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3:37 PM on 12.31.2013

2013: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

So 2013 draws to a close, and everyone's putting up their best games and moments and such. I figured I might as well join in. It seemed like a quaint little idea.
There's a problem though.

As I've said in the past, I'm terrible with putting things in actual order, and I doubt I could point out which game I enjoyed the most this year. So instead of doing a list, I'm going to offer a retrospective on some of the games I've played this year. What did I think of them, and more important, how I feel about them now.

So, with some reluctance, I present to you, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2013.


The Good


Driftmoon



In retrospect, I realise the game's lack of difficulty might put a lot of hardcore hack and slash fans off. Despite that, I loved Driftmoon. It's a quirky, light-hearted adventure. It's Something that seems all too alien to the current RPG scene, that's over saturated by Witchers and Dragon Angst. For those who aren't particularly fond of the grindy style of hack and slash, Driftmoon provides something more gentle.

Driftmoon won me over with its charm. It's got a cast of humorous characters, each with a distinct personality (with little moping in sight). The puzzles are creative, and the short nature of the game means I didn't get bored with repetition. It's aesthetics are simple, but delightful, and full of colour and variety. Driftmoon has a lovable Discworld like quality to it.

This short fantasy joy ride has everything you could ask for; dungeons, skeletons, talking crabs, everything.


Kerbal Space Program



While I haven't had the chance to play with the newest update, I will definitely vouch for this game. No other game I played this year has the same sense of achievement. Yes, I did have to read a lot of guides to get things moving, and yes, the failures vastly outnumbered the successes, but it was worth it.

Half the fun of course is in building the most ridiculous rocket you can imagine, and them watching it try to take off in shambles. Many, many good Kerbals died in the name of comedy. There can be no regrets.


Anodyne



In retrospect, a part of me wonders whether I was a bit too generous with this game. While I certainly found the game-play both challenging and entertaining, there was never anything that stuck out as exceptional. Even the comparisons to old, top down Zelda games comes up short due to Anodyne's lack of items.

Despite those doubts, Anodyne left a lasting impression on me. Naturally, it's overshadowed immensely by the big budget ďmatureĒ games, like Bioshock and The Last of Us. I think the Destructoid review did Anodyne an injustice by calling it pretentious. Bioshock and The Last of Us speak to an older audience, with their father-daughter themes, which more reviewers would account themselves as. Anodyne, I feel, speaks more to younger adults, a group which I find myself more sympathetic towards.

Perhaps it's that difference in audience that leaves reviewers with a less favourable view of Anodyne.


Shadow Warrior



There's no doubt about it, the rebooted Shadow Warrior is the most fun I've had from the a first-person shooter for eons. With the exception of the lacklustre boss battles, there was nary a thing I didn't enjoy about this game. The levels were diverse and often a feast for the eyes. The guns all had their unique roles and styles.

Of course, it would be criminal not to devote some time to the fantastic swordplay. It's mindless and violent, but so damn fun. If there's something more fun you can do with demons than slice them apart, I frankly don't want to know about it.


Telepath Tactics



I've vowed not to give this game another reply until it's in a more developed state. Maybe when beta comes around, I'll write about it again. In the meantime, I was impressed with that I saw of Telepath Tactics.

With mechanics bearing a close resemblance to Fire Emblem, with a couple of twists to call its own, and some simple, old school looks, Telepath Tactics tickled me in all the right places. I've got high hopes that the slightly sparse alpha will path the way for an in-depth turn based strategy game.


Proteus



If memory serves me correctly, which it so often doesn't, then Proteus was in fact the first game I played this year. In fact, I think I played it on New Years Day. I've harped on about it on quite a few time in my entries. I'm rather enamoured by this title.

It's a relaxing experience, to sum it in brief. There's little else to do beyond walking around and taking in the sights and sounds, but the atmosphere is magical and bright. The changing tunes and ambient noises are a feast for the ears.

Proteus was the game that convinced me that there's something to these art games.


The Bad

InFlux



Another in a long line of indie puzzle games, InFlux is a game I found rather disappointing. It's has the trappings of your typical artsy puzzle game, but I failed to find any of the meaning in the time I was playing it.

The puzzles were highly repetitious, and all too often were fraught with frustrations from the physics. Getting the little balls to roll around in an orderly fashion, only to watch them roll over a railing, was a headache, and not in any intellectually stimulating way. Everything else about the game was too generic. It's show of strange happenings were dull when compared to the abstract events of other puzzle games out there, and the visuals were all right at best.

InFlux did have one mystery that still eludes me. Why, oh why, did it always feel the need to tell me it was loading something, sight unseen. That little ring in the bottom corner is more engraved in my mind than anything else InFlux had to offer.


Inquisitor



Another downer of a game I played this year. While I love Inquisitor in concept, I found it too weighted down in hack n' slash clichťs to be enjoyable. The idea of playing the role of the inquisition was fascinating, and the atmosphere of the game's world hit the mark perfectly for the subject concerned. Unfortunately, the investigative aspect of Inquisitor was squashed under the unbearable battle system. Even on the easiest difficulty, enemies were spongy, and dealt fatal damage too quickly. In the end, Inquisitor felt like drudgery.

Sadly, right from the very start, where I was force to circle a town and kill all the bats, my hopes for this game were fading. While the sound effect of my spell was amusing, it was not nearly enough to keep me interested in the terrible combat.
If only Inquisitor had been a different sort of RPG. Something less combat focused, and more scope on the investigations.


The Ugly

Fire Emblem: Awakening



Let's not mince words here; Fire Emblem: Awakening was a fantastic game. The visuals were polished, and the soundtrack was absolutely wonderful. There's plenty of variation with the difficulty, satisfying both the needs of the newcomer and the veteran. The skill system and promotion trees offered plenty of ways to build my army how I wanted, and there was never a shortage of battles to be had.

All is not well however, and I can't quite explain it. Even though I thought the game was a blast, I've had no urge to buy many of the DLC for it, or give it another play through. It's not the big picture, but rather lots of little things that nibble away at the thought of holding this game higher.

You see, the first Fire Emblem released in the west (which was the seventh in the series), was one the most important games I've ever played, and sits on the mountain's summit with many other games I rank as my favourites. While Awakening satisfied a lot of itches, it also felt rather lukewarm compared to the Game Boy Advance's interpretation of the series.

It's basically the same as how I feel about Skyrim in comparison to Morrowind; a brilliant game, which I enjoyed thoroughly, but couldn't fill the shoes of the predecessor. I suppose you can just call it nostalgia, if you're looking for a name for the face.


Planetside 2

(I could fetch a screenshot for this, but that would require me a download a big, many gigs, patch. Not on my internet I ain't.)

I spent a good potion of this year sticking with this MMOFPS. I don't really consider myself much of an MMO fan by any stretch, but this game did draw my interest. Last year, I hooked up with the beta, and continued playing right up until October.

Planetside 2 feels like a masterpiece jig-saw with just a few of the key pieces missing. There's too much potential to just ignore, but it's so rough around the edges it cuts me open. The open world combined arms is a tonne of fun, as battles could take unexpected turns and intrusions that would not happen in the likes of Battlefield. Sadly, this pleasure was constantly hindered by the game's many faults.

