Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Wreckless Eric

Eric the Unready is a funny old game, in more ways than one. In fact in two ways: it's funny and it's old. Not old in the sense of being released a while back, but old in the sense of fashioned. The company that made the game, Legend, was made up of Infocom staffers, and if there's one thing Infocom was famous for, it's text adventures. Eric, and all of the other Legend games, as far as I know, is basically a text adventure with a picture stuck in one corner...a bit like The Hobbit on the Spectrum. There's even a mode where you can turn all of the interface guff off and just play it as a straight text adventure. In a slight nod to modern technology they gave it a mouse interface (buttons for directions, and allowing you to click on words to select them instead of typing them), but to be honest, it's usually much quicker to just type the words in. The only thing I really used the mouse for was that you could click on parts of the picture to find out about that thing, so instead of typing 'look at parrot', you'd just click on the parrot. The rest of the interface was clunky as heck, though, you really needed to create full sentences to make the game understand anything. So, to use a crowbar on a crow, you couldn't just click on the crowbar in your inventory and then on the crow in the picture. You couldn't even click on 'use', then 'crowbar', then 'crow', the parser still wouldn't understand. Instead, you'd have to click on 'use', then 'crowbar', then 'on', and then 'crow'. It made the whole thing infuriatingly slow, and much easier just to type. Once  that's out of the way, though, the whole game becomes much more enjoyable. Some of the puzzles are a bit obtuse, but nothing too ridiculous, and there is a consistent level of humour running throughout - not really laugh out loud stuff for me, but I had a wry smile on my face every now and then - especially at some of the small ads that ran in the newspapers you read every day. I also appreciated their take on pirates as respectable small businesses. Alongside the standard adventuring, there were also a couple of..well, in any other adventure game I guess you'd call them 'arcade sequences', but here there were slightly more text based. Things like having to play and win a game of jeopardy, which just dragged on way too long and weren't at all necessary. Another was the dragon sequence shown in the screengrab. The dragon's weak spot  changes every turn, and you have to fire an arrow at where you think the weak spot is going to be that turn. As far as I could tell, the next position of the weak spot is completely random, so you just have to sit there typing in the same target every turn until the game chooses it and then you win. Completely pointless, and the rest of those sequences were similarly disappointing. Anyway, the pure text adventure bits were fun, and it was nice to have those reminiscence spots tickled - it really took me back to playing old text adventures on the beeb.

It's magical secret game day today (although half of it was wasted by a trip to the doctor this morning), so hopefully I'll be able to hit something else and get another post out today...we'll see. Next up on the randometer is...Darkstone. It's an action-clicking Diablo clone. I remember it well from ads of the day...and I *think* I played the demo, but can't be sure. Anyway, I'll fire it up and give it a go!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Wizard Wartz

I decided to try Wizard Warz so I could blitz through it. It's a funny old game. You play a wizard who has to war against other wizards - so far, so obvious from the title. At the start of the game, you get to choose 4 spells, and apparently you can find more as you progress, though I never got that far. You wander around the map finding towns that give you food (to get health back) or enemy wizard to duel against. When you encounter an enemy wizard, you warp to an arena to duel him. This is basically just a mini-map that you can wander round with lots of pits to fall into. The enemy wizard is also running around this mini map and when he encounters you, he'll start flinging spells your way. It's up to you to respond in kind. Each wizard has different strengths and weaknesses, so you need to choose the appropriate spells to exploit his weaknesses and defeat him. Once you defeat him you'll get some kind of treasure that you need to deposit at one of the towns. The controls make it trickier than it should be (num-pad for directions and '5' for fire), but after a little while I started to get the hang of it. The problem was, I kept on dying from cumulative damage built up from earlier fights. You have three energy levels, all of which mean death if they reach zero, and none of which recharge. I figured out you could replace physical energy by eating the food found in cities, but I couldn't work out how to replace mental energy. So, after a couple of fights I'd be so whittled down that I didn't have a chance of beating the next guy. I'm sure a reading of the manual might of helped, but bah - I figure I've seen most of what the game had to offer me, so I'm ready to move on. I will say, though, that it was quite an enjoyable little system, and I can imagine a multiplayer modern remake would be pretty fun.

The next game up on the randometer is...Eric the Unready. Cool! This is something that I always wanted to play back in the day but I think I only ever played a demo. It's one of those spruced-up text adventures that arrived in the 90s, but this is a comedy game. I'm quite looking forward to it.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Weak-willed and Tardy

Oh dear, a month since the last post. Rubbish. In the end of year rush at work, so not much free time...and I was bad. After making it through most of the year as a shining paragon of non-game buying, I succumbed to that most evil creature of all, a Steam sale. Yes, I bought Skyrim. In my defence, it was only 3 quid and I've wanted it for ages, but I still felt a bit dirty doing it. Of course, once the flood gates had opened, I went crazy and bought another couple of similarly priced titles. I am a fool and a bad person. Maybe I can excuse it by calling it a birthday present to myself? Anyway, worse than just buying the games, I then went and played them; starting up Skyrim...just to see if it would run at all on my Surface...and then getting totally sucked in. I've now weened myself off it, and it'll wait until the series comes up on the list, but things were looking a bit dark there for a minute.

So, in other gaming news, I have been playing a bit of X-Com: Interceptor, but I have to say that it hasn't grabbed me. This is probably mostly down to the technology rather than the game itself. Basically, the game sticks very closely to the old X-Com template in that it's two games welded together to form one. So in the old series you have the base-building strategy side of it welded to the alien-shooting missions, and you have exactly the same thing here except that instead of turn-based, tense combat, you now have arcade space combat - a bit like Wing Commander. I wouldn't have minded this too much - I enjoy a bit of space dog-fighting - but everything runs so quickly on modern computers that basically the fight's over before you have a chance to do anything. I should mention that when you fly missions you have a couple of wingmen with you, so they'll zoom off and destroy the bad guys before you really get a chance to do anything. This is actually a really good thing, as without them, there's no way I'd even be able to hit one of the alien ships with my lasers, they just flash across the screen in a blink. So, thanks to the wingmen I've been proceeding through the game, but I'm not really enjoying it as much as I'd like to be. It's also changed my strategy. Normally in a game like this I'd be powering up my own ship and pretty much ignoring my wingmen, but I've found myself spending all my money powering up my wingmen to make sure they can deal with the aliens and I've been spending my tech developing smart missiles so I can at least fire off a few of those in a fight and hope they hit something. I'm dreading the game switching up a gear later on and having missions where I don't get any wingmen and have to fly on my own. If that happens, then I'm done for. NB: If this was running in DosBox then I could easily slow it down, but it's a Steam game. I might see if I can just plug the EXE independently into DosBox and run it that way if things get desperate. Also, I haven't really got any sense of overarching story yet, I've just been upgrading my base and attacking any random alien craft that fly through my sensor networks. So far, so X-Com, but in this one the map is huge. I'm only exploring a tiny part of it, and I'm not sure if I'm going to have to expand out massively before I learn more. That would mean a LOT more bases. I've already built three just in my little quadrant, and covering the map would take literally hundreds of them, which isn't a management task I really fancy. Oh well, we'll see.

I've also been playing a bit of Quantum Conundrum on the PS3. It's got a very Portal feel about it - physics-based first-person puzzler - and a very similar aesthetic, but I feel it was a mistake for the developers to try and draw those allusions. Portal is a great game. A fantastic game. It's a very focused game - the portal gun does one thing and one thing only, and all of the puzzles are built around that one thing. It means that you get used to the core mechanic very quickly, and so when the game explores that mechanic in different ways, they still feel very natural because you understand the core mechanic so well. It's also a very clever core mechanic. One of the very worst things about first-person puzzlers (and FPS games in general) is the jumping. Pixel-perfect jumping when you can't see your feet is a terrible experience. Portal gets around this by just letting you create a portal to the place you want to go to, then you just step through and arrive there. Problem solved. It gives you absolutely perfect (and pretty frustration free) control of your avatar in the environment. Quantum Conundrum does not have a portal gun, but it does have lots of first-person platforming. This is a bad thing. It gets in the way of the puzzles. If I can see the solution to a problem, and I'm trying to execute that solution, please don't make me fail it by falling off a platform that I couldn't see in the first place. That just makes me angry. I don't mind a bit of skill in games, but this isn't skill, it's a very simple everyday jump. If it was a 2D platformer and I could see where my character was jumping from and to then I'd make it every single time, but because it's in 3D and the only frame of reference I have is the wall in front of me, then I constantly miss platforms and slide off into doom. It really detracts from the central experience of the game - to solve the puzzles. In its favour, there are some really clever puzzles in there, things that make you scratch your head and feel smart when you solve them. Those bits are really enjoyable, and I like exploring what the different powers do (although part of me wishes they'd just restricted it to simple Light-Heavy gravity powers and really focused on those rather adding more). It's just the implementation that's so frustrating. Oh, and I'm finding the humour irritating rather than funny, but that may just be me (I'm such a grouch!).

