Wednesday, 21 December 2016

War Logged

I finished Mars War Logs over lunch, so just about sneaked it in before the end of the year. It's a fun little game, not quite hidden-gem territory, but pretty good nonetheless. It's a third-person action game with light RPG elements set on a colony on Mars. You start the game as a prisoner of war and have to escape the camp before joining the resistance (or not...there are two pathways through the game) and defeating the big bad. It feels like one of those games where the design guys came up with way more ideas than the developers could ever hope to implement. There's a lot of great background material that's barely touched on, and game mechanics that are just barely sketched out and then forgotten about. The character abilities are all pretty useless (a better chance of finding loot, the ability to craft a few more things...but there are only about 4 things you can craft anyway, and they're all common items), and the skill trees seem strangely inverted - the most useful things are all in the first couple of levels, and the higher-end stuff is made up of things like gaining a few extra hit points when you use a potion. However, the game itself is good fun, and the story pulls you along. There are some fun little quests to do; the combat is solid, if a little button-mashy (you could pause the action to enter combat command, but I can't honestly see why you'd ever want to, even though the game kept on telling me it was a thing I could do); the enemy selection mostly consisted of humans, but with a couple of other types thrown in. Strangely, I wish there had been a couple more boss battles (I normally hate evil boss battles, but these were okay), and that there had maybe been a bit more variety in the options you had with them, and with combat in general. The characters in general were good, though, and well fleshed out, even if a couple of them felt a little rushed. The voice work, on the whole, was great, with the main characters being consistently well-voiced, and most of the NPCs holding their own (even if the character models were used over and over again with a few different scars thrown in). The world building all came together to give you a sense that you were a small piece of something much bigger, which was great. I don't know if there are any plans to explore it further with any more titles, but the ending left it open enough. So, generally a good, solid, fun game that kept me entertained enough to want to finish it instead of playing Fallout 3 (which continues to crash with irritating regularity). Good stuff.

Next up on the randometer is...Black Moon Chronicles! Hmm, not one I recognise, though the name seems strangely familiar. Apparently it's a strategy RTS game, so could be quite fun. Also a late '90s Windows game, so it may not even work...

...And that turned out to be rather prophetic. I've tried running the game using various options - even made it as far as the main menu screen one time - but it always black screens and completely locks up my computer forcing a hard reset. So, nope. Ah well, it looked quite fun. Next up on the randometer is...Daikatana! Probably not much more that needs to be said about that one! Looking forward to seeing if it was as much of a disaster as everyone said.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Toy Tales Alpha

I had the evening to myself last night, so I thought I'd trawl through a few more games in my PS3 back catalogue. The early days of PSN were filled with arcade games with a score attack focus, and my crazy completionist streak doesn't extend to them. I've also already played a bit of all of these when I first got them, so this is more just a reminder for me, and a way to knock a few more titles off the list.

First up was Toy Home. This is a bit like a traditional racer viewpoint mixed with a Micro Machines aesthetic. You pick a wind-up car and drive through various rooms in the house, knocking over various items, collecting time extends and bonuses, and trying to hit all of the checkpoints within a specified time. The big gimmick was that it was controlled using the motion controller in the PS3 joypad, so you tilt the joypad to make the car move right, and left to make it go left. I think this was the first game where motion was the prime control method rather than just a gimmick. Did it work? Welllll, kind of. I mean, it's perfectly playable, and you certainly can control your car using it, but you can't help thinking as you play that it would be much easier using standard controls. I actually thought they patched in standard controls in a later update, but I couldn't find that feature. It was a fun game back int eh day, and I remember playing it quite a bit, but racing games are never really my cup of tea.

Next up was Mahjong Tales - Ancient Wisdom. This is a fairly basic mahjong game with a vague storyline linking together a few tables - Chinese (I think) folk tales told through cut scenes whenever you complete a board. I got strangely addicted to this when I first got it. There's something quite relaxing and mesmerizing about clicking away those tiles, and I seem to remember playing quite a bit of it when I was up early in the mornings with my son when he was a baby - something gentle and with no sudden movements that I could play while he was dozing in my lap. I think the biggest problem with it is that it just takes so long to play. A table can easily take half an hour or more to get through - fine when you're bleary-eyed with a baby at 4 in the morning, not so much when you're on a ridiculous backlog quest!

Finally, I played a bit of Street Fighter Alpha - Warriors' Dreams. I love a bit of Street Fighter, but I'd mostly missed out on the Alpha strand. This was really the next evolution after SF2, with a bunch of new characters alongside some new moves and a power bar that charges up as you fight enabling your supers. It's...well...it's Street Fighter. I'm nowhere near enough of a pro player to appreciate some of the finer changes in here, I'm a casual brawler at best, so it just felt very much like the old game with a new roster of characters. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it by that point. I was disappointed not to have any back story to the characters, though. Sure, it's never the most important bit of a fighting game, but I enjoy that craziness they make up - it pulls me through a single player game much more than just a will to compete. It's all well and good, but I don't have time for it now (and it made my thumbs hurt). Onwards!

I got a bit annoyed with all the crashing in Fallout 3, so I've moved back to Mars War Logs. I think I'm near the end of the second part (of three) of the game, so I'm getting through it, and enjoying it. I'll probably stick this out to the end and see if I can squeeze it in before the end of the year, and then switch back to Fallout 3.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Tactickle

I actually finished Fallout Tactics a week and a half ago, and have since been playing Fallout 3, erasing all memories of Fallout Tactics in the process. That'll learn me for not writing this earlier! Think, Ben, think.....so, Fallout Tactics is kind of the black sheep of the Fallout family, and one that I'd heard very little of and never played before. I went into it with slight trepidation - Fallout is a great RPG series because of the story, what would happen when they stripped out that story and replaced it with just a combat engine? Well, surprisingly, it's not that bad at all - in fact, I really enjoyed it. In some senses, you could probably say it wasn't a true Fallout game, and I don't think it really was, it's more of a stop-gap while they were making the original Fallout 3 - Van Buren. It's more about showcasing the new real-time engine, and what it could do. In that respect, I think it passed with flying colours. The combat was  immediately more satisfying. You can play it in the same turn-based style as the original Fallout, but the real magic comes in the realtime combat, taking your team into battle against varied opponents and setting them up just-so, with your sniper on the high ground surveying the wasteland and your tank wading in with a medic in close support. The weapons and skills are all very familiar - as is the setting - but the new engine is hugely fun, feeling a bit like Commandos, or one of those more stealthy tactical games. There is a campaign  - not hugely long, but satisfying. The story isn't really developed that well, with very thinly characterized NPCs and side quests that don't really go anywhere, but it's enough to hang the main campaign together and keep you pushing on.

I do recommend it even now for its tactical gameplay. I think it holds up with some of the other games I've played. I want to compare it to Jagged Alliance, but I've never played a JA game (yet), so I can't really do that! As I mentioned at the beginning, I've since moved on to Fallout 3, and that game's already got its hooks in me. I will just say, though, that the darn thing was a right pig to get working under Windows 10. Not fun at all. It still crashes regularly, too, which is making playing through it a little frustrating. In the meantime, I am giving Mars War Logs a bit of attention, but Fallout's definitely stealing the majority of my time.

Oh, I also tried my hand at another PS3 game and consigned it to the pile of dead games. I didn't come anywhere near completing it, but I played through a couple of levels and feel like I've seen all it's going to offer. What is it? Oh - The Last Guy. It's a little like a combination of Snake and Pac-Man. You move around a maze (okay, it's photo-realistic real world locations, but it's still essentially a simple maze) and avoid the evils who are also moving around the maze. Your task is to rescue all of the people on the map (reduced to dots) and bring them back to a safe zone. As you collect more people they stretch out in a line behind you, making you more vulnerable to evil attacks. See - Pac-Man mixed with Snake. There are a few other elements thrown in - power-ups, walls blocking your way that you need a certain size line to open, different types of enemy, and so on, but essentially I've seen all there is to see. All I'm doing now is unlocking more maps. It was good fun, and I probably could have played it for longer, but life's too short. Onwards!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Beenden

Yeah...about Energie Manager...I'm not going to be playing that for much longer. Some half-remembered A-level German will only get me so far. The first game didn't go well at all, I blew all my funds on a posh place in Frankfurt and the bank called in my loan the next month. Second game went a bit better. This time I bought a little dive in Bonn and fitted it out with some cheap toilets and tables. 1 cook and a couple of waiters later and I was on my way. I'm not really sure how the eco aspect comes into it. As far as I can tell, it seemed to be saying that eco stuff is really expensive, so you've got to start with all of the worst fittings before you can upgrade to the stuff that's good for the environment...not really the best message to teach people. The exception seems to be that you can get a delivery bike for cheap and it's much greener than the other options. Of course...you're much better off getting a knackered old estate car and running tons of orders around the city in that. I'm sure it does all make a lot more sense if you're German and into hardcore management sims...but...meh.

