Monday, July 21, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #140 - The Ur-Quan Masters - Hyperspace - Light Years Away

Composed by: Riku Nuottajarvi
Remixed by: Jouni Airaksinen

Okay I cheated a bit with this remix. Apparently, this isn't one of the tracks that features in the Ur-Quan Masters as that would be Riku Nuottajarvi's remix of his own work titled "Hyperspace - Across the Galaxy". Nuottajarvi's remix is pretty choice and definitely has a jazzy, lounge feel to it but I reckon Jouni Airaksinen's remix which is included as additional music is a better fit - mainly because it sounds similar to the original yet it manages to make the track sound even more retro by adopting some 80s samples such as synth clapping noises. The original Hyperspace tune is probably one of the most memorable and popular of Star Control 2's tunes since it gets played every time your ship enters hyperspace (funny that!).

Special thanks to The Precursors for remixing the classic Star Control II tracks and making them available for download.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wolf Among Us Review

I don't see a scowl from you Mr. Baker

  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Release Date: 8 July 2014
  • Time Played: 9 hours

Well here it is: the final review for all five episodes of Telltale's The Wolf Among Us. I'll be looking at how the entire season did overall taking into account the scores from each episode for each category.

Plot (5/5)
The Wolf Among Us is set during the 1980s in New York City. Fairy tale characters (aka "Fables") now live amongst normal humans (called "mundanes") in their own immigrant neighbourhood known as "Fabletown". Some fairy tale characters, who can afford it, use "glamour" in order to disguise their true appearance from mundanes. Those that cannot afford to disguise themselves are sent to "The Farm" in rural New York. You play Bigby Wolf aka The Big Bad Wolf, whose job is sheriff of Fabletown. Consequently it's your job to keep the peace but will you be a by-the-book sheriff or are you a gung-ho, get-results-at-any-cost kind of wolf? The choice is yours to make.

The game has a branching narrative so conversations will be slightly different based on your relationships with other characters or certain clues you notice. At the end of an episode, you're also able to review whether you sit with the majority or not when it comes to pivotal choices in the game (e.g. showing compassion to a character or not). Finishing the game gives you a summary of which characters are still alive and which ones are deceased by the end, along with important decisions you made with respect to each of them.

The game started off well in the first episode offering about 3 hours of gameplay but each episode after that seems to have become shorter and shorter in duration (the first episode of the game is about one third of the entire season's duration). Things definitely started to heat up by the third episode and the fourth mainly served as tie-in episode between the events of the third and final episode. While the final episode only clocks in at 77 minutes, it does end with a bang and it turned out to be my favourite episode of the season.

Gameplay (3/5)
Just like The Walking Dead gameplay may seem minimal by some since it basically consists of very simple puzzles ala the adventure game genre incorporated with visual novel elements (e.g. conversations having an impact on character relationships) thrown in with a bit of Quick Time Events (QTEs) for action sequences. For those valuing gameplay over plot, you have been warned!

Episodes three and four did offer more choice than you were normally offered in the first two episodes by having you choose certain locations to visit first before others, slightly altering the course of the story as a result.

Sound (4/5)
Audio quality and voice acting quality remained the same throughout the season. Voice acting was great but to be expected from veteran voice actors with the only issue I had being the audio volume which was sometimes too loud or too soft.

Music (4/5)
Throughout all episodes the game has a moody 80s-style synth soundtrack which makes sense since this is a neo-noir game set in the 80s after all. Nothing too memorable but top quality stuff all the same. Some of Jared Emerson-Johnson's best work though is to be heard in the final episode where I believe the music really helps to amplify the player's emotions.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics are on par with The Walking Dead and since this game is also based on a comic book, it has incorporated a similar style. The only issues I had was the occasional framerate jumps and the occasional animation glitch.

Where's the baker and the candle-stick maker?

Replay (3/5)
Just as it was in The Walking Dead, replaying The Wolf Among Us will reveal a slightly different narrative depending on the choices you make. Just as I did with the previous episodes, I tried to continue my stoic and professional approach, i.e. refraining from violence and trying to stick to the rules where I could (although I ended up bending the rules despite my best intentions).

Unlike The Walking Dead, it's slightly more difficult to get all achievements, requiring you to explore different choices I believe in order to unlock all of them (which in turn invites at least one replay).

