Monday, February 20, 2017

Choicest VGM - VGM #268 - Transport Tycoon - Main Menu Theme

Screenshot of Transport Tycoon


Original soundtrack composed by: John Broomhall

Oh man, now this is one of my favourite games of all time - a true classic. It's also one of the only games I hear friends who aren't normally into PC games admit to having played back in their youth. One of the best aspects of the game was the funky, jazzy soundtrack thanks to the talented efforts of John Broomhall. In fact, it was so good that for the smartphone remake of Transport Tycoon, John Broomhall remastered the original tracks with live instruments and it's truly an aural treat. Unfortunately, despite mentioning he was going to pursue releasing this album a couple of years back, nothing has eventuated as yet which is sad since I'd gladly pay money for his live instrumental version of the soundtrack :).

For today's track, you're listening to the main menu theme to the original Transport Tycoon which I actually much prefer over the bombastic TTD theme (although it's also pretty good in it's own right).

The music was recorded through DOSBOX after selecting the AdLib/Soundblaster FM option in the configuration utility (which is apparently OPL2 emulation).

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #268 - Transport Tycoon - Main Menu Theme ]


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Steam Games Sunday - 19 February 2017

Screenshot of Banished
City Builder Banished debuts on the list this week in 3rd place

  1. War Thunder
  2. Rainbow Six Siege
  3. Banished
  4. XCOM 2
  5. Mass Effect
  6. Marvel Heroes
  7. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic
  8. Pictopix
  9. Mass Effect 2
  10. NBA 2K16

War Thunder and Rainbow Six Siege retain their positions in 1st and 2nd place respectively but this week's major upset is the game in the #3 spot: Banished - a game that came out of nowhere. Banished is a city builder, one of my favourite genres, so you might find it quite surprising that despite actually owning the game, it's not me who actually played it over the past week (then again, you may not be surprised as you all know about my backlog of games aka "the pile of shame" :)). It sounds like fun and I'd really like to give it a go at some point... although probably not until I've played the next game on this list in 4th place: XCOM 2. Mass Effect is now in 5th place (down from 4th place) but that's probably because I finally finished the game (again) and have moved on to its sequel, Mass Effect 2, which you can see has also crept onto this list in 9th place. Superhero MMO Marvel Heroes hasn't moved this week and remains in 6th place while Everyday Genius: SquareLogic has dropped to 7th place despite previously being in 5th place last week. Pictopix still remains on the list in 8th place (down from 7th place last week) and right at the bottom we have NBA 2K16 (and not the first time it's made this list).

Anyway stay tuned for next Sunday to see if this list changes :). Are you playing any of the games on this list? How are you finding them?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

You Are Not A Banana Review

Screenshot of You Are Not A Banana
Kids, don't do this at home
  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Brian Cullen
  • Publisher: Fluxscopic Ltd.
  • Release Date: 20 February 2015
  • Time played: 50 minutes

Whenever I played this game on Steam, I always received messages from my friends questioning me “WTF are you playing?” or something along those lines. As usual, I’ve got the generous Mix-Master to thank for all these awesome, random, indie titles, so thanks again mate!

So how would someone describe this game? The developer describes it as a “short form experimental game” with “a sequence of thought provoking events and surprises”. While he’s correct about it being short and experimental, the “thought provoking” part is going to be subjective I think. In the game, you play the role of a guy who needs some milk for his cereal and he is not a banana (although you do get to play as a banana at one point). On your quest for milk, you’ll have to overcome several obstacles in the form of mini-games and by simply exploring. The game evokes the feel of the 80s and 90s, by looking and sounding like an old SNES game or JRPG although don’t let that fool you; this game is anything but one of those games from yesteryear.

What I like:


Surreal adventure

The game is about an ordinary guy and a trip to the shops, which doesn’t exactly sound like an adventure at all right? Well, your character encounters some pretty weird, almost Pythonesque situations along the way which means you’ll always be on your toes, wondering what’s around the next corner.

Retro graphics

Retro pixelart graphics aren’t for everyone but I quite like it.

Music

I love chiptune music and this game doesn’t disappoint in that department. They even offer the soundtrack for free. Choice!

Steam Trading Cards

The game has Steam Trading Cards but how on Earth you’ll play the game long enough to generate them is beyond me.

A giant snail and La donna รจ mobile

Best part of the game.

What I dislike:


Short

The game will take you under half an hour to complete, maybe even fifteen minutes if you’re good at the mini-games. Also, since the plot seems to be quite linear I’m not sure if there’s much point replaying the game, further reducing its value.

Dead-ends

The first time I played this game I missed out on a subtle hint resulting in me wandering in a graveyard forever. What I didn’t realise is that, just like oldschool Sierra adventure games, I had reached a dead-end without knowing it. While some might be a fan of this kind of game design, I’m definitely not.

