Monday, December 22, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #161 - Quest for Glory III - Awari



Composed by: Rudy Helm

Today's Choicest VGM track is probably one of my favourite's in the game, even though it sounds almost comical and oafish. There's probably good reasons for it sounding that way since not only is it the track that plays when you play the game "Awari" (which is actually based off the real-life game Oware) but it serves as a theme song for the laibon's son, Yesufu ("laibon" is a title bestowed upon the leader of a Simbani tribe). Anyway, I had lots of fun playing Awari in Quest for Glory III and also befriending Yesufu as even though he seems rather naive at first, his curiosity, bravery and honour are all qualities that make him a good ally and ultimately a wise leader.

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

First Impressions - Ethan: Meteor Hunter


Yay! MOAR JUMPING PUZZLEZ!

I'm now in the situation where I'm just about out of time to complete a Game of the Year 2013 article for 2014 (WHAAAT?) but I don't have the time to finish the remaining games I wanted to review. So the only thing for it is to try out another game from my gloriously gargantuan backlog (I'm talking about my Steam games list of course). Anyway, I stumbled across... what do you know? Another platformer (how do I end up with these games)? That was a rhetorical question by the way since I know the answer consists of two words: "Humble Bundle".

Anyway I decided to give it a whirl and here are my first impressions on this puzzle platformer developed by French studio Seaven and featuring a rat named Ethan as its protagonist.

What I like

  • Interesting puzzle solving mechanic: You're able to solve jumping puzzles by pausing the game and then moving objects to help you access places you'd normally not be able to reach. You can even jump in mid-air, pause the game and drag a platform under you to prevent Ethan from falling into boiling lava. It's pretty neat and definitely the highlight of the game. Oh, you only get limited uses for "Pause Mode" too so it's not like you can use it all the time.
  • Simple Sonic style gameplay: When you're not trying to enter "Pause Mode" in order to solve puzzles, the game feels a lot like Sonic the Hedgehog in that your goal is to complete a level as quickly as possible with as many meteor fragments at the end as possible.
  • Reasonable production values: While the polygon count for Ethan himself seems pretty low, the animations are great and so is the audio.

What I dislike

  • Dead ends: Since the player is given the choice of when to restart from a previous checkpoint (besides the instances where you die) this means there's the potential for you to get stuck - like 1980s-graphical-adventure stuck where you're far into the game and only realise you weren't meant to eat that pie you obtained at the beginning: you were meant to use it in a food fight! Oh well, you'll have start from the beginning again. Okay, it's not quite that bad but you get my point, I hope.
  • Save points: I friggin' hate save points. Usually I can tolerate them to a degree and most of the time, save points are liberally distributed across the levels in Ethan: Meteor Hunter. There was one annoying pogostick level though which had no savepoints and you had to restart the level if you fell off the edge of the screen. Okay, I can appreciate it's trying to challenge the player but this is 2014 for Christ's sake - if you want to offer a challenge to the hardcore platformer players out there, create an Ironman mode where you have to finish the game in one sitting without losing a life. Then you can flaunt your e-peen and eat it too. Wait... what?
  • I'm not a big fan of platformers: Yes, I suppose it's quite apparent by now that I'm not actually a fan of platformers. I don't think a platformer has ever received 9/10 on Choicest Games with only two receiving an 8: Gunpoint and 140 - and only because they managed to try something different (or maybe because they're the only two platformers I'm actually any good at). I've always found platformers to suit a certain type of gamer: the kind that likes arcade or action titles, the kind that prefers to play with a gamepad, the kind that have super-human reflexes - all things I lack or dislike. I make an exception for First Person Shooters though - but probably because it's usually a keyboard and mouse affair - the way it ought to be.
  • Plot? What plot?: The game apparently has a plot although the game's intro left me wondering what the hell was going on. Some rat (Ethan) is mad with another rat (his neighbour). Then a meteor falls on top of Ethan's house and his neighbour laughs at his demise. Ethan gains superpowers thanks to the meteor and dumps some debris onto his neighbour. And that's it. Apparently, if you read other sources, Ethan is out to get revenge on his neighbour by collecting meteor fragments to become more powerful. I really don't see why you need superpowers in order to exact your revenge though...

