Wrapped up Professor Layton and the Last Specter (DS) a couple days ago. I'm just finishing my formal review as we speak, but the bottom line is that it was a pretty big disappointment.
The Layton series has always had a few issues, but it's so damn charming that you can't help but fall in love with it. At least, I can't. That euro-café music, the quirky puzzle-solving Professor, and those fantastical, reality-defying storylines are just too delicious, not to mention the sort of puzzles that you can spend hours (and brain cells) on. Sadly, the developers really whiff it this time around and missed the mark on a lot of these qualities.
Well, the café music is still good, but…
Long story short, the plot was an utter bore that completely lacked in mystery or excitement, and the puzzles (while still decent) weren't as sharp as they usually are. You can read more about it when my review goes up, but I'm going on record as saying that this is the weakest of the four Layton games so far.
I'm getting close to the end of Darksiders (360) and I'm still a bit in shock about what a high-quality game it is. I really can't say enough nice things about what a pleasure it's been to play.
The graphics, the animation, the art direction… all of it quite strong. The combat engine is complex without being confusing or clunky, there's great variety in the puzzles, and the general tone of the post-apocalyptic world and various factions is top-notch. If I had to pick something to complain about, it does feel like some of the levels go on just a bit too long, but never to the point that I started losing interest or started thinking about quitting them.
The adventure is sailing right along and it's been big-time thumbs-up all the way. I've been warned by some people on Twitter that apparently there's some late-game collect-a-thon that drags things out unnecessarily, but I haven't had it yet, and it would have to be pretty terrible to harsh the happy buzz I've got going. I will be doing a full review of this game after completion, so look for more on Darksiders the near future.
…Oh, and I'm sure everyone already knows, but Darksiders II is coming sometime in 2012, so if you're one of those people (like me) that likes to play a series in order, you've still got plenty of time to grab the first game and play through in its entirety before the next one arrives. If the sequel's as good as the original (and you like good games) you might want to think about jumping on.
I'm one of those weird people who still listens to the radio when driving in the car. I like to scan through different stations and just sort of be open to new things that catch my ear. I don't know of any better way to do this than just tuning into what's new, and it works for me.
A recent discovery was The Joy Formidable, and their album The Big Roar. That was a fantastic find that I listened to for several days in a row. Still love it. I happened upon another winner not too long ago, and if you like Soul or the classic Motown sound, then you'll want to check out JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound.
I heard one song while on my way to work and it sounded exactly right to my ear, so I popped for the album, Want More, that night. I'm glad I did, because every single track on it is a winner. Check out I Got High and Baaadnews and see what you think. I'm not really a music critic nor do I claim to be, but if I had to give this album a number, it'd easily be a 9/10.
My little boy still enjoys Dora the Explorer and the Wonder Pets, but he's starting to get into other sorts of shows… things with robots, lasers, and lots of fighting. The wife and I are regulating this content pretty closely, but one morning I was reminiscing about and I decided to pop in an Ultraman DVD.
I hadn't watched the show in years so I had forgotten how much boring talk there was, but when Ultraman finally showed up, my little boy sprang to life and instantly went nuts—in a good way.
That was some good bonding time, so I decided to show him some Red Baron and Kikaida, and they were big hits as well. Kikaida, especially… he runs around the house now, constantly asking me to do the Double Chop and to flip him into the air as if he's somersaulting over Purple Starfish or Hakaida himself.
This stuff is mega-cheesy and as low-budget as it comes, but there is something undeniably magical about sitting down with a little boy to watch faked martial arts and chunky monsters made of rubber and foam. If you've got a little one and have fond memories of this stuff like I do, give it a shot… you may just keep the legacy alive for another generation.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway