Monday, 23 April 2012

Titan Mined!

Good old Mines of Titan was as fun as I remembered, and darned addictive. There are no levels as such, so the only way to improve your character is with cash for better weapons and ability and skill upgrades. It starts off hard, but if you pick your fights and spend wisely (and gamble a lot!) then it's not that hard to build up a good pot of cash. I think we found it so hard at school because we hired a large party of characters - which in turn means that you fight much larger groups of enemies. This time I went with a small group and managed things a lot better. Saying that, having the best weapons and armour doesn't make the game easy - there are still really tough fights. As an example, I'd just started exploring the tunnels on my way to the end game and I ran into a group of hunters, and I just couldn't beat them, no matter how hard I tried. It was just a random encounter, but the way the game works, it must have a seed for the random encounters so that you always end up with the same one next. Unfortunately, I'd just saved the game so whenever I restarted and moved a few steps I ran into the same group of hunters and they slaughtered me - it was a wide open area, too, with no chance of using cover to make the battle easier. Luckily, I'd made a save game just before I entered the tunnels. I had to reload and head back to Primus, ditch one of my existing characters with poor education (and thus no way of improving his medical skill - I'd already used my max stat upgrades) and hire a completely new guy with a few more smarts. I then had to grind for a while training him up in rifle, golem armour and medical, so that he could use the best med-kits. I was then ready to head back out to the mines, and this time with a decent healer available I was able to beat the hunters and make it through to the end. I really think that medicine is probably the most important skill available - if you can't use Med Kit C, you're going to die. Of course, once you start making your way through the mines you can find alien tech with med-kits that don't need a high medicine skill to use, but I couldn't even get that far with my previous setup.

Anyway, I did it in the end. I made it to Proscenium and I killed those four blobs. As a boss battle they were perhaps a bit underwhelming (though still crazy hard), but I liked the way the ending left things on a cliffhanger - the evil spider alien you saw has disappeared from the city, and the game leaves you just outside Primus wondering what sort of reception you're going to get on your return...the intimation being that you'll open the airlock door and find that the aliens have wiped the place out.

If I gave scores, this would easily be a 10/10. Great fun and brought back loads of memories. Next up on the randometer is...Subwar 2050. I bought it back in an Electronics Boutique sale while I was at uni, but I've only ever really dabbled with it. It's a bit like an arcadey flight sim but underwater. Should be quite fun.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Rocket Out of Range

I tried, I really did, but technology was my enemy. The game runs way too fast in Dosbox, and slowing it down seems to cause some glitches. So I'm giving up on it for now, but it looked like there was a good game hidden in there (and reviews of the Amiga version seem to bear this out). It's a really interesting mix of genres - in the first part of the game you have to move your secret agents around a map of the world infiltrating countries and trying to find Nazi bases. Unfortunately, this is one of the glitchiest bits - I had to slow the game right down (otherwise a timer ran out and the Nazis automatically won) and then in order to move the location of an agent I had to hammer the keys until I managed to get the exact millisecond difference between selecting an option and moving my agent. This usually took a couple of minutes, and was not much fun. Once your agents find a base, you then fly your hero over to it (by inputting the correct amount of fuel to get to that country from your current location - information which could only be found in the manual. Great (but annoyingly regular) copy protection. Depending on the base type, you then get different action sequences - shooting down some Me109s, avoiding ack-ack, taking out the guns and landing on a zeppelin, etc. These are short and good fun (though the hit detection seemed a bit random to me - could have been because of dosbox) and keep the story zipping along. You then get your agents to stir up the population in each country, and this slows down the Nazis and brings you more fuel for your rocket pack (forgot to mention that you have a limited amount of it at the start, and so need to be careful where you travel to). There's also a bit of a love story going on with the chief scientist's feisty daughter - you have to do a bit of verbal jousting with her whenever you rescue her to get her back on your side.

