Friday, 27 March 2015

Forbidden

Okay, so it's another game I'm not going to finish...not a great run of form, I know. Forbidden Quest is an early text adventure, and it shares many of the foibles of early text adventures - it's really unforgiving, it has a horrible maze, it's full of dead man walking scenarios. The other thing that this game does really badly is it doesn't tell you where the exits are in each area that you enter. So, you might enter a building and it'll give a description of the building saying there's one room and you can't see anything there. So, quite sensibly, you exit the building and carry on. What the game neglected to tell you was that you were only in the first half of the room, and that if you'd have taken another step into the room then you would have found an object that is essential to your quest. Thanks game. This doesn't just happen every now and then, it happens all the time. It's not just room exits, either. There are also many object descriptions where you have to be psychic to work out you're supposed to interact with it. For example, pretty much every object in the game is covered with dust or dirt. Fine, you're on an alien planet that's just suffered from some kind of catastrophe (not to mention your ship crash-landing there), so there's bound to be a bit of mess around. But amongst all of this dust and dirt, there is one specific piece of dust that you need to take with you, and one specific piece of dirt that you need to search for clues. How are you supposed to know this? I have absolutely no idea. As I mentioned earlier, the game is also full of dead man walking situations where a door will slam shut behind you, or you'll climb up a cliff and be unable to get down again. This, combined with the fact that the game is full of essential but missable objects that you'll almost certainly miss leads to absolutely no fun whatsoever. I found myself trying to make a map and every step I took I'd check every direction to see if there were any hidden exits. Even so, I missed tons of invisible objects and found myself stuck later on and having to restart multiple times. You're even scored on the amount of steps you take (and there are some timed events), so you can't even afford to do this painstaking exploration. It's just immensely frustrating, and I don't have the patience for it right now. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Teleglitch! It's a rogue-like shooter from a few years ago. Pretty modern for me! It's supposed to be incredibly hard, which doesn't fill me with joy, but I might dip in and out taking in a bit of Marathon along the way.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Trapped

I'm playing a bit fast and loose here, but Treasure Trap is another one of those long games that you have to complete in one sitting, so I can't see myself getting very far with it. It does stick very faithfully to those old Spectrum Ultimate games - an isometric viewpoint where you have to traverse a maze of screens finding treasures on each one and avoiding the monsters that roam each screen - usually on set pathways, but some do home in on you. A touch from a monster is instantly lethal, but you do have a couple of Smart Fish that you can launch to gobble up any enemies that they come across - very handy in a room full of homing mines, but your supply is extremely limited. I presume you can pick up more of them, but I never found another in my travels. You also have an oxygen meter that is slowly depleted. There is quite a bit of oxygen sprinkled around the levels, so I never found this a problem, but then I didn't play the game for very long. Just like those early Spectrum games, it is frustratingly easy to die. Your character moves at a leisurely pace and has a very floaty jump (it is set underwater, so I'll let them off), and it is very easy to clip an enemy that you thought you'd missed and die in the process. One other thing is that doors between screens open really slowly. You'll often run to a door with a monster in hot pusuit only to be killed because the door took so long to open. I'm sure it's by design, but I think the game would have played better if the screen transition had happened the second you touch the door. Some doors are locked with keys that you have to collect, and I think it'd be fine to have those take a while to open, but regular doors that you can pass through at any time should be instant. So, another skip rather than a complete, but them's the breaks. I just don't have a dedicated time block to get through the game in one go. Onwards.

