Monday, 5 November 2018

Nuclear Winter

I'm done with Nuclear War (in life, as well as gaming). My first impressions of the game weren't great, but I warmed to it once I got the hang of the combat flow. Basically, you control a nuclear power duking it out with 4 other powers - last one left alive wins...I think, I never actually made it out of a game alive. Each country takes one action per turn - building your stockpile, preparing nukes, launching nukes, preparing defenses and propaganda. Each leader has a different personality and their outlook on each other leader changes as the game goes on. It's best to play leaders off against each other and let them deal as much damage to each other before their focus changes to you. You can't just spend your time stockpiling, though, or the other nations will notice and all attack you, so you have to vary your actions each turn. Each nation starts with 5 cities, and as cities become destroyed you lose the ability to build as many weapons per turn. It doesn't take too long to play, as it's basically a downward spiral of destruction - cities can never be rebuilt, and you can only gain population by using propaganda to lure people from other cities or from random events. One quirk is that when a nation is destroyed, they automatically launch their remaining stockpile at random against the remaining players. This prevents stalemates and rapidly brings about the endgame. The only problem (and the reason why I've never survived the game) is that this also happens when you destroy the final city, so even though you've destroyed the opposition, their bombs still rain down on you at the end and (usually) wipe you out. It's possible that you could survive it if you had enough cities left, but I've never managed it. Maybe it's supposed to be a metaphor for the real world - there are no winners in nuclear war!

Next up on the randometer is...Five-a-side Soccer! Great, an ancient DOS football game. This one probably won't take long.

In fact, I'm going to give up on Five-a-side Soccer. I tried it over lunch today, and I just can't get it to control very well. It's way too fast on normal DosBox cycles, and when I slow it down to manageable levels the controls don't respond. So...sorry Five-a-side Soccer. Honestly, I don't think I'm missing much - the graphics are extremely rudimentary and I couldn't make any kind of movement or action..

Next up on the randometer is...DinoPark Tycoon! Looks like a semi-edutainment management game where you build your own Jurassic Park. I'm not the biggest fan of tycoon games, so we'll see...

Friday, 2 November 2018

freeDone planet

Another delay (work is still hardcore), but I've finally finished Freedom Planet. It's a throwback to the Sonic games of old in just about every sense. Here, you play a dragon who can do spin attacks rather than Sonic's bouncing, and these spin attacks can also give you an extra bit of lift to clear long gaps. There is also a speed boost attack like Sonic's, but here you can also shoot up in the air to reach new areas or clear long gaps. It also has a power gauge and you can only use it when the gauge is full. Boosting drains the whole gauge (which refills fairly quickly), and spin attacks drain a little of the gauge. This is basically just to stop you chaining spin attacks followed by boosts. (There are other characters with other moves, but I'd had enough after the first one.) It's all done in a retro style, which looks fine and sounds good. I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy the game that much...actually, I have to admit that I don't really enjoy the Sonic games that much either. You zoom through the stages at high speed, which is great and all, but I personally like to take my time and see the sights. Each stage is then followed by a boss fight. This has the same Sonic rhythms of easy stage followed by difficult boss, but here, both of those are even more exaggerated. The stages here are mostly so easy that there's almost no point to them. You can just run through to the end jumping between platforms without really bothering with the enemies for the most part. As the stages go on, there's a bit more thinking - the odd switch here or keycard there - but they're all fairly straightforward. Then, you reach the bosses, which are almost all near impossible the first time that you encounter them. They're just cheap and no fun. Even when I'd fought them a few times and learned the patterns, defeating them still felt like a chore rather than anything fun. I don't know, it just never grabbed me... oh, and the voice acting is horrible, soooo grating, with long, long cutscenes between each stage. Normally, I'm a man who loves cutscenes and a story, and I can't understand why people skip them, but these were just awful. A tedious story with hideous voicing. Ugh. I don't know, some people absolutely love this game, so it's obviously just me, but it just never clicked. I made it through to the end, and that's what matters!

Next up on the randometer is...Nuclear War! Looks like a strategic '80s DOS game of blowing people up. Might not take long...

I've also had a few goes at the Last Ninja games. Not getting very far at all (which is exactly how I remember them) and I'm feeling like giving up on them (I'm in one of those moods!). One big issue is the keyboard controls, which just don't seem to work how they should. Still, I'll give them a fair shake and see if I can get any further.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

