Thursday, January 29, 2015

Top 10 MA-Rated Games on Choicest Games

Bioshock Infinite - one of the top 10 MA15+ games on Choicest Games

Finally we come to the top 10 MA-Rated Games on Choicest Games. I've previously covered the top 10 G-Rated Games, PG-rated games and M-rated games so this is going to be the final one in this series. "But wait," you say. "What about R18+ rated games?" Well, I've definitely reviewed a few R18+ titles (namely South Park: The Stick of Truth, The Walking Dead Season 2, Far Cry Blood Dragon and Mars: War Logs) but there's simply not enough of them to make a top 10 list.

In Australia, media that is rated "MA15+" or "MA" means the content is legally restricted to mature audiences of 15 years old and above. This means a person may be asked to show their proof of age before purchasing an MA15+ game. However, if you do so in the presence of a parent or guardian, then it's fine - so long as it's the actual parents or the guardian is over 18. MA15+ games are meant to contain content that is strong in impact, which means sex scenes, strong coarse language and strong violence. Here are the top 10 to feature on Choicest Games:

  1. Mass Effect 2
  2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  3. Mass Effect 3
  4. Battlefield 3
  5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  6. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  7. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  8. Left 4 Dead
  9. Fallout 3
  10. Bioshock Infinite

MA15+ rated games are by far the most represented on Choicest Games. So if I take into account all the 36 MA-rated games that I've reviewed on Choicest Games, what kind of genres made this list? This is what they tended to be:

  • First Person Shooters
  • First Person RPGs
  • Third Person Shooters
  • RPGs
  • Hack 'n' Slash Action RPGs
  • Turn-based Tactics
  • Adventure games based on comic books

There aren't actually many genres that come under the MA15+ rating it seems and they're mostly shooters, which makes sense as usually a sign of a good shooter is realism, which usually means lots of blood and gore. Other popular genres such as Real-Time Strategy games, MMORPGs, racing games, sports games and puzzle games seem to be scarce when it comes to the MA15+ rating.

The MA15+ rating used to be the highest rating for games in Australia until the recent addition of an R18+ rating. However, that still hasn't stopped some games being refused classification outright (which is the equivalent of banning the game from being sold in the country).

Also, statistics for statistics sake:

  • Total number of games reviewed that are rated "MA15+": 36
  • Highest rating for an "MA15+" game: 9/10
  • Lowest rating for an "MA15+" game: 5/10

And that's all for the Top 10 games on Choicest Games by Australian Classification Rating! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Where are they now? - Tom Hall

Commander Keen - one of Tom Hall's most famous creations

The next person to feature on "Where are they now?" is one that has already featured on this blog and has also collaborated many times with the bloke that featured last week. Tom Hall is I believe one of the most important developers in PC gaming due to his contributions to well-loved games such as Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Rise of the Triad and Anachronox. However, how did he get his start in PC game development and what is he up to nowadays?

Hall was born in Wisconsin in 1964 and when he became of age (I'm guessing in the early 1980s) graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Computer Science. During the early 1980s, Tom worked on several games on his Apple II+ he purchased in 1980, many in BASIC.

In 1987 he got a job working at Softdisk as a programmer and editor, and it is here that he would eventually meet John Romero, John Carmack and Adrian Carmack. Hall worked on several games there before he co-founded id Software with Romero and the Carmacks in 1991.

1990 and 1991 were busy years for Hall and his colleagues at id Software. Hall was designer on all the Commander Keen games that were released during those years and is responsible for creating the much loved PC gaming icon, the Dopefish (who features in Commander Keen 4). Hall was also director on 1992's Wolfenstein 3D and the Creative Director on id's 1993 hit DOOM.

Due to some disputes over the gore and violence in DOOM, Hall left id Software in 1993 and moved to Apogee/3D Realms. There he worked on the writing for 1994's Hocus Pocus, as the Creative Director on 1994's Rise of the Triad and Co-Producer for 1995's Terminal Velocity.

Hall left in Apogee/3D Realms in 1996 to form Ion Storm with former id Software colleague, John Romero. Ion Storm produced the legendary computer game Deus Ex but Hall was responsible for 2001's best-game-you-never-played, Anachronox - one of my favourite RPGs of all time. It was this year that Hall and Romero left Ion Storm to found Monkeystone Games which focused on the development of mobile games. Hall worked on a few games here such as Hyperspace Delivery Boy!, Congo Cube, Jewels and Jim and Dig It! before leaving in 2003 with Romero to join Midway Games.

At Midway Games, Hall worked as Creative Director on 2005's NARC and Writer on 2005's Area-51. He also left in 2005 to join Kingsisle Entertainment, a company specialising in Massively Multiplayer Online games.

