Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Pipe dream

Dear me, this isn't going well, is it? Pipes looks like a perfectly serviceable little game. Nothing special, but of its time. I can see exactly what I need to do - use the different pieces of pipe available to me to build a pipeline from the water main to my house (or houses if I up the difficulty). I can move my little plumber around easily enough, zipping him between places ready to lay some pipe. The only problem is that I can't work out for the life of me how to purchase and lay pipe. I've pressed every button on the keyboard, but nothing. I can imagine exactly how the game would play, so it's not a big issue, but it would have been nice to have been able to see the happy faces of the occupants of the house when I switched on their water. Ah well, let's hope for something better.

Next up on the randometer is...Bedlam 2: Absolute Bedlam! I don't have the first game in the series so I'll be playing this one straight.

...AAARRRGGGHHH!!! This is getting a bit ridiculous. After a bit of fiddling, I managed to get the game running (the setup program thought it should be running in a 32-bit version of Windows, but I managed to manually extract it all and get it running under DOS). It loads up fine, the menu is fine, the mission select is fine...then the mouse seems to hang on the weapon select screen. The mouse works fine on the other screens, and I know the game itself isn't hanging because the keyboard still responds - I can hit Esc to go back to the main menu - but I can't move the mouse over to hit the Play button to get on with the game, and no other keys seem to do anything. I'm cursed. At least it's going to massively inflate my otherwise-woeful completion stats for the year!

Next up on the randometer is...Deathtrap Dungeon! Interesting. Let's hope this one works.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Drivin' Hard to War

Well, this might be the quickest run through of four games since...my last post. First up, Hard Drivin'
seems to be missing from my files, and I just have a copy of Race Drivin' in its place. Oh well, no great shakes. As for Race Drivin' itself, I can't quite work out whether it was the next game in the series or Hard Drivin' 2, but I'll go with Race Drivin' as that seems to be the slightly ropier version, but to be honest, they both appear to be incredibly similar games. Both games begin with you selecting manual or auto transmission on the car you want to drive. (I remember it used to be a really big thing whether you chose manual or auto in racing games back in the day - changing gears was a real badge of pride back in those days! I can't think of many modern racers that bother with gears at all - definitely not arcade ones. It's just an extra faff when all you really want to do is accelerate or brake.) Once you've chosen your car, you choose your track (HD2 has more cars and tracks available). There are opposing racers, but I found the biggest challenge getting to checkpoints and staying on the track. You can only spend 10 seconds off road before you get hoiked back onto the track, which is a bit of a shame, as it might have been fun to try and find shortcuts amidst all of that featureless wasteland. Trackside objects are in 3D, which is pretty impressive, and you also have bridges and jumps in the game and looping tracks that mean you might drive under a bridge one minute, then loop around and drive over it the next. Doesn't sound like much now, but hey, it all felt new back then. There are also cars driving toward you on the other side of the road that you have to avoid (or not). It's the kind of thing that might have been fun in limited doses, but it's completely ruined by the baffling decision to have it all controlled by the mouse (I'm sure you could change to keyboard somehow, but I couldn't work out how). Moving the mouse from side to side steers you, the left button speeds you up and I think the right button slows you down, but that never seemed to do much. It's horrendous. I guess the reasoning was because it gives you some kind of analogue control as opposed to the hard digital of a keyboard, and you do start to get used to it after a while, but it never stops feeling horrible. No thanks. Next up on the series list is the Dragonlance action games. I remember these being pretty horrible back in the day, so it'll be interesting to see how they hold up!

I'm also going to very quickly gloss over The L.E.D. Wars. As I guessed at, it's an old Windows game and doesn't run nicely at all. It does run, which I'll give it some credit for, but the mouse scrolling is completely messed up. It's an RTS, so there's a lot of clicking on units and moving them around the map, so scrolling is fundamental. Unfortunately, the screen scrolling seems to be completely random, sometimes it'll zoom past at 100 miles per hour, other times it won't budge at all (the usual reaction). It'll behave differently depending on which direction you're trying to move the mouse in, but even the way it behaves there will be completely random. You might be able to move up a bit, but then can't move down, then you try to move up a bit more but can't, but it does suddenly let you move down but skips to the bottom of the map in 3 nanoseconds. It's just impossible to play. What I did see looked like it might have been fairly standard fare. You have a basic command vehicle that can build other buildings, and different buildings create different assets, soldiers, resources, etc. So far, so similar. The only thing that stood out were the rubbish mission briefings, but then only because I've got a sneaking suspicion your boss is played by Swen Wicke, head of Larian Studios. Anyway, it wasn't going to work, so I'm not going to hang around.

Next up on the randometer is...Star Command Deluxe! Hmmm, looks like yet another '90s Windows RTS. And...it plays just like one, i.e. not at all. Early Windows games really do struggle under Win 10. Could be a growing issue. Oh well, looks like it's off the list for now.

Next up on the randometer is...Pipes! Looks like an early edutainment game. Shouldn't take long.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Skippin' Shame

Another month gone by without any posts. I really need to get back into the swing of things, and the Last Ninja games and DinoPark tycoon are not the games to do it. I'm just going to zip through them here and move on, which is a terrible cop out but I've run out of energy this year and I want to play something good before we hit 2019.

First up, DinoPark Tycoon. Tycoon games are never that high on my enjoyment list, and this one's no different. I spend enough of my days bored by spreadsheets, and I don't really enjoy the nitty-gritty of cash flow and hiring toilet cleaners. I don't mind the complexity of a good rpg, so that can't be the sole reason; maybe it's just because business bores me. This game is made for a younger age group, so is slightly easier to get into than other entries in the canon, but only slightly. I only played it as long as I did (and that wasn't long) because I like dinosaurs. It's very much the usual story as with all these types of games. You have to build a park - getting the right kinds of pens and food for the right kinds of dinosaurs - and put in enough maintenance staff and entertainment to keep the place running, then open the doors and theoretically watch the money roll in, then rinse and repeat with bigger dinosaurs. That's a massive oversimplification because I just didn't play it for long enough, but in the time I played it didn't give me any reason to think it might pan out differently.

Next were the two Last Ninja games. I was kind of looking forward to these because I had some fond memories of being frustrated by them on the Beeb, but I just couldn't get the controls to work. The joystick controls wouldn't play nice, and the keyboard was all over the place, sometimes buttons would do one thing, sometimes they would do another, and sometimes they would do nothing at all. Not great in a quick-reaction arcade game like this. I don't remember ever having control issues on the Beeb (other than the 3 different
length jump buttons), so it must be an emulator issue. The Last Ninja 2 controlled slightly better (apart from not being able to get him to face the right way), but attacking people in both games is frankly ludicrous and I couldn't kill anyone without losing at least one of my lives in the process. At least in the first game people have the decency to stay dead (I think), in the second game, they're back up and at you after a few seconds - not what you want when it took one and a half lives to knock them down in the first place and when you're still struggling with the controls and navigation when the guy gets back up and wallops you. It's a shame because I did really want to get through these two games and finish what I started all those years ago, but it was all just waay too frustrating, and with the control issues I had, I'm not even sure I could have finished them. Ah well, onwards!

