Monday, June 27, 2016

Choicest VGM - VGM #236 - Sid Meier's Colonization - Pizarro at Cuzco (Amiga)



Original Soundtrack composed by: Jeffery L. Briggs, Ken Lagace and Roland J. Rizzo

Amiga Soundtrack by: Allister Brimble and Anthony Putson

Here we have another short track that plays when you meet one of the two "major" native American tribes in the game. I say "major" because only the Incans and Aztecs get their own theme music compared to the many other tribes represented in the game such as the Iroquois, Cherokee, Arawak, etc. "Pizarro at Cuzco" is obviously the theme for the Incans but just as the title of the track suggests, it's a desolate, depressing affair - very much the yin to the Aztec's yang, as "Tenochtitlan" is very much a happy theme filled with hope. It's not one of my favourite tracks to listen to, but it's definitely a memorable one, which is why it's listed here on Choicest VGM.

This track is from the Amiga version of the game which sounds quite superior to the DOS version, so I'll probably just end up using these tracks instead of the good ol' MIDI tracks of the DOS version :). The original soundtrack was composed by Jeffery L. Briggs, Ken Lagace and Roland J. Rizzo but the Amiga version was composed by Allister Brimble and Anthony Putson (and they're definitely no strangers to composing music for PC games :)).

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #236 - Sid Meier's Colonization - Pizarro at Cuzco (Amiga) ]


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Return NULL - Episode 1 Review

Ah... nothing like the view of the Lower City and its downtrodden inhabitants

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Michael L├╝ckgen
  • Publisher: Digital Tribe/iNDEE SOLO
  • Release Date: 3 April 2015
  • Time played: 50 minutes

You know how it is with Steam, especially when you end up with a huge library of hundreds or even thousands of games: you eventually forget how you ended up with certain games. That's the case with this one Return NULL Episode 1. If I recall correctly, I managed to nab this game as a freebie from Mix-Master (if you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know he is a generous fellow who has probably donated 1/5 of the games in my Steam library) - so thanks again Mix-Master!

As you can tell by the title, this game is only the first episode in what is planned to be a trilogy. In this first episode, you play this guy:



No wait, wrong Drebin. I mean you play an ex-cop named Jack Drebin in a dystopian future where your life goes downhill pretty fast for reasons you'll find out in the first few minutes of the game. The game boasts 14 interactive hand-drawn locations, 10 unique characters , a "unique indie European comic art style" (whatever that means), 7 tracks of music and an "innovative, real-time gunplay mechanic".

Doesn't sound too bad, but is it actually any good?

What I like:


Sci-fi adventure

I love a good sci-fi adventure and Return NULL happens to be one of them. The game is set in a cyberpunk, dystopian future where climate change has wreaked havoc upon the world and caused social upheaval as a result. Crime is rampant and the only means to segregate the population is have the lower city as a prison for undesirables. Things aren't what they seem though and as usual there's a big conspiracy that needs to be uncovered.

Neat music

Yeah there are some cool sci-fi tunes in this game but there are a couple that can get repetitive at times.

Multiple paths?

This is still a question mark for me. There are a couple of times you get to make a choice (at least that I'm aware of) - once at the beginning of the episode and once at the end of the episode. The first decision seems to make no difference on the outcome (at least in this episode) and the second decision does result in two different outcomes, but the episode ends on a cliff-hanger so I have no idea how both outcomes can be resolved until I play the second episode.

Steam Trading Cards

You can collect Steam Trading Cards, although since the game is so short I haven't even generated my first one out of three...

What I dislike:


Short

The biggest criticism with the episode is that it’s only 30 minutes long. I've only clocked 50 minutes because I replayed the game to test whether you could get multiple paths or not. Thankfully, the developer has given the episode a fair price.

Really easy puzzles

For any point ‘n’ click adventure veterans, the puzzles in the game are incredibly easy and won’t pose much of a challenge.

Not many rooms

There are only a handful of rooms you can visit in this game so you don’t really get to explore much – although considering there aren’t many puzzles to solve either, the ratio in terms of rooms to puzzles is probably fine.

Amateurish artwork

Well they did say the art style was "unique" but to me that translates to a very amateurish art style where the characters don't have a consistent look.

Not much in terms of animation

The game contains comic book style cut-scenes and there’s very little in the way of animations. Consequently, the game has more in common with a visual novel than a traditional point ‘n’ click adventure.

"Innovative" gunplay mechanic

Look, I actually like the addition of this gunplay mechanic since it offers a mini-game or something a bit different to the rest of the game which is like a mix of a point 'n' click adventure and visual novel - but I'm not entirely sure if I would consider it "innovative" - I'm pretty sure I saw something similar to this in Gemini Rue...

No Steam screenshots

F12 doesn't take Steam screenshots.

Score – 6/10 (Okay)

Episode 1 of Return NULL is good for half an hour of simple puzzles but the game has low production values and it shows. The episode does end on a cliff-hanger with two potential outcomes depending on which choice you make - so maybe you'll get to see the consequences of your choices in the next episode - but then again, maybe not as there's no evidence in the current episode that choices matter. Will I get the second episode? Well considering it's only $0.59 USD on this Steam sale, most likely.