Next up on the randometer is...Mars: War Logs. Ooh, a fairly recenty RPGy thingy. Could be fun.

Noah More

Super 3D Noah's Ark is done!And what do you know, I actually really enjoyed it. It's a Wolfenstein-era shooter, but somehow this one seems to have aged better than Wolf3D. I think that's partly because it's a later game so had a (marginally) higher resolution, but also because Wolf3D has been superseded by hundreds of other shooters, but there's nothing quite like S3DNA. Sure, it's just a gimmicky reskin, but that completely changes the feel of the game. You're no longer the destroyer of worlds, now you're here to feed the animals and put them to sleep. And that music! Is there anything else so maddeningly jolly? It pulls you bouncing along through the game, accompanying every pop of your catapult and snore of an animal. It was a complete unexpected joy. I don't remember the SNES version having the same feeling at all. Nice and quick, too - I couldn't ask for more.

I'm also really enjoying Fallout Tactics without really expecting to, so two thumbs up for gaming at the moment! Next up on the randometer is...Energie-Manager! Ugh! Apparently it's a German eco-restaurant management game released for free to teach kids about the environment. Hmm. I might not spend long with this one.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Fell Out

Fallout 2 is done and dusted. It's a very similar game to the first one in a lot of ways. The engine, interface and graphics are very similar, and the world and lore are direct extensions of the first game (it's set 80 years in the future in pretty much the same area of America), and it's fantastic. Without the time limit of the first game you feel like the pressure's been lifted from you a bit, and you're free to explore the wasteland a bit more. There is a main quest with an initial sense of urgency, but, um (spoilers) it turns out to be not that urgent. This is good, because the world is huge. I have to admit, toward the end I even started rushing the last sections a bit because once I'd accessed the final area I just wanted to push through to the end rather than doing my usual explore every inch of the world trick. I think this was for a couple of reasons, first up, I'm really keen to get on to Fallout 3 and explore that world, so I was kind of mentally rushing through it, and secondly, I was playing a modded version that adds in all of the content that was cut from the original release. This is a good thing in that some of the content is great, but it does make a long game even longer, and sometimes there's a reason behind why things were cut. I need to stress, though, that I wasn't rushing because I wasn't enjoying it - I loved the game, I'm just keen to get through a bit more of my backlist. The star of the show is the world - it's such a great place to explore, with some wonderful locations and characters, and there are plenty of little sidequests that add to the flavour. There's also a lot of lore added in this game that builds on the first game, so you finally understand a bit more about the true story behind the vaults. I have to admit that I don't think the overarching story worked quite as well as the first game - that may be because there is so much else to do that the main quest falls by the wayside a bit, but honestly, if it wasn't for the odd dream every now and then (in game!) reminding me that there was a main quest, then I could have quite happily forgotten about it and just wandered the wastes. I think the other problem with the main storyline is that it doesn't really have a middle. This is quite a common problem with RPGs, but it was really keenly felt here. The first section is quite story-full and involving, then there's just a long section of exploration and sidequests where the main story takes a complete back seat, and then suddenly there's a massive rush of exposition as you barrel toward the end. The thing is, it's not like that's just my completionist choice to spend ages doing the sidequests in the mid game - you have to do them or there's no way your character will be ready for the endgame. They're a canon part of the quest, they're just completely separate to the main story. I've spent a lot of words on it, but really it's a minor quibble in an excellent game. One gripe I did have was that I found the end really hard. Firstly, there was a frustrating section where I was meant to blow up a reactor. I spent ages setting dynamite and reloading the game trying to get the dynamite to blow up to completely no avail, and I got so annoyed and stuck that I checked YouTube to see what I was supposed to do. Turns out I was actually supposed to destroy a computer in the room next door, not the reactor itself. Grrr. Anyway, at least that was easy once I'd learnt how to do it,.. Unlike the final battle. The final battle just comes out of nowhere. It's the only real boss fight that I remember having at all in the game, and it was incredibly hard. Maybe I just did it wrong, but I got slaughtered time after time. I don't know how I finally did it in the end, but I finally did, and let the credits roll. A thoroughly enjoyable game, and will probably be one of my games of the year.

Next up is Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel. This is kind of the black sheep of the Fallout family, and I knew very little about it before this. I have to admit, I've done the first mission now and I'm loving it. Really looking forward to seeing where it goes. I don't think the single player campaign is that long, but we'll see. Also still plugging away at Noah's Ark. I'm enjoying that more than I thought I would, too.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

World Saved. Congrats, Cthulhu!

I barreled through Cthulhu Saves the World. It's a quick, light-hearted RPG, very similar to Breath of Death VII (not surprising, as this was their follow up game). Most of the systems are exactly the same as in that game. You take your party of adventurers through the world fighting evil and righting wrongs. I wish the battle system were a little more streamlined - I don't know if my poor Enter key will ever recover - but in general it works very well. You select the actions for your party, then they resolve in order of Agility rating. You fully recover your health after every battle, but only a small proportion of your magic points (depending on how fast you won the battle), so you can't just walk about spamming your most powerful techs and spells. It's a retro RPG, so graphics are the lovely old pixel variety. One difference here between this and BoD is that there's an insanity effect, so certain spells or attacks will make monsters insane, changing their graphic. Unfortunately, I didn't really notice any other difference. I think it was supposed to make some monsters stronger and some weaker - and obviously was a core part of the Cthulhu mythos - but it felt a bit like a wasted opportunity. Toward the end of the game I picked up a weapon that automatically turned every enemy insane at the beginning of each battle, but to be honest I didn't notice any difference between that and the regular battles. My other slight gripe is that dungeons felt a bit too long and difficult to navigate. It's s hard balance to get right - they're the meat of the game really, so if they were shorter then the whole game would be shorter, but they just got a bit frustrating. Confusing, same-textured dungeons full of random encounters are something that should have stayed in the retro days; we don't need to be reminded of them now. On the subject of random encounters, one thing that these games do, which I don't think I've ever seen before in an RPG, is have a fixed number of random encounters per map. So, once you've fought, say, 30 battles in a dungeon then you never have any more random battles. (You can still instigate a fight from the menu should you so desire.) This is a nice feature that saves a lot of hassle when you're lost in a maze. There are a couple of other nice features that I wish more games would emulate - first up, you never have to backtrack through a dungeon once you've finished it. You usually either automatically exit back to the last town as part of the story, or you can immediately teleport back to any town at any time. I wish some of the other games I've played had that! The other thing I really like is that when you gain a level you have a choice of two bonuses - usually different stats to raise, or spell variations, so there's always something to think about and it allows you to customise your characters that little bit more. So yeah, it's not a huge sprawling epic RPG, but it was never meant to be. It's a few hours good fun that knows when it's played out. All good. There is actually a New Game+ option to play through the whole thing again with different characters and different dialogue, but I just couldn't quite bring myself to do it. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Sargon 5: World Class Chess! Ah well. I'll have a quick game tonight. Can't see this one taking too long, though. Aaannnddd...what can I say. It's a chess game. Looks like quite a good one, to be fair. Plays well and is easy to use. No frills to speak of (although I do like the Monty Python-style hand that reaches down to move the pieces), but that's not really what you need. The computer beat me fair and square after a decent game, and I don't really have the energy for a rematch. Next up on the randometer is... Super Noah's Ark 3D! Ah well, I suppose I was going to have to play through it one day! I've played the SNES version of this before - basically a biblical reskin of Wolfenstein - but not the PC version yet. Can't say I really enjoyed it that much, but hey. I might push on with more Fallout 2 before heading into this.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Noscar

