Friday, February 28, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #117 - Wing Commander II - Barracks



Wing Commander II music composed by: Dana Glover, Martin Galway, David Govett, George Alistair Sanger and Nenad Vugrinec

This is another of those tunes that is distinctly Wing Commander 2. While Wing Commander 1 had a calm, serene, sleepy tune for its barracks theme, Wing Commander 2's is all serious with a sense of decorum. The tune plays when visiting the barracks on the Concordia. Just as was the case with Wing Commander 1, the barracks acted like a more visually pleasing main menu with your load, save and quit functions as hotspots on the screen.

Thanks to the Wing Commander fan site Wing Commander Combat Information Center for all things Wing Commander, including the soundtracks.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Battlefield 4 to (re)introduce platoons

The new BF4 platoons functionality is designed in such a way to entice more players to switch to Premium

So a few hours ago DICE made the announcement that platoons will be making a return to the Battlelog for Battlefield 4 players. Just as it was with Battlefield 3, this will allow players to form what is akin to a built-in clan functionality in the Battlelog and allow friends to compare stats amongst themselves. This is my take, or summary if you will, on what has been announced:

The Good

  • "A platoon emblem and tag that all members can easily apply". I've always been wondering why there wasn't an easy feature to share emblems within the Battlelog. I've heard there's ways of copy and pasting code to share other user-created emblems but there really should've been a feature in Battlelog like that from the start. At least platoons/clans will be able to share their emblems now.
  • Seems to be retaining very similar functionality to the BF3 platoons.

The Bad

  • This functionality should've been available from the start. How hard is it to mimic functionality that already existed in BF3?
  • Only BF4 Premium players who have reached level 10 can create new platoons. This means any of you guys who run a clan (like me) who didn't get Premium are now either forced to cough up $60 extra (i.e. in addition to having spent money on buying the base game) for the privilege of creating a platoon or have someone else in your clan who has premium to become platoon administrator. It's sickening behaviour and there's no reason to do it besides encouraging more players to pay what is essentially a subscription fee to play Battlefield 4.

Battlefield 4 platoons will have a staggered rollout (i.e. incrementally releasing to a certain number of players at a time) on 27 February 2014.

[ LINK: Introducing Battlefield 4 Platoons (Source: DICE) ]

Monday, February 24, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #116 - Wing Commander II - Upbeat O-Deck




Wing Commander II music composed by: Dana Glover, Martin Galway, David Govett, George Alistair Sanger and Nenad Vugrinec

Ah such a happy, care-free tune. This tune, along with the Poker one, juxtaposed against the gravity of the plot in Wing Commander 2, are what makes them distinctly memorable tracks for me. I only wish I could play this on the piano in real life! This track is usually played during cutscenes in Wing Commander 2 set on the Observation Deck when meeting up with old friends or making new ones. At least that's IIRC :).

Thanks to the Wing Commander fan site Wing Commander Combat Information Center for all things Wing Commander, including the soundtracks.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sid Meier's Ace Patrol Review


Ohohohoho! Sacre Bleu! <Insert more stereotypical French comments here>

  • Developer: Firaxis Games
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Release Date: 28 August 2013
  • Time played: 2 hours

Hey look it's another game with Sid Meier's name on the front of it, but this time it's a mobile game. WHAAAT? Firaxis makes games for mobile? Well it was bound to happen sooner or later I guess, let's just hope it doesn't become a habit and they stick to their hardcore strategy games like the Civilization series :). So what is Sid Meier's Ace Patrol about?

Gameplay (3/5)
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol is a casual strategy game where you get to order WWI fighters in aerial combat. You get to a pilot and a wingman but eventually you have a squadron of four pilots under your command. Pilots gain experience after battles which you can then use to teach them new skills. Planes also improve during the course of the war so you usually have a choice between one of two planes for each pilot, and each plane have different strengths and weaknesses, such as speed, manoeuvrability, etc.

Each mission takes place on a hexagonal grid (war game enthusiasts in the audience rejoice!) and your planes can fly at different altitude levels. The goal for each mission can vary between escorting reconnaissance planes, attacking supply trains or simply eliminating the enemy. You achieve this by directing the planes under your command in the mission to perform different aerial manoeuvres. As they gain more experience, they gain more manoeuvres which make them more effective fighters. Which difficulty setting you're on and how much damage you inflict and how much you receive determines what you'll be awarded as a score at the end of the mission. So there's some incentive there to go back and beat your existing score.

The game is mildly entertaining and I can appreciate there is some strategy involved especially on later missions (and I was only playing on Easy difficulty). However the only reward you will receive from playing more efficiently is a higher score, very much the old school train of thought to rewarding players. While that's fine for many players, and probably effective on a mobile platform, I need a bit more from my PC game in order to keep me interested.

This is the key to success. Increasing the repertoire of manoeuvres you can use against the enemy.