Next up on the series list is Hard Drivin'! Never my favourite game series, or genre, but I'll give 'em a few laps. Next up on the randometer is...The L.E.D. Wars! Looks like a '90s RTS. Strangely enough, developed by Larian Studios - they of Divinity fame. Be interesting to see how it turns out. It's a Windows game, mind, so have to see if it'll work...

Monday, 5 November 2018

Nuclear Winter

I'm done with Nuclear War (in life, as well as gaming). My first impressions of the game weren't great, but I warmed to it once I got the hang of the combat flow. Basically, you control a nuclear power duking it out with 4 other powers - last one left alive wins...I think, I never actually made it out of a game alive. Each country takes one action per turn - building your stockpile, preparing nukes, launching nukes, preparing defenses and propaganda. Each leader has a different personality and their outlook on each other leader changes as the game goes on. It's best to play leaders off against each other and let them deal as much damage to each other before their focus changes to you. You can't just spend your time stockpiling, though, or the other nations will notice and all attack you, so you have to vary your actions each turn. Each nation starts with 5 cities, and as cities become destroyed you lose the ability to build as many weapons per turn. It doesn't take too long to play, as it's basically a downward spiral of destruction - cities can never be rebuilt, and you can only gain population by using propaganda to lure people from other cities or from random events. One quirk is that when a nation is destroyed, they automatically launch their remaining stockpile at random against the remaining players. This prevents stalemates and rapidly brings about the endgame. The only problem (and the reason why I've never survived the game) is that this also happens when you destroy the final city, so even though you've destroyed the opposition, their bombs still rain down on you at the end and (usually) wipe you out. It's possible that you could survive it if you had enough cities left, but I've never managed it. Maybe it's supposed to be a metaphor for the real world - there are no winners in nuclear war!

Next up on the randometer is...Five-a-side Soccer! Great, an ancient DOS football game. This one probably won't take long.

In fact, I'm going to give up on Five-a-side Soccer. I tried it over lunch today, and I just can't get it to control very well. It's way too fast on normal DosBox cycles, and when I slow it down to manageable levels the controls don't respond. So...sorry Five-a-side Soccer. Honestly, I don't think I'm missing much - the graphics are extremely rudimentary and I couldn't make any kind of movement or action..

Next up on the randometer is...DinoPark Tycoon! Looks like a semi-edutainment management game where you build your own Jurassic Park. I'm not the biggest fan of tycoon games, so we'll see...

Friday, 2 November 2018

freeDone planet

Another delay (work is still hardcore), but I've finally finished Freedom Planet. It's a throwback to the Sonic games of old in just about every sense. Here, you play a dragon who can do spin attacks rather than Sonic's bouncing, and these spin attacks can also give you an extra bit of lift to clear long gaps. There is also a speed boost attack like Sonic's, but here you can also shoot up in the air to reach new areas or clear long gaps. It also has a power gauge and you can only use it when the gauge is full. Boosting drains the whole gauge (which refills fairly quickly), and spin attacks drain a little of the gauge. This is basically just to stop you chaining spin attacks followed by boosts. (There are other characters with other moves, but I'd had enough after the first one.) It's all done in a retro style, which looks fine and sounds good. I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy the game that much...actually, I have to admit that I don't really enjoy the Sonic games that much either. You zoom through the stages at high speed, which is great and all, but I personally like to take my time and see the sights. Each stage is then followed by a boss fight. This has the same Sonic rhythms of easy stage followed by difficult boss, but here, both of those are even more exaggerated. The stages here are mostly so easy that there's almost no point to them. You can just run through to the end jumping between platforms without really bothering with the enemies for the most part. As the stages go on, there's a bit more thinking - the odd switch here or keycard there - but they're all fairly straightforward. Then, you reach the bosses, which are almost all near impossible the first time that you encounter them. They're just cheap and no fun. Even when I'd fought them a few times and learned the patterns, defeating them still felt like a chore rather than anything fun. I don't know, it just never grabbed me... oh, and the voice acting is horrible, soooo grating, with long, long cutscenes between each stage. Normally, I'm a man who loves cutscenes and a story, and I can't understand why people skip them, but these were just awful. A tedious story with hideous voicing. Ugh. I don't know, some people absolutely love this game, so it's obviously just me, but it just never clicked. I made it through to the end, and that's what matters!

Next up on the randometer is...Nuclear War! Looks like a strategic '80s DOS game of blowing people up. Might not take long...

I've also had a few goes at the Last Ninja games. Not getting very far at all (which is exactly how I remember them) and I'm feeling like giving up on them (I'm in one of those moods!). One big issue is the keyboard controls, which just don't seem to work how they should. Still, I'll give them a fair shake and see if I can get any further.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

DOOMed

Gosh, it's been a long time. I think that's the longest I've gone without an update. Is the quest over? Nope, not by a long shot, but I've been absolutely swamped with work and not had time to play anything. I finally got over the hump of it a week or so ago and my evenings and lunchtimes are my own again, though I'm still busy. Anyway, it's given me a chance to get back into DOOM in earnest, and I finally finished it over lunch today. I've already mentioned the graphics, which were indeed beautiful (if blood and demons can be called beautiful) - easily the best of any game I've played on this list, but as I've also already mentioned, the game itself didn't grab me as much as I'd hoped. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad game by any means, but it's different to the usual Doom canon. The prerequisites of lots of monsters and lots of shooting are all present and correct, but this has morphed from a corridor shooter into an arena shooter. It feels much more akin to Unreal Tournament, or similar - something where it's all about 3-dimensional movement around the environment and agile attacks coming from all sides. That sounds like it should be a good thing, and perhaps to some people it is, but it just doesn't feel like Doom to me. This game is all about moment-to-moment gaming, a series of fighting arenas joined by corridors with nothing really in-between. There's not really any sense of progress or exploration. Doom, to me, was always a nervous game - creeping along dark passageways wary of anything jumping out at you. There's none of that here, you will very rarely find any 'wandering monsters'. Pretty much everything you fight will be within an arena, and the monsters will just keep respawning until you've reached a set number and then they'll stop. And once they've stopped, that's it, the arena's clear and they don't come back. That's when you get to wander around the arena picking up ammo and looking for secrets, but it's absolutely silent and free of any danger. The arenas are generally sealed affairs, too. They don't want you escaping the fight, but this really limits the tactics - no kiting here, no retreating, no seeking tactical advantage or sniping, it's all-or-nothing in-your-face action. That's fine sometimes, but it gets monotonous really quickly. I know that's what they wanted, to strip it back to the visceral guts of Doom, nothing but you, a bunch of demons and a boomstick, but in doing so they removed something essential, they removed the fear. You're no longer scared of what's around the corner because you know there'll be nothing around the corner - the fights are all so telegraphed that you know exactly where they all are. Those fights are beautiful and thrilling, but that's all they are, and for me it's not enough. I miss exploring a dark map. I miss stepping on a switch and having a pinky teleport in behind me. I miss hearing the howls of demons somewhere around me, but not knowing where they are or when they're going to leap out at me. It's a beautiful game; it's a thrilling game, but it's also an empty game. They cut off too much when they pared it down and for me, ultimately, it was a bit of a disappointment.

