Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Steam Indie Packs are back

Steam indie packs are back in case you missed the first round. It's somewhat hidden on the main page but its there. Check under the second page of packs. Just something people should be aware of. Most are going for $5.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Chrono Cross: Game Design Review

Chronocross is a game set after Chrono Trigger featuring a new cast of characters. The creator of Chrono cross mentioned that Chrono Cross is not a true sequel but a story set in the same universe. They deliberately wanted to experiment with new systems and new ways to storytelling. First of all, let me say that I enjoyed Chronocross. It had wonderful art direction, a story which was entertaining (if somewhat hard to follow someties) and lots of unique characters that could join your party including a fisherman, a chef, a gothic rocker and living plants. Two living plants in fact.

From my point of view however there are some problems with the gameplay mechanics which mar the experience for me:
1) Too many characters- The extremely huge number of characters meant that most characters seemed a bit too similar to other characters and also the plotlines tended to dissolve into nothing.

2) The field system is difficult to control. In combat, the uses a field system where everytime you use an mobility, its 'colour' affects the overall battle field. There are 3 field color slots and the latest attack will push the oldest colour out to replace it. The more a field is your character's colour, the more effective your character is and attacks of that specific colour. Similarly, you get disadvantaged if the field is the opposite. Its possible to control this, just really really hard as you rarely have all of your characters able to attack in a row meaning the enemy can often screw up the field colour you're going for. There are certain characters that can have specific powers to change the field colour but they aren't plentiful enough.

3) Summoning ultimate creatures is difficult requiring a field to be completely the same colour and their presence is also like a secret. I think I found like 2 in the entire game.

4) Tech system from Chrono Trigger is practically a secret as well. The ability to combine certain special attacks to make more powerful attacks if you had the correct team of characters is still there but only a very few techs exist. Which is a bit of a shame, because it would made the battling a lot more fun. Again, I played the entire game without actually using one!

5) Lack of traditional exp system was a step in the right direction because this meant that the game designers could control the experience and ensure the bosses were never too powerful for you as if I'm not mistaken all your characters level up including the ones you haven't been using. In the game, however once you beat a boss, there is a small window where you can random bonus ability points by fighting normal enemies. Supposedly this means your favourite characters will then gain more points and be more powerful. I'm just not sure if this is quite the right way of going about the system as maybe the character you are currently using aren't quite the right characters. Also these bonus points are also awarded only to character which will still alive at the end of the battle. I feel that some of skill point system where you can choose which characters to award bonus too might be better.

6) Unclear benefits when using elements of different levels. There are differences but I'm still not quite sure how setting different element levels will enhance or penalise you or how much benefit you get from setting an element above or below what you already have.

7) Actions that affect two worlds or reveal secrets should be clearer - Certain special actions require you to do something in one world to affect the other. Sometimes this is fairly clear but other times this isn't clear particularly when you're looking for optional areas which can unlock secrets. Some might argue that's part of it being secret but some actions are frankly way too obscure. Some are event-limited so if events in the story pass, you can't get the secret anymore.

Overall I would class it as a flawed classic. It's still very enjoyable with fairly unique world just those mechanics mentioned above that really annoy me.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Resource Hunting and Item Forging in RPGs: My proposal

In my previous review of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey I mentioned that hunting for forma which is used to create weapons, armour and items is hard. I actually like the idea of hunting for resources and combining them to form swords and items. A good game should allow a good balance of experimentation and discovery keeping the player interested rather than forcing the player to repetitively hunt for items.

What then would I consider an ideal system for hunting and forging? Well here's my list of good things a good forging game should have.

1) Automatic markers and identifiers - Once you've found the monster parts/resources, the game should make it easy to find these resources again through an auto bookmark system or good automapping system. It should not be up to the player to mark the map.
2) Automatic recording receipes or hints - Whenever you find a hint or part of receipe this should automatically be recorded in your receipe
3) Less resources the better - If you require 10 leather hides to make something it means the player have to fight monsters at least 10 times, I think the maximum requirements should be no more than 3 unique items for any receipe.

Proposed resource drop system
Here's a good system which mixes both elements of both random drops and yet allows players a choice of working towards their goals. I'm sure this has been done before by a couple of games although I personally can't recall exactly which games have has done this.

Whenever a player defeats a monster, you will gain item points of that monster. Gain enough item points and you can cash out for an item. Alternatively you can try gambling your currently item points to try and cash out for an item of a higher level.

E.g. A slime monster drops either a "slime item" the rarer "super slime item".

When you a defeat a slime monster you can choose to:
a) Get the Slime item
b) Get +10% chance of getting a super slime item
c) Try gambling for the super slime item.

This means after 10 battles you will definitely get the super slime item so there's a fairly clear target for the 'hard-working' player to aim for but if you're an impatient risk taker you could try gambling your points now to try and get your super slime now. I think this would work well as it reduces the uncertain in what you could get.

You could get more complicated by creating other bonuses and penalities depending on what the player chooses at the end of a battle but hopefully this gives you some idea of how you can mix and match both worlds and still get something quite reasonable and enjoyable. Being the hard working player that I am I would probably choose to constantly using the cash out option.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey - Game Design Review

Just finished this clocking in at 80 hours. I'm a big fan of Shin Megami Tensei fan even though I've only finished the first Shin Megami Tensei because the atmosphere and gameplay is different from your usual save the world fare, even if that's what you do in the end anyway. Warning, there are some spoilers below.

Some background about the SMT series. The gameplay is your usual dungeon crawl but with demons as enemies. Demons here includes to supernatural creatures such angels or monsters rather than specifically evil creatures. What makes it unique is your ability to converse and negotiate using your demon summoning program so you can actually convince them to give you items, macca (the money in the series), leave you alone or even join you. You also have an alignment (Law, Neutral and Chaos which determines how smoothly relationships go. As you can imagine, similarly aligned demons will treat you better than demons of an opposing alignment. In this game, you're part of a 4 vehicle investigation team entering a mysterious phenomena occurring in the Antarctic to try and stop it from growing. Unfortunately your vehicles are soon separated and you're forced to fight for survival in a mysterious demon-infested dimensions that mirror the world of humans.

Despite being a fan, I feel that Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey isn't a game to celebrate about. If you're a fan like me, you'll probably enjoy it but there are glaring issues with gameplay design and pacing really let it down. What worries me is that despite all the games inbetween the first SMT and now, the gameplay design has really evolved about half a step and taken a step back in some respects.