Ugh. I can't be doing with Oscar anymore. It's exactly as tedious as I remember it being. In fact, I'm actually surprised at how well I do remember it seeing as it was just a throwaway demo on a cover disk. Think of a platforming horror story and it'll be present in Oscar - it's just terrible. The movement somehow manages the impossible feat of being treacly, slippery and floaty all at the same time. The controls are unresponsive (and this is exactly how I remember it from back in the day, so I don't think it's an emulator issue). Hitting enemies knocks you back - usually off a platform. Jumping is imprecise (criminal for a game where you kill enemies by jumping on them - and there are hundreds of pixel perfect jumps). Once you fall off a platform, the route back up is usually tortuous. Enemies are hard to see against the background. Graphics are garish and horrible and hard to parse. There are invisible platforms that aren't revealed until you happen to jump into them. Lots of instant deaths when you fall off the screen. It's a much bigger game than it has any reason to be. Oh, just everything. It's a terrible game. Worst of all, apparently it's a re-skin of another game by the same developer - Trolls - so I've probably got that to look forward to. Oh well, on the good side there's a new Trolls movie just coming out so all these mentions might earn me a random hit or two! (Actually, if you squint in the screengrab, you can probably see there's a troll worked into the background here, next to the main character.) Onwards - to  something better, please.

Next up on the randometer is...Cthulhu Saves the World! Cool. It's an RPG by the same people who made Breath of Death VII, which I started years ago and never got around to finishing - I wonder if I've still got my save files lying around (BoD, not CSW). I'll also make a start on Fallout 2.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Grand Vault Dweller Slam

I finished up Fallout 1 last night. I've played and completed this before, so there weren't really any surprises (well, I had a couple of random encounters in the desert that I hadn't seen before). I knew what I was doing in the game and it was quite an easy playthrough. Mechanically it's a bit patchy in parts, but it's an old game and it all holds together pretty well. The atmosphere and sekaikan (to use a ponsey Japanese phrase) are what make it, though. It's an excellent piece of world building with a bunch of very different locations and well fleshed out characters. The dialogue is excellent (with pretty good voice acting, too) with just enough background lore, but the overarching feeling that you're discovering everything from scratch in a world where someone hit the reset button. The graphics are great - still - with the right level of decay to them and an excellent sense of place. I don't know if Fallout was the first piece of media to mix that 50s aesthetic with a nuclear apocalypse, but it works incredibly well, and they're still mining that rich seam today (in fact, I'd really love to get Fallout 4 to play at the end of this and finish the series...have to see if the GotY version is on special offer by the time I get there!). There are also a lot of role-playing options throughout the game, offering a different route through certain situations (I'm obviously boring, and played pretty much the same way I did in my previous game. The only difference being that I talked the Master to death this time, rather than blasting him away last time). The mechanics I think pull it down are simple, but annoying things - the worst is characters constantly getting in the way and having to be asked to move (why couldn't they have just let you run through them?), and that annoyance with the view extends to the way that they chose to have the isometric view fade away when you're behind a wall so you can always see your character. Nothing wrong with that, but it's a bit more annoying when it's not a wall you're standing next to, but a door that you're trying to open and now you can't see it. The other thing I don't really like is the way that the inventory works, especially as it pertains to bags and stacking. It's a minor quibble, but it does take a slight glimmer of shine of an otherwise brilliant game. It still is a brilliant game, just with a few things that make me huff when I encounter them! Next up is Fallout 2, which I thought I'd played, but I don't remember what I've looked at so far, so looking forward to going in blind.

I'm also going to say goodbye to Grand Monster Slam. It's a weird game. Beginning with the manual, where the devs wrote a massive backstory for what is essentially a very simple sports game. You have a row of balls (beloms) on your side, and the opponent has the same on his side, and you have to kick them all over onto the other side, and then run across into his end zone to win. The opponent is constantly kicking your balls back to you (and vice versa), so the strategy is to try and knock the opponent over with your ball, giving you a lull where you can kick some more balls over, then attempt to do the same thing again. Do this enough times, and you should get the break you need to get across the pitch. You can kick the balls in different directions at different strengths, so there's a fair bit if strategy involved in pushing the opponent over to the sidelines (a bit like tennis, I guess) so they take longer to get back over the other side to return your balls. You can also attempt to kick a ball into the opponent mid-run if he's trying to get over to your side (and they can do the same to you). That bit's fun enough. There are also a couple of mini games, one between each bout, and another between each stage of the competition...and I was completely rubbish at those. It's not such a problem if you lose the ones between each bout, because you just lose a few points, but if you lose the one between the competition stages then you can't advance and have to play through the entire stage again. Great. So I never made it out of the first league, even though I never actually lost a match while playing that league. Ah well. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Oscar! Ooh, I remember the demo of this platformer from back in the day...not great, in a bodaciously '90s way. Ah well, it's a only platformer, what could possibly go wrong?

Monday, 10 October 2016

F-1/7

I'm sorry, Microprose, but I'm just never going to be a flight simmer. Huge manuals full of mechanical information and controls might do it for some people, but I'm just not one of them. (Although I did just have an amazing vision of how great a modern multiplayer VR version of this would be with each person taking a different role on the aircraft - gunners wildly looking around for fighters, pilot desperately trying to keep the plane on track as the bomber counts down to the target...that would be cool!) Anyway, back to the modern day (or at least 1991), and things are not that cool. Not if you're me, anyway. I'm afraid I find the whole thing a bit boring. I'm an arcade gamer at heart when it comes to these kinds of things - I don't want to have to learn the correct sequence for taking off and then spend hours (literally hours...there's a fast-forward key to jump you forward in time, but I bet purists didn't use it) flying to my destination only to be shot down by the first fighters we see because I can't remember in my panic which key changes to which gunnery station. I'm sure it is good - it's often hailed as a masterpiece - but it's just not for me. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Grand Monster Slam! Never heard of it...looks like some kind of fantasy sports game from the late '80s. Those crazy kids.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Pixels of Pen and Paper

I think I'm about done with Pixel Heroes. It reminded me a lot of Knights of Pen and Paper - a pixel aesthetic and irreverent sense of humour, showing promise in the first few goes, but rapidly losing interest later. They are fundamentally very similar games, too - party-based 'RPGs' that consist purely of traveling from place to place and having turn-based fights both along the way, and when you get there. In both games, everything just takes a little bit too long and becomes repetitive much too quickly. There's also very little strategy or evolution, you'll see what the game has to offer very quickly, and there's nothing left but the long slog to finish the campaign.There's more I could do, achievements I could get, but I just don't have the heart. It'd mean playing through the entire game again but with different characters - except the characters aren't really that different. They have different abilities, but the abilities all essentially do one of the same few things - damage, healing, or status ailments. All characters can use the same weapons and armour, and none of them are particularly noteworthy. They have funny names, which makes it interesting seeing new ones for the first five minutes, until you start seeing the same sets of names over again. Perhaps I'm being a bit uncharitable, perhaps it would have been much more fun on a phone where you might have only fought one or two battles a day on your daily commute, but when playing it straight on a PC it becomes tedious very quickly. A shame really, but there we go. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Quarterstaff: Tomb of Setmoth! Apparently it was the first RPG for the Mac, back in '87. Interesting to see how it's held up. ... And I've actually got the Mac version, so that's not going to go very far. I thought I had the PC release, but doesn't look like that's the case. I could try grabbing a Mac emulator...but...no. So, next up on the randometer is...B-17 Flying Fortress! I'm rubbish at flight sims, so can't see this one lasting too long, but I remember the ads well from mags back in the day, so interested to see how the game plays.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Mega Man? Nein.

So I actually played Mega Man 9 at the weekend, but I couldn't let a title pun like that go unused. Mega Man 9 was the next in my trawl through the PSN titles that I acquired many moons ago. I don't have a great history with the Mega Man series, and I'm afraid this one didn't really suit me either. It's a hard-as-nails retro love letter to the old Mega Man games of the NES era, but I didn't enjoy it at all. I just don't have the skills (if it's even possible) to get through the levels on my first few attempts, and I don't have the time (or the patience) to learn where all of the traps are so I can actually make it through them. By all accounts the game can be completely fairly quickly once you know how to beat every level, but I reckon you'd have to mainline only this game for months to be able to do that, and that's just not something I want to do. So, off it goes to the great digital junk pile in the sky. The next PS3 game is The Last Guy, which I've had a quick go at before, years ago. I'll see how long it lasts me.

