Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable was recently released to much critical acclaim and I have finally gotten around to playing it. It was a wonderfully unique and unexpected experience, that plays very much like a interactive film more then any traditional gaming genre.

It is currently a Half Life 2 mod but is already being remade, with no word yet as to what form the finished product will take. Not that it really warrants a remake, the quality and polish is already quite fantastic; And while I am sure all developers always have some great ideas that don't make it into their finished projects, The Stanley Parable feels quite like a whole game, even if it is quite short.

 The game is divided into six endings, all distinct, with varying amounts of overlapping journey between them and even quite a bit of contradiction (but with all of them being considered canonical). The game was made to be played at least a few times with multiple endings encountered and it should only take an hour or two to see all of them.

The entire game is delightfully meta, narrated by the smooth voiced and very talented Kevan Brighting, and themed around choice. For almost the entire time playing the narrator will be talking and it is he that really sets the scene, advances the plot, and provides the desire and force to act. He is everything, the rest of the game is quite minimalistic. The graphics are good, but are not supposed to dazzle or take the attention away from the plot, and the interaction is quite minimal. The crux of the game is that all the choices you make matter, not only in the immediate future but for the rest of the playthrough.

In short, the game is basically perfect at what it tries to do and is ridiculously fun to play. It will not be for everyone, but for the people who enjoy it, it will surely leave an impression.

My mini-review of The Stanley Parable.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Solar 2

In Solar 2 you play as a part of the universe in the form of an asteroid. As an asteroid you travel around the universe colliding with other asteroids to gain mass and eventually become a planet, grow life on yourself and produce a space faring civilization, because a star and found a solar system with possibly multiple space faring civilizations, and eventually become a black hole and suck up all the matter in the universe.

The controls and gameplay are extremely simple, you literately only direct your planet/asteroid/star on one big endless 2D plain as you try to gain mass either by bumping into other asteroids as one your self, anything as a black hole, or by getting other smaller masses to orbit you. It is that simple, and over far to quickly, but it is an enjoyable and unique experience while it lasts.

My mini-review of Solar 2.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Recently played and even blogged [indie-elitist] about a new game called Hide, but I think that it deserves any attention that it gets.

Hide is a minimalistic survival horror title and while I have not played too many of that variety before I am absolutely certain that this is something special. With the unlikely combination of minimalistic pixel art style graphics in a fully 3D world it is far more abstract then most, and this only helps the wonderful atmosphere. You wake up in a dark and snowy forest dotted with ruins and buildings and containing five special locations which you must visit.

In the game you are constantly pursued by flashlight wielding characters which appear as you progress in the game. You must run and hide from these pursuers as you explore the forest, producing a very chilling atmosphere. And equal to the shear power of the pixel art graphics is the detailed and haunting lighting which is introduced by these flashlights. As you run from these pursuers the expertly produced sound effects of snow crunching and breathing is used to further enhance the atmosphere.

All in all it is prefect in its own minimalistic style; With amazing stylish graphics, chilling gameplay, and mood setting sounds this is one game not to miss.

My mini-review of Hide.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock

Welcome to Hell Lock is the second title in Alawar Entertainment's Vampire Saga; And in a word I would call it rather bland.

First and foremost it is the story that makes the game bland. And every single character, especially the protagonist is devoid of personality; The games plot is uninteresting, never explained, and unbelievable. More then anything the actions, personality, dialogue, and looks of the protagonist reminds me of Ken, as in Barbi and Ken. He is just so dopey, and does not really seem to have any personally to speak-of; I can only assume that this game is aimed as young girls as I cannot see anyone else even potentially enjoying playing as him. The rest of the game follows pretty similarly. The vampire(s) in the game do not really make an appearance nor is any of their actions ever explained. If anything their main goal in life seems to be to simply make the city slightly spooky, like they were planing to turn the city into haunted house style attraction and they were practising for this role.

