Waves in Space
My review is here! http://entertainium.org/pc/strike-suit-infinity-review/
But in short I enjoyed this game a great deal more than I did Born Ready's last game Strike Suit Zero. That last game had the major flaw of having some terrible mission design that sucked out so much of the fun that the good parts of that game have to offer. Infinity goes for just a pure combat wave based survial mode and as a result it's a good deal more fun.
It does still have some of the problems of the original, combat awareness and targeting still aren't ideal. You don't get a good impression of what's around you and your only warning that you've boosted into a group of enemies is you dying rather rapidly. Also the default nearest enemy targeting is also fairly useless, it prioritises selecting the objective usually favouring capital ships. You can change that so that it prioritises torpedos, or strike craft, but it's of little comfort having to toggle between them when what you really want is select the nearest thing trying to kill me. The default setup makes mines all but impossible to deal with and given that a mine hit almost kills you in one hit makes the default target selection even more silly.
Anyway beyond that it's probably one of the best space combat around, not a huge amount of competition in that space right now. But it's a good deal of fun and it's like five quid on Steam.
Monaco's mischievous marauders.
Monaco is great. I still haven't had a chance to play it as a co-op game which is unfortunate. The game looks great, the greyscale blueprints compared with the coloured world provides a great contrast for you to know what's in your line of sight, as well as where various items and security systems are.
Music is also rather good, Austin Wintory the composer for Journey has made more wonderful music. It does a lot to pace your own mood from sneaking around in vents to the mayhem that ensues after you inevitably set off an alarm.
I really love how all of the classes have their own distinct advantage to the point that the all feel overpowered in some way. I found the locksmith to be my least favourite, going through locks quickly is decent because it means you don't get stuck behind doors and also makes for faster runs through levels but I just didn't find it as useful.
Finished this one since I made the video, second half is decidedly less awesome. While the Final Fantasy style combat a fun nod when you run into it, it never really develops and there are way too many random encounters that it gets really annoying. There's probably a reason why it's balanced differently in modern games.
There's a Diablo style dungeon later on that is pretty terrible and I'm not just saying that because I don't like that style of game. It does sort of highlight how much work goes into making that kind of game not boring and tedious. It does sort of make up for it by having some pretty funny loot drops but it plays like ass.
They could probably have cut out a good hour of the game (the game is about 3-4 hours long) and it would probably have improved it a lot. It's a funny game to play because of the references it makes. But it does remind that the games it steals from does what they do so much better than Evoland ever comes close to.
Been far too long since I've made one of these. I have unfortunately been busy doing other things. Some of which was actually productive other things not so much. Lets see if I can keep up with making videos on a semi-regular basis, lots of cool things sitting on my PC that I'd like to play.
Anyway back to talking about Retro/Grade in many ways it's a straight up rhythm game with an interesting art style. But the choice to use a shoot-em-up as the backdrop actually works out really well. All of the shots that go into your ship are timed to the beat and while that's really good using that timing to also dodge the bullets from the left of the screen can be really difficult. Playing on a keyboard might also not be the best way to play the harder difficulties as demonstrated by my rather splendid failure at the end.
It's just very difficult to change between so many lanes using just up and down arrows, I suspect that it would work out pretty well if you did have a guitar controller but I don't have one lying around handy at the moment. I kind of wish that there was a bit more distinction between all the stuff happening on the screen. It gets very busy on screen very quickly and it makes it difficult to parse out what you need to be doing and that makes actually playing the notes on time in the right places harder than it probably should be. There's probably a balance between making a rhythm game shiny and flashy without making it so crazy but there's a little bit too much shiny stuff in Retro/Grade and it makes me wish they toned it down a bit in spots.
Hopefully I'll be able to get videos up in some sort of schedule again but it's hard to say. Lots to play and not enough time to actually try out all the stuff I want to. I've also tried to write like 3 different editorials over the last month or so and just ended up throwing out all of them. Meh maybe I'll go back to those at some point but for now back to well trying to be productive I guess.
Leap of faith.
While the game does make use of some optical illusions it doesn't make itself an integral part of the puzzle. This is mostly because the puzzles have been about the physics of the world more than the illusion of how do you manipulate the physics so all the pieces of the puzzle where you want them. The physics nature of it does lead to some awkwardness, especially when you're trying to get a key around the outside of a curve. Tilt too much and the key falls off into the ether and too little and it doesn't move at all.
