Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reversion - The Meeting Review


Damn car crushes

  • Developer: 3f Interactive
  • Publisher: 3f Interactive
  • Release Date: 12 March 2013
  • Time played: 1.5 hours

As mentioned in my review of the previous episode of Reversion called Reversion - The Escape (which happens to be free), I managed to score a free copy of Reversion - The Meeting from my mate Mix-Master. This episode continues straight after the first as your amnesiac hero manages to escape a heavily guarded hospital and makes his way to the heart of Buenos Aires.

Plot (3/5)
As mentioned, in this episode our amnesiac protagonist manages to escape the hospital he was trapped in and makes his way to the heart of Buenos Aires with his new friend, Victoria. The heart of the city seems to be in a state of disrepair with almost nobody in sight. Victoria quickly and mysteriously leaves as soon as you arrive and it's up to you to continue finding out who you are and who the mysterious scientist in the photo is.

Once again, the game is terribly short and ends as soon as you meet with the scientist you're looking for (hence the name). While more of the plot is revealed in this episode, the game still seems to be too short on content to make the world or its characters seem interesting. Also, just like the first episode, the character dialogue seems to be a bit clumsy at times to the point where some responses don't make any sense. I'm not sure if this is just because they had bad dialogue writers or something was lost in translation from what I assume was originally in Spanish.

Gameplay (3/5)
The game thankfully has your typical point 'n' click adventure interface where the mouse rules supreme! The puzzles are generally logical and straight-forward to complete too; there's even a hints system if you get stuck, although it turns out that it's not very helpful. Besides my criticism from the previous episode's review (there are a lot of red herrings on the screen) being able to do certain things in the game aren't immediately apparent. For example, for one puzzle I had to disassemble an item in my inventory. Since I was never made aware that you could disassemble items within your inventory (there is only a look icon visible at all times) I spent many wasted minutes trying to use the item on just about everything on the game, thinking that was the way to disassemble it. I eventually resorted to a walkthrough and when I saw the solution, I was pretty disappointed. Not with myself since I already knew that was the solution, but the game's interface for not being as intuitive as it could be. The sad reality is, older point 'n' click adventure games with their clunky UIs may have done it better.

Sound (2/5)
Once again the English voice acting is quite poor with the emphasis being stressed on the wrong words and a mixture of actors that are too hammy in their delivery alongside actors which are incredibly deadpan. I couldn't help myself and had to take a video to prove just how bad the voice acting is since it needs to be heard to be believed:


I'm not sure if it sounds as good in Spanish (if there is a Spanish version) but I'm hoping it does.

Music (2/5)
There's a bit more variation to the music in this episode compared to the previous one but it still seems rather dull most of the time.

Graphics (4/5)
Graphics are generally pretty good. The game adopts a clean, crisp comic-book style that's visually appealing.

Replay (1/5)
It took me about 1.5 hours to finish this game but once you've figured it all out, replaying it would only take a matter of minutes. While you can forgive the first episode for being short (as it was free), it becomes an issue when you're charged $6USD for only such a small part of a game and one that's actually quite light on story as far as adventure games go. Sure, there are Steam achievements to get and Steam Trading Cards to acquire, but this game seems to lack anything substantial.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't encounter any serious bugs and no visual ones like I encountered in the previous episode.

Score – 5/10

To be fair, Reversion - The Meeting is probably as bad as the first episode in terms of its terribly short length, poor voice acting, dull music and clumsy dialogue. What makes it worse though is the fact its poor UI has the potential to make you go on a wild goose chase to solve this episode's puzzles. To cap it all off, you're expected to pay money for this episode for a pretty average experience when you could play the first episode for free. If you're curious about the game, make sure you try the free first episode before deciding to buy the second. If you like it and are prepared to pay for the same amount of gameplay, then give Reversion - The Meeting a shot. Otherwise, avoid.

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

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

[ LINK: Official Reversion website ]

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hotline Miami Review


Tasteful digs

  • Developer: Dennaton Games
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release Date: 24 October 2012
  • Time played: 6 hours

As mentioned in my review on Hotline Miami's soundtrack, Hotline Miami isn't the sort of game I'd usually go out of my way to play. While I don't shy away from playing violent games (e.g. Battlefield 4) I don't usually like playing games that glorify violence or where you're rewarded for smashing somebody's skull into a pulp. So I didn't go out of my way to buy Hotline Miami but eventually, I got my hands on it anyway thanks to my friend (and occasional contributor to this blog) Luke.

Through a combination of Luke's encouragement and my weird guilt I tend to get with unplayed games on my Steam library, I decided to give it a shot.

Plot (4/5)
Hotline Miami is set in the late 80s in Miami, Florida - which makes it the fourth franchise I know of to be set during that time and place (the other three being the TV series Miami Vice, the computer game Vice City and the movie Scarface). Out of the three previous franchises, I think Hotline Miami has more in common with Scarface due to the sheer brutality in both the movie and this game, not to mention the screwed up nature of the protagonist. So who is the protagonist?

Well little is known about him (and completing the game doesn't really reveal much more about him either), but fans have taken to calling him "Jacket" thanks to his distinguishable letterman jacket he wears. Jacket receives phone calls every so often directing him to go to certain locations and kill everyone he sees. If that was all to the game, I would've been thoroughly disappointed but thankfully there seems to be more to it. Occasionally you'll have trippy dream sequences where your actions are brought into question with one of the most famous quotes almost becoming a meme: "Do you like hurting other people?" It's interesting because it adds an element of introspection to what would otherwise be a game being violent for violence's sake. There is also an epilogue to the game (consisting of a few more playable levels) that should help those players like myself find some meaning to the violence. However, even if you're able to collect all the secrets in the game which apparently unlocks the "true" ending, it still only manages to answer what motives the caller has and not why the receiver of the calls blindly follows orders. So just be warned that the ending doesn't have all the answers and that you'll have to come up with your own conclusions. Not a problem if you like those sort of endings but a problem to those that seek closure. It's probably no coincidence then that there's a Hotline Miami 2 in the works...

Gameplay (4/5)
Hotline Miami can best be described as Grand Theft Auto with added stealth and puzzle elements. As you already probably know, I'm not a big fan of the GTA series so its the stealth and puzzle elements that I find most enjoyable in this game. The game consists of a number of multiple levels set in various locations such as apartments, discos, and video arcades. The GTA element of the game involves you killing everyone you meet at these locations and being rewarded points for doing so. Killing multiple enemies quickly or in creative ways will reward you with even more points. You also get a variety of weapons to use such as shotguns, assault rifles, pistols, knives, baseball bats, and several more (more than 30 I believe).

Now you can attempt to finish every level using the gung-ho, guns blazing approach, but usually it will get you killed really quick since if you're hit only once by the enemy, you're dead and you'll have to start the level again. So unless you've got exceptional aim and super reflexes, you'll actually have to plan your attacks properly. Not only that, but usually adopting a silent, stealthy approach (i.e. subduing enemies without the use of noisy weapons like shotguns) will make your life easier. Of course, things don't always go to plan and you'll find yourself facing the "You're Dead! R to Restart!" screen many times - it's just as well there's a hotkey for restarting the game since you're going to be pressing it often!