As I say, the main game seems pretty fun, but the emulation side is just too frustrating to carry on with. Next up is...Oooooohhhh...Mars Saga, otherwise known as...Mines of Titan! That brings back memories. George used to have it at school. I remember bits of it - various training centres to up your stats, gambling at keno, recruiting characters, traveling around titan, and errr getting killed a lot. I don't remember how far we ever actually got in the game itself, but yeah, very fond memoried. Very much looking forward to this.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Eyes of the Hawk

Tony Hawk is finished...ish. The worst thing happened - I was about half way through New Orleans, which is the penultimate level on story mode, skating along minding my business. It got to the end of lunch time, so I hit save, the "please wait, saving" screen came up...and I waited...and I waited...and it didn't go away. The Flippin' game had crashed. I reset and reloaded the game, went to load my save, and it just said "damaged" where my game should have been. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

There is absolutely no way I'm going through the game all over again. If it had just been a case of losing my last progress and restarting from the previous save then I might have done it, but the whole game again? No. Way. It was one of the most frustrating, joypad-smashing experiences I've had in a long time. It seemed to combine all of the worst parts of the THPS franchise for me - the whole jackass thing taking away from the actual fun of computer 'boarding. I think it took Skate, which came a few years later, to bring the pure skating back.

I've also got a bit further with Beyond Divinity. I can see why people didn't rate it as highly as the first game. There's just no story - well, the story is that I've been soul-linked to a death knight and we have to find a way to remove the curse, but that appears to be the only story. Any side quests I've found so far have just been very basic fetch quests, which don't add anything to the main story line. It's just been a pretty linear hack and slash so far. To make it worse, the developers seem to admit that they don't have the time or the inclination to add a decent story because they've added something called 'battlefields'. These are separate maps - nothing to do with the main game - that you can teleport to in order to wander around and level grind. It's soul destroying. I don't mind a grind when there's a point to it, but this is just grinding for no reason whatsoever. It feels like they've added it just to artificially inflate the length of the game. There are other problems, too. The skill system is terrible compared to the one in Divine Divinity. There's a similar base to it - you can choose to learn any skill, no matter what class you are, but you have to find someone to teach you that skill...but they might only teach you the skill up to a certain level, then you'll have to find another teacher to teach you the skill to a higher level. Also, there are limited skill slots, so you can't just go and add all of the skills that you want (and there are a lot of skills). The game gets around this by allowing you to remove skills you've learned to add new ones - in fact, it actively encourages you to do this in the manual. So I went to try it and found out that it cost thousands of gold pieces to remove a skill - way, way more than it costs to learn one. Why??? What is the point of that? Another questionable decision is the voice acting. I think I mentioned it back when I was playing Divine Divinity - they seem to have picked up a bunch of Europeans to do the voice acting, which gave the first game a quaint, local, amateurish feel, but in this game it's just terrible. The worst of them all is the death knight that you're tethered to, and he's always rabbiting on about some nonsense in his ridiculous voice. Volume down, I think. I've no idea how long the game is, but if it's anything like the first then I've still got a long, long way to go. Hopefully the story will move on a bit along the way.

Okay, next up on the randometer is...Rocket Ranger. It's an old Cinemaware game from 1988. It looks like it takes inspiration from the Rocketeer comics, but I don't think it's in any way officially tied to them. Looks fun!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

No...Not this darkness again

That awful theme song is playing again, which can only mean one thing - I've just completed Alone in the Dark 4 again, this time with Aline Cedrac. There isn't that much more to say - the gameplay is largely the same - more puzzle than combat focused, but actually not as much as I thought. The story did make a bit more sense this time around, with Aline's section filling in a lot more of the gaps, but it was still largely nonsensical. I feel like Infogrames should have made me play Aline's section first, as it gives a more satisfying explanation of the story and then I could go on and play Carnby's story as a bonus. As it was, when I played Carnby's first it just made absolutely no sense at all. There were still a lot of comedy bad moments - e.g. getting halfway up the stairs to an observatory then having a phone conversation concerning the room and its contents even though I hadn't got there yet. There were some nice bits - I liked having to construct all of the bits to build the 'perforator' - a big gun that sounded really cool, but basically just knocked a hole in one wall and then melted. Oh, and what I didn't like about the perforator segment was having to run down from the lightning room to the perforator base in a ridiculous time limit. It would have been fine except for the fact she runs sooo s-l-o-w-l-y down stairs, and there were so many stairs! Anyway, made it in the end. The other thing that annoyed me about Aline's section was that the ending was exactly the same as Carnby's. The island blows up, they fly away, and you don't have a say in it. It would have been nice if the game had known I'd finished both halves and gave me a better ending. Ah well.

