Saturday, 29 September 2012

Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason: Game design review

Cryostasis is an first person horror game taking place in 1981 which tells the story of a young meteorologist who is suppose to rendezvous with a nuclear icebreaker ship but discovers the ship has been frozen in ice and the crew turned into strange ice monsters. He must enter the ship find out what has gone wrong and save the crew.

Good points:
Good atmosphere and suitable graphics- The particles, ice graphics, snow effects and sound are realistic enough to make you feel cold and creates a unique chilling atmosphere.

Interesting heat health mechanic- Heat is your health which is reduced when you receive wounds or stay in the cold too long. Your maximum health is also determined by your current environment's heat. So you can't dawdle in the cold forever and you're pretty much constantly losing heat. Psychologically this creates a good way of making player push forward. I also like the fact that once you've managed to heat a room up, it stays heated and you can stay in it without worrying about your health levels creating 'safe zones'.

Mental Echoes and ghosts- Occasionally you come across dead corpses (humans and animals) which you can possess and relive the last few moments of their life. It's a very interesting method of exploring the past. I quite enjoyed the way it worked. Not only that, but once you save them you change the future unlocking a new door or a new area.

Game Issues:
Story never properly explained- I still don't understand the reason for all the ice zombies or weird supernatural happenings. There's also distinct lack of motivation on the main character. He was suppose to meet the nuclear icebreaker but instead he discovers the ship has been frozen for many years and with weird undead zombies. Why does he persist in exploring the ship instead of staying in a 'safe' area until the blizzard clears? Also, how the heck did you gain super powers like the mental echo which allows you to change time itself?

Guns and shooting needs balance- I have to say that most guns are quite difficult to use due to your hands shaking and the overall recoil makes them quite useless. It does add to the scary atmosphere but since I almost never used them it feels a bit silly.

The most powerful weapon is the icicle cannon which can be picked up fairly early on. It's faster, more accurate and more powerful than most guns and has minimal recoil. Ammo is also quite plentiful in the form of icicles. You only need to switch to a rifle when the enemy is far away and can't be hit. Due to the design of the levels however, you'll rarely need to do so.

Average level design- The game is too linear for its on good. There are no alternative routes or side quests of any sorts. Thankfully the mental echo system, the interesting atmosphere and the fact that you're always pushing forward into other parts of the ship counterbalances most of this.

Lack of interactive elements and unique environment not used to its full potential- Considering how much emphasis there is on water physics and the freezing cold there's a distinct lack in the ability to do anything in the environment. Linearity is sometimes okay if the set pieces are at least interesting but most of the corridors and areas are too narrow, too linear and  set pieces too small. You can't for example, freeze water or use electricity to shock enemies or even kick enemies. You can only punch enemies and use your guns. This is probably most obvious right at the beginning when there are axes hanging from the walls but you can't even pick them up and you can only pick up the axe they actually give you in the game later!

I can accept linearity for sake of story but the lack of interactivity considering how much effort went into making the ice physics so realistic it comes across as just disappointing.


I found Cryostasis an interesting game but maybe a bit too 'safe' in the gameplay environment and puzzles. I'm not certain fans of action games would enjoy it, however I will say that fans of adventure games and horror fans will like it especially with a good graphics cards.

My opinion on what actually happened in the story - Spoiler alert!
As far as I can tell, the story is a supernatural story where something was actually in the ice causing the undead zombies.

In the present day, you are gonig to meet up with the ship. Of coure when you reach there something is very wrong. The ship has been frozen for many years and you encounter weird undead zombies. You also have the ability to use the mental echoes which allow you relive the last few moments of a crew member and change time to save them.

Clearly there is something wrong and you go through the ship trying to solve the mystery. As you alter time and exeperience the events of the final days of the ship you discover the ship seems to have encountered 'something' in the ice.

Eventually you reach a point where you change time and save the ship for it terrible fate by altering a key decision in its past. When you do, reality returns back to the way it was and should be in the first place and you meet up with the crew as you should have done.

For me, it is clear that you are suppose to succeed in the story and save the ship because the timeline/reality from the first scenes indicate you are going to meet the ship. No one sends out a metereologist to meet a ship in the middle of nowhere that has been stranded for 20 years! It is therefore a closed temporal paradox, by encountering the ship and using your mental echo ability, you change time you and save the ship in the past and therefore ensure there is a ship to meet in the current time.

Personally this seems to be the logical deduction. The most mysterious question is therefore who are you? Are you really just a meteorologist or perhaps someone with the powers to change time and is sent undercover to fix a problem in the time line? You seem to have a fairly good grasp of guns, you seem to be able to travel back in time to possess people, don't seem at all phased by nuclear radiation (in fact it powers you up!), have some sort of special healing ability which makes you able to heal extremely rapidly when exposed to warmth and you have some sort of weird relationship with chronos the god of time.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Jackie Chan Stuntmaster: Game Design Review

Released for the Playstation 1, Jackie Chan Stuntmaster is an action fighting platformer similar to games like Final Fight. In the game, you control Jackie naturally who has to rescue his grandfather and deliver some package.

The game starts off okay and you have quite a number of interesting moves which were motion captured from Jackie Chan and other stuntman. Overally, despite the low graphics, it feels very authentic and true to a Jackie Chan movie. You can even use walls, brooms and other objects in the environment to attack enemies.

However, as you play through the game, there are many frustrating things about the game which ultimately make this a below average game.

Game Issues: 
More attacks- Jackie has plenty of attacks but after a while you realise that most of the attacks are pretty much the same and you don't really need to use most of them to defeat the enemies. The basic punches and throws are all you need. This is a real shame because I think there are plenty of additional attacks or fighting styles they could have thrown in such as the 'drunken master' fighting style in the bonus secret level.

More destructible environments- The best parts of the game are usually when you get the use the environment against the enemies such as flipping chairs and tables just like in a Jackie Chan movie. Unfortunately you pretty much see all of them in the first three or four level which is a real shame. There are very few games which allow you to use a broom, giant fish or foot stool to fight off several enemies at once so even more variety would have made the game much better!

Even more variety in gameplay and movie sequences- There are some fun gameplay varietions in this game mimicking a Jackie Chan movie such as running away from a truck or fighting on trains, these were some of the most fun and memorable sequences. We just need more of in the game while at the same time reducing the difficult of the existing sequences especially the train sequence!

Better level design with less jumping- Jackie Chan doesn't handle like a platforming character and has a really low jump. A lot of his jumps require a high degree of precision and split second timing. This results in many unfortunate deaths and like in many old games losing all your lives means restarting the entire level again. This gets especially aggravating in the final two areas of the game. So much so that I can't really recommend people play this as a result.

Jackie Chan Stuntmaster, it promised to be a fun action Jackie Chan game but in the end, the horrible jumping sequences ruin the fun. Overall I have to recommend against playing this game. It's simply too frustrating for anyone but the most dedicated action gamers. Go watch the Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon series instead.