The siren-song of Skyrim was strong, but I'll say more about that another time when I'm playing through it properly. I'm tempted to fire up Wizard Warz and give that a go because I want to try and knock off another game or two before the end of the year, but I'll try and dive back into X-Com and make some headway, too.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Millenium Bug

Well that's weird. I went to install EF2000, but couldn't find it anywhere. I can't imagine I'd have added all of the info for it to the database if I didn't have, so I don't know where it's gone. My only guess is the filename of the zip must be something obscure so it's not anywhere obvious. Ah well, I'll mark it done for now and see if it's left over in my gamesToDo folder 20 years down the line when everything else is done.

Next up on the randometer is...Quantum Conundrum on the PS3 list - I'll move to that next instead of Ratchet & Clank. On the PC it's going to be...Encounter - a Space Invaders clone from 1984. Should be quick, I might even sneak it in next.

...and, that didn't take long. It's a very basic game in the style of Space invaders (though not the gameplay). You sit in your ship at the bottom of the screen, and can only move left and right. Asteroids fall from the top of the screen - I don't think you can destroy them, at least I couldn't - and they'll destroy you if they hit you. There are also a couple of alien ships wobbling around on the screen and firing lasers down on you. The aim of the game is to destroy these ships. Kill them both and the next level starts and two more aliens appear. I only managed to do this once, so I can't really tell if anything happens when levels change. It didn't run brilliantly for me, aliens fired too fast, and controls were really chuggy, but that may have all been more by design. Anyway, that's enough for me. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Wizard Warz! I don't know too much about it, apparently it's an action game with light RPG elements from 1987, so could be fun. Definitely back to X-Com first, though.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Pity the Lost Children

City of Lost Children is done and dusted, never to be returned to again. There were a few things that weren't the game's fault that left be badly disposed to it, and a few things that definitely were. First up, the curse of the dodgy copy struck again. The main game worked fine, but as is so often the case, the dodgy copy had the movies and music struck from it. That's not necessarily a problem with some games, but with this game all of the story is given in those movies, so without them you have no idea what you're supposed to be doing, or when you've succeeded in doing something. This set me off on the back foot to begin with, but the game didn't do much to attempt to turn that around.

The game feels a lot like Alone in the Dark, with a 3D character moving through pre-rendered backgrounds with a variety of interesting camera angles. It uses tank controls, which always feel a bit awkward to begin with, but you quickly get used to them. The graphics are pretty good - there's nothing jaw-droppingly spectacular, but there are some nice areas and animations. There aren't many areas to the game, though - it's pretty short - and it's all a bit dark and dismal (as is the source film). Onto the problems...the inventory management is rubbish. There are numerous objects that you can pick up (if you can see them...another one of the game's problems), and you can store them either in your hand, or in your inventory. Let's say you pick up a key, and you diligently put it into your inventory. You then come across a locked door and decide to use your key. You walk up to the door and press 'action' with the key in your inventory and you're informed that the door is locked. Okay, that happens in lots of games...not too much of an issue. You go into your inventory and move the key into your hand. You then hit 'action' again and you're rewarded with the door being unlocked. Yay! Flushed with success, you hit 'action' again to open the door only to be told that you can't open the door because your hands are full. Yep, you're still holding the key and bashing it into the door like a muppet. So, you go into your inventory and put the key away then you can finally hit 'action' again and open the door. The control system rears its ugly head in similar ways throughout the game. If you run into a solid object then you'll bounce off it with a soundbite and annoyingly long animation that you can't skip before you can move again. If you try to talk to someone or interact with something that you're not quite facing head on, then you get another unskippable soundbite and animation. There's a key to bend down that I think was only used once in the game. Trying to use it at any other time causes...you guessed it...another unskippable soundbite and animation. The puzzles are often frustratingly obtuse, and because objects you can interact with are incredibly hard to see, you'll often find yourself wandering around trying to find something that will help you solve a scene and move on. I don't know if perhaps the movies gave you hints as to what to do, as it was pretty hard to work out without them. So all in all, a bit of a disappointment. Still, at least it was short. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...EF 2000...ugh. A flight sim that I remember well from magazines and cover disks back in the day. As far as I recall, it got pretty good reviews - flight sims just aren't my thing. Ah well, I'll give it a go. First up, I'm going to switch back to X-Com and try and get through Interceptor. I haven't played it at all yet, so looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Declined Wars

Ugh. I'm sorry Line Wars, I really am, but I just wasn't in the mood for you. Line Wars is obviously made by someone who really loves Elite. I really love Elite, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. But Line Wars is purely a replication of the combat aspects - no trading involved - and it's a direct copy. The ship models are the same (they even have the same names), the handling's the same, the radar's the same(-ish). It's a perfectly serviceable game (but it ran really rubbishly for me), it's just a bit pointless. It's shareware, so it's made by someone who wanted to try their skills on building a version of Elite - that's fine, honourable even, but Elite's already out there and is a fuller, better game. Why would I want to play Line Wars? (Answer: I don't.)

Moving on - the next game up on the randometer is... The City of Lost Children. It's the game of the film...which I've sort of seen. I was ill when I rented it and fell asleep through much of it, so I remember bits from the beginning, but not much else. Could be fun.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

RetriBUMOFF

Ack, I've had enough. I made it through the next planet and its four missions, then it started getting into silly old 'protect the convoy' missions and making me shoot missile turrets off of buildings that I'm not allowed to get a scratch on. The missile turrets are absolutely lethal, but they're not as bad as the floating mines that home in on you when you get too close. When you've got a combination of the two together, it's just not fun. Could I still progress in the game? Undoubtedly I could. Do I want to? No. It would involve masses of mission restarts (and as I've already mentioned, the restart process is agonising) and I just haven't got the will.

In other, slightly better, news I completed Costume Quest on the PS3. It was a very short, happy happy game that was a joy to play. Three cheers for Tim Schafer! If I had one criticism, it was actually way too easy. There wasn't really any skill involved in the combat or the exploring, and the couple of times I died the game restarted me just before the battle and I beat the fights on the next attempt. Still, I'm not complaining, it was a fun game with a lovely art style and it's another one ticked off the list. Yay!

Next up on the randometer is...Line Wars 2, a...nooooo...shareware 3D space shooter. Ug. One day I'll be free of them. Never heard of it, so who knows what to expect. Nothing else on the PS3 list yet, so I think I'll try and knock off the rest of Ratchet and Clank, which I started a while back but haven't picked up again.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

King of Amalur

By the skin of my teeth, I did manage to finish Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning by Halloween. The end game actually came really quickly. After spending hours (a whole lot of hours...) doing side quests and exploring, the last part of the game was focussed solely on moving the main story forward, and it did so at some pace. In fact, there was so much exposition in the last level that I did wonder if perhaps they'd had to cut a bunch of content because of time restrictions, so had a character tell you about it rather than having you do it. The final boss was also slightly disappointingly easy. It was big enough, and impressive enough, but maybe because I'd reached the level cap by doing all the side quests, and maybe because of the mage character I'd chosen, I basically just spammed the same couple of spells over and over (as I had been doing the whole of the game) and bossman waved bye-bye fairly quickly. I don't think I even moved my character. Still, I suppose that's better than me complaining that he was too hard (I'm a bit rubbish at these computer game things, and there's nothing more annoying than having to fight the same boss over and over again). Anyway, after all that moaning, I did really enjoy my time with it, and it's another game down! No platinum trophies for this one - you have to beat the game on hard to do that, and there's no way I'm playing through it  all again! Next up on the PS3 list is the perfect Halloween game - Costume Quest. It's a Double Fine game, so I already love it, and the demo I played of it was pretty fun, so I'm looking forward to this one. It should also be quite a lot shorter!