Verdict

Hmmmm this post has turned out to be more of a soapbox for me to voice my distaste in platformers than a first impressions post dedicated in its entirety to Seaven Studio's Ethan: Meteor Hunter so I apologise to them if any of this sounds overly critical on them - it's not directed at them but the genre in general and I'm just tired of playing them over and over but if people like playing them so much, maybe I should get to work on developing one of my own, eh? ;). Anyway, Ethan: Meteor Hunter does some good things by trying to innovate the genre thanks to the solving of jumping puzzles using "Pause Mode" but I was burned once before by a game that seemed promising at the start - let's hope it doesn't happen again.

[ LINK: Official Ethan: Meteor Hunter website ]

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Stealth Bastard Deluxe Review

Not-so-stealthy bastard if I'm "FULLY VISIBLE"

  • Developer: Curve Studios
  • Publisher: Curve Digital
  • Release Date: 28 November 2012
  • Time played: 2 hours (INCOMPLETE)

I'm starting to lose track over who has gifted me particular games and according to Steam, Stealth Bastard Deluxe is one of those games. So, sorry in advance to whoever gifted me this game since I've forgotten who you are (but wherever you are, thanks)! One interesting bit of trivia is that Stealth Bastard Deluxe is yet another game that was created using Game Maker Studio and since its a stealth platformer game, it reminds me of Gunpoint to some degree while its humourous trolling of the player reminds of GLaDOS from Portal 2. Anyway, is the game actually any fun though after the short time I've played it?

Gameplay (4/5)
You play the role of a clone at some weird research facility with way too many traps, turrets, robots and security cameras to be taken seriously - it reminds me a lot of Aperture Science in good ol' Portal actually. Anyway, you can control the character quite easily with the keyboard and your job is to get your clone from one side of the level to the exit (a bit like Lemmings). Sounds pretty simple right? Well along the way you'll have to avoid turrets and security cameras by hiding in the shadows. Thankfully, the game lets you know when you're "Not Visible", "Partially Visible" or "Fully Visible" so you don't need to only rely on visual cues to check whether a nasty turret can see you or not. There are usually a whole bunch of doors you'll need to get through too so you'll be using a combination of stealth and puzzle solving in order to complete the levels.

It took me a few times on some levels before I finally managed to get to the exit, but usually this isn't too much of a problem since the game autosaves as you make progress throughout the level and once you've figured out what you need to do, everything falls into place. In fact, thanks to leaderboards with fastest times, the game actually encourages you to replay the level to try and beat the best times.

And there's not much else to say about the game. If you like stealth platformers, then you'll like Stealth Bastard Deluxe.

Apparently there's nothing more dangerous than a robot who is a union member

Sound (5/5)
Not much in the way of sound effects (besides klaxons, gunfire, and the sound of squishing flesh and bone - which you'll probably hear quite often) but what's in the game, works.

Music (4/5)
The game has an appealing electronic soundtrack courtesy of Ricky Honmong.

Graphics (3/5)
The game has a retro graphics style also employing a CRT scan line effect to give the impression you're probably viewing the game via surveillance footage.

Replay (2/5)
Yes, I didn't finish the game but I think 2 hours was enough to experience what the game is all about. In those 2 hours I completed what seemed to be about a quarter of the game so there's probably at least 8-10 hours of gameplay overall and that's excluding any community levels. The game also has Steam Trading Cards and Steam Achievements to collect.

Polish (5/5)
No serious bugs encountered and its simple enough to pick up the game (the game's keys and your character's abilities are slowly introduced through the levels).

Score – 7/10

If you're into retro platformer games where you have to rely on stealth in order to survive, then Stealth Bastard Deluxe is definitely worth a look, especially considering it's less then two bucks at the moment thanks to Steam sales.

Stealth Bastard Deluxe is available from these retailers:
  • Steam - $1.49 USD (due to Steam Sale - normally $9.99 USD)

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

[ LINK: Official Stealth Bastard website ]