Friday, October 30, 2015

Broken Age Review

Jennifer Hale is the voice actor for Mom in Broken Age

  • Developer: Double Fine Productions
  • Publisher: Double Fine Productions
  • Release Date: 28 April 2015
  • Time played: 17 hours

Now that both acts of Broken Age have been released, played and reviewed, it's time to see how the game works as a whole. I'll also take into account the scores from each Act for each category.

Plot (4/5)

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 year 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).

In Act 2, all the conspiracies are revealed for what they truly are and both Shay and Vella (our two protagonists) are thrust into alien worlds. While from a gameplay standpoint, the puzzles are more challenging than Act 1, Act 2 seems pretty light on the story. There isn't much focus on character development and I think that's partly why the ending itself isn't very satisfactory – you just don't care what happens to the characters. Despite a short epilogue of pictures playing during the credits, there are still too many loose ends and you'll be wondering “is that it? Surely there's more to this tale…”

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).

In Act 1 you were given the option to switch between characters but I found it rather pointless (and it turned out I was right). However, Double Fine does a big trolololol on you in Act 2 since there's actually a point to switching the characters otherwise you won't be able to solve particular puzzles. The reason why you need to switch characters in Act 2 is a bit convoluted and breaks the fourth wall but at least there's a point to switching between them I suppose!

Act 2 was a bit more challenging in terms of gameplay than Act 1, I even had to look up a walkthrough once despite the answer staring at me in the face (I knew what I had to do I just couldn't see where on the screen the vital information was)!

"...Double Fine does a big trolololol on you in Act 2 since there's actually a point to switching the characters otherwise you won't be able to solve particular puzzles."

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)
When Act 1 was originally released there were no Steam Achievements for the game. This has since been rectified so now there's a reason to replay the game, although most achievements should be easy to acquire (i.e. the ones related to your story progress). There are a couple in there that depend on you picking the right conversation options straight up though…which I think we need more of from point ‘n' click adventure games.

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 – 8/10

Broken Age is everything you'd expect from Tim Schafer and Double Fine when it comes to adventure games and it's definitely a good example of a point ‘n' click adventure game with high production values. It's just a pity that the second act seems so disjointed from the first though and in an attempt to make puzzles more challenging, results in character development falling by the wayside. The ending isn't that satisfactory either with Schafer's previous adventure game efforts faring better.


Broken Age is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $24.99 USD?: Yes, this is about the right price for an adventure game with high production values.

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


[ LINK: Official Broken Age Website ]

Thursday, October 29, 2015

First Impressions - Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition

Gabriel Knight, trolling his Grandma

I've been meaning to get this game for quite a while considering I'm a fan of Sierra point 'n' click adventure games including the Gabriel Knight games by Jane Jensen. My wish came true on Father's Day this year as I managed to score a copy of the game although I'm not sure what to think about being gifted a game that was originally called Sins of the Fathers on Father's Day. I'm sure I won't let it get to me.

Also, why is it a 20th Anniversary Edition if it was released 21 years later? Never mind.

What I like:

  • Soundtrack: The game has essentially the same soundtrack except with live instruments or higher quality MIDI. I especially love that blues guitar in Dixieland Drug Store – so cool.
  • More or less the same game but remastered: It's still a point 'n' click adventure with the same scenes and mostly the same puzzles (except they've got rid of some annoying ones such as trying to find the snake scale at the beginning of the game). This means the game should appeal to point 'n' click adventure game purists who dislike the direction Telltale has taken with their adventure games in recent years.
  • Director's Commentary (or whatever it's called): In each scene of the game you're able to click on a star icon which gives you some insight into the development process. Usually this consists of comparisons between the 2014 Gabriel Knight scene and the 1993 version, although it also includes concept art, sketches, notes about the soundtrack and even old photos of Jane Jensen!
  • Steam integration: If you get the Steam version, you'll notice the game has Steam achievements and trading cards!

What I don't like:

  • Walking animations still a bit off: I complained about the walking animations in Moebius: Empire Rising (another collaboration between Jane Jensen and Phoenix Online Studios) and while they've improved slightly in Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary they're still a bit shonky.
  • Graphical glitches: There are the occasional graphical glitches in the game, such as disappearing characters or scenes reverting into their low-res versions after opening the inventory screen. They're by no means game-breaking but they do break the immersion.
  • Annoying interface: While most of the interface is fine the game has adopted a similar interface to the one that was used in Moebius: Empire Rising which means you always have to load up an item in what must be the active inventory item slot in order to use it. I'm not a big fan of it as I'd prefer to just drag-and-drop things from the inventory. Otherwise there are always extra steps involved when you want to interact with objects.
  • No Tim Curry: Or a bunch of other famous voice actors such as Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn, Leilani Jones, Leah Remini and Rocky Carroll. Most of the voice over work is okay and you even have some experienced voice actors that worked on Telltale's The Walking Dead such as Cissy Jones and Dave Fennoy. However, some of the other voice actors aren't quite as strong and they really manage to mangle the accents.