In other news, I'm slowly grinding my way through Retribution. Every time I play it I consider quitting it and moving on to the next game, so that should give you an idea of how much I'm enjoying it! It's really hard, and it's not made any better by the fact it's a flight sim/arcade game controlled by the mouse. I think you should be able to use a joystick too, but I can't work out how to change those settings. It's so annoying in so many ways (e.g., when you die, you have to click about 20 different things in order to restart again) but it's also strangely compelling. There are 44 missions in the game (4 missions on each of the 11 maps), and each one can be finished fairly quickly if you get it right, so you're always progressing the story in bite-sized pieces. I think I'm on the 4th or 5th world at the moment, so a little over a third of the way through. As I mentioned, the game is hard, so if I hit a level further on that completely stonewalls me me then I'm likely to rage-quit and move on. At the moment, though, I'm getting through levels at most on the 3rd or 4th attempt, so it's not too bad. I'll keep on it for a bit longer.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

We kicked their A...

Yay! I finally finished X-Com Apocalypse last night. It was a crazy-long game, but well worth it. I did indeed have to go back and forth between earth and the alien dimension for every single building, but actually it wasn't that bad. The game's so fun, and it's so addictive to make progress in it that I didn't really notice the time whizzing by. It also helped that I developed the final Annihilator-class ship and some decent weapons and shields, so the trips to and from the alien world and ours weren't so bad any more. I muffed up once when I killed the alien queen instead of taking her alive (I couldn't help it, I'd run out of stun weapons and all my psionics were dead). I think that would have given me extra research options, but hey, there was no way I was going back to re-do that level. The end of the game just gave me a single final score (and an excellent movie) but I have nothing to compare it to, so I don't know if it's any good. It would have been nice to have seen some final stats - how many agents I lost, how many aliens I destroyed, etc., but it wasn't to be. Ah well. Next game up in the series is Interceptor. As far as I know, it's basically a space combat sim set in the X-com universe, so a step away from the strategy of earlier games. I don't remember it getting that good reviews, but it'll be interesting to see what it's like (and nice to get away from strategy for a change). Next up, though, I'm going to switch over to Retribution and see what that's like. Hopefully it won't be too long a game, I'm pining to get away from sci-fi for a bit.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Apocalypse Now

It's been a while, so I thought I'd write a quick catch-up post. I've made quite a bit of progress in X-Com Apocalypse, but it's just so slooooow. Researching new techs takes a while...building new techs takes an age...and all the while you're constantly under attack from the aliens. I guess that's the whole point of the game, but even so, it feels like I'm at the point in the game where I just want to get it finished. I've finally made it to the alien homeworld, and I'm going around systematically destroying the buildings there. You can't just do this in one run, though. For each building you need to visit the alien dimension to see the building, then come back home so that your scientists can research it and find a weak point. You've then got to go back to the alien dimension and land a squad in the building (while fending off a bunch of attacking aliens) then use that squad to disable the building (by destroying certain structures) while fighting off the usual mass of increasingly difficult baddies, get back to your ship, and make it back to earth. Then you've got to rinse and repeat for the next building in the chain. I've done about three buildings so far; I don't know how many there are in total, about 10 or so. Each building takes a long time, maybe a couple of play sessions, and they're getting harder as they go on. It's getting to the point where I feel like jumping out and playing something else for a while, but I'm so close to the end now that I just want to get it finished. Hopefully the next post will be a Won post. Oh, I also hit an 'insert CD' error, which worried me a little bit, but I reloaded and managed to avoid it. I've taken to saving before the start of every mission, so when I hit it again (which I have a few times) a quick reload fixes it. I guess there must be a particular missing asset that sometimes pops up in the randomly generated levels. The joys of dodgy software :)

In other news, I've also been playing a bit more Kingdoms of Amalur, and have made it to the second continent. The story's moving along a bit quicker now, so I feel like I'm getting somewhere...but, of course, the new continent brings a bunch of new side quests, and my crazy brain says I just have to finish them all! I have to admit, the second continent's bigger than I thought it would be, which is a bit daunting, but hopefully I'll be able to power through it. I set myself the target of trying to finish the game by the end of the month so I can play Costume Quest on Halloween (when it's based), so...we'll see.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Same old, same old

I've played a little more X-Com Apocalypse, so I figured I'd put down a few thoughts. First up, the game isn't quite what I expected. I saw the different environment and the addition of factions in the city and thought I was in for some markedly different gameplay, but actually...it's the same. The factions basically take the place of countries in the old X-Coms - you're trying to keep them happy to increase your funding. The city map itself doesn't really do anything different either, it may as well be a reskin of the world map - it's just a backdrop for you to build bases on, fly around in and for aliens to attack. I guess it's different in that you can have ground vehicles as well as flying ones, but that doesn't really change the mechanics much (and I haven't yet seen much reason (other than price) why not to stick with planes). So essentially, you're doing the same things as in the old games, but with a little more complexity - more types of vehicle and ways to equip them, different types of research, different types of soldier - humans and androids, and so on. I'm still in very much the early stages of the game, only having researched the first view items, but so far it's 9/10 on the de ja vu scale. Is that a bad thing? No, I guess not. The pure X-Com gameplay is still there and as compelling as ever, I was just expecting something more. Maybe that's why they departed so radically from the formula for the following games? Anyway, I'm enjoying it well enough, just not really getting a lot of time to dedicate to it. I've also been playing a bit more Kingdoms of Amalur. Nothing really to report there, just grinding through sidequests, but it's still good fun. Actually, it crashed last time I played and I'm worried it'll have lost the hour or two's progress I'd put in (typically it happened at the end of a rare decent gaming session. I guess I'll see next time I boot it up.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Prohibited

Well, Prohibition didn't last long...back to the booze! Other than some jaunty music and tasty CGA graphics, it proved unplayable using joystick or keyboard and the graphics grew increasingly corrupted as the game went on. Most old games still work fine under DosBox, so I'm not sure what the issue with it is. Anyway, it didn't really look worth the effort of exploring too deeply. Onwards!

The next game up on the randometer is...Retribution. It's a sci-fi shoot-em-up (yes, another one!) from Gremlin. I think I'll give X-Com more of a shot before hitting this one.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Pretty Poor Escape, Really

So, I failed at escaping from Stalag-Luft III. I did try. I tried over and over again. I collected as many items as I could, but you're basically hampered by one horrible game mechanic - a few items that you need to escape are delivered in red cross parcels. These arrive once per day (I think) and the game notifies you when one is there. So far, so good. They get delivered to one of the rooms and you have to make your way there, avoiding the guards, to pick them up and get their booty. The problem is that there's no way of speeding up time, so you have to wait an entire day (in game time, but it feels like real time) until the next package arrives. There are things you can do at the start of the game - explore the camp, find items, stash things in tunnels, and so on, but once you know where these things are, you can pick them up really quickly and then you have nothing to do but wait for what seems like hours for new red cross parcels to appear, and hope that they contain the items that you need. That's what killed it for me; I just don't have time to wait around staring at a screen, waiting for a message to appear.

Otherwise, some aspects weren't too bad. The graphics were charmingly Spectrum era - it's the first time I've seen isometric effects like that on the PC. Also, there's a nice feature where if you leave the controls for a minute then your bloke will wander round performing his camp duties and not getting into trouble. I guess this is to give you something to look at while you're waiting for those red cross parcels to appear, but the good will it generates only goes so far. Onwards!

The next game on the randometer is... Castle of the Winds! Never heard of it. It looks like an early roguelike, so could be fun.

In other news, I started X-Com Apocalypse tonight and played for a little while. I did the tutorial missions in the manual and have done my first couple of sorties alone. I was just getting into it when it crashed on me, so I decided to call it a night and write this post instead. It looks good fun, though, so I'll be back to it soon.

EDIT: It looks like there are two Castle of the Winds games, so I've added it to the series list. So, next up on the randometer is...a few more series games and...Prohibition! It looks like an early Operation Wolf-style shooter, very similar to Capone that I played earlier in the year. I can't see it lasting too long.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Shrak!

I blasted through Dissolution of Eternity and finished it last night. Not much to say, really. It's basically Quake. The new levels are generally good, and it's nice to have some continuity through them. For example, the first part is based in a castle, the first level has you outside the castle trying to get in; the second part has you entering the grounds trying to make your way to the keep, and so on. It felt like there was a bit more believable architecture to the levels (if you can say that for an insane techno/fantasy world). The second part of the game goes a bit weirder. You're transported through a series of themed worlds - elemental planes, Egyptian pyramids, Aztec ruins, and so forth - on your way to destroy Quake's temporal thingummy machine (yes, I've forgotten what it was called already - It's Quake, story's not its strong point). This threw all continuity out of the window, but did mean a bit of relief from the dingy brown corridors of the base game (although there was still a phenomenal amount of brown to be found). It also introduced more 'boss' enemies; stronger creatures at the end of each set of levels. It was a good gimmick that the original Quake might have benefited from a bit more. The final boss of the game was the huge dragon that featured in the original Quake test level (I remember playing the death out of that!) and was a suitably tricky ending to the series.

