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Archive for Joe Martin

iPhone Review: Hook Worlds

Posted on 16th Dec 2010 at 11:39 by Joe Martin with 3 comments

Joe Martin
Hooks are a recurring motif for Rocketcat Games, it seems - as 'Cry' is to Crytek, perhaps. It's a motif that has taken center stage in both of Rocketcat's previous titles, Hook Champ and Super Quick Hook.

Now, it shows up again in Hook Worlds - albeit under three different guises.

You see, there are three games in Hook Worlds. The first of these, Curse of the Watcher, doesn't anything new or wholly unfamiliar to fans of Rocketcat's previous games. A cross between Super Quick Hook's endless Avalanche mode and Hook Champ's story-driven levels, Curse has players using rocketboots and a grappling hook to flee a pursuing ghost. The controls have changed about since Super Quick Hook, but it's still super accessible; a tap on the left or right is all you need to whip through the scenery.

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Bit-Gamer launch competition

Posted on 13th Dec 2010 at 11:06 by Joe Martin with 32 comments

Joe Martin
Things have changed for bit-tech's games content recently. You might have noticed the new logo and backgrounds, not to mention the new Hall of Fame article which we'll be updating regularly in the future. You might be wondering why the name of your favourite games review site has changed from bit-tech to bit-gamer.

One other thing that’s changed but which you might not have noticed yet is that bit-gamer has its own Twitter account now too – which is important because we’re going to start doing regular prize draws and competitions using it. More on that in a minute.

Bit-tech’s games content has changed a lot since I joined the company almost five years ago. We’ve changed our review style and the length of our articles, not to mention the type of games and platforms we cover. This last two years especially has seen a number of changes to bit-tech’s games content, with new writers working on the site and a renewed focus on features and previews. Some of my favourite articles we’ve ever done have been written in the last year, for example, while today sees the introduction of a new regular column, Critical Hit.

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Free Games I Like: Virtua School

Posted on 11th Dec 2010 at 12:24 by Joe Martin with 5 comments

Joe Martin
Ah, Virtua School. Another game I played far too much of as a teenager and which I’ve bought back to life on my iPod Touch courtesy of the ill-fated iDOS. I truly love this game.

Virtua School is a text-based game which casts you as a kid starting his first day of school, forced to deal with the usual array of problems – girls, bullies, exams and extra-curricular activities. Using multiple choice options you weave your way through these scenarios, with a single playthrough lasting around ten minutes.

What I like most about Virtua School though is the random events which are woven into each game to help make things a bit different. The changes range from big things, like bomb scares or after-school parties, to smaller alterations, like characters changing their opinions or reactions. Popular girl Liz might like you one day and hate you another.

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Games I Own: Executive Suite

Posted on 14th Nov 2010 at 15:13 by Joe Martin with 2 comments

Joe Martin
Executive Suite is one of the most low-fi games I've ever played. It’s also one of the games I've played the most – I used to love it on the first PC my family ever had, an ornery old IBM. Recently, with a DOS emulator slipping into the Apple AppStore for a few hours (if you missed it then you should have kept a closer eye on the ‘What We’re Reading’ section of the front page), I’ve been enjoying it again.

Essentially, it’s a business strategy sim, but one where all the strategy comes from negotiating office politics rather than share prices. At the start of the game you interview for a job at Might Microprocessor Corporation, after which you are given a choice of entry positions ranging from engineer to postal clerk. You stay in that role for one year, and then you’re moved to a new role. The format repeats, with each job lasting only a year before you’re forced on.

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Free Games I Like: Aisle

Posted on 7th Nov 2010 at 13:35 by Joe Martin with 38 comments

Joe Martin
I’ve been back on the interactive fiction games lately, mainly because it’s a great way to cleanse the gaming palette after a parade of samey shooters with identical names. The best text adventure games can easily trump a modern title and perfectly illustrates what games are capable of when they aren’t too busy chasing the latest graphics.

If you think that sounds hyperbolic then I suggest you go and play Trinity and A Mind Forever Voyaging, then reassess things.

Alternatively, if you haven’t got the time to manage either of those then you can play Aisle instead.

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Thoughts on Expansion Packs

Posted on 9th Oct 2010 at 08:36 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
I completed Half-Life: Blue Shift for the first time last night and, I have to say, I was enormously disappointed with it. I’d heard it was supposed to be the worst Half-Life game by far – something which had put me off playing it until recently, when I picked it up on a whim, but even I wasn’t expecting it to be so totally…bland. It was too short, too easy and enormously lacking in character. It took me three or four hours to complete, during which I died once and didn’t get to see anything in the way of new monsters or weapons.