Next up on the series list is The Last Ninja. I remember playing (and mapping) these back on the BBC. The thing I remember most is the three different jump buttons for long, medium and short jumps, and needing pixel-perfect precision to jump between platforms. It was an exercise in frustration back then, but maybe the DOS version will be better...

I've also been playing on the PS3 with the kids on weekend mornings, and we've finally beaten Jak and Daxter. It was as good as I remembered it back on the PS2 (though the camera is a bit awkward). Now onto Jak II, the emo years.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Skipping stones and catching up

Ack, it's been a while. I've been really busy with DIY projects in the evenings and full on work in the day. The only bit of time I've had recently has been weekend mornings on the PlayStation with the kids, so there's been a bit of progress there. There's a list of them that I've tried and given up on and some that I've finished, so I'll run through them quickly here.

First up, Hoard is a game where you play a dragon flying about and trying to capture treasure to add to your hoard. You can get it in various ways - looting caravans, taking princesses hostage, raiding other dragons, and more, but that's essentially all there is to the game. I think it potentially could have been more fun multiplayer, but it didn't feel like there was much to the single player campaign, you just flew around doing the same thing unlocking new pick-ups and abilities every now and then. It didn't grab me, so I moved on.

Next was Chime. Chime is a bit like Qix mixed with Tetris. You have to slot tetronimo blocks together to fill areas of the screen within a specific time limit. Once you have a full rectangle, it's locked down (though you can still add to it) and painted so you can move on to your next target area. As you do this, a bar moves across the screen making beautiful music from the shapes that you've created. It's a nice, chilled puzzle game...but it is a puzzle game, so I moved on.

Next up was Awesomenauts. I'd heard quite a bit of hype about this game - it's a kind of MOBA re-imagined as a platformer - but it turned out to be purely multiplayer. There is a short single-player practice mission, but it's not exactly exciting to play through, and it's over in a matter of minutes. This is made for online play, and that's not where I am. It looked mighty fine and all, it's just not for me. Moving on.

Next up was Retro/Grade. Retro/Grade is a rhythm action game dressed up as a shooter played backwards. That sounds weird and potentially interesting, but it really is just wrapping over a standard rhythm action game. That's not to say it's not innovative or that it's not a good game. I love a good rhythm action game, and this ticked a lot of boxes. I'd have maybe preferred it to be a little more varied - it only had 4 or so different moves - but it was fun while it lasted. I finished it on easy but tried a few harder modes and reckon I could have got through a few of them if I had the time and inclination. Good music and a fun game, but no real incentive to return to it once it's finished. Moving on.

Next up was Infamous: Festival of Blood. I completed the original Infamous a little while back, and this was a funny little minigame/level pack that they made with it. It's a new mission in the same game engine, but it only lasts a few hours. It's a whimsical side story where the main characters find themselves in a vampire-infested mardi gras, where Cole is turned into a vampire and has to find and defeat the leader of the vampires before day-break in order to sever the vampiric connection and return him to normal. The movement and combat is as fun as in the full game, but the missions only take up a small part of the map, and there's not really any reason to go exploring. There wasn't much of it and it wasn't very challenging, but it was fun and that's no bad thing. I've still got Infamous 2 coming up at some point, but that'll be whenever it raises its head on the PS3 list.

I've made a little progress with DOOM, but I feel like I haven't really connected with it. It's still beautiful and brutal and I'm pushing through it, but it hasn't grabbed me like I thought it would. Finally, after all this time, I went to try Blind Justice in earnest, only to find that it crashes as soon as I try and leave one area. A short search online shows that this is a known bug, so I guess I'm screwed/saved. Into the done pile it goes; onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Freedom Planet! I don't know much about it. Looks like a fairly modern homage to the old Mega Drive Sonic games. Could be a breath of fresh air. Oh, and it's the Steam Summer Sale, and yes, of course I bought some games. I'm an idiot.

Friday, 4 May 2018

You can Keep your Shoppe

Well, Shoppe Keep is just turdy. In a strange piece of synchronicity, the sequel has just come out today, and I can tell you now that it's a game that I won't be buying (please remind me of that the next time it turns up in a bundle). It's incredibly user-unfriendly, and incredibly tedious. The 'tutorial' is so bad that I had to use a wiki to work out how to even begin. I forgot to say, this is a game that was published in the last couple of years, not in the '80s. You essentially have to build and run a weapons shop in a fantasy land, and this is very much about the management aspects of said shop. You have to plan your display area, buy stock, manage prices and stock levels, and so on. If that sounds tedious to you, then you think the same way as I do. In my first day (which seemed to take a long time), I made 6 gold pieces in profit. Now, I'm sure you probably do start slow and build your way up the ladder to greater things, but that's way slower that I'm happy to start. That's not even enough to buy a single extra item at the end of the day. That's just dull. And what do you do all day? Nothing. You stand there waiting for customers, and when someone buys something you order a replacement and, when it comes through, you put it back on the same pedestal. Fun. Actually, there is some excitement when you get robbed. I had 3 robberies in the first day. When you get robbed, you chase after the culprit (you can run much faster than they can) and you hit them once with your sword. They then fall over and you pick up the object they took from you and traipse back to your shop where you return it to its place on the pedestal. Then you go back to standing and waiting for people to come in and buy something. God it's dull. I'm sure there are more options that open up when you have more money, and the game gets a bit more exciting (at least I hope it does), but to get that far I'd have to play the game for another few hours, and there's no way I'm doing that. Sorry. And I thought Prehistorik was going to be my worst game of the year. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Blind Justice! Never heard of it. Looks like a mid-'90s RPG, so worth a shot.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Intruding

Well, Flight of the Intruder was never going to get much of my attention. Half an hour over lunch is enough for me. It's just not my type of game, and it's one that no matter how much longer I spend with it, I know I'm still not going to enjoy it. It's loosely structured on the book of the same name (which I haven't read, or seen the film), but I don't think that gives it more than a theatre of war and some flavour for the missions. Otherwise, it feels like a pretty standard combat flight sim of the era. Of course, I'm no expert, so I could be completely wrong, but nothing jumped out and shouted PLAY ME. It was made by Rowan, who were experts in the genre, so I'm sure it was technically a great game, but...meh. I've got a cup of tea in front of me, and it doesn't resemble a flight sim at all.

Next up on the randometer is...Shoppe Keep! Looks like some kind of fantasy shop management game. Might be interesting.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Historik

Prehistorik was mercifully short, because it's a terrible, terrible game. I finished it in a couple of lunchtimes, leaping from platform to platform and bashing enemies on the way. I don't remember much of the old Prehistorik game, so I can't tell you how similar it was to this one (I just checked and I do have the original games, but I'm treating them as a separate entity...not sure if I should have done), but this one looks fine in the spit and polish department. The graphics are fine - a little rough around the edges, but fine - and the sound is fine (although bizarrely it's really loud and there's no volume control, only on or off), but where the game sinks to the absolute pits is the control. I don't know what it is with games like this, but too often modern platform games have terrible controls, and this is no exception. It's floaty and unresponsive, and you'll often feel that you died unfairly rather than because of your own mistakes. My guess would be that it's something to do with the animation cycles, but I'm sure they could have made it better. It just ruins the whole experience.

