Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The End of the Corridor

Well, Corridor 7 was a bit up and down...or left and right. Whatever, it wasn't as bad as I thought. The music was pretty funky, and I liked some of its neat little features, such as invisible bad guys you could only see by using your night-vision goggles, or the morphing bad guys who'd disguise themselves as office chairs or pot plants, and then jump and shout at you when you least expected it. But, there were also the bad bits, mostly down to its age - constantly getting stuck on furniture when running around, the same wall texture plastered over the whole level (which doesn't help when every level is a maze), appalling hit detection, incredibly repetitive game play, and so on. There are a couple of things that make it stand out from the standard shooter - first up, you have to kill every enemy on a level to complete it; and secondly, instead of finding the exit once you've killed everyone, you have to make your way back to the elevator where you came in and hit the down button. The main problem with that way of doing things is that levels don't have any sense of progression, you're just running around a big square maze and shooting things, and then going back to where you started...rinse and repeat for 30 levels. The reason that I got through it so quickly is because I played it on easy mode, and on easy mode you only need to kill 10% of the bad guys on a level, not all of them. That means if there are 50 enemies on a level, you only need to kill 5 of them...and you'll probably do that in the first couple of rooms of a level. And because you only need to go back to the lift where you started from, you just turn round and walk a few steps and bang, you're on the next level. So, it does make it way easier than having to kill every monster on a level, but hey, the game's not that fun and I didn't want to hang around with it. Oh, and coming back to why it was so badly maligned at the time of its release, it came out in 1994, the same year as Doom 2, but this was still based on the old Wolfenstein engine. I can't imagine anyone anywhere would pick this over Doom.

So, up next on the randometer is...Descent to Undermountain! Ooh, I always fancied playing this back in the day. By all accounts it's terrible, but hey. As the rubbish name hints at, TSR licensed the Descent engine and somehow shoehorned the Forgotten Realms into it. I have no idea how it's going to play.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Busted by Ghosts

Hmmm...something's out to get me at the moment. Another buggy game - Ghostbusters II crashes whenever I try and accept a mission. Oh well, at least I'm moving through the list a bit quicker. I just realised it would have been a perfect Halloween game, too. From what I saw of it, the graphics looked fine for the time, it had some nice digitised speech and, of course, the funkiest of theme tunes. I was quite looking forward to giving it a whirl.

Next up on the randometer is...Corridor 7: Alien Invasion. Ugh, I remember from the PC mag reviews at the time that this was one of the lowest rated games ever. It's a bland Wolfenstein-era shooter. Yay.

Monday, 29 October 2012

I Have 18 Holes

Short post day today. I didn't realise when the game popped up, but Poko Memorial: 18th Hole Miniature Golf was made back in 1987. Nothing wrong with that, but sports games of that era don't tend to age well. You've probably seen the screenshot by now (hey, it's one I actually took!), this is not a graphically intense game. That doesn't really mean much to me, but what really matters is that it's not a well controlled game. I've played a few golf games in my time (and there are more coming up on the list), and one thing you absolutely need is the ability to hit the ball in any direction. You don't have that ability here. There are 16 positions that you can place your club in around the ball, which means that most of the time it's actually impossible to aim the ball directly at the hole. That's not a great thing. You also have 10 different strengths you can hit the ball, but anything above 1 (or 2 at a push) is going to cannon it off the green, so there's really not much point in the other amounts. Maybe it'd be more fun playing against a friend with a few beers (hey, that would actually be MUCH more fun), but on it's own...nah. Onwards, then.

The next game up on the randometer is...Ghostbusters II. Well, I certainly ain't afraid of no ghosts, so this should be fun.

Didn't Survive

A quick update - I loaded up Survival to see what it was like and noticed there were a few odd bugs - things that meant I couldn't actually get anywhere in the game - and it didn't match the text description I had on file. A bit of digging revealed that I'd pulled the text from the wrong game on MobyGames, this was a different game called Survival, and a bit more digging revealed this was actually an unfinished, unreleased game - hence all the bugs. It's a pity, because it actually seemed quite interesting from what I briefly played of it, but there was one particular bug with buildings not staying built, which meant that I couldn't actually progress with it at all. So, without further ado, on to the next game...

The next game on the randometer is...oh blimey...Poko Memorial: 18th Hole Miniature Golf. Well, I can't see it sticking around too long, anyway!

In other news, I finished Alex Kidd, and have now moved on to a game that I always wanted to play after seeing it in games mags at the time, Alisia Dragoon.

Generalissimo Fantastico!

