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Archive for Joe Martin

Games I Own: Duke Nukem 3D

Posted on 26th Aug 2010 at 12:38 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
I’ve played the life out of Duke Nukem 3D over the years, trying most of the different editions and even somehow managing to tolerate the terrible controls of the iPhone version. It helped to shape my taste in games, though more for the impressive amount of detail and interactivity that was built into the levels than for the reasons you’d think would appeal to a teenage boy…

Really though, when I look back on Duke Nukem 3D I don’t think of the game itself – instead, I remember the shareware demo, which came on a disc I got with a games magazine as a young lad. That disc was one of my most treasured possessions at the time, as it contained demos for a whole bunch of games, not least of which were Duke and Quake. Much fun was had.

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Thoughts on Cheating in Multiplayer Games

Posted on 23rd Aug 2010 at 14:16 by Joe Martin with 98 comments

Joe Martin
Harry occasionally refers to me as, among other things, ‘Mr Singleplayer’ such is my general lack of interest in multiplayer games. I just prefer a properly told story than the thrill of Capturing the Flag, really, making me the polar opposite to Harry in regards to more than just my good looks and manly physique.

Still, one of the few multiplayer games to successfully capture my attention has been the Modern Warfare games, which ensnared me with their speed and slow dribble of achievements and new weapon unlocks. I’ve been known to dabble in Left 4 Dead and various Source mods, like Plan of Attack and The Hidden, but MW2 multiplayer is what I tend to play when I want to shoot a real person, generally.

And yesterday, I had my first definite run in with a cheater.

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The Best Thing at GamesCom 2010

Posted on 20th Aug 2010 at 21:03 by Joe Martin with 22 comments

Joe Martin
GamesCom 2010: I've seen a lot of games in the last four days. A lot. I've sat through a lot of presentations, jotted down a novels worth of notes and stifled a lot of yawns. In the coming days and weeks I'll be mentally sorting the wheat from the chaff, but right now there's one which, I feel, deserves a little pat on the back.

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings looks amazing. Graphically, artistically, mechanically; it's impressive on all fronts, standing alone as easily the best game I've seen in the last week – and, as I say, I've seen a lot of them recently.

It's the sheer quantity of titles I've surveyed that gives The Witcher 2 the edge though, I think. There's only so many times you can sit on a backless bench, the air filled with Eau de Journo and watch a tired, probably hungover developer go through the same hyperbolic speech he's given a hundred times in the last three days before the games start to run together.

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iPhone Review: Siege of the Necromancer

Posted on 16th Aug 2010 at 13:13 by Joe Martin with 3 comments

Joe Martin
As an adaptation of the old Gamebook model, Siege of the Necromancer gets a lot of things right. It lays itself quickly and clearly, providing bookmarks and cheat modes for those who want to just sprint through with no risk of death, but also boasts an achievement board and unlockable art gallery to encourage replays. The RPG rules are simple and to the point, the automated dice rolls quick and no-nonsense. It looks good too, with configurable fonts and nice little sound effects to enhance the mood.

Despite being a new series from an unknown developer, Siege is heavy on the nostalgia too. The basic starting point of a man returning home to his family to find the town overrun by goblins is immediately evocative of a hundred Fighting Fantasy and Choose Your Own Adventure books – a feeling that only increases as you journey through the later chapters. Picking a route through Myr Castle was especially reminiscent of classics like The Legend of Zagor, for example.

Unfortunately, while Siege of the Necromancer definitely gets these broader issues right, it's all too often spoiled by poor writing that speaks of authors desperate to put their fingerprints on what should have been unapologetically based in the tropes of the Fantasy genre. Small tweaks to spelling and jargon, such as changing Goblins to Goblyns, Ogres to Ogryns and Gold to Pestados, feel like differences for differences sake.

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iPhone Review: Civilisation Revolution

Posted on 5th Aug 2010 at 10:33 by Joe Martin with 21 comments

Joe Martin
Ugh, it’s late – I’d better turn my iPhone off and go to bed. I’ll stop playing at the end of this turn, so I can start more easily tomorrow morning.

Well, I’m only two turns away from researching gunpowder actually, so I’ll finish that and then I’ll go to sleep…

Excellent, I get two Riflemen units as a bonus for researching Gunpowder first! I’ll just test them out, super-quickly. Gandhi is going to regret conquering Buffalo now!