Verdict:

I must admit that I'm hooked to Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition, just like I was with the original game. While there are some minor annoyances, the great gameplay and story of the original still shines through except you're now playing it with high-res graphics and a remastered soundtrack :).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where are they now? - Jane Jensen

Screenshot from Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition
Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition - Jane Jensen's most recent work (in terms of computer games)

Jane Jensen features on my "Where are they now?" post for this week mainly because I've been playing Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition quite a bit so it had me wondering what this adventure gaming great was up to nowadays. Jensen was behind some of my favourite games including King's Quest VI, Gray Matter and last, but not least, the entire Gabriel Knight series. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her composer husband, Robert Holmes. The most recent game she's released is the one I'm currently playing, Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary which was also released on tablets only a few months ago.

1963 - Born in Palmerston, Pennsylvania as Jane Elizabeth Smith

1970s-1980s - Jensen graduated with a degree in computer science from Anderson University in Indiana. She became an engineer for Hewlett-Packard for six years.

1991 - Jensen joined Sierra On-Line. Her first roles were providing additional writing for Police Quest III and helping to design Ecoquest.

1992 - Jensen co-designed King's Quest VI with Roberta Williams

1993 - Jensen completes her first big project and arguably her most famous work, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

1995 - The sequel to Sins of the Fathers, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery is released. Jensen wrote the story and designed the game.

1999 - Gabriel Knight 3 is released. Jensen once again wrote the story and designed the game

1999 - Jensen wrote two tie-in novels for the Gabriel Knight games but she had her first independent novel published in 1999 called "Judgment Day"

2000s - Jensen worked on several hidden object adventure games as a designer.

2003 - Jensen's novel Dante's Equation was released and was even nominated for a Philip K. Dick award.

2006 - Jensen announced a new game called Gray Matter at the Leipzig Game Convention

2010 - Gray Matter is released which Jensen directed and designed.

2012 - Jensen and her husband, Robert Holmes, establishes Pinkerton Road Studios on their farm in Pennsylvania.

2012 - Jensen setup a Kickstarter project to raise funds for two games: Moebius: Empire Rising and Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition. They manage to raise $435,316 USD from 5,836 backers.

2013 - Jensen started to have several gay romance novels published under her pen name "Eli Easton".

2014 - Moebius: Empire Rising is released which Jensen designed and wrote the story for.

2014 - Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition is released which Jensen designed (and wrote the original story for).

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Jane Jensen ]
[ MobyGames: Jane Jensen ]
[ Official Pinkerton Road website ]
[ Kickstarter: Jane Jensen's Moebius and Pinkerton Road Studio ]

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dinner Date Review

Screenshot of Dinner Date
Decisions, decisions. Do you eat some bread, stare at the clock or stare at the candle?

  • Developer: Stout Games
  • Publisher: Stout Games
  • Release Date: 17 November 2010
  • Time played: 25 minutes

I've always been curious as to what the game Dinner Date was like. I understood that its general premise was to be a game which simulates a dinner date (or lack thereof) but how could that possibly be a good setting for a game? Was this an avant-garde game that had something profound to say or was there some other reason people were buying this game? Ultimately my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to discover what all the fuss was about. Thanks to Mix-Master, I managed to nab a free copy of the game and after less than half an hour, the game was finished. Time for the review.

Plot (4/5)
Dinner Date apparently has you play the "consciousness" of a man named Julian Luxemburg. He's waiting at his home for his date to arrive and during this time you'll get what some might consider an awkward but nevertheless, honest look into the mind of an anxious sensitive New Age guy (SNAG) as he wonders if he's getting stood up by his date.

I quite like the writing in the game; it's brutally honest and you'll hear Julian wrestling with his thoughts, between the positive and negative, the optimistic and pessimistic aspects of his personality. Another thing that Dinner Date has going for it is that unlike some pretentious walking simulators, you can at least understand what's going on here.

Gameplay (1/5)
In Dinner Date you basically advance the plot (i.e. Julian's soliloquys) by pressing some keys on your keyboard – and that's about the extent of the gameplay. So the game is a bit like so-called "kinetic" visual novels – i.e. visual novels where you don't really interact with the story. In terms of gameplay, it's probably even less interactive than walking simulator games like Dear Esther although to be fair, this game preceded the current crop of walking simulators (and may have even inspired them, who knows?)

Ultimately, I don't like the fact the game isn't much of a game (i.e. interactive) but if you don't mind kinetic visual novels or if you ever wanted to experience being stood up by someone then this game is for you.

