Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Shine On, Racing Moon

Moonshine Racers is, unfortunately, not a very fun game. Maybe it was better back in the day, but that certainly isn't apparent from my time with it. It controls atrociously - slightly better with a pad, but still pretty much unplayable. Obstacles appear from nowhere without giving you any time to avoid them. Your vehicle handles like a deep-sea oil tanker scraping its way along the road. The music's kind of fun in a Dukes of Hazzard style, and the banter between the boys is amusing for the first few minutes, but the driving experience is just terrible. While you're caroming your way across along the road, you're also being chased at times by the police. When this happens, you're dead. The police car will zoom up behind you, completely unavoidably, and ram you a couple of times causing your engine to explode. I can only think that I'm missing something, that once upon a time the handling was better and it was easier to avoid cars, obstacles and the chasing police. As it is, the game's almost completely unplayable, which is a shame as there are apparently more cars and vehicle upgrades that you can buy when you get further into it. I also quite like the idea of racing one long route, rather than track-based racers, which I find a tad tedious. Alas, it just wasn't to be. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Rising Lands! Looks like an RTS game, but I don't know anything about it. Might be a nice change of pace ... and it's another Win 95 game that doesn't run properly. It actually does run without crashing, but it runs at about 250% speed and is impossible to control. Pity, as it looked like it might have been quite fun. If there were just some options to control the scroll speed then it may have been slightly playable, but as it is I can't get any further than building a barracks and watching all my farmers get murdered without even being able to see what's attacking them. I tried a couple of fixes, but nothing seemed to work. Apparently there is a patched version out there somewhere, but I don't have the energy to find it.

Next up on the randometer is...AV-8B Harrier Assault! Ugh, another flight sim. Ah well, I'll give it a quick go. Might just have a look tonight then move on. Keen to have something I can actually complete!

...

And I'm almost relieved to report that it doesn't work. My version won't run or install. Onwards - quickly before anyone suggests I try and redownload it. Next up on the randometer is...Always Sometimes Monsters! I've actually played a bit of this not that long ago. I think it's quite short, so might be something I can actually play through and finish.

Monday, 27 February 2017

More Balls

I have definitely played Virtual Pool before - we may even have had the same cracked version back in the '90s. I remember the graphics and the controls well. There's not really much to say about it - it's a great pool game for the time, with a really good feel. Everything behaves as it should, and I found myself cursing when I missed a shot in exactly the same way as I do when playing real pool. You know when you miss that it was your fault. There's no time pressure, no external factors, it's all just down to the fact that you aimed incorrectly or didn't use enough power. The controls are great, with the mouse responding beautifully as a cue and a satisfactory clack from the kissing balls. The ragtime music dittying away in the background gets a bit grating after a while, but it's easy enough to turn it off. Again, it would be much better playing against a real person, but otherwise I think this is a great game of pool, and one I'd be very happy to sit down with a mate and a couple of beers and while away the hours as Scott Joplin plays and cue ball spins across the baize.

Next up on the randometer is...(no more sports games please)...Moonshine Racers! Never heard of it. Apparently, it's an early '90s racing game where you have to deliver booze and avoid the cops. Could be fun.

Balls

And, that wasn't great. I don't think I even got the chance to pass the ball. From every kick off, the opposing team would just run through my boys and score a try. League is a very stop-start game compared to Union, with a reset on every tackle. More akin to American Football, I guess (though I don't really know either game that well). This means that instead of making a tackle and being able to contest the ball, instead, I make a tackle and the ball remains in their possession ready for them to run at me again. I *think* there are 5 tackles before there is a change over, but the maximum I ever got was 4 before they surged over the try line yet again. Like most sports games, it would have been more fun against another human player sitting next to you rather than against the computer who, even on the lowest difficulty, seemed to have no trouble at all weaving through my bunch of diving loonies. It did seem like it could have been quite fun - a bit like the Sensi of rugby, with tiny figures bombing around the place, but the accuracy and immediacy wasn't there for me. I think my crowning achievement was driving their scrum back a few metres (by hammering the Up key), but they still just shipped it out along the backs and ran in yet another try. Unless anyone fancies popping around for a quick 2-player game, I think I'm going to move this one into the Done pile. That's quite a long run of games that I haven't given more than a 10-minute look in, now, but I don't mind that too much. It's good to be getting through them. Fallout 3 is still giving me plenty of opportunity for getting my teeth into a deeper game.