I do have another Quake add-on - Shrak for Quake, so I thought I'd give that a go next while I had Quake installed. Unfortunately, something happened to the textures when I installed it and the game played with just white walls and shading, making it a surreal, but impossible play experience (see piccy). So I'll call it a day and skip that one, it's probably enough Quake for me.

Next up on the randometer is... The Great Escape. Yikes! It's an old Ocean game from 1987...sounds crazy.

In other news, I failed in my resolution not to buy any games this year.Crusader Kings 2, a game that I realllly want to play one day was in a pay-what-you-want bundle and I couldn't resist. It'll never be that cheap again so I had to grab it...I know, I know, I'm weak willed. I'll try not to get any more.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Suck it down, what is brown

I'm back from hols and continuing my journey through the brown lands of Quake. The KVM switch arrived well and good and works perfectly, so I'm very happy with that (it switched my headphones, too, which is good because my speakers are now in the attic!). I moved through the original Quake fairly quickly (on Normal difficulty). In some ways, it feels more like a tech demo than a full game - I'm not sure if that's because I'm so familiar with its levels or because that's the actual truth of it. There's some good design in there, but once you know all of its surprises then it starts to feel a bit bland. The terrible colour palette and frustratingly dark lighting don't help much either. Sure, it adds something to the atmosphere, but it really wears you down after a while.

Mission pack 1: Scourge of Armagon doesn't really change much in that respect - it still uses all of Quake's assets (there are some new bits, but they're generally brown) so everything is still the same dark and murky tone. The level designs, however, were fresh and exciting. You can tell that the art of level design had begun to mature by then, there are a lot more animations and natural pathways, and of course lots more fiendish traps. Some of this may be just because I hadn't played the levels before, but I definitely enjoyed my time with it a lot more than my re-play of the original Quake. Onwards to Dissolution of Eternity!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Rocket jumping the gun

I hit a small hitch after my Quake-led optimism...following a house reshuffle, I'm now sharing my little officeden, and that means no desk space for my two computers. I've Amazoned off for a KVM switch that will hopefully allow me to share my monitor and keyboard between both boxes, but apparently it's not going to get here for a couple of weeks. Rubbish! Ah well, I'll try and get a bit further through Kingdoms of Amalur in the meantime. One of these days I'll get back to finishing games again...I promise!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Baseless

Ugh, so the slow quest continues. Ironically, I've played less of these old games because I've had more time in the evenings recently. So instead of booting up DOS, I've been settling down on the sofa playing Kingdoms of Amalur on the PS3. It's not a bad game at all - your standard Elder Scrolls-alike with a ton of things to do and time to waste. I've been doing my usual thing with these sorts of games and leaving the main quest as soon as I can and spending all my time doing pointless side-quests. It's the foolish completionist in me, I don't want anything to get locked out by my progress on the main quest, so I want to finish as much as I possibly can before moving on. Amalur is a game of serious side quests. There are hundreds of them and every new location you enter has some NPCs with more and more quests...then there are faction quests, hidden lorestones to find, reagants to pick (oh, sweet reagants), and much, much more. I've no idea how far I am in the game, but I'm enjoying bumbling through the world talking to folk and gaining the odd XP every now and then.

Anyway, the good news is that I'm done with Epic Baseball, the bad news is that it was rubbish. A couple of things, first up, it was a total stat-heavy management sim, of which I really have no interest. Secondly, it was only a shareware demo, so you could only play a couple of teams and had limited options. So, all in all, it was never going to grab me. I couldn't work out what half of the plays in the playbook were, or when I should be doing them. My boys managed to hit a few balls, but were roundly thrashed by the opposition. I gave up after a couple of quick games.

Next up on the Randometer is...Quake! Ooh, I've completed the base game a few times in my youth, but never tried the two mission packs, so looking forward to those. My brother was a proper Quake-head back in the day, so I played the first two games a lot, but I only have the first one on me now. It'll be something nice and visceral to get back into.

In other news, I'm still keeping to my no new games this year rule. I had to bite my fingers to stop them from spending money in the Steam and Gog summer sales, but I managed to make it through (I did buy a couple of bits of cheap DLC, but that doesn't count!). Just the end of year sales to go now...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Moving on

I played a bit more of Z last week and cleared a few more levels, but it just wasn't doing it for me. Once the difficulty started cranking up and I started having to replay levels multiple times in order to get anywhere I just gave up. Z is a notoriously difficult game, and it's one that I just haven't got the heart for at the moment. You can save anywhere during a level, so it's probably possible to brute force the game through save scumming (and that's normally what I would have done), but I just want something quick and dirty to get things moving again. I did also quickly have a go at X-Com Apocalypse, but it's quite a departure from the original games, so I'm going to have to read the manual before I can seriously give it a go...I'll get back to it soon, though.

On the subject of manuals, the next game revealed by the randometer was Arachnophobia. It's an action game based on the film. I thought it might have been perfect for my quick-thrill needs, but unfortunately you need the manual to get through the copy protection and I don't have a copy of it (nor can I find one online), so I'm going to give it a miss. So, next up on the randometer is...ugh...Epic Baseball! It's a baseball management sim; really, really not my cup of tea, but I'll give it a quick go and move on to something else before too long.

Monday, 1 July 2013

No Progress

Well, this is certainly slow. A combination of travel and busy work means I haven't made any progress with games recently. I did play through the first level of Z a while back, but that's about it. The game seems to be running a bit slowly - not sure if it's an emulation issue or that's just how it always was and I'm remembering it wrongly. Another issue is that most of the humour (and half the fun) of the game comes from the personalities of the troops you control - both in the videos between missions and in the general comments they make when you order them about. Unfortunately (because I'm playing a dodgy copy of the game and CHEATERS NEVER WIN), there are no video cutscenes in my version, and all of the voices have been dubbed into Russian. That's nowhere near as fun as it perhaps sounds, so I'm mostly playing the game with noises off. Anyway, as I say, I've only played the first training mission so far, so I've got plenty more game to go. I haven't even opened up X-Com Apocalypse yet. Oh, and I did go off-list and spent a couple of free evenings playing Kingdoms of Amalur, which I'm enjoying greatly. I'll post more when I come back to it.

In other blog-related news, I watched the film version of The Fourth Protocol last night, and it wasn't half bad. Plot-wise, it didn't follow the game much, the general idea was the same and there were echoes here and there (setting watchers, the pizza place, etc.) but it felt very different in other aspects. I'm going to have to read the book now (doing things in completely the wrong order!) and see how the original pans out. I get the feeling that the game is going to be closer to the book than the film was - it certainly felt more detailed in its narrative. The other good thing was that Pierce Brosnan starred as the bad guy and barely said a word, yay! If only I could say the same about Michael Caine - he was the good guy, and generally just walked about swearing whilst wearing nice jackets.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Tin Tin Out

Just had a quick look in the list and realised I have 3 Tintin games, so I've added them to the series list. They're not technically a series as such (I don't think they're interrelated at all), but it might be fun to play through them in order. So that means I need another game to play...to the Randometer, Snowy!

Next up is...Ooh, Costume Quest! My first PS3 game of the list. I look forward to that. I played the demo of it a while back, and then received the full game on Plus. This might sound a bit splitty, but I'm going to create a separate PS3 list. This is purely for the reason that the PS3 isn't available to me in most of the downtime when I play on the PC, so it'll put the brakes on the completion quest if I have to wait to finish PS3 games before moving on. So, Next up on the randometer is...(yay, Tomb Raider added to the series list)...Balance! Never heard of it before. It looks like the computer equivalent of one of those games where you have to tilt a maze to move a ball bearing round to the exit hole. Kind of like Marble Madness, but you move the level instead of the marble. This one might not stick around too long!