I also wish that the character movement and the tilting was just a little bit faster. My annoyance with puzzles games is when you know the solution but it takes far too long to execute it. I feel like if the character was just a little bit faster it would have alleviated that problem I had with it. Unfortunately as with any about physics and puzzles that would probably affect the solutions to some of them so here I am instead just complaining about it.
Scanning for targets.
Forgot to post this yesterday. Oops! Anyway back on topic, this is a bit of a weird game because there really isn't much like it these days. It's a call back to games like Descent where you play a shooter with full range of motion in all axes. The most similar game I've played in recent memory is Shattered Horizon. I really like their fake computer look to the game, the first level also has a pretty great fake Windows desktop to start the game off with.
The shooting itself is decent, I haven't got deep enough into see how many more weapons there are or how complex the upgrade system gets. But it does look like there's going to be some variety in there. Playing a few other shooters recently and there's an odd lack of weight behind the gunfire in Retrovirus, which while it makes sense in context of the game makes it stand out a bit from more modern shooters. Enemies being able to attack you from all directions also makes the concept of taking cover a little tough. I would've liked some way to mitigate damage that didn't involve just running into a pipe to choke point the enemies. Some of the combat spaces give you lots of room to manoeuvre in but some are fairly small which makes dealing with the more punchy enemies rather tough.
Well this is a rather big swing from the abstract Proteus. This is a platformer that gets away on humour, randomness and just general madness. Mechanically it's decent, it's not the best platformer out there. There isn't a whole lot of precision when using the gun to boost you to different places, usually the level design works to compensate for this but in a couple of places it asks you to do too much precisely without really giving you the tools to do it and it ends up with one or two really terrible levels. The same goes for checkpointing, usually it's great but there are a couple of instances later in the game where it's just terrible and just ends up being horribly frustrating.
On the flip side you end up travelling through time shooting a spaceship piloted by a giant crab. A shark that grows tentacles when you blow up it's tail and for some reason there's a side scrolling shooter with dinosaurs. It goes through each of these quickly and fluidly and it keeps up that pace of progression that you just kind of go with it. Suddenly being a bullet hell shooter, makes sense in the world of No Time To Explain.
In other goings on, I went to the Gamespot Crysis 3 IMAX thing in London, that was kind of neat. It really is a giant bloody screen. As for the game itself, it seemed alright. Not quite enough time to form any solid opinion on it but what I played of it seemed to be following in the much smaller areas that were par for the course in Crysis 2 in comparison to both the original and Warhead. It was farily early on but it's not the most encouraging first look for me. I definitely don't enjoy shooters as much as I once did and a lot of that was because I burnt out on it, so the less it feels like a run of the mill military shooter the better and I can't say I really got that feeling from it. Also the EA people at the event there were really weird, really insistent on not changing any settings or opening menus. I tried to look at the customization stuff and was promptly told to just play the game, tried to turn on subtitles because I couldn't hear what on earth I was supposed to be doing told the exact same thing. For a game that's almost out that just striked me as odd.
Walking into the four seasons.
Bit of an odd one this week, an experimental exploration game. It's an interesting game that's probably worth seeing even if you end up thinking that it doesn't succeed at what it tries to do. It probably could've done with a bit more in the way of music and sound than it does do, it ends up sounding a little sparce at times. Perhaps intentionally so but a bit more in the way of ambience could've added a lot to the experience.
Don't have a whole lot more to say on this one, clearly not a game that everyone is going to get something out of. But a game that I'm glad exists.
Combine with equal quantity of chamber.
A game that has been in development for a long time. I'm sure there were some real doubts that this game would ever come out but it's out now and is rather excellent. It's kind of a really cool looking world, very minimalistic with bold single colours around the place. The soundtrack isn't standout but the ambient nature of it is really important at leading you on in the right direction as well as giving you information about this world that you're in.
The puzzles themselves haven't been massively taxing, but they all require a bit of a knack to it. You have to expect to try things and use what you've learnt before. The most important of which is don't trust what you see and that the space of the world won't be the same just because you stand in it. It's hard to say more without spoiling the game but you should go play this one. I don't know how long the game is, from the size of the wall probably longer than the timer of 90 minutes which makes me wonder what the heck that thing is on about. So yeah that's Antichamber, one great big mystery to mess with your head.
No one can hear you explode.
