Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Wave Goodbye

Is Crime Wave terrible? Why, yes it is. Access obviously made it with their tongue firmly in their cheek, but that doesn't really excuse the fact that it is a bad, bad game. It's a simple run'n'gun with digitized graphics and cringeworthy cutscenes. They actually verge on the "so bad it's good" side of things - the acting is totally over the top, and Access clearly knew that when they were making it. It's an '80s action movie wet dream of mirror shades and helpless babes. Unfortunately, the game they hung it on is just awful. The controls are dire, sluggish and unresponsive. Hit detection is a joke. Enemies spawn constantly and can hit you from anywhere, while they only seem to have an infuriatingly small hitbox. There's no variety to the enemies, you probably get a maximum of two enemy sprites per stage. There's no variety to the levels - I tell a lie, there is a slight variety in that on some levels you can enter doorways that take you to almost identical mini levels that might have an electrical floor. It's just terrible. There's no way that you can dodge the enemy bullets, so you end just bullet-sponging your way through the levels, hoping that the enemies drop enough health and extra lives to get you through to the end of the level. Luckily (?) they usually do drop enough items (at least they did on 'Beginner' level), so I managed to make it through the whole game without too many issues. There are two bosses in the game that show up unannounced at the end of their levels, but by that point in the game I had hundreds of missiles, so it was just a case of spamming those until the bosses fell over. It's a game I'm glad to see the back of.

Next up on the randometer is...Tom Clancy's Endwar! It'll be my first Uplay game, interested to see how it goes. I figure this one sits outside of the rest of the Clancy oeuvre, so it's okay to play standalone.

Monday, 4 September 2017

My way, please

So, Highway Patrol 2 is terrible. Really, really terrible. There are much better DOS driving games than this. Heck, there are much better BBC Micro driving games than this. It's even more annoying because it has some good ideas. You're not just here for the fun of driving, you're here to do a job. There are heinous villains who have performed terrible crimes who you need to catch and bring to justice before they can strike again. Feel the excitement of a compass that points in the direction of said villain, thrill at the wind rushing past you, your sirens blaring, as you chase (hq) down your foe... retch at the constant nausea of your spinning car, squeal as the foot-long spines of yet another cactus puncture your frail vehicle and send you into yet another spin, wonder at what the game might have been like if you could turn a corner without spinning out of control for the millionth time, dream of the fun you might actually have if you ever found one of these mythical villains, scream as the road takes you even further away from your foe and you clip a tiny signpost that sends you into another uncontrollable spin, actually vomit as the constant stupidly loud and strangely throbbing engine noise plays havoc with your inner ear... So yeah, what's the point of having all of these extra game mechanics if the central mechanic of driving is so terrible that you can't even reach the rest of the game? One thing I did find after a while was that speed here is a constant that you set, rather than a modeled value that degrades. What I mean is that in most driving games, you hold down the accelerator to go faster, then when you release the accelerator the car starts to slow down. Well, in this game, you use the accelerator to set your speed, then you let go of the key to continue to travel at that speed. If you want to slow down then you have to use the brakes. Before that, I'd been constantly holding down the accelerator, as you would in most games, but that was just sending me up to top speed and making the car impossible to control. Unfortunately, while my new-found skill meant I could actually approach and turn a corner at a speed that meant I'd survive it without spinning off the road, it also meant that adversary continued to get further and further away. So, no, Highway Patrol 2 is not a good game and I'm not going to be continuing with it. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Crime Wave! An early Access sidescroller that's renowned for being terrible. Yay!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Brainless Escape

I think I've gone about as far as I can with Mechanic Escape, and that's a lot further than I thought I would. The game's not terrible, it's just not really very good either. It's a speed run platformer with instant death and quick and infinite retries, very much in the vein of your Meat Boys and VVVVVVVs. It looks the ticket, too, with bright graphics and cartoony HDness, a nice change from the pixel graphics that usually accompany games of that type. But...and it's a great big smelly but...the controls are horribly imprecise, all floaty and slippery. If there's one thing that you need to be as tight as possible in these types of games, it's the controls, but here they've wilfully gone for something that just feels loose and horrible. I can see their thinking behind it - that it's a part of the game and learning to account for the floatiness is part of the skill, but it's just no fun whatsoever. There's absolutely no need for it, either. The game would have been much better for having tighter controls, end of story. Unfortunately, the poor controls are coupled with poor level design - it's just extremely boring, with very little difference between levels. Also, there are 80 of them...it's way too long for what it is. I got to about level 64 before giving up. The whole rubbishness is compounded by the fact that the viewport is quite zoomed in, so you can't see what's ahead of you. Not what you need in these kinds of games, but obviously designed that way to maximise the frustration. This is coupled with the fact that you usually have some kind of evil monster chasing you, so you're running at full tilt to escape it and blindly jumping into almost certain doom. There's no possible way of knowing what's coming up, you're expected to die and then know where to go the next time around, until you die again at the next trap. On a first run through, I think it'd be impossible to do most levels without dying 5-10 times, and that's just no fun. At least give me a chance to get things right the first time through! There's pretty much only one route through each level jumping at exactly the right spots each time. It feels like you don't have any agency whatsoever, you're just pressing buttons in exactly the sequence the programmer says you can, and where's the fun in that? It's essentially a Tool Assisted Speedrun, but you're the tool. Ironically, the 30-year old Monuments of Mars that I played a few months ago is a much better example of the genre than this. So, meh. It's boring, imprecise, spiteful, and makes me angry every time I play it. Sod that. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Highway Patrol 2! It's not one I'm familiar with. Looks like a Chase HQ pretender.

I'm also going to knock Brain Challenge on the head. This came out on the PS3 in the wave of post Brain Training DS games. It's a utility, I guess, rather than a game per se. It presents a series of challenges that you have to complete in a time limit, things like maths problems and logic puzzles. I do actually find these things quite fun, so I might keep it around on the PS3 to check in every now and again and see if it can increase my brain power - Lord knows, I need it. I'm going to count it as complete on the list, though.