What really made me pack it in was the bugs. Not any massive, game breaking bug, but just lots of little ones that eventually got on my nerves. I remember the moment that finally broke the camel's back. I had just been killed round a corner, due to the game's lag compensation, and when a team-mate revived me, I was forced to stare the menu screen without a mouse cursor, until I was killed again.

It was at that point that I turned Planetside 2 off, and I haven't started it up since.


Cube World



This was a concept that really grab my interest a while back. The alpha came out, and I had a bit of fun with it. Ultimately however, Cube World has taken a downfall for me.
Perhaps you think this is because of the complete lack of updates, until very recently, from the developers, but that's not the case for me. Sometime after getting my first taste of Cube World, I just figured it really was not what I was looking for. It felt too MMO for my liking.

There's certainly a lot to like, make no mistake. The colourful, cubist visuals were surprisingly stunning, and some of the less typical races were amusing in their designs. I still believe it might be something worth keeping an eye on, just not something I'm all that interested in playing anymore.



And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, many games in brief summary. Some opinions changed, and some remained constant throughout the year. It's been a very interesting year, with a great sense of variety.

What does next year hold, other than an assorted array of disappointments and controversies? Well, hopefully plenty of games, some of which I might take the time to play and write about. Naturally, there will be a boat load of AAA games, emotional games, and of course more games that are the Citizen Kane of gaming.

All of those will be promptly be ignored by my pretentious self.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


12:35 PM on 11.19.2013

Sui Generis Pre-Alpha Footage

It's shameless promotion time, everyone.

While I had written something else for this week, it has unfortunately been put to one side for the time being. Instead, and because I don't already see it being mentioned, I wanted to bring a little something to your attention.

It's the first public video, displaying the progress made on Sui Generis.

Sui Generis, currently in development by Bare Mettle, is an RPG that was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year. The project was rather overshadowed at the time by many of the celebrity Kickstarters that were going on during that period. It did make enough to succeed, but it did not gain the attention I feel it deserves.

While other RPG Kickstarters were aimed at reviving old school gems in this now mixed genre, Sui Generis offered something a bit different. While the project still looks like it has a long way left to travel, this video gives me hope that n fantastic game may see the light of day. If nothing else, I at least want see some light shone on Sui Generis around here.

This video shows some of the excellent work done by the Bare Mettle team, including the rather awesome chair tripping physics, an example of thaumaturgy, and its real time melee combat.



If this has piqued your curiosity, then I you can check out more about Sui Generis on the official Bare Mettle website.   read


4:37 PM on 11.11.2013

Front Loaded



Note: this post has spoilers for Fire Emblem: Awakening.

First impressions matter. If a game fails to hook the audience then it can wind up being banished to the pit of the forgotten (though frankly, I have a soft spot for slow starting games). Unfortunately, the emerging trend in recent games is to pour too much on the start, causing the game to be front loaded. The result is a one night stand of a game. Something that's bouncy castle levels of fun, but only for a few hours. To put up a more sensible, and less suggestive definition; a front loaded game is one with a spectacular opening few hours, which is used for the purpose of masking the shallowness underneath.

Of course, the most recent Sim City game is a the perfect example of a front loaded game. The game ran impressively for the first few hours, and everything was dandy. It's only after a while that things began to fall apart. The obvious flaws in the game's AI became ever more apparent. A torrent of disgust followed, but it was too late by that point; EA had taken the money of many. Games that are front loaded don't lack on mechanical levels alone. This attitude to game design can infect all facets.

Examples of front loaded games are not always as obvious as EA's disaster of a city builder. Even games of good quality show signs of being front loaded. One such game that I've been thinking about is the most recent Fire Emblem title, Awakening. A lot of you might find that confusing, but when compared to the Fire Emblems of yesteryear, the evidence is there.

The first point of call is the visual design. More specifically, the character designs. Up until Awakening, Fire Emblem opted for modest designs. Rarely were they overblown. Most importantly, everything stuck to a consistent tone. The games were set in medieval fantasy realms, and the appearance reflected that. Awakening however, goes more in the direction of what I see as pop-fantasy. Many of the characters Ė let's just be honest, mostly the female characters Ė are full of fan-service. It's not Scarlet Blade by any stretch, but when you compare Awakening's designs to Fire Emblems of the past the intention becomes rather clear. It's the zazz factor; the developer's attempt to dazzle with flashy, overly decorative designs. Of course, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that suits of armour that don't cover the back, or see through robes hardly fit the setting. It's style over substance, designed for marketing in mind more than world-building.

The story is perhaps the most jarring example of front loaded design I could find in the game. For the first ten chapters, it holds true to the staples of Fire Emblem. Villainous monarchs, a merry band of valiant heroes, and at least one boss who's purpose is to remind you that not everyone you're killing deserve it. After that, it jumps the shark with time travelling antics and certain characters not being so dead after all. The plot lost consistency and began to drag on for the rest of the game, which I think is contrary to past entries in the series.

But let's move on, before I get too ranty on that topic.

The promise of grand features, which in reality do little to improve the game is another calling card of front loaded games. Worse yet, is when a game tries to prop itself up entirely on these shallow features. Naturally, Sim City's online features provide a pretty apt example. The whole game was built around additions that no one really wanted or asked for. The end result was an extremely watered down single player experience, which was what nobody wanted. Every new MMO promises to change up the old model, but all of them devolve back into being inferior versions of WoW. With the onset of a new generation, open worlds looks like it's set to become the next turd chalice, though that might have already become the case.

Even small, or independent games can fall into the trap of being front loaded. I think back to InFlux, and how it's few mechanics wore out very quickly. This seems to be run of the mill for these kinds of puzzle games. They're sold on a single gimmick, with the hope that they might be the next Braid or Portal. It's not the number of mechanics that's important however, it's the depth of the mechanics that are present. The key difference between InFlux and Portal, is that the latter's mechanic did not grow as tedious.

Naturally, we can't close this until we take a look at the reasons. The motive in suspect became clear after an old article about Creative Assembly came to light regarding Total War: Rome II. The short story is that they did not want features in the game unless they thought they would yield a good Metacritic score. It comes down to developers and publishers wanting games that appeal to reviewers before the players.
Of course, the etiquette at this point is to point the finger at that braggart of a website, Metacritic. Curse you, Metacritic!

It makes sense; if everything looks swimming in the reviews, then the average gamer is none the wiser until they buy the game. We could blame the reviewers for this, because they might not be thorough enough to spot the faults. Given how many games they might have to go through a week, I don't think it would be fair to chide them for not being able to devote the tens of hours necessary to find these issues. At the end of the day, front loaded games are built to fool these people as much as the buyers.

The fault rests, as it so often does, on the publishers, though judging from the story with Creative Assembly, the developers need to take some of the footing as well. In their eyes there's little room for cult classics, like Beyond Good & Evil. A front loaded game has no room for subtly, or niche audiences. Short term success and profits appear to be at the forefront of their minds. Perhaps so much money is being spent on these games that they need to make it look like it justified the cost. It's an understandable viewpoint, but also one that I believe is directly opposed to the wishes of many others, who want games to aspire to artistic levels.

The most disappointing thing of all, is that these front loaded games sell very well. It's the trumiph of marketing over art.


