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.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Dirrrty

...and that was pretty much exactly what I expected. A good bit of low-res loving. It's a pretty standard poker game with some poorly digitized scantily clad ladies emblazoned above it. There's not really much else to say except I WUZ ROBBED! I beat the game fair and square and the darned thing quit straight to DOS with barely a hint of titillation in sight. Bah. Oh well, I guess it means I don't feel quite so bad about posting the done screen here!

Next up on the randometer is...Moonbase! Apparently it's a lunar colony simulator. Feels like one I'll explore more than play, still, I'll see how it goes.

Very Mysterious

Mysterious Song was an odd one. It's a very standard 8-bit RPG (yes, it feels more 8-bit than 16-bit) with a very short story. It's extremely linear with only 3 or 4 towns and a couple of dungeons. The reason it takes a bit longer than it should is that it's completely unfairly difficult. Monsters in the first area will wipe you out without breaking a sweat until you've gained a few levels, and gaining levels isn't that quick. Later monsters will wipe you out even quicker, and it feels like with every new area you need to go back to grinding for a while in order to be able to beat them. You could argue that's kind of the case with most RPGs, but this is *much* worse. Apparently, the game was actually released on console and that version was enhanced over the DOS version. It contained an extra New Game+ mode after you've finished the main story containing a few extra dungeons and a different ending. As it is, though, we have to make do with the short single campaign and the slightly odd DOS ending where (come on, none of you are actually going to play this, but...spoilers...) the hero dies but gets carried away to a strange new place (presumably the new console ending gave you a bit more closure). There was also going to be a sequel, but it never happened. Ah well, I can't really call it fun while it lasted, but at least it was quick.

Next up on the randometer is...Strip Poker: A Sizzling Game of Chance! Wooh - perv me up! Might have a quick go at this tonight...Ahem...I just mean it'll be a quick one. No, not in that way, I just mean...oh whatever.

I'm also going to call time on another bunch of PSN titles, Riff: Everyday Shooter, Pain, Bishi Bashi Special and Dark Mist. The early days of PSN was a strange time where no-one was really sure what a downloadable game should be, so there were a lot of short-form experimental titles. They were only releasing one or two games a month back then and they were all fairly cheap, so for some reason (I was mad and had a disposable income), I decided I was going to buy every PSN game. It didn't last long, but it does mean I've got a bunch of these weird games sitting in my account. Everyday Shooter is a top-down shoot-em-up with unique visuals and a beautiful guitar soundtrack. Instead of pew-pew noises, every time you destroy an enemy it triggers a different note or phrase, creating a wonderful soundscape as you play. I'm rubbish at shooters, so find this quite hard, but I really enjoy it. Pain is kind of the opposite. While Everyday Shooter is arty and subtle, Pain is brash and metal. It's a physics based game where you fling a guy from a catapult and try and hit targets aiming for the best score. There's a little more to it than that, but not much. It's fun with beers and friends, but a little dull on its own. Talking about games that are fun with friends, Bishi Bashi Special is an amazing game with a few mates round. It's an old PS1 game, and is essentially Wario Ware before it existed - it's a collection of insane, short minigames that you can play against other people. Properly crazy-crazy, but brilliant. Finally, there's Dark Mist, which is a weird one. It has the stylings of a dungeon crawler, but is in fact a cunningly disguised shoot-em-up. I guess it's a little like Gauntlet where you control a character in a top-down dungeon firing your bow in a twin-stick stylee at the invading monster hordes. The main reason I'm not taking it any further is because it's essentially a score attack game with no ending. You just keep going until you die and then enter your name in the high-score table. It looks beautiful and it's quite fun, but not for me right now.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Balls

Aaannndd, Ball Race is pretty much exactly as I expected. You are a ball and you race. The game isn't even complete (as the instructions inform you), being made for modem play and aiming to be updated later, so none of the planned extras like oil slicks and torpedoes don't make it into this version. All you can do is race onwards slowly. I'm not even sure if it ever ends. I did 8 laps and gave up. Anyway, it's a nice quick one out of the way!

Next up on the randometer is...Mysterious Song! Never heard of it.Apparently it's a freeware console-style RPG, so might be fun. I'm also going to knock a couple more PS3 games off the list. Tekken: Dark Resurrection and Pixeljunk Monsters. I've played a little of Tekken over the years, but I'm pretty rubbish at it. This version was mostly made to be played online, which I'm not going to do, so there isn't much story to it pull me through. I'm not going to go through and try and complete it with every character 'just because', so I'm going to call it done for now. Pixeljunk Monsters is a fun little tower defense game with the slight difference that you control an actual character rather than just a cursor, and the character can upgrade towers by standing over them and doing a little dance. You also need to run around as your character and pick up coins that destroyed enemies drop. It all adds an extra element to the game, and it's all pretty enjoyable. The reason I'm calling time on it is because I actually played a lot of it back when I first got my PS3 and completed most of it. Of course, that was three PS3s ago, so my save games are long gone (this was back before online storage) and I can't quite face going back through it all again now.

Odd Aliens

I'm going to call a halt on Alien Odyssey. I got about half way through the second level (out of 4) but I've reached a door that I can't get through. I've tried all of the consoles nearby to open it, and the strange musical key I have, but to no avail. I also checked a walkthrough, but as far as I can tell I've done everything they did there but their instructions say 'walk through the door', and my game says NO. I'm sure there is just a switch somewhere miles back that I missed, but the game's not that fun and I really can't be bothered going back to check every room to find it.

The game itself is kind of a '90s slow action game with pre-rendered graphics. It's split into 4 stages, two of which are vehicle-based, and the other two are on foot. I finished the first vehicle one, a speeder-bike chase through some woods - no prizes for guessing the inspiration - where you have to destroy the robot pilots while keeping your strange lizard friend safe. It took me quite a few tries, but I made it in the end. Next up is the first on-foot section, which consists of exploring a comms bunker. Your character ambles along pretty slowly, firing at anything that moves and avoiding any traps by using his fantastic jump. There are also two sets of keys you need to find to open various doors - one a musical key that you find various cartridges for. Each cartridge allows your machine to play a different note and you have to have the correct cartridges to play back the sequence of notes that each door plays. There are also some doors that you need robot hands for, and others that you need to use a computer terminal to open. The terminals can also do other things like raise bridges or call repair drones. The graphics are pretty good, and there is a bit of story. If I'd owned this in the '90s I probably would have persevered, but now...meh.

Next up on the randometer is...Ball Race! Apparently it's a CGA racing game from the '80s. Might give it a quick go at lunch then move on. I'm also making slow progress with The Last Revelation. Don't think I'm anywhere near the end yet, and I've lost track of my objective a bit, but I feel like I'm still moving forward.