Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gunpoint Review

It was a dark and stormy night...

  • Developer: Suspicious Developments
  • Publisher: Suspicious Developments
  • Release Date: 3 June 2013
  • Time played: 3 hours

Gunpoint is made by one of those people you're envious about. You know, the ones that quit their day job because they make enough money from doing something they love? Well that's exactly what Tom Francis (former writer at PC Gamer) did saying he recouped his direct development costs in just 64 seconds (i.e. a $30 copy of GameMaker). Oh and that's the other thing, did I mention that GameMaker is game creation software (yes, I know, kind of obvious considering the name)? Mind you, it did take him three years to develop the game in his spare time but this is just another wake-up call for all the wannabe game developers out there to step up to the plate! As I was curious to see how far you could go with a GameMaker-built game I decided to check it out.

Plot (4/5)
Not much is said about the setting but the game appears to be set in the near future where you're basically a freelance spy specialising in corporate espionage. At the beginning of the game you're caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, at someone's murder scene to be precise. Very soon you'll find yourself involved in a clandestine war between two large corporations.

The game is short and you don't learn too much about the world besides the laptops you find scattered on some of the levels and through conversations with the characters. However, there is sufficient material here to satisfy the amount of time you will invest the campaign.

Gameplay (5/5)
Gunpoint is a keyboard and mouse-driven affair (PC gamers rejoice!) where you use the mouse for jumping and interacting with things in "Crosslink" mode and the keyboard to move your character and interact with things at close range (e.g. buttons, computers, etc.) What's this "Crosslink" mode you may ask? Well this is where you're able to hack into the circuitry of a building and come up with some creative solutions to what would normally be insurmountable obstacles. Notice a guard next to an electrical outlet? Well you can rewire a harmless light switch to activate it instead. Unable to access a secure area? Well you could always link that motion sensor to open the door instead of triggering an alarm. And so on and so forth. The objective of each mission is usually the same which involves breaking into a building (making as little or as much ruckus as you like), hacking into a computer and then retreating to the subway. Obviously the levels become more difficult as the game progresses but it also means you have to come up with some more ingenious ways of getting through the level unscathed.

I thought Papers, Please was the most fun I had with an indie game this year. Well Gunpoint is a serious contender to that title. While I'm not a fan of platformers normally, the fact you've got multiple ways of approaching a level's objectives, ala Deus Ex, definitely makes it more fun. Do you take the all guns blazing route or do you try your best to be a ninja and not get spotted at all?

In Crosslink mode you're able to rewire electrical devices to make it easier for you to infiltrate

Sound (4/5)
Not much in the way of sound effects but the ones that are used are functional and serve the game's purpose. No voice acting in this game.

Music (5/5)
Despite this being an indie game, you can tell a lot of TLC went into creating the soundtrack. The jazzy soundtrack composed by Ryan Ike, Francisco Cerda and John Robert Matz fits the neo-noir, cyberpunk spy-thriller feel to the game perfectly. This particular one is my favourite though:

I recommend you check out their bandcamp page if you're into this kind of music.

Graphics (3/5)
Graphics are of the 2D hi-res ilk although with tiny people and objects, reminiscent of Windows games in the 90s. So the game isn't going to win any awards for awesome graphics but they do the job. They also could've put more than just pixellated mugshots for the people you converse with on your PDA.

Replay (3/5)
You're actually able to make some choices concerning which faction you help in this game and even the conversation options you pick will alter your personalised epilogue. Unfortunately, the campaign is only three hours long which means it'll be over before you know it.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't notice any serious bugs while playing which is refreshing to see nowadays.

Score – 8/10

If you can overcome the low production values that often goes hand-in-hand with indie games, you'll find a lot to enjoy in this entertaining but short neo-noir puzzle platformer.

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

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


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wing Commander on sale at Good Old Games

The ORIGINAL Hornet (I'm looking at you Star Citizen backers ;))


One of the greatest PC game series of all time is on sale. All the Wing Commander games (including the two Privateer games) are now on sale at Good Old Games.

