Thursday, 23 July 2015

Jousted

It turns out that it wasn't the original Joust version that I had, but a VGA homebrew remake from the '90s, which was a pleasant surprise. It was entirely faithful to the original (from what I remember), but with slightly smoother graphics. The basic premise of Joust is that you're some kind of knight on a flying bird that looks a bit like an ostrich (I know ostriches can't fly). You have to knock the opposing knights off their perches; the trick being that you can only do that if you attack from above them from the front, or from behind them. They move fast, and your bird only has a short, hoppy flap, so you need to keep mashing the flap button to stay aloft. It's quite a skill but not too hard to master...when it's one-on-one. Of course, in each successive wave you get more opponents on screen at once, and the level layout also changes - for example, you start off with a solid floor to the level that you can walk on, but this rapidly turns into a lava pool as you progress, meaning that touching it now will kill you. Once you knock a knight from his perch, an egg? will bounce down that you can pick up for extra points - more points the quicker you get to it, adding to the frenetic nature of the game. There's also a timer on each level. Once the timer runs out, a pterodactyl? enters the arena. This guy is very fast and absolutely lethal, he'll swoop down and kill you in seconds. As far as I could tell, there isn't a way to defeat it, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the whole thing is good clean fun, and you can see why it was such a popular arcade game. You can also play with two players, which would be excellent, but obviously there's just me here. Definitely recommended for a bit of a blast.

Next up on the randometer is...Ha, that's weird. I was just reading an Elder Scrolls retrospective and thinking how fun it would be to play them again, and up it pops. Added to the series list, and definitely looking forward to it, but it'll be a very long time before I get there. Anyway, next up on the singles list is...Revolt of Don's knights! As far as I can tell, it's a completely awful first-person RPG, so yay! Hopefully it won't take too long. Back to Tomb Raider in the meantime. It's a much bigger game than I remember, with each level taking ages to get through, but I'm still thoroughly enjoying it.

Well, luckily, Revolt of Don's Knights doesn't seem to work at all. The version I have just crashes DosBox every time I try and run it. Onwards! Next up on the randometer is...Journey: The Quest Begins! It's an old Infocom text adventure hybrid...kind of mid way between an old text adventure and a newer point-and-click adventure. Looks like it might be quite fun.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Boston Left Undefended

I think I'm done with Defender of Boston. Have I completed the game? No. Have I completed the first mission? No. Have I managed to accomplish anything at all? No. But it's not for want of trying. Actually, I did manage to do one thing. I tore up a t-shirt into strips to make string. That's got to count for something, right? I would actually quite like to play this game - in fact, it's still running in the background as I type this and that's exactly what my character is doing, still running in the background and getting nowhere. It all started off well, it had some interesting character creation with some fun skills. I made some kind of ninja character with high dexterity and ninjitsu, with a smattering of listening and spot checks so I could find hidden things. Straight away, I begun by investigating my surroundings. I found a few items (including the aforementioned t-shirt). I found the long letter giving me my quest and it all sounded quite interesting. I set off out of my house in high spirits and followed the East path at the nearest crossroads. And I walked, and I walked, and I walked. As mentioned, the character is still walking in the background now. He's been walking for about half an hour, following a twisty-turny road that has led to absolutely nowhere. It must have been programmed for a purpose, but I haven't had a single encounter or found a single landmark. Nothing. (I just checked in, and he seems to have swum miles out to sea. I've just turned him around so he heads back to land again.) Emptiness is a problem with many ambitious shareware efforts, but this is just crazy. (Ooh, I've just been attacked by an elk...in the sea...it missed me.) The only injury my character has received so far is when I walked into a table in the dark back in my house. I suppose I could start a new character and head West instead of East, but quite frankly, I can't be bothered. I've seen some people call it a hidden gem online, and there's virtually no data on it, so it would be quite fun to have a decent go at it...but...no. It's time to move on.

Next up on the randometer is...The Reap! It's a shoot-em-up from the late '90s. Apparently from the same guys who've done the recent Super Stardust and Resogun games on the PlayStation. I remember the name from mags at the time, but I don't think I've ever played it. Should be a nice change of pace.