  • Storyline is linear and cliche for a Shin Megami Tensei game. There's the Law hero, the Chaos hero and then there's the Neutral Hero and its obvious who they are and what will happen eventually. The Chaos hero will continually talk about how powerless he is before being fused with a demon and becoming a half demon, the Law hero will be touched by the divine and become a messiah for the Law God or you can choose to follow the Neutral path and fight for humanity by defeating both sides.
  • The standard SMT plot twist of choosing the Law, Neutral or Chaos paths occur right at the end of the game and only for the final sector in the game meaning you have to replay the entire game just to unlock that different path. Why couldn't they have created several diverging paths through the game?
  • The storyline is certainly thought-provoking but I think it could have done more in some ways to express the issues a bit better, maybe with even more situations or plot development. Part of the plot revolves around another human expedition entering but only with profit in mind rather than saving humanity like your expedition which I thought was good and wondered if they could have done more of that instead. I think they killed off the other 3 ships and crew a bit too quickly rather than fully exploiting their story potential.
  • The game is very hard and can be quite punishing. Due to the hard difficulty there can be hours before any real plot development occurs.
  • Demons first appear as blue fuzzy images until you defeat them at least once and need to be repeated encountered or defeated or fused before you can get more info and increase your analysis. What I don't understand is when a skill is clearly weak against an enemy (it actually flashes the words 'weak'), why can't your system automatically record it down rather than requiring you to reach a certain analysis level?
  • The Demon source and skill inheritance system means you can create unique demons, however once fused, it becomes difficult hard to change demon skills. Demons may occasionally change skills when they level up but the skill they gain is random. You can actually use special demons to change skills and improve stats but it is still quite tricky as those special demons need to have skills you want to transfer. This is partially solved by the demon password system where you can share demons with their skills with other players.
  • Bosses are very annoying due to the rigid skill system, if you've accidentally set your demons to the wrong skills. Some people would say this adds to the challenge. I'm not one of those people.
  • In the game the Demon Co-op mechanic rewards players who choose demons of the same alignment as each other however nearly all the bosses and powerful enemies, which you can fuse after defeating them once, are Chaos and Neutral demons. I was playing as Law aligned player and felt penalised as a result. There aren't any actual party or fusion restrictions due to alignment like the older games but it makes Demon Co-op less powerful when it kicks in during battle.
  • There are several teleportation puzzles in the game but there's no record of which teleporters lead to which other ones. This particularly gets annoying when you have 6 or 7 rooms with 3 teleporters each.
  • In the game, you have to collect forma from enemies and the environment but what you get can be random. This annoying particular with rarer demons as it is hard to predict when they will appear. They will appear in the same places usually but sometimes you have to go through 15-20 encounters bfore they appear. What makes it worse is that sometimes you need 3 or 4 of the forma from them! Also taking to or defeating normal demons won't necessarily guarantee you get the forma as enemies can drop up to 3 different kinds of items. When you consider that you might be fighting groups of enemies that are made up of two or three kinds of demons, getting that forma you want can be frustrating.
  • You can dispose of forma and items in the lab to get more macca but its hard to know what forma is required to create certain weapons, armour or items unless you return back to the armour and weapons and items screen and scroll through carefully. It usually isn't an issue but some items use the same specific forma as weapons or armour.
  • Moon phases do affect your demon conversation but unfortunately the system wasn't transparent enough for me to understand. Would it be good if they actually covered that.
Overall, if you're a fan you'll definitely enjoy the game with about 300 demons to fuse and the mostly polished skill system. It is a solid game but the issues I mentioned mean only hard core RPG players who don't mind really working for their rewards will enjoy this game. Casual players should definitely stay away.

Probably a 5/10 overall or a 7/10 if you're a fan of the series.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Sam & Max + Strong Collection on Sale

There's a sale going down at Telltale games where you can get Strong Bad + All 3 Seasons of Sam & Max for.

If you already own them you can also get 3 seasons of Sam & Max for $20 or each season pack for just $9.95.

Really good bargain for those adventure game lovers!

I already own Sam & Max Season 1 on DVD and Strongbad so I'm probably going to purchase the 3 season pack to complete my collection. Although I think I'll be able to hold out for a Christmas sale or something. Maybe...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Tales of Monkey Island Season 1 Review

I grabbed the entire season on the $5 special and managed to play through the entire season in about a week or so.

Overall I quite like the new season. For me, although I played the first Monkey Island when I was ten, I didn't really understand what I was doing (I used a hint book I borrowed from my cousin) nor the funny dialogue except for the sword insult fighting. So I replayed the first monkey island about a year back and played and finished the second after I did that. Monkey Island 2 in particularly seemed way hard than 1 and completely sucked the joy out of the game for me in many ways.

Is the humour of the new series comparable to the first two games? I think the tone of the games has changed a little from the original but overall it delivers the same sort of feel I got from the original games. I think the easier difficultly also made the game much more accessible and enjoyable for me.

The very awkward controls which have been covered enough by most reviewers so I'm not going to say too much about them.

Anyway, here's a short summary of what I thought of each episode (some minor spoilers):
Episode 1: Solid intro the series. Travelling around the jungle was a annoying. Overall okay but not great.

Episode 2: Disappointing episode compared to the rest. The siege itself was broken fairly easily. I was hoping for more excitement, more explosions and puzzles. The intro to Episode 2 sets up Morgan LeFlay as a major rival but she only makes an appearance at the beginning, in a number of cutscenes taking place in different locations from Guybrush and the end of the game. I think plot wise there could have been more interaction between her and Guybrush to make it more interesting.

Episode 3: Now this is what turned a solid series into an excellent series for me. Completely new location, new characters, Murray the talking demonic skull, interesting fresh puzzles and just overall more punch and interactio, especially the rivalry between Morgan and Guybrush.

Episode 4: A very fun episode would have been as good as episode 3 if not for the fact that you are back on the Flotsam island in the exact same environments again. Sigh. I also think the court room sequence could have been done in a more Phoenix Wright style to spice it up a bit. Otherwise it's pretty much a standard talking sequence in a single room. I actually quite enjoyed the maze sequences in this one and its a good example of mazes done right.

Episode 5: Overall good solid ending to the series. Reviewers commented that walking to each location when portals were open was annoying and I have to agree. Lots of good puzzles and overall solid ending very enjoyable but ends on a bit of a cliff hanger and lots of loose ends. Also, I think the underworld could have been a bit more interesting and detailed similar to Grim Fandango.


Overall a solid adventure game series which I enjoyed. As mentioned earlier, environments are a bit too repetitive and I personally think that Telltale seasons at 5 episodes a season is too short.