The basic premise of the game is that some giant geezer has stolen your village's food, so you have to try and get it back again. That means that you have to pick up a minimum amount of food on each level before you can exit it. To be honest, that was never a problem. I didn't once have to go out of my way to find more food than I did just walking the main path to the exit, so it was largely a pointless endeavour. I think you might unlock a bonus level if you pick up all of the food and all of the B-O-N-U-S letters in the level, but I never did that, so never saw a bonus level. When I completed the game, my fly companion (don't ask) became a superfly and said it would help me find secrets and hard to reach items, so I did the first level again thinking it would help me 100% it and open the bonus level, but it didn't seem to make any difference at all. Great. That may well be a contender for worst game of the year...let's hope so.

Next up on the randometer is...Flight of the Intruder! Another flight sim. Joy of joys. I can't have that many left, can I?

Monday, 30 April 2018

Reneging Command

I need to apologise to Carrier Command. It looks like a great game. It was ahead of its time. It features in the 1001 Videogames You Must Play Before You Die. In so many ways it's one of those games that this blog was started for, so I can play the missed classics and get a feel for them. But...but...it just leaves me cold. I want to give it the time and the head space that it deserves, but I don't have either. It's one of those games that starts up and presents you with a screen full of icons, and you will have no idea what they do. You can't fire it up quickly and play for a bit to get a feel for it because you can't even move without reading the manual. And I have tried to read the manual. It's a good manual. Nothing wrong with the instructions it gives, but nothing in there fills me with excitement to go ahead and try it. I have moved a boat. I have launched a Mantis. I have fired a laser. None of those things made me want to repeat them. I don't know if it's a symptom of the larger mid-life ennui I'm feeling, but I just want something braindead and splashy. You could argue that's exactly what Doom is, and you'd be right, but even that has lost a little of its lustre. To make it even worse, I've bought quite a few random games in sales recently that I really didn't require. It's a cold, rainy day out there, and maybe what I really need is a good old RPG blanket I can wrap myself in. Fingers crossed to the random gods.

Next up on the randometer is...Prehistorik! Hmmm. Looks like a modern-ish remake of the old platform game. Ah, pretty mindless.

Monday, 9 April 2018

El Gato

Well, I had a quick look at GATO over the weekend, but didn't get anywhere with it. I managed to look around with my periscope, switch from electric to diesel power and back again, dive and rise, look at a map, arm my torpedoes, read the mission briefing...and that's about it. I couldn't actually get the submarine to move at all, or to find any enemy ships or to do...well...anything, really. I'm sure I could have scoured the internet and found the manual, then lovingly pored over it and worked out how to maneuver my sub while learning the detailed history of these fabulous machines...but time was too short and it's only a CGA sub game that, to be honest, I'm not that interested in. So, another title falls to my mood for skipping through games and disregarding my own internal rules. Yay!

Next up on the randometer is...Carrier Command! Seriously? What is it with me and late '80s strategy games at the moment. Ugh. At least this one was supposed to be pretty good...on the Amiga. No idea what the PC version will be like.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Step on my old Psi 5s

I had a quick look into Psi 5 Trading Company at lunch today, and that's probably enough for me (gosh, I am getting a bit lax in my old age!). It's actually quite an interesting little game. It strangely reminded me of FTL but in real time. You pick a destination that you want to transfer your cargo to - the further away it is, the more money you'll get from the run. You then proceed to pick the crew, selecting different aliens for different roles in your ship - navigation, weapons, engineer, etc. You then jet off into space where in no time at all you'll be set upon by random pirates as you try to deliver your precious cargo on time. Through giving orders to your crew, you can control which weapons to fire, where to send your repair bots, when to boost the engines, when to boost the shields with emergency batteries and so on. There are a ton of options to choose from, and you'll need to rapidly switch between crew screens screaming orders to various aliens in order to complete your run. Strangely, when you do complete your run, there doesn't appear to be any option to go on and do another one. I thought you'd build a career jetting among the stars and building a trade empire, but it appears to be more of a score attack game, trying to better your last high-score by delivering goods farther and faster. A lovely bit of CGA and plenty to do, but I can't say I'd really recommend it.

Next up on the randometer is...GATO! Looks like an old submarine simulator. I'll give it a go over the weekend if I get a minute, but I don't think I'll spend long on it.

Still Doom

I finally finished Doom 3 over the Easter weekend. I'm finding it quite a hard one to write about (partly because I've got a horrible cold and my brain's not working). It's Doom, but prettier. Much prettier. The engine looks great and moves quickly. It's all a bit samey, but thenDoom always has been. There are basically only two environments: in a space station or in Hell. Oh, you do also step out onto the surface of Mars on occasion, but you're on an extremely limited oxygen supply, so you're running around trying to find the quickest way back into the space station rather than admiring the scenery. A few more varied locations would have really made a difference (even the expansion packs were in exactly the same locations). It was all very claustrophobic, too (intentionally, I guess), with not even any of the variety in scale that the original Doom had. There weren't really any open spaces, which may have been the feel they were going for (and certainly would be correct for a Mars base), but it made parts of it pretty boring. Then, of course, there's the lighting. I remember the massive outcry at the original release of the game because it didn't allow you to hold a torch and fire a gun at the same time. Doom 3 is a dark and moody game, and you're unable to see anything in many places without your torch. It was bad enough with the rapidly draining torch inthe version I played, I can't imagine playing it the original way without being able to fire at the same time. It seems like a crazy decision to me. The rest of the game is spent shooting things and finding keys (audio logs) to progress. I think the amount of audio logs in Doom 3 was roundly mocked, and it is a bit crazy. The story's just not interesting enough to demand that amount of content, and most of it is just boring filler. I'm being a bit harsh on it, but I think it was a bit behind the times. The engine was amazing, but games like Half Life had already taken the FPS in a different direction, and Doom 3 feels a little bit unsure of itself. It doesn't have the balls to stick to its guns (quite literally) and just be a straight high-octane shooter, but it doesn't have the skill and variety to be a story-led FPS. The story, the weapons and the monsters all feel a bit generic. The mission packs tried to change things up a bit with a gravity gun that they barely used and a bullet-time artifact that I didn't use once. It was all too little too late, and too badly integrated into the main game. This cold's making me extra negative. It was a fun game, and I wouldn't not recommend it, I just found it a bit of a drag towards the end, and I was very glad when it was over. Next up is the most recent Doom game, just called DOOM once again. I was fairly dreading this, but that was blown away when I started it up. I'm not much of a graphics whore as you can probably guess from the blog, but this game looks amazing! It's by far the most recent triple-A game I've played (and probably will play for some time) and the jump in graphical fidelity is astounding. It's leagues ahead of Fallout 4, which was the last game of this level that I played. I was also very pleased to see their intent with this game - right at the beginning your marine wakes up and finds a monitor screen with a voice intoning your mission in exactly the same way as in Doom 3. The marine promptly smashes the screen and hurls it away half way through the message. Coming straight from Doom 3, that was a beautiful thing to see. I'm now very much looking forward to playing through the new Doom.