Despite me having to restart multiple times and cursing at the AI pathing on occasion, I was still compelled to keep on trying since every time I died I learned more about the level and consequently edged slightly closer towards my goal. There's going to be a lot of trial and error and reliance on lightning reflexes when you play this game, so if you don't like those sort of games, Hotline Miami might not be for you, but if you don't mind persevering, it can be quite satisfying completing a level.

Man this guy is creepy

Sound (2/5)
There's no voice acting in the game and the sound effects are pretty lo-fi (or retro, depending on your views).

Music (5/5)
The soundtrack received an 8/10 in my review thanks to the late 80s/early 90s synthpop that perfectly suits the game; it's also happens to be a great album to listen to on its own.

Graphics (2/5)
Graphics in the game are very primitive, evoking an original Grand Theft Auto art style and hence looking like a game made in the 1990s. Nothing wrong with that if you appreciate the retro art style but the game isn't going to win any awards in this department. Despite the game's primitive graphics though, it is still noticeably violent. Some enemies will crawl around on the floor with half their limbs off, while others will have their skulls beaten to a pulp while Jacket has them pinned down. That's not even mentioning the cutscenes where you have dismembered heads with their brains falling out talking to you. Not one of the most pleasant aspects of the game especially when you realise you can't avoid it - everyone has to die.

Replay (2/5)
While I'm unlikely to ever replay Hotline Miami I'm amazed it has managed to captivate me long enough for me to finish the game. As mentioned, I don't usually like violent games but either I started to become desensitised to it or the other facets of the game were compelling me to keep venturing forth. The game has a whole bunch of Steam achievements to unlock and also comes with Steam Trading Cards.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't encounter any bugs while playing the game although I heard there can potentially be some issues with it due to the fact it's developed with an older version of Game Maker. I had an issue with another Game Maker game, Risk of Rain, with respect to audio but maybe my resolving the issue with that game has resulted in no issues with Hotline Miami.

Score – 8/10

The over-the-top violence in Hotline Miami might turn those of you away who don't like violent games but if you're able to stomach it, you'll notice there's actually more to the game than meets the eye thanks to its stealth/puzzle elements. You'll need a combination of wits and lightning reflexes, and you'll often find yourself cursing at how frustrating the game is at times, but with great difficulty comes a great sense of achievement when completing the levels. Combine these qualities with an awesome soundtrack inspired by music from the 80s and 90s and you'll want to keep playing this game to the end.

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

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

[ LINK: Official Hotline Miami website ]

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2 - Episode 5: No Going Back Review

It's beginning to look a lot - like - Christmaaaas

  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Release Date: 27 August 2014
  • Time played: 100 mins

The final episode for The Walking Dead Season 2 has been finally released meaning that Telltale have finally wrapped up both The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us. I must admit I feel kind of sad in a way since there's always a bit of excitement whenever there's an announcement for a new episode by Telltale but it could be awhile till that happens again considering my lack of interest in the IPs they're currently developing for. If this review seems to look similar to the previous reviews that's because it is - but what would you expect considering only really the plot would change between episodes?

Plot (5/5)
This episode follows straight after episode four, Amid the Ruins where Clementine and her group are ambushed by a group of Russians and a firefight ensues. Just like any good survival horror/zombie flick, the numbers of the party diminish rapidly in this episode until there aren't many survivors left by the end. Tempers flare over several matters such as the mistreatment of a Russian prisoner and whether the group should keep heading north or return south.

I'm not going to provide any more spoilers but suffice to say this episode has a very dramatic conclusion where you'll have to make a difficult decision. The moral dilemmas are what I love best about The Walking Dead and it's something we need to see more of in computer games nowadays. The game also has a heart-wrenching, nostalgic moment in there that caught me by surprise (and managed to make me all misty-eyed).

If that wasn't enough, the game has multiple endings - actual mutiple endings (instead of very similar multiple endings as you got in the first The Walking Dead). Telltale have done a really good job in wrapping up this season but the I'm not sure how they are going to take into account the multiple endings of Season 2 once they finally release Season 3. Of course, there are always ways to go around it but I'm hoping it isn't Deus Ex: Invisible War style (where all endings happened at the same time) or where they consider one ending canonical and the rest aren't. A happy medium might be dialogue explaining what happened but that probably wouldn't even matter if you end up playing another character during Season 3 (i.e. someone besides Clementine).

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.

Clementine's apparently a natural when it comes to caring for babies

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. This episode is short just like Episode 3 but somehow it didn't feel as short, so I'm not going to penalise it for its short duration.

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

No Going Back is a very emotional, very dramatic ending to The Walking Dead's second season that will have you making some tough choices and also have you questioning who your friends really are. One of the great things about this series is that its characters are never two dimensional and this final episode to the second season is one of the best examples of this.

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 website ]

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good Old Games revamps their website and has sale on 35 games that will be dropped from its catalogue

Freedom Force vs The Third Reich is 1 of 35 games to be soon pulled off GOG's catalogue

Good Old Games (GOG.com) has recently revamped their website to apparently make it friendlier for mobile devices. They've also adopted a greyscale colour scheme which I'm not too big a fan of but as long as the site is functional, I'm not going to be too fussed. So besides the new look, what else has changed?

GOG.com has also introduced more payment options I've never heard of before (Sofort, Giropay, Webmoney and Yandex) along with the ability to purchase in four new currencies besides the US Dollar: Euros, British Pounds, Australian Dollars and Russian Roubles. GOG.com has also introduced a "Fair Price Package" as they're aware with the introduction of regional pricing for some of its games (a.k.a. the Australia Tax) that you might be paying more than the standard US Dollar price. If you do, GOG.com is prepared to refund the difference as store credit towards another of their games! Not as good as cash but that's still pretty generous.

Also, GOG.com are apparently dropping 35 of its titles from their catalogue come 2 September. However, unlike their previous behaviour (and Steam's current behaviour), they have advertised the fact that the games are being dropped and are providing a whopping 80% discount on them. Once you own the game you're able to re-download it whenever you like, even if the game isn't available for sale anymore.

I've taken a look at the titles on offer and compared them with Steam's current prices and Metacritic ratings. Yes, you could always wait for the games on Steam to go on sale but there are two disadvantages to this: (1) you risk not being able to buy the games on Steam if they're also being pulled off their catalogue on 2 September and (2) the obvious fact that Steam uses DRM and GOG's games are DRM-free.

Click to zoom

As we can see, most games are much cheaper than Steam's current prices except for Dark Fall 1 and Dark Fall 2 which are both also on sale until the 2 September (coincidence or not?). Games that aren't available on Steam at all include the following:

  • The Nations - Gold Edition
  • The Guild - Gold Edition
  • Silver
  • Alien Nations

In terms of games that are discounted and have Metacritic ratings of 80 or above, these seem to be good picks:

  • Freedom Force vs The Third Reich
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent
  • The Guild - Gold Edition
  • Painkiller Black Edition
  • Full Spectrum Warrior
  • Spellforce 2

So what do you think about GOG's new look? Are you planning on buying any of the games they're planning to drop from their catalogue?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Where are they now? - Scott Murphy

Co-designer of Space Quest, Scott Murphy

Last week I did a "Where are they now?" article on Mark Crowe so it would seem only fair that I write up this week's post on his partner in Andromedan crime, Scott Murphy. Just as I did with Mark Crowe, I'll be taking a look at Scott Murphy's past, present and future plans.

