Triple Indie Tuesday Review: Unholy Heights, Redshirt, Cook, Serve, Delicious!

It’s another edition of “review multiple games at once to clean out Gef’s disgustingly long backlog”. This edition comes with a food trigger warning for Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Let’s just jump right in, shall we?

Unholy Heights

Unholy Heights is an adorable Japanese indie title that is a mixture of tower defense and life sim. You play as the Devil himself who has decided to buy an apartment complex and fill it with monsters. Unfortunately, local heroes have caught wind of this devious plan and it’s up to you to lead your tenants into battle and hopefully keep them happy so they won’t skip town on you.

Gameplay consists of attracting monsters to your apartment complex and taking care of their needs by buying them stuff. You can attract different monsters by placing certain items in the apartments and by completing quests. Monsters need a variety of things to keep them happy. Some monsters don’t like it when their rooms are too hot, others don’t like it when their rooms are too cold, and others are perverts who want naughty wallpaper. Keeping them happy is basically a matter of buying them things when they ask and keeping the rent at an acceptable range.

Yeah, that hipster beside the billboard is you, you’re the Devil.

The other part of the game involves heroes trying to ruin your business venture by making off with your gold and killing your monsters. When you select a quest by using the notice board (quest difficulty is indicated by the number of stars it has) you’ll usually have one day before the heroes show up and make a mad dash to the top floor to make off with your gold. To combat the heroes, you knock on doors to summon the monsters within, monsters can have melee, medium, or long range attacks, and it’s up to you to know when to summon them to gain an advantage over your foe. If your monster’s taking too much punishment, you can make them retreat by clicking on them (although this won’t work if an enemy is blocking their room). Once all enemies are defeated, you gain gold and new monsters and quests are unlocked.

I don’t like to use the term “casual game” because some people pronounce “casual game” the way most people pronounce “tapeworm” but Unholy Heights is a simple game that you can pick up and play for a bit and then put down. If you like tower defense and sim games and are looking for something to play on the go, this is a good choice, plus the art style is adorable.

As for negatives, the sound effects get really annoying really quickly, which is why it’s best to play it in very short bursts. A few of the monsters have some annoying quirks. Beastmen and Abyssals hate each other and will refuse to be in the same building with the other, so if you want one you can’t have the other unless you want them to be really upset with you. I could understand if they couldn’t be on the same floor or even have their rooms next to each other, but that they can’t even stay in the same building seems….a bit much. The game is also ridiculously heteronormative, to the point that there are male Succubi (not incubi, succubi) that are pretty much interchangeable with their female counterparts. If you look at some of the art for the game (on Steam Trading Cards, for instance, you will be forgiven for thinking that the two Succubi in the picture are women (the one with the green hair is the dude). Unless there’s been an update I don’t know about or I just have the most heteronormative copy of the game, your monsters will only ever take lovers and have families with different-sex partners.

These issues aside, however, Unholy Heights is light on both the tower defense and simulation aspects, but it’s a neat little game that’s worth playing if you need to scratch either of those itches.


I was very excited to play Redshirt after The Border House blog did a feature on it. Unfortunately it was released on Steam and I thought the price point was a bit too high for what I was seeing in the screenshots, that said, I found it in a Groupees bundle for the bargain price of $1, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Redshirt is a parody of sci-fi series like Star Trek and social networking sites like Facebook. You are a new arrival aboard space station Megalodon-9. You start your illustrious career as a Transporter Accident Cleanup Technician (which is as glamorous as it sounds) and you soon discover that every crew member is required to use the proprietary social network called Spacebook. However, you barely set foot on the space station when you hear rumours that something bad will happen soon aboard the station, and it’s up to you to make sure you stop being a disposable crew member with all haste!

Basically Redshirt is a parody of Facebook. You build relationships with people by adding them as friends, liking their posts, posting status messages, sending private messages, and arranging group and solo activities that affect your skills (for better or worse). There are many different ways you can win the game: from accumulating cash to making friends with influential people to climbing the career ladder. I tried to go a couple different ways and eventually ended up simply buying my way off the station, just to keep you on your toes, the game will sometimes throw an “Away” mission at you, heavily randomized events where your colleagues (and sometimes even you yourself) will most likely end up dead.  You also have a limited number of actions per day (usually just two): Should you “like” a friend’s post or invite your boss out for lunch? Redshirt is made of these small decisions.

