Monday, May 27, 2013

So What's With This Retro Game Music Bundle?




I'm a bit late with the news on this one - not only that, but this is apparently the 4th time this has been done. Apparently the Game Music Bundle (GMB) Team (at least I believe that's what they call themselves) have released a retro game music album with remastered tracks of several games as well as some remixes. What's different this time is that they've managed to get some pretty big names aboard, including Alexander Brandon (Tyrian, Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal, Deus Ex) and George "The Fat Man" Sanger (Wing Commander, the 7th Guest).

They use a Pay What You Want (PWYW) model which means for only $1 you can get the following soundtracks:

  • 7/11: The 7th Guest and 11th Hour Original Soundtrack
  • Duke Nukem 3D: Original Soundtrack
  • Myst: The Soundtrack
  • Jazz Jackrabbit 1 & 2
  • Tyrian

For only a few dollars extra though, at $10 you can get these as well:

  • NUKEM: Duke 3D Remixes
  • Shadow Warrior: Original Soundtrack
  • Duke Nukem II: Original Soundtrack
  • Wacky Wheels: Original Soundtrack
  • Major Stryker: Original Soundtrack
  • Stargunner: Original Soundtrack
  • Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure: Original Soundtrack
  • Jazz Jackrabbit 3
  • Double Dragon Neon
  • Alter Ego Dreamwalker OST
  • Edge
  • Magnetis - Original Game Soundtrack
  • Lava Blade

One of my personal favourites is the 7th Guest soundtrack, especially 'The Game' which I believe was well ahead of its time in terms of computer game music (The 7th Guest came out in 1993):





Another highlight is the Wacky Wheels soundtrack and while the MP3s don't sound that different to the original they're still charming in their own right. I spent many hours playing that game multiplayer (this was when huddling around the same keyboard was considered "multiplayer" :)). Here's one of the tracks:



Anyway if you happened to play any of these games, might be worth checking it out.

Oh and if anyone is interested in the story, check it out here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Poker Night at the Inventory Review



  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Release Date: 22 November 2010

Normally I wouldn't go actively seeking card games for my PC but I guess there's a certain appeal to them. They're simple to learn and are the sort of games you can play while waiting for other things to occur in the background. I received this as a present from fellow reviewer, Choona (thanks!) so while waiting for several gigs of Starcraft II to download, I played a few rounds of Texas Hold 'Em!

Plot (5/5)
The main highlight of Poker Night at the Inventory, or at least what distinguishes it from its competition, is the fact it has gaming character "celebrities" playing against you. As far as gaming character celebrities go, these guys are probably B-grade since they're not exactly Mario, Sonic or Gordon Freeman but I've heard of them before and was familiar with three of them in terms of their personality.

"As far as gaming character celebrities go, these guys are probably B-grade since they're not exactly Mario, Sonic or Gordon Freeman"

The four characters you get to play poker with are the psychotic rabbit Max (from the adventure game series, Sam and Max), Strong Bad (from the website, Homestar Runner), Heavy Weapons Guy (from Valve's class-based FPS, Team Fortress 2) and Tycho (from webcomic Penny Arcade). While at first glance, you wouldn't think any of these characters would have much to talk about, they are in fact capable of quite amusing banter. There are lots of in-jokes for fans of the characters and their personalities come out perfectly when playing. Max is suitably unpredictable and flippant, Strong Bad is his typical cool self (or at least he thinks so), Heavy Weapons Guy is a simple man who enjoys calling the other opponents "babies" and Tycho is snide and sarcastic.

Gameplay (3/5)
I'm not going to go into the rules of Texas Hold 'Em Poker, but that's what this game is all about. Your enjoyment in this game will be dependent on whether you like playing poker with virtual money (and also whether you like any of the characters). The Poker component of the game is implemented well and while it has its moments I'm principally drawn to the characters of the game more than anything else.

Sound (5/5)
Voice acting is fantastic and they managed to grab all the original voice actors for the characters.

Music (3/5)
The music is subdued and not very noticeable, however what is played is good. Nothing memorable but good.

Graphics (4/5)
Recreations of the characters are generally well done, but that wouldn't have been too difficult with two out of the four characters as they already appear in Telltale games (Max and Strong Bad). Tycho looks interesting as a cel-shaded comic-book character and the Heavy Weapons Guy surprisingly looks just as he does in Team Fortress 2. However there are some minor shading issues which means the graphics score suffers as a result.

Replay (2/5)
Replay is dependent on whether you like replaying games of poker ad nauseam. There are achievements you can earn which helps and you can even win items to be used in TF2, however, after playing for some time you'll start to memorise all the conversations the characters have with each other which gets a bit old and potentially annoying.