The game is also extremely linear, far more then it has to be. You often have multiple puzzles on the go, but that does not mean you can solve them whenever you want, for the vast majority you will have to complete a bunch of unrelated puzzles before you are allowed to find/pick up the needed object or try to solve the logic puzzle. But despite this linearness you are constantly backtracking to solve old puzzles and find new items; At random points in the game old previously used HOG locations will suddenly and inexplicably become active, with absolutely no in-game indication that they have done so. Which basically degrades the entire game into, solve a puzzle, check the "map" (picture album) for the new puzzle location, warp there and solve, repeat. And one rather strange thing is that the game does not even change the scene one iota when reusing a HOG location and many items you will be finding several times. So by the end of your game, even if you have a moderately bad memory, all HOG puzzles will consist of a significant fraction of objects that you remember the location of.

The rest of the game is pretty much what you would expect. the graphics are OK; The sound effects and music are OK; The gameplay is very repetitive but other then that about what you would expect from a casual HOG title. So all in all, it is a sub-par game but, while I am no expert, is it probably still an average, to above average, HOG title.

My mini-review of Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mount and Blade and TaleWorlds

Back in 2008 TaleWorlds, a indie developer, released their first game and what I would consider to be one of the best medieval action combat games of all time, Mount and Blade. With this excellent starter TaleWorlds was bound to make a big splash in the whole of the gaming industry, this article will focus on what they have done since the release of Mount and Blade.

So what has TaleWords been up to? Basically nothing. Mount and Blade itself was released with a lot of obvious missing features and some features in obvious need to tweaking, and currently almost none of this has been addressed in any sort of patch, DLC, or sequel. But that is not to say there has not been sequels, there have actually been two, Warband and more recently With Fire and Sword. The problem with these two games is that they are presented as full games but most companies would of released them as patches to an existing product and even in this category they are solely lacking. In Warband basically just multiplayer was added and in With Fire and Sword they simply took an existing mod that added firearms and added it into the main game, making the game very unbalanced and worse in a lot of ways. I have played all of the games and seriously cannot see more then a handful of man hours go into each sequel. Which is made all the more ridiculous when the huge amount of time, effort, and skill that people have put into the community mods.

Does anyone know what is going on with this company? did everyone get fired 3 years ago after Mount and Blade was released, is it just one guy with no graphical or programming knowledge that only works in a extremly limited part time basis? Or are they working on some 3 year in the making secret (or at least unknown to me) project, not that this gives them the right to release patches in the form of games and charge for it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two Bioluminescent Environmental Platformers

I just played two platforming games with blight colourful, luminescent, graphics and with environmental themed plots.

In CreaVures you play as group of specialist forest creatures in which you take control of any one at a time to traverse the forest to gather its fading light and save it. Its part action, part platforming, part puzzles, but mostly casual and atmospheric; The puzzles are very simple, the action is slow, and the platforming is not designed to be precise or fast (I recommend you don`t pay the Challenging difficulty as the controls and un-agility of your creavures are not quite up to it).

While in The Undergarden the gameplay is quite different: It is a mildly puzzle platforming take on Flower. In  the game you travel through a underwater cave system pollinating plants and using fruit to solve some very simple puzzles.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Penumbra: Overture First Impressions

So I am finally giving Penumbra: Overture another go after the severe physiological trauma it inflicted on me a few years ago.  And it already does not look good; As I clawed ineffectively on the mine's entrance as the blizzard sucked at my strength and numbed my extremities I knew that this playthrough would be no better then my first. Penumbra: Overture is a great game; It is a graphical adventure with the best and all encompassing physics of any game I have ever played, it is a stealth/action game that gives you a choice of hiding or fighting. But most of all it is a horror game that is many times more scary then anything I have ever seen and often leaves my with a racing heart after an encounter.

But now I hear banging from the deep and know that I must go down there, that there is no other way. It seems like far to good and unique of a graphical adventure to succumb to the fear and leave the game in some dark forgotten area of my hard drive.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Half Life

Recently finished playing Half Life: Source, which is simply Half Life ported to the Source engine. It has the same levels, same graphics, same everything; Wrapped in a shiny new and theoretically better engine. It is simply a fantastic game with a wide range of entertaining experiences to offer. Playing the game I could not help but stop and think that they really don't make FPSs like they used to. There are elements of horror, action, tactics, and even a few puzzles.