The other cool thing about Redshirt is that your character’s gender is on a slider (you can also set it to private) and you can also indicate an interest in men, women, or all genders (it doesn’t get more specific than that). One race, the Xx’th’xx, a race of squid people, always have their gender set to private.

Humour is an important aspect of any parody game, and Redshirt’s humour got a chuckle out of me, but it’s definitely not one of those games where you laugh out loud for five minutes straight. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek look at common tropes in science fiction, and in that respect it does what it’s supposed to do. The art style is pretty cartoonish with everyone having very exaggerated facial features, which is, I suppose, par for the course in a game like this. Sound and music, by the way, are nothing special.

An example of an Away Mission screen.

I think Redshirt could have been a great game. I mean, what other game lets you select gender using a slider? Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by a ton of repetition. Every character you meet will just spit out the same lines over and over. Your significant other will constantly complain that you never take them out on romantic dates (even if you just went on a date with them the day before). An Away mission might set you back because it kills off your S.O. but don’t worry, you can enter a relationship with an interchangeable crew member soon enough. (In my case, someone sent me a relationship request the morning after my girlfriend died.) At first cultivating relationships was fun but by the end I was just going through the same handful of actions to build up my skills. None of the characters felt remotely real to me. I should note that this game procedurally generates crew members, so they are literally a random collection of interests for you to poke at. You will also often find yourself being hit on by straight people who can’t seem to figure out that you’re only interested in women.

I’d like to recommend Redshirt because it’s an amusing parody of science fiction and social networking, but because it’s so repetitious I really can’t recommend buying it unless it’s on sale. It could have been a very good game, but as it is, the crew felt less like actual people and more like checklists.

Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Cook, Serve, Delicious! is billed as a “hardcore restaurant sim” where you take over a worn down restaurant in the SherriSoda Tower. Your job is to  take that restaurant and return it to it’s former status as a five star restaurant.

You start with zero stars and work your way up by completing tasks such as being in service for a certain number of days, passing health inspections, and upgrading your foods and equipment, taking catering jobs, etc. Before each day begins, you can buy and upgrade foods and equipment and set your menu. Your goal is to generate positive “Buzz” for your restaurant, you get positive buzz by fulfilling orders and changing up your menu to keep things fresh. Different foods have factors that positively or negatively impact your performance. Certain foods might be especially fatty or considered “munchies” that customers won’t order during rush hour. Some foods create a lot of garbage, others are environmentally friendly, and still others are considered perfect rainy day eats. Some foods are ready to eat, others require cooking or other prep work. All of these factors are important when planning a menu.

Once you have your menu items picked for the day, you move on to the portion of the game where you actually prepare and serve food for customers. In order to make them happy, you need to complete the order to their specifications (obviously) but you also need to do so in a timely manner, as you only have so long before orders disappear, would-be customers leave, and your restaurant gets some negative buzz attached to it. Fulfilling orders is as simple as reading the order and clicking (or using the keyboard) on the desired ingredients (for instance, if someone orders a salad with ranch dressing and cheese, you would click on ranch, then cheese, and then click the Serve button). Sometimes you will also need to complete chores like cleaning the toilets or taking out the trash. In general, the orders come at a relaxed pace unless it’s the appropriately named Rush Hour, which has you scrambling to fulfill orders and hoping that you can get to them all in time before three customers in a row walk out on you. It’s probably the most hectic and stressful part of the game.

For an indie game, Cook, Serve, Delicious! has a lot of content. You can pick up catering missions that require you to feed a group of people particular foods. You can place bets with people via email. I’m only up to one star and Steam has me clocked in at seven hours. This is a great game to pick up and play when you just have five minutes or so to play one in=game day, and I believe it was previously on mobile devices so if you’re looking for an on-the-go restaurant sim, this is probably the only choice you have. In any case, it’s a great game to pick up and play for a few minutes. The one downside is that it will probably make you hungry.