"...if you don't mind kinetic visual novels or if you ever wanted to experience being stood up by someone then this game is for you."

Sound (4/5)
The voice acting is good and so are the sound effects. The only minor quibble I have is that the intro and menu sound effects are far too loud compared to the rest of the game.

Music (4/5)
The music complements the game well (as it was developed specifically for the game) and is composed by Than van Nispen tot Pannerden.

Graphics (3/5)
There's quite a bit of detail in the game but the graphics look a bit old, with good reason, considering this game was released almost half a decade ago (that's a long time in the world of gaming). Some of the animations seem a bit off (such as when you're stretching your arms) and despite the game being old, I was experiencing what seemed like framerate drops occasionally.

Replay (1/5)
The game was mildly amusing although it's terribly short at only 25 minutes. Since the game is linear there is no real incentive to go back and play. There are also no Steam achievements or trading cards.

Polish (5/5)
Besides what's been already mentioned, I didn't experience any major bugs or issues.

Score – 6/10

While Dinner Date has some redeeming qualities such as its good soundtrack, voice acting and script, the "game" is far too short and feels more like a first-person kinetic visual novel. If you like that sort of thing or you've always wondered what it's like to be stood up, this is the game for you! Otherwise, your money and time could be better spent elsewhere, even if the game is only $4 USD and 25 minutes long.

Dinner Date is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $3.99 USD?: No. The game is only 25 minutes long with limited interaction. I think a fairer price would be $1.99 USD.

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


[ LINK: Official Dinner Date Website ]

Monday, October 26, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #203 - Day of the Tentacle - Green T and the Sushi Platter



Soundtrack composed by: Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian and Michael Z. Land

In Day of the Tentacle the world is in danger as a mutant tentacle named "Purple Tentacle" tries to take on the world after developing arms. His less aggressive brother, Green Tentacle is actually friends with one of the player characters, Bernard Bernoulli, and is the one who alerts Bernard and his friends of Purple Tentacle's plans. Bernard gets a chance to chat with Green Tentacle when he finally reaches Dr. Fred Edison's mansion where he learns about Green Tentacle's band:

Bernard: So how's the band doing?
Green Tentacle: Green T and the Sushi Platter? We're doing great! We've finally found our calling as a band!
Bernard: Carefully crafted melody and distinctive counterpoint?
Green Tentacle: Volume, man, volume!...

What you hear next is this particular track.

Thanks to Mirsoft for providing these memorable tracks.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #203 - Day of the Tentacle - Green T and the Sushi Platter ]


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 44 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (26th October to the 1st November 2015) there's only one game I'm interested in which is a big drop compared to the previous two weeks:

Sun Dogs

  • Release Date: 29/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order but stated on official site to be $10 USD
A game that claims itself to be a "transhumanist adventure" is already winning points in the pretentious game department but regardless I'm curious to see how this game turns out since it's a science fiction game set in our solar system where you get the chance to explore many locations. It seems what you learn about each location in the Solar System will be via text (so a bit like Kentucky Route Zero to a degree and the interactive fiction genre in general) but that's not going to deter me, provided the writing is good. The game also boasts a full modding system where you can rewrite the game with your own descriptions. Neat!



So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where are they now? - Dwight K. Okahara

Screenshot of Dune II intro
Dwight K. Okahara helped with the music and sound effects on Dune II

From now on I'm going to adopt a different format to the "Where are they now?" posts. Usually they end up just being a chronology of a particular person's career so I might as well make it official and organise the post that way (i.e. with years as subheadings along with accomplishments or important life events). I'll always have, at the very least, a little introductory paragraph of why I think the guy or girl in question is important and for today's "Where are they now?" I'd like to focus the spotlight on a man named Dwight K. Okahara.

Dwight K. Okahara might not be as well known as one of his colleagues, namely Frank Klepacki, but he's been working in the game industry for quite some time now, at least for over 25 years. While it seems he mostly does audio engineer/sound effects work on games (which is a very important job I might add) his name caught my attention when it popped up next to Frank Klepacki's for the music credits on the classic Westwood Studios RTS, Dune II. However, it seems to have been a blip on the radar as the only other game I could find where he contributed to its music was the 1990 game Battletech: The Crescent Hawks' Revenge.

Okahara worked at Westwood Studios until it was disbanded in 2003 but was pretty busy while working there, providing the sound effects for many games including The Legend of Kyrandia games, the Lands of Lore games, the Command & Conquer games and the Dune II remakes, just to name a few.

Following the disbanding of Westwood Studios, Okahara found work at Insomniac Games in 2004 as an Audio Lead. He's been at the company ever since working on very popular console franchises such as Ratchet & Clank and Resistance.

Career Highlights


1989 - Started working at Westwood Studios in Audio. Promoted to Audio Lead and Sound Designer later on.

