Monday, March 30, 2009

Tropico: Paradise Island Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Tropico: Paradise Island Original Game Soundtrack

  • Label: LMS Records

  • Composer(s): Daniel Indhart, Jesus A. Perez, Lucho Campillo and Oscar Luis Morejon

  • Number of Tracks: 14

One day, somehow the tunes from the most excellent game Tropico and its expansion pack, Paradise Island crept slowly into my head and once again I found myself humming to the Latin American beats. One thing led to another and then I thought, "Man, I seem to love this music so much, surely I can buy it somewhere online?" - Sure enough, the most excellent online music store, CD Baby had copies of the soundtrack to Tropico and its expansion pack Paradise Island. I deliberated over which one to get but eventually settled for Paradise Island since it had slightly more memorable tracks, at least in my humble opinion. Within only a few days, I received the CD. So let's see if it was worth the $34.75 (including shipping and handling) that I paid for!

Artistic Merit (79%)
The music on this track is I must admit, an acquired taste. I guess the closest parallel to a popular group I can make with this sort of music is the Buena Vista Social Club - after all, Tropico is a thinly veiled parody of Cuba anyway, so why not have Cuban styled music to accompany it? So if you don't like this sort of music from the start, it's going to be hard to like the album - but even if you're not a fan of the music, you have to appreciate the genius of getting live Latin American music on this soundtrack, it just fits the game so well.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that all tracks on this album aren't filler - they're all decent songs in their own right and quite a few stand out as well. You've got of course the memorable Main Menu music, Perrito Callejero (which when translated into Altavista Babel Fish, mentions something about a small dog, which makes sense since there's some barking in the song), then you've got one of my favourites, La Promesa (which includes not only the in-game version but the full vocal one too) and Morena Cafe, which has a really repetitive chorus, but trust me, you'll be humming/singing the chorus for years to come whenever you're outside relaxing with a cup of coffee on a fine, sunny day. The music oozes the Caribbean and just makes you wish you were there. In fact all the tracks by Daniel Indhart (the primary composer/arranger for the album) and Luis Carlos Campillo are gems. Jesus Alejandro Perez-Alvarez and Oscar Luis Morejon's contributions aren't exactly push-overs either.

Value (100% - Good)
Quite frankly, I think the Tropico and Paradise Island soundtrack is up there with my all-time favourite game soundtracks since it gels so well with the game that just listening to the music makes you think you're playing it (or even better, sipping a cocktail on a beach of a Caribbean island!).

Length (50% - Average)
The length of the album is average and is similar in length to more conventional albums out there with 14 tracks of 2-6 minutes each.

Total Score: 76%
If you're interested in the album, check out CD Baby, they were quite punctual with their service and I had no problems.

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Game Music of the Day - Streets of the Rage

I believe I had this game on the Sega Game Gear (the only claim to a console I could really have as a kid) and may have even played it at a friend's place on the Megadrive. The music in the game was fantastic, it's hard to describe it since it's a mix of several styles, which is quite an accomplishment with the limited audio you had in the day.

Yuzo Koshiro was the mastermind behind the music. He still composes music for games and live performances of his compositions are sometimes heard during live VGM concerts.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bioware reveals some information on Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2

Bioware has revealed a bit of information after a couple of interviews done by GameTrailers. Check out the video here:

To summarise the info about Dragon Age: Origins (even though some is already known):

- Game is spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate
- It's going to have a dark and gritty feel to it

- There are six distinct "Origin Stories" - although each Origin Story can be quite a bit different depending on how you create your character. One such story is apparently very different depending on if you play a male or female character.

- You can start off playing as a Warrior, Rogue or Mage (Hmmmm Diablo 1 anyone?)

- The Project Director, Dan Tudge, commented that one of his favourite sequences in the game was when in one of the Origin Stories, he decided to leave his friend behind, only to find several hours later in the game, he discovers a man in a cage which actually happens to be the friend he left earlier. He has a chance to redeem himself by saving him.