My favourite episodes in order of ranking are:
Episode 3 and 5 tied
Episode 4
Episode 1
Episode 2

If you're an adventure gamer I'm sure you'll be pleased. I bought it at US$5 and I certainly got my money's worth. I say a fair price would be around US$15.

I can't wait for Season 2!. It just can't come soon enough!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Resident Evil 2 - Windows XPTroubleshooting

LIke many have tried running Resident Evil 2 to on Windows XP I've had a great deal of trouble. Here are my solutions to overcoming the issues. All of this is based off forums I've visited.

Issue: Screwed up graphics. E.g. 2D backgrounds have black borders and 3D graphics not correct
This really depends on your graphics cards. I have an Nvidia card which works well with old games. Generally, try setting the graphics in the options to Voodoo or try it with different settings.

Issue: Game runs slowly
Not sure why this fixes it, but try running windows media player or classic media player if you have it. While its minimised, try running the game.

Issue: Game won't save and load
If you're trying to save and load games you MUST set the save directory to c:\RESIDENT EVIL2 which is the default apparently. Spacing is important as well. This is something to do with the way data is stored in Windows XP. Otherwise, the game won't recognise your save games.

Issue: Finished the game and now trying scenario B using the other character but movies and items are incorrect
If you've finished the game using one character, you will be prompted to save and when you load that save you will get to see the other character's version of the events.

Here's how I got around it:

1) You need to install the data of the other person's disc and run the game from the other person's disc. So insert the other person's disc and make sure the data is installed.

2) Next you need create a shortcut for the game to run it in Windows 95 Comtability. You need to use the shortcut from the CD. Navigate to the regis director and copy the short to the desktop, then from your desktop right click, go to the compatibility tab and select windows 95 mode. This step may or may not be required.

3) Run the game using the other person's disc. E.g. if you are playing Scenario B Leon, you must use the Leon CD. It should work now.

Issue: Game runs okay and then everything starts to slow down after some time playing. Also dying sequences and sequences with lights are fire are slow.
I think this has something to do with the way the 3D calculations are run when creating the 3D graphics. Try restarting the game. Unfortunately, I haven't really found a way around glowing lights or dying sequences being slow.

Some other things I've noticed:
Continuity - Scenario B puzzles and items don't match with Scenario A puzzles. E.g. you unlock the same doors/puzzles with the same keys/items in Scenario A. If indeed the other character was running around unlocking all the doors like in Scenario then these doors/puzzles wouldn't be locked/solved. This was clearly done to ensure there was actual gameplay in scenario B. The cutscenes and events in Scenario B generally match up.

Unlocking the special scenarios - There are suppose to be 2 additional scenarios in the game, an extra game featuring HUNK an Umbrella Operative and Tofu but the requirements are insane to get them requiring you to finish the game within like 2 hours and under 10 saves. Ouch. Frankly it requires too much effort.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Collector's Edition and Competition: Gameplanet Newspost

For those of you don't know, Mighty Ape used to be called the Gameplanet store before a split into two companies. I believe Gameplanet is now solely a news site and Mighty Ape is a online store. Today Gameplanet posted a news article about Mighty Ape feeling frustrated about being unable to meet demand due to larger companies holding exclusive rights to the Star Wars Force Unleashed Collector's Edition.

Gameplanet failed to mention that Simon Barton CEO of Mighty Ape is a shareholder in Gameplanet . This combined with the fact that Mighty Ape used to called Gameplanet store as well makes it seem extremely hard not to see it anything but a biased report.

To be fair it's not a big deal really. Its just a straight repost of the comments made by Mighty Ape but its good journalistic integrity to specify any and all possibility particular as the companies were at one point strongly intertwined.

This also brings me to an interesting debate is Mighty Ape's claim of competition good? In this case yes it definitely is and I agree that consumers will ultimately lose out.

In the US gaming industry however what has happened is that each retailer/publisher gets its own exclusive item(s) in their collector's edition. E.g. Gamestop gets an extra map, Steam gets 2 new character skins etc. is this giving consumers choice or ultimately making them suffer? In my opinion, the competition has caused rather silly proliferation of gimmicks in the end rather than giving consumers true choice. Who but the most fanatical fan will purchase all the collector's editions?

Game companies should be creating truly value added products rather than trying to create all these 'micro-differences'. Ultimately, customers will feel better knowing they bought the definitive "Ultimate edition" rather than the Collector's Edition of retailer XYZ. I completely understand why retailers want to create point of differences but surely there's a better way of doing it?

Update on this: Gameplanet has now posted up some clarification on their relationship. Anyway good to know that tweeting works!

They're clarifications are below:
Some comments on this story have expressed concerns about Gameplanet's relationship with Mighty Ape and a possible conflict of interest in our reporting. Gameplanet reported this story because we believe that it is local gaming news which is highly relevant to our readership. Any opinions quoted in the story are entirely those of the parties involved. Gameplanet sought comment from Sony representatives but they failed to respond before publication.

While Gameplanet and Mighty Ape have a long history of working together (Mighty Ape formerly used the Gameplanet brand under license, being known as "Gameplanet Store" until 2008), the two have always been separate companies and are operated independently with different ownership and management. Full disclosure: Mighty Ape CEO Simon Barton is a shareholder in Gameplanet.

Tales of Monkey Island: Only US$4.95 until Monday

A great deal for those adventure lovers, to celebrate the 'Talk like a pirate' day Tales of Monkey Island is now going for only 4.95 US. Check it out here! This weekend only!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People Series

Just finished all five episodes of Strong Bad and thought I would share what I thought of them. This is the second Telltale series I've played, the first being Sam & Max Season 1 which I also finished.

Strongbad's Free Episode
Just something worth mentioning, I've never spent any amount of time with Homestar Runner so I had no understanding of who all the characters were except for Strongbad who I knew as the main character. My first game was Episode 4 Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective which was made free for a limited time. Unfortunately this epiode featured Strongbad making a spy movie further confusing me as to who the characters really were as they sometimes referred to themselves as the characters in the movie and sometimes as themselves. I've not watched spy movies either so a great number of jokes and references were not clear to me.

I don't think Episode 4 was a good introduction to the world or characters as a result and I think its something they should have thought of before using as a promotional episode to entice potential buyers to purchase the game. It made me somewhat reluctant to purchase the series even when presented at US$5 at the recent special.

My second episode however was Episode 5: 8 Bit is Enough which was made free for one day only and that really saved my opinion of Strongbad particularly as I'm a retro gamer and really understood lots of references being made. It remains my favourite episode out of the entire season.