1990 - Battletech: The Crescent Hawks' Revenge - Music
1991 - Eye of the Beholder II - Sound
1992 - The Legend of Kyrandia - Sound Effects
1992 - Dune II - Sound
1993 - The Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate - Digital sampling
1993 - Lands of Lore - Sound and Music
1994 - The Legend of Kyrandia: Book 3 - Malcolm's Revenge - Sounds
1995 - Command & Conquer - Sound Effects
1996 - Red Alert - In-game voices
1997 - Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny - Sound
1997 - Blade Runner - Additional Voices
1998 - Dune 2000 - Sound Effects

1998 - Westwood Studios acquired by EA

1999 - Lands of Lore III - Sound Design
1999 - Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun - Sound Effects
2000 - Nox - Sound
2000 - Red Alert 2 - Production Sound
2001 - Emperor: Battle for Dune - Sound Effects
2002 - Command & Conquer: Renegade - Additional Sound Effects

2003 - Westwood Studios closed down. Okahara leaves.

2004 - Joined Insomniac Games as Audio Lead (Insomniac Games behind popular console franchises such as Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance). Has worked on several games including ones in the Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance series.

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Dwight K. Okahara ]

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

First Impressions - Running with Rifles

The trenches! IT'S A TRAP!

While determining what pressies to get fellow Choicest Games contributor, Choona, another Choicest Games contributor, Luke, came up with the idea of purchasing a 4-pack of Running with Rifles as Choona is a big fan of co-operative games and this happened to be one of the better rated ones at 91% (Very Positive) out of 1,943 reviews on Steam. So I've dabbled with the game a couple of times so far and here are my early thoughts on it.

What I like:

  • Kind of like a MOBA but not I'm not a big fan of MOBAs, maybe because there's too much expectation that you'll follow a certain build and because it's pretty competitive (which means you need to invest time into a game in order to be any good – not a good game when you don't have much time on your hands or too many other games to play). However, I'd be lying if I said Running with Rifles doesn't shares some similarities to MOBAS, mainly the mobs of AI controlled soldiers that are fighting a war with each other and you're (potentially) one of the super powerful heroes. I say "potentially" because you just start off as one of the grunts in this game and work your way up. Also the AI themselves can have "hero" characters too, so it's a bit different in that regard. Also, in Running with Rifles, like FPSs, your ability to aim a gun comes into play meaning that it requires a bit of hand-to-eye co-ordination unlike traditional MOBAs.
  • Authentic weapons: No fictional names for the guns; all your AK-47s, M16A4s, PKMs and QBS-09 combat shotguns are here.
  • The chaos of war: The game has a large number of soldiers fighting each other on the battlefield and firefights can become pretty hectic, especially when grenades and artillery start flying all over the place. It's really good at demonstrating the hectic nature of war.
  • Ranking system that matters: I don't fully understand the ranking system yet but basically the higher rank you are, the more weapons and abilities you'll have access to. You even start receiving minions when you become a Staff Sergeant. The higher rank you are, the more responsibility you get. I like it – too bad the Battlefield games haven't adopted this formula (although Battlefield 2 was closest, especially the Project Reality mod).

What I don't like:

  • Can be too confusing: While the chaos I suspect is reminiscent of real-life war, it can also become a bit confusing as to where the actual fronts are – especially since the map seems to be a rainbow of various icons. I suspect there's probably no better way of doing this but it would be good if there was.
  • Hard to tell the height of terrain: The game is played from a top-down view similar to old run and gun games like The Chaos Engine. Consequently it can sometimes be quite hard to tell if you actually have line-of-sight with your weapon resulting in you firing several rounds into the crest of a hill but not actually resulting in you killing the enemy. Worse, you may empty a clip only to be ambushed by an enemy on your flank and it's game over (at least for that soldier).
  • No end: To be fair, I've only played the co-op mode to this called "Invasion" I believe. Consequently I've only got this mode to judge by but it seems like the mode has no end. Last time I played the game I think I played for well over an hour and it was just a big tug-of-war with the opposing force, neither of us really grasping victory – although can you even do that? I don't know. If you can't, then I can see the games becoming rather unsatisfying and the game being more akin to a game like Subspace Continuum where you only pop in to get a few kills then jump out again.
  • Experience system is grindy: As far as I can tell, killing the enemy awards you XP which level up your character. However, dying causes you to lose XP which means there's an extra element of grind. The good thing about this system though is it tends to reward promotions to those who are probably smart enough to stay alive before those who are gung-ho (like myself). Although technically someone acting as a sniper for the whole game would probably do well at being promoted as a consequence and I'm not sure if that's behaviour you actually want to encourage. It also means if you have a few bad rounds you can undo lots of work delaying your chances of ever being promoted and leaving you stuck with one basic assault rifle, machine gun or shotgun and not much else.
  • Lip-service tutorial: The tutorial is really short and only covers some of the basic concepts in the game. It also doesn't inform you how to do things (you basically have to experiment). Consequently while I know how to move my character around, check the armoury for weapons, shoot, pick up items and use the radio, there's not much else I do know. You won't learn how to gain promotions and what abilities are linked to each of the promotions.