...That was shorter than I thought. You need copy protection codes to get past the first level, and I don't have the manual. Next! And the Randometer says...Z! This is an old RTS made by the Bitmap Brothers. I remember playing the demo on an old PC Zone cover disk back in the day and it seemed pretty fun. The series list is getting ridiculously massive, though, so I really should pop back to X-Com Apocalypse first.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Nightmare Controls

Nightmare Creatures is finally done. I feel too tired to say much about it. I played it on easy, and I don't think I could have done it on anything more; it was certainly a tricky old game. It uses 'tank' controls like the old Resident Evil games, which just felt completely wrong in a faster game like this. I got used to it in the end, but I had to switch to keyboard, it just felt horrible on a gamepad. My guess is that it was made for the original PlayStation controller, before it had analog sticks, so was meant to be controlled using the dpad. It would have been a lot more fun to play using a more modern control method using one stick for free movement and one for camera control. Anyway, as I say, the good old keyboard came to the rescue, even though it did give me horrible hand cramp! Back to the game itself. It's very much of its time, with those blocky 3D graphics and that control style, and it's very much played for quick frights, with monsters jumping out of doorways or bursting through fences when you walk past. The control system rears its ugly head again here, where a monster might jump out at you, but your character turns too slowly to face the monster in order to attack it. It's also annoying that if you die and have to replay a section, then there's no way of triggering the monster to jump out early - even though you know it's there, you still have to walk into its trap and get wailed on. I have to admit that some of the shocks do genuinely make you jump, though. Having a monster jump out at you may be a tired old gimmick, but it's an effective one, and some of the monster designs are quite freaky. Most of the time, the game design is pretty fun, though, the levels are a decent mix of open enough to run around in, but still clear enough to funnel you in the right direction. I think I only got genuinely lost once. Oh, that reminds me of one horrible part of the game design, though, the adrenaline meter. Along with the usual life, etc., you also have adrenaline. The adrenaline meter gradually ticks down all the time and is only filled up when you kill a monster. This is fine normally, as there are enough monsters thrown at you to keep it happily topped up, but if you get lost then you're in trouble. As soon as the meter runs out, you die (well, technically it then drains your life, but it drains it so quickly that you might as well just die instantly). Monsters don't respawn, so I died a couple of times on that one level just wandering around trying to find the exit because there were no monsters left and my adrenaline kept running out. It certainly kept the pace of the game up, but it would have been a bit more fun without it (and I think you could turn it off on the console versions). The other prize for most annoying gameplay element has to go to the jumping. Yes, it's the good old "early 3D game jumping" fiasco. There are a few sections where you have to leap across planks or broken bridges, and boy did I die on them a large number of times. Half the time when you try to jump you'll hit an invisible ceiling above your head and fall way short of your goal, and the other half of the time you'll leap right over it and into the shallow waters of instadeath on the other side. Fun. Other things...bosses were odd. Usually in games you'll have a level that leads up to a boss, and you'll know the boss is coming. In this game, you'll finish a normal level, then suddenly the next level that loads will be a boss encounter that you're totally unprepared for. The bosses are also generally immune to any of your special items, and all require a certain method (usually involving the scenery) to kill. So all of the items like explosives and guns that I'd saved up were completely useless. And the final boss guy could only be hit using combo moves (which I'd pretty much avoided because they were so hard to pull off using the keyboard). Luckily, the forward+attack decapitate move counted as a combo, so I just spammed that. The PC version also seemed to be lacking in a few places - the text snippets between levels were almost non-existent, whereas you had a good paragraph or two on the console versions, and the final boss didn't have an energy bar on the PC version, so you never know how close you are to killing him. They did make a couple of sequels to the game, but I don't have them and I have no intention of getting them. Onwards!

The next game up on the randometer is...The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun! Hmmm...much as I love Tintin, I think I played this on the SNES back in the day, and it wasn't much fun. Ah well, I'll give it a go.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Better than 100%

After I don't know how many hours, I finally finished Borderlands last night (yes, that's Borderlands 1, not 2). I actually killed the big boss a while back, but I've been playing through the DLC and finishing up bits and bobs. And, completely pointless as it may be, I finally got my first ever platinum trophy on the PS3! To be honest, I probably won't be getting too many of them, as most of them involve online play or multiple playthroughs, neither of which I'll be doing much of - the Borderlands one did ask for a small element of these, too, but it wasn't too hard to get around. You only had to play through the first few levels with each character, which didn't take too long, and the multiplayer bits could be done in split-screen mode. Yes, I'm sad enough that I sat on my lonesome with two controllers plugged in and played through a bunch of missions like that just so I could get the final multiplayer trophy in order to get platinum. Anyway, it finally dinged last night, and I'm happy it's done. That platinum means I 100%ed the main game, but I certainly didn't do the same with the DLC. I finished the storyline missions in them all (other than the arena DLC, which really didn't suit my long-distance sniper character at all), but I didn't do all the side missions. That's because, and let's be honest here, some of them are just stupid wastes of time - and I say that as a guy who's more than happy to stupidly sit and waste his time playing games anyway. The remaining missions are all utterly pointless "kill X baddies to collect X items" quests. Worse than that, they're not even of the "tedious, but quick" variety - I can handle being told to go off and kill 10 ducks to collect 10 duck bills, but when it gets to the stage of collecting 250 duck bills, and I've got to head-shot each duck to get its bill, then you can sod right off. That's combined with the obnoxious "random rare drops" mechanic, so you've got to collect 5 duck's tail feathers as well, which doesn't sound as bad as 250 bills, but when you only have a 1% chance of getting a feather from each duck, then you JUST SAY NO. And you say it very loudly. Sometimes even screaming it whilst throwing your controller around (or two controllers if you're the sad, lonely type) and wishing the evil game came on a disk just so that you could have the pleasure of snapping the damned thing in half. Needless to say, I'm not bothering with those missions. So, I didn't 100% the game, and I'm never going to 100% the game, but I got my platinum and that feels good.

Not sure what my next PS3 game will be - maybe finishing Ratchet and Clank, as I already have that installed...unless the randometer throws up another PlayStation title in the meantime. This month's Plus brings Kingdoms of Amalur and Dark Souls, both of which I really fancy playing, so I might treat myself by going off-random and playing one of those later on...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Terror from the Deep

I've had a little bit of time to spare in recent evenings, so I've been hammering through X-Com 2, and I finally finished it yesterday. There's not much to say about it after the original X-Com. It's essentially the same game with new graphics, but it does have a different feel. The underwater theme is a strong one, and suits it really well. The original X-Com didn't veer much from the standard invading-aliens-from-space template, but the second game feels much tighter and more original. It's also much harder. I died a lot, and frequently had my intercepting ships blown out of the water by the aliens, which I don't remember happening at all in the first game. Actually, some of that was due to a bug that I ran into. There's an issue where if you research a certain technology without having a certain item in your inventory (or having already researched the technology related to that item) then you can't research an essential technology. This technology is at the root of the new-vessels branch, so without it you can't create any new ships and can't complete the game. I thought something was up when I'd got quite far into the game but still had my original ships (and my old ships kept getting blown up), and my ships couldn't dive deep enough to hunt the aliens any more. I'd researched everything I could, and no new technologies were being offered to me. So, I looked it up online, found the bug, did a quick hex-edit on my save file, and the missing technology appeared on my research list. From there, it didn't take too long to research and manufacture the requisite ship (I'd already researched the alien city at that point), then send my squad down to defeat the big evil. The ending was a little anti-climactic after that (that's not to say I didn't die a few times during it). After fighting through the city to find the big boss, there was only one crony in his room, and once there, I just had to blow up a few gee-gaws rather than duke it out with the big dude himself. Anyway, it's nice to move on from those two, and nice to have finally finished them after all these years.

Next up on the series list is X-Com 3: Apocalypse, which came a few years later. I remember the slightly 50s-esque art style and good reviews from the mags of the time, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things changed from the original games. I think I'll take a break from all this strategy first, though, and delve into the slightly blocky and texture-poppy London of Nightmare Creatures.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Forsooth, Fred

Well that was a strange game. Not at all a text adventure as I thought, but an early icon driven game with a similar feel to an adventure. It's based on the Forsyth thriller of the same name, and it does well to keep the tense, mysterious feeling of a spy novel with such limited technological means. There are three parts to the game and you get some kind of code at the end of each part that enables you to start the next. The first part has you working from your MI5 desk following leads, assigning 'watchers' to suspects, and watching the phone like a hawk in case it rings (something I didn't realise the first couple of times I played with the sound off!). You have to tail suspects and act on information that you get to carefully piece together the plot and work out who the spy is and their motivation and accomplices. This bit's good fun, and you really feel like a spy as you slowly gather information and piece it all together. The interface feels horribly clunky at first - there's no mouse, you press Space to move between icons and Enter to select one - but you rapidly get used to it. Things start slow, but get faster and faster as the first act builds to its denouement and you call your boss with the news before time runs out. The second act was not quite as fun. Here you're set loose on the streets of London and have to travel around visiting various locations, finding clues and getting lost on the tube. I have to admit that I couldn't finish this part. I tried it a few times, but just kept getting lost or randomly dying (e.g. walking out in front of a taxi, which is never fun!). In the end I looked up the password to start act three because I couldn't face doing it any more. Act three has you acting on your information and setting out to storm the Russian hide-out and defuse the bomb. This part is like a proto-SWAT game, where you control a guy (representing a team) on screen and have to move around the rooms and neutralise the enemy by using booby traps, grenades, and a good old sub-machine gun. You also have a trusty shotgun, which is only used for opening locked doors! The map's quite small, so it's not too hard to get through and locate the bomb, then it's a case of defusing it and cutting the right wire at the end. There's even a nice tense ending where you cut the wire and the clock speeds up...well, I won't spoil it, but it was fun. I didn't think I'd enjoy it so much when I first fired it up but, other than the middle act, I thought it was great. I'll have to watch the film/read the book now!