You can also view this post on my personal blog.   read


1:55 PM on 10.28.2013

My Top Ten Pokťmon

In case you havenít noticed yet Ė which is always a possibility Ė thereís a new Pokťmon game out. This means two things for me. Firstly, it means the Alt Gr key has seen a spike in usage. Secondly, and more relevantly, it means Iíve been pondering on what are some my favourite battling pocket monstrosities. Since writing a review of the new games feels rather pointless now, Iíve decided to share my list of beloved Pokťmon with you.

So hereís a top ten list, which once again has no particular order. Itís not that Iím lazy, but rather because Iím the dogs bollocks. Iím above societyís petty need to order the things it loves, man.

So, in brief, a list of Pokťmon I seriously adore.


Whimsicott





This little fella was enough to convince me that Gamefreak were far from out of ideas. Itís probably my favourite grass type, in terms of aesthetics at least. Itís a gingerbread man with puffy, white hair. Quite frankly, if you donít find it adorable, then I question your humanity. Its design and Pokťdex entries make its personality all too clear. Itís a cheeky little bugger. It was also first Pokťmon to make use of the Prankster ability. Of course, nowadays itís outclassed in that regard, but I still remember this Pokťmon well for being a fun little gimmick.


Aggron



I feel like I might be a bit of an oddity, because the third generation games were my favourite when it comes to Pokťmon that were added. Aggron hits high on the list of my favourite Pokťmon. I remember catching an Aron during my first run of Sapphire. It was at Victory Road where it finally evolved into its third stage, and I was blown away by it. Itís a big dinosaur, with steel plating all over its body. Without a doubt, itís the most beastly looking bastard from the third generation.


Magneton



Whenever someone points out that Gamefreak are running out of ideas, Magneton is one of those candidates you could look to as proof that not everything in the first generation was pure inspiration. Itís literally just three Magnemites floating together. That said, I think itís rather cool. It looks robotic, without over doing it. Thereís no denying that its design is very simple, but I think it fits nicely. Itís a magnet, so itís evolution revolves around attracting other magnets around it. Pondering on that for a moment, I actually think itís clever. It almost makes me disappointed by Magnezone.


Crobat


Put away your rubbish bags and ice cream cones, because Zubat is king of the hated Pokťmon. Despite that well deserved title, Zubat does come with one big redeeming quality. It evolves into this awesome, four winged bat out of hell. Firstly, its design is leagues above Golbat. Crobat actually looks like a swift flyer, rather than a large mouthed victim of overzealous dentistry. Also, knowing a tiny bit about breeding Pokťmon, I do know Crobat can get its wings on some ridiculous stuff, including Brave Bird and Nasty Plot. Seriously, donít let your hatred of its younger self fool you into overlooking this guy.


Salamence



For those who believed that nothing after the first generation mattered and stopped cared, Salamence is basically like Dragonite, only better. I remember being rather disappointed when I saw that the beautiful Dragonair evolved into the Puff the magic dragon. Gamefreak did not repeat that mistake twice in Ruby and Sapphire. Salamenceís design suits the colourful, cartoon appearance of Pokťmon, with those big red wings and blue body. Despite that, it still manages to hold the air of a mighty. Add on that the fact that itís destructive and tough. Everything adds up to Salamence being the dragon Pokťmon deserved.


Cinccino





Itís a chinchilla, with a white scarf. Without any question, Cinccino is the among the cutest of Pokťmon. Thatís not to mention its neat party piece, with its hidden ability, Skill Link. This ability makes all those questionable multi hit attacks, like Bullet Seed and Tail Slap, always hit the maxium five times. All right, so Cloyster pulls of that strategy better, but at least thereís nothing naughty about Cinccinoís design.


Flygon




A Pokťmon whoís famous for not being as good as Garchomp. Flygon still an upright guy though, boasting plenty of power. I think its design is many times better than Garchomp, who looks garish by comparison. Flygon looks like a cross between a green lizard and a dragonfly, which I suppose results in something that looks vaguely like a dragon. Flygonís Pokťdex entries also stand out more than Garchompís. The whole ďdesert spiritĒ schick make Flygon sound more mystical.


Ampharos





Letís just get this one out of the way; that mega evolution is absolutely kingly. Its posture is noble and dignified. Itís hair is golden and belongs in a Líorťl advert. On top of that, it also becomes a dragon type. When I first saw it, I would have meant that compliment jokingly. As time went on, I began to love the stunning beauty of its new form. Iíve always sort of liked Ampharos, but X and Y pushed it straight into the middle of my heart. Mega Ampharos is undoubtedly the most majestic Pokťmon ever conceived. Go stare at the picture until you love this†Pokťmon†as much as I do.


Fennekin




Iíll let you in on a little secret; I think all the first generation starter Pokťmon looked pretty stupid. Seeing them again while playing through Y just reminded me why Iím not terribly nostalgic for the days of Red and Blue. When I got the chance to put my Fennekin up against a Charmander, it really hit home for me how much itís actually improved.


Goodra





ďWait,Ē you might say. ďDidnít you just express your contempt for Dragonite earlier? Then why is this Pokťmon from Lollipop Lane on the list?Ē

Well firstly, Goodraís design is consistent with the rest of his evolution line. Unlike Dragonite, I found Goodra to be an sweet upgrade in appearance. Secondly, I just think Goodra looks a sugar-dumpling cuter. Itís a big, cuddly dragon made of goo, which is really quite strange considering itís meant to be a pseudo-legendary. He also bucks the trend of the pseudo-legendary dragons, by being defensively orientated rather than offensive. While that might result in it being less popular, I think it adds a nice bit of variety to the selection of powerhouse dragons.


And there you have it. A fine and dandy list of my top ten Pokťmon. Some are cute, and some a mighty. There are many more I could list as ones I like, but I donít think Iíll regret the answers I put on this list. Iím actually surprised by how easy it was to think up most of this list off the top of my head. Most importantly, Iím glad that I was able to make a list that span almost all generations. A shame Iím not a huge fan of Diamond and Pearl though.

So, if you had to pick your favourites, what would they be?

Surrender to pointless delusions, and post in the comments! Because youíre worth it!

You can also read this on my personal blog.


(All artwork taken from Bulbapedia)   read


12:11 PM on 10.21.2013

Avoiding the Hype Train


Hype is, without any doubt, among the scourges that I loathe the most in gaming. Whenever a game becomes the subject of ludicrous hyping, I lose all interest or desire to play it. People who fall for its honeyed words turn into frothy mouthed, walking billboards. Hype campaigns are basically paper tigers, where marketers pour their efforts into getting the audience riled up for no good reason. Unfortunately, these seem to work all too well.

For this reason, I wanted to write up some golden rules for dealing with the nasty hype monster. Thereís nothing too complicated. Itís just a few things for people to keep in mind really.


If a trailer doesnít show any significant game-play, you should probably disregard it entirely.

Very common among the AAA industry is the notion generating hype through the use of a cinematic trailer. Most of these are pretty worthless. Either theyíre just flashy CGI spectacles, or they show only the tiniest bits of play. Itís just enough to impress, but not enough to make viewers realise the gimmick is exactly that. If a trailer doesnít demonstrate anything significant about what the game is actually like, you might as well have been staring a two year oldís macaroni art instead. Itís just like fireworks, only more sinister rather than colourful. So, much worse.