Next up on the randometer is...Forbidden Quest! It's a text adventure from 1983, so I'll see how I get on. I might hit the first Marathon game first.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Rock and Roll

I'm not going to be completing Rockford in a hurry. I wonder if Repton was this hard? I certainly don't remember completing all the Repton games, but my bro and I got pretty far in them. The two series handle their difficulty in different ways. In hte Repton games you only have limited lives, but you have a password save for each level, so you can always go back and pick up where you left off. In Rockford you have infinite lives, but no password save. That means you have to try and beat the game in one sitting, which obviously isn't going to work for me. Also, the controls aren't quite as responsive - partly because of the way the scrolling works with flick-screens compared to Repton's smooth scrolling. There was a famous move in Repton (...I say 'famous'...) called the Repton Shuffle, where a skilled player could divert the path of a falling boulder and push it on to a nearby block of earth. It was essential for the later stages of the games. That move would be impossible for Rockford, he just doesn't have the nimble feet for it. There is one other thing where I think my memory is failing me. In Rockford, diamonds also fall, and can kill you. I kept getting killed by falling diamonds. I was going to say that they didn't fall in Repton and that's why I wasn't expecting them to here, but now I'm not so sure. Otherwise, the games are pretty similar. One of the biggest changes is that in Rockford, when enemies die they create a kind of diamond bomb! All of the squares around the enemy become diamonds. This is great for harvesting diamonds, but can obviously cause some big problems in tight spaces where diamonds can replace sections of wall and release monsters. The other thing is that there's a much stricter time limit in Rockford. You really need those infinite lives so you can plan your route through the level, sprinting to collect the required number of diamonds and make it to the exit. I frequently found myself finishing levels with the timer in the single figures. Repton, by contrast, was much more about exploring the huge levels and finding all of the loot. There was a timer in Repton, but usually it was pretty generous, and they tended to only make it a problem on certain levels where it was clear they wanted you to race for it. This version of Rockford also does something that I didn't know other games in this genre did - it has a series of levels with different graphics - so one set of levels is in the Wild West, one set is in space, one's in the jungle, and so on. My favourite was the crazy doctor-themed level where you play a surgeon collecting hearts and avoiding falling eyeballs and taps dripping blood. Very odd! Repton had a couple of series of these - Around the World in 40 Screens, and The Life of Repton - but, as I say, I didn't know other games used the same trick. Anyway, that's enough waffling on Rockford...suffice it to say that I still much prefer Repton as my Boulder Dash clone of choice, but this was an interesting diversion. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Treasure Trap! I've not heard of this before. It's described as being similar to Head Over Heels on the speccy, so we'll see...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Derpy?

I'm not really sure what the whole 'derp' thing means, other than I've seen it sprinkled around the web, and I assume it's some kind of negative sobriquet? It rhymes with Serpy...and Serpy is bad...so...does that work? Ah, who cares. Serpy is indeed a very basic Snake game, in French, no less. It runs way too fast, and even if I was to slow it down, I can guess exactly what the gameplay is going to be like, so I'll just leave it as done. Good to get one under my belt.

Next up on the randometer is...Rockford: The Arcade Game. Me and my bro used to play a lot of Repton on the Beeb back in the day, and Repton was based on the Rockford games (I think it was that way around), and both stem from Boulder Dash. You have to explore a maze, collecting the diamonds and avoiding the falling rocks. I'm interested to see how this compares to Repton.

Listing to Port

Okay, enough messing around. The new rig has handled everything I've thrown at it so far, which I'm pretty pleased with, but it's time to get back to the serious business of playing. In a move that will mean nothing to anyone but me, I'm resetting the series list and starting from scratch. This is mostly because I can't face restarting Ultima 6 again quite yet, but it also makes it feel like a fresh start with the fresh box. So, to the randometer, Batman!

First up on the randometer is...Serpy! Sounds like a very basic version of the Snake game that used to be on old phones. Should be a quick one. And first up on the series list is...Marathon! Interesting. It's a series of FPS games that Bungie made before they were famous for Halo. Onwards!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Oh, Computers!