Hmmm...small problem. Turns out it's an old Windows game, and it's not going to run on my new 64-bit system. Hope that's not going to be too much of a problem with Win games! Oh well, onwards! Next up on the randometer is...Joust! Yep, that Joust from 1982 with the knights on ostriches. Should be a quick one. I'll load it up tomorrow.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Anacreon...and on...and on...

Well, I've kind of finished Anacreon. It's a big and complex thing, big and complex. I started off with the ASCII version from the '80s, and then in my hunt for a manual to try and make some sense of the game, I discovered that it was still being updated. So I downloaded the latest version and that's what I played through to the end of one scenario. Anacreon is a huge space 4X game. The first empire ended thousands of years ago and many planets are only now rediscovering space travel. Yours is one of those. You kept some of the old secrets alive, and you're now starting out on the road to, well, on the road to conquer the galaxy. The game comes with a bunch of pre-built scenarios. As far as I could tell, they're the same ones that were with the game back in the '80s. The beginner scenario that I took was to find and defeat some pirates who had been terrorizing one sector of space. Of course, I pretty much had to forcefully conquer every other planet in the system in order to do that...there isn't really any diplomacy on offer here, which is actually a bit of a shame. You start by sending out probes and learning a bit more about your immediate surroundings. Planets can be of various types, and various technology levels. They might teeming with billions of inhabitants and a standing army, or they might be desert worlds with few people living on them - easy pickings, but not much good for establishing a base on. Different planets can be put to use for different things - mining for minerals, synthesizing chemicals, and so on, with different types of planets having different specialities. You have to settle the planets - getting enough food is the most important thing initially - and then get them working efficiently into their given role and contributing to your empire. Once you've got a good backbone of material production, you can set to work building more ships. As your technology level increases, you can build better ships and start constructing huge technologies such as space fortresses or warp gates. And you'd better be doing all of this quickly, because those pirates will be harassing your fleets and building up their own empire as you go. You'll also see revolutions and unrest on the worlds you've conquered - usually people get upset if you leave a large military force there - so there's a bit of busy work transporting troops around and keeping people happy while putting down riots where they occur. It was fairly slow-paced, but I enjoyed my time with it. The only thing I didn't get was any kind of ending acknowledgement. I destroyed what I think were all of the pirate worlds within the allotted time limit but nothing happened. I then waited for the time limit to expire, but still nothing happened...the game just carried on. I don't know if you're just supposed to do your own victory dance when you win? Anyway, the other thing is that the game is really supposed to be played multiplayer - either PVP or co-op. Obviously, I didn't try that, but I think it would have been great fun. So, it's another little gem that I was expecting not to like, but turned out really enjoying.

Next up on the randometer is...Defender of Boston: The Rock Island Mystery! It vaguely rings a bell, but I don't really know anything about it. I'll keep picking at Tomb Raider in the mean time - it's a much bigger game than I remember. I've had a little free PS3 time in the evenings recently, too, so I've made a start on the new Tomb Raider there. It's been interesting comparing them.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Boom and Bust

The Boomtown is a strange game. It's not really an RPG as such, more of a post-apocalyptic survival sim. You start in a shelter with a variety of goods and food with you, then have to set out and brave the new world to find new materials and survive. There are essentials like meat (which you can hunt for), veggies (which you can grow) and water (which you can get from lakes), but you'll also find other things like lumber (for building - also works as an emergency fuel source), fuel (I'm guessing this is charcoal - you seem to get it from forests), metal, parts, and so on. You slowly explore the world, heading back to your shelter when you start to get tired. You also don't want to spend too long out in the world, as dangerous events take place. I had a mutant jump on my car and bite my leg (sending my radiation through the roof), a tornado that whisked me up and dropped me off on a random part of the map, and a vast sandstorm that, as far as I could tell, covered the whole of the map with sand. At that point, I couldn't find anything else. It didn't occur to me to actually just standing still and trying to dig in the desolate sands to see if anything was there (you do sometime find random things, like jars of peanut butter), instead, I ran around trying to find some kind of marker in the sand until I collapsed from exhaustion. Unfortunately, the game then crashed asking for another map disk, so I never got to see the world when I woke up. You create your own random world at the beginning of the game, and you can play it multiplayer and invite other people into your wasteland. Of course, I didn't try that, but it actually sounds kind of fun. I played the game on the easiest difficulty level (and still died) but there are a ton of different options to play with to mould the world to your liking. It's an intriguing game - especially for its age. I'm going to call it a day for the sake of moving on, but it feels like it's a bit of a hidden gem that was way ahead of its time.