Sound (2/5)
Sound effects are of an average quality but one thing that annoys me (and I think it's because it's a mobile port) is that you can't change the audio volume in-game. You can only turn it on and off, and by default the volume is really loud. Also the voice acting can be quite comical like when the Germans get shot down. They're probably not too far from the accents to be found in a TV series like Hogan's Heroes.

I also still don't understand why balloons would make the sound of a plane diving into the ground.

Music (3/5)
Music is also of an average quality and suffers from the same volume issues as the sound effects.

Graphics (3/5)
Graphics can be best described as basic 3D models - so you don't have any fancy effects here but keep in mind this was originally meant to be a mobile game so it's understandable. They're not too bad that they detract totally from the gameplay though except the explosions sometimes looks like cardboard cut-outs.

Replay (2/5)
I managed to finish one of the campaigns in only 2 hours. Since there are four campaigns available (American, British, French and German) there should be at least 8 hours of gameplay there. Mind you, I was only playing on Easy difficulty so you could always return playing on harder difficulty settings to accumulate more points in each mission. There are also achievements to hunt for too - so there's quite a bit to do here but unfortunately the game still hasn't tempted me to play more than one campaign.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't encounter any significant issues while playing Ace Patrol so it's a fairly well polished title. Controls seem to work well on a PC, even though it's a mobile port.

Score – 6/10

Sid Meier's Ace Patrol is a fun WWI aerial combat strategy game and probably a ground-breaking game for the mobile market, but at only 2 hours for a campaign this is definitely no Civilization. The game unfortunately lacks any longevity that other games with the Sid Meier moniker are renown for. If you're a Sid Meier fan though and see this on sale, it might be worth a look.

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

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

[ LINK: Official Sid Meier's Ace Patrol website ]

Videos:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #115 - Wing Commander II - Flight Deck




Track composed by: Dana Glover

This is actually one of my favourite tunes in Wing Commander 2 - a marching tune for whenever you're on the flight deck receiving a briefing for your next mission. Definitely got you pumped to kill some Kilrathi...

Thanks to the Wing Commander fan site Wing Commander Combat Information Center for all things Wing Commander, including the soundtracks.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jane Jensen's Moebius: Empire Rising gets a release date

Dramatic pose

It's finally coming. Jane Jensen, the game designer behind classics like Gabriel Knight and even a game we reviewed on this blog called Gray Matter created a Kickstarter in 2012 to get funding for their indie game studio Pinkerton Road. They managed to raise $435,316 on 19 May 2012 and have since that time worked on an adventure game known as Moebius (now Moebius: Empire Rising). Pinkerton Road have now signed a deal to have their game published with a new publisher called Phoenix Online Publishing who seem to be in the market to publish other adventure games too judging by this trailer:



Moebius: Empire Rising is slated for release on 15 April 2014.

[LINK: Official Moebius: Empire Rising website]

Thursday, February 20, 2014

First Impressions - Multimedia Fusion 2

A frame from the tutorial game in Multimedia Fusion 2

Awhile back Humble Bundle had what I thought was a bargain of a bundle when it was offering game creation software Multimedia Fusion 2 along with a bunch of games created with it. When I dug around a bit for information on Multimedia Fusion 2 I discovered that I actually used one of its early predecessors known as Klik & Play which was released in 1994. I remember that tool as being rather rudimentary but useful if wanting to create platform games or any kind of arcade/action games as it had a simple interface for specifying what happens during collisions of certain objects.

I also discovered that Multimedia Fusion 2 isn't the most recent game creation software from developers Clickteam (there's always a catch :)). The most recent is Clickteam Fusion 2.5 and not only that but it seems that you can purchase optional export modules that allow you to export your code into mobile format (e.g. iOS, Android, etc.).

I've had a quick dabble with Multimedia Fusion 2 (mainly the tutorial), checked out some of the games developed by it and had a look at some of their community help pages. This is what I've gathered.

What I like

  • Quick and easy to make basic games: I spent a couple of hours with the tutorial and that was all I needed to get a basic Breakout clone working. True, all the art and audio assets were already there for me to use but you can still make a basic game very quickly.
  • Price: I got it really cheap as part of the Humble Bundle although there's probably a reason for that as it doesn't appear to be on sale anymore at the Clickteam web store.
  • Potential for many genres of games: The Humble Bundle contained a lot of MMF2 games. While most are platformers there was a card game and even a 4x strategy game in there (albeit a basic one).
  • MMF2 games have already been sold on Steam: This means it's possible to make a commercial game using MMF2. However the only MMF2 game I've heard of before buying this bundle was Faerie Solitaire so I'm not sure how commercially successful the games are.

What I don't like

  • Not the most recent game creator: This software has already been superseded by Clickteam Fusion 2.5 which costs $100 on Steam.
  • Expensive to continue development: If you want to export games into iOS it's going to cost you $150. Want it on Android? You'll have to pay for that to.
  • Might be difficult to make a large game: The game appears to use the concept of frames in order to create the game. That's fine if your game only has a few frames or scenes or has a central frame where most gameplay occurs, but I'm not sure how it would fare with a game that contains more than 100 frames or 1,000. Might not be an issue but something for me to keep an eye on.
  • Looks to be for Windows games only: It's not quite clear on the Clickteam website since it does advertise the fact that you can get export modules for Multimedia Fusion 2 but when you click on the links the pages only refer to Clickteam Fusion 2.5. Oh and as previously mentioned, you have to pay extra for it anyway, even if it does work for Multimedia Fusion 2.