Overall, I’d recommend Cook, Serve, Delicious! if you want a simple (yet challenging) game that you can play in short bursts. Just don’t play it when you’re hungry.

Where We Find Acceptance

If it seems like this blog has been a dumping ground for reviews this year, that’s because I’ve been spending a lot of time on Tumblr, and don’t feel the need to repeat what I say on Tumblr over here because, let’s face it, I’ve probably said the same thing five times already. Also I’m trying to play catch-up with my reviews. I have only a couple comics left and some games and then there will be less reviews as I finish the books I’m currently reading.

Anyways, back to Tumblr. Tumblr’s “pagan” tag is a very strange beast. It’s about 80% unsourced vaguely Pagan-ish art, 19% Pagan holiday memes that are grossly inaccurate (the whole Ishtar = Easter thing was either born on Tumblr or spread from Facebook to Tumblr) and 1% useful information. There’s at least one outbreak of “drama” per week. One week it’s because someone got on the wrong person’s bad side. Another week it’ll be because Pop Culture Pagans are wrecking polytheism. The week after that, Christian Witches are the target. It goes in cycles. Something different will probably crop up next week.

The thing is though, as much as Tumblr gets made fun of by “serious” practitioners for being fluffy central and Headquarters for the Social Justice Warriors (which is often true) Tumblr has been, in my experience, a place that is much less tolerant of bigotry and assholetry as some of the other social networks I’ve been to.

It’s no secret that Heathenry has issues with racism, but it’s also true that a sizable portion of Heathens have issues with other “isms”: ableism, homophobia, transphobia. These people are not card-carrying neonazis. They’re running respectable Heathen websites. For some examples, check out my posts “Stay Classy, Asatru Lore” and “Moderates” among others. I have seen too many people on Tumblr say that they are interested in Heathenry, but are absolutely not okay with the kind of dickishness that gets passed off as “being blunt” like it does in some Heathen circles. If you’ve read the posts above and you don’t think this is an issue, it might be a sign that you’re a part of the problem.

These people find acceptance on Tumblr when they wouldn’t find it anywhere else.

Tumblr may not be perfect. Tumblr may earn its reputation on occasion. Tumblr may be a source of drama, but Tumblr will not tolerate your hate. (In fact, there’s a rule about tagging your hate.) It’s not perfect, there’s the odd person who thinks the Wiccan Rede applies to everyone, and some portions of the community are more vitriolic than others, but overall, compared to some of the Facebook groups I’ve been in, Tumblr is not interested in your shit.

Review: Rat Queens (Vol. 1)

My friend told me i had to read this comic. “You’ll love it,” she said. “It has badass queer ladies and badass POCs and ladies who drink and swear and it’s awesome.” To be honest, I was intrigued but skeptical. Parodies of the fantasy genre are so numerous that they might as well be their own genre at this point. “Hey, we’ll have an atheist Cleric! Har har!” “Let’s be sure to put in a joke about dwarf women and beards because no one’s ever done that before!” It’s been done so often that it’s just tiresome.

In that light, does Rat Queens have the most original story and setting?

No, not really.

Is it still awesome?


Rat Queens stars the titular Rat Queens, an adventuring party made up of four women: Hannah, the “rockabilly elven mage” who takes no shit and gives zero fucks, Violet, the “hipster dwarven warrior” who shaved her beard back when it actually meant something, Dee, the atheist human cleric whose parents worship a giant squid, and the hippy halfling thief Betty, whose idea of a good meal is drugs and candy. The series follows their exploits in and around the town of Palisade. The paperback edition collects issues 1-5.

The setting will be familiar to anyone even passably familiar with the Standard Fantasy Setting. There are adventuring parties made up of various classes who go around slaying monsters and stuff, and yes, there are references to dwarven women having beards and atheist clerics. It’s the Rat Queens themselves that make this comic special. They’re a quartet of badass ladies who drink, swear, kick ass (in ways that are frequently bloody) and are loyal to each other.