So, the next game up on the randometer is...Nightmare Creatures! Ooh, I remember this from old PC mags, I think I played a demo of it, too. It's an early, and ugly, 3D game. Should be fun.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Bane of Mages

Last night I destroyed my god and became myself eternal. All in a day's work for my trio of monks in Magebane 2. Was it a fun game?...a tentative yes. It had its moments of humour and excitement, but if this is an indie gem, then it's an incredibly rough one. The mechanics don't really work too well, the graphics are serviceable and the gameplay is so-so, but this is the work of one guy learning how to make games, so it doesn't come as a huge surprise. It's way better than anything I could do! Still, it definitely has its problems. The difficulty curve in it is horrific, you go from an incredibly easy tutorial mission to start out straight into a near-impossible fight with a bunch of drunk barbarians. I assumed the point of this mission was to teach you that fleeing was sometimes the most sensible option, but the rest of the missions carried on in much the same vein. But slowly but surely you learn to pick your battles and to use your skills wisely, and to run from danger to recuperate, and you gradually build your health and skills between levels until...well...until you get to the end really. There's never a point where you feel on top of the game, no point where you're a bad-ass who can easily take down the simplest assailant. Every fight is a threat and you need to work hard to get through every level. The smallest goblins can kill you easily when there's enough of them, and the evil mages who spawn an unlimited number of zombies are absolute *$##$%^#. Some of those levels took a lot of reloading! Anyway, I made it through in the end and grabbed the amulet of Yendor (yes, it's that old chestnut again), and I don't think I'll be returning this way again in a hurry.

Next up on the randometer is...The Fourth Protocol! It's a 1987 text adventure based on the Frederick Forsyth novel. Ah well, I'll give it a go and see how I get on. I'll hit Terror from the Deep first, though. I did give it a quick go last night and got wiped out on the first mission, so yup, they certainly fixed that difficulty level bug!

Friday, 26 April 2013

IFO - Enemy Known

I finally got back to, and finished, UFO tonight. My predicament actually turned out to be a benefit. Before I ran out of fuel, I'd been rushing out and shooting down UFOs the second I saw them, which was great for morale, but didn't really help in acquiring usable tech or aliens to question. Without any fuel for my Firestorm planes, I was forced to wait until the aliens landed or built bases, and then sent out my Skyrangers to dump a load of troops on them. This meant I started picking up loads of alien tech (including the fuel I needed) from the undamaged craft and bases, but I also started capturing alien leaders and getting the information I needed from them in order to advance the plot. Sure, it also meant I got in a lot of trouble with my backers, and India ended up defecting and signing a pact with the aliens, but it was worth it in the end. I soon had enough fuel and tech to build the Avenger plane, load it up with my best troops, and ship the whole kaboodle off to the alien base on Mars. Once there, it didn't take long (okay, okay, so I had to save it after every combat and reload multiple times) to find the mother brain behind the whole operation and destroy it.

It took me a lot longer than I'd have liked to get through it, but it was a hugely enjoyable game. Highly recommended even after all these years. Next up is the sequel, Terror from the Deep. From what I know of it, it was a pretty quick follow up - essentially a re-skin for an underwater setting with a few engine tweaks. It's also going to be quite a bit harder - partly because they ramped up the difficulty for experienced players, and partly because there was a bug in the original game that meant no matter what difficulty you chose, it was always stuck on Easy. I'll drop into Magebane before starting up TFTD, though. I had a very quick look at it a couple of days ago, it's a strange, top-down action-RPG where you control a trio of characters - sort of joined together - who have to travel about fighting folk. More on it soon.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

I'm In Love With The Modern World

Well, there wasn't much to Road Runner. You play the titular bird trying to escape from the evil Wile E. Coyote while collecting bird seed. You run from right to left across the map trying to keep a good distance away from Mr. Coyote, while not missing any of that tasty seed - if you miss five piles of seed, or you get caught by Wile E. then you lose a life and get sent back a bit along the course. You can run faster than Wile E., so to make up for this he gets various Acme contraptions along the way - a rocket, a spring, a skateboard, etc. etc. This ups the tempo of the game and makes things a bit more frantic, and after a short while his contraption goes wrong in some way and he's delayed for a couple of seconds with a humorous animation. There are also various bits of scenery (boulders, trucks, etc.) that you can use to your advantage to squash Wile E., and pick up some bonus points at the end of the stage. So far, so actually quite fun. The big problem is the course itself - the later levels are full of dead ends that you have to retrace your steps to escape from, essentially meaning you're dead because Wile E. will catch up with you. You do have a jump that you can use to escape his clutches, but there's only so much jumping you can do before you get caught on the scenery and Wile E. nabs you. It essentially means you have to learn the courses in order to get anywhere, and for a 5-minute gamer like me, that's just not going to happen. Onwards!

The next game up on the randometer is...Magebane 2! It's a freeware indie game that I don't really know anything about. Could be interesting. Anyway, I really must get back to UFO first.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Darkness

Phew, I finally finished Darklight Conflict. Weirdly, you don't actually see any Darklight until the penultimate mission (it's weird stuff that sucks the energy from enemy ships), but hey. The missions did drag on a tiny bit, but they managed to vary them enough to keep it interesting. There was a middle period where they started to get a bit samey and I was worried it would be like that until the end, but then things picked up, including my favourite mission, the Race Meeting. The enemy Ovons basically had a large race track in space, and on this particular day some of the top brass from their fleet were competing. My task was to chase these race craft around the track and destroy them. Great fun! That, and a few other unique missions, really helped to keep things interesting until the end.

I did briefly mention the story of the game in my previous post, but to recap, you're an earth pilot who's whisked from his ship and thrust into an alien war (by being fused with an alien body and inserted into their ship). You're not given any choice, simply pointed at the enemy and told to fight for your life. The guys you're fighting for (the Repton) are obviously an evil, genocidal bunch, but then so are the enemy (Ovon) dudes (as far as you can tell), so you're in a kind of lesser of two evils situation. You gradually work your way through the Ovon defences until the final mission sees you defending a massive Repton pulse cannon that's powering up to destroy the Ovon homeworld. As the cannon's firing, you periodically get reports on the percentage of Ovon cities that have been wiped out, and it makes you think (a little) about the civilian casualties of the war. Wiping out the Ovon planet and all survivors doesn't feel great. Once that's done, you're given a hero's homecoming by the Repton and they reward you by preparing to sacrifice you. So the real final mission has you fleeing from the Repton across many hyperspace jumps as you try and return to earth. The fun thing about this mission is that you get to turn on the Repton and destroy their ships - including, at long last, the carrier that you've been flying missions from the whole game. I have to admit that it did feel good to wipe the smirk from the Repton faces at long last. It's also great to finally get back to earth and have the earth defence force fly out and destroy the remaining Repton on your tail as you race home. A satisfying end to a fun game.

Next up on the randometer is (please, no more space sims for a while)...Road Runner! An arcade game based on the cartoon. Should be interesting, and a nice change of pace. I should probably return to UFO first, though, before I forget how to play it.