A trailer showing plenty of game-play will win over the audience itís looking for. A sensible gamer wants to see the game in action. When I saw the Kickstarter video for Hyper Light Drifter, I was sold on the concept by the end. There was nothing fancy or elaborate, just a few minutes of watching the character exploring and fighting. Thatís all I needed to see though. Thatís not the say the video wasnít trying to sell itself, but it felt more honest and genuine.


Remember that developers/publishers are going to say what they think will sell the game.

That sounds obvious, but itís vital to remember. For an example, I was recently reading an piece on Rock Paper Shotgun with Mike Laidlaw, the lead designer for Dragon Age Inquisition. In short, he claimed that one of the big influences for the next Dragon Age was that classic gem of RPGs, Planescape Torment.

Now I donít want to flat out say that Laidlaw was lying. Who knows, maybe Dragon Age Inquisition really will take cues from Planescape. The issue isnít whether he was being truthful, but rather what motivated him to say it. There are obviously a lot of people out there whoíd kill for another game like Planescape Torment. A quick look at some of Kickstarterís most highly backed games is clear evidence. If those people honestly believe Bioware were capable of making such a game, they would go out and buy it in a heartbeat.

Of course, you have to look at the likely reality. Can a game with voice acting in this day and age possibly be as verbose as Planescape Torment was? Forgive me for not being a believer in Bioware, but I highly doubt it. Itís pretty obvious heís just trying to generate hype. and not much else.

To get back to the point, developers and publishers are always trying to sell their game. Even if theyíre being honest, theyíre going to try and frame things in a positive light. Everything they say needs to be taken with the understanding that they have that agenda.


Read multiple reviews, and donít ignore the more critical ones.

Thanks to the internet, we have access to a range a varying opinions on whatever game is soon to be released. Itís a shame that most people donít seem to have quite grasped this idea yet.

Weíve seen all too much what happens when a review has the audacity to suggest that whatever hyped up game theyíre writing about might not be pure perfection. These people are pretty much in one of two camps. The first is selective exposure; they only want to read reviews that confirm their opinion, and they become angry when a review they thought would agree with them doesnít. The second is what most people would call ďbuyers remorseĒ. Theyíve rushed out on day one to buy the game, or pre-ordered it, and donít like it when a review implies they may have made a bad decision.

Letís establish a few rules. Firstly, if you care about the reviews might say about a game, then read them before buying said game, not after. Secondly, if someone writes something critical about a game, they might have done so for reasons other than because theyíre absolute gobshites. Lastly, scores below ten of ten are still considered good by sane people.



Just about every extra you get by pre-ordering is shit.

Allow me to join the voices of those telling you to stop pre-ordering games. There are almost no benefits to doing it, and more often than not has become just another engine for marketing. The common practice nowadays is to offer something ďspecialĒ to those who pre-order. In most cases these range from unique cosmetics, or weapons that are more power than almost everything else in the game. Shiny skins are nice and all, but theyíre hardly worth throwing money blindly at. Special items can wind up being detrimental to your experience of a game, because they always break the balance of progression.

What if a pre-order deal offers something more substantial? If itís a piece of day one DLC you could just buy later then Iíd still suggest not going for it. After all, the fact that the publishers are happy to cut out content to sell back to people should say enough about their attitude towards the customers.


People who havenít played the game probably donít know jack.

Of course, the writhing nest of hype are places like Reddit and forums. In their giddy excitement they tend to become overeager about getting the next big thing. Theyíll talk about how itíll be the greatest game ever, and theyíll rip apart anyone who tries to imply otherwise. Itís important to remember that their attitudes about a game have likely been formed by the marketing hype. In reality, these people have not played the game themselves, so they donít actually know how good it is.


Well, thatís one rant over and done with. I get the guilty feeling that all anti-hype stuff is obvious to most people. I hope that youíll remember these points next time youíre being confronted by the next hype. Getting overexcited for a game is the easiest way to ensure disappointment. Iíve found that having more realistic expectations vastly improved my appreciation of games.

The most important thing I want to say is that immunising yourself to hype does not mean becoming a downer about everything. I donít believe that being overly cynical is any better than eating out of the hands of corporations, unless your goal is to look as hip as possible. It certainly doesnít mean you canít anticipate new games. Immunising oneself from hype is not a matter of expecting disappointment or hating everything, but learning not to get excited for no good reason. You should grow excited about games on your own terms, rather than because someone jangled a bunch of shiny keys in front of you.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


4:31 PM on 10.14.2013

Top Five Emotional Moments

In my eagerness for the next Pokemon games, I couldnít be arsed to play anything that was worth writing about. To make amends, Iíve written up another top five, which isnít really a top five, because Iíll be buggered if I have to put in the effort to actually order them.

This top five in tribute to our beloved David Cage, will be very emotional. This top five is devoted to the games that made me feel the most emotions, or rather, the particular moments in those games that made me feel deeply. They may be games, and they might not have a lot of polygons, but theyíre all evocative. Some are joyful, and others are haunting.

With that said, letís move onto the first in my line upÖ

5. The Atmosphere of Metroid Fusion



Looking back, it doesnít seem so scary. When I was twelve (or thirteen, whenever it was) however, this game redecorated my underwear. I think it was the first game where I encountered an enemy that you could not fight, but had to run from instead. When the eerily calm music suddenly exploded into a rush, it made me jump each time.

The whole atmosphere of Metroid Fusion was haunting when I first played it. The harrowing music, the set pieces that juxtaposed natural habitats with laboratories, and the sense of loneliness came together to put me a great unease. A split second of the SA-Xís glaring, dead eyes sealed the deal. That image is forever engrained into my memories. Iím not really into horror games, because Iím feckless, spineless coward, so this game is pretty much as creepy as Iíll touch.

Of course, this game wasnít nearly as horrifying as Other M. Eh! Eh!

4.Golden Sunís Ending



I arrive here once again. Sorry that I have to keep harping on about this game, but this was a seriously beautiful ending. The four heroes stand before an ancient boat thatís been risen from the bottom of a pool of water, and the reminisce about their journey. Thereís also the realisation that Isaac and Garet have reached their personal goal of getting to see the ocean. The scene plays out to the most soothing, enchanting piece of music in the entire soundtrack. The game clearly has a sequel planned at this point, so it was far from over. At the same time, it did feel like something special had come to a close.

The heroes aboard the vessel and set sail the credits music, which is an expanded version of the gameís main theme. The credits roll back on all the locations visited throughout the quest in the form of the battle backdrops. Thereís no amazing spectacle, or plot twist trickery (not until after the credits at least). Itís all rather simple and played straight, which is what I find so nice about it. The ending encapsulates everything I think Golden Sun is. Beautiful, forlorn, and adventurous.

3.Kerbal Space Program



I said in my impressions of this that it was one of the most engrossing games Iíve played for many years. This is a game which evokes a grand sense of gratification. There are no set missions, but thereís no end of goals you can make for yourself. Whether it was getting a ship into orbit, or putting a rover on the Mun and beyond, there were few moments in this game that did not feel spectacular. Watching my attempts fail over and over again made me want to push harder against gravity. Seeing a vessel almost reach orbit, only to burn up was almost heart-wrenching. Even the very act of constructing a rocket felt exhilarating.

