Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I had a spare 5 minutes this evening, so I thought I'd try something random. Came up with Megafortress, a flight sim based on a fictional super-bomber. It was released back in '91, so has some funky polygonal graphics - reminded me a lot of A-10 Tank Killer. The difference between those two games is that A-10 is arcade-oriented, while Megafortress is pure sim. The fan-typed text-only manual is 51 pages, and there's a 20-step checklist of things you need to do in order to just take off. It's not just press up to go faster, nosiree, you have to turn the batteries on before you can even think of starting your engines (let alone setting the cabin pressure or lowering your flaps...). You see all those controls in the screengrab? They all work, and all are essential for flying the plane. But that's not all of them, oh no, that panel of switches in the bottom-left shows all of the different positions in the aeroplane, and each of those positions has an equal number of switches and dials to memorise. I'm not a big sim fan, I prefer my games with a slightly more arcade bent, but I actually quite enjoyed the slow and steady checklist of tasks to take off and get the crate into the sky. Once I was up there navigating to waypoints was fine and dandy, the problems came (as they always do) when I had to try and land the thing. The manual recommends a full military landing, which means gradually circling around the strip getting lower and lower and slower and slower until you are ready to make your approach. I tried just flying straight down the tarmac and the results were predictable! If I had more time to fly all the training missions and learn all the controls and maneuvers properly then I think this would actually be really fun. As things are, though, I just don't have time for it. Goodbye, Megafortress, may your flight be slow and stealthy, and may those russkies be bombed to heck.

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Scone in the Dark

I finished up Alone in the Dark 3 over the weekend. It's so much better balanced than the second game - well, in some ways... For a start, there's no insane combat every 5 steps, and it's a lot easier to get off the first screen. In fact, the combat throughout the game is a whole lot easier (especially because of the new innovation of difficulty levels...I played it on Easy). But to make up for that, there are a lot more puzzles. Most of them are logically solvable if you read the right paraphenalia in the game giving hints, but some were cases of trying every item in the inventory until something worked (whipping a hook with a dead zombie's wig?!).

There were also a couple of slightly crazy sections. Instead of a little girl, this time you have a short section changed into a cougar. It's a lot more fun this time around, too, though the whole section is timed and there are some more strange puzzles (dipping your paw in tar and silver dust so you can kill werewolves!?). The other slightly bonkers thing is jumping. Kris, if you're reading this, I know you love a character who can jump. Carnby can't jump. There are a couple of cinematic sections early in the game where you run up to a window and the game takes control and Carnby automatically dives through the window and across to the building opposite. But suddenly, about a third of the way through the game, you reach the jumping section. A series of randomly positioned pillars over lava...as you do. And suddenly a Jump command appears in your inventory! It's not there in the game before that, and it disappears as soon as you finish the short, but nonetheless annoying, jumping section. Weird.

So, next up on the series side is Alone in the Dark 4: The New Nightmare. This was the full 3D reboot of the series from 2001. I picked it up in a GOG sale a while back, and it's the reason why I started replaying the series so I could see how it followed on. It got mixed reviews, so I don't really know what to expect. Very interested to see what it's like.

Tony Hawk is progressing slowly. I made it through the training level so far. It's quite fun to return to a skating game, as I haven't played one for years, but I can tell that as soon as I get to the harder stuff I'm going to get really frustrated - my favourite bit is doing vert tricks and gaps, but the series progressed into a focus on huge chains of grinds and revert-linked tricks...not something I'm very good at, or find that enjoyable. Anyway, as I say, I've enjoyed it so far, so I shouldn't start damning it yet!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

CyClones Sucked

Do cyclones suck? Maybe they blow? Whatever, either of those would be a good description for this game. Strangely, all of the reviews I've read say what a good game it is...maybe it was back in the day, but it has not aged well. Hundreds of same-o corridors full of hidden doors and walk-through walls...neither of which are particularly good game decisions. Its claim to fame was having one of the first keys-to-walk, mouse-to-fire control schemes, but that's not quite right. The mouse can move around the screen to aim, but it doesn't actually turn your point of view like a modern game would, so you still end up having keys for turning and for strafing then mouse for aiming, and you end up with horrible cramp! The ending was kind of weird, too. Rather than killing the big bad guy, you just shoot a few blue boxes around it and then jump into the escape pod. It's supposed to be you setting off the self destruct sequence, but it all feels a bit anticlimactic. Anyway, it's done. I didn't really enjoy it and I'm glad it's over.