To summarise the info about Mass Effect 2:

- The game is aimed at further exploring what happened to the Reapers, what is Humanity's place in the galaxy, and how the rest of the galaxy reacts now knowing that there is a greater threat out there.

- The Project Director, Casey Hudson, still didn't reveal whether Sheperd is dead or not, but mentioned that all will be revealed at E3 (which will occur in June)

- You may be able to see the game from different viewpoints

- Importing your old save game will mean a different start to the game than people who start from scratch

- There is mention of the "Elusive Man" in the book Ascension, apparently he is going to make an appearance in Mass Effect 2 (I've yet to read the book, D'oh!)

- There is no space combat in Mass Effect 2 but there are plans to do it at some stage in the Mass Effect franchise

- When asked about whether there'd be an alien sex scene, Casey mentions that romances will be done as well as they were in Mass Effect 1. You can however take even more people on your missions so that means even more romance options.

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Game Music of the Day - Day of the Tentacle

And following Maniac Mansion, now here is its sequel, Day of the Tentacle. A hilarious Lucasarts adventure game that have you playing not one character, but three in different time periods - one 200 years in the past, one in the present and one 200 years in the future. The game had memorable humour and lines (so much so that I can still recite many scenes from the game today :( - sad but true). The music was great too, it made it feel like a cartoon feature film.

This time around, it was Clint Bajakian, Peter McConnell and Michael Land who composed the music. Clint actually worked on the soundtracks for many Lucasarts soundtracks before leaving the company in 2000. He still composes for games, one of the more recent ones being Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. Peter McConnell is also a Lucasarts music veteran, however he also seems to be the composer of choice for another Lucasarts veteran, Tim Schafer as he did the music for Psychonauts and for the upcoming release, Brutal Legend. Michael Land of course needs no further introduction as he was mentioned in the previous article and he is of course, another Lucasarts veteran with several titles to his name :).

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Game Music of the Day - Maniac Mansion

Once again another Lucasarts adventure game. I never actually played the original when it first came out but the choice thing about its sequel, Day of the Tentacle, was that it was included for free when you used the Commodore 64 in Weird Ed's room. Neat huh?

The music was apparently composed by several composers: George Alistair Sanger, David Govett, David Hayes, David Warhol, Christopher Grigg and David Lawrence. I couldn't find much information on the composers except of course George Alistair Sanger, aka "The Fat Man". He's composed for several well known classic games such as Wing Commander, the 7th Guest and Ultima Underworld to name a few.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Game Music of the Day - Secret of Monkey Island

Ah one of my favourite adventure games of all time, good ol' Monkey Island, that introduced the world to insult sword-fighting (apparently they were written by Orson Scott Card too!), vegetarian cannibals and Stan the salesman! The soundtrack was a most excellent mix of calypso and reggae that fits its Caribbean setting like a glove.

The music was principally done by Michael Land but there were also three others: Barney Jones, Patric Mundy and Andy Newell. Unfortunately there's little information on Patric, but there's a bit on the rest. Barney Jones apparently formed Earwax Productions and composes music for all sorts of things like feature films, commercials and of course, computer games. Andy has won many awards for the music he's done, winning 28 Clio Awards for excellence in advertising, 2 Emmys and Academy Award honours for being on the sound effects editing team for Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 2 Silver Lions and many more.

Michael Land of course was a composer for many of the old Lucasarts games, scoring soundtracks for the Monkey Island games, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, X-Wing and many more.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Game Music of the Day - Sonic the Hedgehog

I remember playing Sonic heaps on my friend's Sega Megadrive and I also had it plus its sequel on the Sega Game Gear (the only console I could really claim to have owned as a kid!). The music was memorable and suited the various zones you zoomed through.

