Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman

Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman is a PS1 action game based on the idea of a cowboy fighting ninjas in the wild west in a B-grade action movie type setting. From a graphics standpoint, the game is to be congratulated for its fun wacky cartoon nature. Like any good action hero, Zan can attack with his sword, his gun and even power up to a super mode where his sword lengthens and he can fire his gun extremely rapidly. His enemies are likewise quite creative and just down right weird and the game is filled with Japanese humour.

Unfortunately it suffers from some problems which really drag the game down:

Stiff controls- For a sword and gun action game, the controls seem fairly stiff. Zan's attack just feels a bit sluggish compared to what is sometimes required and his blade seems just a bit shorter than what you need. Zan also has a deflect ability where he can deflect or reflect bullets but due to the complicated buttons required to press it almost becomes impossible to perform when you're fighting.

Shooting is also a bit too slow for some reason. Unless you've picked up special bullets, it's hard to recommend shooting compared to just slicing enemies apart. The camera and targeting is somewhat sluggish as well, adding to the problems.

Difficulty curve is high- Like all early era Playstation games the game is hard. Although there are no instant deaths, the numerous enemies do tend to wear you down after a while. This combined with Zan's sluggish movements and camera make it more frustrating than fun.

All button events- There are button events where you mash all buttons as many times as possible before the timer runs out or you'll lose some health. Unfortunately these are a bit too difficult and require too many presses resulting in lost health pretty quickly.

I would also like to mention that at the end of the game, you can unlock the ability to actually replay the game as Sapphire, one of the female main characters with enemies responding with different dialogue. She feels faster and her blade seems longer making me wonder if the game would have been better starring her instead.

Overall, I really enjoyed the creative levels and atmosphere of Samurai Zan but the imprecise nature of the controls and difficult curve makes it hard to recommend to most gamers that are now used to games like the Devil May Cry series. Recommended if you have some patience, like a bit of nostalgia or have an emulator's saved states to assist.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Keepsake: Game Design Review

Keepsake is an adventure game where you play a girl who arrives at a magical academy for her first day only to find the academy mysteriously locked, closed and empty. It's up to you to figure out what's happening.

It's not really an inventory based game. It's closer to a collection of puzzles wrapped in a story. You do pick up a few items and need to solve puzzles to win some of the items but will automatically use them at appropriate moments.  The game has a good inbuilt hint system that starts off giving you vague hints and becomes more specific and will even solve the puzzles for you if necessary!

The game starts off well, with some good puzzles and an interesting plot. A lot reviewers commented on the second half of the game being as really bad. The puzzles in the second half aren't too difficult when it comes to figuring out what sort of puzzle it is, the problem is that they are just too complicated and tedious! The high difficulty is the only major complaint I have about this game.

Consider for example a puzzle where you have limited moves to get a puzzle piece across a grid. You know what you have to do to solve the puzzle by carefully rearranging and swapping certain pieces. However there are so many different pieces that the brain power required to solve the puzzle is simply too taxing for your average adventure gamer!

There's a particularly annoying garden puzzle where the switch  to change the seasons in the garden is 3 or 4 rooms away making the puzzle ways more annoying than necessary. If it just had a difficulty slider of some sort, it would have made the game much more fun. As it stands, the hint system helps negates the difficulty of the game since you can just by pass the harder puzzles.

The other minor complaints is the fairly short length of the game, voice acting could be better and the lack of characters in the game.

Overall I actually enjoyed the game. It is a fairly good adventure game and it would rank amongst one of the better efforts except for the annoying puzzles in the second half which completely ruin any sense of progression. Recommended, but only if you enjoy adventure games.