In other news, I also finished Plantera! Where did that come from, I hear you gasp! Well, it's a fairly recent game that I picked up in a bundle earlier in the week. It's one of those'Clicker' games that I hadn't tried before (or dared try because of my terribly addictive personality). Anyway, there's nothing really to the game, you just keep on buying and upgrading plants and animals to produce more crops and earn more money, ad infinitum. There's actually very little content to it, so you'll have seen all there is to see after an hour or two. After that, it's just a question of letting it run in the background (or not - you still earn money even when your computer's turned off, you just earn it quicker if it's running in the background) until you've racked up enough money to buy enough of everything to earn the last few achievements. I managed that today, so there's nothing really left to go back to (sadly, my garden's still running away in the background as I type this...I can't bring myself to turn it off). So, a few hours addictive fun; I couldn't ask for more from a 'free' game in a bundle.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Inquisitaaaaarrgghhh

So, act 3 of Inquisitor, 57 hours in...crash. No problem, I think I've mentioned that it's quite a buggy game and crashed fairly frequently. I'll just load it back up again and...hmmm...that's odd, my last save game won't load. Not to worry, I've got another one and...hmmm...that save game won't load either. Panicking a bit now, but I've still got another fairly recent one...And that one's corrupt also. I have another two that do seem to work, but those are from months ago. I hit the internet to try and find some help, but nothing. It seems like the save corruption bug is a fairly common thing, and the only answer is to keep more save games. Great. So that's it. There's no way I'm going back through the game again. It was always a bit of a masochistic slog the first time, and I'm not such a masochist that I'm going to repeat it. For all of that, it wasn't a terrible game. The writing was actually pretty good, with a lot of unique characters and heavy script. It also had the kinds of themes you don't see in games very often. So the world and the lore were high points. The combat was a bit annoying (and the game balance was waaay off), but it was just about manageable. It had actually started to get a bit easier toward the end, as I'd learnt some pretty decent spells that meant I could one-shot most enemies from a distance, and my companions weren't dying on me quite so often. There were a lot of quests and side quests that kept things interesting, and the locations were fine - a bit samey, but it was set in a slightly modified reality of Earth, so there were never going to be any spectacular fantasy landscapes. It's just a shame that the whole thing was so buggy. There we are; Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Sango Fighter - a Chinese beat-em-up based in the Three Kingdoms period. Never heard of it. I might give it a quick go now. ... And, that was quicker than I thought. The game seems to be entirely in Chinese and the keys don't seem to work. Ah well. From what I saw of it, it looked like quite a fun SNES-era beat-em-up with an interesting looking character roster. Not to worry. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic! It's a pixel RPG-lite from last year. Should be interesting. I'll also carry on with Fallout - I've just finished the first town there, so on my way. In other news, the recent bundle splurge has now carried my Steam games list to over 1000...eek!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Ducking the Issue

Gosh, it's been over a month since my last post. I'm not exactly speeding through the backlist right now. It's been a tricky time - school holidays, new job, DIY - but hopefully things will start to settle down soon. The bad news is that because of my lack of games played, I've been making up for it by buying a ton of bundles, so the pile has just been growing larger and larger. Ah well. The good news is that I have actually completed a game! Duck Tales Remastered on the PS3. I've been playing it on and off with Max at weekends for a while, and we finally polished it off yesterday. It's a fairly faithful remake of the old NES version, an old-school platformer of the kind they just don't make anymore. The other great thing about the game is that you get infinite lives and start pretty much on the last screen you were on, so Max can play it for a while without getting too frustrated and having to get me to help him. It makes me proud! There were still a few parts I did have to help with - especially the bosses, but he did pretty well.I thoroughly enjoyed playing and watching it. Good stuff.

I haven't made so much progress on the other games. Inquisitor continues to plod on and grow increasingly impossible. I'm still on the second act of the game, but I've been getting through a few missions. I'll keep plugging away at it out of pure stubbornness, but hopefully it won't carry on for too much longer. I've chosen to take Shadowlands off the playlist for a minute. I'm sure I'll get back to it one day, but it's just too slow and fiddly for what I need right now. Moving ahead puts me on the Fallout games. Ooh. It's going to be slow, but I can't skip these. I've played the first one before, but I'll play it again. I think I've only played the second for a tiny while, so still everything to come. No idea, then, what's going to come next. Looking forward to it,

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Ninjad

As much to my surprise, as I'm sure it was to everyone else's, I actually finished 10 Second Ninja (well, I didn't 100% it, but more on that later). So what is 10 Second Ninja? It's a pretty simple twitch game with a very descriptive title. You're a ninja, and you have 10 seconds to destroy all of the robots on the level. That's it. The robots don't do anything, and mostly just sit there waiting for you to destroy them (some of them take two hits, but that's the only different type). Your ninja has a few moves at his disposal, a double jump, a sword swipe and a limited number of shurikens (3 per level). Defeating all of the robots in 10 seconds is generally pretty easy, and doing so will net you one star for the level. So far, so good. Each level needs a certain number of stars to unlock. At the beginning of the game, this is pretty easy, you zip through a level, get your star and unlock the next. Easy. But pretty soon you'll come to a level that requires more stars than you have to unlock. That's when it starts getting tricky. You have to go back and finish the earlier levels again but this time within a time limit. This is harder. This will take a lot of restarts. But each level's so quick that you persevere. You start earning more stars and unlocking more levels, making more progress. But then you're stopped again by another level demanding even more stars than those you have by 2-starring every level so far. This is when it gets really tricky. There's a maximum of three stars available for each level, but to get the third star you have to go back and redo the earlier levels in an even shorter time. No, a ridiculously short time. You won't see how you can possibly do it, but with each death and each restart your time slowly creeps down. Maybe you try a different route through the level? Maybe there's a robot you could shuriken rather than slicing with your sword that might shave off a couple of hundredths of a second? Because that's what it comes down to. You'll be swearing in frustration at finishing the level 0.02 seconds outside the defined time, and you'll hit the reset button, and you'll try again. You'll shout and scream and persevere, and slowly but surely you'll start to earn those three stars per level, and slowly but surely you'll unlock more levels, and before you know it you'll be on the final boss and you'll have finished the game. Congratulations, you! Oh, the boss fights, I didn't mention them, there's not much too them really, a massive robo-Hitler head (for it is he who's unleashing the robot army) spewing lasers from his mouth bobs around the screen and you have to jump between increasingly obtuse platforms to reach him and sword-swipe him (no shurikens here). They're generally pretty easy to beat but, like normal levels, there are three stars available for these levels too, so you'll be retrying them hundreds of time to try and do them in the shortest time. You can finish the base game without three-starring every level, and that's as far as I've got. There is one super-secret bonus level available after three-starring every single level, but I'm just not that crazy. That's enough diversions for now. It's time to get back to the main games and trying to get through the mammoth game of Inquisitor. I've made a little progress recently, but I'm still only on the second act (out of three, I think) and the going is slow. The game is brutally hard, and according to a few things I've read, I chose the wrong class and the wrong difficulty level from the outset, but there's no way I'm going back to restart it now. Must. Slog. Onwards.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Raid's End

It turns out I had the house to myself at the weekend, so I decided to pick up Tomb Raider Underworld and see if I could blast through it and complete the series. I didn't quite manage it over the weekend, but I did finally finish it off last night. So that's it, another series down! There is still the most recent game that I haven't played yet (I don't own it yet), but I'm sure I will some day. It's a fantastic series of games that I hugely enjoyed playing through. But what's Underworld itself like? Not too bad at all. It follows on directly from TR: Legend (Anniversary in the middle was just a side step) with Lara still trying to find out what happened to her parents. It also sees the reappearance of one of the original series enemies, Jacqueline Natla. To be honest, the story's not really that great - it's pretty obvious where it's going, and it's all pretty fantastical - even for a TR game. The mythology tie-in was quite fun, though, exploring the theory of a monomyth uniting the beliefs of ancient cultures. The puzzles and platforming were pretty cool. The controls haven't changed much from the previous game, and they didn't need to. There was still the odd occasion where Lara's jump targeted the wrong platform and sent her flying off to her death, but it didn't happen too often. They did away with the focus head shots that plagued the boss battles of Anniversary, which was a relief. However, I think they went a bit too far here and did away with the concept of boss battles altogether. I don't necessarily love them that much, but they do give a sense of achievement when you beat them, and a feeling of closure that solving a simple environmental puzzle just doesn't provide. Especially as Natla's there flying around throwing fireballs at you, but you don't actually get to retaliate in any way. Anyway, I can't complain, I really enjoyed the game as a whole. I can see why they wanted to reboot it to a younger Lara in the next game, though. In general, the series has clearly improved from game to game, but I think my favourite is still the first. I'll always hold a soft spot for that game.