Friday, 12 April 2013

A Light in the Dark

I'm slowly making my way through The Darklight Conflict, and it's not too bad so far. I had a bit of a worry at the beginning when the game crashed because of a missing image file, but I created a fake version of the file and it seemed to be happy with that. It's a much more arcadey offering than Independence War was. Where that had a full Newtonian physics model, this game has you turning on a sixpence and stopping as soon as you set your speed to zero. I have no problem with that; it gives the game a different feel. The structure is similar, though. You play a cog in a massive war machine (the gimmick here being that you're a human pilot plucked from your aeroplane and forced to fight for the aliens), and you're sent on various missions by your nameless commander. The missions are quite varied so far, but I have a feeling they're going to start cycling soon. There are your average 'go out and shoot the enemy' missions alongside 'protect the innocent (by shooting the enemy)' missions and 'gather fuel (while shooting the enemy)' missions. There are also my most hated missions where you are placed in a gun turret instead of a ship and have to shoot down invading aliens. The problem with this (realistic, I grant you) situation is that the gun turret has a limited turning circle, so you'll be happily tracking an alien across space, and then you'll hit the end of your range while he'll happily fly over and shoot you. Again, I understand that this might be realistic (as far as these things go), but it doesn't make it much fun. The rest of the game's all about dogfighting, out-manoeuvring your opponent and trying to get in the best position to strike the killing blow, whereas here it's just sit still and mindlessly fire away. You won't be surprised to hear that it's one of those missions I'm stuck on at the moment. Back to the missions - you're given a different ship and load-out depending on the mission, so on some you'll be in a nippy dogfighter, in others you'll be in a slow bomber, and in others you'll be in a tug with a traction beam. That traction beam's a funny thing, you use it to pick up fuel ore, space drones, etc., but it fires forwards like your standard weapons, and you can only fire it when the object comes within range. This means that when you're dragging something through space it's up close right in front of you, so you can't see a thing round it. It's like if lorries had the cab at the back behind the truck. Madness, and it doesn't help much when you've got to fly said object through teleporters or dock it next to the mothership. I've lost count of the number of times I've dragged some stupid cargo light years through space fending off hordes of alien scum along the way only to crash it into the loading bay at the end because I couldn't see what I was doing. Luckily, there's no lives as such, so you immediately start again on the same mission as soon as you die - the designers must have realised how easy and frustrating it was to fail a mission. Anyway, I'm enjoying blasting my way through it so far, with autosaving missions and infinite lives, progress has been gradual but inevitable, with a few speed bumps along the way for tricky missions. My only concern at the moment is that it's going to be quite long. I've done somewhere between 5 and 10 missions so far, I'd guess, but apparently there are around 50 in the game, so unless they introduce a bit more variety, I can see this one overstaying its welcome before too long.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Thorny Issues

I'm partly relieved and partly annoyed to say that Blackthorne wouldn't work. I tried a couple of PC installers, but the game just hung without starting. I've got the Megadrive version somewhere (that I've played a few times in the past...not sure if I finished it, though), so one day when I'm through the PC games I might add old console games to the list...a few years to go before that point, though!

Anyway, through fair means or foul, it's another one down. The next game on the randometer is...Darklight Conflict! Another space combat game, I didn't realise I had so many of them. My folks are down this weekend, so not sure if I'll have much time to make a start with this one then (and I should really get back to UFO), but I'll give it a go soon.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Garfailed

I remember with horror some of the travesties Sega pumped out onto the PC in the 90s. Garfield: Caught in the Act must be one of the worst. I'm not sure who was responsible for the porting from the console versions, or why they thought it would be a good idea, but I've yet to play a decent Sega PC port from that period. Garfield is a fairly standard platform game. The conceit is that Garfield gets trapped inside his TV, and each of the levels is loosely based on a film/TV genre/setting. So you get a caveman set of levels, a Cleopatra set of levels, and so on. They're probably lifted from something similar that happened in the comic strip, but I'm not familiar enough with it to know for sure - the Odie sphinxes looked familiar, though. The biggest problem with it, though, is that in all of the levels it's incredibly difficult to see what's a platform and what will kill you. I spent ages frustratingly jumping onto what I thought was a platform only to see myself fall through the graphic and tumble 15 floors down to where I started. Thanks. Or even worse, hopping from platform to platform only to find that the next, seemingly similar platform actually kills you. I don't mind hard games that are fair, and I don't even mind games where you have to die a few times to learn enemy behaviour and placement, but a platform game where you can't even tell what's a platform? Nah, I don't have time for that. It controls sluggishly, the graphics are terrible and the sounds are just annoying random bloops. Onwards!

The next game up on the randometer is...oh dear...Blackthorne (or Blackhawk, if you prefer). It's another platform conversion, but this time with guns. I'll give it a go. Maybe I should be playing these on the console rather than the PC versions?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Madden a Box of Frogs

Well, I didn't think it would take me long, and it didn't. Madden is a game where you're the manager rather than the player, so you choose the tactics and your little guys go ahead and play the game. It doesn't help that a) I know absolutely nothing about those tactics, and b) the names of all the plays are in the playbook (game manual) and all you see on screen is the number of it. So while I'd happily tell my boys to go ahead and do the old 79, I had absolutely no idea what that move was or what I was asking them to do. No wonder I didn't fare too well. In my first game, I selected to play a Quick Game rather than a Standard game, figuring that would mean everything would zip along at a faster pace than the hours that American football matches usually take. Well, I was right in one respect. The game certainly did zip along, but I had no control over it. It's essentially (as far as I could tell) a demo mode. You just sit back and watch the computer play. No idea why that was the first option in the menu, but hey! For my next game I selected Standard, and things proceeded a bit more calmly. I selected a few plays (no idea what they were) and lost a bit of ground. Rinse and repeat. Bored. Quit. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...(ooh, Ultima added to the series list, I can't wait for that! Anyway, next game is...) Garfield: Caught in the Act! I don't know much about this one. Looks like a fairly standard platformer. Could be fun.

Low Fuel

I played a bit of Hi-octane last night and...meh. Did I give it the attention it deserved? Probably not, but I've been away for a bit and I've got a lot of catching up to do. It was a perfectly serviceable futuristic racer in the vein of WipeOut - all floaty hovercars with weapon power-ups. Not really my cup of tea at all, I'm afraid. I think the best I did was come third on the first map on easy...that's how rubbish I was. It's one of those games where you have a fuel meter along with ammo and shields, so there's a bit of strategy when you choose to go into the pits to recharge them and when you recklessly blast on through (it's a bit like F-zero where you just zoom over a differently coloured bit of track depending on what you want to recharge). I dunno, it was fine - it had music, it had weapons, it had racing...it just didn't do anything for me. Onwards!

The next game up on the randometer is...John Madden Football! Oh dear...I can't see this one lasting long, either, I'm afraid. It's the original game in EA's Madden series from back in 1989. Not my favourite sport, and sports aren't my favourite genre, so I'll probably just have a quick blast of this at lunch time and then move on.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Bad to the Bone

Well that was refreshing! Bad Street Brawler is a very basic beat-em-up with a couple of gimmicks. First up are the grannies. On every level, as well as the normal enemies you have to beat up, there are grannies who you have to avoid. If you hit one of the grannies then she'll come after you. If you hit enough of them then they'll come after you for the rest of the game. The annoying thing is that they don't just wander across the screen, they hover around you for a while meaning that you can't hit any baddies for fear of hitting the granny instead. Once they've irritated you for 10 seconds or so, they properly wander away, usually leaving you battered on the floor. The other gimmick is that your attacks change depending on what level you're on. On one level you might have a simple punch, on the next you might have a head butt, on the next you might have a glorious jumping kick, and so on. Some enemies can also only be beaten by certain attacks, dogs can only be patted on the head to make them go away, giant basketball players have to be pounded into the ground, motorcyclists have to be kicked off their bikes, and so on. It's quite a fun little thing that adds a bit of variety to the otherwise dull levels. As far as gimmicks go, I think they're both not bad ones, and I don't know why they weren't inherited by other games in the genre. It would have been cool to have a few innocent pedestrians in Streets of Rage, or to have your attacks change as the game went on. That's not to say this is a great game, though. It's showing its age - you play a Hulk Hogan style character with about 4 frames of animation, and there's a limited number of enemies in the very short levels. There are also only 10 levels, and once you hit 10 it just starts cycling through the last few over and over again. There's no boss (to speak of, though you do fight tougher baddies at the end of levels) or ending - the only object is to keep going as long as you can and then hit the top spot in the leader board when you die.

Another one down, though. Yay! Next up on the randometer is...Hi-Octane. It's a racing game from Bullfrog. I remember playing a demo of it back in the day, but not much more than that. Racing games aren't my favourite genre, so I'll see how I get on with it.

Late!