Mini-game with every game - Each game also had a simple retro style game which is funny.
Fairly clever and funny puzzles - Most of the puzzles are your usual quite interesting and I personally found the to be pitched at the right level.

Doesn't take advantage of the PC format to deliver better art direction - This is clearly a design choice but comparing this to Sam & Max's art direction, Strong Bad's creators seem content to simply create and realise their flash drawings in 3D. There is definitely a certain minimalistic charm to it but I feel they could have aimed higher or otherwise included more content in the game to make up for that. Take for example, Episode 3's map and film narrations everytime you conquered another 'land' or Episode 5's 8 bit environments patterned after various period in computer gaming history. more of these additional parodies could have made the game feel more exciting especially as Strong Bad normally walks around the exact same major areas in each episode. The main areas being his neighbourhood which unfortunately mimics the American suburban landscape.
Some secrets and clothes are time locked and you can only get them at certain times forcing you to replay the entire episode to get them - I don't think this is a good way of increasing replayability and it's even more annoying as some of these secrets require you to perform actions such as using two completely unrelated items together.
Game script needs even more optional jokes and funny sayings similar to Time Gentlemen Please! by Zombie Cow where nearly single combination of items will elicit some of clever response by the characters.
Requiring online verification could pose a problem for those without internet connections.

Overall, its a solid entrance into the adventure game market and if you're already a fan of Strongbad and the Homestar Runner series by all means buy it. The Strong Bad games are actually very well done and logical and I've actually had a great deal of fun. It originally retailed at $US30 Short length of each episode makes me feel that US$30 isn't enough. I bought it at at US$5 special and it was certainly worth the laughs but I don't think you should be paying more than say US$15 for the entire season.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Enter the Story: Les Miserables

Enter the Story: Les Miserables is now free! Looks interesting. Check it for free here. You can read a review of it here.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Osmos: Free Sound Track

Can't turn down free music The creators of the game Osmos have released the soundtrack for the game to celebrate their release on the iphone. check out the soundtrack for the game Osmos here in both MP3 and M4A format.

There's a little bit more to the story, if you've purchased Osmos direct from them you can get the newest album of Matt Jarvis for free. Details here.

If you've purchased it on Steam or haven't bought Osmos, you can still get it for free by checking out details here.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood

Brothers in Arms: Earned in blood is a sequel to Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30.

First of all its a game which balances tactics, realism and fun. You can't play it like an action shooter except at the easiest difficulty but its not a hard core simulation like Full Spectrum Warrior or Hidden and Dangerous . In other words a thinking mans FPS but doesn't require you to read a 60 page manual.

I do recommend it however there are a couple of issues I would like to note:

There isn't any way of issuing or queuing orders more complex than 'move' and 'fix the enemy' and you can only point to locations only you can see. It's not a super deal breaker as enemy and game levels are generally designed with this limitation in mind at least against enemy troops as most walls and barriers are invincible against bullets.

The problems with the AI and command system however become more apparent in certain conditions such as when the area is particularly large and you want your troops to head to a landmark but accidentally choose the wrong side of the landmark or when you see an enemy tank and want your troops to distract an enemy tank while you get into position. Just like in real life, bullets do nothing against tank armour. More often than not while you're moving to secure an anti-tank panzerfaust your troops will get killed because they don't move from their location. This also means you can't create orders such as "Starting flanking them when I start firing from this location", you have to manage your troops every step of the way.

Storywise the game weaves in and out of the first game. I believe that some of the levels take place in the same areas during the same time as levels in Road to Hill 30 except your character Joe Hatsock takes a different route from Sgt Matt Baker from the first game. I find this is a bit of a problem in the narrative because the game refers to a number of major incidences in Road to Hill 30 such as character deaths or Baker's actions and I'm unsure what exactly they are referring to. It would definitely make more sense to someone who has played the first game.

I love how real the levels are and how they have been recreated from the real towns. Unfortunately, the game's weather mimics the real conditions during the period of the conflict which means that its always cloudy and grey or raining. Coupled with the grey buildings of the time it makes the game feel a bit dull and drab at times. I sort of wished they had taken some artistic license here but that's just my personal feelings.

One crucial thing which I strong disliked about the game was how they created ficitional biographies and extras of the characters and slipped them into the extras while mixing it up with real biographies and actions of real WWII soldiers without clarifying that the game's characters were fictional. Having never played Brothers in Arms before, I feel that this move diminishes the efforts of the real soldiers during that time by placing them on equal footing as fictional characters because the levels and locations are based on real WWII conflicts and towns and the actions of the fictional characters are based on real actions of real soldiers.

At the moment, the games in Australia and New Zealand are being sold together so definitely get both together if you can so you can properly appreciate the intertwining stories.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Dawn of War Anthology: Box Collection Review

This is my review of the boxed game collection Dawn of War Anthology

I paid $50 for this and its hefty as it contains all the individual cases of all the games and the manuals.
This includes:
  • Dawn of War Game of the Year Edition (3 CDs) -> It mentions the collector's art book on the back but unfortunately was left out. :-(
  • Dawn of War Winter Assault (2 CDs)
  • Dark Crusade - 1 DVD
  • All the CD-keys work
Fairly weighty, Dark Crusade Anthology is a good buy but aside from from being able to to physical hold the discs and physical manuals, there's nothing here a digital download doesn't already have.
There's actually probably enough space for one extra DVD casing but it's just an extra cardboard support which is a pity :-(. They could have easily fit in another collector's disc. music CD or some sort of exclusive artbook in there.

I consider a bit of a lazy collection as a result. I suspect they had an over production of games and decided to just repackage them.

This has been superceded by the Dawn of War: The Complete Edition with the final expansion Soul Storm so you may as well just get that as a digital download which is now probably cheaper than what I paid for it.

