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 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!