DOOMed

Gosh, it's been a long time. I think that's the longest I've gone without an update. Is the quest over? Nope, not by a long shot, but I've been absolutely swamped with work and not had time to play anything. I finally got over the hump of it a week or so ago and my evenings and lunchtimes are my own again, though I'm still busy. Anyway, it's given me a chance to get back into DOOM in earnest, and I finally finished it over lunch today. I've already mentioned the graphics, which were indeed beautiful (if blood and demons can be called beautiful) - easily the best of any game I've played on this list, but as I've also already mentioned, the game itself didn't grab me as much as I'd hoped. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad game by any means, but it's different to the usual Doom canon. The prerequisites of lots of monsters and lots of shooting are all present and correct, but this has morphed from a corridor shooter into an arena shooter. It feels much more akin to Unreal Tournament, or similar - something where it's all about 3-dimensional movement around the environment and agile attacks coming from all sides. That sounds like it should be a good thing, and perhaps to some people it is, but it just doesn't feel like Doom to me. This game is all about moment-to-moment gaming, a series of fighting arenas joined by corridors with nothing really in-between. There's not really any sense of progress or exploration. Doom, to me, was always a nervous game - creeping along dark passageways wary of anything jumping out at you. There's none of that here, you will very rarely find any 'wandering monsters'. Pretty much everything you fight will be within an arena, and the monsters will just keep respawning until you've reached a set number and then they'll stop. And once they've stopped, that's it, the arena's clear and they don't come back. That's when you get to wander around the arena picking up ammo and looking for secrets, but it's absolutely silent and free of any danger. The arenas are generally sealed affairs, too. They don't want you escaping the fight, but this really limits the tactics - no kiting here, no retreating, no seeking tactical advantage or sniping, it's all-or-nothing in-your-face action. That's fine sometimes, but it gets monotonous really quickly. I know that's what they wanted, to strip it back to the visceral guts of Doom, nothing but you, a bunch of demons and a boomstick, but in doing so they removed something essential, they removed the fear. You're no longer scared of what's around the corner because you know there'll be nothing around the corner - the fights are all so telegraphed that you know exactly where they all are. Those fights are beautiful and thrilling, but that's all they are, and for me it's not enough. I miss exploring a dark map. I miss stepping on a switch and having a pinky teleport in behind me. I miss hearing the howls of demons somewhere around me, but not knowing where they are or when they're going to leap out at me. It's a beautiful game; it's a thrilling game, but it's also an empty game. They cut off too much when they pared it down and for me, ultimately, it was a bit of a disappointment.

Next up on the series list is The Last Ninja. I remember playing (and mapping) these back on the BBC. The thing I remember most is the three different jump buttons for long, medium and short jumps, and needing pixel-perfect precision to jump between platforms. It was an exercise in frustration back then, but maybe the DOS version will be better...

I've also been playing on the PS3 with the kids on weekend mornings, and we've finally beaten Jak and Daxter. It was as good as I remembered it back on the PS2 (though the camera is a bit awkward). Now onto Jak II, the emo years.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Skipping stones and catching up

Ack, it's been a while. I've been really busy with DIY projects in the evenings and full on work in the day. The only bit of time I've had recently has been weekend mornings on the PlayStation with the kids, so there's been a bit of progress there. There's a list of them that I've tried and given up on and some that I've finished, so I'll run through them quickly here.

First up, Hoard is a game where you play a dragon flying about and trying to capture treasure to add to your hoard. You can get it in various ways - looting caravans, taking princesses hostage, raiding other dragons, and more, but that's essentially all there is to the game. I think it potentially could have been more fun multiplayer, but it didn't feel like there was much to the single player campaign, you just flew around doing the same thing unlocking new pick-ups and abilities every now and then. It didn't grab me, so I moved on.

Next was Chime. Chime is a bit like Qix mixed with Tetris. You have to slot tetronimo blocks together to fill areas of the screen within a specific time limit. Once you have a full rectangle, it's locked down (though you can still add to it) and painted so you can move on to your next target area. As you do this, a bar moves across the screen making beautiful music from the shapes that you've created. It's a nice, chilled puzzle game...but it is a puzzle game, so I moved on.

Next up was Awesomenauts. I'd heard quite a bit of hype about this game - it's a kind of MOBA re-imagined as a platformer - but it turned out to be purely multiplayer. There is a short single-player practice mission, but it's not exactly exciting to play through, and it's over in a matter of minutes. This is made for online play, and that's not where I am. It looked mighty fine and all, it's just not for me. Moving on.

Next up was Retro/Grade. Retro/Grade is a rhythm action game dressed up as a shooter played backwards. That sounds weird and potentially interesting, but it really is just wrapping over a standard rhythm action game. That's not to say it's not innovative or that it's not a good game. I love a good rhythm action game, and this ticked a lot of boxes. I'd have maybe preferred it to be a little more varied - it only had 4 or so different moves - but it was fun while it lasted. I finished it on easy but tried a few harder modes and reckon I could have got through a few of them if I had the time and inclination. Good music and a fun game, but no real incentive to return to it once it's finished. Moving on.

Next up was Infamous: Festival of Blood. I completed the original Infamous a little while back, and this was a funny little minigame/level pack that they made with it. It's a new mission in the same game engine, but it only lasts a few hours. It's a whimsical side story where the main characters find themselves in a vampire-infested mardi gras, where Cole is turned into a vampire and has to find and defeat the leader of the vampires before day-break in order to sever the vampiric connection and return him to normal. The movement and combat is as fun as in the full game, but the missions only take up a small part of the map, and there's not really any reason to go exploring. There wasn't much of it and it wasn't very challenging, but it was fun and that's no bad thing. I've still got Infamous 2 coming up at some point, but that'll be whenever it raises its head on the PS3 list.