Next up on the randometer is...Anacreon: Reconstruction 4021! It's an ASCII space strategy game from 1987. I might take a quick look, or I might just hop back to a bit of Tomb Raider. I've played the first two levels of TR, and it's as fantastic as I remember. Beautiful level design and set pieces, with a verticality you don't tend to see so much in games any more.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Tanked Magnetically

I know, I know, I'm weak. According to a YouTube walkthrough, you can beat Magnetik Tank in about 8 minutes. Should be easy, right? I've had about 10 attempts now, and I've managed to get about a minute in. Magnetik Tank is hard in a way that many old '80s Spectrum games were hard. You only get one life, and if you die you're sent right back to the beginning. I wouldn't mind that so much if it weren't for two things - the death/intro cycle takes longer than my average life, which gets frustrating fast, and secondly, compounding that, when you die you get an annoying French guy laughing at you, and the intro consists of said annoying French guy taunting you in French. I've no idea what he's saying, and it's probably a good thing he doesn't know what I'm saying back at him. While most people think of things sticking together when they think 'magnetic', here's it's the opposite, it's more like mag-lev trains. That means that instead of sticking to things, your tank slips and slides all over the place. That's kind of the point of the game, but it doesn't make it fun. You have to guide your tank through an Ultimate-style isometric maze trying to find...actually, I have no idea what you're trying to find. The final screen of the walkthrough appears to show you firing at some kind of flashing gem, but I have no idea what that signifies or why you're doing it. Things you touch will kill you instantly, and the sluggish controls combined with the slippery surfaces mean that you'll be hitting things an awful lot. 8 minutes. 8 minutes...it's not that long...I keep thinking I should go back and stick this one out, but I really just can't be bothered. Onwards.

Next up on the randometer is...Visions of Aftermath: The Boomtown! It's a post-apocalyptic RPG from the late '80s...could be fun.

Remembering Amnesia

I played a bit of Amnesia last night, and finished it off over lunch today. Needless to say, I used a walkthrough. In some ways, I think it probably wasn't a bad way to play the game. Amnesia is huge - it covers every street in Manhattan, and all the subway lines, too. It was also written back in the late '80s when there was no way on earth a single disk could hold the data for all of those locations, so Amnesia is a very empty game. You could spend days wandering lost through the streets (luckily, the US system of street grids helps a lot with computer games), and the map that comes with the game is invaluable (or a regular NY map would do). You start out with nowhere to live and no food or money. Time passes quickly in the game, so your first priority is to find somewhere to rest. Then you have to beg passers by for money until you can afford some food. That is your basic existence - begging, eating, sleeping, maybe washing the odd windscreen for cash - until you stumble upon your first clues to finding out just who you are and what happened to you. The story was written by an award-winning author, and it shows. The text is excellent, and the story really gripping, but the game is really lacking. There's just too much emptiness and lack of direction - that's why I think playing with a walkthrough was a decent way to play, so you can experience the full story without the frustration. The plot spins around all over the place and it's not until the very end where the pieces finally slot into place and you get the answers you've been looking for. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, but that's probably much more to do with the fact I love a good story rather than the strength of the game itself. I'm not sure I'd recommend the game, but the script's available online if you just want to read the story. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Centauri Alliance! It's a sci-fi RPG from the same guy (and era) who wrote the Bard's Tale. I've never heard of it. Slightly mixed feelings about this one...I like the sound of a sci-fi RPG, just as long as it isn't full of darned dungeons and spinners! Interestingly, apparently you can import characters from the Bard's Tale and a bunch of other early RPGs (such as Ultima), so I might look into that.