Hall suffered a stroke in 2010 but fortunately recovered and in 2011 joined Romero's company Loot Drop which specialises in developing games for social media. He was Creative Director for 2012's Pettington Park before launching a Kickstarter project in 2013 for a project called Worlds of Wander. The project promised to be a spiritual successor to Commander Keen and also double as a tool for developing platform games. Unfortunately the project only received $107,766 of its $400,000 target and never saw the light of day.

The last thing that Hall posted on his personal blog is that he joined the company PlayFirst (famous for their Diner Dash games) as Principal Designer. According to his Twitter feed, that still seems to be the case. But what of Hall's awesome legacy? Games like Commander Keen and Anachronox? Will he ever make games like those again? I really hope so since I have really fond memories of them.

[ Wikipedia: Tom Hall ]
[ Twitter: Tom Hall ]
[ Mobygames: Tom A. Hall ]
[ Tom Hall's Blog ]
[ Worlds of Wander Kickstarter ]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

First Impressions - Grim Fandango Remastered

Gotta love that Art Deco lobby

Wow it wasn't long ago that I talked about another game that was remastered but here we go again. This time, it's a classic adventure game which was coincidentally developed around the same time as the first Resident Evil in the late 1990s. I'm talking about Grim Fandango, a classic Lucasarts adventure game set in an Aztec-inspired but Art-Deco styled afterlife. You play the role of Manny Calavera ("calavera" is Spanish for "skull" - you learn something new everyday) a travel agent with the Department of Death who reaps souls from the Land of the Living and then arranges to give them luxury transportation for their journey through the nine levels of the afterlife. How well someone has lived their lives dictates whether they can afford better transportation - so a saint would be able to afford the coveted Number 9 train that takes you to the ninth level of eternal rest in 4 minutes instead of 4 years (or at least that's what Manny says as part of his sales pitch). Manny isn't getting any "good" customers as of late and it's up to you to get to the bottom of it.

It's obviously a very unique world, one that hasn't really been replicated (except maybe for Guacamelee! which is obviously inspired by Grim Fandango). Consequently its an interesting setting plus its previous critical successes should at least pique the interest of the younger generation who haven't played the original before. For those of us, like me, who have played the original though, is it worth buying again?

Well the answer is easy in my case since I've misplaced my original copy somewhere - so a new remastered, digital copy is a no-brainer :). For the rest of you, here's what you've got to look forward to:

What I like

  • Very faithful remaster: Just as it was with the recently released Resident Evil remaster, this is a very faithful one. In fact, so much so I don't think any scenes or puzzles have changed. The voice acting hasn't been touched either.
  • High-res textures: The guys at Double Fine have applied high-res textures to all the character models so they're looking a lot sharper nowadays than they used to back in 1998.
  • Redone soundtrack: I haven't really noticed any differences between the new soundtrack and the old one but apparently it's been redone so it's higher quality. They must've done a pretty good job if it's that seamless!
  • Point 'n' click: You're now able to play the game with just the mouse like a traditional point 'n' click adventure! Yay! You can still use the old method of controlling Manny too if you wish.

What I don't like

  • Not totally point 'n' click: While they have given you the option to just use a mouse to move around the screen and interact with objects, it's still not exactly like traditional point 'n' clicks since you still have the old inventory system which involves cycling through objects and then making the object the "active" object before you can interact with things. It would've been nice if they would've allowed you to just drag and drop items from your inventory but obviously that would've required more work.
  • Low-res backgrounds: While the character models have received the high-res treatment the backgrounds have not - they're exactly the same as the original. This means it's even more apparent how much things have changed when you've got the high-res Manny walking around the garage to meet a low-res Glottis stumbling out of his hut (only for Glottis to turn into a high-res version of himself after the animation is complete).
  • Character models: The character models are still the old character models which means a low polygon count (which isn't too much of a problem) and lots of clipping (something I think they could've done a better job on)
  • Maybe a bit pricey?: The game is $15 USD which is more expensive than the Monkey Island remake. Admittedly this is a 3D adventure game and not a 2D one and some things have been altered (like the ability to use point 'n' click) but it still has to be mentioned.


This is exactly what I expected from a remastered version of the game - well almost. While there are very occasional graphical glitches and the clipping of the polygons make the character models look out-of-date (despite the high-res textures) everything else is the way it should be - and you can finally play the game as a point 'n' click adventure too! I'm just happy Grim Fandango is available on PC again so that everyone can enjoy its greatness - however, I'm still not going to type out that review until I've finished the game again :).

[ LINK: Official Grim Fandango Remastered website ]