I've made a little progress with DOOM, but I feel like I haven't really connected with it. It's still beautiful and brutal and I'm pushing through it, but it hasn't grabbed me like I thought it would. Finally, after all this time, I went to try Blind Justice in earnest, only to find that it crashes as soon as I try and leave one area. A short search online shows that this is a known bug, so I guess I'm screwed/saved. Into the done pile it goes; onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Freedom Planet! I don't know much about it. Looks like a fairly modern homage to the old Mega Drive Sonic games. Could be a breath of fresh air. Oh, and it's the Steam Summer Sale, and yes, of course I bought some games. I'm an idiot.

Friday, 4 May 2018

You can Keep your Shoppe

Well, Shoppe Keep is just turdy. In a strange piece of synchronicity, the sequel has just come out today, and I can tell you now that it's a game that I won't be buying (please remind me of that the next time it turns up in a bundle). It's incredibly user-unfriendly, and incredibly tedious. The 'tutorial' is so bad that I had to use a wiki to work out how to even begin. I forgot to say, this is a game that was published in the last couple of years, not in the '80s. You essentially have to build and run a weapons shop in a fantasy land, and this is very much about the management aspects of said shop. You have to plan your display area, buy stock, manage prices and stock levels, and so on. If that sounds tedious to you, then you think the same way as I do. In my first day (which seemed to take a long time), I made 6 gold pieces in profit. Now, I'm sure you probably do start slow and build your way up the ladder to greater things, but that's way slower that I'm happy to start. That's not even enough to buy a single extra item at the end of the day. That's just dull. And what do you do all day? Nothing. You stand there waiting for customers, and when someone buys something you order a replacement and, when it comes through, you put it back on the same pedestal. Fun. Actually, there is some excitement when you get robbed. I had 3 robberies in the first day. When you get robbed, you chase after the culprit (you can run much faster than they can) and you hit them once with your sword. They then fall over and you pick up the object they took from you and traipse back to your shop where you return it to its place on the pedestal. Then you go back to standing and waiting for people to come in and buy something. God it's dull. I'm sure there are more options that open up when you have more money, and the game gets a bit more exciting (at least I hope it does), but to get that far I'd have to play the game for another few hours, and there's no way I'm doing that. Sorry. And I thought Prehistorik was going to be my worst game of the year. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Blind Justice! Never heard of it. Looks like a mid-'90s RPG, so worth a shot.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Intruding

Well, Flight of the Intruder was never going to get much of my attention. Half an hour over lunch is enough for me. It's just not my type of game, and it's one that no matter how much longer I spend with it, I know I'm still not going to enjoy it. It's loosely structured on the book of the same name (which I haven't read, or seen the film), but I don't think that gives it more than a theatre of war and some flavour for the missions. Otherwise, it feels like a pretty standard combat flight sim of the era. Of course, I'm no expert, so I could be completely wrong, but nothing jumped out and shouted PLAY ME. It was made by Rowan, who were experts in the genre, so I'm sure it was technically a great game, but...meh. I've got a cup of tea in front of me, and it doesn't resemble a flight sim at all.

Next up on the randometer is...Shoppe Keep! Looks like some kind of fantasy shop management game. Might be interesting.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Historik

Prehistorik was mercifully short, because it's a terrible, terrible game. I finished it in a couple of lunchtimes, leaping from platform to platform and bashing enemies on the way. I don't remember much of the old Prehistorik game, so I can't tell you how similar it was to this one (I just checked and I do have the original games, but I'm treating them as a separate entity...not sure if I should have done), but this one looks fine in the spit and polish department. The graphics are fine - a little rough around the edges, but fine - and the sound is fine (although bizarrely it's really loud and there's no volume control, only on or off), but where the game sinks to the absolute pits is the control. I don't know what it is with games like this, but too often modern platform games have terrible controls, and this is no exception. It's floaty and unresponsive, and you'll often feel that you died unfairly rather than because of your own mistakes. My guess would be that it's something to do with the animation cycles, but I'm sure they could have made it better. It just ruins the whole experience.

The basic premise of the game is that some giant geezer has stolen your village's food, so you have to try and get it back again. That means that you have to pick up a minimum amount of food on each level before you can exit it. To be honest, that was never a problem. I didn't once have to go out of my way to find more food than I did just walking the main path to the exit, so it was largely a pointless endeavour. I think you might unlock a bonus level if you pick up all of the food and all of the B-O-N-U-S letters in the level, but I never did that, so never saw a bonus level. When I completed the game, my fly companion (don't ask) became a superfly and said it would help me find secrets and hard to reach items, so I did the first level again thinking it would help me 100% it and open the bonus level, but it didn't seem to make any difference at all. Great. That may well be a contender for worst game of the year...let's hope so.

Next up on the randometer is...Flight of the Intruder! Another flight sim. Joy of joys. I can't have that many left, can I?