Oh, and the best bit was Aline's big bad guy fight. Essentially the same bad guy as Carnby, but he's the guy who Aline thought was her father (before he mutated into mr. Weird McTwoHeads). Anyway, she shoots him a lot until he sees the error of his ways, and he makes some speech about "My daughter...how could you do this to me?" To which she answers "You're not my father; nobody is my father". Maybe you had to be there...it made me laugh. So, that's the AitD series over with. There is a newer game, but I don't have it (and I don't think my comp could play it) so that's enough for me. I would have been happy if they'd let the series die at AitD3, but hey, nobody listens to me! Next up in the series list is Beyond Divinity, the sequel to Divine Divinity, which I completed a while back. I've heard very mixed things about this game, so we'll have to see how it goes. I'm looking forward to it with some trepidation. No more progress on THUG2 yet, but I really should make that a priority, as the PS3 will definitely be out of bounds once the new one turns up!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The sound of The Police

Well, Alone in the Dark 4 is truly terrible. Wait...is it? Yes, on second thoughts it definitely is. How the mighty have fallen. AitD 1-3 were never the best of games, but for their time they were very good and very enjoyable. AitD 4 is neither of those things. Resident Evil picked up where AitD left off and built a new game genre from its survival horror beginnings. AitD 4 tries to best RE at its own game and reclaim the throne, but it fails miserably. The puzzles are so boring - 90% are of the Find Key to Open Door variety, and the remaining 10% are just a case of finding the right numbers for a combination lock. Some of those might even have presented a smidgen of difficulty, except for the fact that the game highlights any important passages in bright red lettering just in case you might have missed them. I've just finished the Edward Carnby section, which in the game's defense is supposed to be the more combat heavy and puzzle light section, so maybe the Aline puzzles will prove more of a challenge. Mind you, saying that, the combat in Carnby's section was predictably awful, using the RE-familiar tank controls to blunder around and then just point and shoot. Enemies frequently pop out of nowhere, often when you've just crossed the boundary from one room to the next, giving you no chance to bat them off. If it wasn't for that, though, it would be a walk in the park - weapons are powerful enough to take out most enemies in a couple of shots, and you're constantly being given new (but rather uninteresting) weapons and ammo. The final bad guy (there's only one 'boss', and he's the last thing you fight in the game ) is a joke, too. You run around him unloading every weapon you have until he falls over (literally, not euphemistically), then you jog past him to pick up a spear, and in a cut-scene Carnby turns into an Indian warrior, stabs and kills mr. BadGuy and then turns back into boring old Carnby, all without you doing anything. Whu?? The end game is similarly hands off. You essentially pick up a key after 'killing' mr. BadGuy, then use that key to open a door and...that's the end of the game. Someone else then comes along, says you've done your bit, and he destroys the island. That's it...after all your running around, you don't get to kill the bad guy or destroy the island...heck, you don't even get an annoying cinematic escape from the exploding temple sequence. Everything is taken away from you. Terrible.

And the story? AitD 1-3 were completely insane story-wise, so I wasn't expecting much more here, but nothing really makes any sense. You don't really know which bad guy you're supposed to be chasing until he turns up at the end...there's an evil family, but apparently some of them are good (I think)...I'm not really sure which of them were alive and which were dead. There was an old granny stuck in a bed in a tower, but I've no idea what happened to her. One second there was a shocking reveal that the bad guy was Aline's father, but then the next second it turns out that actually he wasn't... No explanation is given for anything. It's just...terrible. I'll be playing through Aline's segment next, so maybe more will be revealed there, but somehow I doubt it. I thought I'd do it while the layout of the game was still fresh in my mind. Hopefully it won't take too long.

What was the most surprising thing of all? The awful metal theme song that plays at the end of the game was written and performed by Stewart Copeland...yes, that Stewart 'I'm the drummer from The Police' Copeland. Terrifying. There's bound to be a youtube video of it somewhere. I urge you to find it, and then immediately turn it off again.

Not much progress to report in THUG2. I'm about half way through Boston, the first map, and not really enjoying it that much. Yay.