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


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?