More Kickstarter games are being released. So that's awesome. Still lots more that are still in the works but things like this, FTL and Giana Sisters are showing that this is a totally viable way of getting your games funded and finished. That said this game suffers from having some really dull missions. It's mechanically sound, the act of flying a ship and transforming into a mech to destroy hordes of enemies is great fun. Having missions that have you escort a frigate against an almost unstoppable hoard of enemies that while pose no threat to your tiny little strike craft enjoy blowing up your frigate long before you can deal with them all.
Escort missions sucking is nothing new, but I certainly wish that Born Ready games had put a bit more thought into it. It also doesn't help that the missions go on for a long time. Some of this is in part of how missiles are balanced so that you conserve ammo while you're doing your objective. If you do die you're restocked at the checkpoint in theory making it easier to complete that particular section.
Overall I think that it's a good game, I'm still only about half way through, I've gone back to re-do some of the older missions to get those unlocks. The mission I got stuck on seems to be neigh impossible at the moment and there's no menu thing I can change that will tell my ally to die less. Maybe none of the later missions have escort parts in them and are totally awesome and there have been missions that were a good deal of fun. But there have been too many sections that drag down the fact that the combat is rather a lot of fun and that's a bit of a shame.
Three's a match.
This game is also on iOS and Android and ultimately I think those platforms fit 10,000,000 far better than the PC. So if you're looking to get this game and can get it there you should probably do so. That said, it works totally fine on PC, the problem really is just one of depth. You're probably not going to get a whole lot out of the game compared to something else just sitting at your PC but as a game to play for 10-15 minutes put down and then pick up again later it's a good time.
It's a very simple game, beyond the match 3 game there isn't a whole lot more. A lot of the rest of the mechanics and systems are all just background, to be good at 10,000,000 you just have to be good at matching 3. That part of the game is really well done and the way that the way that the top screen adds a great deal in terms of getting you to think really quickly. But in the end it just doesn't compare to something like Puzzle Quest which was just a much better combination. 10,000,000 is just a match 3 game plus a little bit, which makes it a really good way to kill a shot break every now and then but not so great for a prolonged sit down.
And the dead shall rise.
Probably one of the worst looking games I've done in this series. Behind the fairly bad looking graphics is a fairly deep strategy game. The aspect of managing your empire is fairly light, you just walk an army over a key location like a town or farm and it'll be captured and it'll pay you resources every turn. But most of the different commanders have their own specific resources, the undead can capture graveyards to expand their undead hoard whereas demonologists will also collect sacrifices from local towns.
It makes it fairly interesting in that a lot of the races aren't competing directly for a lot of the same resources. So if you're the undead you want to raise more undead to bolster your forces but if you spot a dwarven empire nearby it might be worth capturing and holding mines which while not directly useful for your forces are incredibly valuable for the dwarves.
The thing that has bugged me most about the game is how little in game help there is in the way of just how to play the game. Yes there is a pdf manual that comes with the game but it's lengthy and complex and full of a whole lot of stuff that when you're first starting out don't need to care about at all. So spending the first 10 games or so just losing in the first 20 turns without really learning anything, not so awesome. But after learning the basics and playing a whole bunch after that it's pretty fun.
Going back to older games is kind of a fickle thing. So Gamespot UK's @dannyodwyer started a new video series Random Encounter and I suggested Giants: Citizen Kabuto, a game released back in 2000 to almost universal acclaim. So clearly a great idea from me for good times. Not so much. As it turns out that game in 2013 is significantly less awesome and makes us wonder what we were thinking back in those days.
Part of this is just because some games age better than others, for various reasons. Deathmatch games like Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament haven't really progressed since then and in many ways have disappeared from modern games and the FPS is just something that's very different. Those two games are still fantastic. But it's hard for me to say how good those games would be if I hadn't played them back when they were released.
I think the older games that don't resemble modern games have to a certain extent aged better simply because they lack that direct comparison. Space sims like Freelancer there haven't been the same advancements and developments that have happened to other genres. Back to Giants, third person action games have changed over the years. The ways in which that game falls flat on it's face are in many ways, just part of the times that it was in. Just from how the game moves and feels, the kind of terrible/incredible race stereotypes, the fact that the game is kind of trying to be a third person action game, but also a strategy game and also have this racing game in it as well. Also having it all happen in this really big open areas for you to traverse. It was incredibly ambitious back in 2000 and it was certainly pushing the boundaries of what was being done, but none of that makes for a game that will play well thirteen years later.