Polish (4/5)
Very few bugs in this game, but you wouldn't expect any for a simple Poker game. The only bug I did notice is that occasionally the same line is read by character twice in a row, which is slightly annoying and not terribly realistic.

Score – 7/10

If you happen to like the characters (Max, Strong Bad, Heavy Weapons Guy and Tycho) and enjoy playing poker, Poker Night at the Inventory is an amusing distraction from the "serious" games in your library. The game is quite cheap too so it won't blow your bank balance. The only downfall of this game is that after awhile, you'll have heard the banter between the characters a thousand times before.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

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

Videos:


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Where to buy Company of Heroes 2 in Australia?


It's that time again where I do a little bit of research on where to buy my next game. Next on the list is Company of Heroes 2 which will be coming out in a month's time. So I've looked at JB Hi-Fi, EB Games and Steam to see what they're offering. Yes I know there are hundreds of other shops I could purchase the game from but I like going through the usual channels :).

With these three shops, there are basically two editions you can buy: the Standard Edition and the Red Star Edition

The Standard Edition

If you pre-order the Standard Edition you usually come with a single player/co-op missions pack, 2 vehicle skins for multiplayer and 2 commander archetypes for multiplayer. This is what EB Games and Steam advertises. Steam even throws in a couple of hats for Hat Simulator 2 - I mean TF2.

Strangely enough, JB doesn't appear to offer any extras, but it's slightly cheaper from them.

  • JB Hi-Fi: $74 (No pre-order bonuses)
  • EB Games: $78 (single player/co-op missions pack, 2 vehicle skins for multiplayer and 2 commander archetypes for multiplayer)
  • Steam: $82 approx. (Same pre-order bonuses as EB Games except you get TF2 hats)

Red Star Edition

If you get the Red Star Edition you will be receiving quite a bit. You will receive 24 vehicle skins for multiplayer, 5 multiplayer commander archetypes on launch and then 5 later on, the single-player/co-op missions pack and the original Company of Heroes with all of its expansions. The physical edition (from JB and EB) also comes with a steelbook case.

Steam's edition is called the Digital Collector's Edition but it is in fact the same thing, except you don't get the steelbook of course, and you get the two TF2 hats.

  • JB Hi-Fi: $99 (24 vehicle skins for multiplayer, 5 multiplayer commander archetypes on launch and then 5 later on, the single-player/co-op missions pack and the original Company of Heroes with all of its expansions.)
  • EB Games: $108 (Same as JB)
  • Steam: $125 approx. (Same as EB and JB, except no steelbook case and 2 TF2 hats instead)

In both cases (Standard and Red Star Editions) it seems that the cheapest option is to buy from JB Hi-Fi so I'd recommend buying from them if there's one near you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Choicest Games gets its own domain name

Choicest Games has now moved to http://www.choicestgames.com! Not sure what this will mean for the blog and there may be some technical issues to iron out, but according to Google, the process should be pretty seamless, except for one minor kink:

The only downside of the move is that unfortunately a lot of comments that were posted using Google+ have sadly been deleted (including my own)! Yes it does suck but I'll keep that in mind for the future.

You'll still be able to access Choicest Games with the old address (http://choicestgames.blogspot.com) so I believe in reality the www.choicestgames.com link works like a re-direct :).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Deus Ex: Sonic Augmentation Review


  • Name: Deus Ex: Sonic Augmentation
  • Label: OCRemix
  • Composer(s): Various
  • Number of Tracks: 8

It’s pretty rare to see a games developer promote an album containing VGM remixes but that’s exactly what happened recently with Eidos Montreal, developer of the most recent Deus Ex game, Human Revolution, promoting a free album in collaboration with OCRemix, one of the major VGM remix community websites. The album is a short one, containing only 8 tracks yet it has a remix based on every Deus Ex game in the series, with the original one taking the lion’s share.

Most of these tracks are quite good, all of them carry their own weight, but the real standouts are the ones performed by Jimmy Hinson and none other than the original composer himself, Alexander Brandon. I’ve already mentioned how awesome Siren Synapse is quite awhile ago now. It’s definitely my favourite Deus Ex remix – especially considering it’s remixing my favourite track from the game too (Hong Kong Streets aka The Synapse). Another entry that I've come to love is the new take on DuClare Chateau, Ma Cherie Nicolette. There are only subtle yet tasteful changes to this track but it's still pretty choice. It even has a rockin' guitar riff based on the Main Theme towards the end.



The surprise favourite for me though is Vig’s the God Machine. It starts off a bit weird, sounding like a skipping CD but it eventually goes into a nostalgia trip of awesomeness, with NYC Streets, UNATCO, DuClare Chateau and UNATCO Return: Enemy Within all making funky appearances.