Next up on the series list is Shadowlands. It's an isometric RPG from the '90s. I really remember the screenshots for it in mags at the time, but other than that I don't know much at all. First up, though, I'll try and get a bit further in Inquisitor.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Bug's Life

Moon Bugs was as short as I expected, but pretty fun. It's actually a mash-up of ideas from a few games, with a few of its own thrown in for good measure. It feels a bit Defender-y with aliens swooping all over the place and nipping down to steal your supplies (fuel, rather than people) then slowly making their way back to the top of the screen, enabling you to shoot them on the way and get your valuable fuel back. However, instead of being in your own starship, here you're fixed to the bottom of the screen - only able to move left and right, more like Space Invaders. The aliens also fire bullets at you, and the odd energy bomb. You also see motherships making their way across the top of the screen at times, which apparently opens up some kind of bonus round, but I was never able to get that far. Instead of waves of enemies that you need to defeat, your goal is to protect the fuel while your home base collects it. So, a pipe will come out of your home base on the left of the screen, pick up the next fuel in line, and drag it back to the base. This means that as you proceed through the level, it takes longer for the pipe to get the fuel and pull it back, so it becomes more frantic to defend each one. It's a nice little mechanic. That's about all there is to it (as far as I saw), but I didn't get very far. It's a fun little game - not world altering, but enjoyable. Onwards!

Another little game, I think, then I really will get back to Inquisitor and TR. Next up on the randometer is...10-Second Ninja! Looks like one of those Super Meat Boy-style single-screen speed runs. I'll give that a go.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Kick it to the curb

Hmm...Dive Kick. As an idea and an experiment, it's great. A unique take on the genre that does bring something new and fresh, but once that one idea is exhausted (and it really doesn't take long) it becomes as dull as heck. Dive Kick is a 2-button fighting game, so you can dive (jump) and you can kick. You can only kick while jumping, so the jump button leaps you straight up, and the kick button brings you down at an angle toward your opponent. If you hit first then you win the round, and first to five rounds wins the match. That's pretty much it. There are no movement keys, just jumping and kicking. If you press kick while on the ground then you'll jump backwards (and you can press kick again as usual to then kick down forwards). So the only way to move around the arena is to jump and kick. Characters also have a couple of special moves each, performed by pressing both buttons either in the air or on the ground. They're unique to each character, and aren't much to write home about. The characters themselves are an interesting bunch, with some good variations on the theme...but it's not that much of a theme and they really do milk it for all it's worth. Of course, as with all fighting games, it would be better with two human players - and I did actually try a couple of online matches - but the truth of it is that there isn't that much to it. Sure, you could argue that there is a little bit of skill in knowing when to jump and when to kick...but that's it. You may as well sit two people at a computer and tell them the third person to press a button wins the game. It's fun for a minute - anticipating what your opponent is going to do and trying to quickly counteract when they make their move, but it's not really skill. You can tell how much luck is involved by the way scores can swing so wildly between matches. You might fight one person and lose 5-0, then the next match you'll beat them 5-1. And it's not any harder - the tactics don't change, it's just a grind of jumping and kicking. You get infinite continues in story mode, too, so it really is a case of just knocking your head against a wall until you win. It's one of those games where the Steam achievements actually tell an interesting story. Only 27% of all players have actually finished story mode with one character, and only 0.9% have finished it with all characters. That shows how rapidly the game gets boring. Of course, me being the masochistic saddo that I am, I am now one of that 0.9%. I'm glad it's done, and I don't think there's much chance of me ever picking it up again.

I should really get back to Inquisitor, but I'm not sure I can quite face it yet. So, next up on the randometer is...Moon Bugs! A Space Invaders-style game from 1983. Cool. I'll have a quick blitz of it at lunchtime and move on.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Dammit Jammit

Well, that was absolutely and categorically terrible. I can't even see that it would be that good in multiplayer, which is most sports games saving grace in my book. The graphics and animation are shoddy, the controls are shoddy, the slidy jumping is shoddy, the awful digitized speech is showoddy shoddy. Even the 'so-bad-it's-good' factor only lasts about 5 seconds while you laugh at the (three) characters before you again become depressed about how bad it is. That bit would probably be funnier with friends - you might even get 10 seconds of joint mockery - but the actual game itself would still be dire. I can't think of a single good thing to say about. There were better basketball games years before it, heck, sports games like Match Day on the Beeb were much better than this. Ah well, to the bin it goes. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Trial By Magic! Never heard of it. Another '90s game, this time an action RPG. ... And it doesn't work. Some kind of crazy error. Not something I think I can fix. Ah well. Next up is...Divekick! Okay, that's quite a recent fighting game - the twist being you only have two buttons: dive and kick. Be interesting to see what this one's like.

Windosilly

So, a verrrry slow gaming life recently. New job and a lot going on means I haven't touched a game in the last month or so. I haven't started the next Tomb Raider yet, and I'm about a third of the way through the massive game that is Inquisitor, so I wanted something small and quick that I could nibble on. Windosill was the perfect thing. It's a game that can be completed in about 20 minutes. I don't know if it was a Flash game first (I know it was on iPhones, so maybe not), but that's what it feels like - a vector puzzle game with things that do stuff when you click on them. Essentially, you have to get a car through all of the levels, and to do that you need to find the cube key for the door. It's usually a simple case of clicking on everything until the key pops out, but some levels (screens is perhaps a better word) have a little more strategy to them, such as arranging the parts of a machine or distracting a creature so your car can get past. It's all very simple, but also very pleasing. Reminded me a little of the Amanita Designs games, but on a much simpler level.Just what I needed. I might keep nibbling at little games like this whilst I chip away at Inquisitor. Onwards! Next up on the randometer is...SoulTrap! Never heard of it, but it looks like a '90s platformer, so will hopefully be another one I can zip through.

...aaaannndd it's 16-bit Windows only, so no joy for me. I hope this isn't going to be a problem for games I actually want to play! I guess I can try and set up a Virtual Box or something with an image of Win 95? Anyway. this one didn't look that fun on YouTube, so I'm not that bothered about skipping it. Next up on the randometer is...Jammit! Never heard of this one either. Apparently it's a basketball game, so I might just give it a quick go now tonight. A similar kind of mid-90s age, so hopefully we won't hit the same problem.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

500th Anniversary

It feels somehow appropriate that Tomb Raider Anniversary is my 500th completed game since I started making a note of them. It's a remake of something old that really cares about its source material, and heck, it's fun and you can't ask for more than that. A lot of the levels in the game are really iconic and recognisable from the original, whereas others were a bit more meh. They had some comparison screenshots between the old and new game as unlockable extras. Interestingly, although the new shots are undeniably more detailed and realistic, detailed and realistic don't always mean better. There's a lot more colour and style in some of the early levels that undoubtedly looks unreal for some 2000-year old ruins, but I think it's important for level designers to realise that realism isn't always the ultimate target. Everyone playing it knows it's a game, so sometimes it's best to embrace that game-ness and go for a stylistic experience rather than boring old realism. Heck, it's not as if finding medpacks and ammo stashed in sealed ancient tombs is that real anyway! Now I've got that off my chest, I did really enjoy the game. Lots of the levels were great fun to play through, and were excellent reimaginings of the source material. I liked the lack of enemies and focus on traps and environmental exploration. Strange as it may sound, I did actually miss the constant bickering of Lara's helpers over the headset that were in the previous game, so I'm looking forward to them coming back in the next one. There was one mechanic that I really didn't get on with, though - there's a new move called an adrenaline dodge, or something, where time slows down as an enemy charges at you, then you have to get your timing right to dodge out of the way and perform a headshot as you do so. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was just a bonus move that you could do to perform take down kills, but for some reason the designers decided that this one move was going to be the only thing that would work against every single one of the game's bosses. Crazy! It's a really difficult move to pull off, but you have to do it multiple times every boss fight. Why? Anyway, I managed to get through all of the boss fights with minimum swearing (that may be a lie), so it's behind me now. Next up is Tomb Raider Underworld, the last game in my TR playlist (I played the following one ages ago on the PS3, and I don't own the most recent one). Something's coming up that's going to alter the amount of play time I have after this week, though, so I won't be able to get through things as quickly as I have been. Doesn't help that Inquisitor is a really long game (I'm still in the first town) and Tomb Raiders are pretty big, too, so updates might be a bit sporadic from here on out. I'll definitely still keep it up, though. 500 down, 3642 more to go :)