I think I'm also done with Super Off Road. I gave it pretty short shrift, but hey. It's a very basic top- down Super Sprint-style racing game. The differences here are that it's off-road, so there are lumps and jumps in the track, along with pools of water and other obstacles, and there's a career mode built in, so you earn money for winning races (or you can sometimes pick it up on the track) and you can spend that money on upgrades to your vehicle. Things like extra speed or grippy tyres, etc. It's a perfectly fine game, and has the usual caveat where it'd be great fun with a few friends and a few beers. As it is, though, it's not something that I'm going to spend a great deal of time on. I played for a little while and managed to win a few races, and that's enough for me.

Next up on the randometer is...iF-16 Fighting Falcon! Ugh, yet another flight sim. Ah well, better get it out of the way, I guess.

...Yay, it doesn't work! It's a Win95 game that won't run under Win 10, and bums am I going to try and look for a solution for it. Come on random number generator, don't fail me now. Next up on the randometer is...Psi 5 Trading Company! A space trading game from the '80s. Thanks gods of randomness.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Toxic

I completed The Adventures of Fatman: Toxic Revenge last night. It wasn't great. It's a fairly short adventure game with a few locations and a lot of backtracking. The interface is fairly simple, but it's full of obtuse puzzles and pixel hunting. There are objects that you have to click on twice to get the correct interaction, objects hidden within other objects, new (tiny) objects that appear when you revisit a location (and for no apparent reason). It does most of the things that are wrong with adventure games. It also doesn't automate the boring stuff - e.g., there's a place that you have to change into different clothes to enter. It's fine to make you go through the rigmarole the first time that you enter (it involves getting in your car, traveling to a specific location, changing clothes, getting back in your car and traveling back to the location that you want to visit...and then doing it all in reverse to change back and get on with the game), but subsequent times you enter they should just do it for you automatically. That kind of stuff is just no fun and serves to make the game longer and more boring. There are also plenty of situations where you have to do something wrong and restart before you know it was something that you should have been avoiding. Positives? It does let you restart on the same screen if you die (at least, it does on Easy mode!). It looks okay - not spectacularly, but enough like a comic. Some of the stuff might be funny (it wasn't to me, but I wasn't enjoying the game). It actually ran under Win 10. That's about it. I had to use a walkthrough to get through some of it, and quite frankly it still took too long. Happy to be moving on.

Next up on the randometer is...Sensible Golf! As you can probably tell by the name, this is golf reimagined by the Sensible Soccer folk. Worth a look.

...and there's something weird about my copy of Sensible Golf. For one, the mouse is completely knackered, so it takes ages of trial and error to actually navigate the menus and start a game. Once in the game it's all via keyboard, so I can actually play. The issue is that the computer player is completely rubbish. Normally that wouldn't be a good thing, but he's literally just hitting the ball a few centimetres each shot. Because in golf the player furthest back plays first, it means I don't get another shot after my first. I've got a screen open in the background with the computer still playing, and he's currently on par 90. Ah well, it was never going to be my favourite game anyway. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Ivan "Iron Man" Stewart's Super Off Road! Great.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Dino-bore

Yes, there wasn't much to 3-D Dinosaur adventure. It was pure old-school edutainment. There were a couple of 'games' included in it, but one was matching pictures of dinosaurs to their names, and the other was matching names of dinosaurs to their pictures. Yep. There wasn't even really any game element to it, as there's no score or anything, it just endlessly loops the questions over and over. To be fair to it, 3-D Dinosaur Adventure does have some really interesting information in it, and I'm sure I would have loved it as a kid when I was heavily into dinosaurs. Now, though...I'm not so sure. I don't even know if Max would like it because the presentation's so slow and clunky. One great thing about it is that it mentions Lewes (proudly highlighted in the image above)! Good old Gideon Mantell. I'm pretty sure that this will be the only game on the list that features my home town in any way, shape or form.

Next up on the randometer is...The Adventures of Fatman: Toxic Revenge! Never heard of it. It looks like a graphic adventure based on an extremely litigious rendering of Batman. Hopefully nothing to do with Tongue of the Fatman (shudder).

Monday, 26 March 2018

Atomi-No

And that'll do for Atomino. It's a simple (in terms of ruleset, not in terms of mastery) puzzle game about connecting atoms. Essentially, you place atoms on a grid. Each atom has 1-4 'arms' for making connections. Your mission is to create the required number of molecules by placing atoms until there are no more free 'arms' on your molecule. So, the simplest molecule would consist of two atoms with 1 arm each. These arms would join and you'd have a complete molecule. The twist, like all of these games, is that you're being supplied with random atoms each turn, and you have to place them against the clock to complete your molecules. It's actually a really neat twist on the falling block genre (which it kind of is). To mix things up a little, you also have different objectives on each level. Some are simple things like "create 4 molecules of at least 9 atoms each", while others switch the game on its head asking you to remove molecules or to create molecules that fit a specific shape. It's great fun, and if you're into puzzle games then I'd recommend it. For me, though...no.

Next up on the randometer is...3-D Dinosaur Adventure! Looks like an edutainment title, so not sure how much game there'll be.

In other news, I've also completed another mini on the PS3 - Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess. It's an extremely short game where you have to jump up a tower from platform to platform chasing a monster, and you have to double-jump into each monster to defeat it. There are only 5 levels, so it's easy enough to complete it in its most basic form. Of course, the point of the game is that you're supposed to score-attack it and try and maximise your combos before defeating the monster...but who has time for that? I've also finished off the main campaign of Doom 3. Two more level packs to go before it's done, though.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Sauron Victorious

I'm afraid to say that I lost the war for Middle Earth, and not just once, but on multiple occasions. Sauron's forces proved too strong and the lidded eye gazed unopposed over all of the lands. The War in Middle Earth is kind of a very early real-time strategy game. You control a bunch of armies on a large map of Middle Earth, moving them around to defend various locations as the forces of Sauron pour out to attack them. You start off only being able to control a few armies, but more and more become available as the game goes on. The game starts with Frodo, Sam and Pippin being hounded by the Nazghul. I don't think I ever managed to get them to safety. Every time, they'd be found and attacked by one of the Nazghul and that would be the end of them. Luckily, even if that happens it's not the end of the game. As long as you can intercept that Nazghul and reclaim the ring before they reach Mount Doom then you're okay. The evil forces win if they either conquer a number of key locations or they get the ring to Sauron. You win the battle if you get the ring to Mount Doom and destroy it or if you defeat Sauron himself. Needless to say, I didn't manage either of those things. I even watched a YouTube video of someone else winning the game, but I wasn't able to replicate it. Every time I wasn't able to defend my cities well enough and lost too many of them.