The only criticisms I’d make is that there is so much more source material to base remixes on - not only from Invisible War and Human Revolution (that only get one entry each) but from the original Deus Ex. Also, while there are two remixes on the UNATCO theme, both are simply "good" to me, but not fantastic. I probably would’ve preferred a more subtle take on the theme instead of the re-inventions that occur in both.

Score - 8/10

A short but sweet nostalgia trip for the Deus Ex fans. Alexander Brandon even gets in on some of the remix action and best of all it’s free.

If you wish to download this remix album you can do so via OCRemix.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Which Battlefield game is the best?




The Battlefield 4 thread on the Whirlpool forums has become a battlefield in itself with several debating on which direction the Battlefield series should head with its next game (scheduled for release at the end of this year). So far I've managed to identify a few types, and this (lengthy) forum post helps to identify these generalisations (and also provide additional background):

  1. Battlefield veterans – those who started playing the Battlefield series pre-Bad Company (EA's first console-only Battlefield release and a turning point for the series – BF2: Modern Combat doesn't count ;)) and who keep regaling stories of the old days. They often whinge about how the game is becoming more like COD and thinks DICE/EA was crazy to remove Commander Mode
  2. Battlefield newcomers – these are the ones who started playing Battlefield after Bad Company 2. They tend to appreciate the squad and class-based gameplay that the series brings along with the vehicles, but they've never experienced the strategy and meta-game evident in earlier releases. Some are disenfranchised COD players who didn't like the direction the most recent COD games took and have found a new home with the Battlefield series. Often think the old codgers that ask for retired features, such as Commander Mode, are lunatics as it looks boring and it's prone to abuse.
  3. Fatalists – Those who believe it's just fate that Battlefield is becoming something that none of the fans want, because DICE/EA are in it to make money and that no matter what the fans say, ultimately doesn't matter. They believe that 98% of the Battlefield population are only playing it for the flashy single-player campaign anyway.
  4. The rest – those who don't fit into these stereotypes

It was a comment by one of the "fatalists" on the forum that got me thinking – is it true that Battlefield veterans account for less than 1% of the population? Is it true that most people play Battlefield for the single-player rather than the multi-player?

I've created a basic SurveyMonkey survey asking what is everyone's favourite Battlefield game. Since I only have a basic account it'll only capture the first 100 responses so it's definitely not an exhaustive study, just something for a bit of fun.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PFLS3GQ

This survey won't really answer the questions I'm looking for – only DICE or EA perhaps could answer that question. However I thought it'd be an interesting exercise regardless to see what a sample set of fans thought.

So what do you think? Which Battlefield game is your favourite and why?

EDIT: The results of this survey are now available here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Analogue: A Hate Story Review


Yes you'll be doing a lot of that in this game.

  • Developer: Christine Love
  • Publisher: Christine Love
  • Release Date:27 April 2012

I've been interested in getting back into game development again so naturally I checked what tools and authorware was available (I used to dabble quite a bit with Adventure Game Studio, if anyone is curious). Ren'Py a Japanese-style Visual Novel engine seemed like a good starting point to me as it requires minimal coding for story-driven games and even allows you to port games onto mobile devices. I soon discovered that there were a combination of commercial and critical successes out there, all made with Ren'Py. I decided to take a closer look at some of these and one of the major players is Christine Love. When Analogue: A Hate Story (ZOMG I just realised the title is a joke as one of her earlier games is Digital: A Love Story – get it?) was on sale on Steam for a matter of dollars, I just had to try the game out for myself.

Occasionally you'll answer some yes/no questions

Plot (4/5)
The game is set in the distant future and places you in the role of an investigator discovering what happened to a Korean generation ship that has mysteriously appeared in local space. Your job is to access the ship's computer and download any relevant information. Along the way you will encounter the ship's AIs (there are two of them) who aid you in recovering the data in the form of logs or emails.

While I like the science-fiction setting and the mystery surrounding the generation ship, it's sometimes hard to take the game seriously with the cutesy anime style and childish talk from the AIs. I know this is actually typical for a majority of Japanese visual novels (even though this is technically Korean) but it's also something that puts me off playing these games, even if the plot is pretty good (as is the case).

Gameplay (3/5)
The gameplay is okay as far as visual novels or interactive fiction goes. I'm used to playing visual novels with more focus on visuals, conversations and puzzle-solving (such as the old Legend Entertainment games), so this one is a bit different in that there is a larger focus on reading emails, which is pretty much what this game is all about: reading emails. Having the AIs to converse with and ask of your opinions however turns what is normally a chore into a game (as the AIs do remember what you say!).