Verdict:

Running with Rifles is a fun game and I can see myself giving it a few more gos with my friends. There's still a lot I don't know about the game so I anticipate I'll be reading the wiki a lot which, hopefully, has all the information I'm looking for. The only problem with the game I see (after my limited time trying it out) is that it doesn't really feel like I've achieved enough after each playthrough. Eventually this might lead to me becoming bored with the game, so I suspect it's another game that really depends on whether you have a good bunch of friends to play it with.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #202 - Day of the Tentacle - Hotel Interiors Past



Soundtrack composed by: Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian and Michael Z. Land

As I've mentioned before, one of the best aspects of the Day of the Tentacle soundtrack is how each of the three playable characters had their own leitmotifs or theme tunes. Consequently, as you played as the characters in their respective time periods, you would often hear their theme occasionally piping up in the background. Out of all the background music in the game, I tended to enjoy the music for the hotel set 200 years in the past which is set during the post-War of Independence era in the United States. Consequently you'll occasional hear bits of patriotic American tunes such as "Yankee Doodle" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Gameplay wise, I also liked this part of the game since you were able to meet important historic figures in America's history (albeit caricatures of their true selves) such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross.

Thanks to Mirsoft for providing these memorable tracks.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #202 - Day of the Tentacle - Hotel Interiors Past ]


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 43 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (19th October to the 25th October 2015) there's once again a huge number of games that I think are worth checking out (must be something to do with us leading up to the holiday season perhaps?); in this week's line-up we have a couple of "tycoon" games, as well as some fantasy and sci-fi games:

Empire TV Tycoon

  • Release Date: 20/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
I love tycoon games and when I first looked at this game, I thought it was actually a remake of SimTower. Sadly, it isn't but it is a game where you run a TV station which sounds pretty choice - so maybe like an indie version of The Movies, except with TV shows.



Rebel Galaxy

  • Release Date: 20/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order but has been announced to be $20 USD

When I first looked at this game, I thought it was another dime-a-dozen Homeworld clone that you get on Steam nowadays - well it might still turn out that way but the game has actually been developed by the Action RPG veterans behind the Torchlight series! When I heard that, it definitely caught my attention. The game seems to be a mixture of sci-fi/exploration/combat/RPG games like Star Control 2 and space trader games like Privateer or Freelancer. Sounds good!



Sword Coast Legends

  • Release Date: 20/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - $34.99 USD, Direct - $34.99 USD
My first impression of Sword Coast Legends is that it was a tribute to CRPGs of the 90s such as Baldur's Gate, a bit like Pillars of Eternity. There's a good reason for this as the game is actually a Dungeons & Dragons game set in, you guessed it, the Forgotten Realms. The game even has a Dungeon Master mode where where they can guide players on "unique customizable adventures".



Kingdom

  • Release Date: 21/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - $9.99 USD
A 2D side-scrolling strategy/resource management game where you get to play as a king or queen of a procedurally generated kingdom. Apparently you can play the Flash game for free, so worth trying that out if you're unsure whether to buy the Steam version (or if you can't be bothered paying the $10 :))



Murder

  • Release Date: 21/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
The last game by Peter Moorhead, Stranded, wasn't received well at all on Steam with a rating of 26% (Mostly Negative) from 276 reviews, despite being shed in a positive light by some critics. Will this game do any better? Well I'm optimistic as I'm a fan of the cyberpunk genre and point 'n' click games, even if this one may be a minimalist one like its predecessor. Is it going to be almost $20 USD like its predecessor though?



Message Quest

  • Release Date: 22/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Message Quest seems to be a game that pokes fun at gaming tropes by casting you as the herald that delivers messages to heroes of RPGs, except this particular herald is really lazy and doesn't want to do his job. You play the role of the herald's conscience as you lead him through the strange challenges he will encounter. The game is apparently very short (only a couple of hours) so I don't expect it to be too expensive despite its gorgeous stained-glass graphics.



Auto Dealership Tycoon

  • Release Date: 23/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
As mentioned already, I love tycoon games and apparently in this one you get to manage an auto dealership, selling things that look suspiciously like Audi R8s in some screenshots. Anyway the developer, Diggidy.NET apparently created a game called Lunch Truck Tycoon for only $0.99 USD (I'm guessing these games are actually meant to be targeted for mobiles) but the game was well received by Steam players with a 75% (Mostly Positive) rating from 129 reviews - so I'm expecting it to be as successful.