Compare that to Half-Life: Opposing Force, which I still maintain is the perfect expansion pack even in spite of the silly end-boss. Opposing Force has plenty of new content, including an entirely new race of aliens that have never been officially explained within the Half-Life canon. Plus, it has the barnacle gun. It’s a fantastic expansion pack.

What really makes Opposing Force better than Blue Shift though isn’t just the new guns and baddies, but the fact that it has a personality of it’s own which, while it draws on Half-Life, feels entirely distinct. Like the original Half-Life, both expansions open with the player sat in a moving vehicle, but where Blue Shift merely apes HL’s train ride Opposing Force differs in every possible way. HL opens with the start of the story, deep underground, with a sedate and lonely pace; Opposing Force’s Adrian Shepherd is in a helicopter with the rest of his squad, entering the plot at the half-way point in a rather dramatic fashion.

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My Gaming Twitch

Posted on 25th Sep 2010 at 09:47 by Joe Martin with 60 comments

Joe Martin
Once upon a time, when I was a littler boy, I used to spend my evenings watching my Dad play computer games. It started back with Amiga classics, like the Cryo’s adventure/strategy hybrid based on Frank Herbert’s Dune, but later moved to more modern games on the PC, especially the Thief games.

Despite the games my Dad played though, you couldn’t really ever consider him to be a gamer. He chose a few games and played them religiously, but he didn’t have the breadth of gaming knowledge that I have and when he played, you could see that. He manifested it physically, especially in 3D games which he sometimes found difficult to navigate.

Playing Thief: The Dark Age, for example, he would move his head to match the movements of the mouse. If he moved the mouse to tell Garret to look up then my Dad would also move his head to look up, though keeping his eyes glued to the screen. When he needed to shoot a rope arrow into some rafters overhead then he’d slowly start to point his nose at the ceiling, gazing down past his chin. Peering over an in-game cliff he’d be burying his jaw in his chest, having to open his eyes wide so he could see past his eyebrows. The constant side-to-side movements made him look like he was nursing a stiff neck, but I don’t think he was ever aware he was doing it, even when he did it really fast.

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iPhone Review: Mirror’s Edge

Posted on 19th Sep 2010 at 08:33 by Joe Martin with 1 comments

Joe Martin
I played and previewed Mirror’s Edge on the iPhone ages ago, but for some reason it was an iPad exclusive for ages after that. It’s only just been released on the iPhone recently and, interestingly, while the iPhone version is exactly the same as the iPad one, it also manages to be a better game. I’ve played Mirror’s Edge on both platforms and it’s the smaller of the two which is best.

It’s mainly because of the type of game that Mirror’s Edge is. Like Super Quick Hook it’s a fast-paced racer with exploration elements as you search for secrets and new paths through the levels. The levels are short and slick, flying by in a matter of minutes. It’s a game for filling train journeys, not for keeping your hands busy while you watch TV.

It’s an important and often glossed-over distinction, I think. The iPad is great good for laying on your lap and playing slow games that don’t require constant attention. The iPhone is useful for when you need something to fill the uncomfortable silence in a moving lift full of strangers. The iPad is for Scrabble; the iPhone for Hook Champ and Mirror’s Edge.

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Thoughts on Mafia 2's Rape Scene

Posted on 30th Aug 2010 at 10:14 by Joe Martin with 39 comments

Joe Martin
It happens in the prison showers, when Vito is told to do some cleaning and is left alone with some nasty men who express a desire to do nasty things to him. Vito wants none of this, which is consistent with his character, so he puts up a fight. Five or six punches later, it fades to black and Vito moves calmly on to the next scene.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the event when it happens that way; it’s a little flat, perhaps, but that’s it. What bothers me more though is what happens if you don’t manage to fight the bullies off. Namely, nothing; you get a game over sequence and then have to restart the fight. Vito doesn’t actually get raped, no matter what you do.

To be clear, I don’t want Vito to get raped, but I do think that if you’re going to have a rape scene like that in your game then you should provide for all outcomes. Especially since Mafia 2 often lets you fail missions without consequence. You might be told to deliver X parcels in Y minutes, ending in a cutscene where you’re teased for poor driving if you don’t manage it. There’s no game over if you fail to impress the Don, so why should there be one if you’re defending against rapists?

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Free Games I Like: Solipskier

Posted on 27th Aug 2010 at 08:08 by Joe Martin with 51 comments

Joe Martin
I blame Gunsmith for this, as his post in the General Discussion forum nudged me to play this game.

And play it and play it and play it, before finally sharing it with the rest of the team and getting them to do the same. Tuesday morning productivity quickly fell into the toilet.

The goal of Solipskier is simple, as the goal of nearly all free browser games tend to be. You have to guide your little stick-figure man through a series of jumps, gates and tunnels, which is done by drawing the track ahead of him as he goes. Draw a slope, he'll gain speed. Draw a hillock, he'll fly into the air.

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