Is the game worth $1.99 USD?: Yes. Despite it being short, there is some traditional point 'n' click problem solving here.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Official Return NULL Website ]

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

King's Quest - Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb Review

Girl in the TOOooOWEER, I'm reaching out - PLEASE tell me what to DooOOoO
  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: The Odd Gentlemen
  • Publisher: Sierra
  • Release Date: 27 April 2016
  • Time played: 4.6 hours

Once Upon a Climb is the name of the third chapter for The Odd Gentlemen's King's Quest, published by the new Sierra. Set roughly at the same time as King's Quest II (which I played recently), this chapter is a re-telling of how King Graham finds his future wife Valanice, and when I say “re-telling", it's almost a totally different version of events: Yes, there's a witch called Hagatha. Yes, there's a tower where Valanice is imprisoned in. Yes, Graham has to go to the kingdom of Kolyma to rescue her, but besides the things I've already mentioned, everything is different.

What I like:


Dating simulator!

Once again, King's Quest straddles between the adventure genre and something else. In the second chapter, the game felt a lot like a survival management simulator along the lines of The Organ Trail or The Banner Saga where you have to manage limited resources to ensure your party's survival. In this chapter, your goal is to woo your future wife since there isn't just one Valanice, but two (okay, mild spoiler but it's not that far into the game when you discover this)!

I personally found this better than the original King's Quest II since, despite it probably staying very true to how fairy tales work, princesses immediately falling in love with their rescuer and marrying them is usually a recipe for disaster.

Music

Just like the previous chapters, the music in King's Quest is top notch, borrowing themes used in previous games. This time however, not only did David Stanton (composer for King's Quest) borrow themes from King's Quest V but King's Quest VI as well, most notably... GIRL IN THE TOOoOOOOOWWWEER



*Ahem*

Which is apropos considering that's what this chapter is all about (or maybe it should be renamed "Girls in the Tower"?).

Voice acting

You've still got the same veteran voice actors from previous chapters and they're doing new characters - which just goes to show how versatile they are! You also have Cherami Leigh playing the role of the lovable (although some would say ditzy) Neese.

References to the original series

Just like previous chapters, there are quite a few references to the original King's Quest games. My favourite one occurs right at the beginning of the chapter where you have a passage of time puzzle and are responsible in determining whether an iconic King's Quest V character lives or dies.

The puns are laid on thick in this chapter

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, out comes Once Upon a Climb where the puns are laid on thick – especially when you attempt to out-pun (is that even a word?) one of your potential wives.

Dedicated to Valanice

Despite the game following the life of King Graham, we've also learned a bit more about his family in the first two chapters, especially his grandchildren. This chapter is well and truly dedicated to Valanice, King Graham's wife and the choices you make during this chapter will ultimately affect who Valanice actually is, including all her likes, dislikes and character traits.

Sympathetic take on an old villain

This seems to be all the rage nowadays, with books like “Wicked" (which became a popular Broadway musical) giving reinterpretations on classic tales (“The Wizard of Oz" in this case) and making out the villains (The Wicked Witch of the West) into tragic characters. A similar thing happens here with Once Upon a Climb and I like it.

What I dislike:


Seems a bit rushed

Just like Chapter 2, Once Upon a Climb feels a bit rushed, especially towards the end of the game. While the character development with Neese and Val gets off to a good start, towards the end of the game you'll notice there'll be a string of random quests with very little plot or character development in between, giving the impression that some content may have been cut out or not completed in time.

Controls

Using a mix of mouse and keyboard can be confusing at times. Usually, I just thought of them as alternate ways of doing the same thing but there is one part in the game where you cannot rely on the mouse alone and if you do, you'll miss out on the solution to a rather obvious puzzle. In fact, I knew exactly what needed to be done but since I never figured out how to select a particular object (until reading a walkthrough) I spent almost an hour trying different combinations when the solution was staring at me straight in the face the whole time.
Not as long as the first chapter.

Not as long as the first chapter

This actually doesn't bother me that much but some people might not like the fact that the third chapter, similar to the second, is only about three hours long (I took four hours because I got stuck on a puzzle).

Score – 8/10 (Excellent)

Once Upon a Climb is a contemporary revision of the events in King's Quest II and I must say, I prefer this version better: Valanice isn't two-dimensional like she was in King's Quest II, Hagatha is portrayed in a sympathetic light and how can you beat the addition of GIRL IN THE TooOOOWER as part of the soundtrack? The chapter does feel a bit rushed though and like Rubble Without a Cause, is shorter than the first chapter.

Is the game worth $9.99 USD?: Yes. While this chapter is still not as long as the first chapter it feels more light-hearted than the darkness and moral ambiguity of the second chapter – so it felt more like a King's Quest title.

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

[ LINK: Official King's Quest Website ]