... Ah, looks like it's for the C64. While I could go dig out a C64 emulator and try and get it running, I'm going to stick to DOS and call this one done. The manual does make it look quite cool, but...no. A bit of a cop out, I know, but I need to get through the list somehow. So, next, next up on the randometer is...Magnetik Tank! Never heard of this one, but it's a French game from the '80s, so who knows!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Returned to Castle Wolfenstein

I finally finished off Heinrich I, the big bad guy from RtCW at lunch today. I kept hanging back trying to pick him off from a distance and kept getting absolutely murdered by flying ghosts. I ended up checking a walkthrough to get some tips to defeat him because I was dying in seconds every go. Turns out all I had to do was get on the platform that he was standing on and then no ghosts appeared. With that craziness out of the way, he was pretty easy. That kind of ties in with the way that I like to play these games. I'm a complete FPS coward. I much prefer to stay as far away as possible with a sniper rifle to getting up close and personal with baddies. Of course, 9 times out of 10 that's impossible and games force you in close (just like here), but I'll still do my darnedest to run away and snipe. I'm rubbish. Luckily, RtCW has quite a few stealth/sniper sections interspersed with all the close quarters fighting, and those were definitely my favourite parts of the game. I really enjoyed areas like the French town where you had to sneak through the streets silently disposing of the enemy and taking out 5 key Nazi targets, That was a great level for me. I also liked the missions where you were parachuted in at a distance and had to make your way closer to a base, enabling you to pick off targets quietly before entering the building. All good. I didn't much like the paranormal levels, though, where you were going toe to toe with various undead and mostly consisted of wildly strafing and firing as many guns as possible (and often running out of ammo!). Still, all in all, it was a very enjoyable game. Some decent variety in the missions (including a hateful timed one, grrr), some fun locations (though some were a bit too dark for my old eyes), and decent weapons (the silent sniper rifle will always be my favourite, though I quite liked the satisfyingly inaccurate rocket launcher). It was quite old school, but then I'm an old school guy so it gets a big thumbs up from me. I don't have the most recent Wolfenstein. game, so this marks the end of the series for me. It's been quite a fun one to play through, having three distinct eras of games so far apart, but thematically feeling quite...I was going to say coherent, but that's not quite true. It's evolved coherently, but there isn't much linking the original game to the latest one - the first was quite a gritty prison break out (and in again), whereas the last is a gung-ho blastathon with a paranormal edge. Still, Nazis. Nazis keep it all together.

Next up on the series list is the Tomb Raider games. This is definitely one I've been looking forward to. The original Tomb Raider was such an amazing game at the time. I played it for ages (and the boxed copy is just on the shelf behind me), and I've played through a few others in the series, too. Turns out I have 11 Tomb Raider games (not including the ones on handheld), so I'll be at it for a while! I'll try and hit Amnesia first, though. Maybe get that out of the way tomorrow.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Vikings Lost Forever

I can't do it. I just can't. My blood pressure's rising just thinking about it. The Lost Vikings is one of the most frustrating experiences ever. There's nothing inherently wrong with the design of the game - you have to guide your three vikings through the levels using each of their unique abilities, and the puzzle aspects of the levels themselves are fine. It's just so darned unforgiving. The slightest error and one of your guys will die...and if one of them dies then it's game over. Actually, that's not quite true, if one of your guys dies then the game allows you to carry on playing with the other two, but it's impossible to move on to the next level if you don't finish it with all three, so it's utterly, utterly pointless. Thanks, game. Along with the instant death at every opportunity, you also have to deal with every animation happening a little bit too slowly. Baleog with the bow fires too slowly, so you'll die. All of them recover from their moves too slowly, so you'll die. The switch between vikings happens too slowly, so you'll die. And don't forget, when you die you have to go right back to the beginning of the level and start again...and then you'll just dies in a different part of the level...probably earlier than you did before. It's all so, so frustrating. I played through 15 levels, and that was quite enough. I think there are 35-40ish in the whole game (going by the number of worlds), so I got almost halfway through and I consider that a great achievement! Could I get further through the game by brute-forcing every level? Probably, yes. Do I want to? No, no, no and no. I can kind of imagine it might be a bit more fun multiplayer, but that would come with its own problems. So, it's off to Valhalla with the Lost Vikings. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Amnesia! No, not the recent one, apparently it's a 1986 text adventure featuring 4000 locations across Manhattan. Can't say I'm looking forward to that much! I'll play through a bit more Wolfenstein first. I've got through a few levels and it's pretty good fun so far.