Polish (4/5)
Unfortunately, as it's a Telltale game, it uses the most recent Telltale Tool so the interface is a very console-friendly one, not a simple point 'n' click adventure. The game also has the annoying Type 1 save system where progress is autosaved but you never know when the next save point is.

Score – 8/10

The Wolf Among Us is the shortest Telltale adventure game series I've played so far but it's turned out to be one of my favourites. Its unique setting with downtrodden fairy tale characters living in an 80s New York (courtesy of Bill Willingham's Fables) seems to be a perfect match for an adventure game - or a visual novel with Quick Time Events (which I believe is a more accurate description of Telltale's adventure games from the past couple of years). Is it better than The Walking Dead? I personally think so, but only because I like solving murder mysteries. Both games are good in their own right but while one explores the human condition against a backdrop of zombie apocalypse, the other provides a grittier, seedier epilogue to fairy tale characters we grew up learning about as kids.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam or Telltale Games .

If you like this game, you might like...

[ LINK: Official The Wolf Among Us website ]

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Goat Simulator Review

It's everyone's favourite mobile game now at the arcades: Flappy Goat!

  • Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
  • Publisher: Coffee Stain Studios
  • Release Date: 1 April 2014
  • Time Played: 2 hours

Once again, thanks to generous friends (thanks Choona) I managed to land a free copy of a game namely the infamous Goat Simulator. Apparently the game is developed by Coffee Stain Studios who were behind the popular first-person tower defence games Sanctum and Sanctum 2 so why on Earth would they make a game like Goat Simulator where "you no longer have to fantasize about being a goat, your dreams have finally come true!"? Bleaaats me...

Gameplay (2/5)
In Goat Simulator you play the role of a goat (surprise! surprise!) where it's your job to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting human population and be rewarded points and achievements for it. You're also able to do neat tricks like balancing yourself on two legs and even riding a bicycle. The game is admittedly better than walking simulators in the gameplay department and reminds me of skateboard games or games like Burnout Paradise where the aim of the game is to score points by performing certain tricks. The game doesn't have any ultimate goal so in that regard it shares similarities with sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Sleeping Dogs.

The game is amusing for awhile but it only took me about half an hour or maybe an hour tops before I was bored with the game. Sure it was funny the first time I destroyed a petrol station and it awarded me an achievement titled "Michael Bay!" but how many times can you do it before it stops being funny? How many times must you set people alight with exploding gas bottles before it ultimately become boring? I'm sure the answer varies from person to person, but it didn't take long for me.

Sound (4/5)
There aren't many many sound effects to speak of but the game has pretty good voice acting. I especially like the part when the goat says "Baaaaa!".

Music (3/5)
The game contains some humourous, discordant music that sounds like they hired a drunk Jewish band to perform which surprisingly fits the game's mood. There's nothing terribly good about the soundtrack though.

Graphics (3/5)
The graphics in Goat Simulator are slightly dated looking like a game developed several years ago. There's also the many ridiculous graphical glitches although the developer claims that they're in there intentionally to make the game more hilarious. Brings a whole new meaning to the old Software Engineering joke "it's not a bug guys, it's a feature!"

Replay (2/5)
Goat Simulator is humourous at times and good fun for an hour or two but after that I would say mileage may vary. For me, it only took a couple of hours before I had enough.

Apparently goats can climb ladders - in a freakish way of course

Polish (2/5)
It's easy to get stuck in terrain or have objects in the environment, even people, stick to you (and this is without using your goat's ability to lick objects and carry them along). Animations are primitive and buggy such as your neck growing ridiculously long and going limp when climbing ladders - not to mention the goat just tends to float up the ladder anyway (although how a goat should climb up a ladder is anyone's guess). Again the developers probably did this intentionally since it just looks so ridiculously creepy.

Score – 5/10

The developers admit quite frankly on their website that this isn't a great game and not only that, it was even released on April Fool's Day! Lowering your expectations may help you to appreciate this game more but ultimately it's only good for a few laughs before you get bored with it and never play it again. I confess that the only reason I decided to keep playing it after the first half hour was in order to get Steam Trading Cards to sell off...

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

If you like this game, you might like...

[ LINK: Official Goat Simulator website ]