Scott Murphy was originally working in Sierra On-Line's hometown of Oakhurst, California not developing games, but cooking meals at a local restaurant. It was only after a friend of his, Doug Oldfield, started working at Sierra was Scott introduced to the wonderful world of adventure games. He was hooked and managed to get some time playing them too when he took his first job at Sierra as customer support. Scott taught himself how to program adventure games and worked his way up into a developer role. While working on the The Black Cauldron (1986), Scott met Mark Crowe and discovered that they had a mutual fondness of sci-fi. They were both keen on developing a sci-fi comedy adventure game and presented a four-room concept to Ken Williams, which he liked resulting in them gaining approval to make Space Quest (1986). Both Scott and Mark were designers of the game but Scott's other major contributions were the dialogue and programming. Mark focused on the graphics.

Space Quest (1986) turned out to be a hit and the "Two Guys from Andromeda" (the alter egos Scott and Mark would give themselves) would work on another three games together: Space Quest II: Chapter II - Vohaul's Revenge (1987), Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (1989) and finally Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991). Scott liked all the Space Quest games for different reasons: the earlier ones for their parser interface, Space Quest III (1989) for it being the first Space Quest game with MIDI music, and Space Quest IV and Space Quest 6 (1995) because of their dialogue being narrated by Gary Owens.

Speaking of Space Quest 6, this was the only Space Quest game that Scott worked on without Mark (who worked on the previous game Space Quest V (1993)). Scott was already working on Police Quest: Open Season (1993) while a colleague named Josh Mandel was the designer of the new Space Quest. Josh Mandel left Sierra before the completion of the game, despite the design being mostly complete, so Scott came in to finish the job. Scott mentioned that Josh was "way under-credited for his work" and he felt partially at fault but hoped Josh and the Space Quest fans would accept his apology.

Although Scott co-designed and programmed the first four Space Quest games and helped design Space Quest 6 he also programmed many other well loved Sierra titles such as Police Quest (1987), Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1991), EcoQuest (1991) and The Dagger of Amon Ra (1992).

Scott started work on Space Quest 7 in 1997 but it never saw the light of day as on 22 February 1999, a day Scott called "Chainsaw Monday", Sierra's iconic Oakhurst facility was closed down and multiple employees were laid off (including Scott - although he was technically laid off a month or two before). Scott took several odd jobs since then because his skills as an adventure game designer were not as marketable during the 2000s as they were in previous decades. He eventually moved to Alabama to support his mother.

In a candid 2006 interview by Adventure Classic Gaming, Scott revealed he was quite bitter about the direction Sierra headed as it became more successful and felt that the developers did not receive enough credit for their hard work. He also didn't like the way adventure games were becoming purely point 'n' click adventure games and not parser-driven ones; he was very disappointed when they had to drop the parser from Space Quest IV. Scott even mentioned his disappointment with Mark Crowe and that it was unlikely he would ever work with him again:

Would I want to work with Mark again? No, I don't think so.

However, a couple of years ago when Scott and Mark reunited and formed the "Guys from Andromeda" with Chris Pope, Scott mentioned it was all water under the bridge and that both him and Mark never had a problem when they were working together.

The Guys from Andromeda are currently working on a new sci-fi comedy game tentatively called SpaceVenture, thanks to raising more than $500,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. The game promises to have voice acting by Gary Owens, Rob Paulsen, Robert Clotworthy, Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie. It will also have a soundtrack composed by another ex-Sierra employee, Ken Allen.

As of 2014, the game still isn't complete yet but the guys believe the game will be finished sometime early next year. I wish Scott (and Mark and Chris and the rest of the SpaceVenture team) all the best and look forward to playing their latest adventure game in the new year!

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Scott Murphy ]
[ Wikipedia: Two Guys from Andromeda ]
[ SpaceVenture Kickstarter Project ]
[ Adventure Classic Gaming Interview with Scott Murphy (2006) ]
[ The Official Space Quest FAQ ]
[ MobyGames: Scott Murphy's Bio ]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reversion - The Escape Review


Gotta love the Dad jokes

  • Developer: 3f Interactive
  • Publisher: 3f Interactive
  • Release Date: 21 March 2012
  • Time played: 1.4 hours

I managed to score a free copy of the sequel to Reversion - The Escape (thanks again Mix-Master) called Reversion - The Meeting so I thought I'd better give the first episode a go before I venture onto the next. Thankfully, Reversion - The Escape is a free-to-play game so it turns out I didn't need to pay anything for the first two episodes of the Reversion series.

However, is Reversion - The Escape any good? I'm a big fan of adventure games but does this one tick all the right boxes?

Plot (3/5)
You play the role of a man who wakes up in a dilapidated hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina with nothing more than the clothes on your back and a torn up photo with a scientist on it. You soon discover that you're suffering from amnesia and you have no recollection of why you're at the hospital or even who you are. You also find out that the city has been taken over by a military junta and it's these guys that are preventing you from escaping the hospital, which happens to be the goal of the game.

Unfortunately, the game ends once you leave the hospital so the game ends up being too short for anything to really develop. What I mentioned in the last paragraph is pretty much all you're going to be able to glean from the brief time you play Reversion - The Escape. The game/episode acts more as a teaser or demo than anything else, although I do like the fact it's set in a city not normally used as a setting for a computer game. Also, I'm a big sucker for the amnesiachero trope.

Also the character dialogue seems to be a bit clumsy at times to the point where some responses don't make any sense. I'm not sure if this is just because they had bad dialogue writers or something was lost in translation from what I assume was originally in Spanish.

Gameplay (4/5)
The game thankfully has your typical point 'n' click adventure interface where the mouse rules supreme! The puzzles are generally logical and straight-forward to complete too; there's even a hints system if you get stuck, although I never needed to use it. The only criticism I have with the game is that like oldschool adventure games there are a lot of red herrings or items on the screen that look potentially useful but turns out to be nothing more than eye candy.


Sound (2/5)
The English voice acting is quite poor with the emphasis being stressed on the wrong words and a mixture of actors that are too hammy in their delivery alongside actors who sound a bit like Harry from House of the Dead 2:



I'm not sure if it sounds as good in Spanish (if there is a Spanish version) but I'm hoping it does.

Music (2/5)
Music tends to be the same theme over and over again yet with different variations. Too bad the variations all seem to be rather dull.

Graphics (4/5)
Graphics are generally pretty good. The game adopts a clean, crisp comic-book style that's visually appealing.

Replay (1/5)
It only took me a bit over an hour to finish this game - although if you want to be generous, you could say that technically this isn't the whole game, it's just the first episode. So on one hand you feel that the experience is way too short yet on the other, you rationalise it by saying you can't expect much from the first chapter. It originally took me 1.4 hours to complete the game which is pretty short but playing it a second time revealed that it's possible to pull it off in 10 minutes. This is extremely short and since it's (thankfully) free-to-play, it leads me to believe that this is almost a form of shareware - i.e. release the first episode for free and if you like what you see, pay extra for the rest of the episodes.

