Sunday, 30 August 2009

Warioland II

Warioland II features Wario on a quest for recover all the gold that was stolen from his castle. Initially released in 1998 a colour gameboy edition soon followed a couple of months after. Unlike other games like Mario where death always seems just round the corner, Wario is practically indestructible. Often, getting injured (such as being squashed) will result in a transformation that will allow you to access different areas. In order to create a challenge in the game, Wario must collect coins instead and spend coins to unlock treasures and map panels. Getting hit will cause you to lose coins and be paralysed. Wario also has a charging attack and a butt slam attack as well as the abilities to pick up enemies and certain objects. Unlike Mario, whenever you bump into enemies, it's more likely the enemies will get paralysed instead of you.

Because of Wario's abilities as a player you don't have to be particularly great. You'll still be able to finish the levels. But if you're wanting to complete the game and get the treasures you'll have to practice. You're only setback a little. Never blatantly punished.

So what else is great about the game?
1) Small bite sized levels - Perfect for portable gaming. Most level are completable within five minutes. The small size also encourages exploration as you know the secrets can't be too far away.
2) Mostly Self contained rooms - Everything you need to do to get to the exit in a room is in there. There are only a few locations where this rule is broken in the case of switches that need to be flicked to activate something else in a different room.
3) Tight gameplay and controls - Controlling Wario is very easy and he is extremely responsive.
4) Multiple story lines - Great for extending gameplay.

So what does it do wrong? Despite being such an awesome game, there are some issues:
1) Alternative story lines conditions can be hard to figure at times - Some of these conditions seem to assume you're a mind reader or something.
2) Some secret areas a bit hard to find
3) Lack of content in the colour version - Aside from the colour, the gameboy colour edition featured no real extras.

Despite it's small flaws, I can only say that Warioland II is a masterpiece and I believe that it deserves a place in the halls of greatness. It is a pinnacle of 2D gaming in the same way Lode Runner: The Legend Returns is. Hundreds of years from now, Warioland II will still be an awesome. It should be a game that every aspiring platform game designer should play. This is the closest one can get to perfection in the action genre.

If you haven't played it yet you can't call yourself a real gamer.

About the really final secret chapter
By the way, the last secret level you unlock when you collect everything is probably the toughest brutal and most insane level I've ever played and proof that even with a great concept like Warioland II, level design is paramount. It's easy to see how things could have gone seriously wrong if levels like that were the mainstay of the game. Fortunately it's confined as a secret.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Steam Store - THQ Collector's Pack

Steam is offering their THQ Collector's Pack at $US74.99 which translates to probably around a bit more than NZ$160. And you get:

Dawn of War II
Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
Frontlines: Fuel of War
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Titan Quest
Titan Quest - Immortal Throne
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Gold Edition
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War - Soulstorm
Full Spectrum Warrior and
Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers

Definitely worth taking a look at as nearly all these games are critically acclaimed.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Nethernet Officially Dead

The Nethernet is finally dead as proclaimed on the official site.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Policenauts, an adventure game by Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame, now has an English patch. If you've played Snatcher than you'll love Policenauts. If you're a twitch gamer and not a fan of adventure games, then you'll probably want to give this one a pass.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death - Review of the Interface

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death is the fourth game of the Broken Sword series. I'll assume you've played the previous games as I'm going to discuss the interface of this game. First of all this is the second 3D game in the Broken Sword series the first being Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. However it uses a very similar engine to Broke Sword: The Sleeping Dragon.

In Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon the game was designed for the console and PC at the same time. As a result the game has you controlling the main character directly like in an action game. As you approach an object you get several options for the item via the interaction menu that pops up. There were 4 interaction menu buttons mapped onto the 4 buttons of a console controller in a cross. Many PC gamers were unused to this and complained about this interaction but I personally this was a good way of presenting possible interactions with the environment and increased the immersion. For example, if I wanted to climb a ledge, I approached it and pushed the top interaction button where the climb button was mapped on. If I wanted to drop, I pressed the bottom button where the drop off button was mapped on. There were also a number of quick time events where for example, you press left or right swing an object at an enemy for example or down to duck.