My overall impression is that all of them are very fun games. That being said, here are a couple of things I didn't quite like about the games in particular a number of interface quirks:
  • You can't build in places that are covered by the fog of war even if they are well within safe zones like right next to your starting base.
  • You can't 'mass activate' an ability for same squad types so you actually have to flick through all of them one by one individually activating them.
  • Fleet of foot for the Eldar has to be manually activated. 95% of the time when moving, you'll want Fleet of foot on and you'll want it off when you've stopped. There's no real cool down period so why not have it so you can choose between several different behaviours. 1) Always off. 2) Always on 3) On when moving, off when you stop moving. Instead you have to keep flicking it on and off individually for each squad which is unnecessary micromanagement.
  • Eldar Web way gate travel and Imperial Guard underground travel needs to be automated. Troops should automatically use these points if its faster to travel rather than having to manually load them in. Also, the icons at the bottom telling you what sort of building an imperial guard is in don't tell you where they are coming from so you might accidentally ask an Imperial Guard squad from builidng A to travel to building C leaving building A empty even though you actualy wanted the squad from building B to building C. It probably doesn't matter because you could just send them back but the limited size of the barracks etc. mean more unnecessary micromanagement.
  • You pay immediately for buildings even if they aren't built regardless how far away your builder unit is. For example, if you ask a builder unit near your base to build a turret in the middle of the map, the turret will be placed there and your builder unit will automatically travel to the place and build it. During this time, it is vulnerable to being destroyed and has very low life. I think a building should only be built when your builder actually reaches the targeted area.
  • The Dawn of War Game of the Year Edition Needs to have some sort of ingame help or on-disc PDF so you can check out the tech trees and upgrades before entering battle. I guess you can learn from experience but it would be good to be able to consult some sort of documentation. Winter Assault and Dark Crusade offer manuals so its a little better in that respect.
  • Campaigns are a bit short in both Dawn of War and Winter Assault. I consider the Winter Assault campaign very fun more so than Dawn of War.
  • Dark Crusade's core gameplay with 7 sides is pretty awesome however the campaign is a bit bland. There are certainly flashes of brilliance with some of the missions like the enemy stronghold but most of the missions pretty much involve different maps but the same objectives. There isn't any alternate stories to experience and there's no real replay value after you finished it aside from replaying it to see your first-choice faction's stronghold event.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Tiberian Sun + Firestorm Review

Just a couple of comments about the games which I've just finished:

Graphics and Art Direction
Comparing Firestorm and Tiberian Sun, I feel that Firestorm is actually more along the lines of what I felt Tiberian Sun should have been. The original Tiberian Sun suffered from brown and grey with only the occassional green, blue and orange Tiberian to brighten it up. Firestorm on the other hand introduces a variety Tiberium flora and fauna making the game more colourful, more organic and definitely gives that sense of just how alien Tiberian is and how its threatening the Earth.

Campaign and Storyline
One thing I liked about Tiberium Dawn and Red Alert was the fact that briefings made you feel like you were really a commander of your troops by placing you in the first person perspective. In Tiberian Sun however they removed that by having you play as Commander Mcneil, and the movies had you watching him do things. This change resulted in a loss of personal involvement. I'm happy that they reinstated this in Firestorm where they address you personally during briefings making your computer seem like a real battle console. I wouldn't mind however if they actually assigned you a name as it does seem somewhat strange in the briefings.

With regards to the plot, in Tiberian Sun, Kane and Slavic barely makes an appearance. Most of the time, it's just you receiving briefings from General Soloman similar to the first although Kane and Slavic are often talked about. You seem to only be chasing after them rather than battling them.

Also the GDI and Nod storylines intertwine but its hard to figure out where exactly on the overall time line you are on because the times they occur in can be different and you don't really see the same events from a different perspective. Instead you often play events that occur before or after the event in the other sides storyline.

I really like how in Firestorm that Cabal gets more involved in the GDI and Nod campaign. I particularly enjoyed his creepy mocking laughter as he launches cyborg attacks against you.

Gameplay & Interface
Still fairly fun as each side is different from the other. I do still feel that Nod still seems bit weaker than GDI even with the subterranean units. I guess the reason is Nod units are weaker and cost about the same or even more

Harvester AI remains a mess with harversters trying to return to refineries across the map. The only way around this is to have only one refinery.

Controlling Jumpset Infantry is more annoying than fun as you can't ask them to stay flying. They keep trying to land after eliminating one target.

I've also been trying to get the carryalls to automatically pick up harvesters and deposit them at the refinary but I can't see to do that which is a step back from Dune II

There are actualy a number of advanced options that you can set if you bother to read the manual including:
Patrol cycles
You can set up waypoints so units will automatically repair if damaged.

Overall, it's still worth playing now and there's no reason not to try it out now that it's free. Firestorm just seems more fun to me overall even though its shorter.

Don't forget, you can download the first three games in the Command and Conquer Universe here.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Syberia Collector's Edition Review

Amazing Artwork
Good plot
Good characters
Fairly good voicework

Syberia 1 itself was fairly short and you really need Syberia II for the story to finish it properly
Some puzzles are way to hard
Puzzles are uninteresting
Doesn't take advantage of the unique mechanical theme to deliver true mechanical puzzles.
Pixel hunting problems particularly
Kate can't 'teleport' to different locations

My overall impression:
I was very impressed with the artwork, character and plot which were all tightly woven into the story. Unfortunately what let me down was the actual gameplay/puzzle part. Puzzles are either very simple or just perplexing. When combined with the fact that some hot spots blend in a bit too well with the background art it make them rather poor. Why didn't they create some really cool self-contained mechanical puzzles like The Incredible Machine? I'm really not sure.

Also you can't skip to locations and have to slowly wait for Kate to run or walk back to where you want to go.

About the 'Collector's Edition'
Surprisingly there aren't many reviews on what the Collector's edition is. Well, the collector's edition itself combines the adventures on a single DVD and includes a making of video. That's it. The case itself is made of paper as well. Overall it just feels more like 'Syberia Budget Edition' rather than something to be called the 'Collector's Edition'. It is priced as a budget title but I was hoping for something more. Maybe a compilation of artwork or something or even just additional wallpapers on the DVD?

Personally, you may as well buy Syberia 1 and Syberia from GOG.com because at the very least you can get some better extras like the soundtrack.

I do recommend that the adventure gamer buys it because it is still awesome story but the poor puzzles make me rate this entire adventure a 6.5/10.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Josh Whelchel's New Album

Josh Whelchel composer for The Spirit Engine soundtracks has just released a new album comprising of songs from 2001 to 2008. Check it out here.

Spirit Engine Review + Save Files

So just finished The Spirit Engine by Mark Pay. A freeware RPG game. If you love RPGs I highly recommend you get it. It's an amazing effort and I think still stands the test of time. By the way, I enjoyed it way more than playing Quake 4.

Download it from the official site here:
The Spirit Engine

Don't forget you can download the music for free at Josh Whelchel's site here:
Spirit Engine OST

The game has good writing, good story, good pacing, good grahpics and I only get stuck in a couple of places and had to level up a little. Which is good because I can't stand training for too long.

Anyway, here are a couple of gameplay and interface issues I noticed with the game which mar this otherwise great freeware classic. Most of these issues are fixed in the Sequel The Spirit Engine 2 so take this as a lesson in what not to do in an RPG.