Don't ask me what's going on here

Polish (4/5)
The only bugs I encountered were the occasional visual bug where the protagonist is able to climb onto things that he shouldn't be able to and ends up double in size.

Score – 6/10

Reversion - The Escape isn't a bad little point 'n' click adventure game but it's just as well it's free since you can finish the "game" in 10 minutes. It makes more sense to imagine this as a form of demo or type of shareware in order to entice you into purchasing more of the Reversion series (its second episode costs money). It would've been nice if they spent more effort in improving the voice acting and the soundtrack too.

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

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

[ LINK: Official Reversion website ]


Monday, August 25, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #145 - The Ur-Quan Masters - Pkunk - Pkunks Not Dead



Composed by: Eric Berge
Remixed by: András Barják

This is a remix of the music which plays whenever you meet a race of hippie bird-like creatures known as the Pkunks. I always liked these guys despite their goofy theme tune and the remix title may be alluding to an ability the Pkunk ships, known as Furies, have in the game: the ability to resurrect.

András Barják has still maintained the goofy, carefree nature of the original track yet made it cooler at the same time thanks to an awesome drum track and some epic bass guitar, especially when the slap bass starts at about 0:56.

Special thanks to The Precursors for remixing the classic Star Control II tracks and making them available for download.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hotline Miami Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Hotline Miami OST
  • Label: Devolver Digital
  • Composer(s): Various Artists
  • Number of Tracks: 22

Hotline Miami isn't the kind of game I thought I'd ever be playing. While I don't mind playing violent games, over-the-top violence isn't a selling point for me when considering games to buy. I did hear how awesome the soundtrack for Hotline Miami was though and since I'm a bit of a fan when it comes to 80s and 90s music, I took notice.

However, that's about all I did. I didn't think it would be worth buying a game just in order to experience an awesome soundtrack, even though I think good soundtracks are crucial in building that emotional attachment and pleasure you have when playing a game. That issue would soon pass though since thanks to my friend Luke, I was gifted not only the game, but also the soundtrack so I can now experience how good both the game is and the soundtrack (a review for the game will be coming soon :)).

The soundtrack doesn't disappoint. There are a decent number of tracks on this album including one that wasn't even used in the game (Perturbator's "Vengeance"). Usually when I see a lot of tracks though I think "Man, there's going to be a lot of filler here", which means there's going to be a couple of really awesome tracks with a lot of tracks that don't really warrant a mention (unless you're into ambient stuff). This is what happened with my review of the Skyrim soundtrack and while my score of 5/10 might seem pretty harsh (considering how epic the good tracks are), I seriously doubt most people will be listening to half the stuff on it, because there's a lot of ambient tracks there.

Hotline Miami's soundtrack doesn't have the same problem. It does help that the soundtrack is a tribute to 80s and 90s synthpop, techno and game music but what's even more amazing is how the tracks all have a consistently awesome retro sound to them, and the fact that they're all done by separate artists! No mean feat. Even the stuff I don't really like I can at least appreciate, such as Sun Araw's work with the main title theme, "Horse Steppin'" and the reggae beats you hear each time your character wakes up to "Deep Cover".

There are a lot of good tracks on this album, but my personal favourites include Scattle's badass "Knock Knock", Jasper Byrne's groovy "Hotline" (now with MOAR COWBELL) and Scattle's "It's Safe Now" which has to be the funkiest track on the album. However, even these tracks cannot match the brilliance that is Perturbator's "Miami Disco". If you took the best elements of Italo Disco and MOD music by Alexander Brandon (think Deus Ex's soundtrack), "Miami Disco" would be the result. Whenever I think Hotline Miami, I think of this track - it should be the game's anthem.



Score - 8/10

Not only is Hotline Miami's soundtrack perfectly suited for the game it was composed for, it should satisfy any fans of gaming that were most active in the 80s and 90s. Or guys who happen to like wearing white polyster suits, driving DMC DeLoreans with synthpop blasting through the stereo.

You can grab different tracks off this album from the respective artist pages but if you want the whole deal, I believe the only way to do so is to purchase the soundtrack as DLC for the game off Steam for $10. Considering the soundtrack is the same price as the game, I think this is further evidence of how good it is.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Where to buy Civilization: Beyond Earth in Australia?

Alien worm: You say you're from Australia, eh? Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom!

Some of you may have noticed that just today the price of Civilization: Beyond Earth on Steam has been increased by a substantial $40 from its starting price of $49.99 to $89.99. So if you happened to purchase the game during that small window of the past few days, good for you! For the rest of us though, we have been once again struck by the "Australia Tax" (i.e. playing extortionate prices just because we live in the Land Down Under). It looks pretty grim with respect to the typical retailers although as always, if you're prepared to shop overseas you can get some good deals. I'm actually a bit hesitant and mistrustful of overseas stores but one particular one I do like is ozgameshop. I've purchased a few games from them in the past (physical copies and codes via email) and they've delivered each time. So let us take a look at the major players (i.e. EB Games, JB Hi-Fi and Steam) and ozgameshop shall we?

Civilization: Beyond Earth
Available on:
  • ozgameshop - Code ($47.49)
  • ozgameshop - Physical ($51.99)
  • JB Hi-Fi ($79.00)
  • EB Games ($89.95)
  • Steam ($89.99USD)
Includes:
  • Exoplanets Map Pack DLC
  • Code for Sid Meier's Ace Patrol (when pre-ordered from EB Games)

Verdict:
Unlike some other games (notably games released by EA), Civiliation: Beyond Earth doesn't have any digital deluxe/special editions. Consequently, wherever you're buying the game, provided you pre-order, you'll receive the Exoplanets Map Pack DLC. If you're looking to get the cheapest copy of the game, which also happens to be a Steam key, the best deal out of these stores is ozgameshop for $47.49. If you prefer physical copies of the game, ozgameshop is still the cheapest at $51.99 and you don't need to pay any extra on shipping since they state that orders of $50 or more include free shipping! You may have to wait awhile for the copy to arrive on our shores though.

With respect to "bricks and mortar" stores here in Australia, JB's offer is $10 less than EB's but you get a code for Sid Meier's Ace Patrol included. Personally, I don't think it's really worth the extra $10 though considering Ace Patrol is only $5 USD on Steam anyway, so JB marginally wins in that regard.

Steam at the moment is looking like a no-go as you're able to get a Steam key from ozgameshop for much cheaper (closer to the original price they advertised for the game when it first advertised its price on Steam). If buying off Steam wait until it goes on sale for 50% off.

Friday, August 22, 2014

First Impressions - Bioshock Infinite

One of my favourites by The Beach Boys

Bioshock Infinite is another of those games I've waited far too long to get my hands on playing. I think I missed the boat with the Bioshock games and to be honest, I'm not a fan of graphic violence or horror in games which I think the first two were mainly about. I might be totally wrong though as I'm just basing this off gut feel and snippets of information other players have divulged about the games. While I expected Bioshock Infinite to also have its scary moments, I somehow thought I'd be able to tolerate it a bit better - not to mention it's set in the 1910s with an awesome floating city as its playground! It remains to be seen if my predictions are right though...