Well, with a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment, Fantasy General is finally over. It was a great, and very absorbing game, and that final battle was blinking hard...The only thing wrong with it was that I didn't realise it was the final battle. Turns out I didn't get to fight Mr. Big Badguy. I destroyed his lieutenant in an epic battle, stormed his throne room, and was greeted with a text box. A well-written, but painfully small text box. I was all set up to make this the first game that I actually took my own screenshot of the final screen to put up on the blog...but I wasn't expecting that little text box to be the final screen, so I didn't capture it. After every single island so far I'd been reward with a graphic of my warlock bestride the conquered continent...but for the end of the game I get a text box. I'm still stunned by it now.

...Okay, I take it all back. One YouTube search later reveals there is a short ending animation that is missing from the dodgy Underdogs copy that I have. That'll learn me for dealing with shadily downloaded goods. I could only find a German video, but it looks like it does the job of wrapping things up (even though you still don't actually get to fight the bad guy. Anyway, the best news is still that it's finally finished, and that it was a great game. On to the next game, and let's hope it's a shorter one!

And the next game up on the randometer is...Survival: The Ultimate Challenge! Oh dear, this doesn't look like a short one at all. From the description it's a kind of cross between an RTS and a hardcore survival sim. Hmmm...mixed feelings, but on we go. I'll also try and make a bit more progress in I-War and get that expansion pack polished off.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Isle of Aladdin (Sane)

The fifth island (or rather, archipelago) of Fantasy General is finally complete - on to the last one! The fifth was actually quite a bit shorter than the others, as it had me hopping through a bunch of small islands on my way to the final showdown. So, the end is tantalisingly near now...but I don't think it'll be finished this week. It's the final week to get December books into production so I'm swamped with editing. Hopefully things will calm down a bit next week (but there always seem to be a last few urgent chapters that sneak through). Still, it's close, and I can't wait to move on to another game. I've completed the tech tree now, so I've unlocked every unit available to me. I think different starting characters have different units available to them (there's definitely a 'Beast' tree that I can't access), but I don't think I'm going to be playing through the game again as another character...although it actually is strangely tempting. Damn this game! At the top of my tech tree I unlocked Phoenix Hawks and Phoenix Knights. You can probably guess from the similar name that they have a similar power, and that is the ability to cast a raise dead spell. I don't know if I've discussed it yet, but there are two types of unit damage in Fantasy General - wounds and deaths. Wounded members of a unit can be recovered by resting for a turn, but dead members stay dead until the end of that battle. That has been a constant throughout the game so far, and it's always a careful balance between how far you can push a unit before you have to retreat and rest, or in the case of a unit with a lot of dead members, whether you need to withdraw them from the battle entirely and keep them safe. Units gain cumulative experience that they keep across battles, so it makes sense to try and keep as many of them alive as possible. Anyway, the Phoenix units are immensely powerful because they break this paradigm. Their raise dead spell recovers all dead and wounded members, and they're both fast enough units that they can retreat when necessary, cast raise dead, then zip back into the fray. They're expensive initially for sure, but they generally stay alive a lot longer than other units, and now I've finished my research I've got nothing else to spend money on other than replacing and upgrading old units. The evil cackles are building at the back of my throat, and my unstoppable Phoenix army is rising up to wipe out everything that stands in its path. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.

In other news, I was up before Max this morning and I managed to complete Aladdin while making his Ready Brek. It's weird, I remember playing the game on both the Megadrive (which I just completed) and the SNES - and it was one of those releases where each version was a completely different game. I remember bits and bobs of both, the post-jumping on the SNES version, and the sword swiping on the Megadrive, but weirdly enough, I don't remember the final boss battle of the Megadrive version at all, only the big snake of the SNES. Maybe we just never finished the Megadrive version at school? Anyway, the final boss was actually a bit of a let-down. The SNES version was a massive beast that you had to take down, while the Megadrive just has a little firey snake that's about the same size as your own character sprite. He doesn't move at all, just sits there and spits fire at you, and the only way I could work out to beat him was to jump over his fireballs and throw apples at him. So far, so boss battle, but the odd thing was that the only place to stand and do this (that I could find) was far enough away that the snake was actually off the screen. So I had no idea how well I was doing or even whether half of my apples were hitting him, I just carried on jumping and throwing until the 'Level Complete' screen flashed up and the credits started to play. Oh well, it's another one done. Next up on the phone is Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle. It's another one we used to play at school, and I'll write more about that another time. Just quickly, though, I remember being hugely disappointed by it.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The List

I've just added a link to a Google doc containing the full game list on the right. It's correct as of today, but I'm not sure how often I'll update it. Let me know if you can see it - I'm not sure if I set the permissions correctly.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Fourth Island

A super quick update post to say that I finally completed the fourth island today in Fantasy General. I always get a bit of a rush as I finish the final few battles of an island - you get that unstoppable feeling as the majority of the map belongs to you and the final few bastions of enemy occupation fall. Unfortunately, that high can only lead to a depressing low when you start a new island and it's back to square one with a ton of grinding battles before you. Only two more islands to go...I'm getting there.