So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Where are they now? - Rudy Helm

Screenshot of Quest for Glory III
Rudy Helm composed the soundtrack for Quest for Glory III

As you know, one of my favourite game series of all time is the Quest for Glory series. The mixture of point 'n' click adventure and RPG mechanics was pure genius thanks to its creators Lori and Corey Cole. Another aspect I enjoyed when it came to the Quest for Glory games was the music and that's why for today's Where are they now? post I'd like to focus on the composer of Quest for Glory III, Rudy Helm.



Helm apparently has a music career spanning 20 years prior to getting involved in the interactive music industry. Since it was around the 1990s when he first started to compose music for games, I'm guessing that means he started his career in the early 1970s. In the late 70s he penned two symphonies for the Southern Indiana Orchestra. He also served as music director for a production of Shakespeare's Titus Adronicus for Actors Theatre in Louisville (which is situated in Kentucky). After that he scored music for television PSAs and corporate presentations.

From 1982 - 1990, Helm was the business manager at Yvonne Records (a publisher/manufacturer of albums in the New Age genre). Here he worked with sound sampling digitizers and tone generating synthesisers, as well as acoustic musical instruments.

In 1992, Helm managed to get a job working at Sierra On-Line with his biggest contribution being the soundtrack and sound effects for Quest for Glory III. He also helped with the porting of music and sound effects for games like King's Quest VI (where he developed a GM patch for the Mac), The Dagger of Amon Ra and Hoyle Classic Card Games, to name a few.

Ultimately, Helm's career at Sierra would be short-lived as he left the company in March 1993. He continued to port music and create sound effects for games though working on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe Edition for a couple of months after leaving Sierra. In May 1993, Helm got a job with Accolade where he composed music and created sound effects for several games until 1996.

For the remainder of the 1990s, Helm continued to provide audio for video games as an independent contractor. It wasn't until 1999 that he managed to get a job at a company called Visual Purple, a company that seems to develop simulations and serious games for large organisations such as the United States Department of Defence. According to company blog posts, he worked there for at least a decade, since the last post he made to the blog was in 2010.

Since that time however, I'm not quite sure what Helm has been up to. He does happen to have a YouTube channel where the last couple of videos he posted were in 2013 (the videos show him playing some smooth jazz guitar) - but that's about it. Where are you Mr Helm and what are you up to nowadays? Are you still working at Visual Purple? Do you still make music for computer games?

Let's hope he still does :).

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Rudy Helm ]
[ Rudy Helm's Official Website ]

Monday, October 12, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #201 - Day of the Tentacle - Visited by the IRS



Soundtrack composed by: Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian and Michael Z. Land

To start off Choicest VGM's second playlist I'd like to continue with another track from the classic Lucasarts adventure game, Day of the Tentacle. The following track plays when Doctor Fred Edison is visited by the Internal Revenue Service and it's definitely got that Dragnet, Inspector Gadget or even Get Smart feel to the music, which just complements the humour.

Thanks to Mirsoft for providing these memorable tracks.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #201 - Day of the Tentacle - Visited by the IRS ]


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 42 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (12th October to the 18th October 2015) there's a whopping six games that I think are worth checking out; as usual there are a lot of adventure games in the mix but there's also a couple of games that seem to be reviving classic gameplay:

The Secret of Tremendous Corporation

  • Release Date: 06/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Free
A free, seemingly hand-drawn point 'n' click adventure that's meant to be a satire of the gaming industry of the future, where indie devs have all but disappeared and low quality, highly profitable, casual, freemium games are the norm. Also, considering the game title starts with "The Secret of..." and the fact the line "My name is Max Burton and I want to make games!", I suspect it's also a homage to The Secret of Monkey Island, which isn't a bad thing either.



Minecraft: Story Mode

  • Release Date: 13/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - $22.49 USD, JB Hi-Fi - $49, EB- $49.95

I was never a big fan of Minecraft ("BLASPHEMY!", you say) but I do like Telltale adventure games. Initially when hearing that Telltale were going to make an adventure game based on a sandbox game with very little background story, i.e. Minecraft, like many of you I was uttering "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!" Although after a while, I was thinking, "hell, why not? If anyone can pull it off, Telltale can." So I'm curious to see how it goes :).



Lucadian Chronicles

  • Release Date: 15/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Lucadian Chronicles seems to be an RPG game using the building of card decks as a gameplay mechanic. It already has an existing fan base on the Wii U and it's now coming to PC.



Planetbase

  • Release Date: 16/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Planetbase sounds like a game inspired by several older planetary base management games such as Sierra's Outpost or even Utopia: The Creation of a Nation and Fragile Allegiance. Managing what sort of colonists arrive at the base also sounds like it has elements of personnel/resident management such as the Tropico games. It sounds promising so let's hope it lives up to our expectations :).