Verdict

Multimedia Fusion 2 I can definitely see as a handy tool to make small, action/arcade indie games for Windows quickly. You can even make hidden object adventure games (apparently). In terms of other genres and platforms though, it might start to become prohibitively expensive (with respect to time or effort), unless you're really sure you've got a hit on your hands.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #114 - Wing Commander II - Poker




Track composed by: Floyd Domino & David Sanger

Here we have a relaxing jazz piece that plays whenever the Concordia crew unwinds with a game of poker. As was the case in Wing Commander, I really appreciated the music that was played whenever the crew had some R&R. It was just as good as the combat music.

Thanks to the Wing Commander fan site Wing Commander Combat Information Center for all things Wing Commander, including the soundtracks.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Redshirt Review

The main screen is a bit busy but hey, so is the real Facebook right?

  • Developer: The Tiniest Shark
  • Publisher: Positech Games
  • Release Date: 13 November 2013
  • Time played: 5 hours

I received this game as a gift from a generous Steam friend (thanks Mix-Master!) so thankfully, I didn't need to spend the $20 entry fee to experience this game. Judging by the screenshots and information I gathered before playing this game, I expected it to be a parody of Facebook set in a sci-fi setting similar to Star Trek. That's pretty much what I got although mileage may vary on whether this is a successful formula for a game.

Plot (5/5)
You play the role of a Federation officer on the space station Megalodon-9. You start off as a lowly technician but can work your way up the ranks to become the Commander's Assistant. There are also many other crew aboard the station you can interact with but things only really get interesting a few days into the game when you realise something serious is going to happen in a matter of months. As the game progresses it becomes that your actual goal is to get off the station.

And that's about it, there's not really much in terms of an actual plot but I'm really rating the humour and writing style here which is hilarious. If you're a Trekkie, you'll appreciate the humour in this game even more (e.g. an achievement called "THERE...ARE...FOUR....LIKES"). There are also various references to other sci-fi franchises like Space Quest (a space-mop being the most noticeable reference) and of course Star Wars.

Above all though, the game is a parody of Facebook and you'll snicker at the various Facebook activities that are made fun of. I especially liked it when you were scolded for liking your own Spacebook status updates mentioning that it was a major faux-pas. If only some of my real life friends on Facebook would get the memo :).

Gameplay (2/5)
The game is basically a time management game like several older Japanese PC games in the 90s and games like the Kudos series, particularly Kudos 2. You basically decide what activities you'll do each day, whether that be socialising, studying, eating or playing games on Spacebook (yes, that is sadly an option). At first, it seems pretty aimless what you're doing, one of my initial criticisms in my first look at the game. Thankfully, there does appear to be a purpose to the game (at least in Story Mode) as you'll realise later on and that gives the player a sense of urgency and purpose. So the game isn't merely just a social commentary on how shallow Facebook is or a repository of Star Trek in-jokes and puns.

Unfortunately at times you'll be asking yourself, "why am I playing this when I can just use the real thing?" (i.e. Facebook). Also, even though it does have fictional characters it could've been made more exciting by seeding actual individuals in there with different background histories to differentiate them from the milieu of cardboard cut-out aliens.

One of the potential ways to "win" is to become the Commander's Assistant

Sound (2/5)
There's nothing particularly special about the sound effects and the computer voice, while performed perfectly well, can get rather annoying after awhile since it chimes in for almost every action in the game e.g. "You have a new Spacebook message!" or "You have a new Spacebook status update!" etc. etc. Since the whole game revolves around Spacebook, it gets old really quick. Thankfully, I believe there's an option to set the voiceover volume down if need be.

Music (3/5)
The music is pretty average. It's your standard sci-fi fare although I did notice that when occasionally doing certain actions that a little victory fanfare would play, so at least there's some effort in making the music more dynamic and reactive to the player's actions.

Graphics (2/5)
The graphics are rather amateurish and not just because it's a cartoon 2D style. I don't mind that at all but think it would've been better if a style adopted in Kudos 2 for example was employed instead (i.e. a more realistic, comic-book style).

Replay (2/5)
It takes about 5 hours to complete the game but there are five different ways to get off the station. While I was tempted to play again there is just so many repetitive tasks that discouraged me from giving it a try. If you're one to hunt Steam achievements though, that's what you'll need to do.

Polish (4/5)
The game is pretty well polished - I only encountered a couple of times where I appeared to be stuck in the menus or a certain button would not seem to work. There are occasional typos too.