Next up on the randometer is...Virtual Pool! Okay...well, I guess it'll be another quick one. Similar to the League/Union split, I've probably played more snooker than pool but hey, let's give it a go.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Monopolised

This is going to be short because, well, what is there to say, it's Monopoly! I played against a single computer opponent, which is the absolute worst way to play Monopoly. If there's one thing Monopoly's not, it's a fun two-player game. It's just too random and there's not enough strategy and player agency. It only really works as a social game, preferably with family, and preferably ending in a huge argument with the board being flipped in the air and pieces thrown everywhere...with lots of stealing from the bank (or at least accusations of stealing from the bank, which just serves to fuel the arguments) and name calling. Unfortunately, the computer pales into comparison with the full family experience (I'm sure it can't just be my family), and it runs away, tediously winning the game in the way only computers can, without any of the excitement of a real game. It may be an enduring classic, but let's face it, mechanically it's not a great game, not any more. One game is definitely enough for me. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Wembley Rugby League! Timely with the Six Nations going on, but League, which is the Devil's version of Rugby. Ah well, it's worth a go. Computer rugby games are traditionally appalling (other than Jonah Lomu Rugby on the PlayStation), so it'll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Mystery of the Monkey

The Mystery of the Mummy is an example of a game with ideas way before its time. A time when people were still exploring how a mouse-based system should behave, when terms like WIMP (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer) were still being used to describe the kind of interface that nowadays people just take for granted. It's an adventure game that you control using a very rudimentary iconographic interface. Click on the car icon for another menu of things to do with travel, then click on the car icon with an arrow pointing towards it to get into the car and drive, opening up another panel where you type a number corresponding to one of the buildings on the huge map of Hamburg that came with the game. Yes, a number. A bit like a Chinese takeaway menu, you the parser can't understand complex terms, so you just give it a number instead, taken from the huge list of places that also came with the game. It works, but it's a bit slow and clunky. You spend your time travelling around Hamburg, speaking to people and looking for clues to discover the secret of the cursed mummy. You're under a 5-day time limit to do this, which includes eating and heading back to your hotel to sleep. It's kind of like an evolutionary step between Bureaucracy and the World's Fair Mystery that I played earlier. A halfway house between game types that doesn't quite succeed as well as either of them. I'm not going to pretend I got very far with it. I blundered around for a bit, talking to people and not learning much, and I can't say I really enjoyed myself. Ah well, onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Monopoly Deluxe! Well, that shouldn't take long!

I'm also going to wave goodbye to another early PSN game: Numblast. Numblast is a puzzle game where you rotate squares of 4 numbers on a grid in order to create blocks of 4 numbers in the same square. Once you achieve this, they will count up one more number before exploding. If that counting up will create another square of 4 numbers, then you will create a chain, and that's essentially the game. creating chains of numbers and either chasing a high score, or solving pre-created puzzles. Whichever it is, I find the concept really hard to get my head around. I can just about solve the easy puzzles, but the more difficult ones just leave me scratching my head. You only get a set number of moves, so have to plan in advance to complete the puzzles. One wrong move and you may as well reset the whole thing and start again, which gets frustrating before too long. It's the kind of thing that you think should be good for you because it stretches the brain so far, but actually it's just really, really hard. It's going to join the other unfinished puzzle games in the Done pile for now, awaiting that far off day when I have infinite time and infinite patience to devote to them. ... Oh, and how could I not mention the insane framing story about the teacher being turned into a monkey (that can lay eggs from its mouth) by a freak explosive combination of Numblast cubes, and you - the student - are trying to bring him back to his normal self again. Hmmm.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Windy

I know, I know, I didn't give Tornado a fair trial, but I've just come back from a week away, and it's the last thing that I want to pick up again. And I did try - I flicked through the whole 73 page manual, and read little bits here and there. I tried to follow the tutorial and failed miserably - it's not my fault that the first key that I was supposed to press didn't appear to have any effect at all. So, in the end, I turned it into an arcade-athon using just the cursor keys to move and Space to fire the big guns. Needless to say, it wasn't very successful. Ah well, it was exactly what I was expecting really, a hardcore flight sim that was never going to be my cup of tea. I knew it when I first saw the adverts on the back of PC Zone, and I still know it now: Tornado is not the game for me. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Iron Assault! It's a giant robot mech game from the mid '90s. Another one that I remember well from mags of the time. Can't remember if I ever played a demo of it...it vaguely rings a bell. Looking forward to it (as long as it's more arcade than sim).

...And, I can't get it working. Even tried burning the install files onto a real CD (TM). Haven't used one of those in a long time! I could dig further, but, to be honest, I'm keen to move one. So, next up on the randometer is...Mystery of the Mummy! Not one I know. It's an icon-driven adventure game from the late '80s. Could be fun.