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Dark Years

  • Release Date: 16/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
It may seem just like another point 'n' click adventure on the surface but what caught my attention about this game is that it's set in 1950s Tehran which is a very uncommon setting when it comes to the genre. The game also has an Iranian protagonist I believe and it's probably no surprise that the developer themselves are based in Iran. The game is apparently based on real events, namely Operation Ajax and the 1953 Coup D'Etat in Iran.



Rogue State

  • Release Date: 16/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
While on the topic of the Middle East, here's another game set in that region. Rogue State sounds a bit like mix of Tropico and Democracy which is why it's caught my eye.



So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Where are they now? - Éric Chahi

Screenshot from Another World
Éric Chahi - Creator of Another World

I'm not a big fan of platformers but they were obviously all the rage back in the 1980s and early 1990s, even on the PC. I guess many PC developers wanted to emulate the success of games like Super Mario Bros. although there were plenty of examples of exceptional platformers for the PC such as 1989's Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner. It was around this time that a Frenchman called Éric Chahi developed what would become one of my favourite games of the early 1990s, a cinematic, sci-fi platformer called Another World (it was called Out of this World for the American market). But where did Chahi come from? What was his previous experience before working on this iconic game? What is he up to now?

Chahi was born in 1967 on the outskirts of Paris. He started developing computer games in his teens with his first game being released in 1983 called simply Frog. Most of his early games during the 1980s were targeted for the Oric, and Amstrad.

(You're now able to download all of these games he developed for the Oric and Amstrad from his website - but you'll need to find an emulator.)

In the late 80s he started to develop games for the Amiga and Atari ST. In 1989, Chahi started work at one of France's most famous development studios, Delphine International Software. He initially helped game designer Paul Cuisset on the graphics for Future Wars but soon started development on his own game outright.

The result would be 1991's Another World, a game where Chahi did all the designing, programming, graphics and sound effects (the only thing he can't claim to have done is the excellent soundtrack by Jean-François Freitas). Amazingly, Chahi spent 2 months working on the game although he had to put in 16 hour days in order to achieve that feat. It was all worth it in the end since the game was a critical and commercial success, despite reviewers criticising its short length.

Chahi continued to develop content for Another World and the game would be ported to many platforms. Around 1994 though, he left Delphine along with some of its employees to develop a new game called Heart of Darkness. Heart of Darkness was to be another cinematic platformer, in a similar vein to Another World but due to production delays, the game was released four years later and this may have adversely impacted its reception. The company closed down that same year.

For the few years after Heart of Darkness was released, Chahi took a break from game development and got into other creative pursuits such as painting and photography. He especially took a lot of photos of volcanic eruptions (no doubt an inspiration for a game he designed in more recent years).

Delphine International Software closed its doors in 2004 and Chahi was able to secure the Another World IP from them - and so began the many ports and remasters of this classic platformer with the game being ported to Game Boy Advance and mobile phones in 2005, an updated 15th Anniversary remake being ported to PC in 2006 and a 20th Anniversary HD remake being developed for Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PS Vita, 3DS and Wii U in 2014.

Chahi was hired by Ubisoft in 2008 to work on a new game as Creative Director called From Dust. The game is a mix of god games like Populous or Black & White and Lemmings, and was released in 2011. Chahi left Ubisoft around that time and for the past few years has been working as an independent game designer.

Will Chahi ever develop new games? I hope so as I think he's come to the end of the line for what he can do with Another World, as good as it is (it's on just about every platform conceivable at the moment). Another cinematic platformer by him would be choice - in fact, I might even go out of my way to play it!

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Eric Chahi ]
[ Wikipedia: Éric Chahi ]
[ Official Éric Chahi Website ]

Monday, October 5, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #200 - Day of the Tentacle - Introduction & Opening Themes



Soundtrack composed by: Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian and Michael Z. Land

Wow! Choicest VGM's 200th track! That's a big milestone... in fact I'm pretty sure I'm coming to the limit of the number of videos you can have in a playlist... which means I'll have to start a Choicest VGM Playlist #2! Exciting stuff. I have hardly as many tracks as SupraDarky though (he is still "da baws" when it comes to VGM on YouTube).