Score – 6/10

Redshirt has a humourous premise and it receives bonus points if you're a sci-fi/Star Trek fan, however the game doesn't really have any lasting appeal after you get over its primary goal in belittling Facebook. You might start to question why you're wasting your time playing a Facebook simulator for $20 when religiously using the real thing is available to you for free (okay, at least Redshirt probably won't provide your information to US intelligence agencies). If more time was invested in making some of the characters stand out or more believable, the game would've then at least been worth the $20 asking price.

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

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

[LINK: Official Redshirt website]

Videos:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #113 - Wing Commander II - The Bridge




Track composed by: Dana Glover and Martin Galway

We return to the Wing Commander universe with Choicest VGM with Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi. A lot of music in this game is actually recycled from the original (especially during combat sequences) but's that probably because they did such a damn fine job with it in the first place. This track however is one of the new ones and even though it's called "The Bridge" I often associate it with your character getting chewed out by Admiral Tolwyn in his office - as this is exactly what happens during the game's intro. A perfect theme considering Tolwyn's disdainful nature towards you.

Thanks to the Wing Commander fan site Wing Commander Combat Information Center for all things Wing Commander, including the soundtracks.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Broken Age Act 1 Review


As one Steam reviewer puts it: "A spoon in this game has more personality than most AAA game protagonists". Although this is actually a screenshot of the knife which I prefer. Don't judge me!

  • Developer: Double Fine Productions
  • Publisher: Double Fine Productions
  • Release Date: 29 January 2014
  • Time played: 4.5 hours

A few weeks ago we finally saw the release of one of the greatest gaming Kickstarter projects in recent history I'm of course taking about Double Fine Adventure which is now called Broken Age. Unfortunately, we aren't seeing the whole game released yet due to designer Tim Schafer saying they went way over-budget. So as a compromise, the game was split in half and Act 1 is what we currently have, with a concluding act promised for later this year.

Why is this game so important? Because it was a test by Tim Schafer to prove there was still a market out there for oldschool point 'n' click adventures, a genre all but abandoned by major publishers. Broken Age/Double Fine Adventure already proved them wrong raising over $3 million in funding. Now all that's left is to see if those backers (myself included) funded a $3 million lemon or not. As I mentioned in my First Impressions article, the game looked promising and I'm glad to say after completing it that it doesn't disappoint.

Plot (5/5)
Broken Age has you playing the role of not one, but two characters from two seemingly different worlds (a bit like The Longest Journey in that regard). Of course, the whole point of the game is to find out how these two worlds are connected and how are the two characters you play related. One story is the story of a girl named Vella who lives in a fantasy world terrorised by a giant beast called Mog Chothra. Every 14 years Mog Chothra attends a "Maidens Feast" where he feasts on maidens offered by numerous villages (no it's not a feast in honour of the maidens as you would initially think). In return, it's assumed that Mog Chothra will leave the village alone until next year. Vella is one of these maidens but she has other plans.

The other story is about a boy named Shay who is living a Groundhog Day existence on a spaceship where life is monotonous and there is no way he can truly take any risks of make real decisions of his own. In reality it's both feelings that characters share, this sense of futility and lack of free will. Their paths in life seem already written for them but they both believe they're destined for something greater (which is the plot for every fantasy story ever written just about).

Even though the themes may be seemingly cliche, this isn't your usual plot and there's plenty of witty dialogue, amusing quips and memorable characters to keep you entertained.

Gameplay (4/5)
This game is a point 'n' click adventure and (for once) is not ashamed to be it. No pandering to the console market and their weird controllers - this game is made for the mouse, and the mouse only. A point 'n' click adventure wouldn't be complete without puzzles and there are a variety of puzzles to solve in this game which I think strike the right balance of difficulty (i.e. reasonably easy for veterans but logical enough that newbies can eventually figure it out).

One thing I couldn't understand though is why you were allowed to switch characters. It doesn't seem to serve any purpose, at least in this first act, besides merely doing so for the sake of giving you a choice. Maybe when you're bored of playing with one character you want to switch to the other? That's fine and all but what I'm really hoping is perhaps the character switching is used later in the game - at least the Day of the Tentacle fan in me hopes so ;). So far though, it seems pointless.

Ohnoes! How will Shay ever wake up the sleepy Bridge Man?

Sound (5/5)
This game has top quality voice acting including a mix of professional voice actors and screen actors such as Elijah Wood, Wil Wheaton and Jack Black.

Music (5/5)
I find the music in the game to be fantastic but you'd expect no less from Lucasarts veteran composer, Peter McConnell. Not only that but the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performed the music! Makes you proud to be an Aussie doesn't it?

Graphics (5/5)
I love the 2D painted art style. I'm seeing it more and more in the recent resurgence of adventure games and there's something special about this kind of style that can never be replicated using 3D.

Replay (3/5)
I'm actually tempted to play Broken Age again just to experience the hilarious dialogue. Now that I have finished Act 1, replaying Broken Age will help me piece more clues together due to a big part of the mystery being revealed. Unfortunately that's about all I can recommend so far as there are no Steam achievements (these things are almost mandatory nowadays - even though they're not really worth anything tangible) and just like most point 'n' click adventures, there's no branching narrative.