Masato Nakamura, the composer of the music for Sonic the Hedgehog and its sequel, actually is a member of a Japanese pop/jazz band called Dreams Come True and also founded the record studio DCT Records.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More Trailers

Got some more trailers here for upcoming games. Some are kind of old but check them out :):

Alpha Protocol

Diablo III Wizard Trailer

The Sims 3 AI Trailer

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Game Music of the Day - Dynablaster

Ah Dynablaster (aka Bomberman II) - I really enjoyed the simplicity yet sheer fun of this game - and it was a blast (no pun intended) playing 4 player deathmatch. It's often the most simple ideas, that being blow up your friends with a giant bomb, that work so well with games! The music was kind of catchy too, and we have Atsushi Chikuma to thank for that. Atsushi (aka June) has mainly worked on music for the Bomberman series and according to MobyGames, her most recent work was on Bomberman Tournament in 2001.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Mass Effect 2 Teaser Trailer

Okay the news is about a month old, but I never actually got around to watching the teaser trailer. It's interesting since it appears that Commander Shepard has turned into one of the Geth! Reading the Wikipedia article it seems the writers there are in denial that Commander Shepard could possibly be dead and turned evil, but what's to say he isn't? Knights of the Old Republic 2 did a similar thing in that your character from the first game, becomes the catalyst for events in the second - and depending on how you remember the character, changes the story.

Anyway, it's encouraged me to read the next Mass Effect book, Ascension, after thoroughly enjoying the first one, Revelation. I've booked my order for the... uh... book, and now it's time to wait :).

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Game Music of the Day - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Anyone remember Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I suppose many would, considering it was popular enough for them to reprise the series for a newer generation. Well there was a pretty awesome four-player arcade game based on the cartoon series and there were some console versions, one of them being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. The music tended to weave the main theme song into it whenever possible, but there were some funky tracks of music in their own right peppered throughout the soundtrack.

The music was composed by a trio: Mutsuhiko Izumi, Miki Higashino and Keizou Nakamura. Mutsuhiko most recently wrote music for some percussion/guitar based arcade games, Miki is famed for her work on the Suikoden series and Keizou.. well... poor Keizou has hardly any information on him lying about the Internet (although apparently a Keizou Nakamura was responsible for directing some Eureka Seven episodes - wonder if he's any relation?)

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Game Music of the Day - Double Dragon

Today's game music of the day is Double Dragon. I remember playing this a a kid on the arcades back in Abu Dhabi and it was heaps of fun - probably the first side scroller beat 'em up again I ever played (which was a popular genre in the late 80's to early 90's - Final Fight, Captain Commando, Streets of Rage, Captain America and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are other classics that come to mind). The music also reflected the period very well too and even though it was a series of beeps and squeaks, it got the adrenaline pumping :).

Kazunaka Yamane was the composer for the Double Dragon games but unfortunately there's not much more information on him besides that.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Game Music of the Day - Super Mario Bros.

After being disappointed with the lack of PC game music in the top 100 listed in the last post, I had a further search on YouTube for a better selection of games that would rate on my list. I managed to find one and began to bookmark the several games that I deemed to have pretty damn good soundtracks. Over the next few days I'll run Game Music of the Day articles which will have a link to one of garudoh's excellent selection of videos and a bit of info on the game and composer.

So without further ado, the first game to be mentioned could be none other than Super Mario Bros. The theme tune to this game is of course, very popular and even non-nerds can easily identify the theme. Mario is of course now Nintendo's mascot and there are still games being released with this iconic character.

The man in the photo is Koji Kondo, the composer of the music behind Super Mario Bros. actually composed music for several other Nintendo titles. He still composes music for Nintendo to this day, his most recent work being Wii Music in 2008.

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Top100GameMusic's VGM

Stumbled upon a YouTube channel named "Top100GameMusic" and a playlist for the top 100 music from video games. Unfortunately, I didn't know or like most of the music since I never really got into console games (which is what most of the music is from) - however he did pick some gems from the PC scene. Here are my picks:

#84 Various Monkey Island themes

#76 Terran music from Starcraft

#36 The Stone Age in Age of Empires

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Apologies to Capcom... sort of

It would seem that somehow re-installing the game changed things and it now accepted my serial number! Have no idea why installation wouldn't work the first time, but there you go, anyone who has serial key problems with Age of Booty try reinstalling the game to see if that works.