There are three main views to the game, a normal map view where you control individual armies, a zoomed out whole-map view where you can see the total battle field and which forces are available to you, and a zoomed in view where you can see individual troops walking across the screen. In this view, you're able to enter locations and find items or have encounters. For example, you can meet Treebeard and gather the ents to you, or you can find new weapons. I didn't find the items that useful (but maybe I should have tried them more?), but the extra armies that you can gain through encounters are very handy. It's a fun game, and I'm sure that I could win it with enough time and patience, I just don't have enough of either of those right now, so I'm going to ruthlessly cull it from the list.

Next up on the randometer is...Potatoman Seeks the Troof! Platforms a go-go.

...and that was quicker than I thought. Potatoman Seeks the Troof is an incredibly short game that I finished in about 20 minutes of my lunch break. It's in a similar vein to many post-Super Meat Boy indie retro platformers where there are a lot of instant-death spikes and jumping patterns that have to be learned. Like many of those games, too, though, you only go back a short distance on death so it only takes you seconds to try it again. There were a couple of frustrating sections, but progress was pretty constant. Graphically, it's retro but hugely endearing with chunky, cute sprites and glorious chiptunes blaring at you. There are modern edges to the graphics, such as smart layering in the background and a great 3D effect when you die. It's annoyingly random in places - I made it through a flock of birds in one playthrough only to be killed by the monkeys following them, whereas on subsequent playthroughs I got murdered about 50 times by the birds, but made it through the monkeys without breaking a sweat. It's a great fun game, though, full of joie de vivre shining through it, and there's a lovely meta ending. A surprising breath of fresh air.

Next up on the randometer is...Atomino. Looks like a puzzle game based on atoms. Should be another quick one.

Going back to the subject of ruthless culling, I've also been through a few PS3 games recently. First up on the list is Infamous, which I completed at the weekend. This was my first AAA PS3 game in a while, and it was pretty cool. I'm not going to bother with a full background here, but essentially you're a guy who is tricked into activating a device in the middle of a city, destroying half of it and gaining super-electric powers in the process. You then spend the game travelling through the parts of the city beating up bad guys, doing good deeds and gaining powers as you search for the person who gave you the device in the first place. The graphics and gameplay are great, but it does get a bit monotonous as you beat up the same bad guys over and over again and do the same identikit missions in different parts of the city. It's held together by a central story that progresses pretty well with a Twisty McTwist at the end. I was actually surprised just how open they left it at the end. I guess they were very, very confident that they'd be making a second game, and hopefully I'll get around to playing it a few years down the line... I've also completed a couple of Minis. First is a game called Flying Hamster. This is a fun little
cartoon-style shoot-em-up that the kids and I have all enjoyed playing. It has beautiful graphics and easy gameplay, so it's been very easy for them to get into it. As a bonus, you can start from the last stage that you got to with a full set of continues, so you're pretty much guaranteed progress if you just keep playing it. Great fun. Second was Tiny Hawk. Great name. It's a very basic platform game with 32 short levels. You play a little skater dude who zips around, jumping, grinding and avoiding obstacles as he makes his way to the exit. Not much more to say, it was fun and very short, which is a great combination in my book. I'm also bailing on a couple of PS3 games. I Must Run is another Mini and, as you can probably guess from the name, is an endless runner. Actually, it's apparently not endless, as there is some kind of story, but I'm never going to see the end. The problem is, that if you die then you go right back to the beginning of the game, and I just don't have the time to be playing the whole thing every time I die. If there'd been save points at each stage then I may have seen it out, but no. Otherwise, it's a really fun game. I just don't have time for it. I'm also calling it quits on Ricochet HD. This is at heart a Breakout clone, but taken to crazy extremes. There's no simple wall of bricks here, instead you have an HR Giger-inspired moving mass of spikes and balls that makes it really hard to see what you're trying to hit and to actually hit it. Of course, there are numerous power ups and different ships (bats) and balls that you can unlock, but I'd had enough of it after just two levels. Onwards!

Friday, 16 March 2018

Slain

I finished up Monster Slayers last night. As I mentioned, I'd already completed it with about half of the characters (I think there are 12 in all), so it was just a case of playing through with the others. Monster Slayers is a living card game where you start with a small deck (dependent on class) and then refine it as you play the game by adding some cards and removing others. It pays a heavy debt of gratitude to Dream Quest than I played a while back. You have a basic level layout and you move it around it open up new pathways by visiting locations and defeating opponents. That means you have some choice over the order you do things, but ultimately you're going to be visiting every node on the grid anyway to maximise your chances of progressing through the game. There are three 'levels' per run, but you're essentially doing the same thing in each, the only difference being that the monsters get harder and you get help in the form of companions (that add time-limited abilities) that grow stronger as you progress. As you fight, you also gain experience that allows you to level up, gaining more hitpoints and unlocking bonuses like new cards, a larger hand size, or more action points, etc. The aim of each fight is to bring the opponent's hitpoints down to 0, while keeping yours as high as possible. You don't heal (much) between fights, so you really do want to be as efficient as possible in each fight. You begin with a set of basic attack cards and a few others, and upgrade and remix your cards as you progress. Cards basically have two costs, either Action Points or Magic Points, with different classes specialising in different cards. Warriors will have AP-dependent high damage attacks, mages will have MP-dependent spells, rogues have high-speed moves - low-power attacks that allow you to draw another card after playing them, so chaining lots of attacks together, priests can heal, archers have high-precision critical attacks, and so on. There's a lot of variety in their card sets, and merchants allow you to buy new cards that enable you to blur the lines a bit, tailoring your deck in a way that suits you. There are a lot of different cards and a lot of variety, so no two classes feel the same. I'm a big fan of card games, and this definitely scratched an itch. The current darling on the card game scene is Slay the Spire, which I haven't tried yet...one day. For now, though, this was great fun, and I'd recommend it to anybody. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Las Vegas Tycoon! Hmm, I'm not the biggest fan of tycoon games, but I'll give it a go.

...And, you know what? I'm done with Las Vegas Tycoon (or Vegas: Make it Big, as it's known over here). I had a quick go over lunch but it's really not my cup of tea. It's the type of hardcore, micro-management sim that chills my blood. You build a casino, it starts breaking down. You build a mechanic station. You then need to tell the mechanic where you want him to go... Ugg, no. It did look lovely with all its zoomy spinny roundy-ness, and I did like the fact you could go into your casinos and fill them with individual tables, etc. to make punters happy (though with even more micro management), and the fact you could theme your casino in different ways, like ancient Greek (just like the real Vegas!!), but it's just not for me. The subject matter doesn't appeal (I hated the real Vegas) and the bad-menu micro-management just killed it. I'm sure it's a great game if you like that kind of thing, but for me...no, sorry.

Next up on the randometer is...Space Bucks! Really?!?! Another management game. Ah well, something for the weekend.