Polish (4/5)
The game is pretty well polished - my only grievance being the inventory being situated in the bottom left corner for some reason. What happens if you want to try move to the bottom left? You can't. It never really becomes necessary to move there admittedly but why not just have a black bar below that opens up when you hover over it? I mean they already do something similar for the top part of the screen.

Score – 9/10

A sensational return to form for Tim Schafer and his Double Fine crew. Broken Age is everything you'd expect from these folks when it comes to adventure games and you could almost believe that the Golden Age of point 'n' click adventures never ended. Almost.

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

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

[LINK: Official Broken Age website]

Videos:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #112 - Commander Keen 4 - You've Got to Eat Your Vegetables (The Dopefish)




Original music by: Bobby Prince III

This is probably not one of the best tracks on the Commander Keen 4 album but it's definitely the one that sticks in my head whenever I think of the game. Why? Because it's the music that plays when you encounter the infamous Dopefish. The Dopefish, is a big, stupid green fish that can eat Commander Keen if he gets too close. Created by legendary game developer, Tom Hall, this fish would feature in several games as an easter egg, even as recent as the 2013 version of Rise of the Triad and Natural Selection 2.

SWIM SWIM HUNGRY

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2 - Episode 1: All That Remains Review


Clementine is now older, wiser and probably just a tad cynical

  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Release Date: 18 December 2013
  • Time played: 2 hours

So it's finally time to continue The Walking Dead game series with Telltale having released Season Two shortly before Christmas 2013. This review will seem very similar to my previous The Walking Dead reviews but that's only because nothing has changed in terms of gameplay or artistic direction - only the plot has.

Plot (5/5)
In the second season of The Walking Dead, you play the role of Clementine, a young girl who is separated from a couple accompanying her called Christa and Omid. It's then up to Clementine to fend for herself, alone in the wilderness, surrounded by hordes of zombies. Clementine eventually comes across another group taking refuge in a house but Clementine doesn't find it so easy to gain their trust.

In fact this whole episode (and indeed The Walking Dead as a whole) revolves around the issue of trust. Whether you can trust that others in need won't (literally) bite the hand that feeds them.

Oh and for those who've never played Season One (although I'd thoroughly recommend you do) it doesn't seem essential to have played the first season of the game in order to appreciate this one - however Clementine does make references to it.

Gameplay (3/5)
For those that have played The Walking Dead: Season One, you know the drill. Gameplay is pretty light, with simple puzzles and the game feels more like a visual novel. The game is mainly conversation driven and focuses more on your relationships with characters more than anything else. You'll occasionally have some Quick Time Events (QTEs) during action sequences but that's about it.

That fire ain't gonna light itself

Sound (4/5)
Voice acting is great but that's to be expected from veteran voice actors – the only issue I had was that the audio was sometimes too loud or too soft.

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.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics are similar to The Walking Dead Season One (as you'd expect) and are the best I've seen in a Telltale game yet adopting a thick edges, comic-book style (a similar style is adopted in The Wolf Among Us). The only thing that annoyed me was the fact the framerate tended to jump all over the place at times.

Replay (3/5)
Just like Season One, the ending you receive depends on the choices you make in the game, so there is some attraction there to replay the episode (and indeed, the whole game once it is released). Also like Season One, achievements are still very easy to acquire (i.e. proceed to a certain point in the story) and there's not enough variety to encourage multiple playthroughs.

Polish (4/5)
Unfortunately, as it's a Telltale game, it uses the most recent Telltale Tool so the interface is a very console-friendly one, not a simple point ‘n' click adventure. The game also has the annoying Type 1 save system where progress is autosaved but you never know when the next save point is.

Score – 8/10

An eye-opening, adrenaline filled return to form, Season Two of The Walking Dead amplifies the tension by casting you as a (seemingly) defenceless, young girl. As with the previous season, this game toys with your emotions and has moral dilemmas galore; all things we should see more of in computer gaming!

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

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

[LINK: Official The Walking Dead (game) website]

Videos:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Video Games Live Level 3 released



A Kickstarter project that I backed, called Video Games Live Level 3 has now been released. The project's goal was to produce a Video Games Music (VGM) album where all the tracks are performed by a live orchestra (or at least real instruments). Listening to the tracks on the teaser video, it seems that Tommy Tallarico and his team, have done an exceptional job. The video contains excerpts of the following tracks:

  • Final Fantasy VIII - Liberi Fatali
  • Chrono Cross - Scars of Time
  • Skyrim - Dragonborn Theme
  • Tetris Opera - based on the Russian poem Korobeiniki
  • Zelda 25th Anniversary Overture
  • World of Warcraft - Invincible
  • Pokemon
  • Silent Hill 2 - Theme of Laura
  • Street Fighter II

The full track list is below:

