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...