So what does make a game age well, I mean being a good game to start with clearly helps but also clearly isn't a definitive indicator. Going back to a game like GTA 3 for instance, great in it's time, but the open world crime action game has progressed so far in the interim years that you see the flaws and problems in that game a lot more because well developers spent a great deal of time fixing them. I genres that have otherwise died off don't have the same points of comparison to modern games which definitely helps but if someone that had never played TIE Fighter before went back to it today, would they have any fun?
A lot of this has been pretty speculative so far but there have been somethings that have been kind of figured out. Early polygonal games like PS1 era, just look bad now. Technically impressive in their day, but now they just look terrible. The catchy 8 bit music of old can still be really impressive. Strong catchy melodies have served those tracks incredibly well. Animation, particularly polygonal animation have come a long way, doubling animation frame speed as it turns out is a terrible idea. In short most games don't age well. Some do, but at the same time, it'll always be hard to say if you're enjoying those older games because of those fond memories or because the game still holds up as a good game in 2013.
To cap this off I'll list a few more game suggestions for Random Encounter. Because clearly I'm not done ruining people's memories of old games.
Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines
I'm pretty much going to let the linked video above stand alone as it is but as I also said there are some honourable mentions that did not make it to my top 5 but definitely worth mention. In fairness I probably could've got them all into a top 10 but that would've made the job of picking through them a bit too easy so I decided to make it that much harder for myself.
The psychedelic frantic paced action of Hotline Miami makes for some great gameplay. Moving through the levels in a haze of blood and when you kill the last person in an area the music cuts out. And you then have to move through just the destruction and death that you've just brought about just because someone on the end of a phone asked you to. That message is there and while you may not pick up on what exactly it is at first you definitely feel it. It would matter a whole lot less if the game wasn't any good but the moment to moment action has that precise frantic pace that makes that part of the game so compelling.
Orcs Must Die 2
An improvement on the original in pretty much every way, it also includes the levels from the original game so there is just a whole lot of content here. If you're totally uninterested in tower defence games then this probably isn't for you but it does a good job of blending third person action, co-op and that classic tower defence gameplay fantastically well. There are definitely some levels that seem like they were built a bit too much around co-op such that it's a pain to do them alone but all in all it is a fantastically made tower defence game.
Mark of the Ninja
Stealth games, I kind of have a weird thing about them where a forced stealth game I really hate. But if you give me the choice to go stealth in a game like with Deus Ex that will totally be the option I choose. Mark of the Ninja does a really good job with marking out everything in the environment you're in so that you can really clearly see how much noise you're making and also if you're visible or not. The scoring system also reinforces what you should be doing in a level and penalises you smartly for just fumbling around the place. I still think the dragging of the mouse to do kills is a bit awkward but the game has lots of great tools to use and smart level design that it's just a small problem in the grand scheme of things.
I might also do another blog roundup of other games I've loved this year that happen to not be indie games, but it's been a good year for indies so I thought that it was worth having something dedicated just to them. And hopefully we'll get more awesome games of all shapes and sizes coming next year.
From the shadows.
Oh game, how you love to kill my clones and then mock me for my lack of ability. That's actually one of the best parts of the game, just the pointed remarks just nudging you along. And there are plenty of ways that you can die, mostly lasers from various things, robots, floaty eyes. But not to worry there are also fast moving blocks to turn you into paste and sharp blades to make tasty gibs out of your body. This is in service of trying to get through each test chamber and while stealth is in the name it's really more of a puzzle game and the stealth elements are there for the purposes of those puzzles and forcing you to find solutions.
I've only gotten completely stuck once, and there is a handy skip level button if you get really stuck but there's a limit of 3 skips which I'm guessing you get back as you complete levels. Each chapter has been adding new mechanics, so it's been steadily adding different challenges. I'm guessing that it'll mix in each of the different things in more as I get further, it's started to do so but only a little bit.
In any case I've really enjoyed playing it, I don't think that it quite makes my cut for a best of indie video I'm working on but there have been some great indie games this year and trying to get it down to my top 5. So yeah that's going to be fun to make but real hard to choose between some fantastic games.
I actually wanted to do a different game this week only to find out that the framerate is terrible. Not entirely sure why but I'm going to be doing a new PC build next year for numerous reasons so maybe I'll do that then. Anyway this is a game I got off one of the Indie Royale bundles which has numerous bundles that have run this year and there are plenty of good games that come up on there.