Also there is the challenge for the completionists amongst us to decrypt every single log (which I believe is the point of the game). I actually managed to get lost in the reading of emails and forgot the whole reason I was on the ship in the first place. I vaguely recalled something about downloading the logs which is what I ended up doing – however this triggered the premature ending of the game, resulting in what I believe was the “bad” ending. Maybe a checklist or a plea from the AIs would've been in order to prevent dunces like myself inadvertently finishing the game too early!

Besides the GUI with avatars you get to play with this old-school console

Sound (5/5)
No problems with the minimal audio that is used.

Music (4/5)
The music in the game is a subdued, ambient affair but it complements the game nicely.

Graphics (3/5)
Graphics are minimal, consisting only of the AI avatars, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and the console. However these elements are drawn and animated well so while there's not much to see, what you do see looks great.

Replay (3/5)
Visual novels/interactive fiction can vary greatly in terms of replay. Analogue: A Hate Story tends to be one of the better ones where you are able to achieve different endings depending on how your responses and how thorough you are. The game even has Steam achievements (another carrot for the completionists out there).

However, if like me you inadvertently ended the game early, you have to trawl through a lot of reading to alter the ending or unlock an achievement (since I believe some are dependent on the choices you make).

Polish (5/5)
No bugs and the interface is intentionally clunky since it's simulating a console (and the fact the AI can only ask yes/no questions)

This pretty much sums up the whole plot.


Score – 7/10

Analogue: A Hate Story definitely has one of the most unique settings to be explored in a game; not many games have you playing an investigator of the future, visiting an abandoned generation spaceship, and learning about the patriarchal society of Medieval Korea. While the plot is well written, you will be reading a lot about scandals and romantic affairs, which will have you wondering: am I reading a romance novel or playing a computer game? Maybe it's a bit of both? If that thought bothers you, you may want to give this a miss – otherwise, considering how cheap it is, it's worth a look. Maybe you'll enjoy it.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

7 reasons for supporting the Jagged Alliance: Flashback Kickstarter



A few days ago, a Kickstarter project was created by a Danish developer called Full Control who have recently acquired the rights to the Jagged Alliance series. Their project is to develop a "reset" rather than a "reboot" of the Jagged Alliance series. I’m not quite sure that that exactly means but I believe that unlike a reboot, they're not drastically changing the gameplay mechanics and they're also not rewriting the game lore. Jagged Alliance: Flashback (JA:F), which is the name of the proposed game, looks more like a prequel to Jagged Alliance 1 and 2.

I’ve decided to back the project and here are my reasons why you should too:


1. Story will be set in the late 1980s and act as an origin story for the mercenary organisation A.I.M

This means that JA:F will act as a kind of prequel to the series which means we’re receiving more Jagged Alliance canon. This also means we could get to see some familiar faces.

2. Full Control is applying the K.I.S.S. principle and focusing on making the game a JA2 style game with 3D graphics.

While extra features are nice, I believe they take away from an already great formula used in the previous Jagged Alliance games. It’s good to see that Full Control will focus on the basics instead of promising Heaven and Earth to the fans.

3. The game is being developed by an experienced team.

Not only that, but the team have already developed four turn-based strategy games already.

4. The game will be DRM-free


5. Full Control is in contact with the original developers and hopes to recruit them.


6. Full Control are bringing back personality to the mercs

Thankfully Full Control have realised this was a major problem with the most recent Jagged Alliance games since without the memorable personalities for each of the mercs, Jagged Alliance was no different to any tactical strategy game out there. Here's what they have to say:

One of the main complaints we had about recent attempts to make Jagged Alliance games was the removal of some of the humor and personality for each mercenary.

“Dont fix it if it ain’t broken” - remember?

So we are super happy to be able to bring back a lot of what defines the game - mercenary personality.

We are going to get back to the great 2d icons for each NPC and mercenary. They simply allow for much more personality than a generic 3d head that will never have as much detail as a well drawn 2d image. Together with some cool facial animations a lot of personality and feelings can be displayed.

Another very important aspect are the inter-team personalities. E.g. don’t put Fox and Buns together unless you want to listen to a cat fight making your ears bleed. While having the i-team working together will boost a teams performance.

A big amount of personality also comes from the voice over for the mercenaries. While we haven’t decided yet if we are going for English with a national accent - or having Ivan speak Russian only - we definitely want to get a strong personality shining through voice overs.

7. The I-team are returning

Do you remember Igor and Ivan Dolvich? Yeah they were awesome.

Along with the Kickstarter page, check out the reddit IAmA that was done recently for more details.