No ability to save

The game is so short that you probably don’t really need a save feature but it would’ve been nice to have. Thankfully, it seems that the developer is looking at implementing this feature soon with You Are Not A Banana: Better Edition

Finding things in the dark mini-game

There’s a mini-game you’ll encounter which involves finding things in the dark by bumping into furniture and walls. I always find it takes me a lot of time to have any success with them and it turns out to be a bit of a chore.

Score – 6/10 (Okay)


As far as short, experimental games though, this is one of the more entertaining ones I've played. However the mini-games can be frustrating at times plus you can quite easily stumble across a dead-end without even knowing it, meaning the score for this game has suffered as a result.

Is the game worth $1.99 USD?: Yes. Despite being able to complete the game in under half an hour it was entertaining and $2 really isn’t that much. Besides, Brian Cullen has promised to provide a free update soon that will add a lighting system, save option, dialogue system, improved mini-games and jokes.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Official You Are Not a Banana Website ]

Monday, February 13, 2017

Choicest VGM - VGM #267 - Sid Meier's Civilization - Russian Theme

Screenshot of Stalin from Sid Meier's Civilization


Original soundtrack composed by: Jeffery L. Briggs

For our final track from the classic Sid Meier's Civilization, we have Russia's theme aka the Freo Dockers theme...er I mean, "The Song of the Volga Boatmen". It was probably a bit controversial having a Soviet dictator like Stalin as the leader of Russia although the theme definitely suits him, just check out renditions of this song by the Red Army Choir - fantastic.

The music was recorded through DOSBOX and consequently this is DOSBOX's emulation of OPL3 I believe, the FM synthesis sound chip used in a lot of old Soundblaster cards.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #267 - Sid Meier's Civilization - Russian Theme ]


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Steam Games Sunday - 12 February 2017

Screenshot of Pictopix
Three picross/nonogram games feature this week including newcomer: Pictopix

  1. War Thunder
  2. Rainbow Six Siege
  3. XCOM 2
  4. Mass Effect
  5. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic
  6. Marvel Heroes
  7. Pictopix
  8. Arizona Rose and the Pharaohs' Riddles
  9. Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
  10. Paint it Back

I'm starting to sound like a broken record but yes, War Thunder is still at the top of the list for Steam Games Sunday, followed by Rainbow Six Siege which is again in second place. XCOM 2 has been receiving a lot of attention this week and has gone up from 4th place last week to 3rd place this week (XCOM: Enemy Unknown which was in the #3 spot last week has disappeared off the list completely). Mass Effect has also gained some ground as it's now in 4th place, up from last week's position at #6. Expect more Mass Effect in the coming week since I'm still only at Virmire ;). In 6th place we have Marvel Heroes which has dropped down from the #5 spot last week. Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway remains in 9th place.

The big winners this week seem to be picross/nonogram games since there are not one, not two, but three of these kind of games on the list this week. In particular, the big winner is Pictopix which debuts on the list at 7th place. Pictopix was only released last month so it's a relative newcomer to the Steam Store but has already received a 92% Positive rating from the 40 reviews published so far. Arizona Rose and the Pharaohs' Riddles has remained on the list at 8th place and Paint it Back also hasn't budged, remaining in 10th place.

Anyway stay tuned for next Sunday to see if this list changes :). Are you playing any of the games on this list? How are you finding them?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

80 Days Review

Screenshot of 80 Days game by inkle and Cape Guy Ltd
A first-class one-way ticket to AaAAAAAAAALBUQUERQUE...

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: inkle, Cape Guy Ltd
  • Publisher: inkle
  • Release Date: 29 September 2015
  • Time played: 4.6 hours

As promised in my last review, I finally got around to reviewing another game from the "Humble Narrative Bundle": 80 Days (so that's three games out of the bundle, three to go - if you count Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2 as one game). I also mentioned in my last review the reason I bought the bundle and that's simply because I'm into games with strong narratives which usually means visual novels, RPGs and point 'n' click adventures. 80 Days happens to be one that particularly attracted me because I've read the book "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne so I wanted to see if the game did the book justice. I have to say that even though the game does an alternate history/steampunk take on the classic novel, it more or less stays true to the spirit of the adventure described in the book as well as its characters.

The game plays like a typical visual novel except mixed with a game like Banner Saga or The Oregon Trail; just like those games, you're going from point A to point B and you'll stumble upon a lot of random encounters and quests along the way. Just like the source material, you take on the role of Passepartout assisting Phileas Fogg in a wager he makes with his social club: he wagers that it's possible for a man (using 19th century means of travel) to travel around the world in 80 days. While the game takes place in a steampunk version of the 19th century, it's still not an easy undertaking. Your job is to find the quickest way around the world while ensuring that your funds aren't depleted (since this means lengthy delays as you wait for money to be transferred from the bank). Sometimes finding the quickest route actually involves talking to the locals or exploring the towns that you visit along the way - so it's not simply a matter of picking the first route you find and going full steam ahead, sometimes you've got to do a bit of homework. Most importantly, as the manservant of a distinguished Englishman, you have to ensure that Phileas Fogg is comfortable on his trek across the globe.