So when I saw the game on sale I thought I'd finally give the game a shot. Keep in mind though that my eventual review of this game will probably be tailored more towards people like me: people who haven't really experienced Bioshock before and want to see if it's worth giving Infinite a go. Those who are Bioshock fans would have well and truly played the game already

What I like

  • Audio: There are some great background sound effects and some pretty good voice acting here by veteran voice actors with Chris VandenHeuvel doing a particularly good job as Zachary Hale Comstock.
  • Setting: I'm really digging this alternate history setting; the fact that Columbia is a giant floating micronation at the turn of the 20th century that's trying to hearken to what they believe are the good ol' days of the United States, and bringing their brand of imperialism wherever they go.
  • Music: I really love the fact that you get to hear old-fashioned renditions of popular music such as "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys. When I first heard it I just had to run over to the barbershop quartet singing it in-game and listen to the whole performance. Combat music is also good, changing with the mood of the battle.

What I don't like

  • Acceptance of the supernatural: It's not long before you get to use these superpowers called "Vigors" but what I find amazing aren't the superpowers you get but how quickly the protagonist, Booker deWitt, just accepts them as a fact of life. Maybe this will get explained later on but it seems pretty unbelievable so far. While on the topic of Vigors...
  • Vigors: I haven't really used the Vigors at all during the game. Sure they can give you some temporary benefits but usually the most effective way to kill someone is a bullet through the head. I've probably got 99% of my kills so far just using standard guns and rarely have I ever run out of ammo. Which makes you wonder what's the point of the Vigors in the first place? Maybe later in the game they come into their element but so far there's no need for them.
  • Character models: While there's definitely some beautiful vistas to be seen in this game, I'm not a big fan of the cartoony character models, especially some of the eyes of the females - it makes them look like living porcelain dolls which just creeps me out. Although, maybe that's what they were intending...

Verdict

I'm really enjoying Bioshock Infinite so far, and that's from someone who hasn't played the previous two Bioshock games - so I think that's a good sign (in that you don't need to have played the previous two in order to enjoy the story in this one). There's not really much to fault here except some minor issues with the plausibility of the plot, the gameplay mechanics with respect to Vigors and the unappealing character models. Nothing that will detract me from finishing the game though :).

[ LINK: Official Bioshock Infinite website ]


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shadowgate remake to be released tomorrow

You tell them Han Solo.

Back in November 2012, Virginian game developer Zojoi ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in raising $137,232 to develop a remake of its classic adventure game, Shadowgate. The original game was released well over two decades ago and while I never played it, I did enjoy other games by ICOM Simulations (the precursor to Zojoi) such as the FMV detective game, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.

It's been a long journey but Zojoi has just announced that the new Shadowgate will be released tomorrow! As I type this article, Steam reports 10 hours until the game is unlocked but there is currently no price set for the game. I'm predicting it will be at least $15 considering that was the minimum Kickstarter backers paid for a copy of the game. Zojoi have also informed their backers that they will have a choice of receiving a DRM-free copy of the game or a Steam key; these can be redeemed by accessing Humble Bundle.

Anybody else excited about Shadowgate's release? Did you play the original?

[ SOURCE: Shadowgate Kickstarter: Update #51 ]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where are they now? - Mark Crowe

Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy back in the 1980s

You may remember that both Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy just made it on my list of Top 10 PC Game Developers of all time in August last year (although I was quite liberal with the word "developer" since, as you may have noticed, I've included teams) so this isn't the first time that they've been mentioned on this blog. I would however like to take some time to explore Mark Crowe's past, present and future for today's "Where are they now?" article. I'll continue with Scott Murphy next week :).

Mark Crowe started working for Sierra's marketing department as an illustrator back in 1983 before he eventually moved on to creating computer graphics. The first project he worked on where he was able to test his new skills was Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood (1984). This wouldn't be the game (or indeed series) he would become famous for: that game would be Space Quest and would not be released until 1986.

While working on the game called The Black Cauldron, Mark met a programmer named Scott Murphy who shared his interest in science-fiction. Both of them were tired of adventure games taking themselves too seriously and decided that their new game, Space Quest would be a farcical game that poked fun at science-fiction tropes. Mark had already come up with a basic storyline and key puzzles, while Scott was to provide much of the humour and dialogue. All that was left to do was to convince Sierra's CEO, Ken Williams, to give the green light. Ken wasn't too keen on the idea and thought a sci-fi comedy adventure wouldn't sell. Not content to give up so soon, Mark and Scott developed a demo of Space Quest during their spare time and when they showed it to Ken, he loved it so much that he gave them approval to proceed.

Mark and Scott would collaborate on four Space Quest titles together: Space Quest: Chapter I - The Sarien Encounter (1986), Space Quest II: Chapter II - Vohaul's Revenge (1987), Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (1989) and finally Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991) - Space Quest IV being the game that Mark considers a masterpiece.

The Space Quest series wasn't the only series that Mark worked on while at Sierra. He also helped provide the graphics for the first Police Quest (1987) and the first Leisure Suit Larry (1987) as well as several other games during the 1980s and early 1990s.

After the completion of Space Quest IV, Mark and Scott went their separate ways with Mark moving to Oregon with his family to work at Sierra's subsidiary, Dynamix. There's always been rumours amongst Space Quest fans as to the reason why they never worked together again after Space Quest IV but both Mark and Scott claim that people were reading too much into it. During a Reddit IAMA held 2 years ago, Scott had this to say:

Mark and I were burned out. Mark was starting a family, had two new babies and wanted to leave the Oakhurst area. The communication on that was poor. It took few years for us to get back in touch and realize where we'd screwed up in that regard. Once we talked it took us 15 minutes to understand and get it behind us...

Shortly after joining Dynamix, Mark was re-hired by Sierra to work on Space Quest V: The Next Mutation (1993) as a designer. Scott was apparently working on his own project so Mark took control of the Space Quest V project. Mark wanted to introduce some new characters that would breathe new life into the series and thought to use the popular TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation for source material since it was largely untouched by the series at that stage.

After completing Space Quest V and a couple of EarthSiege games, Mark followed many ex-Dynamix employees to Pipeworks Software, due to layoffs at Sierra and Dynamix in 1999. Mark worked on several games there as a Studio Design Director and it would take more than a decade before Mark and Scott would finally reunite as a team in April 2012 under the very familiar name "Guys from Andromeda" (they couldn't use "Two Guys from Andromeda" since they have a third guy now called Chris Pope who serves as their marketing and PR guru).

On 13 June 2012, the Guys from Andromeda managed to raise more than $500,000 via Kickstarter in order to develop a spiritual successor to Space Quest known tentatively as SpaceVenture. The game promises to have voice acting by Gary Owens, Rob Paulsen, Robert Clotworthy, Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie. It will also have a soundtrack composed by another ex-Sierra employee, Ken Allen.