In other news, I have been chugging along with Fallout 3. Still doing side quests and exploring the wasteland, without really picking up the main quest at all. The crashing is still driving me nuts, but I'm determined to make my way through the game. It's a series I love too much to give up on. I also just bought the most ridiculously massive bundle of games ever, so my list has grown by about 50 titles. I'm an idiot.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Pulstoff

Urgh, that's enough of Pulstar. It probably would have been a great game in the arcades back in the day, but for me now...not so much. It doesn't help that it's a pretty blatant rip off of R-Type - the same Giger-inspired biomechanical influence is everywhere, the ship design is pretty similar, the same power-ups, the same 'Force' add-on. Even the monster and level design feel very similar. They weren't the only ones doing it, the '90s were awash with shooters following in R-Type's wake, but this is one of the most reliant on R-Type's tropes and iconography. The other thing not helping this game's longevity on my system is that there's no auto-fire, so I've got to hammer the keyboard constantly when I'm playing - not good for my keyboard or RSI! So, yeah, I think that's enough. I'll probably find it's a great classic of the genre and I'm doing it a great disservice. I didn't even make it off the first level, but I just have no desire to play it any further. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Tornado! Hmm, have to admit I'm not really looking forward to this one. I remember it well from magazines of the time. It's a full on flight sim, one of my least favourite genres. I seem to remember there was a keyboard overlay published in one magazine because there were so many crazy keys to try and remember. I might not play it for long.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Cursed Crunch

I polished off Curse: the Eye of Isis tonight. While it was never going to set the world on fire, it's a solid enough game. It's kind of like a survival horror game, but without much of the horror. Or the survival. What they've really taken from the genre is the fixed camera angles (and the rubbish controls). You control one of two characters at various points through your adventure - they're functionally identical, so it doesn't really make any difference which you have. It's set in a slightly steampunk (only in terms of a couple of the weapons) Victorian era, moving from the British Museum to a boat, and then on to Egypt. Only three locations, so it's quite a short game, but there's plenty to keep you occupied. It was obviously meant for consoles, so the controls are abysmal, with the mouse spinning your round like a mad thing while you try and awkwardly move around. You get used to them, but even at the end of the game I was still running into obstacles by mistake and losing my bearings because the fixed camera meant I couldn't see my character when behind a pillar. Luckily, when you draw your weapon you have a fixed lock on, so you don't actually need to aim, or it would have been much harder. Combat is annoying enough as it is (and I played on Easy), with your character moving so sluggishly and having to stop all the time to reload. I think the developers recognised this and there's plenty of healing items to go around. The game follows plenty of the genre conceits with reanimating corpses, jump scares, and a magical shopkeeper (Abdul, who serves as your guide) who just happens to appear whenever you need him, and also acts as your means to save the game. There's also a bit of inventory management, but it's nothing like as onerous as the RE games. You can just offload any items that you don't need onto Abdul and he'll keep them in his inventory ready for you to take them back if you ever find that you do need them. You can also juggle items between your two characters' inventories, but I only found it useful a couple of times. The story starts interestingly, but soon loses its way and becomes irrelevant. There are a few boss battles, but they're not too difficult, and the final boss is laughably easy. The one big bad guy who I thought I'd be fighting (who would have been the only boss with a ranged weapon) ended up being taken care of in a cut-scene, which was a bit disappointing. So, yeah, nothing to write home about, but solid enough.

Next up on the randometer is...Pulstar! It's an old Neo Geo shoot-em-up that I know nothing about. Could be fun. I'm also slowly moving forwards in Fallout 3, side-questing my way through the wasteland. I haven't really made any progress on the main story yet, still just feeling around the edges.

In PS3 news, It's Critter Crunch's turn to join the Done pile. Critter Crunch is actually a really fun game, but it came out at a time when PSN seemed to be flooded with similar feeling puzzle games. I guess developers were thinking what they could make for Sony's new (at the time) service that would be quick to make and a small download size, but still look next-gen. The answer that a lot of them came up with was puzzle games. Trash Panic was one, this is another, and the next game in the PS3 list - Numblast - is yet another. Puzzle games are fine and dandy, but they never really scratch my completionist itch - there's never really an ending as such, other than completing the requisite number of puzzles. To its credit, Critter Crunch looks absolutely gorgeous, with an extremely vibrant and beautifully animated cartoon style. The basic game consists of differently sized critters climbing down the vines above you, and you have to clear them all before they reach the bottom. You clear them by feeding the smaller critters to the bigger critters, and creating chains of popping animals. You can only feed one-size-smaller animals to each critter, so there's a bit of vine management required where you move around bigger creatures trying to get the smallest ones to feed to the medium critters so you can feed them to the biggest ones. you also have to pay attention to critter colour, as you can only make chains from critters of the same colour, even if they're the same size. There are a few other special abilities and types of critter, but it never gets too overwhelming. Overall, as I say, it's a great fun game, with a learning curve that felt a lot more natural to me when I played it this time around to when I originally played it. Oh, and you can vomit rainbows to feed your kids. Did I forget to mention that? If I did have tons of time, then this is the kind of game that I might well dive back into for a short blast every now and then, but as it is...nah. Onwards!