Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Shivah - Free for a limited time

The Shivah, an adventure game where you play a Jewish rabbi to uncover a murder mystery is now available at Wadjet Eye Games for free for a limited time! If you're an adventure game fan, definitely get it. Its slightly under 90MB and features full voice acting (I think). It's good fun and apparently made quite a splash in 2006 when it was released.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Mighty Ape Birthday Sale

Mighty Ape is having their birthday sale, so if you live in New Zealand now's the time to check out what they have on offer.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

ASCII Portal

Clocking in at just under 10MB, Asciiportal is inspired by the game Portal. A fun game that even has some gravity and physics in it. Check it out. It's a fun game even in its own right.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Majesty 2 Released + My Majesty Review

Previously on my original blog (now closed) I posted a review on Majesty. Here's what I wrote (slightly edited):

Majesty is an interesting fantasy kingdom game which is similar to Populous or Dungeon Keeper. You manage buildings rather than individual units and collect taxes to fund your kingdom. Heroes are your main units and although you pay to recruit them, you don't have direct control over them. Instead they will do whatever suits their character class. For example, if they are a rogue, they will explore and loot treasure chests. If they are a warrior, they will buy armour and weapons from the blacksmith before going off for monster hunting. To earn money, your tax collector will then collect taxes from your buildings such as the blacksmithwhich you can then spend on upgrading your kingdom or building your buildings. You can motivate your heroes to act by placing bounties onareas you want to explore or monsters you want slain.

It is both frustrating and fun to see your heroes running around doing what they like at first. But as you understand how they 'think' and who they work well with, it becomes easier to manage them. Sometimes they still act completely silly like fighting against overwhelming odd but that's what heroes are like after all. As a sovereign you have spells at your disposal which cost gold and can assist your heroes. When they are in trouble that's when you use a spell or two to save them.

All in all, it's surprisingly addictive despite sounding a little boring at first. Highly recommended but try out a demo first as it may not be your kind of game.
Recently Majesty 2 came out and I'm surprised few reviewers mentioned the original. As far as I can tell, Majesty 2 contains the same hands off gameplay we've come to expect from Majesty with new graphics and some additional bounty types and a couple of gameplay tweaks to make controlling characters easier. Should you buy it? I believe that like the original, there will be a core group of gamers that will absolutely love the game while others will hate the hands off approach. I suspect like the first there will be a niche following but won't make a real impression on the general gaming public. I plan to definitely buy it once the price drops.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Drill Dozer

Just finished playing the main quest of Drill Dozer. It's an action adventure game featuring a girl name Jill riding her Drill Dozer. The Drill Dozer itself has the ability to drill through walls by holding down the L and R buttons and has three gears allowing you to power up the Drill Dozer's drilling speed although you always have to start from gear one and locate the other gears within the level.

Naturally fighting enemies requires you to drill them until they explode or in the case of certain bosses, drilling through them. You can also use the Drill Dozer in other ways such as turning keys, drilling through tunnels and using the drill to hook onto moving silver drums. There is also a built in rumble pack turning your GBA into a force feedback device.

Overall it is a pretty fun game and I would certainly recommend it however there are a few issues I found with the game personally. The main game itself is relatively short and generally the level design lends itself quite well to the drilling although at times this can make certain action sequences more aggravating than you would normal expect as the game has an over reliance on the drilling to do everything in an attempt to make the game unique.

For example, every now and then, you will be required use special cubes to "drill jump" across dangerous areas. This involves Holding the L or R button to drill, and then pushing the opposite drill button to be reverse boosted across. The higher the gear you are in, the further you are boosted. As you can imagine this can get very aggravating as you have to remember to keep shift gears at the right time and then reverse drill to push off before your drilling finishes.

So to boost jump to the right, I have to hold down the drill button, wait for the drill reach the end, push the same drill button to shift into a higher gear and then push the opposite drill button to boost off. To the game's credit, most levels are fairly forgiving and you just have to try again but in some areas you're also under attack or the platform you land on isn't stable and it can get more annoying than fun. This issue is demonstrated in the secret levels which you can unlock by spending money at the shop where sometimes you have to repeat the process four or five times before reaching a rest area and occasionally my hands get all tangled up trying to remember which button to press.

