Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Choicest Games now a Steam Curator

Choicest Games now a Steam Curator

For those that are regular Steam users, you've probably noticed that there's been a major revamp to the Steam Store Page. While it's debatable on whether some of these new features actually makes things easier or simply add more clutter to the front page, one feature I do like is the idea of the "Steam Curator". Basically it allows anyone with an existing Steam group (e.g. my official steam group for the blog) to be able to recommend games on Steam. So how is this different to the existing system where individuals could recommend/review games? There isn't much difference except it now allows groups of people to recommend games under one banner or review sites (such as Choicest Games) to add their own two cents.

Consequently, I've joined the hundreds of other Steam Curators (although this will undoubtedly increase exponentially) by adding Choicest Games to the mix. There's currently 36 recommendations based on games that have received a score of 8/10 or higher on this blog, from 2008 to the present.

If you happen to be a Steam user, please consider following the official Choicest Games Steam Curator page - or join the official group for some discussion :).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #149 - The Ur-Quan Masters - Spathi - Safe Haven

Composed by: Eric Berge
Remixed by: Jouni Airaksinen

This is a remix of the music which plays when you meet the cowardly race known as the Spathi - and when I say they're cowardly, that's not meant as an insult, it's actually one of their racial traits! Their fear and paranoia actually worked to their advantage though, causing them to advance from the Bronze Age to the Space Age within only 100 years, due to their fear of teddy-bear like creatures known as "the Evil Ones". Since being a coward is so deeply ingrained in Spathi culture, even their ships, aptly named "Eluders", are best at speeding away from enemies and firing torpedoes whilst they retreat.

The original track by Eric Berge sounds quite comical, probably because the Spathi were one of the "comic relief" races in the game (although most of the races are to some degree). Jouni Airaksinen's remix is, I daresay, even better at channelling what goes through the minds of all Spathi: living in a state of utter panic fearing each day will be their last!

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pinball FX2 Review

The Sorcerer's Lair Table is available to play for free

  • Developer: Zen Studios
  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Release Date: 10 May 2013
  • Time played: 4 hours

I remember playing the occasional pinball game in my youth - they were always a bit of an oddity though, being placed right next to the best the games industry had to offer at the video arcades. Back then, they didn't really offer much competition to flashier games with seemingly superior gameplay such as Outrun, Street Fighter 2 or Sega Rally. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find a pinball machine at the video arcades but I suppose their rarity and the fact they're artifacts of a bygone era makes me appreciate them more in my old age. It's a bit like us telling young whippersnappers that "back in my day, we didn't have optical media, we used cassette tapes!" It's basically nostalgia but unlike the nostalgia I have when foolishly buying games off GOG, this is nostalgia for something I never really got into.

So how on Earth did I get into it? A Steam friend of mine (thanks Corto) got me into the game when it first came out and he's known as a bit of a Pinball Wizard on the Whirlpool Forums. As he's such a choice bloke I thought I'd give it a shot just to see what all the fuss is about and whether the latest in digital pinball games were actually any fun.

Gameplay (3/5)
It's pinball. There's not really much else to be said since if you don't like pinball, you're probably going to hate this game too. If you're a big fan, from what I can tell this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the real thing, but digital pinball games have been around for a long time so there's been plenty of time to get it right. There is quite a bit of variety with the tables on offer with respect to their layouts and there's currently over 40 tables to acquire (provided you have the funds) including ones based on popular franchises such as Star Wars, Marvel and The Walking Dead. If you're not interested in any of that though, you're able to play one table called "Sorcerer's Lair" for free.

Sound (3/5)
Sound effects are great but the voice acting can be quite hammy at times and sounds abysmal for certain Marvel characters. Obviously it's probably too expensive to get the actual film actors to do any of the voice acting but it would've been nice if there was more effort in mimicking their accents.

"NOOOOO!" just isn't the same without James Earl Jones

Music (3/5)
The music is fine and whenever possible, they'll use licensed music (e.g. the Imperial March for Star Wars). My favourite track has to be the one that plays for the El Dorado table. Can't get enough of that Peruvian flute music!

Graphics (5/5)
All the tables I've played so far look pretty realistic except for the fact that some tables have characters walking across the table or flying around it - but hey it's a digital pinball table right? Why should we let little things like that get in the way of a bit of fun?

Replay (3/5)
I've played the game for approximately 4 hours now but that's actually quite a few playthroughs considering it only takes 5-10 minutes to play one game (well at least I only take that long since admittedly, I'm not very good)! That means I've probably played about 30 games so far.

I'll probably continue to play Pinball FX2 for a good time yet though mainly because of the fact it only takes a few minutes to play a game. It's one of those games that are ideal when you don't have the time to commit to a longer game or want something to just fill in some time (like a lot of casual games). There are also several pinball tables to choose from based on popular franchises and there are new ones being added all the time meaning you're likely to be spoilt for choice.

The game also compares your high scores with any other Steam friends that have played the same tables with you further increasing the game's replay value.

Polish (5/5)
No noticeable bugs in this game and the controls scheme with respect to the keyboard seems satisfactory.

Score – 7/10

If you're a fan of pinball or want a game that you can play for 5-10 minutes at a time, Pinball FX2 is highly recommended, especially considering they're based on such popular franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel Superheroes. The only thing I could really fault is that some of the tables have pretty terrible voice acting that would've benefited from the film voice actors or good impersonators. Besides this minor flaw though I suspect I'll be enjoying Pinball FX2 for a long time to come, especially considering gaming time has become such a precious resource at my stage in life. Also, did I mention that you're able to get the first table, Sorcerer's Lair for free?

Pinball FX2 is available from these retailers:

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[ LINK: Official Pinball FX website ]