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!