The characters are what makes this comic great for me. I love how Hannah takes no shit at all and the way Dee acts during a party (with her nose stuck in a book avoiding all opportunities to socialize) reminds me of me at parties. I love how Betty constantly provides comic relief with references to drug use and innuendo but isn’t just a comic relief character. She’s sweet and, like the rest of the Queens, perfectly capable of kicking ass when she needs to, even Violet’s firm rejection of dwarvish cultural traditions struck a chord with me. None of them  annoyed me and I didn’t think one received more characterization than the others.

At first I wasn’t too thrilled with the art. It’s a very cartoonish style that wasn’t really doing anything for me. I think the best part about the art is the facial expressions. The characters are so expressive. You can see their emotions written all over their faces. The art style did take some getting used to (especially since I don’t read a lot of comics) but it can’t be said that the characters aren’t expressive.

Yes, Violet, yes she did.

It’s also pretty diverse. Dee and Sawyer (who is Captain of the Guard in Palisade) are both black and there are characters of colour in the other adventuring groups as well as in the background. Betty is a lesbian and gets an on-screen kiss with her ex-girlfriend. There are also a pretty good range of body types from the short and svelte Betty to the heavyset Braga (Braga is awesome, btw). Some of the outfits are kind of fanservice-y but interestingly enough, the outfits on some of the male characters are no less impractical and characters like Violet are actually wearing practical clothing that suits the type of job that they’re doing.

Rat Queens doesn’t away from being violent and bloody. There’s no nudity but there are some revealing outfits, and sex is not shown at all. Women also tend to throw misogynistic insults at one another, and of course there are the drug and alcohol references. As I said, these ladies aren’t afraid to cuss up a storm when shit hits the fan.

Along with Saga, Rat Queens is definitely a comic I’ll be following. The setting might not be the most original but it’s made me laugh more than once and I already can’t wait to read the next few issues. (The next trade paperback is out in January). If you want a fun (if times dark) fantasy adventure with a crew of badass ladies, go check out Rat Queens.

Review: The Stone Prince

[tw: emotional abuse]

Look it’s another one of those books that I got months ago and I’m only getting to review now because my to read pile keeps growing (seriously though it’s been a hard month or I would have finished it sooner). I’m actually more familiar with her partner’s (Tanya Huff) work, which are very hit or miss for me. I loved the Blood books, hated the Smoke series, and was meh regarding The Enchantment Emporium.

For centuries, the royal line of Branion has possessed the power of the Flame, a powerful magic that can rain destruction down on one’s enemies if it doesn’t drive its vessel mad or consume them as easily as their enemies, you know, standard magical stuff. Crown prince Demnor has other things on his mind, however, foremost among them having to deal with a formidable mother who only seems to want to berate him for not being strong enough, when neighbouring Scotland Heathland rises up in rebellion against Branion, Demnor will find himself embroiled in a struggle that might tear the realm apart.

My favourite thing about this book has to be the world-building. Everyone uses masculine titles and women are just as likely to serve in the army or run towns as men. There are a ton of fantasy novels that either present themselves as egalitarian with every prominent position being filled by men or stick all women in homemaking and support roles out of a sense of “realism” (which isn’t all that realistic, when you think about it). Not so here, there are a great many female characters who are kind, cunning, and every bit as ruthless as any man in a similar position in a dime a dozen fantasy novel. I wish more authors would get this, but I digress. The world itself is nothing you haven’t seen before, Branion and the surrounding areas are basically the U.K. with slightly fantastical names and the major religions are both Crystal Dragon Jesus traditions with the Essusiate religion having a literal dragon as the companion of Jesus Essus, and they also have nuns and a Pontiff (who can be a woman, in case you’re wondering) and the Triarchic faith worshiping a trio of deities known as the Triarchy as well as the Living Flame, which is embodied in the ruler, the Aristok, in addition to having Mass-like services. It doesn’t exactly score originality points in the religion category, but I’ve seen some really half-baked attempts at writing religion in fantasy novels. However, religion does occupy a central role in the major conflict in the book, so i can forgive a lack of originality.