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Legendary

I finished off Tomb Raider Legend tonight. It was a great game, and a real breath of fresh air after the darkness of the previous game. As the first game from a new team and with a completely new, modern engine, this game throws off the rigid tile-based movement of the previous games and welcomes in a much more free-roaming adventure. It's also the first of the Tomb Raiders that I've used a joypad for, rather than the keyboard. In both the control method and the gameplay, that leads to a much more free and comfortable experience, but with a lack of the precision of the old games. In those older games, a huge level full of options was thrown before you, and you had to work out where you could go based on your exact knowledge of how Lara moved. It was rigid, but it led to a feeling of total control and understanding of the character. Crystal Dynamics went for the more modern (and some might say easier) route of a very linear route with signposted areas that Lara can interact with. It makes it all a lot easier to run through and make it to the end, but Lara feels a lot more like Nathan Drake. She's lost a bit of that sense of adventure and immersion. That's not to say that I'd want to go back. The new engine is beautiful, but I do miss that sense of wonder and pillar-to-post gameplay. Anyway, I don't want to make this sound like a downer review, I completely loved my time with it. There's a lot of variety in the levels, with a feeling of some of the classic treks of old through jungle and tundra. I'd say it perhaps errs a little too far toward combat rather than exploring and puzzle solving, but at least the combat here is much improved over previous iterations (especially AoD). You only get to carry one extra weapon (other than pistols), but pretty much every enemy drops one, so you're never without options. The audio is great, too. You constantly have your two comrades chattering away over your earpiece with Lara joining in, and it really keeps the sense of immersion that you're here with the team moving through this story. All in all, it's a great reboot, and just what the series needed, but it does start the slide toward a more Uncharted-esque gameplay experience rather than the purebred old-school Tomb Raider. Next up is Anniversary where they re-imagined the original Tomb Raider game but using the new engine, so I'm very interested in seeing how this one goes. It sounds like it could be my perfect TR game!

I've also been chugging through a bit of Inquisitor. I'm playing it on easy, but it's still incredibly hard. It also crashes...a lot, but I'm still enjoying it.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Ancient!

I finished off Legacy of the Ancients last night. For its age, I quite enjoyed it. It's a pretty standard Ultima-style RPG of that time, with a primitive overland section combined with 1st person dungeon exploration. It's quite a compact game with only 3 dungeons and a couple of castles, but you do have to revisit some of them multiple times, which strings it out a bit. The framing story is fairly unique. There's a 'hub' dungeon which is a museum, and you need to gather coins to view the exhibits in it - each one unlocks something different, a new area of the game, or a new ability. Your task is to collect coins so you can unlock all of the exhibits and proceed to the big bad. The actual combat system is fairly rudimentary - you just press F to fight - and there is a selection of weapons, but they essentially all do the same thing, just with slightly bigger numbers. You can buy a few magic spells, but they're expensive, so you can't go wild, and each spell is only good for one use. There are a lot of combats, but weirdly, they don't give you any experience. The caretaker of the museum grants you new levels when you've completed certain tasks in the game, and levels don't really do much - just give you a few more hit points and alter the kinds of monsters you find, what they give you, and what's available in shops. Monsters usually only give you money or food when you defeat them, but if you talk to them then they'll sometimes offer you treasures for sale - including the coins that you're after. This leads to a very polite - ask questions first and hack bits off later - dynamic where I spent most of the end game trying to chat up monsters then running away if they just growled at me. Not very heroic, but I was in a hurry to find the last coins I needed. You can also sometimes get coins randomly in towns from shopkeepers, but I found it was quicker to talk to the monsters. It's actually quite a fun little game, and the story is quite good (though very basic). It would have been nice if the game was a bit bigger - for example, there's one castle that you have to basically loot numerous times, getting a little bit further each time, and killing a million guards in the process. It would have been nice if there had been different castles for each part of the loot rather than revisiting the same one over and over again, but there we go. It was the eighties, so I can let the designers off. The graphics are all CGA, but quite good for the time, I particularly liked the goofy run cycle for your guy (and loved the goofy fly cycle for pegasus!). I don't know if I'd particularly recommend a game this old to most people, but I enjoyed it - particularly the slightly mad framing story. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...The Lion King! Yes, the platform game based on the movie. No idea what this one's like, but I enjoyed the Aladdin game back in the day, so hopefully it's a little like that. I'm also getting through Tomb Raider Legend. Handily, the game tracks your completion, so I can officially state that I'm 41% through it at the moment.

.,.Hmmm...my copy of The Lion King appears to be bugged. The roar meter never fills up, so it's impossible to progress in the game. Ah well. All I can say is that it looked quite nice - very similar to Aladdin in its cartoon graphics and animation style. So, next up on the randometer is...Inquisitor! Ooh, quite looking forward to that. It's a newish but Infinity-Engine-style old-school RPG. Should be a good one.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Angel of Doneness

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is complete, and so ends an era in Tomb Raider history. AoD was the last of the Core games - after that, Lara lay dormant for a while before Crystal Dynamics picked up the baton. AoD has a bad reputation, and I was expecting the worst going into it, but actually I found it surprisingly enjoyable. It has its problems, sure, but it certainly wasn't the travesty that I believed it to be. What did it do wrong? Well, there are a lot of bugs - it was obviously released in a suboptimal state. The basic movement controls are terrible. Lara is no longer the responsive, athletic girl she used to be, now she stumbles around like a drunken sailor never quite responding to the way that you want her to. You get used to some of the failings and they soon become an awkward second nature, but some of them are just terrible, for example when you try and hop onto a platform and she'll suddenly veer off wildly in mid air - that one's fun, or whenever you draw your guns - Lara's movement when aiming is atrocious, luckily there aren't *that* many enemies in this game, so it doesn't cause problems as often as it could have done. Kurtis Trent - well, he's not quite as bad as I thought he was going to be, and the twist in his story was unexpected, but A) he controls worse than Lara, and B) he's the guy you have to fight the worst boss in the game with. A + B = fun. Also, in virtually every cutscene with Kurtis you see he wielding an amazing magical spinny bladey thing that he can control with his mind and use to decapitate enemies with ease. Can you use it in the game? No, of course not. You have to put up with a completely useless pop-gun (and the worse than atrocious controls that come with it). As I say, it's a testament to the game that even with all of these problems it's still quite enjoyable. They introduced a basic level-up system where at certain points in the game Lara would gain, say, a strength upgrade allowing her to hang on ledges a bit longer without falling. It didn't really work, though, just felt like an arbitrary way of stopping you going a certain way until the developers said you could. They could have potentially done more with it, but I think it dilutes the core Tomb Raider experience - it's not really what the game's about, so I'm glad that's the last we'll see of it. The level design is pretty good, if a little linear, and the story was kind of interesting. It didn't really reach a conclusion - apparently they'd planned 3 games, but only got to make this one - but it kind of tied up most of its loose ends. The graphics were much improved over previous games, and it would have been interesting to see how far they could have gone with the story and the engine, but hey, it wasn't to be. AoD tanked at retail and in contemporary reviews, and that was the end of Lara's days at Core. Next up is Legend, the first of the Crystal Dynamics games. I've already had a quick run through of the training level and the first level, and it's a breath of fresh air. I'm looking froward to playing through the rest of it, and I've heard that these later games are shorter than the Core ones, hopefully I'll be able to speed through it.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Knights Who Say Grind