As of 2014, the game still isn't complete yet but the guys believe the game will be finished sometime early next year. I wish Mark (and Scott and Chris and the rest of the SpaceVenture team) all the best and look forward to playing their latest adventure game in the new year!

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Mark Crowe ]
[ Wikipedia: Two Guys from Andromeda ]
[ SpaceVenture Kickstarter Project ]
[ Roger Wilco's Virtual Broomcloset: An Interview with Mark Crowe (1996) ]
[ Space Quest FAQ ]
[ MobyGames: Mark Crowe's Bio ]

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP Review


The three things you can never escape from: death, taxes and triangles

  • Developer: Superbrothers, Capybara Games and Jim Guthrie
  • Publisher: Capybara Games
  • Release Date: 17 April 2012
  • Time played: 4.5 hours

As mentioned in my First Impressions article for this game, I was initially attracted to this game due to its claim of being "a prog rock concept record you can hang out in." I'm a fan of prog rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes, so I was thinking that an adventure game with an awesome prog rock soundtrack (created by professional musician Jim Guthrie) would be a good investment, especially considering it was on sale when I purchased it (and it's currently $8 USD full price). What I was more concerned about was how good was the actual story and how fun was the game to play?

Plot (4/5)
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (I'm just going to call it S&S from now on as its full title is a bit of a mouthful) is set in a strange fantasy world where you play the role as a heroine called "The Scythian". Incidentally, Scythians are also an ancient tribe that lived in the Northern Caucasus region and the Caucasus Mountains do get mentioned in this game not to mention that Mingi Taw, the mountain you're meant to ascend as part of your quest, is another name for Mount Elbrus which is part of the Caucasus mountain range. So the game is apparently set in a real region of Earth but the events that occur in the game are pretty trippy.

Like most fantasy stories, your quest is to defeat a great evil and in this game your nemesis is known as The Golgothic Mass. Equipped with nothing more than a sword and shield, your character has to first scale up the mountain to claim something known as the Megatome in order to dabble a bit in the art of "sworcery". Having a bit of "sworcery" up your sleeve will be crucial in defeating the big bad boss.

I won't go much more into it but despite most of the usual fantasy tropes being there, it manages to be different and surreal enough that it compels me to learn more about the world(s) The Scythian explores. Making fun of those aforementioned fantasy tropes also helps make this game even more appealing as we find that The Scythian is quite sarcastic, characters in the story communicate using something very similar to Twitter (you can also tweet your progress in the game to the real-life Twitter), objects and activities in the game have funny names (such as "woeful errand" instead of "mighty quest"), and the tale often breaks the fourth wall. The only reason I didn't give a perfect score for the plot is that while most things in the ending make some sense, there are a few things that do not - so much so that there's a very long winded thread here discussing it (and still investigating what one part of the ending means almost two years later).

Gameplay (3/5)
I like to think that S&S is one part Karateka (the new version) and one part Loom. The "Sword" part of the game involves the combat sequences which reminds me of the combat sequences used in Karateka. It basically all boils down to timing: when to block your attacks and when to counter-attack. Your opponent gives little cues as to what kind of attacks he will perform against you, just as it was with Karateka. Once you've figured out the rhythm of the combat, it can start feeling rather dull - so it's fortunate that combat isn't the only aspect of the game.

The other major component of the game is the "Sworcery" part which reminds me of games like Loom. While S&S is by no means as difficult as Loom (and Loom is pretty easy on the lower difficulty settings) it employs similar mechanics for its magical puzzle segments where it mainly involves clicking or swiping at things in the correct sequence in order to unlock something. It is a refreshing break from having a game simply about combat although there's nothing too challenging being done here making the game a very casual affair.

Besides fighting and performing magic rituals, you'll be spending the rest of your time just exploring the world and interacting with its inhabitants: with lumberjacks like "Logfella". Sounds like a pretty cool dude.

The game often pokes fun at typical fantasy game tropes

Sound (5/5)
Voice acting is minimal with only a few choice samples spoken by Logfella the Lumberjack (if I'm not mistaken). The general background audio consists of the sound of water falling, birds chirping and the wind howling which fits the scenery you visit perfectly.

Music (5/5)
When I first listened to the game's music, I must admit that I was slightly disappointed since the music didn't sound anything like my expectations of prog rock. Consequently I felt like I was a bit misled in purchasing the game. Nevertheless, I quickly warmed to the music since even if it isn't what I think prog rock should sound like, Jim Guthrie has done a sensational job regardless, making The Scythian's adventure seem truly surreal and magical.

Graphics (2/5)
Graphics in the game are pretty basic, there's no denying that. While this might help you exercise your creativity more, that's what us old-timers used to do when playing some games in the 1980s, it also means the game looks as if it was developed in the 1980s - like it is King's Quest except with more than 16 colours.

Replay (3/5)
The game is a bit short at 4.5 hours but this isn't actually too bad for an adventure game (when you consider a classic adventure game like Loom only takes a couple of hours to complete, provided you know what you're doing of course). The game does have some Steam achievements you can go hunt but you're likely to get a majority of them just finishing the game normally.

Polish (4/5)
I didn't notice any serious bugs but the mobile phone game mechanics do annoy me somewhat. What do I mean by this? Instead of using simple mouse clicks to perform certain actions in the game you instead have to hold the mouse down and swipe over your screen, which obviously works fine (and is the only way you could possibly do it) on a touch screen device such as a mobile phone or tablet, but it seems a bit cumbersome at times when using a PC's mouse.

Score – 8/10

Despite Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP not having particularly entertaining game mechanics, you will still be compelled to learn more about the surreal and magical worlds The Scythian explores. As an added bonus, the music that accompanies the game, by Jim Guthrie, is perfect and purchasing the game off Steam grants you a free digital copy of it.

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

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

[ LINK: Official Sword & Sworcery website ]

Monday, August 18, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #144 - The Ur-Quan Masters - Outfit - Outfit the Vindicator



Composed by: Dan Nicholson
Remixed by: Jouni Airaksinen

This is a remix of the music which plays whenever you outfit your Starship with new components at Earth's Starbase in Star Control II. I always loved the fact that the music for the Humans in Star Control II was always so... dance-able, so... high tempo. I think the reason for the high tempo tracks (with the exception of the track that plays for the Starbase's main menu) is intentional: considering Humanity is described as one of the most industrious races, it makes sense to have some high tempo, almost industrial, techno music playing in the background.

Jouni Airaksinen has only made some minor alterations to Dan Nicholson's classic which I believe was a wise decision.

Special thanks to The Precursors for remixing the classic Star Control II tracks and making them available for download.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Impressions: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP


The game features much parody and breaking the fourth wall

With a name like Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, you could tell that this game was going to be anything but conventional. I was originally attracted to this game due to some glowing reviews and the fact it boasted a prog rock soundtrack that you would also be able to access from outside the game. As I'm a fan of both prog rock and games with epic soundtracks, I thought this was worth a go especially since I got it so cheap during a Steam sale.

What I like

  • Audio: Sword & Sworcery has some pretty neat audio. While there isn't much voice acting per se, the sound effects they have playing in the background such as the sound of water falling, birds chirping and the wind howling is perfect.
  • Plot: The plot is basically your typical fantasy fare although it's rather humourous since the heroine of the tale isn't particularly heroic, characters in the story communicate via something similar to Twitter, and the tale often breaks the fourth wall.

