Monday, 20 April 2015

Scarab C. Nesbitt

I couldn't really get the hang of Scarab (or SCARAB, or S.C.A.R.A.B. ... Who knows?). It feels like a very multiplayer focused arena shooter, There obviously is a single player segment, but I think it's just a case of the multiplayer game with some bots thrown in. You play as an Egyptian god robot thing and have to fight other similar creatures. You can request various pick ups to be added to your mech, but I wasn't really sure if you had to find these as drop offs or if they were automatically added to you. I also couldn't find a manual anywhere, so the game was a bit of a mystery. Oh, and I couldn't really see the 'strategy' part of it, either, unless that was something to do with the upgrade drops? Maybe someone who has played it can explain it to me. The good bits - it was made for Win 95, but it booted up perfectly in Win 7x64. The bad bits - pretty much the rest of it. It felt slow, unimaginative, and very much of its time. Bizarrely, there is still an active fanbase of rabid players still plugging away at the multiplayer, so there must be something good about it, I just can't find it and I'm too tired to try any harder. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...The Cycles: International Grand Prix Racing! It's a motorbike racing game from the late '80s. I'll give it a quick go...might even try it now quickly. And, yeah. That's not really for me. It's an Accolade game, and it feels very similar to their old racing games like Hard Drivin', it even feels like they lifted the backgrounds straight from that game. Weirdly for a motorbike game, there's no sense of speed at all. You feel like you're pootling around the track at 30, not 130. Oh well, another one down.

Next up on the randometer is...Legends of Valour! I definitely remember this one from the mags. Always fancied playing it back in the day but never had a chance. This one could be quite fun. In series news, I've started Marathon 2, and made a little headway, but I'm not really enjoying it much. I'll keep ploughing through.

Friday, 17 April 2015


It turns out the Limb from Limb expansion for Die by the Sword wasn't too long. Only 6 areas, I think, and no story to speak of. It's just a series of levels leading up to a fight with a witch and two immortal guardians who you can only defeat once you destroy her and read her magic book. There were a few puzzles, but nothing too taxing - and thankfully no evil jumping puzzles like in the first game (there was that one lava section...but I don't like to talk about that). There also seemed to be a lot more save points, which was nice. The way that the game handles saving is that it autosaves before any trouble spots and usually immediately after them, so you never have to go back and replay long areas of the game. I found it a good and generous system - much better than many other games with badly spaced checkpoint saves. In this game, you play as Maya, the girlfriend of Elric in the first game (was he called Elric, or have I just assumed that because I've been reading about Elric? Anyway...). You can actually choose to play as any character, though, which gives you some idea of how important the story is to this's not. Still, the same feeling of fun pervades as you run around trying to get your mace somewhere near the head of that giant horny demon in front of you. It didn't outstay its welcome, and in my books that's always good. Onwards!

The next game on the randometer is... SCARAB! That's not me shouting for joy or anything, it's just a capitalised title. I vaguely remember seeing it in mags back in the day. Mobygames describes it as an 'action/strategy' game, so we'll see how it goes. I should probably try and get through a bit of Marathon 2, too.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Died by the (Key)Board

A moment of celebration. I actually managed to finish off not one, but two games last night. Die by the Sword, and the first Marathon. I'm not entirely done with either of them, since SbtS has an expansion pack still to go (Limb from Limb), and Marathon 2 is pretty much the same game as the first - same engine with a few gameplay tweaks and additions - so it feels like I've still got a way to go. I'm almost tempted to play another random game in-between...but no, I'll soldier on.

Die by the Sword is an insanely great forgotten gem. Unfortunately, it's really hard, but other than that it's great fun. It comes across as a fairly standard 3D adventure, a lot of which were doing the rounds in those post-Tomb Raider times, but it comes alive - literally - when you turn on VSIM (which stands for Very Silly Ingenious Mayhem...possibly). In VSIM mode, instead of using the default keys to control your sword swings, you instead use your mouse to control your character's arm. It's a bit of a predecessor to Surgeon Simulator and its ilk. Swing your mouse to the right, and your man swings his sword to the right, and so on. It's a great idea, and once you've mastered it, it does start to make sense. but to begin with it just looks downright crazy. Your guy runs around wildly swinging his sword around like a Mexican jumping bean skewered by a cocktail stick. The whole thing looks hilarious and feels hilarious to play. The developers, Treyarch, obviously realised this - there was no way they were going to be able to have a dour-faced fantasy epic with the main character pogoing around wielding his wibble stick. So what do they do? They create a dour-faced fantasy epic but with the minor edition of brilliant tongue-in-cheek voice acting. Even though it's not really much like him, it reminded me of Matt Berry, so if you can imagine him enthusiastically narrating a sword fight then you're half way there. He even says things like 'ooh, me jewels' when he falls in lava (NB: that may not be exactly what he said...but it was something like that). It's excellent. Coupled with the fact you can actually slice enemies' limbs off and they'll hop after you, swinging away with their one remaining arm, it just lends the whole thing a brilliant air of parody. There's also a 'cuss pack' available where the narrator adds extra fruit to the main character. I think I actually preferred it without - the language was a bit more creative - but it's well worth a download if you're playing the game. I think it's a real shame this kind of control scheme hit a dead end so early, it gives so much more life to the character that just pressing an attack button. Sure, they'd have to work on it a bit so games didn't just turn into a farce, but surely that's what game developers are paid for? There were some almost unforgivable 3D jumping platform sections that almost drove me to despair, but other than that it was a great, fun game. As I say, I've still got the Limb from Limb expansion to go. I think it adds an extra campaign - I couldn't actually see it last night when I tried to start it, but I'll give it a go with a fresh character and see if that works. I've written enough for today, so I'll talk about Marathon when I finish Marathon 2.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Football Crazy