And, I'm sure you'll all be as upset as I was to discover that Space Bucks is an early Windows game and it doesn't seem to run on modern systems. Ah well, can't say I'm that bothered. Let's quickly skip ahead before anyone tries to get me to emulate Win 95 and get it running there.

Next up on the randometer is...J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth! No idea what this will be like. Sounds slightly strategy-ish.

In other news, I've also been playing a bit more of Infamous on the PS3, and I think I'm close to the end there. It's the first major PS3 game I've played in ages, and it's been quite fun. Doom 3 has taken a bit of a back seat, but I'll get back to it soon.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Thunderdome

I polished off God of Thunder over lunch today. Things have been a little slow recently what with DIY and work taking over most of my time, so it's good to get a game finished, even if it is just a little indie number. God of Thunder is actually a pretty fun little arcade/puzzle game. You wander around the world in a zelda-stylee, visiting towns and talking to the good citizens, while throwing your trusty hammer at any passing monsters (of which there are many). The world itself is fairly standard, with broken bridges that need to be fixed before you can proceed, caves to pop into and out of the other side, and the usual tropes. The trick of this game, though, is that a great proportion of those screens contain puzzles that must be solved before you can proceed. There are two main types - switch puzzles, and sliding block puzzles, and they're both explored pretty thoroughly. For instance, with the switch puzzles, you can either run into switches to flick them, or hit them with your hammer. Your hammer is obviously the magical Mjolnir (have I not mentioned that you play Thor, trying to defeat Loki?), so whenever you throw it, it returns to you. This leads to some tricky timing puzzles where you have to throw out your hammer then run through half a blockage and as your hammer flies back and hits the switch on its way you can run past the final part. It keeps things challenging and head-scratchy. With the sliding blocks, they're sometimes mazes, but they're more often of the type where an invulnerable enemy will be firing at you, and you need to push blocks to form a barrier between you and them so you can pass safely. Again, some of them are pretty fiendish with multiple blocks and bad guys. There's also a more arcade themed version of those, too, where you have boulders rather than blocks. These roll along in the direction that you push them, so you sometimes have to set them off then run along beside them as a moving wall to stay safe behind, and other times you might have to push it in one direction, then run around beside it and push it in another direction down a different path to keep you safe. It's only a simple thing, but it was all pretty polished and fun. The game itself is split into three worlds, with a boss fight at the end of each one. None of them are too hard once you work out their attack patterns (I don't think I died on any of them), but they're nice bookends to each chapter. On the subject of dying, you have infinite lives in the game, and when you die you just begin the screen you were on again, so as long as you can solve the puzzles then there's an inevitability that you'll progress through to the end. I wouldn't count it as an amazing hidden gem or anything, but it was a perfectly solid and enjoyable little game.

Next up on the randometer is...Monster Slayers! Ha, that's interesting. I've actually been playing this a little bit on and off for a while now and have already completed it with a few characters. I guess I'll try and polish off the rest of them.

In other news, the moment finally came when Sony announced that from next year they're no longer going to include PS3 games in Plus. You'll still keep the games you have for now (as long as you continue to pay for them), but essentially I'll be paying for games every month that I can't play, so it's time I doubled down on getting through some PS3 games. On that note (although not actually on Plus), I did complete Diggs Nightcrawler with the kids at the weekend. It's a Wonderbook game, which is essentially an AR device where you have a physical book on the floor in your living room, and this is replaced on-screen with graphics from the game. This means that you can interact physically with the book - turning it, shaking it, hitting it - to see things change on screen. It works really well, and the kids love it. There's a little hint of magic about it, and it does feel really physical as you turn the book around to see behind objects on-screen or play whack-a-mole with creatures popping up from the pages. We've got a Walking with Dinosaurs one, too, that we tried a while back but didn't get as far into. My only complaint about the game is that it was really short, but that shouldn't be such an issue when I've got such a big backlog!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Trouble and...

Strife is done and dusted. I think I only played the demo back in the day, and this full game was more fun than I thought it would be. It's built on the Doom engine, so the playstyle is a fairly predictable FPS, but the addition of a story and plot to drive things forward makes a big difference. Whereas in Doom the framing narrative is just an afterthought to the action, here it's the prime mover in the game. There are fully voiced cutscenes (well, static cutscenes) and returning characters. I don't know if I'd quite give it the 'RPG' tag it craves, but it was the first of many FPS games that sought a deeper experience than simply running to the next enemy and hitting Fire. That's not to say that the story is anything particularly deep and meaningful, but it does its job, and even has some (slightly unexplained) plot twists. As an FPS, it holds up well. The weapons are a little bland, without the satisfaction of Doom's arsenal, but they're varied and do the job. The Uber weapon is fun, but the drawback of draining your life every time you fire it is just too damaging, and means that you only ever use it for boss battles where you have to use it in order to damage the spirit enemies. You could argue that's a good limitation and ultimate weapons should require sacrifices and be used against the ultimate evil... and I'd agree with you, that is a good thing... but this is still an alpha-male power fantasy game, and I want to be able to use my ultimate weapons with impunity!

The level design is nice and varied, with a few hub areas splintering out into larger levels. I did find, though, that is was very easy to get lost both inside the levels and out on the hub. I guess the very idea of a hub necessitates backtracking, but I always prefer a more linear approach in my FPSs. There is a marker on the map that points to your next destination, which is handy, but you can only see a small portion of the map at a time, so if you're too far away to see the marker, then it doesn't really help you find where you're supposed to go. Length-wise, it was about right. I felt it kept things at a good pace, and there was always something new to do. There were character upgrades, which I guess slotted it into the 'RPG' genre, but they're so slight that I didn't notice them making any difference at all. It's hard to know what 'accuracy' really does in an FPS. I played it on Easy (as I do with most games on the blog if I have the option), but this one did actually feel a little too easy, so I could have maybe upped it to Normal to better enjoy the experience. All in all, though, I did think it was fun, and it's another one scratched off the list. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...God of Thunder! Never heard of it. I'll have a quick look, but I should probably press on with Doom 3, too.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

D@@m

I'm going to call time on Doom: the Roguelike. I got down to level 8, which isn't very far, but it's far enough for me. There isn't a huge amount for me to say here. It's a text-based Roguelike with a Doom skin over the top. What's amazing is just how well it works. You move around the map just like any other Roguelike, uncovering new areas and pick-ups, and encountering monsters along the way. You have the same weapons as in normal Doom, and use them on the same creatures, firing and reloading as normal. Obviously, there are a lot of differences between the two games, but one of the big ones for me was the combat - here it's turn-based like any other Roguelike, but what that means is that there's no movement. You can't sidestep or dodge enemy projectiles, you just have to trade blows with enemy, meaning that you almost always get hurt in every fight. This is partially balanced by there being plenty of health potions around for you to pick up. I enjoyed it, but like many Roguelikes, you need to dedicate a portion of your life to it in order to complete it, and I just don't have time for that kind of dedication. Onwards!