Next up on the randometer is...Tony Hawk's Underground 2 on the PS2. Hmmm...okay. I loved Tony Hawk's 2 on the Dreamcast - used to play it forever, but I rapidly fell out of love with the later games in the series. It just seemed to lose that fun balance of the earlier games, and became too goofy and technical. Still, I'll give it a go! Probably get through AITD3 at the same time.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Oops, I dead it again...

I don't know if it's me getting old and soft, but flippin' eck games used to be hard. I died countless times in the hedge maze in alone in the dark 2. I spent hours slogging through tommy-gun wielding zombie pirate gardeners (no, really), falling down giant playing cards, being battered by possessed branches and getting killed over and over again. I was screaming at the computer in frustration as I ran out of ammunition for the umpteenth time and attempted to headbutt the zombies to death before the inevitable reload. And where was this dreaded hedge maze? Surely it was near the end of this fiendish game? Nope, it was the very first screen. How did people ever progress with these games back in the old days without going mad? How did I ever complete this all those years ago?

Well, the answer was: with a bit of glitching. Turns out I had the right idea with my headbutting. If you get in really close to the zombies then you can melee them without them being able to shoot you. Doesn't work so well when there's a big group of them, but in those situations it's usually possible to get them between each other so one shoots the other one instead of you. Also, with all the ammo you've saved by headbutting the single guys you're usually able to bring out the big guns when you're surrounded. But yeah, it's hard. And as for the bit where you play the little girl who has to run away from all the zombies... not fun, not fun at all. Anyway, it's done, so next up is Alone in the Dark 3, where the zombies are transplanted to a wild west film set. Those crazy French.

I've also made a start on CyClones, where I've died numerous times already... in the first room... on easy skill level. Why are old games so hard???

Oh, and stats are up on the right now...still a long way to go.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Drake Escape

Uncharted 2 is finished - well, I might do a little more trophy whoring, there are a few more easy ones I can get just by shooting a few things with different guns. What do you mean I'm shallow? Anyway, I enjoyed it all the way until the end...where it all went a bit wrong. It seems to be a bit of a common theme amongst developers; have the whole game play one way and then change it at the end to something completely different and annoying. And it wasn't even the final boss battle here - big bad guy went down in a few tries without too much pain, but then it was time for the cinematic "escape from the collapsing building" moment...every game/film has to have one. It's just running along a bridge jumping over gaps, it can't be that bad, right? Right?

Wrong. Whereas the game so far has all been about control, looking for pathways and following them, this last section is all about blind panic - no great problem there, we're running away from a collapsing building, of course there's going to be some blind panic - but the big problem here is that the control lets us down. It's only running along a straight section of bridge, but the jumping mechanic flies out the window (that sounds like Mario's garage-based brother leaving an aeroplane, but you know what I mean!). All of a sudden, jumps that would have been easy normally become ridiculous as you press forward and jump and Drake flies off 10 meters to the side and drops to his death...again. I guess some of this might be to do with the 'dramatic' camera angles that switch from behind the character to in front of him, but still it's inexcusable. I've just killed the bad guy and saved the world, don't make me die 25 times and throw the controller in frustration because I can't make a seemingly simple jump on my way home. What you probably can't see in the image here is Drake tumbling down into the abyss and me screaming on the sofa. I guess I should be thankful for the checkpoint saves here, though. A few years ago dying at a point like that would have meant being forced to do the level and the boss fight all over again, and that would have really driven me mad. Small mercies and all that.

So, next game up on the randometer is....CyClones - a first-person shooter made by SSI (them who used to have the D&D license and made all the great gold box games). Looks like it's running on Doom age tech and should be a fun little blast. Current count is 185 completed out of 2957, or 6%...still a long way to go.