What I don't like

  • Music: The description of the game mentions it's a "prog rock concept record you can hang out in". While I definitely dig the music, it isn't exactly what I'd call prog rock (at least not the likes of Pink Floyd, Genesis or Yes) so I consequently feel a bit misled.
  • Graphics: I don't mind the graphics but there's no denying that these are 1980s Sierra graphic adventure style graphics - it's like King's Quest but with a better colour palette.
  • Mobile Phone game mechanics: This is quite obviously a game focused for mobile devices (and they're not hiding the fact either, the game managed to generate a good number of its sales off the iOS platform). Consequently, the control system is a bit crappy, consisting a lot of holding the mouse button down and swiping at your screen. I would've preferred a simple point 'n' click interface personally.
  • Basic combat mechanics: From what I've encountered so far, Quick-Time Events seems to be the way that combat is resolved (similar in style to Karateka). This mechanic is fine provided you back it up with a good storyline.

Verdict

While I'm disappointed the music isn't the kind of prog rock I'm used to, it's still pretty good and I am digging the strange and weird landscapes you're able to explore in this game so far. Consider me intrigued, enough that I want to reach the conclusion to this tale.

[ LINK: Official Sword & Sworcery website ]

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Shroud of the Avatar Opening Cinematic Released

Ahhhh, nothing like getting yourself warm besides a cozy laptop monitor

It can't be long now until Shroud of the Avatar is released since Portalarium has just released what is apparently going to be the opening cinematic for the game!



It seems that, kind of similar to Ultima, the player is actually a person from Earth that is teleported into the fantasy world called New Britannia (yes, not a terribly original name is it? :) - although in the description it mentions the place is actually called "Novia" - hmmm)! The trailer makes sure to poke fun at the banality of life on Earth as you track your friends' status updates on Facebook, and how your investigations into this mystical world of New Britannia on the Dark Internet and obscure forums have you intrigued - so much so that you're able to somehow transport yourself there (without the aid of moongates).

One thing I really like in the trailer is the music which has definitely got a medieval vibe, similar to the Ultima games. Apparently the track is called "Dark Planet" by the Space Bards but I haven't been able to track a copy of the music online, not just yet anyway.

So what do you think of the opening cinematic? Do you think it's good, so-so or even bad? Also, are you looking forward to Shroud of the Avatar?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Good Old Games selling selected platformers at up to 75% off


Valdis Story: Abyssal City. Developed with Game Maker Studio and currently on sale on GOG.com

Good Old Games is having a promotion this weekend where you can get up to 75% off selected platformers. While I'm not usually a big fan when it comes to platformers I may be tempted to buy Valdis Story: Abyssal City, just for research purposes of course ;) (apparently the game was developed using Game Maker Studio). There are a lot of classic platformer games on sale though for any of you that want to complete your game libraries for nostalgia's sake, such as:

  • Duke Nukem 1 + 2 for $1.99
  • Hocus Pocus for $1.99
  • Psychonauts for $2.99
  • Secret Agent for $1.99

A more recent classic, Spelunky, is also on sale for $4.99, so there's plenty to choose from.

[ LINK: GOG: Weekend Promo: Platformers Aplenty! ]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New King's Quest to be developed by an odd choice


The Odd Gentlemen: An odd choice for an adventure game developer

A couple of days ago, Matt Korba founder of small, indie developer The Odd Gentlemen announced that his studio would be developing a new official King's Quest game as part of Activision's resurrected Sierra. Apparently in the new story, King Graham shares his life adventures with his curious granddaughter, Gwendolyn. It's through these stories that Gwendolyn learns about her grandfather's greatness.

And that's all we've got to go on so far.

Before a couple of days ago, I had never heard of The Odd Gentlemen, so it made me wonder why on Earth Activision picked a relatively unknown small indie development house to create the next King's Quest game when they could've gone with an experienced, medium sized studio like Telltale Games (although apparently Telltale Games themselves were considering outsourcing development of King's Quest when they held the IP). So I decided to investigate a bit more about The Odd Gentlemen to find out whether they have the right kind of experience to pull off a game based on one of the most loved adventure game franchises of all time.

History

The Odd Gentlemen's first game called The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, released in 2010, is arguably their best. I have heard of this game and there is a reason why: the game has won several awards and is critically acclaimed (with a Metacritic rating of 79). The game is apparently a puzzle platformer and is so good that it received comparisons between it and games like Portal and Braid. The game was developed for the PC and Xbox Live but that wouldn't be the case for their next game.

In 2011, The Odd Gentlemen developed their first iPhone game called Flea Symphony and on 16 July 2014, released a Steam game in collaboration with English author Neil Gaiman called Wayward Manor. Wayward Manor, apparently another casual puzzle game, didn't fare so well, receiving a Metacritic rating of 49 and many negative Steam reviews. Incidentally, the game is also missing from the list of games on the official The Odd Gentlemen website.

Besides King's Quest, The Odd Gentlemen are also working on a Kickstarter backed game that received almost $2.5 million called Homestuck Adventure Game.


Reason to be concerned?

I must admit that I am feeling a little bit anxious about The Odd Gentlemen being tied to development of King's Quest. The only things going for them so far are that they've managed to release a pretty good game with The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and that since most of their experience is with puzzle games, the puzzles are bound to be entertaining in a new King's Quest - however this leads directly onto one of the reasons I'm worried. The Odd Gentlemen have never developed a point 'n' click adventure game. So either they're going to be bumbling along while making King's Quest or worse, King's Quest isn't going to be an adventure game.

Another concern is that they tend to focus on seemingly small games focused on puzzle gameplay, I mean they did release a game on the iPhone after all. This could mean any game they develop may have story taking a backseat to the actual gameplay where usually it should be the other way around for an adventure game.

Finally, it seems The Odd Gentlemen's performance is erratic, at least when viewed by the critics. While their first game was a big success, subsequent games have either not made it to PC or received mediocre ratings.

Let us hope The Odd Gentlemen can alleviate our concerns by showing us some concept art, screenshots and footage in the upcoming months. Or bring Roberta Williams aboard. Then I'd feel a bit more at ease :).

[ LINK: The Odd Gentlemen are Pleased to Announce Their Next Adventure: King's Quest ]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where are they now? - Jim Walls


A photo of some of Sierra's designers. Jim Walls is second from the right.

For today's Where are they now? I'll be basing it on another of Sierra's great game designers, namely Jim Walls, creator of the Police Quest series. Unlike other Quest games by Sierra, the Police Quest series was the most realistic: players assumed the role of police officer Sonny Bonds and many of the puzzles in the game would be simply following proper police procedure. Failure to do so would usually result in a premature ending to the game (e.g. running a red light without the siren on). Before we talk about his most recent activities let's take a look at how Jim Walls ended up working for Sierra On-Line.

Jim Walls was born and raised in California and actually started off his first career as an optician for several years, working for optometrists and ophthalmologists in the Fresno area. In 1969, he met the husband of a colleague who was just about to graduate as a California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer. The man's enthusiasm rubbed off onto Jim and two years later, he too became a CHP Officer.