In Broken Sword: The Angel of Death, Revolution decided to return back to the old system of point and click while using the 3D engine. Unfortunately, upon the first 10 minutes of the game, it became very clear that they had tacked this interface on to the 3D engine of number 3 without making proper alterations to accommodate this change.

I found basic walking to be utmost torture in the larger environments. When you click on spot, George moves there and then stops. Sometimes this will shift to a new camera angle and you'll be able to do something. But other times, all the camera angle does is shift to the new location so you have have to click again for George to continue walking. This is particularly annoying in long corridors or passages where you have him unnaturally stopping in the middle of the corridor.

The best way around this is to actually hold down the left mouse button so when he reaches the new area he simply continues in the direction indicated but you have be careful because if he actually touches the left mouse button he'll stop and you have click again somewhere else. This actually happened on to me on numerous occasions due to camera changes. Alternatively you can play with the arrow keys on the keyboard which solves this problem remarkably easily! Solving this problem in my opinion is pretty easy, break out large environments into several smaller scenes and create a 'scene exit' icon so players know that they are moving into a different part of the environment.

Also the ledge climbing and crate moving from number 3 is back but this time you have to point and click your way while doing it. Just like walking, ledge climbing can be really annoying as you try to lead your character using your mouse pointer from one end of the ledge to another end while the camera changes. Sometimes it's hard to know whether you can drop off or climb ledges as there aren't any particular indicators a ledge can be climbed unless you've played number 3 before or are an action gamer like me. Crate moving isn't too bad in this particular game but you can also climb the crates meaning instead of grabbing the crate, you end up climbing on it or vice versa. When it comes to actually moving grates, the camera angle caused me to end up grabbing the wrong side occasionally. Perhaps the only good thing is that there are way fewer ledge and crate puzzles. But frankly I still didn't like them that much.

Based on my experiences with this so-called 'point and click adventure' the worst part is that they actually left out the ability to play using the gamepad so you're stuck with this awkward mouse problem throughout the entire game.

Let's compare this to a more recent adventure like the Sam & Max episodes which also uses 3D graphics. In fact, Sam & Max uses a nearly identical interface and yes, there is the unnatural halting in the middle of the room is present in the games as well. So what makes it so different?

Two things, the camera angles and the rooms. In Sam and Max games, the rooms are rarely larger than two screens and the camera rarely shift except to pan a little. In the games, you are playing a relatively 2D game with only occasionally changes into 3D.

In my opinion, if you have small rooms or environment, a 2D style of game play is fine and point and click is fine. If you have large rooms, you should either break them into small rooms or go for an action type interface where you control the character better.

Friday, 21 August 2009 gets more Ubisoft Games

Good old Games agreement with Ubisoft has been extended to even more titles so we'll be getting games like The Settlers 2: Gold Edition, Might and Magic 6: Limited Edition which includes all Might and Magic games up to number 6, Heroes of Might and Magic II and Heroes of Might and Magic III Complete edition . Not bad at all.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Nethernet Refugee Camp

While the Nethernet crumbles we now have a place to go. The Nethernet Refugee Camp on Ning. So check it out for more discussion on the game.

GRIN Closes - Another Game Company hit by the Recession

Swedish game comany GRIN now famous for creating the two new Bionic Commando games has gone bankrupt.

I must say although it is sad that I'm a bit ambivalent considering their games weren't that great unfortunately. Take for example Bandits Phoenix Rising which had great game play mechanics but really faltered on the single player and wasn't marketed properly as a multiplayer game. Or take Bionic Command Rearmed which is basically a rehash of Bionic Commando for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. As for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, they only worked on porting that to Windows. Their latest games Wanted: Weapons of Fate and Terminator Salvation scored poorly on Metacritic.

If you look at what the critics have been saying over the years, ultimately their games are shallow and lack interesting gameplay. I have to agree with their reviews on this having played Bandits and Bionic Command Rearmed. They lack a certain flair that pushes them to make them exceptional or at least memorable like say MDK or Rise of Legends or Grim Fandango.

Goodbye GRIN, I wish I could say I missed you more.

Farewell to the Nethernet

GameLayers announced that support for their metaweb game will cease shortly and they are asking the community if they want it to limp on to its death or if they should pull the plug now for a quick painless death.

