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!

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