There are also some underwater and air sequences and again because of it's over reliance the idea of drilling, it tends to get more annoying than fun at times as you have to use your drilling action to propel you through the water or air. The level design underwater isn't too bad but I feel the air levels are more frustrating than necessary particularly as getting hit can send you back down to the bottom again.

Sound and music is average. Music is shockingly repetitive and it seems like there are only a handful of tracks. I know this isn't an RPG but considering this is from Game Freak, the company that is responsible for Pokemon you think they would have at least created several other tracks.

I would say this is an above average game that will certainly keep you entertained. Just don't expect anything particularly too revolution once you get pass the third area. I'm surprised that most reviewers gave it 80%. I would say it probably hovers around the 70% mark.

Unfortunately sales weren't that good for Drill Dozer so I doubt we'll see a sequel. But if they did, I think they should give the Drill Dozer a couple more actions like double jumping at the very least and maybe a drill missile for long range attacks. Understandably it would make Drill Dozer less unique but maybe it would make the game flow better.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Tales of Monkey Island - Free - Today Only

Get it while it's hot. Telltale Games is offering Tales of Monkey Island free to all registered users for today only. Get it now here!

Dictator Wars by Gamelayers: Impressions

As mentioned earlier, I've tried out Dictator Wars by Gamelayers (former creators of Nethernet). So far, I've been somewhat underwhelmed. It's a clone of any other Facebook "Wars" game, a light strategy game with an emphasis on doing missions to improve your country. I don't really play those sorts of games but I do feel that it isn't as innovative as Nethernet was.

In a previous post I mentioned that Gamelayers teamed up with rather spammey advertisers in an attempt to monetise Nethernet. I'm sad to say that this sort of advertising is also incorporated into Dictator Wars and I believe it hurts Gamelayers' credibility.

If you're into light social strategy games than try it out but don't expect too much.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Gamelayers returns with Dictator Wars

Gamelayers, creators of the metaweb game Nethernet (originally PMOG) has just announced their release of their Facebook based game Dictator Wars. Unfortunately the Nethernet Refugee Camp isn't particularly impressed by this complaining that it lacks the innovation of The Nethernet.

Is it good or bad? I will be trying it and reviewing it later this week.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The jamendo iPhone application

The jamendo iPhone application, now in 4 more languages!

Jamendo just released an iPhone app so you can listen and browse their free music on the go. Cool.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Act of War: Direct Action Review

Just finished the single player campaign of Act of War: Direct Action. The game is clearly based around a similar concept as Command and Conquer: Generals released several years previously and I think they've tried to go with a more realistic approach than Command and Conquer: Generals.

Here's a quick summary of my thoughts on Act of War: Direct Action

What I liked about it
Ragdoll physics
High level of detail
Realistic looking
Fairly interesting single-player campaign - There are lots of mission plot twists that make sense in the context of the war.

What I didn't like about it
Units are too small - In an effort to be a bit more realistic, all the units are a closer to real life proportions and wear similar camouflage clothes to what they would in real life. Large environments make it hard to locate soldiers and tanks amidst the urban concrete and desert locations. I think the game should have used a squad system for soldiers in this case to make them easier to locate.

Units look all the same - Again, in an effort to be more realistic, all units look very similar and its hard to tell at a glance which soldiers are which unless you zoom in a bit more.
Buildings blend into the environment - Again, the buildings are a bit too realistic and have camouflage. Unfortunately this makes looking for the US barracks a real pain amidst the other similarly shaped buildings like the sandbag shelter.

When I was playing C & C Generals I didn't like the toy-like vehicles and tanks. But in hindsight, it's clear that the reason why Westwood made the tanks much smaller and troops much larger was to ensure that the vehicles didn't eclipse the soldiers and it would be possible to see at a glance what the troop and vehicle composition of a group is.

Garrisoning - This makes the game is somewhat frustrating experience at times as you have to order your troops to exit buildings and move to the next one. If you're trying to clear out a city, this can really slow down progress as troops that enter the building become a separate selection group. Any units outside get deselected so if you want to move on ahead to clear another building you have to have your troops exit the building, then reselect everybody again, reorganise the formation so your troops are protected and then move along.