  • 1. Final Fantasy VIII - Liberi Fatali
  • 2. Chrono Cross - Scars of Time
  • 3. Skyrim - Dragonborn Theme
  • 4. Tetris Opera - based on the Russian poem Korobeiniki
  • 5. Zelda 25th Anniversary Overture
  • 6. World of Warcraft - Invincible
  • 7. The Secret of Monkey Island
  • 8. Beyond Good & Evil
  • 9. Pokemon
  • 10. Silent Hill 2 - Theme of Laura
  • 11. Journey
  • 12. Dota 2
  • 13. Shadow of the Colossus
  • 14. Street Fighter II
  • 15. Portal - Still Alive (live)

If you're interested in purchasing the album it's available (or at least will be available) on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

[LINK: Official Kickstarter Page for Video Games Live Level 3]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Wolf Among Us - Episode 2 : Smoke & Mirrors Review

Another day in the Big Apple

  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Release Date: 4 February 2014
  • Time Played: 1.5 hours

It's been almost 4 months since the first episode for The Wolf Among Us was released - which in my experience is abnormal for Telltale, usually releasing a new episode every month or at most every two months. Apparently the delays were due to the holiday season but maybe preparing the first episode of the next The Walking Dead Season may have had something to do with it too.

Plot (4/5)
The Wolf Among Us is set during the 1980s in New York City. Fairy tale characters (aka "Fables") now live amongst normal humans (called "mundanes") in their own immigrant neighbourhood known as "Fabletown". Some fairy tale characters, who can afford it, use "glamour" in order to disguise their true appearance from mundanes. Those that cannot afford to disguise themselves are sent to "The Farm" in rural New York. You play Bigsby Wolf aka The Big Bad Wolf, whose job is sheriff of Fabletown. Consequently it's your job to keep the peace and in this second episode, you continue to investigate the murders of two Fables committed in the first episode

Just as it was with the previous episode, there appears to be a branching narrative in this game so conversations will be slightly different based on your relationships with other characters or certain clues you notice. At the end of an episode, you're also able to review whether you sit with the majority or not when it comes to pivotal choices in the game (e.g. showing compassion to a character or not).

Compared to Episode One though, the plot in the second episode seems to be a bit shorter. I recall playing Episode One for almost three hours (or at least that's what Steam tells me). Episode Two only bumped it up to 4 hours so I'm guessing it's about 1.5 hours long. Maybe a smidgen shorter than Episode One in actual time, but it definitely felt a bit shorter too.

Gameplay (3/5)
Just like The Walking Dead, and indeed the previous episode gameplay may be seen as minimal by some since it basically consists of very simple puzzles ala the adventure game genre incorporated with visual novel elements (e.g. conversations having an impact on character relationships) thrown in with a bit of Quick Time Events (QTEs) for action sequences. For those valuing gameplay over plot, you have been warned!

Playing a silent protagonist leads to some awkward but hilarious moments

Sound (4/5)
Voice acting is great but that's to be expected from veteran voice actors – the only issue I had was that the audio was sometimes too loud or too soft.

Music (4/5)
The game has some moody 80s-style synth which fits the game perfectly (this is a neo-noir game set in the 80s after all). Nothing too memorable but top quality stuff all the same.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics are on par with The Walking Dead and since this game is also based on a comic book, it has incorporated a similar style. The only issues I had was the occasional framerate jumps and the occasional animation glitch.

Replay (3/5)
Just as it was in The Walking Dead, replaying The Wolf Among Us will reveal a slightly different narrative depending on the choices you make. Just as I did with the first episode, I tried to continue my stoic and professional approach, i.e. refraining from violence where I could.

Again unlike The Walking Dead, it's slightly more difficult to get all achievements, requiring you to explore different choices I believe in order to unlock all of them (which in turn invites at least one replay).

Polish (4/5)
Unfortunately, as it's a Telltale game, it uses the most recent Telltale Tool so the interface is a very console-friendly one, not a simple point 'n' click adventure. The game also has the annoying Type 1 save system where progress is autosaved but you never know when the next save point is.

Score – 7/10

Episode Two of the Wolf Among Us continues to deliver an entertaining, fantasy take on neo-noir with comic-style visuals. While the episode feels a bit shorter than the first one, it's still worth a go.

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

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #111 - Monkey Island 2 - Captain Kate's Boat & Booty Island




Original music by: Michael Z. Land, Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian, Robin Goldstein and Joseph White

No I'm not insinuating anything about Captain Kate and her booty. This track happens to play both the themes for Captain Kate's Boat (although I always remember it as Guybrush's-diving-to-the-bottom-of-the-ocean theme) and the Booty Island theme. Captain Kate's Boat theme is the first cab off the rank and @ 00:51 it segues to the part where Guybrush dives down before resuming the theme again @ 1:04. The Booty Island theme starts playing @ 3:19.