What I like:


Choices

There are lots of painful choices that you'll have to make in order to progress through this game and I love games with choice (we're not called "Choicest Games" for nothing, mate). Do you decide to hang around and spend some time exploring each town or do you just take the first route you find? Do you take the most comfortable route which might take longer or be more costly, or the quick and dirty one? Do you take a detour just so you can sell a few items or not? It's all up to you and changes your story as a result.

Lots of cities

I also happen to be a person that loves world geography and there's no shortage of towns to visit here all with their own colourful descriptions (there's even AAAAAAAAAAAALBUQUERQUE). It's fun visiting 19th century steampunk versions of actual cities you've visited in real life and seeing how they've been re-imagined.

Steampunk

The game is full of steampunk technology which seems to fit the story perfectly (especially considering Jules Verne is sometimes known as the grandfather of science fiction). There's a whole bunch of weird and wonderful ways you'll get to travel besides traditional means such as a steamship.

Check what other players have done

You can see what routes other players have taken whenever you play the game which I think is a neat feature. It gives you the urge to play the game again and perhaps try the routes they've taken to see how it changes the story.

Sharing your itinerary

Ultimately, once you've completed the game, you can share your itinerary with the world by auto-generating a webpage which you can share or bookmark.

Steam Trading Cards and Achievements

I've always said that visual novels or choose-your-own-adventure style games really need achievements. Thankfully, 80 Days comes with not only Steam achievements but Steam Trading Cards too.

What I dislike:


Short

One playthrough takes about 2 hours to complete, so the game is quite short. However, there are so many routes to take that you'll probably want to play the game again, at least once (which is what I did).

Easy to Crash to Desktop

I’ve now learned to not get impatient and click on the loading screen lest I want to incur the wrath of the CTD. If you wait for a minute for the game to do its thing, all is good. If you don't, be prepared for CTDs.

Lots of reading

If you enjoy visual novels (which is basically the market this game is catering for) or just reading in general, you'll be fine. But for those gamers that want less reading and more action, this one is not for you. Not that I mind a bit of reading - I do play games like WORLD END ECONOMiCA after all... and that's a kinetic novel!

Score – 8/10 (Recommended)


It’s a visual novel mixed with role-playing mixed with Rogue-like meaning each trip will be quite different from the next. It's also all set in a Steampunk re-imagining of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (meaning even avid fans of the original novel will have something new to experience here).

Is the game worth $9.99 USD?: No. While the writing is top notch, the setting is Steampunk (one of my favourite genres) and there’s obvious replay value here in trying to explore every nook and cranny of the world, ultimately this is a mobile game that would normally cost $4.99 USD on Google Play; $9.99 USD is $13 AUD with the current exchange rate. If the game were a few dollars cheaper though, I’d say go for it.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Official 80 Days Website ]

Monday, February 6, 2017

Choicest VGM - VGM #266 - Sid Meier's Civilization - Roman Theme

Screenshot of Julius Caesar in Sid Meier's Civilization


Original soundtrack composed by: Jeffery L. Briggs

Here's one of my favourite Civ themes: the Roman theme! I just love the fanfare whenever you take over a city in the ancient era and you can see all your Roman legionnaires marching in. Ah, good times. The track is also covered in Civilization II and is also known as "Augustus Rises".

The music was recorded through DOSBOX and consequently this is DOSBOX's emulation of OPL3 I believe, the FM synthesis sound chip used in a lot of old Soundblaster cards.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #266 - Sid Meier's Civilization - Roman Theme ]


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Steam Games Sunday - 5 February 2017

Screenshot of XCOM 2
XCOM is the big winner this week with both XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2 making the list

  1. War Thunder
  2. Rainbow Six Siege
  3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  4. XCOM 2
  5. Marvel Heroes
  6. Mass Effect
  7. Arizona Rose and the Pharaohs' Riddles
  8. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic
  9. Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
  10. Paint it Back

War Thunder retains its lead in first place but Rainbow Six Siege has returned to second place on the list up from third place last week. Marvel Heroes has dropped to 5th place, down from 4th place last week although Mass Effect has gone up to 6th place up from 7th place last week. Arizona Rose and the Pharaohs' Riddles remains on the top 10 list but has dropped to 7th place down from 6th place last week. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic makes a return to the list after a long hiatus and to finish off the list in 9th and 10th place, we have two newcomers: Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, an oldschool WWII FPS made by the guys that did Borderlands (I think they're called Gearbox or something ;)), and Paint it Back, a picross/nonograms game (picross/nonogram games seem to feature quite frequently on this list).