Jim served as a police officer for 13 years although a particular incident in 1984 where he was involved in a shootout mentally scarred him for life. Jim was eventually placed on administrative leave while his condition was investigated and during this time he managed to meet Sierra co-founder, Ken Williams. Ken often got haircuts by Jim's hair stylist wife, Donna, and when he mentioned that he wanted to make a police adventure game but with an actual police officer as a designer, Donna passed on Ken's contact details to Jim.

After meeting Ken for the first time, Jim was asked to develop a story based on some of his experiences while serving as a CHP Officer. Ken liked what he read and eventually they translated the story into a design document. During this time, Jim received support from other Sierra veterans such as Ken's wife and creator of the King's Quest series, Roberta Williams, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy (creators of Space Quest) and even Al Lowe (creator of Leisure Suit Larry) towards the end of the project.

Besides 1987's Police Quest, Jim would also design its sequels Police Quest 2 (1988) and Police Quest 3 (1991). He also designed the game Codename: Iceman (1989) during his time at Sierra.

Jim decided to leave Sierra after the completion of Police Quest 3 and then worked with Tsunami Games (which was composed of many former Sierra employees) on another police adventure game called Blue Force (1993).

In 1996, Jim made his way to Nevada so he could work for Real-Time Strategy giant, Westwood Studios. Jim was contracted by Louis Castle to work as a designer on Blade Runner (1997) in order to make the police segments as authentic as possible. After Blade Runner shipped, Jim worked as a full-time designer at Westwood Studios until 2003. He helped design action-adventure Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat (2002) and sci-fi MMORPG Earth & Beyond (2002). Earth & Beyond would be the last game to be developed by Westwood Studios before it closed for good in 2003 by EA.

For the next 10 years, Jim was most likely doing what Ken Williams was doing, i.e. enjoying retirement. It wasn't until 2 February 2013 during a podcast that Jim revealed he was seriously thinking of creating a new police adventure game, thanks to the successes other ex-Sierra developers were having with Kickstarter (and Choicest Games was one of the first places in the world to break that news ;)). On 16 July 2013, a Kickstarter project for the game Precinct was launched aiming to raise $500,000 for development. Unfortunately, the goal seemed unreachable and the Kickstarter project was cancelled a few days before the funding deadline. Robert Lindsley (another ex-Sierra employee) and Jim then took to funding the game through their own website but ultimately this too proved to be a failure and after only two weeks, they cancelled this funding drive too. Jim sent an email to all Precinct backers to say the project was on hold but that...

This is not the end! Precinct will rise again! It's too good not to.

It's been about a year since the end of the Precinct funding drive and there's been no news. I'm hoping that recent developments such as Sierra's rebirth encourage Jim to come back out of retirement again and to pitch his idea once again :).

EDIT (14/08/2014): I just confirmed with Jim Walls that he is indeed enjoying retirement at the moment and no one has approached him yet with respect to working on a new game. He is still hopeful of doing Precinct in the future though. I hope he gets his chance!

[LINK: Jim Walls Reloaded ]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good Game's Top 100 skewed towards more recent titles


ABC2's Good Game has just released their Top 100 Games List

ABC2's Good Game has just released its Top 100 games list with the top spot being taken by Bethesda Softworks's Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. While I can agree that Skyrim was a good game (I gave it 9/10 in my review) I'm not sure if it's deserving of the top spot. In fact, a majority of the games on the list seem to be ones released in the past few years with very little from a decade or two ago. While I can appreciate the reason for having more recent games on the list (since seriously, how many people actually go back and replay games from 20 years ago), it seems that the Good Game crew did not take into consideration some ground-breaking games of the 90s or games considered the best in a series by fans. Here are some of the changes I would've made if I had a go at this list :):

  • Placing the original Fallout on the list instead of Fallout 3. While Fallout 3 was a good game, none can surpass the impact the original had
  • While Civilization V is a good game (especially now with the Brave New World expansion), I still think Civilization IV was the best in the series
  • The original Diablo should be on the list instead of Diablo 3. Diablo 3 originally had horrible features like the Auction House
  • The addition of classics like Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 that had superior gameplay when compared to Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 (although the more recent games obviously have pretty graphics)
  • Replacement of The Sims 3 with The Sims 2 (since I believe its predecessor to be superior).
  • I would've added at least one of Sierra's classic point 'n' click adventure games - probably Quest for Glory but King's Quest would be just as worthy.
  • I would've added at least one of the early SimCity games to the list as they arguably started the whole idea of modern sandbox games
  • I would've added Prince of Persia to the list or maybe Karateka due to the rotoscoping techniques it employed in animation
  • I would've added one of the Command & Conquer games to the list due to their impact on the Real-Time Strategy genre
  • I would've added UFO: Enemy Unknown to the list thanks to its classic turn-based tactics gameplay
  • I would've added Transport Tycoon to the list due to its impact on the whole "tycoon" style of games and its lasting appeal
  • I would've added Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri to the list due to it being the superior, sci-fi version of Civilization
  • I would've added one of the Wing Commander games to the list due to their impact on the space sim genre (arguably, Elite would fit the bill too)
  • I would've added one of the Ultima games to the list due to their impact on early CRPGs and Ultima Online for its impact on modern MMORPGs
  • I would've added one of the Master of Orion games to the list due to the first one being responsible for the phrase "4X"

If the list was just focused on games in the most recent years, then it wouldn't be a bad list but if it were to include a couple of more decades, you've already got many potential suggestions as I've made (and they're only games on the PC).

If anything, this Top 100 list is definitely giving me more motivation to start creating my own on Choicest Games. I'm hoping to enlist the help of a couple of other contributors in creating the list to make sure it manages to capture as many candidates as possible. Obviously, unlike Good Game's list though, it'll be PC games only ;).

So what do you think about Good Game's Top 100 List? Do you agree with most of their picks or disagree? Any games that you think should be included but aren't?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Choicest VGM - VGM #143 - The Ur-Quan Masters - Orz - *Squeezing* the *Juice*




Composed by: Eric Berge
Remixed by: Riku Nuottajärvi and Tore Aune Fjellstad

This is a remix of the music which plays whenever you meet the the race of interdimensional beings known as the Orz. The most entertaining part of this race is the peculiar way they talked, thanks to the ship's translator not being able to translate the Orz language accurately, resulting in some humourous results. Where the computer has made a best guess at what the translation is, it places asterisks around the word (hence why there are asterisks in this track's title). Here's a list of some interesting translations, courtesy of the Ultronomicon:

  • Dancing: Combat
  • Fingers: An individual
  • Frumple: To become angry
  • Happy Camper: Races the Orz have good relations with
  • Squeezing the Juice: Probably means an attempt to calm down
  • Squishy: Good/goodness

There are several more so I'd recommend checking the Ultonomicon if you're interested in reading more translations.

Riku Nuottajärvi and Tore Aune Fjellstad have managed to capture the essence of the original yet make it sound cooler and less comical.

Special thanks to The Precursors for remixing the classic Star Control II tracks and making them available for download.