This one is a little bit weird though in that this was originally a flash game. There is some new content in the way of challenge maps, but I haven't gotten to that part of the game yet. The game itself on the other hand is pretty fun, it's pretty simplistic right now and it'll get more complicated as I get access to more spells but some of it does rely on the enemy tribe AI. As I said in the video it's pretty passive right now, so I've just been massively expanding to start and then just steam rolling them at the end without even using a waypoint to gather my forces.
It's nice to have a new god style game to mess around with especially as the pair of Kickstarter god games Maia and Godus getting as much attention as they have been. This is probably the penultimate episode for this year I'm going to try to do a slightly more complicated to edit (NOO!) video for my end of year, but that depends on how much real work I need to get done before then.
Okay next week I won't do a puzzle platformer, promise! This one is lovely though, it originated as a Flash game and the most interesting thing about that game was the story and the characters. When I say characters I of course mean tiny little squares and rectangles. They are really brought to life by some rather excellent narration, so far it seems to focus on each of the characters as they turn up, so now that Claire has popped up it's going to be a lot about her and presumably that'll continue for a while as more of them get introduced.
None of the puzzles have been super challenging so far, it's still early days so that's pretty much what I would want right now. The characters move well, there's a weird amount of air control so you can pretty much stop mid air instantly which took a bit of getting used to. The narration subtitles so far are the only thing that I have found distracting, the text repeatedly trying to word wrap while on the edge of the screen keeps drawing my attention away from everything else. Is probably nitpicky of me but everything else fits so well together with so little, that seeing some text off to the side that seems like it's freaking out draws the eye.
Another puzzle platfomer, ah the indie staple. All kidding aside this seems like an interesting game. The element of taking photos of objects to store and move them about gives a lot of interesting possibilities. There are parts of the game that do require dexterity like the double jump with a single spring. Hopefully it doesn't get much more demanding than that because that particular thing isn't the easiest thing to pull off consistently.
Puzzle games are weird because you can easily see where these mechanics could go but sometimes it's doled out pretty steadily over time, so me being still early in the game it's hard for me to say if the puzzles get really interesting or not. But so far I've definitely been enjoying it. I've been failing miserably at getting all the collectables and doing the levels really quickly (which seems stupidly hard for some reason) but it's been good fun.
I guess I should probably also do my traditional thing of reminding you all that there's a Steam sale going on! Now go forth and spend money irresponsibly. Well you shouldn't do that but I totally do every time cause I'm an idiot.
Water and oils.
There are a couple things that I really don't like in this game almost all to do with the camera and how close it is. It has frequently led to levels where I've just been flowing along and then into a jump into a pit of doom forcing a restart of the level. Which always sucks when it happens, thankfully it doesn't happen all the time, but still often enough to be annoying as heck. There was also an instance where the camera focused on some water that was stuck in a part of the level which wouldn't get me to the exit but I did have a bunch of liquid on the elevator that was probably enough to finish the level. Again it's usually fine but it feels really unfair when it happens and that particular thing has only happened to me once.
That said I really like the game, it has some lovely art and the act of moving the liquid around to complete levels is pretty cool. I'm interested to see where the type of liquids goes, if there are more of them that I haven't seen yet and if they're going to bring back some of the earlier ones. Overall it's a good game that has a couple of really annoying things that plague it.
Beams of light.
I'm not sure how I feel about this particular area I recorded, I haven't played much past whats in the video quite yet. But the first part of the game was definitely more platform heavy and getting around and avoiding traps like spikes. This part was significantly more enemy heavy, hopefully it's just because they were introducing the funnel and not a sign of things further on down the game. There's definitely a place for there to be enemies in the game but having this many just seems like overload.
That said I really enjoyed the more platform heavy puzzle nature of the game. If it goes in that direction and gives lots more of that with some enemies spread throughout that would be really awesome. That said the boss fight was kind of a slog, it didn't take me too long to complete it but again it felt more tedious than challenging. Throwing dozens of rockets at you when you aren't the most agile character in the world is kind of annoying. And there wasn't any sort of mid boss checkpoint just, hey you died now go back and do it over again. If you didn't have a body armour for it I expect that it would be a real pain to do. I'll probably play more of it, been a little bit busy doing other work stuff and otherwise not super up for playing something that requires actual thought or dexterity but hopefully I'll get round to it before too long.