Annnnd that will do. I only ended up playing one half, but that was enough. In honour of one of my many (two) blog readers, I chose to play as the glorious Welsh against the nefarious Englishmen. The teams ran out to dancing cheerleaders, as they do in ...umm... every football match, and the English proceeded to put two goals past me while I tried to work out which key was 'kick' (turned out it was Tab...not my first guess). I then proceeded to charge about with gay abandon, kicking the ball willy-nilly all over the pitch and sometimes actually getting it in the vague direction of the goalmouth (much like the current Wales team). Needless to say, I never actually scored (ditto). We made it to half time with the score remaining at 2-0, and I gallantly decided to hot-foot it off the pitch and as far away from the stadium as possible. Bonus points do go to the sound design of the crowds clapping, which were like a beautifully soothing wave crashing against the shore. Lovely.

Next up on the randometer is...Die by the Sword! I remember this from the hype it got back in the day, and the magazine reviews of flailing arms and slicing swords. Should be fun! I might try and finish Marathon first, good to actually finish something all the way one of these days.

Down for the Count

Okay, this is getting a little frustrating now. After pouring a few hours into Countdown, I hit another game-breaking bug and I can't continue. I'm not going to go back and start from scratch on the off chance that it might work next time, so I'm going to call it a day and move on. First, a bit about the game. Countdown is a point and click adventure game from Access. One thing that set it apart from other games of the day (and was a hallmark of Access games) is that the graphics are a mix of digitized images and hand-drawn ones. So, you'll see a 'real' guy walking around the screen interacting with various things, and when something happens, e.g., a conversation, you'll see a close-up digitized animation of a real person talking to you. This one's also famous (if that's the right word) for including digitized speech - even from the PC speaker. It's not *that* new, Acornsoft were doing it on the Beeb back in the day, but in the world of sound cards, the PC speaker (or 'beeper' as it was known - because that as all it did) wasn't exactly highly regarded in terms of audio output. I read an article once on what they had to do to get it to work on a hardware level, and it all sounded pretty crazy. Anyway, the technical side may have been amazing, but as for the game...well, I can see why LucasArts made their famous stance against instant deaths and anti-fun behaviour in their adventure games. First up, although the digitized graphics made things look a little more 'real', they also made everything look incredibly pixelated and muddy. It is incredibly hard to spot items that you're supposed to interact with. The only way is to click on the 'look' verb, and then click on any potential places (or just randomly) on screen until you find something. Even when you know something's there it can take ages to actually pinpoint it on screen. Later games fixed this by having the cursor change when it was over something, but no such luck here. The game is also horribly unfair, thinking nothing of killing you instantly when you walk out of a door even though you had no way of knowing what was on the other side. This is made worse by the fact that the game is on a timer - not only is there an overall time limit on the game (which I hate), but also certain events happen at certain times, and you pretty much just have to get lucky to encounter or evade them. Another annoyance was the conversation system. You have various stances you can take with your questioning - you can hassle them, bluff them, ask for help, etc., and their answers will vary depending on the route you take. All well and good, but if you get it wrong then you'll instantly be kicked out of the conversation. You have to ask questions in exactly the right sequence (for example, it might go - help, hassle, bluff, hassle, help, help, bluff...etc.) in order to get the required bit of information. Unfortunately, you have absolutely no way of knowing which characters have which information, so you never know if you should be pushing harder for something or if they really just don't know. There's a whole lot of trial and error, which I found massively frustrating. But the story was quite interesting - a 'find the mole in the CIA' plot, but still interesting enough to make me want to know more. I might have to find a YouTube vid to see how it panned out. Anyway, enough for me. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...European Championship 1992! An old Tecmo football game. I might just give it a quick go now in what's left of my lunch break and put another post up.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Extreme Insult