So, no posts in a while, no gaming in a while, no computer in a while. It's been one of those months. A few weeks ago, my trusty Sony Vaio that's been my gaming machine for over 10 years finally died. I think I killed the hard drive in it (there was a pretty horrible burning smell emanating from it) and it gave up the ghost. Did I have everything backed up? Ha, of course not! I don't think I had anything backed up. All my mails, all my photos, all my documents and, of course, all my games. Gone. Ah well, c'est la vie. I was talking to my Dad afterwards and it turned out he'd recently bought a new PC, so he gave me his old one. It was pretty old, but still a better spec than my old Sony, so that wasn't too bad. He wanted a couple of boards out of it, so I did a bit of minor surgery while at their house, then brought it home. And when I turned it on...nada. Turns out in removing those boards I must have touched the memory sticks and zapped them. So, two new sticks of memory later and we're back in business. It's running Vista, but hey. I clean it up and it's running well, so no great shakes. We're off. As I say, it was a bit more powerful than my old computer, so I tried out a couple of new games I couldn't play before. I was just off the back of watching the first Star Wars trilogy, so got stuck into a bit of Knights of the Old Republic, which was great. I then tried to put my old hard drive (from my Sony) into the new computer to see if I could get any of the data back. In doing so, I discover that this computer is horrendously badly designed. There's loads of space for expansion bays, but you can't access a single one of them without removing at the very least the memory sticks and the CPU heatsink, and you'd be better off removing the whole motherboard. This frustrates me...a lot. "So", I think, "why don't I just move all the internals from the new computer into my old Sony case, which has a lovely design with lots of easy-access slide-out trays". So, I proceed to remove all the bits from the new computer and begin loading them into the Sony. I start with the power supply. The power supply doesn't fit into the nice slide-out tray. Great. I then proceed to put all the bits back into the old case, thinking I'll just have to buy a USB case for the hard drive to test it. Not a problem, they're quite cheap, or maybe just buy a nice new case for the computer. I put all the bits back, turn on the computer and...nada. No nice reassuring POST beeps, nothing. I start removing components, stripping it back, hoping that I'll find the one that's causing the error, but it stays stubbornly silent. I take it back to the bare metal and still don't get a single beep. The only answer is that I've fried the motherboard. I try resetting the CMOS, but still nothing. Great, two computers down. So I definitely want a new case, and I need a new motherboard. The old CPU won't fit on a new motherboard, so I need a new CPU. That new memory that I just bought won't fit on a new motherboard, so I need some new memory. I'm going to need a new copy of Windows (I was thinking of getting 7 anyway so I can snag the free upgrade to 10 later in the year). I stare at the list of parts I need and decide to bite the bullet and go for a completely new build. And it's here, it's done, and I'm relieved. I was nervous as hell putting it together, especially with the amount of parts I'd recently fried. I've changed plenty of bits and pieces in my time, but never done a complete build from scratch. It didn't go perfectly, some of it my fault, some of it due to sellers sending me the wrong parts, but it all works. It's all with the cheapest - fairly new - parts I could get my hands on, so it's not state of the art by a long shot, but it's the most modern system I've had my hands on in a long while, and it should finally be able to run all those games in my Steam library I've been acquiring over the last few years.

So, I'm finally back in the saddle and looking forward to playing a game or two. There are a few things - I haven't yet tried my old Sony hard drive again, but I think it's probably a lost cause. I did find an old back up of my DOS games, but they're definitely not all there. That means there may be some games in the list I don't have any more, which might delay things while I acquire them. The new system also isn't as legacy-friendly as my old XP machine, so I'm guessing a lot of my old CD games aren't going to work any more - especially the Windows ones. I might be able to rip them and run them through DOSbox, but I'm not sure how well that will work. On the subject of ripping things, though, I did test one of my old PS2 games, and they run beautifully straight off the disk, so there's no need to rip those when I want to play them now. Of course, the other thing is that I lost all my save games, so it's back to the starting block in Ultima. I'm not sure I can face that right now, so I might pick something else up - maybe something modern that I couldn't play before. I'm not sure if Knights of the Old Republic supports Steam cloud, so I may have lost that save game, too. Ah well, we'll see. It's been a pretty depressing (and depressingly expensive) month, but things are looking up now. Oh, and I lost all of my email, so if anyone's sent me a message recently and I haven't replied, please send it again!