Unfortunately, I initially wasn’t too impressed with either Demnor or his love interest. Demnor just rubbed me the wrong way, and it took me awhile to warm up to him and realize that the emotional abuse he suffers at the hands of his mother would mess up any kid. I can’t say the same for his love interest, Kelahnus. He’s set up as a hyper competent spy and courtesan with combat training (top of his class, in fact) and yet, when push comes to shove, he hides in the corner. I just found it kind of ridiculous how he’s supposed to be top of his class in an organization of powerful information gatherers who are loyal to their Guild first and use the nobles to advance the Guild’s position and he never really demonstrates that he is.

Speaking of Kelahnus, in Branion it’s common to have relationships with one (or more) Companions of the same sex. This is apparently to cut down on the number of bastard children. The Companions, however, are not permitted to reciprocate their client’s feelings, as nothing is to come before their loyalty to the Guild; the fact that Kelahnus does reciprocate Demnor’s feelings is a major part of the plot. At the same time, Demnor being forced into a politically motivated unwanted marriage complicates things, and to be honest, the unwanted marriage thing got on my nerves, like why couldn’t they just be a couple without dragging out the unwanted marriage trope? I know this book is a bit old now, but it’s still frustrating. I did like how, unlike in almost every other book I’ve read with a central m/m romance, the women aren’t completely ignored or treated with disdain, Kelahnus in particular has a good relationship with Tania, Demnor’s intended’s Companion, and although Demnor would rather not marry Isolde, they get along well enough. Although, in my opinion, I think referring to Demnor as “gay” is a stretch, because he certainly spends a lot of time admiring how Isolde looks and stuff like that. He read more as bisexual to me but his first love will always be Kelahnus.

The other frustrating part about this book is the flashbacks. The flashbacks are very lengthy and tell of how Demnor and Kelahnus met and elaborate more on the tension between Demnor and his mother. The flashbacks take up such a big chunk of the book that you could almost say it’s telling two stories. Now I don’t mind flashbacks, but I felt like the ones in this book might have gone on a little too long.

As much as I find the way this book handles gender to be refreshing, I’m not sure if I want to read the other books in the series. (Note that the other books in the series are actually prequels and The Stone Prince is a self-contained story.)  At this time, I’m interested in continuing with this series but I think I’ll hold off a bit before ordering the next one. I didn’t hate this book. In fact, as of right now, I actually prefer her writing to Huff’s, but  the issues above just leave me uncertain about this series.

Game Review: Hatoful Boyfriend

As you probably already know, I love dating sims. There’s something about pursuing a relationship with a fictional character who is actually a bunch of ones and zeroes that is just so…I don’t know the word, satisfying, maybe? I don’t think that’s the right word. The point is that I really like it when games give me a chance to set my character up with another character (or two) and there aren’t very many options if you’re looking to play a dating sim in English (well, Other Age is pretty cute).

Hatoful Boyfriend isn’t your average dating sim, and, well, just check out the logo:

In Hatoful Boyfriend, you are the only human student (default name Hiyoko Tosaka) at St. PigeoNation’s school for gifted birds. As Hiyoko, you’ll attend classes, meet new friends, and find romance.

You know, with sentient birds, you’re dating birds, you, the player. Birds.

If this sounds like complete WTFery, that’s because that’s exactly what it is. It knows its premise is absolutely out there and it runs with it, but it still manages to be a competent parody of dating sims. You have a range of personalities that you would expect from any dating sim: the boy next door/childhood friend, the jock, the snobbish aristocrat, the quiet and aloof one, the flirt, the bad boy, all present and accounted for with a few interesting twists (you know, besides the whole bird thing). From the get go, it’s apparent that all is not as it seems, whether it’s your homeroom teacher mysteriously smelling of bleach or disappearances connected to the infirmary.

The thing is, Hatoful Boyfriend isn’t a very good game.