As Divide by Zero sums it up very nicely:

Personally I smell the investor’s hand in this. Gamelayers and the Nethernet was quite a bit backed by venture capitalists and their board of directors is practically run by them. As such, it was a matter of time before a resource-heavy game that failed to find a business plan to monetize all their traffic would start to raise questions about its viability by the investors. My impression is that the developers were given an ultimatum on this by their investors: “Either find a way to make money out of this within the next month or we stop funding you.” Or something to that extent. As such we saw the wholly misguided attempt to introduce “bacon” (ie micropayments) to the game which had the effect of driving a very considerable number of the community away (Just look at the comments on their post about it).

And now, almost exactly one month later, once it became obvious that their community abandoned them (or once a deadline was crossed?) the plug is pulled. The question is, what now? I mean, it’s obvious that the hosting won’t continue for much longer by Gamelayers (possibly until their server leasing expires?) so at some point the Nethernet will go 503...

But where Gamelayers failed, perhaps the community driven creativity, from players, for players, might make the Nethernet what it could have been. I can only imagine solutions such as federated servers, each of them possible to be hosted by any person’s desktop, sharing resources to allow the game to run smoothly. A team of free software programmers simply coding in the tools that people really want to have, that will make the game far more immersive and exciting, instead of the semi-boring event it is now. And by the nature of Free Software, you might see other versions of the Nethernet spring up, based on different universes rather than the same Victorian Steampunk one PMOG was always based on, again connected via distributed, The end of the Nethernet(?), Aug 2009

You should read the whole article for more information. It is full of information and contains plenty of points to think about.

Personally I believe it is a huge shame that Nethernet will be going. I believe they were doing many of the right things in metaweb pioneering. I think we should pull the plug straight away but leave the message boards open.

To the community, I hope we will band together and come up with a free open source distributed computing solution.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Sourceforge Explorer: Magic Set Editor 0.3.8

If you're into battle card games like Magic The Gathering or Marvel VS and over 15 you're a gaming geek. Say what you will, but if you're still playing battle card games at that age you probably own at least one D & D rulebook and quote passages out of the latest Forgotten Realms novels.

So I'm sure somewhere along the lines of being a battle card player you'll have wanted to make your own cards which is where the free program Magic Set Editor comes in. It's a really cool program that allows you to create your own battle cards very easily. The full installation package for version 0.3.8 comes with templates for Magic The Gathering, Marvel and Yu-Gi-Oh. To create your very own custom deck full of magical cheeseballs, possessed household items and toy tanks all you need to do is choose a card template click on the card template and away you go. In addition there are plenty of useful features like a statistics feature and a search function.

I'm sure this is on the too-do list but the most glaring omission is the lack of an easy to use template creator. You can manually create templates using scripting and adding files in the directories but it is somewhat inaccessible to most people at the moment. But you can't really complain about something like that when the program is free right?

Check it out here.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Chzo Mythology + 1213 Special Editions for Free

The Chzo mythos is a bunch of free short adventure horror games created by Ben 'Yahtzee Croshaw. They are entitled 5 days a Stranger, 7 Days a Skeptic, Trilby's Notes and 6 Days a sacrifice respectively. They are considered one of best freeware horror adventure series and have won numerous community awards. The special editions with author commentary which original required donations are now free so download them here. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Sourceforge Explorer: MegaMek

MegaMek is a conversion of the Classic Battletech boardgame allowing you to play against other players via hotseat or network. The program is designed for Battletech players already familiar with the game so you'll probably need to buy/borrow a Battletech manual. It covers the core rules and maps and the developers are working on including the optional rules. You can also create your own maps as well. I'm sure the Battletech gamers will love this.

For those of you who need to get introduced to Battletech and the glory of commanding giant mechs to blow each other up. Check out Classic Battletech. They even have free rules for new players!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Sourceforge Explorer: JSesh Hieroglyphic Editor

I thought I would spend some time browsing through Sourceforge and looking up some cool programs. And what's cooler than Egyptian hieroglyphics? Being able to write your own!

Available free from Sourceforge, the JSesh is a hieroglyphic editor so you too can make your own hieroglyphics and be uber cool! Of course, if you're an academic it will be probably be very useful when you're writing up that journal article on your latest discovery.

Personally I would rather use it to print random nonsense on a t-shirt and sell it.

Check it out here.