: Freelance Police which was created by Steve Purcell in 1987.

12333 The game is based on a 1989 comic book release where Sam and Max need to travel to various tourist locations spread across America in order to find a Bigfoot that has gone missing from a local carnival.

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The game play is similar to any-other game of the genre you will need to collect random objects throughout the game and then either give those objects to those who may desire them or they can be used to solve puzzles, the game does add the ability to question suspects in order to gain clues about where the player should head next or how the player can get past some of the more difficult challenges the game has to offer.

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For me although the game was a lot of fun like most point and click adventure games, the best part was the characters and dialogue, the game is filled to the brim with dry humour which coincidentally is one of the only types of humour I genuinely find funny   and let me just say that I was laughing my ass off throughout the majority of this game, I know a lot of people really like max for his psychotic personality and genuinely random moments but I have to admit that it was actually Sams character that I enjoyed the most, I found that Sam provided the majority of that witty dry humour that I love and although Max did this occasionally as well I just found it was funnier coming from Sam,  I don’t think it really helped that for the most part Max was fairy useless in this game, some of the puzzles require you to use Max in order to solve them but honestly this hardly ever happened and for the rest of the game play you take control of Sam which is a shame because I feel that Max would have been useful for a lot more puzzles that he actually was.

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The Dialogue actually uses voice acting which really surprised me and the best part of this is that it was actually quite impressive, of course Sam and Max sound great Max has a more energetic voice which really suits his character and Sam has a more calm and serious voice which really works for him, everyone you speak too also has a unique voice and not one single character sounds the same as another.

Apart from pausing and a few other commands the game completely uses the mouse and I had no issues at all with the general game-play however I did not like the few keyboard keys that were chosen for smaller things, for some reason you need to press F5 to go to the save menu and if I didn’t look up the manual I never would have figured this out, another key that I hated was pressing full stop to skip dialogue, its a really random choice when the developers could have easily chosen a much easier key that wasn’t in use, this wouldn’t be such an issue but when you keep having to speak to characters over and over again it can really get annoying having to keep listening to them repeat the same sentences.

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The art style and visual choices in the game are absolutely outstanding, the colours are bright, the art is smooth and the many smaller details such as the use of shadows, creases in clothes and the density of different materials such as fur really help bring the game to life, not the mention the constant animations that run in the background of the game, the game has a few still image cut-scenes with some basic animation and if you weren’t actually playing the game you might think they were from a cartoon due to how much effort the game designers put into the visuals.

005fe384ddb3e3394a57771f36203588 Sam and Max Hit the Road is a very good game which I think most people would really appreciate if they put aside some time to play it, It’s not perfect but its an innocent title that provides a lot of laughs and will leave you with some fond memories, I cant say I enjoyed it as much as I do Sierra Games but Lucas Art did a great job with this before the series got taken over by Travellers Tales 7/10

I hope you enjoyed my review of Sam and Max Hit the Road for Microsoft Windows and MS DOS.

By the way you can get yourself a copy of this game for fairly cheap via GOG.com

If you respect my opinion, I will respect yours

By Padawan

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