Friday, 10 April 2015

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.

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