1) Save points cost gold - Games like Resident Evil did the same thing with limited saves and was the game better for it? I don't think so. Furthermore, save points cost more money the further you travel into a world. The thing is the game has a sneak/run past function allowing you to cross completed areas without engaging in battle. So what I ended up doing was using that to travel back towards a free or cheaper save point to do so. It just means more pointless clicking for the gamer.

2) Skill chains are hard to change - You can save up to 3 skill chains and toggle between them mid-battle on the fly but the better option is to enter the skill menu causing the game to pause and then changing it. Entering the skill menu is much better because it gives you greater control over what you want the characters to do.

3) Skill chains are hard to track while in combat - Because the timing is different depending on the skill used you don't really know where on the skill chain your character is. i.e. is the character performing skill 1, skill 2 or skill 3? It's easy to tell if you've specified all of them to be different. E.g Life Drain, Chain Magic, Kinetic Shield. But if you're like me and have a chain such as Life drain, Life Drain, Kinetic shield and need to change it, it gets troublesome. Is my Wizard on the first Life Drain or the second?

4) Pointless underground graphics - One of the unique aspects of The Spirit Engine is the fact that the game takes place from a side-on perspective similar to platformers. I am very curious why Mark Pay bothered to create graphics showing the underground. i.e. tree roots and buried rocks. It certainly is interesting but honestly I would have preferred some sort of additional GUI interfaces to help address the above issues as covered above.

5) More descriptions required in the menu - When buying an item, a very creative text by the merchant gives you a rough idea about what the item's special properties are for. Unfortunately after buying it there is no indication of what it actually does except for an asterisk next to its name. You have to exit the current game and check out the included help file for a more detail description. Annoying as there seems to be plenty of empty space in the game and equipment menus that could have used for it so it's curious as to why this was done. Maybe something to with memory issues?

6) Skills were unlocked too soon - You obtain access to all the skills early on in the game there really isn't anything to look forward to. I was kind of hoping to see some super powerful attacks or something but unfortunately these never materialised which is a shame. I think maybe one special ultimate per character would have been cool. Not a big deal but would have been icing on the cake.

7) Larger inventory needed - There are a fair number talismans and pieces of equipment in the game. It would have been nice to be able to have a larger inventory to actually keep most of them!

7) Music instruments are a bit too artificial - First of the actual melodies are actually quite pleasant, I do feel Josh Whelchel does need make the music instruments less artificial and sharper. I can't really complain although because it's free free free!

This wasn't quite fixed in The Spirit Engine 2 unfortunately. I guess I was hoping for Playstation 1 type music but still getting music that's sort of more similar to Sega Megadrive and SNES music.

The Spirit Engine Troubleshooting
Crashing to desktop after battle
A very common bug in the game is where your game crashes to the desktop after battle. This usually happens about 30-45 minutes of playing without exiting the game. This bug is due to how the program engine interfaces with newer windows. The only way around this is quit the game completely and re-enter it. I usually do this after I reach a save point.

Screen too small in Windows XP
You have to right click and set to resolution to run at 640x480 resolution on the "The Spirit Engine.EXE" file.

The Spirit Engine Save Files
You can download my Spirit Engine save files here in case you would like to replay the last level, defeat the last boss and watch the ending again.

Spirit Engine Save Files

The characters I used were:
  • Clara
  • Edward
  • Matthieu

Granstream Saga Review

As a fan of Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma by Quintent, when I heard Granstram Saga was in fact by Quintent I resolved to sit down and play the game. I had played a little bit of the game and read the reviews calling it immensely entertaining and was excited about the game. Having played through all of Quintent's Gaia trilogy, each one better than the previous one, I was expecting something that would that would be rough around the edges (as reviews said) but would be deliver a philosophical experience with strong characterisation. I was really hoping it would making me ponder on the idea of the reincarnation and humanity's reason to live like Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma did.

Unfortunately, my expectations were not met by this game. Here are my reasons:
Boring story - The story is your typical "save the world" standard fare. The world was mostly destroyed and the remaining inhabitant live on floating islands which themselves are sinking. The imperial wizardy is trying to obtain the power which keeps them afloat while you are trying to use the same power to restore the islands. The characters are fairly typical with fairly predictable plot twists but overall the cast is fairly likeable if bland. It is literally at the last stage where all of suddenly it tries to do a 'Terranigma' style climax on you, which was great but there was no real hint of the ending and completely inappropriate at the end of the game where nobody would want to sit through the typical boring story to actually get there to witness it! There really isn't any hint of what happens in the ending to real string you along unlike Terranigma which had you resurrecting the world and guiding history through your choices.

Bland graphics - I won't fault it graphically too much. I certainly think it could have been better if they had stuck to 2D graphics like Terranigma and the 3D models are okay. What I do want to fault it on is its lack of imagination in the level designs and overall creativeness. It lacks the distinctive regions of Illusion of Gaia or Terranigma based of other cultures. There are certainly a number of unique areas but not enough of it. I suspect it might have been because it appeared early in the Playstation console's phase.

Combat - For an action RPG this is really what makes or breaks the game. And unfortunately, the combat is not up to standard. The game has you fight enemies one on one at a time. This is way too repetitive and combat takes way too long due to the weapons being underpowered, the enemies having way too much life and the the extremely slow special abilities. There is magic in the game but the only way to get mana is to defeat enemies and most enemies don't drop it. All in all very disappointing. I can't understand why they didn't implement the standard top down action that all of the other games in the Gaia trilogy have.

I really wanted to like this game but I just can't in good faith really recommend this game to anybody but really really die-hard Quintent fans. It's mediocrity in all areas especially the combat and with glimpses of brilliance make it all the more disappointing. Thumbs down.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Front Mission 5 Translation

Completely, slipped under the radar but Front Mission 5 (which was never released in the US) has an English translation. Check it out here.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth Review

A spin-off of the main Phoenix Wright series, Ace Attorney Investigations places you in the shoes of Phoenix Wright's counterpart Miles Edgeworth to investigate and solve a number of mysteries. If you liked the Phoenix Wright series then by all means get this. If you didn't it won't change your mind.