Gosh, it's been a while. Work and life have both been incredibly manic over the last couple of months and haven't left much time for playing or blogging. I did play a bit of UFO back at the start of Feb, just after the previous post, but I haven't played it since and I've mostly forgotten what I was doing. What I do remember was that I was just feeling like I'd screwed up big time. The game had been going okay, I'd built up a decent squad and a few bases, but then realised I'd over-stretched myself. I hadn't realised that when you hire new staff for your bases you have to pay their wages every month (I know, I'm an idiot), so I built bases and hired as many new people as I could, then when the end of the month rolled around I had to fire them all again to get back into the black. Not a great situation. The other mistake I made was to gleefully pour my money into research (something I always do in games, much to my detriment) and upgrade all my interceptor ships to the best models based on alien tech I'd discovered. I funded this project by selling off my old interceptors. "I won't need them", I thought, "I've got my spangly new ships to take their place." It was then that I noticed that the spangly new ships run on an alien fuel source that I can't synthesize, I can only rescue it from downed alien craft. So basically, my interceptors all ran out of fuel and I have no way of making any more or getting any more from the aliens because I have no ships to intercept them. Great! Way to go, Ben. So, where I left it was that I was frantically selling off my other assets in order to raise enough money to build an old-school interceptor that I can use to actually continue the game. Meanwhile, the aliens are enjoying raping and pillaging the globe at their leisure and I have no way to stop them. It's a great game, but I've played it *really* badly. I should probably start again, but I can't quite face that at the moment. I'll give it a bit longer and see if I can get my new interceptor up and running before it's too late.

As a result of this slight hiatus, I'm going to drop Startopia back into the mix - I don't fancy starting up another fairly free-form game at this point - and see if the randometer will throw me something quick and linear I can buzz through. And the randometer says...Bad Street Brawler! A Streets of Rage style beat-em-up from the heady days of 1987. That'll do nicely.

In other news, I noticed one of my readers (I only have two...you know who you are!) playing FTL on Steam. Enjoying it? I thought it was a great little game.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Back to Boken

I felt bad about the terse assessment of Superhero League of Hoboken yesterday, so I thought I'd briefly revisit it today. My excuse is that I wrote it in the middle of something else, so I wasn't really feeling it at the time.

So, a little more about the game. In it, you play a team of superheroes with rather rubbish abilities (e.g. the ability to eat spicy food without any side effects, or the ability to fold road maps). You start off with a team of 4 heroes (from a pool of 6), and over the course of the game new heroes join your league and your team roster expands, so by the end you have 8 (or 9...can't remember) slots to fill from a selection of weird and wonderful characters. The mission structure is kind of unique, each 'level' you have five missions, and once you complete all five (the last of which is always foiling big bad guy's current plan) then your league level increases and you get the next set of five missions (along with a new character slot and another 'rest'). You travel around a map of New York, fighting bad guys and solving these missions. When you encounter enemies, the screen switches to a view of the monsters and you have a fairly traditional fight with them (except they have comedy descriptions and make amusing comments every time you hit them). There are also special locations on the map - villages, warlord's mansions, the Statue of Liberty, etc. - where your team can enter and the game switches to a more traditional adventure game interface where you'll need to sweep the screen with your mouse looking for things to interact with. You have a full inventory, so you can pick things up or use objects on other objects. I thought the game combined these two styles pretty well, and it was fun to explore the map and discover the new locations. There was a map in the manual that gave the basic locations of the villages, so it wasn't too hard to navigate around. The most difficult bit to me was the subways. You find subway passes throughout the game that allow you to travel on the different subway lines you come across, but nothing ever tells you where each line goes, and those lines sometimes go to other, off-map locations that are essential to your quest. So, one quest has you going to Philadelphia, but you have absolutely no idea which subway will take you to Philadelphia, so you have to travel around the map trying all of the subways until you find the right coloured line. In fact, that particular quest was even worse because the subway pass that you need was a random drop from a battle. This meant that I had to keep travelling around fighting random battles until I found it (and don't forget that once you've fought a certain number of battles on a map screen the random battles stop, so you have to travel to a different map screen with more difficult enemies and fight them...). So anyway, that part of the game was annoying. The other thing that I found annoying was that there are times (quite a few times) where you have to perform the same action numerous times before it has an effect. I hate things like that. For example, you might have to go to a location and wait for something to happen. There is a Wait command in the interface, so you go to the place and hit Wait... Nothing happens. You click it again... Nothing happens. And again. And again, until at last the event you were waiting for takes place. What is the point of that? If I go somewhere and I click Wait, then have me wait until the event happens, don't make me hit Wait five times without giving me any indication that I'm doing the right thing. Grrr. Anyway, even with those annoying faults, I thought that the game in general was good fun and pretty amusing in parts. Oh, the ending screen was pretty rubbish, though. I did take a screen grab of it, but it's not worth posting it here. Just imagine the previous grab of the game, but with a small grey box over it saying "The End". That was it. There was also the promise of a sequel, but that never happened, as far as I'm aware.

So, Capone. I gave it a quick blast, but it's just a very basic, very early light gun game. The camera pans along the street and bad guys pop up from windows, and you proceed to shoot said bad guys in the face with your pistol (or tommy gun, if you have it). I played through four or five levels, and nothing happened except the bad guys got faster and shot me more. Actually, there was one slight change when one level was set in a warehouse full of TNT boxes, and if I shot one of those by mistake then the place exploded, but otherwise it was still pop-up pirate. I don't think I'm going to take it any further, it's not hugely fun and I can't see it becoming any more fun. Onwards...

Next up on the randometer is...Startopia! This should be fun. It's one of those light-hearted management sims in the same vein as Theme Park or Theme Hospital (and it's made by ex-Bullfroggers), but this one's set on a space station. I'll definitely switch to the series for a bit of UFO love now, but I'm looking forward to this one.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Hobo-Ken!

Well, I finished that one up quick. It was a nice blast of fun - a light-hearted RPG with simple adventure game elements. It was written by Steve Meretzky who did a bunch of comedy adventure games. This is the first of his I've played, but there are a bunch of them to come. And it was fun, so I'm looking forward to them. For a light, little known RPG, it had some nice features - even just simple little things like automatically equipping the best stuff, which I wish more games did. There were random battles, but once you'd done a certain amount of them on each map screen they stopped for good, so it didn't take too long to clear the entire map of random battles which allowed me to get on with the adventure game aspects without too many interruptions. The heroes were funny, the monsters were funny...I would have said more about it, but I rushed through it so quickly that it's gone from my memory already!

Next up on the randometer is...Big Sea: The Better One Will Win! Never heard of it. Sounds like it's a German merchant trading game, but with a side helping of fantasy stuff. Could be interesting, but I'm not sure I'll stick with it for long.

...and a quick install later reveals the whole thing to be in German. I know I did German A-Level, but it's not helping me much here. I had a quick try, but I couldn't get anywhere. On to the next one...spinning the randometer now...it's Capone! Apparently it was the first light gun game for the Amiga, and it was remade to use the mouse on PC. No idea what it's going to be like.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Back from crusade

For some strange, masochistic reason, I went back and finished Space Crusade. The remaining missions didn't take *that* long, so it wasn't as much of a chore as I thought it might be. It wasn't until the final mission that the difficulty really ramped up (although I did kill myself once more along the way by getting sucked out of an airlock. Idiot.). Even the final mission wasn't that bad, but that was partly because of some door abuse.  If you close a door whilst an enemy is standing in it then the enemy is squashed and killed. It's not normally that much of an advantage because you have to be standing next to a door to operate it. However, there is a random event card that gives you the ability to open and close doors at will throughout the entire level and for the remainder of the mission. By some amazing stroke of luck, this event happened right at the beginning of the final mission, and I must have killed half of the aliens simply by remotely closing doors they were standing under, even though they were half-way across the map. It was beautiful. What wasn't quite so beautiful was the ending. That ugly mug you see in the screenshot was it. Well, technically, that's the ending you get for any successful mission, but that was all I got at the end as well (and a promotion in rank...but what was the point in that?). Ho hum.

Onwards! The next game up on the randometer is...Superhero League of Hoboken! I don't really know much about this one, but it sounds interesting. An adventure/RPG hybrid that's set in a surreal post-apocalyptic version of earth where you control a bunch of superheroes out to save the world. I might even give it a quick look before moving on to UFO.

Oh, and in other exciting news, I passed the first test of resolve to not buy a game this year! Half-minute Hero was on sale on Steam for only 2.37, and I wanted it sooooo much. However, I managed to stamp on the rising cobra of temptation and defeat the tyranny of Gabe Newell's rampaging electrical behemoth. Ummm, anyway, I didn't buy a game. Yay me.