So I'm sorry for bad-mouthing the game before - I'm still frustrated that it's using SecuROM and it wasn't installed correctly the first time, but what can you do?

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Call of Duty 5 Review

Call of Duty 5 (aka World at War) is Treyarch’s second foray into the Call of Duty franchise, after their reportedly dismal effort with Call of Duty 3. I’m not going to pass judgement since I’ve never played Call of Duty 3. My experiences of the Call of Duty series are primarily from the classic original and a bit of Call of Duty 2. Apparently (I also can’t confirm this completely) this game borrows the Call of Duty 4 engine except now it’s set back in a World War II setting. Yes, I know, you’re thinking, “haven’t they done WWII to death yet?” Apparently not if you hear recent news that there’s going to be a Battlefield 1943 – and speaking of which, both of these games feature a front that hasn’t been touched as frequently before: the Pacific front, where Japanese forces continuously ambush the United States, island to island, jungle to jungle.

Call of Duty 5 Single Player Campaign Gameplay Video

Sound (3/5)
The game has good sound effects, both for the weapons and ambience. Voice acting is generally very good too except a certain Russian sergeant CAN…. BE….A….NNOYING…SOME…TIMES! Kudos should be given for the use of authentic use of languages being spoken by the opposing sides (Germany and Japan) – although of course, this is nothing new.

Music (3/5)
Music is good and is what is expected from a quality production from the Call of Duty series. Has a mixture of ethnic music (e.g. Japanese flutes, Russian balalaikas, etc.), typical WWII militaristic music and even some metal. It’s the latter style that’s a hit-or-miss affair, since on one hand, it’s definitely appropriate for the adrenaline-pumping moments in the game when you’re under heavy fire, yet it also contrasts markedly against the other two musical styles.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics are pretty good as it’s based off a revised Call of Duty 4 engine. Guns have been faithfully modelled and there’s a reasonable amount to choose from – WWII gun nuts shouldn’t be too disappointed. The game seems to have a lot more gore than the early Call of Duty games but this helps to further emphasise the brutality of war.

Rain, flame and smoke effects are pretty although it sometimes causes my system to struggle, and it’s not exactly a slow system either (E8400 with 8800GT). Like most FPSs there’s a wide selection of resolutions to pick from which is a refreshing change after playing games that didn’t support my 22” Widescreen’s native resolution :D.

Plot (5/5)
As expected, the plot is good and reasonably well thought out, since it’s based on actual history. The game gives you two campaigns to play through: one you play as a Private Miller from the United States Marine Corps, hopping from one island to the next, skirmishing with the defending Japanese. The other campaign has you playing as Private Dmitri Petrenko, a veteran from Stalingrad that fights for the Red Army in its final push into Germany proper (It even has you recreating the famous scene where the Soviet Union’s flag is raised on top of the Reichstag).

In terms of gameplay, this is pretty much a standard first person shooter and while yes, the game does have a flamethrower, this isn’t the first FPS to have one by a long shot (although it is one with the prettiest effects so far ;)). It follows the same format as previous Call of Duty games in that you follow a more-or-less linear plot as you advance through the campaigns. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though since by doing so, you’re able to get the hallmark of the Call of Duty series in effect: spectacularly scripted sequences (how’s that for alliteration?).

Call of Duty 5 Nacht der Untoten Gameplay Video

Replayability (4/5)
The game has reasonably good replayability thanks to a swag of multiplayer options available. You’ve got the usual multiplayer options of team deathmatch and some capture-the-flag modes. Of course, one of the big additions was the inclusion of co-op, which funnily enough was introduced by two other games being released around the same time: Left 4 Dead and Red Alert 3, but you can read about those in my previous reviews.