Two criticisms come to mind when I play this which I think can be applied all of the series.
1) Doesn't really make use of DS touch screen features in investigation. What happened to using the microphone to blow away dust and using the touch screen to run tests?
2) No extras after you complete the game. Not even a picture gallery!
3) No real courtroom scenes

Still it is fun and the characters are just as loveable.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Quake 4: Stay away from it

I bought Quake 4: Special Edition without hesitation a couple of years back as I had read that it had scored very well on the single player with about 80%+ average on Metacritic. Back then, I decided to play through Quake 2 and it's two expansion packs and I thought it was fairly fun. I had also tried out the first 2 hours of Quake 4 and thought it was fairly entertaining. Back in my head there was niggling doubt about the simplicity of the enemy AI and the very simplistic gameplay as well as some of the set pieces in the game environment were less then stellar. However, I was convinced it would getter bigger and more exciting as the game went on.

I recently picked up Quake 4 again to sit down and properly play it. Unfortunately, the niggling doubts only grew larger the more I played it and by the end of the game, I was fairly disappointed by this extremely mediocre game compared to other available titles at the time. Below is a summary of what I felt about the game.

Disappointing enmey AI and simplistic enemy animation - There's nothing particularly wrong with this for an action shooter, but compared to realistic movements of Condemned: Criminal Origins and F.E.A.R. at the time, enemies come off as almost comical in the way they move and hop around and the lack of AI doesn't help. It's strange that that your team mates however are a bit smarter and will take cover and even use meelee attacks against the enemy.

Raven software was responsible for Soldier of Fortune which boasted realistic enemy damage where shooting a part of one body would be different from other parts of the body and cause different reactions. It was one of the best features of the game. It's strange that they didn't implement at least a toned down version of that. Enemies bare react to bullet fire.

Boring gameplay, static envirnoments and lack of fun physics and weapon selection - Given Raven's history of the Jedi-Knight series and X-men Legends, you'd think they would have learnt how to create some fun interesting weapons selections but most of the weapons are not only stock standard but lack any real fun. For example, the lightning gun in the game when fired, creates thunder and shakes the entire screen but barely makes the enemies quiver. As for the last weapon which is a miniature black hole gun, you would think it would have caused enemies to torn apart or sent flying which is very curious since it doesn't seem to do anything at all.

The game uses a physics engine similar to other titles of the time but never truly puts the physics engine to the test or even to enhance the atmosphere. The most you'll get out of it is the occasional flying rag doll and exploding barrel. This only contributes the barren static environments which lack any real sort of interactivity. Playing a game like Painkiller (released before Quake 4) for even 5 minutes shows you just what a good physics engine can lend to gameplay. The titular painkiller remains one of the most creative weapons in any FPS game allowing you to juggle, electrocute and dice enemies.

There's plenty of eye candy and voices in the game to try and draw you into the world, but the lack of interactivity feels more like you're scrolling through a comic book rather than an interactive environment.

In the original Quake II you also had an inventory system which allows you store health packs and grenades and other power-ups for later use which this game lacks, which makes it even less innovative!

Poor game level design - I get the feeling that the corridors and areas are very similar to Quake II and even less ambitious. In my opinion Quake 4 shines when it gives you large open spaces and tactical options and explosions galore occurring around you. Instead, it tends to lock you up in small industrial corridors and all sorts of tiny rooms and passages. And it's such a shame that you will spend most of your time in buildings compared to the promise of open areas that the opening couple of levels gives you.

Stroggification does nothing - Part way through the game, you get turned into a Strogg after a rather gory sequence and its one of the key advertising features of the game. It would have been a good excuse to introduce RPG like elements into the game similar to the Deus Ex series or System Shock 2 allowing you to obtain new abilities. Alternatively it could have been interesting to play mind games with us by making the player character be more susceptible to Strogg mind control and giving us glimpses into the nightmare of being a Strogg or the horrors of war.

Unfortunately the game does neither. Being a Strogg is no different from being a human character except you get slightly more life, apparently you move faster (not that I noticed the increased speed) can use Strogg healing stations, read a bit of Strogg and hear Strogg broadcassts.

I can think of several powers that could have really enhanced the game in less than 5 minutes. Here are a couple which could have easily been fitted in and really contributed to the game atmosphere:
Visions: visions of previous events that have happened in the area such as humans being Stoggified. Would have really added to atmosphere.
Berserk mode: Improved attack damage for Strogg weapons, increased character speed and reduced damage.
Corpse steal: Allows you to absorb enemy corpses for health and ammo when they die.
Resurrection: Revives a downed enemy to assist you for a limited time.
Ability steal: Allows you to steal an enemies weapon or ability and use it instead.
Strogg Armour: Automatically regenerates armour after a while

Overall I was very disappointed. Game such as Deux Ex and System Shock pioneered the RPG-action shooter while games such as Serious Sam and Painkiller refined pure action pumping adrenaline old-school shooter. It seemed that Quake 4 wanted to follow the pure action pumping style but failed miserably in providing the over top explosions and fun weapon gameplay and wide open areas. As such, I strongly recommend you don't buy this and save your money for other more worthy games. It might even be better just to buy the older Quake II instead!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Devi May Cry 4 Review

Well finished playing Devil May Cry 4. Here's a summary of what I thought.

Fun solid combat
Fun over the top stylistic movies

Doesn't use the environment - None of the environment makes any impact on your fighting. You can't for example, pick up things to throw at enemies, or toss them into fire or water. It would have been cool to impale enemies on spikes or maybe boost off the wall similar to Price of Persia. You do get to double jump against the wall but it's not particularly useful in combat, double jumping is more for getting to secret areas.

Movies could have been mini-games or tutorials instead to teach you new abilities and weapons - Like in the Zero punctuation review, I agree that the game is too in love with cut scenes as opposed to gameplay. A lot of the time you'll be sitting there watching the game perform all these cool moves wondering when you'll get a chance to play. A number of cool sequences could have easily been adapted to form a tutorial or sorts or a mini-game to break up the monotony of combat.

Nero's gameplay is bland compared to Dante's gameplay - This is my first Devil May Cry game and I thought DMC4 was pretty fun until I got to control Dante. I then realised althoguh the previous five or six hours with Nero was fun, but it was nothing compared to the possibilities with Dante. Dante has a way larger variety of attack modes and weapons.

Here's what Nero has:
A sword
A gun
Devil Bringer - A demonic hand that can grab enemies from afar and bring it closer. Also doubles as a heavy attack.
A power-up mode
Some dodging moves

Here's what Dante has:
5 different modes of fighting with a special ability for each mode
3 different guns - This includes a weapon that can transform into several different modes when specific button sequences are pressed
3 different close range weapons
A power-up mode
Dodging moves including the Trickster mode which is all about dodging
Everything that Nero has except for the Devil bringer

I find it very strange that they have so few levels for Dante compared to Nero when Dante is clearly the more fun character to use with way more options available to you. It's even more of a shame they have you fighting in the same levels but in the reverse order.