I actually had most of the games already but was waiting until Privateer 2 featuring the talents of Clive Owen, John Hurt and Christopher Walken. But I also nabbed another Wing Commander game I used to play, Wing Commander Armada and Wing Commander Prophecy (to complete my Wing Commander series). I also got the poorly rated Wing Commander Armada, but only because it actually ended up being cheaper to do so instead of buying the three games I wanted (50% off if you buy the entire collection see :))!

Anyway, if you're curious about PC space sim history, or you're a Wing Commander veteran, definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Richard & Alice Review

Meanwhile... over in South Park

  • Developer: Owl Cave
  • Publisher: Owl Cave
  • Release Date: 21 February 2013
  • Time played: 3 hours

I've been grabbing a lot of games off GOG especially point 'n' click adventure games. In fact the backlog is pretty huge at the moment and it doesn't help that some of these are several gigs in size (meaning a huge blow to my miniscule 50GB quota). Thankfully, Richard & Alice is one of the adventure games that were small enough to not eat substantially into my quota. I believe I acquired this game during a GOG sale for a couple of reasons: (1) it is a game developed using a modified Adventure Game Studio engine (an engine I dabbled a bit in many years ago) and (2) the game was developed by gaming journalists – so I felt a kind of kinship – even though I'm by no means a professional gaming journalist but I do like to write about games and dream of making that breakthrough game one day…. one day… But I digress, here is my Richard & Alice review!

Plot (5/5)
Richard & Alice is set in the near future after a cataclysmic event sees the world inundated with snow, causing society as we know it to collapse. In this post-apocalyptic world, we hear the tales of two survivors, the eponymous Richard and Alice.

The plot is a well thought-out and mature mystery plot that invites a replay. The cogs were definitely turning (or at least trying to turn) in my head as I tried to piece together how everything in the game was interrelated and considering the moral dilemmas faced, what I would do in the same situation, not too dissimilar to some moments in The Walking Dead. I really love games that do this to you since it forces you to be introspective. Obviously, reflecting on your life and how you would deal with desperate situations can be somewhat depressing so this game won't be everyone's cup of tea but none can deny how carefully crafted and complex the protagonists of the story are. They're not just caricatures; they're just like people in real life.

Gameplay (3/5)
Richard & Alice is a puzzle-lite point 'n' click adventure game. Like other point 'n' clicks you use the mouse to interact with your world and to move your character. You also have an inventory to store and manipulate items. However, there aren't too many challenging puzzles in this game and when conversing with characters conversation options are limited. But there's a reason for this.

Like many interactive fiction games, the game seems very linear on the surface but it's in fact actually recording all the conversation topics you pick and all the actions you do (or not do). These determine what kind of ending you will receive as there are multiple ones. So like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, Richard & Alice tows the line where sure the gameplay is limited, but the intriguing story more than makes up for it. And remember, nothing will beat Dear Esther in terms of limited gameplay.

Inventory items are stored on the right of the screen

Sound (3/5)
Sound effects are used sparingly in the game and there is no voice acting.

Music (4/5)
The game has a suitably atmospheric music soundtrack; while there are no memorable themes it is effective in setting the sombre, depressing mood to the game.

Best of all, if you get the GOG version you get the soundtrack bundled absolutely free :).

Graphics (3/5)
Graphics are definitely not the game's main selling point but they're functional and do the job, if you don't mind old-school Japanese RPG style graphics. Don't be fooled by the cutesy graphics though, there are a few disturbing scenes in this only suitable for adults.

Replay (3/5)
The game apparently has 5 potential endings based on the actions you make so this would normally invite replays however I've always found it harder to replay games where you're unable to customise the protagonist which you don't get to do in these sorts of games. i.e. it's hard to roleplay the same character again yet choosing different choices. It seems like you're artificially playing the game just to get the other endings (which you basically are). Also, the game only takes about 3 hours to play meaning that even if you did replay the game it wouldn't be long until you finished again, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your view.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't notice any serious bugs while playing which is refreshing to see nowadays.

Score – 7/10

Richard & Alice has a great mature plot but the short game length, basic puzzles and primitive graphics holds the game back. Definitely worth a look if you can get it cheap though and another good example of the AGS engine's capabilities.

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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Just over a week to go for reggae adventure Kickstarter Bolt Riley

"I don't like reggae.... oh no... I love it!"