Hiyoko only has three stats she can raise: vitality, charisma, and wisdom. Each guy has the one stat they prefer, and as long as you always attend a particular class, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get their ending provided you joined the right club at the beginning. The script is also full of grammatical errors. One of the most annoying things about this game for me was that they didn’t capitalize titles, so you’ll see a lot of “miss Tosaka”, I don’t know if this is due to translating honourifics literally or if they just didn’t care but in any case it was really annoying.  The individual routes also generally lack substance and “subtlety” is definitely not in its dictionary, although, considering that this is an indie title that began as a joke, that’s not surprising. Another annoyance is the fast forward function, which does its job a little too well in that if you’re not careful it will fast forward through scenes you haven’t read yet. The graphics amount to stock images of birds, although the background images are nicely done (they were redone for the Steam version). The music is mostly Christmas tunes mixed in with some forgettable and some tracks that are just epic (my favourite has to be the “battle” theme, if you heard it you would understand). The new Azami route that was added to this version was amazing but it was more like a mini-route in that you don’t have an option to date her instead of the boys, which is disappointing. I would have liked to have an Azami Christmas event or a message from her during Tanabata.

Ryouta, your childhood friend, a rock dove.

In fact, arguably the real meat of the game is in the route you unlock after unlocking certain endings, with an extended epilogue if you complete all the routes. This route, the Bad Boys Love or Hurtful Boyfriend route, explains just what the heck is going on with the birds and the general state of the game’s world. It’s basically a visual novel, to say anything more would be spoiling things, but this route is much more substantial and a radical departure in tone. The wacky dating sim is really only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s almost sad that some people are going to look at the premise, raise an eyebrow, and miss a great story under all the weird, whereas others will probably play it for a bit, get bored with it, and, again, miss the entertaining story behind it.

In terms of triggering content, the game contains references to suicide and one of the dateable characters is a serial killer and, as you might expect, his route gets very, very dark very fast. Fortunately, he’s easy to identify. There is a little bit of blood but what gore there is in the game is purely text-based. While the Bad Boys Love route isn’t “scary” in the sense that it has jump scares, it definitely has elements of horror (which includes violence against children) and can get very creepy (and also very sad). One character is also racist towards Anghel, who is Filipino. Unfortunately, in order to get the very best ending in the BBL route (and you want to play it, trust me), you need to get all the endings.

So which love interest was my favourite? The first route I completed was Kazuaki’s route, but I also like Shuu, Yuuya, and Anghel. Anghel’s route in particular needs to be experienced to truly appreciate how epic it is. Even Okosan, a character type I usually hate, was a riot despite his obsession with pudding. The game’s script may lack subtlety but I found myself liking all the characters. The main character, Hiyoko, isn’t your typical dating sim protagonist, she’s a tough hunter-gatherer girl who can’t relax without red meat in the morning.

If you like dating sims, Hatoful Boyfriend is certainly an interesting addition to the small collection of dating sims that are available in English. It’s a game that is pretty much nothing but Narm Charm and to be honest as a game it’s really not that great. However, if you’re willing to put up with the lackluster writing and overall bizarreness, there’s an entertaining story beneath it all. Steam indicates I’ve played it for ten hours, and at the current price of $9.88 I’d probably recommend waiting for a sale.

Hatoful Boyfriend is a weird game that somehow manages to be terrible and awesome at the same time. It’s terrible in the sense that it is very simplistic, but awesome in the way that it deconstructs common dating sim tropes hides a really interesting story under what is just, well, absurd. There’s just no other way to describe it.

Game Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies

I have a confession to make. I actually completed this game ages ago and for some reason I didn’t review it right away. Now that Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright is coming out in North America in September (my copy just shipped actually), I figured I probably should get around to doing this review.

By now, especially if you’ve read my previous reviews, you should know what to expect from this series. The basic gameplay hasn’t changed: you’ll still be investigating crime scenes and interrogating suspects and witnesses on the stand during trials. Unlike in previous installments (apart from Trials and Tribulations) you won’t be controlling a single lawyer for the whole game. A second new feature is the ability to analyze crime scenes from all angles, and, of course, the graphics are now in glorious 3D.