2.Exploring Vvardenfell



In terms of games I keep going back to, Morrowind is the cream of the crop. Itís the champion of my heart. It was the first open world RPG that I played, and the first that opened my eyes to the possibilities that such a game could offer. The greatest pleasure of Bethesdaís games is in the exploration of the landscape. Vvardenfell delivered an alien world, full of ash wastelands, mushroom trees, and blight storms. Often, I was take long detours from my quest to take treks up and down the island.

Today, that experience is enhanced by boat load of graphical improvements (and Iím not just talking about a a few textures either). Iím not going to stand here and say that it looks as good as current generation games. No matter how much the old engine gets tarted up, it will always look aged. Itís like seeing an old banger come back with new parts and a paint job. Itís the most heart-warming thing to me.

1. Proteus



At first, I was not sure I wanted to put this one down. I really donít endorse most ďartsyĒ games, like Dear Esther. I put them in the same column as cinematic games as something Iím just not interested in.

Proteus is a game I fell for, hook, line, and sinker. Everything about this game was awe-inspiring and beautiful. Whereas other art games go for a sombre tale, Proteus is an explosion of colour and sound. Every step you take alters the music in some way.
The gameís island paradise goes through four seasons, and each is as stunning as the last. At night, I was even frightened by some of the strange events I witnessed. At one point, the starry sky turned a violent red. I donít know what I did to make that happen, but it freaked me out. What happened following that is something Iíll never spoil, but it was the most mystical thing Iíve witnessed in a game.

Itís a game you can only really play once before the magic wears off, but I think itís well worth it. There was not a single moment that did not fill me with wonder.






There you have it; a five long list of pure emotion. I feel much better about this one because the list of potential entries was much shorter than my last top five. If the Cagey one is out there, just know that this one is for you. Naturally, I thank you, the reader, for taking a look. Once again, I want turn this around asking a simple question.

Whatíre your most emotional moments in gaming?

Surrender your senses and post a comment!

And yeah... a lot of images there.


You can also read this on my personal blog.

(Metroid Fusion images taken from http://metroid.retropixel.net/)   read


3:04 AM on 10.07.2013

Shadow Warrior 2013 Review

Iím not a terribly huge fan of first person shooters, but every so often a special exception comes along that I simply have to indulge. The new Shadow Warrior, developed by Flying Wild Hog, is one such exception, and for many good reasons (but not as many as there are Wang jokes, which is reason number one).



Shadow Warrior plays out through seventeen chapters. The majority of them consist of Lo Wang slaughtering his way through hapless demons with his wise cracking pal, Hoji. His quest is to obtain a powerful sword called the Nobitsura Kage, but it is also sought out by shadow beings and megalomaniacs. It might not be contender for video game narrative of the year, but I thought the tale of Shadow Warrior had some cool moments. Overall, itís a ludicrous, sword swinging action game.

The trail of guts spills through a beautiful range of settings. These stretch from lush Japanese gardens, to graveyards, industrial shipyards, frost-bitten mountaintops, and alternate worlds. Just for a bit of fun, there are plenty of barrels, glass cases, and cars for you to destroy. Some of these are useful for damaging enemies in battle, so you should keep an eye out for them. The other stuff is just for fun.



There is the occasional boss battle to break up the game. These pit Lo Wang in a show down against giant suits of demonic armour. Theyíre an absolute blast, but theyíre also a bit repetitive. The method of defeating them is the same for each; you shoot bit of their armour and then shot the weak points underneath them. Other major confrontations are rather disappointing. They end only with a short cut-scene where an epic battle could have been fought. One example is late in the game where I was sure an awesome swordsman duel was about to ignite, but it was over in a single cut-scene where the game did the attacking for me.

Shadow Warrior offers a small selection of weaponry for when you want to mix things up. What the game lacks in numbers, it makes up for with variation. Each weapon is unique from the others, and you get the fun of totting them all around at the same time. Weapons can be upgraded using the money Lo Wang picks up during his shenanigans. The prices vary, and weapons you obtain later on usually cost more. Most upgrades are simple increases on stats, such as fire rate and damage. The most interesting upgrades are the secondary fire mode that each weapon can use by pressing the right mouse button. These range from duel wielding PDWs, to guided rockets, and sticky bombs.

The flaw of Shadow Warriorís weaponry is that until you obtain the right upgrades they tend to be quite boring. Compared to the katana, the other weapons just donít have the same blood-pumping sensation at first. With upgrades taking time to acquire, it may mean that some weapons will fall by the wayside.

The katana is the crown jewel of Shadow Warrior. The greatest source of pleasure the game provides is in slicing through hordes of demons. When ammo is low the sword can always be counted on. Lo Wangís trusty blade is capable of using area of effect and ranged attacks. Enemies fall into bloody pieces as they get hacked apart. Itís gratuitously violent and unrealistic, but itís so awesome that just watching the mess unfold each battle is half the fun of the game. The katana is the glue that holds the gameís intense combat together.

Aside from money, Shadow Warrior offers karma which is used to buy skills. The katana attacks are the most attractive skills to unlock early, but outside them thereís a wide range of handy supplements. There are also ki crystals which buy powers. These include the vital healing and the power to suspend enemies in mid-air. The powers are activated using fighting game style button presses. This can often mean youíll fail to pull off the move when demons are swarming you.



Shadow Warrior offers a menagerie of monsters for Lo Wang to slice his way through. At first they come in simple melee and missile varieties, but the difficulty increases as new demons with special abilities Ė like shields and cloaking Ė start to appear. Battles will require different tactics depending on what kind of demons fill the horde. They certainly provide more of a gripping fight than gangs of funny talking non-Americans. Enemies have weak points which you can attack in order to put them down swiftly. While for early demons this involves trusty head shots, other enemy arenít so obvious. Some demons know to take a beating, and you can find yourself wasting a lot of ammo. This means youíll be falling back on the katana a lot.

Shadow Warrior scores you out of five for each battle. To get the higher scores you must slay the demons with a variety of combos. Getting good scores give you karma bonus which can go to purchasing new skills.

Unless you discover every secret, or get five stars from every fight, the likelihood is that you will not be able to unlock every upgrade. I actually donít mind this one bit. It makes picking upgrades feel like a real choice. I spent plenty of time in the menu genuinely asking myself whether I would get any use out of a certain power. Perfectionists however might find it irritating.

Shadow Warrior is a mostly linear game, but it does offer little detours to discover secrets. The sweetest thing of all is that beside the secrets that give money and karma there are little nods to unveil. It encourages players to search every blood-stained corner of the level in the hopes of finding something awesome.

Shadow Warrior is a bit of a rough blade though. There are a couple of frustrations to deal with. My biggest gripe is with the fall damage, which I felt was ridiculously overblown. There were times when Lo Wang would dash down a small incline and flat out die upon hitting the ground. Thatís with full health, mind you. For a game which feels old school in so many ways it does lack some vertical game-play, which would have added to the thrilling action. Instead however, I avoided jumping out of the fear Lo Wang might stumble and take damage, or worse.

Leading from this is the issue of the death pits. When itís obvious what will kill you, like chasms, thatís acceptable, but when jumping into innocent looking pools of water slaughters Lo Wang in an instant it becomes hard to forgive. With so many secrets in Shadow Warrior itís unfair to kill people for taking a peek in a place that to their eyes looked perfectly safe.