The biggest winner this week actually happens to be a franchise, the XCOM franchise to be precise. Not only is XCOM: Enemy Unknown still on the list (and now in 3rd place too), but we also have its sequel XCOM 2 in 4th place (actually, XCOM 2 has probably received a lot of playtime from the general gaming public in the past few weeks considering it was included as part of the most recent Humble Monthly Bundle)! Guess the Earth really needs to be saved by aliens this week.

Anyway stay tuned for next Sunday to see if this list changes :). Are you playing any of the games on this list? How are you finding them?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Her Story Review


Screenshot of Her Story
Indeed it was.

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Sam Barlow
  • Publisher: Sam Barlow
  • Release Date: 24 June 2015
  • Time played: 4.2 hours

Back in the middle of last year, Humble Bundle released the "Humble Narrative Bundle", a bundle with visual novels, point 'n' click adventures and RPGs such as 2064: Read Only Memories, Cibele, Broken Age, 80 Days, Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2 and, last but not least, Her Story. As you can see, I've only reviewed one game out of this bundle so far (probably because I already played Broken Age prior to the bundle being released) and Her Story will make it two! So that's four more games in the bundle left to review (if you consider Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2 as one game). I did finish 80 Days as well so a review for that game should be on its way soon :).

As my loyal readers and friends would know, I'm a big fan of adventure games and generally any games with a strong narrative or a narrative focus. Consequently, acquiring the "Humble Narrative Bundle" was a no-brainer. Also, since games with FMV were all the rage during my gaming hey-day (i.e. the early 1990s) I couldn't say no to giving Her Story a try.

So how does Her Story actually work? Well it's probably classed more as an "experience" rather than a game, so it is similar to "games" like Gone Home or Dear Esther, except unlike those games it's not a walking simulator and unlike Dear Esther, the plot is not nearly as hard to piece together. In Her Story you're a person using an old police computer terminal which you can use to view many video clips; these videos contain interviews related to a murder case during the 1990s. You're able to search the database for videos based on keywords. For example, if you type the word "coffee" into the search field, it will bring up all videos where the suspect utters the word "coffee". Neat, huh? This is basically the way the game works, by you watching videos, picking up any words during the interview that you think are important and then using those words as keywords in the search for more videos. By watching more videos you'll learn more about the story and piece together what actually happened (as well as the identity of the woman that was interviewed).

What I like:


Keyword matching

I'm actually a big fan of the oldschool method of typing words on a keyboard in order to advance the plot; it actually reminds me of the Sierra text parser adventure games of old where in order to progress conversations, you actually had to be concentrating since you'd only learn new morsels of information if you happen to mention the correct word. The point 'n' click adventures released by Sierra in later years, while still awesome, just weren't the same when it came to conversations; it was simply a matter of exploring the conversation trees to ensure you asked every single question possible and as a result conversations didn't feel as dynamic or realistic.

FMV

As already mentioned, I love FMV games although this time, it actually makes sense to use them since it's a game about watching old videos captured and stored during the 1990s.

Retro visuals

Besides the FMV, you also get treated to a glorious recreation of what could only be a Windows 95 machine complete with CRT monitor! It's kind of creepy when you occasionally see your character's reflection in the screen though...

Murder mystery

I also happen to love murder mysteries and as I've mentioned in previous posts, I think adventure games are the perfect place to explore them. The difference with Her Story is that it's entirely possible you'll get to the end of the game still not quite knowing what actually happened which some players might find frustrating but for others it would just encourage them to play the videos again to see what they missed. There are a couple of big plot twists while you play the game so it's well worth the admission fee in my opinion.

Steam achievements and trading cards

The game has a bunch of Steam achievements to hunt for as well as trading cards to generate.

What I dislike:


Deleting session data

I really didn't find too much to fault with this game although I do offer you a warning: Don't press the "Delete Session Data" button! If you do, you can say goodbye to all your search results (i.e. videos), which you means you'll have to start again. You've been warned!

Score – 8/10 (Pretty Good)


If you like FMV games and murder mysteries, what are you waiting for? Her Story ticks all the right boxes. The only criticism I could make is that the game might not be enough of a traditional game to some since it's more of an exercise in exploring videos on an old PC at your own pace. However, I still enjoyed the game and appreciated its strong narrative as well as the nostalgia factor (Win 95 represent!).

Is the game worth $5.99 USD?: Yes. The game is about $8 AUD which means a good few hours of FMV murder mystery for under $10. Worth it.


If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Official Her Story Website ]