For the fans of adventure games out there, it would be a real shame if this game never saw the light of day. Bolt Riley is a reggae adventure currently in development by an Israeli studio called Adventure Mob and they require $120,000 to release the first in a trilogy of games.

Unfortunately only $35,000 has been raised so far and there's only just over a week to go so it's definitely crunch time now to see this game be made into a reality. Why did I back this project? For the following reasons:

1. Reggae music
As Oded Sharon mentions in his video, I too started my love of reggae music playing adventure games, in particular the Monkey Island series. Okay, I'm by no means a die-hard fan (I don't have stacks of reggae CDs adorning my shelves) but I can definitely appreciate the style - gotta love those syncopated rhythms!

2. Great art style
I love the art direction in this game. It reminds me of the style employed in Curse of Monkey Island which I think is the best looking game in the series, if not the best looking adventure game of that era (I have a distaste for the 3D graphics employed in latter Monkey Island games).

3. Lori and Corey Cole
Yes, the Coles have done it again! As you know, I'm a big fan of the Quest for Glory series and apparently the Coles are involved with the storyline for the second "chapter" to the game. While that means we may not initially get to experience their story-telling finesse if the goal is reached, here's hoping Adventure Mob can make enough money from the first episode to push ahead (and I'll be disappointed if there aren't a plethora of puns in the second chapter)

4. Supporting a fellow adventure gamer in need
Oded Sharon seems to be a pretty passionate guy when it comes to adventure games. In fact he's already backed 165 Kickstarter projects alone, many of them being adventure games.

So if you like any of the following:

  • The Coles
  • Reggae music
  • 2D Point 'n' click adventures

What are you waiting for? The minimum $12 pledge (although there's limited places left for this one) will get you a DRM-free copy of the game.

LINK: Bolt Riley Kickstarter Project

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ask Choicest Games – Best RPG for replay value

Thought I'd start this kind of article since I've received my very first game recommendation question via Twitter!

I love giving game recommendations so thanks for the tweet Portugaz B. Jan! Unfortunately, due to Twitter's 140 character limit, it's probably a bit difficult to ask questions via the medium so I'm going to attempt to translate what is being asked here:

Hi Choicest Games,

Can you please recommend an RPG that provides more challenge/content before encountering the final boss, e.g. clearing 100 floors of a tower before encountering him? Thanks!

There is a short and long answer to this.

Short Answer
Assuming you're talking about heaps of content before encountering the boss or at least something more challenging, then RPGs that leap to my mind (that are based off my experience) include Skyrim, Guild Wars 2 and Torchlight 2.

Why did I pick these three? Well firstly because I've actually played them (only want to speak from experience). In terms of individual reasons:

Skyrim because while the game's actual main quest chain is relatively small compared to the rest of the game, there are heaps of side quests (and side bosses) to encounter which means high replay value (close to 200 hours I believe). Add to that the number of mods you can use to customise the game and you'll be playing it for a very long time.

Guild Wars 2 because it's an MMORPG – there's lots of stuff to do here and lots of challenging dungeons to romp through.

Torchlight 2 because it's the action RPG candidate in the bunch and probably my preference over Diablo 3. Runs better, is cheaper, and it's closer to the classic Diablo 2 experience than Diablo 3 itself!

Long Answer
The question asks for an RPG but that is such a broad term nowadays. Here's what I mean:

  • MMORPG (e.g. World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, etc.)
  • Action hack 'n' slash (e.g. Diablo, Torchlight, etc.)
  • Roguelike (e.g. Rogue)
  • MUD (e.g. Realms of Despair)
  • CRPG (e.g. Fallout)
  • D&D CRPG (e.g. Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, etc.)
  • JRPG (e.g. Final Fantasy)
  • Hybrid FPS/RPG (e.g. Deus Ex)
  • Hybrid Adventure/RPG (e.g. Quest for Glory)
  • Hybrid Puzzle/RPG (e.g. Puzzle Quest)
  • Sandbox RPG (e.g. Skyrim)
  • Party Dungeon Crawls (e.g. Wizardry)
  • Hybrid Strategy/RPG (e.g. Disciples)

And I'm sure I haven't covered all possible permutations either!