At the end of the day, these are minor niggles in Shadow Warriorís parade of carnage. Itís an action packed thrill ride from start to finish. Even though Shadow Warrior is unrefined around the edges its combat is sharp. If enjoying bloody destruction is immature, then I donít care much for growing up. If youíre interested in picking up this title you can buy it from the official website for $39.00, or from gog.com and steam for similar prices. If thereís one FPS you play this year, it should be this.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


10:54 AM on 09.23.2013

Golden Sun Retrospective

Note: this post may contain spoilers for Golden Sun and Golden Sun, the Lost Age.


This week instead of anything coherent I will grant you a lecture of personal history. Something close to my heart. Among one of my favourite games of all time. One thatís defined my views and tastes (whatever shallow tastes I have that is). Perhaps not a single day goes by where I do not devote at least one thought to this game ever since first playing it. Thereís hardly a thing I donít adore about it. Itís simply Golden Sun.

Recently I looked back on a birthday whose year has since been forgotten. Perhaps it was 2002, 2003, that time. Specifics are trifling. It was a pleasant spring day. After getting caught up in a massive traffic queue we turned back and were unable to visit the attraction that we had planned to see. I ended up throwing up in a shopping centre car park.

Iím sure that sounds all rather miserable and depressing to you. But nay, for was the birthday I remember most fondly, and a day that begin to define me and my interests in various way. Firstly, since then Iíve not paid so much as a fig for birthdays. Second Ė and more importantly Ė I was given something on this day. It was the greatest console ever made.

I speak of course of the Game Boy Advance. Among this treasure of pleasure were three games, only one of which I want to discuss. That was of course Golden Sun, one of the GBAís shiniest gems.

Retrospectively I wonder why I liked Golden Sun so much. On the surface the game is utterly clichť. Itís the sort of the game that The Last of Us scene kids snort at. So many of itís parts are tried and tested fantasy tropes that only a blindly nostalgic nerd could love. Itís battle system was nothing special and the mechanics were full of some of the old timey JRPG cogs that were perhaps best left behind.




Golden Sun also never made much of an effort to hide its puzzles with anything clever. Iíd call rather self aware and accepting of its natural as a game. Youíd walk into a room full of fallen logs and it was immediately obvious what the name of the game was. You had rolling to do. It was almost as much a puzzle game than it was a straight up JRPG. Few of its dungeons Ė if any Ė were just walk your way from A to B. All of them were stuffed with challenges, some of which could lead to optional secrets.

For itís time and platform Golden Sun was dead drop gorgeous. Itís visuals were colourful, detailed beyond belief, and seemed so advanced for a hand-held console. Best of all were the battle animations, those marvellous psynergy effects and summon sequences. The character designs tickled me in just the right places. Theyíre full of details, but not to the ridiculous heights of Final Fantasy. They fit into the pure fantasy world perfectly, and while others might see that as dull and generic I find them cosy and familiar in a pleasant way.



Speaking of the characters Iím very fond of how they were presented, despite the fact that the gameís story is told through what can be described as the most tedious slog through the bog of tiny text ever spawned. They had the frame work for me to understand their personalities and motivations, but the game didnít insist on throwing them into my face in a desperate attempt to convince me that the game was deep.

That trend of characterisation is one Iíve come to enjoy more than any other. It fuels the imagination and encourages me to reach my own conclusions about the characters.
It means I could interact with Golden Sun even after putting it down. These meta interactions are quickly becoming my key criteria in how much I enjoy a game. Without this element I doubt the game would have had any kind of enduring legacy in my mind. Some might sneer at the idea of fan-fiction or fan-speculation, but Iíll admit that I do get some enjoyment out of reading different interpretations of different characters. Itís fascinating to see someone put a spin on a character that I had never considered.

If you scratch the surface of Golden Sun and itís sequel, The Lost Age, you do find something more thought provoking that itís typical setting might lead one to believe. This is where I start having to put in some spoilers of course.

The setting of Golden Sun, Weyard, is caught up in a giant catch 22 in regards to alchemy. It was sealed away because itís abuse would lead to the destruction of the world, but unbeknownst to those who sealed it without alchemy the world will decay away anyway. This isnít caused by a villain, but rather itís just the state of the setting. Thereís little resolution for it either. The decision of the heroes seems to ďrelease alchemy and hope for the bestĒ. At the end when alchemy is freed thereís already someone waiting to gain itís full power for themselves.

The first game had itís share of hardships as well. The villains were always one step ahead of Isaac and even in the end they failed to stop them from lighting two of the elemental lighthouses even after beating them. Not the mention the fact the heroes get forced into a pact with the rather questionable Babi, whose only motive is to retain his longevity.

Those are grim things to consider, but the game never seems to dwell on it for too long. Golden Sunís tone is by no stretch grim-dark. Itís full serious optimism and moments of peace and joy. Despite the lingering troubles left over at the end Golden Sun concludes on a very happy note. It found a fine balance between leaving me something to think about yet making feel satisfied at the same time. Itís an attitude that I think would look rather refreshing today alongside the tide of brown misery, teenager style misanthropy and cynicism.

Golden Sun and its sequel is very subtle in how it presents the world. In the first part you play as Isaac, who is tasked with prevent the unleashing of alchemy. During his travels across the continent Angara you see a world that is peaceful without alchemy. Civilised towns with cultured people. We also see the problems caused by alchemy as a result of the psynergy crystals rained down from the Mt Aleph, such as how turns innocent animals into the raging beasts they encounter.

But in Golden Sun: the Lost Age you play as Felix, whose goal is to free alchemy. The world is presently rather differently as we see more than just Angara. We see a world full of long lost civilisations that have fallen into ruin. Felix visits various settlements that are sparsely populated and less advanced than those in Angara. Itís a world full of stagnation without alchemy. The contrast between the two games helps define the viewpoint of the two protagonists and the importance of their quest, even though theyíre opposites.



And so we come to the end of this ridiculous post which I wasted time writing and you wasted time reading. Itís rather relaxing to simply gush about a game sometimes. Golden Sun is far from perfect, but this emotion you humans call love is rather irrational. The Game Boy Advance was the first console I really owned in my own right and Golden Sun was the first game I ever own in my right. I think itís one of the games thatís had the most impact on my gaming sensibilities, for both better and worse. If nothing else it cemented my love for old school fantasy RPGs.


You can also read this on my personal blog.

(Images taken from Golden Sun Universe)   read


11:03 AM on 09.16.2013

Top 5 Final Boss Themes

Sorry, but thereíll be no game post this week. No particular excuse this time, but I do have something else up my sleeve. Again, itís a musical themed entry. I donít know why since I donít know anything about music, nor do I have any sort of talent with any kind of instrument or singing, or even good taste for that matter. However, some recent thoughts Iíve been having inspired to write this up. Today, I want to talk about final boss battles.

Call me a traditionalist Ė just not the Daily Mail reading type Ė but as far as Iím concerned a game doesnít really feel like a game unless itís got a final boss. Itís the climax of the game and everything before it should be there to pump you up for it. I feel the final boss vital part of game narrative that weíre slowly seeing less of as cinematic games and art games come more and more to the forefront. And of course, a final boss isnít a final boss without the right piece of music. These have helped provide some of the most memorable experiences in games that Iíve ever had.

With that in mind I proudly present my five favourite final boss tracks.