Co-op is definitely a welcome addition, allowing you to have up to three mates joining you as you go through the single-player campaign – and let me tell you, it makes it a lot easier since (1) you can often revive downed teammates and (2) humans are often much better than AI. Challenges and Death Cards helps to keep things fresh and gives more value to the co-op mode as you can set things on to hilarious effect: exploding headshots, knives and rocks only, and paintball to name a few.

Lastly (another link to Left 4 Dead it seems), the game has a Nazi Zombies survival level! Apparently (Luke can confirm this), it seems to be based off a movie with a similar theme and it fits in with Hitler’s fascination with the supernatural (The Castle Wolfenstein series is another set of games that explores this). The level is a whole bunch of fun and is definitely a good co-op level (now if someone could only produce a budget game that incorporated a co-op FPS survival mode? That’d be kind of fun too).

Nothing truly wrong with it although it can be confusing for awhile realising that Solo/Co-op actually contains the multiplayer Co-op mode when you’d expect that when running the Multiplayer .exe. But it’s only a minor quibble.

Overall - 69%
Call of Duty 5 is a competent first-person shooter that introduces some fun new features, namely co-op and the flamethrower, however this might not be enough impetus to encourage hardcore online players of other FPSs to take notice.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Age of Booty Experience - Off to a shaky start

Well I decided to pay the USD$10 (or roughly AUD$15) and see how good the final product was. Purchasing it online was quite easy from the Capcom Store and I finished the download of about 100MB with no dramas. After installing Age of Booty and running it for the first time though, the dreaded SecuROM reared its ugly head. In order to run the game you need to activate the product with a serial key that's provided in your e-mail - okay fair enough, I guess that's how they prevent distribution of the game to several people. However, I unfortunately found out that my key is invalid so now I'm waiting on responses to a couple of support e-mails I sent. I don't fancy my chances of getting a reply soon but here's hoping they do... can't say I'm too impressed so far!

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Age of Booty for PC out now!

Well I confess I took my eye off the ball for awhile since Age of Booty was out on PC the 6th of this month, according to a post on the official website! The game (as promised before) costs only $10 and it's currently available from Direct2Drive and the Capcom store. Apparently it'll be released on Steam soon as well.

A demo will be released too so everyone can try out at being a dastardly pirate, YAAARR!

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Gamespy gives 4/5 stars to Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Seems like Gamespy has given Puzzle Quest: Galactrix a respectable 4 out of 5 stars. Apparently it's only let-down was the fact that multiplayer was hard to setup which is a bit of a disappointment since I might find it a hassle to play against my fiance (who is really into puzzle games). I don't see how it could've got worse though, the multiplayer in the first Puzzle Quest was just fine...

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China bans current version of Wrath of the Lich King

It appears according to this Gamespy article, that Wrath of the Lich King has been rejected by censors in China. Apparently Chinese culture is a bit sensitive to the skeletal looking undead and would prefer them to look more "un" than "dead". Allen of Gamespy makes a good point in asking whether Blizzard will censor themselves early in the design process to ensure there'll be no problems when marketing games to China in the future. I think it could be a possibility considering Fallout 3 was modified so that it would be accepted in Australia - although admittedly, it was a minor fix (i.e. just a renaming of drugs).

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Mythic to close down some Warhammer Online servers

It appears that some of Warhammer Online's servers are being shut down. According to the Gamespy article that initially brought my attention to the news, apparently Warhammer Online has 300,000 subscribers, which isn't too bad, although it hadn't reached the 1 million that they were expecting - and this is one of the gripes I have with MMORPGs. The game may offer excellent gameplay - or at least *you* think so - but if your opinions differ to the majority of the population that means the game becomes unpopular and MMORPGs can't run if they're not popular so it eventually results in them being closed down. For the sake of the Warhammer Online fans, I hope it doesn't suffer the same fate as Fury!

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