Way too few levels and repetition of levels and bosses! - DMC 4's few bosses are fun but having to fight through the same levels but in reverse order for Dante painful because they could have done something more intersting. Maybe show an alternate story showing Dante's progress while Nero goes about his business to provide a more complete picture of what else is happening. Considering Dante's versatility it feels as if they had planned something bigger but had to cut back because of budget cuts.

Gun's are useless in the game - This is pretty much a given in the series but I was surprised just how useless they were until they were fully powered up where they then actually became fairly useful.

Lack of variety in music with only one real combat track - There could have at least been 3 or 4 different battle themes considering how much time you spend in combat. Most games have 1 for normal enemies, 1 fast track and 1 boss track.

Lack of game modes - The Bloody palace chalenge and the secret missions are interestingly but that's it really. For AAA title, I expected more. This only compounds the short level issue above. Also why can't you replay secret missions from the main menu instead of having to travel inside the game? That is, once you find them they should be unlocked for you to access in the main menu rather than you having to trudge through a level to refind it.

My final recommendation
Despite my complaints, I did have fun. But don't pay full price, try renting it or picking it up in the bargain bin. I bought it for around NZ$17. I'd say its worth around $15. Just don't be fooled into thinking its great.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Zelda III: Link's Awakening (GBA version)

As part of my retro gaming experience I've been playing through Zelda I, II and III. I never really had a chance to play the games as a kid so this was my chance to experience them. Zelda I was fairly fun. It was simple yet fun somehow. Zelda II was a rather poor challenging experience and frankly not particularly memorial for me. Starting on Zelda III (GBA version) I went in expecting a fun game in the same way Zelda I had been. I had played the first hour of the game sometime back and was impressed and was eager to actually finish the game.

I knew Zelda had a huge world to explore and plenty of dungeons and secrets but as I played it, I realised that the game designers had designed the game way too hard in my opinion. The rooms are way too small and often filled with invincible enemies. Touching an enemy results in an instant deduction of life and finding hearts to refill your heart meter is very hard! Part of the reason these problems exist is because the screen is much smaller compared to a television which the original SNES would have plugged into.

It wouldn't be so bad if there were set checkpoints where your health gets refilled like in Super Metroid but the fairy pools are far and few in between and aren't marked on the map.

It's a little cryptic in someplaces although there is an in game fortune teller to tell you what to do for a small fee. Its the kind of game where you are almost certain to fail the first time you play through a dungeon or need to return to the entrance to scour the main world for more health and magic potions or some special magical item to help boost your abilites. To be fair, this was probably a very forgiving game back in the day compared to some other games (like Megaman or Castlevania) but I don't think a modern gamer who grew up playing Nintendo Gamecube or Playstation 2 games would get much out of the experience. I would definitely recommend trying it out to see what an older Zelda is like and understand the roots of the series. I suspect that most modern gamers would probably give up after about 5 or 6 hours in.

You have been duly warned!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Spirit Engine 2 now free

The Spirit Engine 2, one of the best indie RPGs is now completely free. Don't miss out on this unique game. You can get the first Spirit Engine which was released as freeware on the same site.

Check it out here.

You also get the soundtrack for free here.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Larva Mortus Review

Thanks to Game Giveaway of the Day, I managed to try out the game Larva Mortus by Rake in the Grass. It's a mission based top down arena shooter with a victorian era lovecraft style theme. The game plays like most other top down shooters. You enter an area comprised of various rooms and have to kill everything using an assortment of different weapons ranging from pistols to flamethrowers. Occasionally you have to save people or destroy specific monsters but otherwise it's pretty much kill everything. Overall, I found the basics excellent. The sword remains fairly useful in the game for clearing out weak enemies, the guns deal sufficient damage and handle differently from each other and are effectively against certain types of enemies. As you defeat enemies, you also get experience which will level up your character. When you level up you will be able to increase your abilities such as speed or health. There are also special artifacts which can increase your character's weapons or abilities. The main game has you deal with collecting a demonic artifact and there are also side quests you can take to increase your experience and arsenal. There's also a nice in game information book where you can check up more info about enemies you've killed and other statistics.

Unfortunately, there were a number of niggles that only make this a fun but otherwise average shooter and lack many features of polished freeware areana shooters.
* Limited Game modes - Aside from the standard campaign and a couple of side quests there isn't a survival mode or puzzle challenge mode which have become standard in these sorts of games.
* No way to reload weapons aside from entering a mission - It seems strange that the game gives you a world map to choose missions from and two rooms to view weapons and trophies but omits some way of reloading your weapons. This led me to some rather strange situations where I would enter a new mission with no pistol or shotgun ammo and have to rely on my sword for a while. They could have at least given me full ammo for my most basic weapons! What does the hunter do with all the money he gets anyway?
* No way of knowing how to unlock artifacts or trophies - There's no real way of knowing when you get the artifacts and trophies, they seem to be random drops so there's no way of working towards them.
* Rooms are a bit too small in some cases. Sometimes the room areas are little too small making fighting certain enemies more awkward than necessary.
* Powerups are hard to obtain - Sometimes powerups will be dropped by enemies but since this is a game where enemies tend to swarm you in hordes I usually end up unable to pick up powerups until after clearing the room. This is related to the small room size issue above.
* More environmental dangers and more interaction with the environment - There are a handful of environmental dangers in the rooms such as exploding barrels and chests which only hurt monsters to moving spike blocks and traps which hurt everything. Smart players can lure monsters into traps but those moving spike blocks are way overpowered and monsters aren't smart enough to avoid them leading me clearing rooms without doing anything. It would be cool if there were more environmental dangers that the player could use or some way of pushing monsters away to clear space for yourself making it feel like I'm actually doing something as opposed to winning without even realising it.

I think these issue hurt the game and with a bit more polish it would have been really good. I wouldn't pay US$10 but if it's around $2 or $3 or maybe bundled with other games I would certainly consider it. Otherwise I would stick with other freeware arena shooters which offer just as fun gameplay and even more gamemodes.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Dr Blob's Organism Review

Dr Blob's Organism is a shooter with a twist. Instead of controlling a spaceship on a screen, you control lasers around a petri dish and fire inward trying to prevent a blob from escaping the petri dish. It's initially quite fun but the novelty of shooting in a petri dish wears off there really isn't enough variety in powerups, graphics or enemies to push you to play. There are freeware games with more varied gameplay.

A smooth shooter but it feels below average in some way. Recommended to try out for the funky music and novel gameplay but thankfully you no longer have to pay for it.