Next up in the series is Doom 3. Slightly better graphics, similar gameplay. Oh, and flashlights.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Challenging

Ugh. So close. Sooooo close. I've been mainlining a bit of Challenge of the 5 Realms in lunch breaks recently, and had managed to get all the way to the last dungeon. In fact, I could even see the final bad guy on my screen, and then things started going wrong. I came upon a new enemy type - Demons - and even though I could kill them, every time a battle finished a set of my characters would randomly die. That includes the main character, meaning instant game over. That can't be the expected behaviour. I've reloaded a previous save game and played to that point and found the same thing, so I don't know if it's a glitch, but it's making the game almost impossible to complete. I've probably only got about 3 more demon fights, and then maybe 3 more with another enemy I haven't fought yet (but can see on the screen), but I can't lose 2 or 3 characters to each demon and still make it through. There's actually currently someone Let's Play-ing  it on YouTube, so I'm very interested to see if they face the same thing. They're a little while away from where I am now, but I'll keep an eye on the channel and see what happens. It's annoying, because Challenge of the 5 Realms turned out to be a pretty fun game. You play a prince whose dad is killed by the big bad guy who says you have 100 days to give him the crown or the realm will be destroyed. This time limit is displayed not by a clock or anything abstract, but by a huge black cloud creeping slowly across the game map. You can't enter the cloud, so the longer you take, the less of the game world you can still enter. Obviously, the map is set up so that the starter towns are at the bottom and the end game area is nearer the top, but it's still definitely possible to scupper yourself if you take too long (especially if Pendar - the major port town - gets cut off). I'm not a fan of time limits at the best of times, but but at least this one is a novel and interesting mechanic and brings a real feeling of threat to your actions - travel is slow, so you want to get some horses for all of your party members as soon as possible; or, even better, fly or teleport around, but those use up precious magic points that only recuperate over time. The same goes for healing - do you rest a couple of days with a healer to get hit points back, or do you spend those magic points on a Cure spell instead? For me, I'd have preferred to have a few more magic points to play with (or potions to get them back), but it was a well balanced trade off and keeps you thinking right up to the end of the game.

So, you travel around righting wrongs and gaining party members. The party can get bigger than it looks. There are only 5 slots visible on the screen, but you can have another 3 (I think) party members who don't show on the main screen but you can still view and use as normal. Interestingly, the party member slots don't just contain single characters. There are at least a couple of places in the game where you can recruit squads of fighters or archers into these slots. These only take up one party slot, but expand to the full 5 (or however many it is) characters in combat, which can be a life saver in later battles. You have to travel round the 5 realms of the title, getting the crown from each kingdom (usually by solving quests and recruiting the prince/king) and use them all to cast the final spell (that you can only learn after getting all 5 crowns) to defeat the big bad. That reminds me, the magic system is set up so that you can only learn spells that you have the correct ingredients for. These are collected from various places along your travels, so again, it's very possible to lose out on spell ingredients if a key town gets swallowed by the darkness. As I say, it's a fun game with a lot of traveling and a deepening plot. Your party changes as you go, keeping things fresh, and the combat system isn't too bad once you get the hang of it. As I say, I'd have preferred more magic points so I could have played with spells a bit more, and I'd have preferred a few more weapons and armour to play with in combat (I don't think I found any magic weapons, and there were some monsters at the end that couldn't be hit by standard weapons), but it was enjoyable all the way to the last castle. I just wish I could have got through to the end... (I won't delete it yet, just in case that Let's Play video reveals something that I missed).

Next up on the randometer is...Strife! Ooh, I played quite a bit of this back in the day. Can't remember how far I got, though. It was hailed as an RPG in the Doom engine, though it wasn't *that* much of an RPG. They released a slightly updated version for modern computers a few years ago, so that's the one I'll be playing.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Hello 2018!

It's been a bit of a funny start to the year, but I'm finally here. Family craziness, moving house and busy work have meant not much in the way of gaming or posting about gaming. Somehow, it's almost the end of the month, so I thought I'd better get this up before January disappears.

Just looking at the post count when I logged on, I noticed that last year had the least amount of posts since I started the blog. I didn't feel like I wrote that much less, I think it was more that I played a lot of long games (e.g. the Fallout series) and didn't get much done in between. As is traditional, let's have a look at the stats to see if that is right.

This time last year we started out with:
   Done: 531
   Total: 4353
   Completed: 12.1%

Here's where we stand at the start of 2018:
   Done: 597
   Total: 4579
   Completed: 13.0%

Which means, for all you maths fans out there, my totals for the year were:
   Done: 66
   Total: 226
   Completed: 0.9%

So, that's actually not far off what I did last year. 3 fewer games completed and 60 fewer purchased...which still sounds slightly bonkers. I know it's mostly bundles and PS Plus, but that's still crazy numbers of new games. I am never, ever going to get through my backlog! I really don't remember buying that many games...but saying that, I've already bought a bundle and some things in a GOG sale this month, so I can see how it happens! PS Plus is 6, sometimes 7 games a month, so let's call it 76 last year (just to give us a round number), that means I bought 150 games last year. That's almost 3 a week. Bonkers. I've got to get that number down if I'm ever going to make any kind of headway. You can do it, Ben...keep your fingers off that 'Buy' button!

What about what I actually got through last year? Mostly, I remember it as the year of Doom and Fallout, but I also made an effort to get back on the PS3 and play through a few games before they shutter it.I still haven't really found a good time to play it (and evenings and weekends are now full of unpacking and DIY), but there's still a lot of stuff on there that I really want to play. Biggest disappointment of the year? Hmm...Unnatural Selection? I've wanted to play it for years, but I just couldn't get into it at all. Dominus? It looked right up my alley, but ended up just being a bit guff. Landit Bandit? Those controls just drove me mad. But no, I think the biggest disappointment for me was Mechanic Escape. I guess it's maybe unfair to call it a disappointment, as I didn't have any preconceptions moving into it, but it looked like it should have been a good game and ended up being a frustrating, badly programmed mess. So, yeah, bums to you, Mechanic Escape. What about game of the year, then? There were a few gems sprinkled here and there. The Wonderboy 3 remake was a great reimagining of one of my childhood favourites. Dream Quest was a great little time waster. Ascendancy was far more fun than I thought it would be. Grim Fandango was just as fantastic as I remembered. I think in the end, though, it's got to come down to the two big series, Fallout and Doom. Both of them took up a lot of my gaming life last year, and both are pretty fantastic through and through. I gave last year's GotY award to Fallout, though, so I think this year it's the turn of Doom 2. It's still a dream to play to this day, and I think Final Doom went on to show what the game was capable of. It was an absolute classic on release and still is. If it wasn't for the gore fest that it is, I'd start Max on it for his gaming education (and don't recommend Super Noah's Ark as an alternative...that's just not in the same league).

As is always the way after a break from playing, I come back feeling like I want to play something new, but I'll try and keep to it. I'm probably going to give Doom: The Roguelike pretty short shrift, but I'll give Challenge of the Five Realms a bit more time - it's just such slow going. I'm only on the second town in the first realm, so there's still a lot more to go. I'd better get busy.

A belated Happy New Year to one and all. Keep your thumbs on your thumbsticks and joy in your joypads.