Anyway, to commemorate this milestone it seems appropriate to play a track from a classic Lucasarts adventure game that will soon be remastered! Hooray! I'm talking about Day of the Tentacle of course, sequel to Maniac Mansion - although I played Day of the Tentacle first. What I always loved about this soundtrack is that like a lot of good films, the game had leitmotifs for each of the characters so just by listening to the music you'd know which character was in the scene. Anyway, here's my run-down of what happens at each part of this first track:

00:08 - The good ol' Lucasarts logo
00:16 - Beautiful front-end of the mansion
00:33 - The not-so-beautiful, toxic back-end of the mansion
00:40 - The Tentacles appear
01:12 - Purple Tentacle transforms
01:23 - Purple Tentacle feels like he could "TAKE ON THE WORLD!"
01:33 - Meanwhile... Bernard Bernoulli gets a note
01:44 - Bernard's housemate Laverne shows up
02:36 - Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne make their way in an old pick-up truck to Doctor Fred Edison's Mansion. The Introductory Credits roll.
04:22 - The crew arrive at the mansion
04:30 - The guys spread out to find Doctor Fred's secret lab. You can hear a grandfather clock ticking in the background.

Thanks to Mirsoft for providing these memorable tracks.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #200 - Day of the Tentacle - Introduction & Opening Themes ]


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 41 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (5th October to the 11th October 2015) there are three games I think are worth checking out; two are based on existing franchises and one is a new retro-style, cyberpunk game:

Read Only Memories

  • Release Date: 06/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order, Humble - $10 USD, itch.io - $14.99 USD
A retro future cyberpunk adventure set in a near future San Francisco. The game is inspired by games of the late 1980s and early 1990s such as Snatcher and Gabriel Knight which isn't a bad thing.

I'm guessing the game's price will be about $15 USD on Steam considering it's that price on itch.io.



Transformers: Devastation

  • Release Date: 06/10/2015
  • Availability: Steam - $49.99 USD, ozgameshop - $35.99 + shipping

A game featuring the original Transformers? You mean Bumblebee before he became a Camaro and when he was still a Volkswagen Beetle? Yep, this is the Transformers you probably grew up on in the 80s in the form of a brawler where you're able to play as five of the Autobots including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Jazz, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Grimlock ("ME GRIMLOCK!"). Not only do you get to fight with some of the iconic Autobots but you get to fight iconic villains of the series too including Megatron, Starscream, Shockwave and, of course, Devastator. If that weren't enough, many of the original voice actors have reprised their roles such as Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Dan Gilvezan (Bumblebee) and Frank Welker (Megatron and Soundwave),



Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide

While there's a lot of disappointed Civ and Alpha Centauri fans after playing Civilization: Beyond Earth (which I didn't think was that bad), any that are still hanging around for more content will be happy to know that Rising Tide will be released soon as an expansion. Rising Tide introduces four new factions, floating cities, dynamic leader traits, improved diplomacy, enhanced artifact options, hybrid affinities and new biomes.



So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Friday, October 2, 2015

First Impressions - The Night of the Rabbit


The Night of the Rabbit has beautiful Curse of Monkey Island style visuals

I've had the game The Night of the Rabbit for some time now. I even played it several months ago but after multiple reformats and re-installs of the operating system I managed to lose the save game files (along with a whole bunch of other games). So, I started playing the game again as I'm way behind on my 2013 reviews (you read right, 2013 reviews) and it looks like I never typed up a First Impressions article for the first time I played the game. So here we go...

What I like

  • Beautiful art style: This is definitely one of the strength with this game and indeed many Daedalic Entertainment games in general. The Night of the Rabbit has taken a leaf out of The Curse of Monkey Island's book and the results are spectacular.
  • Fantasy world: The magical, fantasy world you get to explore would not feel out of place in a children's novel. There are lots of cute, talking critters you can interact with along the way.
  • Voice acting: Seems to be a lot of British voice actors in this but Daedalic have done a good job in hiring talented voice actors.
  • Music: Although the music can become repetitive at times, overall it's pretty good and suitably magical

What I don't like

  • Scriptwriting: While the voice acting is pretty good the same can't be said for the scriptwriting – many times you'll get the feeling what you just heard was meant to be a joke but it instead falls flat on its face.
  • Puzzles are starting to become convoluted: I wasn't having too much trouble with the puzzles until recently. I'm at a stage of the game where I've got a lot of inventory items and lots of places I can go and objects to interact with. So the old tactic of trying to manipulate everything in the environment with one of your inventory items is going to be tiresome and laborious if you happen to get stuck. Besides, that's not the real way to play a point 'n' click adventure anyway – it's best if you figure out the solution to a puzzle using wits not trial and error! Turns out that in my case the solution was using an inventory item I never thought of using because I live a way too sheltered life :) (not saying anyone who did figure out the solution are criminals or anything but it helps if you think with that mindset).
  • Frame rate drops: On some screens there seems to frame rate drops which I found surprising for a 2D point 'n' click adventure game although normally it doesn't have a huge impact on performance.

Verdict

Usually I give up if I have to resort to using a walkthrough for a point 'n' click adventure and I've already done so. However, I'll raise the limit to three times before I consider throwing in the towel on this one. It truly is a magical adventure provided you're good at point 'n' click adventures (which I used to be, but not anymore I guess!)