Thereís going to be a few ground rules, the first of which is that theyíre all from games that Iíve completed through the end, otherwise making a list would simply be too hard. Secondly, at the risk of sounding redundant, only final bosses count, not any other boss or ending sequence. Most importantly of course this is a subjective list and therefore mileage may vary.

And thus we move ontoÖ


Number Five: Ultimate Koopa
Game: Super Mario 64
Boss: Bowser



When I had a right proper think about what theme stuck with me this was one that emerged for some reason. Part of me canít really be surprised. I was a whelp when I got this game so of course it was bound to make an impression. And of course there is something right about Marioís first 3D game setting a fine standard. On the other hand itís ridiculously bombastic given the context. Itís a Mario game after all, not exactly high art, and even the fight itself is just a rehash of the previous two.
The song has a sweet build up, and it just sounds utterly evil. More evil than Bowser will ever be. I suppose at the end of the day Mario is as traditional as you can get. If it seems like Iím a tad miffed to be putting this here, then the answer is a resounding ďI donít knowĒ.


Number Four: Doom Dragon
Game: Golden Sun, The Lost Age
Boss: Doom Dragon



Doom Dragon was a pretty random for final boss, but it was an epic climax nonetheless. It was the end of the long journey in what stands as one of my favourite series of all time. Once the three-headed dragon is introduced little time is wasted Ė which is weird for Golden Sun Ė in getting into battle. It starts on a tense high and never really dies down again.

Iíll admit that itís not a particularly brilliant song, but given how I struggled with this battle the first time around this tune felt like it was blasting me down the whole time and making me want see that little dissolving effective on the boss happen just that bit more.

Number Three: Shoutoku Legend ~ True Administrator
Game: Touhou, Ten Desires
Boss: Toyosatomimi no Miko



Amusingly I suspect those familiar with the series might have sniffed out the reasons I limited this list to games Iíve beaten.

A final boss theme should be a lot of things. Tense, powerful, excitingÖ fabulous. At least thatís the way of this colourful bullet hell game. The bullets here in particular are majestic and the music reflects that perfectly. Itís by no means the hardest boss Iíve faced down, contrary to the reputation of this genre, but the visuals, the music, the constant need to keep focusing had such a beautiful impact. The regal feel of the song suits the character wonderfully. Much like the next entry for this list the song doesnít give the impression of danger, but instead it raises pure awe for me.

Naturally, for Touhou, a remixed version is a must, so here.

Number Two: Champion Battle
Game: Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Boss: Lance/Red



In all honesty Iíve never felt much for the champion themes in Pokemon, since most of them felt rather generic. This one however is the only tune that really captures the right mood for a champion battle. That goes for both fights it plays in. A good Pokemon game should always feel like a long journey, having started out with just a level 5 companion, and this song symbolises the nearing conclusion better than any of the others. In fact, it manages to do it twice. It also fits both battles so perfectly, having a calm sense of power and wisdom. Itís not a fight for oneís life against a villain, but a showdown between heroes.

Number One: Dancing Mad
Game: Final Fantasy VI
Boss: Kefka



Yeah, itís the hipsterís favourite Final Fantasy final boss theme, but since Iíve never finished VII this is going to have to take the spot. Firstly, itís a very long piece, if you include every part of it. The first three sections are haunting, dramatic, and orchestral, the top three requirements for pretentious video game music. Itís pompus like Ultimate Koopa, but more varied and much longer. It was also different from previous Final Fantasy final boss themes, which tended to be more adrenaline inducing. There are calm moments where I can take in the disturbing look of the hellish boss.

Then you move onto the final part the music takes a wacky turn. Itís awesome and radiates gloriously every insane fibre of Kefkaís being, which even gets topped off by getting to hear his iconic laughter. Itís absolutely twisted, but also catchy and just plain funky.


And there you have it. In reality I doubt it was a good idea to list them with numbers, because ultimately I felt it was rather arbitrary to order them. Also, Iím feeling rather lacking in satisfaction for this. Perhaps itís because there were too many candidates for me to choose from, but I couldnít be arsed to make a top ten.

And so Ė to redeem this nonsense Ė I turn to you, the humble internet dwelling folk for help. Simply put, whatíre your favourite final boss pieces?

Give in to your futile delusions and post in the comments!


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


10:28 AM on 09.09.2013

Prison Architect Alpha Impressions

Prison Architect is a prison management game in development by Introversion Software. This is another game that does what it says on the tin and has you become the architect behind the prison. It's vital to note that this game is still in it's alpha stage, and is therefore incomplete. However, I had heard a good deal of buzz surrounding them so I decided to pick it up and give it a spin.

The goal of Prison Architect is simply to construct a working prison and maintain the lives of the criminal scum who come to dwell within. This results is a fascinating distinction against other god games. Instead of the people you're building for being innocent peasants you want to look after they could be called the enemy in Prison Architect. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile, through a tunnel and away to freedom.



Even if you just stick to the low risk prisoners you'll find them constantly trying to escape whenever they see a chance. They will dig tunnels during the night from their cells and smuggle contraband items. You can go days without any incidents, but the moment you drop your guard is the moment one of them tries their luck. You'll be left with a black mark on your prison's valuation for each dastardly villain who makes his getaway.

Managing your money can also be a tricky affair in Prison Architect. Once you've used up your grant money you have to balance your expenses with your income. Having more prisoners will increase your income, but you need to build cells to house them and hire more cooks to feed them. And you can't just take prisoners one at a time. If you choose to accept them they come in group of at least eight when you start out, and this can increase each day. This balance is complicated further by the fact that prisoners will eventually leave, whether they serve their time in full or make a risky escape. This ends up cutting a part of your funding.

Prison Architect does offer other methods to raise extra funds, which mostly includes sending your inmates to the workshop to produce license plates, but this requires you to balance your daily routine to make enough time for them to work. Of course, if you cut too much into their free time or dinner then they'll become very unhappy and start causing you more trouble.

The bureaucracy system allows you to research new technology and recruit new types of staff. It's not exactly the most complex tree seen in this kind of game, but recruiting certain staff requires you to meet a set of needs, such as most of them needing an office. The advancement won't really last long however, and a few days you'll have pretty much everything you need staff wise.

Once you've built the walls and doors you can use the rooms option to mark out the different areas of your prison. Each area has certain requirements which are listed in the tool-tips. If you mark out a room and it doesn't meet the checklist then a notice will appear in the middle, handily listing which requires it doesn't meet in red.

However, not all tool-tips provided by Prison Architect are as useful. This is particularly the case for the objects. There are many objects you can place which you might suspect will have a benefit but the game won't tell you right off the bat. While some of them are obvious to figure out, like beds and showers, others will leave you wondering how much you might actually need it or where it needs to be placed in the prison. When this cost money and time to install it can sometime feel like a wasted effort.



The introduction to Prison Architect is a powerful tutorial which puts you face to face with the worrying realities that running a prison will present while at the same time teaching you the very basics of how to play. I won't spoil exactly what it is because I think it's as important as any plot twist, even if is just in the first few minutes of the game. It's perhaps the most memorable tutorial I've played in a very long time. Certainly, it's one of those things I'll remember as being one of gaming's genuinely more mature moments.