Having played both C & C: Generals and Act of War I find that garrisoning often turns the tide of battle around quite easily. My gut feel of garrisoning is that it should be limited to one or two buildings so as to make the buildings focal points of combat as opposed to allowing every single building to be garrisoned making it a game of whoever can click faster to slip more troops into buildings.

Clunky healing interface - Super Weapons and Airstrikes are located on the task bar so it's easy to call in airstrikes. But repairing and healing troops is a real pain. For example, to heal Task force talon troops, you have to locate your Nanowave healing centre and then relocate to find your troops and then heal them. Why not place nanowave healing on the interface bar like airstrikes and superweapons? That would have made it way easier. Its a bit easier for the US army. You can call in the helicopter to medivac your badly injured troops with red health. What I don't understand is why you can't call the helicopter in for troops which aren't totally injured. It makes no sense. Vehicles on the other hand, can call in repair trucks or repair helicopters anytime. Weird.

One gripe I have with gameplay is why doesn't Taskforce Talon get some sort of healing unit near the beginning or at least some way of healing wounded troops? I remember in C & C Generals you could at least send your troops back into the barracks to get fully healed. Why didn't they implement something like that? This is especially heart wrenching when troops become critically wounded can't actually move and then subsequently bleed to death. Unless you've leveled up to get a nanowave healing centre, which is quite high up on the technology tree, your Taskforce soldiers have to be left to die. I mean, there they are wounded in combat, you've cleared the area of enemies and even though you're suppose to be a hightech fighting force you can't even send an ambulance to rescue them. It's even funnier because you can actually get a vehicle repair unit before getting getting a nanowave healing centre. Is this how a hightech fighting force is suppose to do things? They value equipment over their soldiers?

Resource collecting - Oil derricks are usually isolated and relatively far apartment so you have to build a refinery right next to them anyway. This means more micromanagement. The makers should have just collapsed the refinery and oil derrick into one building.

There is also the ability to take prisoners of war and hold them hostage for money. Often the ground will be littered with troops afterwards and I have to order my troops around to go around collecting them. Whenever they capture one soldier, they will also try and capture other nearby troops as well. I found however that the radius for this capture zone was really small so I had to continually tell my troops to capture troops just outside of their capture zone. Each POW gives you $500 so its definitely worth capturing but having to continually babysit my troops while capturing is annoying.

Overall, I found the game very high in micromanagement and I think it makes the game more aggravating at times than necessary. You might note that nearly all of my criticism is centred around interface rather than gameplay as I haven't really had a chance to play multiplayer so I can't comment on gameplay balancing. It's a decent competent RTS with good graphics and animations but I don't think it's quite polished enough to reach classic status. I don't believe it will be viewed favourable over time particularly since C & C Generals was there first. At the time it got around 70-80% but by today's standards although the graphics hold up quite well I would probably give it a 5 or 6 because the interface and gameplay isn't quite up to scratch.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Might and Magic 6-pack: Limited Edition

GOG as promised has released the Might and Magic 6-pack: Limited Edition for just US$9.99. Plus you also get the Swords of Xeen game which is a bonus scenario included in most Might and Magic compilations. For me, the bonus material such as the soundtrack and cluebooks are the draw cards for me. Definitely a ground breaking foundationally series.

Burnout Paradise NZ$25

In today's daily deal - Mighty Ape is offering Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box (For the PC) for just NZ$25! Definitely worth checking out considering places like Steam are selling it for US$40.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Good Old Games - Interplay Promotion

Good Old Games is having a promotion for Interplay games where every Interplay purchase entitles you to another Interplay game for free. All games are $US5.99. Check it out here.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Google Books and EPUB

The official Google Blog states that Google Books' public domain books can now be downloaded as EPUB format as well. What makes this significant? Don't we already have pdf?

The reason it's significant is because the EPUB format (unlike pdf format) is designed with 'reflowable digital books and publications' in mind. This means that the text and structure of the book can be easily reformatted to fit whatever device you have in mind unlike PDF which is fairly static. The EPUB format is also open source and so improvements and changes can be made by anyone so you don't have to pay anyone to use the format.

By switching to this format, Google book's library even more attractive to people who don't necessarily have access to a large screen all the time. Now they can read those books on their mobile phone or PDAs knowing they will be properly formatted.

If you're into more free books, don't forget to check out Project Gutenberg since they also have plenty of public domain books.