Friday, November 6, 2009

Gratuitous Space Battles is released

Positech Games, a British Indie Developer, run by anti-DRM advocate, "Cliffski" has recently released the game Gratuitous Space Battles. It involves building up a fleet of spaceships and then fighting your enemy. I loved the designing spaceships aspect of the Master of Orion series so I'm going to give the demo of this game a go.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood Review

Now here it is, the penultimate episode of Tales of Monkey Island - any boy is the title a mouthful! It's advisable that you read the reviews for the previous episodes in order to appreciate the scores in this one. It also helps this review to be concise!

Sound (5/5)
Sound quality doesn't appear to be poor in this episode so it gets top marks thanks to some help from the usual high quality voice acting!

Music (4/5)
Once again no complaints with the music - it's as good as previous episodes - although sometimes it seems that music is missing when it shouldn't be...

The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood Gameplay Video

Graphics (4/5)
Not much change in the graphics score. It's pretty much the same as the previous episodes. Graphics are reasonably good, although some of the minor characters are obviously used with recycled models...

Plot (4/5)
The plot gets a lower score than the previous episode since it's simply not as funny and I'm actually tempted to give it an even lower score, if it weren't for the fact that this episode is probably the most important episode in terms of storyline and thanks to all the plot twists that are revealed.

Once again, an old Monkey Island character returns in this episode, and that character is a certain salesman with a funky jacket...

There are again puzzles galore in this episode but the puzzles aren't very original, especially considering one of them is navigating around Flotsam Island again (just like in Episode 1).

Also you tend to spend a lot of the game in one spot due to you having to defend yourself in court.

Replayability (4/5)
Just like the other episodes, this game is about as replayable as adventure games get (without resorting to gimmicks like alternative endings and different classes - then you're entering RPG hybrid territory there :)).

Polish (4/5)
I didn't have any issues with this episode so it's about as polished as the first one.

Overall - 75%
Not the best episode in the series but probably the most important in terms of the storyline thanks to plot twists aplenty.

If you want to get the game, you can purchase it online off Telltale Games.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Puzzle Kingdoms Review

I noticed things were quiet on the Puzzle Quest front... a bit too quiet. So I investigated a bit more about a month ago to see if Infinite Interactive were up to anything. Sure enough, they have already made another Puzzle Quest related game called Puzzle Kingdoms! Talk about marketing disaster, I wasn't even aware the game was completed sometime earlier this year! Anyway finding a place that actually sold the game was no easy task but I finally came across Direct2Drive that had a copy and downloaded it from there - and now after much matching of three similar-coloured gems, here's the review...

Sound (3/5)
Sound in the game is of a similar quality to previous games. The combat sound effects tend to generally be good and appropriate for a fantasy war game, although the death wails of some units are pretty hilarious - not to mention the voice acting occasionally during cutscenes.

Puzzle Kingdoms Combat Gameplay Video

Music (5/5)
On the plus side, the music in this iteration is the best I've heard yet. The tunes used sound appropriately epic when it needs to be, frantic during the timed sequences and calm/sedentary during non-timed, non-combat sequences.

Graphics (2/5)
Fortunately, unlike Puzzle Quest Galactrix, Infinite Interactive has decided to go back to a fully 2D look, instead of a hybrid mix of paintings and 3D-rendered graphics. However, the art style doesn't really appeal to me and frankly I prefer the manga look of the original Puzzle Quest - but I suppose when it comes to that aspect things can get pretty subjective. Anyway that's my take on it, you can look at the videos to see for yourself.

Puzzle Kingdoms Recruiting Gameplay Video

Plot (2/5)
Once again you're a hero in Etheria, the fantasy world where the original Puzzle Quest takes place (and before that, the Warlords series of games). Once again, there is a terrible evil lurking in the shadows, this time it's causing a widespread famine across the continent. It's your job to get to the root of the problem, raping and pillaging any kingdoms that stand in the way. Not exactly the most inspired plot, but it works well enough for the game that it is.

Once again, match-3 is the name of the game but now you can do it in L-shapes and they can come from the 4 sides of the board - so it's kind of a hybrid between the first Puzzle Quest and Galactrix. It's quite confusing at the start but you'll eventually get used to it. Like previous Puzzle Quest games, the puzzle gameplay is the core mechanic for doing pretty much everything in the game, from fighting armies, to recruiting new units, and even finding relics. You go around the continent of Etheria conquering various kingdoms this way and before you can progress you have to destroy magic boxes by solving an untimed puzzle.

Good points about the game is that it'll take you a long time to conquer Etheria and the controlling of armies adds a nice touch of strategy to the series and reminds us a bit of the good ol' days of Warlords (for those of you old enough to remember). However, battles get painfully difficult later on in the game, due to opponents getting several triggers for a free turn which means sometimes you don't get a turn at all and all your units are dead. When this occurs, you usually have to restart the invasion from scratch with better units, items or heroes which can be a long, arduous process.

Puzzle Kingdoms Relic Hunting Video

Replayability (3/5)
Replayability isn't as good in this iteration as previous Puzzle Quests since there is absolutely no customisation of your character! All you can do is pick a male or female. The replayability of the game comes from customising your army which involves picking your Heroes, what items and spells they'll use, what units they command and what relics the army will bring. However, there's usually only one way of doing things easily, especially later on in the game when your adversaries become more difficult, so in the end the customisation is rather pointless once you know the best way of doing things (which you might say is the fun aspect of the game, which may be true, but it doesn't help make the game anymore replayable though)!

Also multiplayer this time around is limited to hotseat! Yes you heard right, it's even worse than the previous games! *sigh*

The level of polish is lower than previous Puzzle Quest games, mainly because the product appears to be not properly finished! Firstly the game is still version 1.00 and hasn't been patched since it came out (which I believe is May this year). True, there aren't really any showstopper bugs to speak of but when you see messages that contain "{RGB 10,200,156}" or something similar, you know that something's amiss. There's also a way to get your character walking on water and sailing on land, but fortunately all of these issues are just minor visual bugs.

There is also a quasi-bug (which could be solved by a simple warning dialog) where it's possible to get into a situation where you don't have enough gold to buy troops whilst invading a kingdom. Why is this a problem you ask? Well in order to invade castles your hero (which acts like a general for the troops) needs units to command, and without gold you can't buy units! Eventually you have to just quit the campaign and restart from the last save but this gets especially annoying if the last save was at the beginning of the campaign with a poor setup! Anyway not truly a biggie, since the game is still functional, just a bit annoying.

Puzzle Kingdoms Customise Army Gameplay

Overall - 69%
Music is best in series yet but it's let down by limited multiplayer and minor visual bugs. Gameplay is rewarding most of the time but some annoyingly difficult enemies may tempt you to /ragequit.

The game is available off Direct2Drive and Steam

Monday, November 2, 2009

IWNET - will it be as good as they say?

I bloody well hope so! With the bad experiences my guild has been having trying to get Borderlands to run on Gamespy servers, I can't say I'm too fond of this dependency on developer network solutions instead of letting ISPs host games (or friends over Hamachi) - tends to result in multiplayer gaming coming to a grinding halt! Anyway I'm sure everyone's heard that dedicated servers aren't being used with Infinity Ward's new IWNET system and there's been a lot of PC gamers out there petitioning against it, more than 160,000 actually. Can't say I'm too much of a fan either but before totally bagging IWNET, I'm going to get some opinions from the rest of the guild on how it works and if they encounter any connection problems with it.