We had a long weekend here in the UK so I managed to sneak enough time to grind out to the end of Knights of Pen and Paper. 'Grind' is sooo the operative word there. It was originally made as a mobile title with microtransactions, so the point was obviously that people would use real money to purchase in-game funds to stock up on items in order to blast through the game more quickly. In-game money itself is earned quite slowly in order to encourage players to spend real money to get it quicker - so far, so normal evil mobile game. When the game was converted to PC they rightly removed the real money aspect of it, but unfortunately didn't alter the slow rate of gaining in-game money, so there is a crazy-crazy amount of grinding required to get anywhere. You quickly get to a point where quest monsters are way harder than your current party, so you have to continue grinding for experience to become strong enough to beat them. By far the worst example of grinding is the Blacksmith. The blacksmith starts with a small chance of being able to create upgraded weapons and armor. This chance can be increased by leveling up the blacksmith, and this is done by supplying him with the aptly named Grindstones. Grindstones only show up rarely (I think they're on a timer so you can't farm them) in caves, and even then, you only have a small chance of mining them when you do find them. You need a certain number of grindstones to upgrade the blacksmith, and this number rises exponentially each time you level him up (or maybe linearly...I never was any good at maths!). Ultimately it feels like you need millions of the damned things to be able to level up the blacksmith enough that he'll actually be able to make an item rather than fluffing it every time. Of course, you can also buy grindstones from the shop, but that requires grinding for more money... It's a shame, because the game itself is quite fun initially. The set up is enjoyable, and although there aren't really that many combat options, beating monsters and leveling up always feels good. In the end, though, the campaign is just way too long, with way too many samey quests, and the grind... the grind is just horrendous. I'm very happy to have finished this one. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Legacy of the Ancients! It's an old DOS RPG from the '80s. I don't think it's one I've played before, so should be interesting. I'll keep plugging away at Tomb Raider as well, reckon I'm about a third of the way through.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Greyed Out

And...that lasted about as long as I thought it would. First, credit to Edward Grabowski's The Blue & The Gray for being detailed and quite nicely presented, but minus points all the way for everything else. I'm not a big grognard, and if I was going to pick a war then the American civil war would probably be bottom of the pile. There's just not much here to interest me. It's also crazily overwhelming to a beginner. It's not like, say, an RTS where you start with one unit and build from there. In this game you begin with an absolute tonne of units spread across the entire US, with your opponents having the same. It might be historically accurate, but it's a huge slog trying to go through all of your units and micro-managing them. In the end, I just decided to focus on a core group of 5 units and let the others fend for themselves. It took me about ten turns to actually get my troops anywhere near the enemy (and those turns were soooo slooow), and even then the enemy kept running away. When I finally managed to engage them, they just out-and-out slaughtered me in a matter of seconds. Great. Obviously, I didn't play it in the manner it should be played, but even so, it's probably one of the least welcoming games I've played. Anyway, there we go, onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Knights of Pen and Paper! I actually played quite a bit of this a while back. No idea how long the game actually is, but it'll be fun to get back into it.

Snakes aren't a Pain

Well that was quick and easy! The Secret of Serpent Creek was a fairly typical hidden object game, and much easier than the only other one I've played previously. The hidden object sections themselves are framed in a light graphic adventure-style story where you have to move between locations looking for clues and solving other puzzles. None of the other puzzles were particularly difficult, and certainly nothing you couldn't just brute force your way through. I'm not really sure if there is a fail state for these kinds of casual games, you just keep plugging away until it's done. It was perfectly fine for what it was, and made a nice diversion from the slog of Enclave, but it really wasn't much more than a pleasant diversion.

Next up on the randometer is...Edward Grabowski's The Blue & The Gray! Ugh! It's an early war game set in the American civil war. Pretty much the kind of thing I was least looking forward to. I'll give it a quick go tonight, but I can't imagine it's going to be a keeper.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

End-clave

I decided to try and break through Enclave, so powered through it in any spare time I had over the weekend and last night, and polished off the last level in my lunch break today. There's nothing wrong with Enclave per se, it's just exceedingly, well...average. It's quite pretty, but also a bit dull and generic. The combat can be exciting, but it's also a formulaic click-fest. The levels are a good length with a few secrets, but they're also one-dimensional and a bit boring. For every good there's a bad, and it just evens out into a very mediocre, faintly boring game. That's perhaps being a bit harsh, but the biggest criticism is that there's just no variety. It's all running at the nearest enemy, clicking wildly until it's dead, then going on to find the next enemy. Yes, you might need to use a health potion every now and then, and if you're a magic user then you might need to back off until your energy has recharged, but there's no real strategy to the combat, and enemies don't show any other behaviour except firing at you from a distance or charging in and hacking you at close range. And on the flip-side, those are the only options available to you, too. Sure, there are a bunch of characters available across the two campaigns, but they essentially all boil down to the same thing. The dark campaign is essentially a mirror of the light campaign with the same character archetypes with a slightly more sinister twist...instead of a human knight, there's an orc berserker, and so on. The main story was vaguely interesting, but didn't really go anywhere and ended on a cliff-hanger for the next game...which obviously didn't happen. So, it started off fun in parts, but really I was done after the light campaign, and the dark campaign was just a slog through the same old thing. In the end, I'm very glad it's over and I'm ready to move on, which is never the sign of a great game. Ah well, onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek! It's a hidden object game, so about as far from Enclave as possible. Should be a nice break. I'll also try and play through a bit of Tomb Raider. I did make a start on the first level, but when I went back to it my save game had disappeared so it looks like I'll have to start from scratch anyway.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Chronicled

It's been a long while since a post, so sorry about that. Lots of reasons - work changes, life changes and, of course, playing through a long couple of games, but I finally finished Tomb Raider Chronicles last night. I actually really enjoyed the game side of Chronicles. The previous game was a bit of a slog, but this one felt much fresher and slightly more light-hearted (and being a bit shorter certainly didn't hurt). The framing story is that Lara is believed dead from the end of the last game, and her friends have gathered to reminisce and swap stories about Lara's greatest adventures, and those are the adventures that you play. There are four separate stories, and each of those is split into about 3 levels. It made everything feel a lot more compact and manageable and kept the pace up. It also lent the game a bit more variety with different locations and different time periods. It was one of the most fun Tomb Raiders for a while. I particularly liked the Lara-does-horror Ireland section, which was a nice change from the norm. The actual framing story didn't really go anywhere, though, with Lara starting off presumed dead, and ending up...presumed dead, with Von Croy finding her backpack and proclaiming that he'd found her. We'll have to see how the next game goes. Next in the TR series is The Angel of Darkness, which was the last of the Core Design games, and the last we saw of Lara for a while. They gave Lara a slightly more gothy edge (as was strangely popular at the time) and added another playable character. It was apparently rushed to release and was a bit buggy, and I remember it getting terrible reviews at the time, I'm looking forward to it with mixed emotions. From the first level that I had a quick go at it looks like they've messed with the control scheme a bit, and it feels a lot slower than the normally fluid Lara that I'm used to. Ah well, I'll see how it goes.