It is simply an amazing game full of unique and enjoyable gameplay. On the the most acclaimed parts of this gameplay is the enemy AI; While the monsters act quite normally for games of that era the human squads act far more realistic then ever before seen. They will run away if losing and even have a habit of flanking you. Overall it is a simple system that seems to be based on damage ratio (do significantly more damage then you take, particularly in a short period of time, and you can cause the enemies to turn tail and run) which adds a significant amount of tactics and strategy to the game. Adding to this are remote controlled bombs, vicinity detonated mines, and turret emplacements and a plethora of unique weapons.

But above and beyond the AI and the action and shooting is what really makes the game. There is a ton of platforming, exploring, and even a few puzzle like challenges. The shooting as actually a minority of the gameplay, it is really the platforming and exploring that the game is about, i just wish that more developers understood that a FPS does not have to be all shooting and that anything done in enough repetition is boring.

My mini-review of Half Life.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A New Beginning

A New Beginning is a graphical adventure and the latest release from the esteemed people over at Daedalic Entertainment, the creators of the 2010 hit The Whispered World. And like The Whispered World it has beautiful hand drawn graphics, which really is the main draw of the game in my opinion.

The game's story is all about environmentalist, and that is not just something that they threw into the game without thought; It is obviously that they have studied and understood many of the issues. The basic premise is that in the distance future mankind is facing extinction. Forced to live in underground bunkers and having declined in numbers to only a few hundred people, the earth no longer able to sustain human life, they decide to send a group to the past to try and convince or force the people to mend their self destructive ways. And not that it is seen much, actually not at all after the opening cinematic, but this future is very clockpunk.

For the gameplay, A New Beginning, utilizes a type of verb disk, but unlike most verb disks it only shows relevant results. And in particular it makes a lot of use of these extra options, allowing you to dissemble, modify, or use in a special way when applicable. Overall it has moderately normal puzzles, but I did enjoy utilizing the advanced technology. One thing I absolutely hated about a series of puzzles is that the plot behind them made absolutely no sense; On multiple occasions you, as a time radio operator from the future are called upon to setup your temporal radio. What does not make sense is that she has absolutely no idea about how to use this radio and at one point actually needs to ask a random civilian from the past how to fix it.

Overall it is a pretty average adventure with a good story, and a great message, with simply fantastic art.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Adventure Lantern Issue (August 2011)

The August issue of Adventure Lantern has just been published. Included within its fine pages is one interview with a designer of the upcoming sci-fi adventure Prominence as well as two review by me; Lost Horizon, and Dracula Resurrection; As well as reviews on Slip Space: The Burma Shave Analogy, Knights in Shinning Armour: Episode 1, and even a action game, Dead Meets Lead, by gnome.

Dead Cyborg

I had a chance to finally finish Dead Cyborg episode 1 a few days ago so I can finally give my full opinion on this game.

The graphics style is fantastic; The game world seamlessly blends the hard sci-fi, post-apocalyptic horror, and humour into a great cohesive whole; And the dialogue and story is terrific. It simply is one of the best worlds to emerge from the mind of a indie developer in recent history.

That is not to say it is perfect. I don't think that anyone would argue that the puzzles are (while possibly somewhat realistic) not very interesting. Some are just far to ambiguous and unintuitive, while others are so intuitive and literal you are left thinking you must be missing something. But these are also something that I think can easily be improved in latter episodes, the world is what really cannot be changed at this late a juncture and it is already fantastic.

But this great episodic adventure might just end here if the developer does not get any more donations. While the game is free, and the developer wants the rest of the series to remain free as well, he does require some minimum amount of donations before he invests even more of his time bringing us the rest of Dead Cyborg. So if you have not already, head on over to the official website and give Dead Cyborg a whirl and if you enjoyed it think about donating.

My Indie Elitist Article and my mini-review on Dead Cyborg Episode 1: The Beginning of the Death.