The game introduces a new defense attorney, hotshot Athena Cykes, a new prosecutor, Simon Blackquill, and a new police contact, Detective Buzz Lightyear Bobby Fullbright (“In Justice we trust!”). Thus far, we’ve had prosecutors who were obsessed with perfection, coffee, and rock and toll; this time around, Prosecutor Blackquill is a condemned criminal who has a thing for bushido. Unlike previous installments, you won’t see many familiar faces in this game, and as usual the cast is the kind of quirky you would expect from an Ace Attorney game: really, really quirky. However, this game also has an overall darker tone to it, and by “darker” I mean it starts with domestic terrorism and goes downhill from there (and it does end up getting bloodier than previous entries in the series). The game may not be as violent as your typical M-rated shooter but trust me, it earns its M rating. I can’t really say anything without spoiling it but if you’re sensitive to bloody crimes involving minors the last case is not your friend, at all.

If you’ve played any of the previous Ace Attorney games (and you should, especially since the original trilogy is being updated and re-released for the 3DS) you should be very familiar with the gameplay by now. Investigate crime scenes, interview witnesses and suspects, point out contradictions in the courtroom. However, crime scenes aren’t just static backgrounds this time around, you can actually rotate crime scenes to get a better view of hidden objects or interesting points you have yet to investigate. The game also cuts down on pixel hunting by indicating places you can investigate with red circles, and checking them off when you’re finished with them.

Trial segments have a couple of new gameplay elements. The first is the Mood Matrix system. Like Phoenix and Apollo, Athena also has enhanced senses (well, one sense, hearing, in her case). Using the Mood Matrix system, she can “hear the testimony of the heart” and analyze a witness’ feelings, which are then visually represented as different emoticons (happy/sad/angry/surprised) and images. As the player, your job is to find contradictory emotions within the testimony. Is a witness feeling happy when you would expect them to be scared our of their minds? Why are they surprised at that particular moment? The game also throws in a couple twists, such as one of the witness’ emotions overwhelming the others, requiring you to “probe” the images to find the source of their distress. It’s a more versatile mechanic than previous systems and it works really well (although I still love the Perceive system so, so much). The second new gameplay element (which actually isn’t that new) is Revisualization, which is a much more simplified version of Edgeworth’s Logic system in Investigations. Essentially, it’s a review of the facts of the case where you answer some multiple choice questions in order to reach a breakthrough in the case and finger the guilty party once and for all. Much to my delight, the Perceive system makes a comeback, and the animations for it are much more fluid as a result of the upgraded hardware.

As you might expect with the change from 2D graphics to 3D the game looks great. The animations are smooth as silk (in fact, it was kind of weird watching the characters since I was so used to the DS animations). The game also sounds great, with a dramatic fully orchestral soundtrack. There are also animated cutscenes and even a little voice acting.

The one issue I had with this game was that it was just too easy. The areas you can investigate are highlighted for you, and the game only really penalizes you for failing to point out contradictions in spoken testimony. You can (usually) fail as many times as you like in the Mood Matrix and Revisualization sequences without suffering a penalty to your life bar. Compared to Justice for All, Dual Destinies is a walk in the park, seriously. On the plus side, that makes it very accessible to newcomers to the series, but veterans might just find it a little too easy for their tastes.  As much as I love this game, there were times where I felt like it was holding my hand way, way too often. Another thing I didn’t care for was the DLC case (which I bought so that the game would feel “complete”) which took me a long time to finish, not because it was hard, but because I just can only take so much pirate-themed stuff before I turn the 3DS off. I’m just not a pirate person. The DLC case isn’t like Dragon Age or Mass Effect DLC where you miss important plot points by not having it though, so it’s not a great loss. I recommend playing it early on to get the most out of it though.

Despite the hand-holding, it’s not a horrible game by any means, and if you’re an Ace Attorney fan, well, you’ve probably already played it. For me, the enjoyable new gameplay elements (as well as more refined familiar elements) outweighs the hand-holding. It’s no Trials and Tribulations, but it’s still pretty good.