Ugh...I don't believe it. I was zipping through Extreme Assault. I cleared the first set of helicopter levels. I cleared the tank levels. I'd just started the second set of helicopter levels (which I believe are the last ones) and then boom. The game froze. No problem, I thought, the game auto-saves between levels, so I've only got to replay the last one. I fire up the game again and...error. No matter what I do, I can't get the darned thing to start up again. It looks like when it crashed something must have got corrupted. Obviously I can reinstall again, but that will mean restarting the whole game from scratch, which I don't really fancy doing. Oh well...I really hoped I'd finish that one, too, after my run of dropped games. I just had a quick look on YouTube, and I was about half way through area 5, out of 6 areas, so that's good enough for me.

Extreme Assault is quite a fun game - you zoom around in your helicopter (or tank for a bit) shooting enemy copters and gun emplacements. You get various weapons and powerups, and you'll need them against the waves and waves of enemies that you encounter. It was an early 3D game and was made to show off what those first cards could do. Of course, the graphics are nothing special now, but I remember them being pretty impressive back in the day. I couldn't get the game to recognise the joypad properly, so I ended up playing it on the keyboard, which wasn't ideal, but it was fine. I actually felt like I was getting somewhere in it, so it's a shame I couldn't finish it. Ah well, onwards...

Next up on the randometer is...Countdown! No, not with Carol, this is a spy adventure game from the early 90s by Access. I actually thought it was part of the Tex Murphy series, but it doesn't look like it is, so I'll give it a go. I've also been keeping Marathon ticking away in the background. I've just reached the alien ship, which I think is the last set of levels, so hopefully I'm nearing the end of that one.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


I tried with The Kristal, I really did. The game has quite a nice feel about it, from the main character's ridiculous name - Dancis Frake - to his wonderfully jaunty buccaneer walk. It all feels quite fun and light-hearted. There is a fatal flaw with it, though, it's virtually impossible to talk to people - a bit of a problem in a discussion-led adventure game. According to the manual, to talk to someone you walk up to them and press F1 (also the key to open the inventory, which I couldn't quite understand). I've tried this so, so, so many times. I've taken to moving around characters I want to talk to and hammering F1, and once every two-hundred or so keypresses I'll get lucky and the character will talk to me. I don't know if there's a particular position you need to be in, or what, but I couldn't get it to respond any more frequently. The rest of the game works fine, I've been able to travel to different planets (with an alien-shooting mini-game to reach them) and wander about finding loads of different items. I've been able to read descriptions of these items and use some of them from my inventory. I've been able to win sword fights against random high-speed enemies by continuously backing away and hammering the 'kick in the nads' button, but I just can't get the hang of talking to people. If I get lucky and a conversation starts then the actual talking is fine, it's just that initial getting their attention that is so hard. As I say, it doesn't help that this is a major point of the game, and it's so darned frustrating. So far in the game I've traveled to every planet and picked up loads of things, but I'm stuck trying to visit the king. I have an invitation to see him, but I need to talk to his guards to show them the invitation, but the buggers won't talk to me. I managed it a couple of times, but the conversation went wrong, but I can't get them to talk again. I actually did want to finish this one, but it feels like this game bug is going to stop me. So, onwards.

Next up on the randometer is...Black Gold! Looks like an oil drilling simulator/strategy game from the 80s. Can't say it's filling me with a great deal of hope. Oh well, maybe it'll be a quick one.

...and it's all in German, so I'll be skipping that. Next up on the randometer is...Extreme Assault! I remember getting a demo of this with the first graphics card I ever bought. Should be fun.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Die More Edition

Don't worry, I'm not quitting another game yet, but I am going to move on. Teleglitch is a roguelike game and, like many in the genre, the game takes a lot of slow, incremental playing and dying to learn the ways of the game and gradually proceed. Teleglitch actually makes this a little easier by putting a spawn point every 5 levels allowing you to start a new character from there rather than having to go from the very beginning every time. I say that makes it easier, but Teleglitch is not an easy game. It may put a spawn point at level 5, but I haven't actually made it to level 5 yet to find it. That's not to say that I'm not going to - I'm enjoying my time with it - it's just that I'm going to play it in the background and dip into it every now and then rather than having it become a chore. So far I've been interspersing my time with a bit of Marathon, but I have to admit that I'm finding it a little frustrating. I'll say more about it when I do a post on Marathon (I'm half way through, so hopefully it won't be that much longer), but a couple of niggling points are slightly spoiling what would be a great game for me. Anyway, let's have another one-off to play in the meantime.

Next up on the randometer is...The Kristal! Looks like it's an early Cinemaware title. I haven't got on very well with their other games so far (and have encountered technical problems with them), but I'll see how this one goes.