What? An army of Archers could never defeat a platoon of Riflemen! I’ll rush some more soldiers through production, bring in that Cruiser for support and rectify this mistake next turn.

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iPhone Review: Doodle God

Posted on 2nd Aug 2010 at 12:06 by Joe Martin with 14 comments

Joe Martin
Doodle God shouldn’t really be a game. Viewed objectively it’s almost impossible to see why it would be any fun at all, in fact. And yet, it’s probably the most addictive thing I’ve played in the last months and I find myself getting it out at every available chance.

Doodle God casts you as the clueless creator of a brand new world and tasks you with filling said globe with items, which is accomplished by weaving together the basic elements. You start with the absolute minimum – Fire, Water, Earth and Air – and from there you move forward, creating Dragons, Zombies, Beetles and Vodka by adding things together.

It’s fast, easy going to begin with and the first few combinations are fairly logical – Fire plus Earth creates Lava, for example. As you go on though the combinations get more ludicrous and it becomes more difficult to think of new items and keep track of what you’ve tried already. Within a few moments you move from thinking “What is the point of this?” to spending every waking minute pondering what you can make next.

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Thoughts on HUD Design

Posted on 31st Jul 2010 at 15:06 by Joe Martin with 32 comments

Joe Martin
Heads-up displays are, to me, a far more contentious issue than some of the other more bandied-around topics in modern game design. Everyone cries about regenerating health and how many weapons a player can feasibly carry, but HUDs seem a lot closer to the real, underlying complaints these other issues hint at. Instead of worrying about whether players have regenerating health, what about considering if the player should even know how much health they have left?

The issue of how health and ammo should be presented though is only secondary to the far bigger question of if they should be presented at all. Whereabouts do you draw the balance between accessibility and realism? In most shooters there's no logical reason why your character should have an ammo counter in the corner of the screen. It's only there because the player needs that information in order to get the most out of the game. As players we just take that info for granted.

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iPhone Review: Helsing’s Fire

Posted on 27th Jul 2010 at 09:28 by Joe Martin with 2 comments

Joe Martin
Egads! London has been invaded by monsters, who skulk through the shadowy, smoggy streets in search of fair maidens to devour. All that stands in their way is vampire hunter Van Helsing (and his man-servant, Raffton), who much push back this blight with naught but a handful of torches and a few monster-slaying tonics.

From the pitch you’d expect Helsing’s Fire to be just another clumsy action game, but it’s actually a rather gentle puzzle game played from the top-down perspective. The aim of the game is still to purge London of monsters, but it’s done with brains rather than brawn.

As with most puzzle games the gameplay is fairly straightforward at first, but quickly escalates as nuances and complications are layered on top of the core rules. To start with it’s merely a matter of positioning your flaming torch so that you cast rays of light on as many monsters as possible, then using colour-coded tonics to destroy them utterly. Later levels introduce more complicated elements though – shielded foes, fair maidens who must be protected and skellingtons who’ll extinguish your torch should you get too close.

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I Hate Jade Empire

Posted on 23rd Jul 2010 at 10:54 by Joe Martin with 29 comments

Joe Martin
You might think the poor combat, terrible graphics and lack of stats were what made Jade Empire such a bad RPG, but you’d be wrong.

No, what really kills it is how terribly boring it is. It’s dreadful, really; duller than an inflatable knife - and it’s not just simply tedious either. Jade Empire’s banality can be divided into two separate levels of boredom.

Firstly, there’s the plot itself, which is so predictable it’d be enough to make anyone think they’d become clairvoyant. You play an orphan who has been raised by the teacher of an awesome Kung Fu school that sits unmolested in the rural outskirts of the standard Wuxia setting. Apparently you’ve never questioned about your parentage until the day that Master Li ominously lets you know you have an important destiny.

Oh, sorry, not ominously, obviously.

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Free Games I Like: Chase Goose

Posted on 19th Jul 2010 at 10:07 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
I rather liked the little blog competition we had recently, so I thought we’d have another one. This time though, I wanted something really difficult to vex you all with – not just the ‘see who can get the lowest stat’ like we did last time. No, I wanted something difficult.

But even I think Chase Goose might be a bit extreme. It isn’t so much a game as it is a tool for murdering your keyboard. If you’re any good at it then it’ll leave your brain looking like leftover Chow Mein and your fingers like crumpled slivers of wet soap. Or maybe that’s just me, as I’m admittedly a bit crap at it.

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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review

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Mod of the Month September 2014 in association with Corsair

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