Captain Kate's Boat theme is by far my favourite of the two, and I don't think I'm the only one, considering it resurfaces in not only Curse of Monkey Island but Tales of Monkey Island as well.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Redshirt - First Impressions

Remember kids: Not everyone gets to be the next legendary indie game developer like No'otch or Clyyffski

Thanks to the generosity of a fellow Steam buddy (thanks Mix-Master), I've managed to nab a free copy of Redshirt! I guess being a bit of a Trekkie (I say a bit since I still haven't watched all the episodes but trust me, it's a work-in-progress :)) this is what initially drew me to the game, thanks to its title (If you don't know what the term "redshirt" means, check this Wikipedia article out). Another reason I was attracted to it is the fact it appears to be a collaboration between The Tiniest Shark and Positech Games - and I have a lot of respect for Positech, thanks to Cliffski's stance on DRM-free gaming.

Redshirt is basically a life sim where you play as a lowly technician on a space station. It's your goal to rise up in the ranks and find fame and fortune. Most of your interactions however are done through a thinly veiled parody of Facebook known as Spacebook.

So how is the game actually like? I've invested an hour or so into the game so far and these are my thoughts:

What I like

  • Pop culture references: There are quite a few humourous references here and not only from Star Trek (e.g. an achievement called THERE...ARE...FOUR...LIKES!). There's even a reference to indie game developers Notch and Cliffski.
  • Parody of Facebook: I think this is the first game I've played which has parodied Facebook to the extent the whole game revolves around its use. This is another major source of the game's humour.

What I don't like

  • Music: The music is rather ho-hum although thankfully it's probably not one of the major aspects you'd consider in a game such as this.
  • Very busy screen: There are a lot of menus and hidden functionality on the main screen. Maybe the game is also making a parody of how Facebook has become bloatware with so much being tacked onto it nowadays?
  • Graphics: The graphics are rather amateurish. I don't mind the 2D look, in fact I favour it as evidenced with games like Broken Age, however I think more work could've been done. Kudos 2, a game by Positech, is an example of a game which has an appealing visual style.
  • Gameplay: Jury's still out on the gameplay but it's starting to become a bit repetitive. The game reminds me of the Kudos games by Positech except this one seems to have information overload. Considering it's also a game where the focus is interacting with others, it would've helped if there were more differences between characters besides simply what their interests are and portraits - maybe some secret back stories that can be revealed if you get to know them better ala the Bioware RPGs. Once again though, maybe that's the point of this game - i.e. it's a reminder of how shallow relationships are on Facebook and where all that people care about is the amount of likes on their status updates

Verdict


I'm still going to give Redshirt the time it deserves and see if it gets anymore interesting later on. If the gameplay continues as-is, I can imagine it getting boring really quick - despite the awesome references to Star Trek :).


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #110 - Monkey Island 2 - The Crypt and Rapp Scallion




Original music by: Michael Z. Land, Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian, Robin Goldstein and Joseph White

For our next track we have the music that plays when visiting the crypt on Scabb Island. My favourite part though is when the music plays after you reanimate Rapp Scallion @ 1:40. It's got a bluesy feel to it which I enjoy.

Random trivia for the day: Did you know that Peter McConnell, who helped compose this soundtrack and many others for Lucasarts adventure games, is currently working on the soundtrack for the most recent Double Fine adventure game, Broken Age? True story, bro.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Broken Age - First Impressions

Don't make Vella angry!

Considering it might take awhile before certain games receive a review (since I like to give the game every chance for a good score - I'm kind of forgiving in that way) I've decided that I will start posting "First Impressions" articles on a regular basis. This isn't the first time I've done so as evidenced here, here, here, here and here - but hopefully they'll start to become a more frequent occurrence. The added benefit of doing these things is that I can also keep tabs on what I like and don't like about the game early on so there's at least a record of it somewhere :).

Okay, so this particular "First Impressions" article is on Broken Age - or at least the first act of Broken Age. Unfortunately Double Fine somehow didn't get enough money from their Kickstarter project, even though they received more than $3 million, way above their asking price of $400,000. Anyway, this game is sort of special to me because it was the first game that introduced me to the world of Kickstarter and since then I've never turned back, having backed in excess of 20 projects (I know there are those out there who are even more tragic than me, but I think the amount of projects I've backed is bad enough).

What I like

  • Music: The music in the game is fantastic. It adds a sense of mystery and adventure which is perfect. Peter McConnell, a veteran composer who used to work at Lucasarts, does a great job of it with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (yes, you read right - an Australian orchestra performed the soundtrack. Aussie pride!). I'm not regretting having backed the tier that includes the soundtrack :).
  • Voice acting: Double Fine went all out with the voice acting hiring professional voice actors and even some famous screen actors such as Jack Black, Wil Wheaton and Elijah Wood to name a few.
  • Graphics: The art direction is great. While it might seem a bit basic to some I'm a real sucker for the painted look to games.
  • Story so far: The game happens to be a weird mix of fantasy, sci-fi and comedy - but as all stories by Tim Schafer, it surprisingly works.
  • User Interface: The UI isn't anything special but at least it's a proper point 'n' click interface, not this console port crap where you have to use the keyboard to move your character or hold a key down in order to achieve a result instead of a simple mouse click :).