In other news, I finished M.U.S.H.A. (Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor) on my phone. It's another Megadrive shoot-em-up. Not much to say about it really...it's amazing how short these shoot-em-ups are when you use save states! Playing Aladdin at the moment - takes me back to my school days!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Lined in Blood

Short post today, but I wanted to get a quick weekly in. Been a very busy week at work this week (I've categorically done the most work in a week since records began), so even less game time than normal. Suffice it to say, I haven't got the fourth island in Fantasy General finished. My goal was to try and hit an island a week, but I couldn't manage it. I'm almost there - I reckon another two or three battles to go - but I've run out of time and I'm away for a long weekend tomorrow, so no gaming to come until Tuesday. I keep meaning to say something about the writing in Fantasy General. The overall campaign is nothing original - you need to beat Mr. Evil...that's pretty much it - but the incidental writing is excellent. Every battle has a couple of paragraphs of introductory text that draws you into the narrative, explaining the enemy's current movements and the goals and necessary outcome of the upcoming battle. There are also little snippets of text when you capture the shrines and temples on each map. For example, in one of the temples in my last game I found a scene of slaughter where the enemy had mercilessly wiped out a herd of unarmed centaur on the sacred ground of the temple. In the middle of the bloodshed was a lone survivor driven mad with the shock and horror of his experience. On seeing us, he immediately attacked us as a new evil come to desecrate the temple. Okay, so essentially in game terms it's just that I entered the temple hexagon on the map and a centaur warrior was spawned to attack me, but the little bits of writing really pull you deeper into the game and make each battle more of an experience rather than just staring at a bunch of static icons and numbers on a hexagonal map.

I have, though, managed to finish Castlevania: Bloodlines on the Megadrive/my phone. It's a pretty short game (there are some sub-40-minute speed runs on YouTube), and actually a bit easier than I thought it would be. I always thought the early Castlevania games were pretty hardcore, but it wasn't too bad at all. Admittedly I did use save states, but I consider that a necessity when playing in short bursts rather than cheating. Anyway, I'm quite enjoying the stolen minutes of emulator phone gaming. No idea what I'll play next there yet.

The game list grew a bit this week, too. With over 3000 games there, I suddenly realised the other day that even if I managed to finish a game a day, it'd take me 10 years to get through them all...and I'm barely even doing a game a month at the moment. Ah well, I figure I'll be quite a happy chap if I'm still playing old DOS games when I'm 50.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Battling away

I meant to try and get a post in last week, but didn't quite get around to it. Suffice to say that nothing much has changed since then. I'm now onto the fourth island in Fantasy General and still enjoying it greatly, but I've discovered that there aren't only four islands, there are six, so I've still got two more to go. I have to say that even though I'm enjoying it, that discovery did fill me with dread a little. It just feels like it's taking a long time for a game that I feel like I've mastered (the basics of) now. There are more units to unlock, but they're all just incremental updates of previous units. I've seen all the mechanics that the game has to throw at me (as far as I know), so all the computer can do now is make larger maps with more, and more difficult, enemies on it. It means every level is just a longer war of attrition rather than a new challenge to be discovered. As I said at the beginning, I'm definitely still enjoying it, so it's definitely doing something right, but I'm also definitely feeling like I want the game to be over soon. If this was the last island that would have felt about right...another two to go is going to be a bit of a grind.

In other news, I'm also playing through a few Megadrive games on an emulator on my phone. The phone has a proper joypad, so it's not as bad as all that fiddly on-screen nonsense (it does still give me terrible hand cramp after a while, though!). Anyway, I sneak in a quick go every now and then in the evenings when Kate's on the phone to her mum. I recently finished Aero Blasters (a scrolling shoot-em-up), and I'm currently working my way through Castlevania Bloodlines (otherwise known as Akumajo Dracula, alphabetical-order fans). I think I'll add these to the list as and when I finish them rather than going through and putting them all up now (and making the list another thousand games long!). GoG had a couple of terribly tempting sales recently, too, so the still-to-play pile has been increasing at a worrying disproportionate rate to the games I've finished. Surely there'll come a day soon when GoG doesn't have anything more to offer me?