I guess what I'm saying is a good starting point involves you choosing which of these RPG sub-genres you like and then extrapolating from there. It's all well and good for me to recommend Skyrim for example, but if you're only looking for hack 'n' slash Diablo clones, it's obviously not useful advice.

And if you're literally wanting a dungeon crawl where you have to go down 100 levels before you meet the boss, I'm sure there are games out there like that but none that I have played. A most recent dungeon crawl game that I own (but sadly haven't got around to playing yet) is Legend of Grimrock which I've heard good things about. Be warned though that it's a throwback to games of yesteryear (so could be unforgiving if you've never played these sorts of games)!

Roguelikes are obviously the sort you'd aim for if you're looking for multiple procedurally generated dungeons/levels leading up to a boss. If you're wanting a challenge and don't mind a bit of sci-fi, check out FTL since that's a game which should provide a challenge before you encounter the final boss. Not quite an RPG although it does have RPG elements (if you consider your ship itself as a player character).

Hope that helps! Anyone else have recommendations on challenging RPGs or ones with good replay value? Does anyone know if one exists that requires you to delve through 100 levels before a boss?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DiRT 3 to be migrated to Steamworks

DiRT 3 to receive a new lease on life thanks to Steamworks

When I reviewed DiRT 3 not too long ago, there was still no word of what future lay in store for the game considering the online platform it runs on, Games for Windows Live, is shutting down next year. Well it seems that according to Eurogamer, that DiRT 3 will be migrated to Steamworks.

Apparently it's not going to occur until sometime next year so it may be cutting it close. Anyway, guess that Replay score of "0" would be a bit higher now for any of those still interested in checking out the game - maybe even entering 8/10 territory for a total game score :). However, until we know more of how it's to be implemented, I'd exercise caution.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Papers, Please Review

Time to bring out the big red DENIED stamp!

  • Developer: Lucas Pope
  • Publisher: Lucas Pope
  • Release Date: 8 August 2013
  • Time played: 5 hours

When I first saw the news of this game I was blown away by its premise; a computer game where you play an immigration officer processing people's visas? How on Earth could that be any fun? The retro look to the game and the fact I was curious to know whether Lucas Pope could authentically capture how it feels to be an immigration officer (or any public servant for that matter) did have me intrigued though. I waited for the game to go on sale and when the price went below $10, I thought it too good an offer to pass up. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

Plot (4/5)
Papers, Please has you playing as a citizen of the communist nation of Arstotzka during the 1980s. During the national labour lottery, your name is pulled to be the immigration officer for a new border checkpoint. You and your family are allocated a "Class-8 dwelling" and you eke out a meagre existence by approving and rejecting visas.

And that's about it. There's not actually too much of an initial plot but Pope's done a really good job in making Arstotzka a believable Eastern bloc nation. The occasional story-line NPCs either make provide some comic relief or have you pause as you listen to their please for leniency. Sometimes you even feel guilty for your actions (especially if you're playing an incorruptible immigration officer). The story does develop further as the days pass and you'll be given opportunities to make life or death decisions – even decisions that affect the future of the entire nation! That's pretty impressive power in the hands of one immigration officer.

Gameplay (5/5)
The bulk of the game is spent in your immigration checkpoint. Your job is to process as many visas as possible before the end of the day. The more visas you process (i.e. accept or reject), the more credits you earn for your family. At the end of the day, you use these credits to provide food, medicine and to pay utility bills. If you don't receive enough credits, your family could start dying and pretty soon it's game over. "So what?" you might say, "just process more visas then and problem solved, right?" Besides Day 1 of Campaign mode, it's not that simple.

Papers, Please is a game about identifying discrepancies. At the start it's simply identifying any discrepancies in the passports you receive. However, as the days progress, in typical bureaucratic fashion, more and more rules emerge, and more and more documentation is thrust upon you to check for discrepancies. Eventually you'll be checking four documents for discrepancies and scanning individuals for contraband and this all takes time, which means less credits. Less credits means not being able to provide for the family. Fear not though, you'll sometimes receive the option to accept bribes from shifty characters but if you're the incorruptible sort, this will obviously result in a huge dilemma. Do you accept the bribe just this once since your son really needs medicine or do you keep your record untarnished and try to quickly process some more visas before the day ends?