Unfortunately, beyond that there are no missions yet and no other tutorials to teach you what everything else in the game does or how to take care of your prisoners. Naturally, this can only be blamed on the game being in alpha state, but that doesn't change the fact that you will find yourself tripping up and restarting a lot as you fiddle with things in game and slowly discover how to manage everything. If you're not into this style of trial and error learning then I would recommend holding off on this game until a later stage of development.

Despite Prison Architect's somewhat grim premise it does try to inject some humour here and there. This is mostly done through some of the profiles of the prison inmates you collect. If you pay a certain amount when buying Prison Architect you are given the chance to add your name in the game with a bio. I personally find it to be rather hit and miss at best. I can't say any of the ones I've seen so far struck me as particularly well written or amusing. While the idea of having prisoners named after real people is nice, I don't like the fact that almost all of them come with some ridiculous nickname. Having a sense of humour is a good thing for a game like this, but I just don't think it's pulling off just yet.



Despite still being a foetus of a game, Prison Architect has some awesome potential. The alpha gives the impression of a very strong title. However, unless you're seriously interested in picking up this unique management game I'm not going to recommend it out of hand. If you are serious about playing this game then you can pick it up from the official website for a base price of $30, which is not what I would call cheap for an alpha product. You can also buy on Steam. You can purchase special packs for more if you want to support the developers of Prison Architect even further.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


10:47 AM on 09.02.2013

Race the Sun Impressions

Race is the Sun is the recently released high speed score attack game by developers Flippfly. On the surface Race the Sun is a very simple game, featuring minimalistic controls and rules. Thanks to its procedurally generated tracks and potential for play made content however, this game has been stretched out into something a whole lot more than first meets the eye.



The goal of Race the Sun is to keep your ship running for as long as possible, trying to keep the sun over the horizon. The ship is solar powered, so if the sun goes down or you get caught up in the shadows for too long you power down and thus ends your run. The game has a cool downward spiral effect to it. If you bump into something you slow down and the sun goes down slightly. When that happens the shadows stretch further outwards and become a greater problem for you to consider.

Along the way you can increase your score by collecting as many of the blue pyramids, known as tris, as possible. You can also collect vital power ups on track. These include a speed booster which help keep the sun high in the sky, and a jump which you can of course use to give obstacles the slip and get tris which are floating in mid-air.

The main track in Race the Sun changes everyday and is shared across all players with an internet connection, meaning you can compare yourself to everyone else on the leader board once you've crashed on it.

The tracks are divided into numbered regions, each getting progressively harder. The first region will be full of static objects that are easy to avoid. The next region will usually bring in towers that case longer shadows, and the regions after that will bring in moving hazards and more.

One noticeable thing about the courses in Race the Sun is not just that they are long, but they also have a lot of breadth. You're free to move as far left or right as you want, and doing so can lead you to discovering a nice little path through the course whether it be full of power ups, or provide a safe way around an obstacle that was proving troublesome. This means that tracks can offer some variation every now and then if you choose to pursue it.

The biggest problem that sticks out about the courses in Race the Sun is the repetition. You'll end up seeing the same set up over and over on different tracks. This is to be expected I guess, given the nature and length of the courses, but when I see the same set-up of mountains with the same collectables lined in the same order it does feel rather bothersome. Perhaps one positive of this is that the patterns do make good for those looking to get high on the leader board. A good player can familiarise himself with the different set-ups and blitz the courses.



Another thorny issue that might effect one's enjoyment of Race the Sun is the unlock system. When you start the game you have virtually nothing, and all the power ups, modifications, and extras have to be unlocked by accomplishing various feats within the track and level up. Some are obviously fine by me, like completing three regions without any collisions. This makes sense since it's offering the upgrades as a reward for playing the game well. At first it has the feeling of being a nice little tutorial, giving you tips on how to use the items and upgrades.

However, other goals seem rather arbitrary and counter-intuitive, such as the goal of having eight collisions, or only moving right for one region. I don't like having to go out of my way to play the game badly or in some nonsensical manner just to unlock the upgrades and power ups which I feel are essential to being successful in Race the Sun. At later stages it stops feeling like a little tutorial and more like it's there just to drag out the game for as long as possible.

I find this irritating because Race the Sun is the sort of game that is perhaps best enjoyed in small bursts rather than long play sessions. You go in and give the daily course a few runs and then come back the next day for a bit. The unlock system means that instead you have to devote yourself to pointless tasks in order to progress.

The aesthetics of Race the Sun are very clean cut and simple, if not slightly bland at times. Everything has a grey, steel appearance, watched over by the changing colours of the sky. While they're not exactly exciting or mind blowing they do a good job of making everything clear when you're racing across the track. Player made maps are allowed to experiment with a bit more various, adding colour to some of the obstacles and even adding some more surreal touches to the skyline.

As well as the default modes and daily tracks you can also play a selection of player made maps. These can offer up some strange situations, like racing through a forest of cubist bunnies. Race the Sun comes packaged with the Simplex World Creator which they claim can allow you to create exciting new game modes or modify existing ones.



Finally, Race the Sun features an asynchronous co-op system which allows you to play relay races with your friends or just people online. Once your run as ended, you are given the option to share it online via a link. Someone can take that link and use it to start off again from where you ended. This can be done to a maximum of four times, at which point a combined score to be listed on a scoreboard. I think it's an simple and non-intrusive way of adding a social element to the game.

Race the Sun is definitely a fun title, especially for anyone who enjoys challenging themselves to keep doing better. Once you get through some of its obtuse objects and unlock the things that matter you'll find yourself shot with the need for perfection. The game isn't exactly offering the world, but at the low price of $10.00 it's a cheap deal for something with the potential of much more content in the future with its openness to player creativity. If this peaks your enthusasim you can check out their official website where you can purchase the game for $10.00.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


9:50 AM on 08.23.2013

Goldeneye Orchestral Cover Album

Sad to say there will be no game impressions or review from me this week. It was a case of depressed Monday, busy Tuesday, exhausted Wednesday, couldnít be arsed Thursday, write this up desperately Friday. Hopefully next week Iíll be back on track. In the meantime there is one little thing I want to promote related to Goldeneye which might interest nostalgia addled buffoons like myself.



Iím certain many here will be familiar with the Nintendo 64′s Goldeneye. Well now thereís a rather nice orchestral cover album produced by Rich Douglas, a composer who is currently working on games like Lifeless Planet and Shadowgate 25th Anniversary. Itís pay what you want with a minimum price of $10.00. For that you get fifteen tracks remastered from Goldeneye with a duration of just over forty minutes.

Staying true the originals the album retains the cold, industrial feel of the soundtrack, with the old exciting Bond theme mixed in for good measure. It features some of my personal favourites, including the Runway and Depot themes as well as some tracks I get the feel other remixes perhaps leave by the wayside.

Perhaps my only criticism of this is that there was some tracks that I would have wanted to see which were absent, such as the Cradle mission. At the end of the day thatís just a nitpick of whatís a fine album. What has been included is simply magificent.

You can pick up this cover album from Loudr.fm here. Iíll remind you that itís pay as you want for a minimum price of $10.00. All of itís worth your time. Heck, if not for the soundtrack of the recently released Touhou 14 this cover album would have been the only music I listened to this week.

You can also read this on my personal blog.

(Image provided by http://www.loudr.fm/release/goldeneye-n64-orchestrated/S7vvd)   read


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