What I don't like

  • Conversation skipping: Each conversation is treated as a cut-scene so there's no way to speed up the conversation, just listen to it entirely, or don't listen to it at all. I preferred how you could use the "full stop" method from earlier adventure games to skip lines of dialogue, not skipping the conversation in its entirety.
  • No reason for switching characters: It still remains to be seen if there is any real reason for giving you freedom to control two characters. In the old Lucasarts adventure Day of the Tentacle, for example, there was a purpose: you had to use characters in the past to influence events in the future - and also transport technology from the future into the past. So far, there doesn't seem to be any point to cycle between characters, but perhaps I just haven't played enough of Act 1 yet.

Verdict


Broken Age seems to be a promising game. I'm looking forward to completing the first Act and to hopefully playing the second one too :).

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #109 - Monkey Island 2 - Wow, What a Dream & The Bone Song




Original music by: Michael Z. Land, Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian, Robin Goldstein and Joseph White

This track is one that occurs during one of the most surreal moments in the game, which is to be expected considering it plays when Guybrush is having a dream. At 1:21 we hear a variation of the famous Dem Bones/Dry Bones song with a variation of LeChuck's theme heard at 2:53.

Why does this song stick in my head? Partly because the source material is already famous, but also because of the dark humour during the scene in which it plays.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Memoria Review


One of the characters you play in Memoria is Princess Sadja. Her story is set hundreds of years in the past.

  • Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
  • Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
  • Release Date: 30 Aug 2013
  • Time played: 9 hours

I'm not usually one to judge a book by its cover, but that was the case with Memoria when I saw it on sale. Some of the backdrops I saw of the game looked amazing and since it's a point 'n' click adventure, one of my favourite genres, I just had to give it a go.

Plot (5/5)
What I didn't realise when buying this game was that the story is a sequel or spin-off of sorts of the game The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav and is indeed set in the same world. In fact, one of the characters you get to control is Geron who is apparently a character from Chains of Satinav. Why do I mention this? So you now know whether having not played the previous game puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to the plot. I'm going to say it doesn't: while there are quite a few references to the previous game (at least obvious ones where they mention it) they don't really seem to have an impact on the plot of this one.

I also mention this since whatever I post here now might be a potential spoiler if you're intending to play Chains of Satinav; you play the role of an amateur wizard named Geron who fell in love with a fairy named Nuri. For some reason (I guess you'd have to play the previous game to find out) Nuri was transformed into a raven and Geron is trying his best to find someone who is able to transform her back to her original form, before it's too late. The longer she stays a raven, the less of her original memories she will retain. Anyway, this leads you to a Tulamide (basically an analogue for a Bedouin) called Fahi who says he may be able to help you if you solve a riddle. It's about this time that Geron learns of the story of Sadja, a princess from hundreds of years ago that was seeking glory during a time of great magical warfare. The game cycles back and forth between Geron and Sadja's story, and you get to control both of them.

While the storyline may at first glance contain your typical fantasy fare, I like what they've done with the pantheon - having a god known as Satinav who is the keeper of time. It gives it a kind of Elder Scrolls flavour to the game and it's quite easy to immerse yourself into the world of Memoria.

Gameplay (4/5)
Gameplay in Memoria is of the typical point 'n' click adventure ilk (Hallelujah!). What is slightly different to some adventure games is that they have a handy "quest log" that keeps track of what's happened in the game so far and even offers basic hints as to how to go about the current objectives. Definitely handy if you haven't played the game in awhile or simply don't remember what you were up to.

I found the game fun and probably just the right amount of challenge for veteran adventure gamers. I did have to use a walkthrough twice but the first obstacle is solvable through sheer persistence (but I was impatient) and the second was due to the game misleading you on how to solve the puzzle (which in all fairness is totally legit).

Sound (3/5)
Sound effects are generally good but voice acting is average. Sometimes the emphasis seems to be placed on the wrong words. Or they would be talking in a monotone when they actually should be screaming.

Music (3/5)
The music that does play is of a high quality and appropriate for a fantasy adventure game, however it really doesn't get played that often which is a shame. Sometimes there's even silence when there perhaps should've been some dramatic music.

Graphics (4/5)
I really love hand-painted backdrops and that's the style they're going for here. There are some really beautiful scenes and while the animations for the characters are a bit wooden and not perfect, there is a lot of detail in them. Memoria is probably one of the better looking graphic adventure games out there with the only issue I had being the occasional frame drops thanks to particle effects in certain rooms.

The backdrops to the game are simply stunning

Replay (2/5)
It's an adventure game so there's not much incentive to replay besides experiencing the story again, however there are some achievements you can get for doing things slightly differently so at least the game has got that going for it.

Polish (4/5)
Pretty well polished although there were occasional parts where talking to a character or clicking on an item would play the wrong audio samples.

Score – 7/10

An entertaining point 'n' click adventure in the old school sense - which means challenging puzzles, beautiful 2D backdrops and an immersive world. Unfortunately the voice acting can be pretty terrible at times and music is sometimes non-existent for certain scenes, so there could've been a lot more work done in the audio department.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam or on Good Old Games for $19.99 USD.

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[ LINK: Official Memoria website]

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