This has definitely been the most entertaining game I've played to come out this year so far. The gameplay is innovative, the setting is novel, and its retro feel takes me back to the early 90s.

One interesting thing I noticed though is if you dig deep enough, you realise the game is pretty much a hidden object adventure game – but you don't feel like you're playing one since instead of looking for particular objects, you're instead looking for discrepancies in someone's passport. So be warned! If your friend loves playing hidden object adventure games, they're probably an immigration officer in disguise!

You need to earn enough after the end of each day or your family suffers as a result

Sound (3/5)
The game has minimal audio and an equivalent to a lo-fi, Slavic Simlish when people talk. I guess the reason the audio is lo-fi is so that it can give the game that retro early 90s feel and to minimise the size (the game is only around 30MB!). While it doesn't bother me too much, to make the scores fair I have to give it a 3/5 which is a similar rating to other games of that era (i.e. games with decent audio in the 90s that were reviewed in the past on this blog).

Music (5/5)
There's really only one tune in the game that really sticks in the mind but it is ridiculously memorable. It sounds very similar to the Song of the Volga Boatmen which seems appropriate for the game's setting: a Communist nation of the 80s.

Graphics (3/5)
Papers, Please has an early 90s look to its graphics which I actually like. However, to make the score fair I have to rate it similar to graphics of the era (i.e. games with good graphics in the 90s have in the past received 3 out of 5 on this blog).

Replay (3/5)
I've actually played the game three times but I didn't give a higher score since full play-throughs (i.e. playing the game until you get one out of 20 endings) tend to be short.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't notice any serious bugs while playing which is refreshing to see nowadays.

Score – 8/10

Papers, Please is set to be the biggest indie hit of the year, perhaps even Game of the Year. While some may be turned off by the retro feel, others will embrace it. Regardless of your stance concerning production values though, none can deny the genius of making a game where working as a humble immigration officer is actually exciting!

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam or a DRM-free version on GOG .

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


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My First Week of Playing Battlefield 4

If only the game wasn't stuttering so much...

Well it's been almost a week now since Battlefield 4 was released here in Australia, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the game so far.

Before we go any further, it might be worth posting my specs so people have some idea of what my experiences are based on:

  • i7 2600
  • Powercolor HD 7850
  • 4GB DDR3 1333MHz RAM

Graphics settings are currently set to "Auto" but it looks like "High" has been selected.

Minimum system requirements for the game are:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2
  • GeForce 8800GT or Radeon HD 3870, 512MB VRAM with at least DX 10.1 support
  • 4GB RAM

So as you can see, my computer more than meets the requirements, at least when it comes to the processor and video card – however RAM could potentially be upgraded and this has been added to my TODO list :).

So without further ado, here's my list:

The Bad:
  • Stuttering issue. Jerky movement in single and multi player, and my number one annoyance at the moment.
  • Multiple reports of crashes to desktop and various other issues (though I thankfully have only experienced one crash to desktop)
  • Broken on launch server browser
  • Not enough change from BF3
    • Jets still overpowered in the right hands
    • Vehicles still regenerate health
    • Vehicles still have perks
    • English in really bad foreign accents - just like BF3
    • SOFLAM
    • Frag rounds for auto shotguns
    • 12G slugs for shotguns
  • No faction specific weapons at the start (e.g. Americans using AKs)
  • Maps have a similar feel to BF3 – in fact some seem even smaller
  • Long loading times, BF2 style (although admittedly I only have the minimum required RAM)

The Good:
  • Peeking over obstacles actually works well
  • Vehicles have to reload salvos of shots
  • Counter-knifing
  • Ability to refuse medic revives
  • Reloading discards ammo in clip (BF2)
  • Weather effects on maps are pretty
  • Commander Mode is back
  • Field upgrades places focus on team to stick together and leave no man behind
  • Points rewarded for completing orders from Squad Leaders and Commanders. i.e. reward people who play the objectives

So what has everyone's experience been with BF4 so far? To me it seems a lot like BF3 with Commander Mode - which has left me feeling somewhat ambivalent about the title so far. It has good stuff but also some of the more annoying features of BF3. If the bugs and crashes were fixed I would probably be more forgiving of its flaws though.