I've also been slowly playing Enclave alongside Chronicles. I've finished the Light campaign and made a start on the Dark one. It's a bit samey, but I'll continue playing through it. Looking forward to finishing it and starting a new game, though.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Revelatory

Not even I could stretch as far as Fourmb Raidered. Anyway, after a bit of concerted play I finished Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation last night. It was a bit of an odd one. After the crazy continent hopping of the last game, they obviously took a bit of criticism on board and decided to bring this game back to its roots. It's a full on - Egypt-centric - all in tombs, traditional game. It sounds like exactly what I wanted...but it didn't quite hit the right notes. First up, the locations are all very samey, and the palette is very dark brown throughout. Also, this game is the first Tomb Raider that instead of having discrete levels, this one has you move back and forth between levels and solve puzzles that have requirements in different parts of different levels. This made it really hard to get around, as you're never quite sure if you've done enough to move on or if there's still more to do in that part of a level. You also find items that you never know if you'll need them in a later level (or an earlier one) so you're not sure whether you should be searching for places to use keys, for example, or if you don't need them yet. It made the completionist part of me very nervous! I also found the story a bit weird. The storytelling itself is fine, with some great videos and some new swooping camera animations as you enter new areas, but it seemed to give up towards the end. It was almost like there was a lot more story but they ran out of time (and it's already a long game), so they just decided to cut it off. So, SPOILERS, as far as I could tell your buddy/mentor/nemesis Von Croy gets possessed by the spirit of Set and you have to find the armour of Horus to awake him so he can destroy Set. You go through the game collecting the armour and at the end of the game you put it on Horus. Then...I'm not quite sure what happened. Horus went a bit crazy and started attacking me. I escaped him then the pyramid started to collapse, I just made it to the exit and Von Croy was there...seemingly no longer possessed...he tried to help me, but the temple collapsed and that was that, the game ended. The next game, Chronicles, begins with the assumption that Lara is dead. So, all a bit strange. Maybe things are explained in the next game? Gameplay-wise it was mostly fine - the good old Tomb Raider formula still isn't boring and I enjoyed trying to solve some of the puzzles. I do find myself saving after pretty much every jump at times, though. The balance of enemies was probably about right. There were a lot of them, but they never seemed overwhelming, as they have in previous games. There weren't really any boss fights in this one, either, which I actually kind of missed. There are numerous big evil baddies, but you mostly have to figure out a way around them rather than directly fighting them. I'm glad it's over, though, and I'm ready to move on to the next game in the series - Chronicles. I'll probably try and get through Enclave first, or at least one side of the campaign.

In other news, the PSN cull continues. This time it's Echochrome that's consigned to the Done pile. It's actually a really nice puzzle game. You control a walking artist's doll (one of those posable wooden ones you use for figure drawing) and you have to rotate the world to get the doll from the start to the exit. The gimmick is that your character is only affected by what you can see. So, say there's a pit in the middle of his path. Normally he'd fall down it, but if you can rotate the world in such a way that another part of the level obstructs the pit then it ceases to exist and he can happily walk along that path. Same goes for joining different paths together. It must have been a nightmare to code, but it works really well. But...I just haven't got time for it at the moment, so off it goes. Maybe one day in future I'll come back to it.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Super Lego Movie Dust

Just a quick one today. I finished polishing off the Lego Movie Videogame a few days ago. I completed it with Max a while back and have been slowly trundling through picking up the last things that we missed. I have to admit, I didn't like this one as much as the Marvel Superheroes game. This one is very tied to the story of the film and it feels a bit stifling at times. You rush between scenes and have a clip from the movie at the end of each one, and that's about it. None of the characters are given any room to breathe, and it doesn't feel like there was any real love given to the sidequests - I guess because they were restricted in what they could do with them. That's not to say it wasn't fun - there's still a huge amount of joy to be had in the basic Lego game system, and Max loved it - it just felt a bit shallow to me. Maybe part of the problem was because most other Lego games are based on comics or films where TT get a chance to reinterpret those familiar characters and scenes in a Lego world, but here everything was already in Lego so there aren't really any creative surprises - you always know what's going to happen and what it will look like. Luckily, it was a much shorter game than the Marvel one, so it didn't take as long to polish off. We're currently playing through the Lego Lord of the Rings game, and I think Max is struggling with it a bit. It's a lot darker and more difficult than the others (and Max doesn't know the source material as well), but he still looks forward to playing it every weekend, so I'm sure we'll get through it.

The other update is my continuing trawl through my PS3 list, and I'm moving Super Stardust HD into the done pile. It's a twin-stick shooter that I played a fair bit of when it came out and had another blast through recently. I've never completed it, and I don't think I'm ever going to - I just don't have the reactions any more for twitch shooters (or the patience for puzzlers as we'll see next time...). I did make it to number 24 in the global monthly rankings for one part of it, which I was pretty happy with - especially as it was a Plus game this month, so there have been a bunch more people playing it than usual. As far as the other games are going, Tomb Raider's still plodding along. The constant back-and-forthing is getting a little trying, but I'll talk about that more when I finish it. I also had a quick look at the first level of Enclave. It looks pretty fun; there are two main campaigns - Light and Dark - so it might take a while to get through it.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Punched

Fist Puncher is done and (knuckle) dusted. It's quite a short game (although it felt a bit too long at times) and is a complete homage to early beat-em-ups like Streets of Rage. Your character moves right across the stage (yes, it's always right) biffing baddies in the face as they go. Really, there's not much more to it than that. There are a load of characters to unlock, each offering different attacks and special moves, and you can upgrade each character as they play, increasing their base statistics and unlocking perks for them - special abilities that mostly draw from the same pool, but some are unique to each character. This all adds a bit more playability, but it still doesn't offer much variety beyond the standard walk, punch and jump kick. Some of the characters have projectile weapons for special moves - guns, freeze rays and (my favourite) bees, and they do feel a little bit overpowered at times. For example, I played as the beekeeper for most of the game, and could quite happily sit at the back of the screen launching hordes of killer hornets at the approaching baddies, never really needing to get in close and punch people...which kinda takes something away from a beat-em-up. Many characters can deflect projectiles by kicking them away, but it fails enough times that the basic strategy still works. The graphics are all done in an 8-bit style, which is all fine - it's not the kind of game where super hi-res eye-wow graphics are really going to make much of a difference. That said, I do think that the slightly higher-res 16-bit graphics of the Scott Pilgrim beat-em-up are better than these because they do allow that bit more detail. There were a few special levels, like motorbike chases or fights on top of moving trucks, but they didn't really offer that much variety. The most annoying ones by far were one where the level was full of lawyers as well as baddies, and if you hit a lawyer the level immediately ended - I lost track of the number of times I redid that one, and one where you had to ride an ostrich through a minefield. Both of those things probably sound quite fun - and they were initially - but when you're redoing them for the 20th time because the ostrich controls are shoddy or because the lawyers actually run towards you instead of avoiding you...it all gets a little annoying.It was fun, but all a bit samey, and there didn't need to be quite as many levels as there were. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Enclave! I don't know too much about this one. It's a fairly recent 3rd-person action adventure game, apparently. Could be fun.Back to Tomb Raider for a bit first, which feels like it's going ever so slowly, but I must be getting somewhere in it.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Sim Space Station

As far as I can tell, Moonbase is essentially Sim City in space. It feels the same, and is modeled very closely on it, but without a manual, I was essentially flying blind. You start with a very basic lunar landscape (grey with a few craters) and can place down a variety of buildings - from things like housing and power plants to hotels and entertainment centres for space tourists. You also need to put down roads and powerlines, etc. Buildings have airlocks and power couplings randomly distributed around them. It probably showed them in the manual, but I had to (rather expensively) put a building down to see where all its connectors were, then bulldoze it and place it properly. There was also some kind of rudimentary economy that I could never quite get the hang of. You could send out mining drones to harvest oxygen and nitrogen, but I couldn't work out how you were supposed to trade it (maybe it just happened automatically?). It also took me a while to realise that you have to put down a landing pad if you actually want anyone to visit. So, I think it would have been a lot more interesting with the manual, but otherwise it just felt like a less-friendly version of Sim City. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Night Shift! I vaguely remember this one from magazines back in the day. It was a kind of puzzly thing from Lucasfilm. Interesting to see what it's like.

UPDATE - Night Shift needs a code wheel to get into the game, and there's nothing obvious on the internet. I don't think I've got the will to print off and painstakingly cut out my own, so I'm going to move on. Next up on the randometer is...Fist Puncher! It's a modern 2D scrolling beat-em-up. Hopefully fun.

In other news, the great early PSN game purge continues. I'm going to move Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo HD Remix into the done pile. It's similar in style to Tetris/match 3 games where coloured gems (in pairs) drop from the top of the screen and you have to line them up with the rapidly expanding pile of blocks at the bottom of your screen. The difference here is that gems of the same colour merge together into huge gems, then you can burst them (using a differently shaped detonator block that randomly drops as part of the normal gem pairs) to 'attack' your opponent and send a bunch of harder to destroy gems over onto their play field. It's a fun game, but a) it's a score attack game, and b) I'm rubbish at it, so I'm going to move on.