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Would you like to play The Last Express with me?

Posted on 1st Jun 2009 at 11:37 by Joe Martin with 8 comments

Joe Martin
The Last Express is an old game, an interesting game and one I’ve been meaning to play for a number of years. I was finally spurred into action by the guys at Idle Thumbs, who rightly asserted that The Last Express is a perfect example of an evolutionary path in video games that just never panned out, mainly for financial reasons.

The Last Express is an adventure game by Jordan Mechner, who also made all of the good Prince of Persia games. The storyline for the game is set over three days and it’s all set right on the very eve of the first world war, with all the action and adventure taking place on a train that is travelling from Paris to Constantinople. The train is the famous Orient Express and as the journey begins there is a murder on board. Admittedly I know a lot of this only from what I’ve heard – I’m still playing the game for the first time at the moment.

So far then, The Last Express is just a normal game, but here’s the kicker – it’s all set in real-time. It's also a game I want to invite you to play with me.

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My Garry's Mod Gallery

Posted on 28th May 2009 at 13:49 by Joe Martin with 10 comments

Joe Martin
I've not really got much to say this week as, between Bionic Commando and Order of War this has been a pretty boring week for me, truth be told. I've spent most of my time playing through Clive Barker's Undying again and realising it wasn't as good as I remembered and playing Garry's Mod 10.

Garry's Mod 10, or GMod, for those not in the know began life as a small mod for Half-Life 2 that allowed you to fiddle about with the game physics. Over time it evolved and grew, with new tools getting added in along the way until it ended up as it is now - a commercial product that's the video game equivalent of a Lego set.

Garry's Mod 10 is, to me, the ultimate sandbox game. You can do anything. You can create anything. You can manipulate ragdolls however you want - which isn't always a good thing. You can weld items together, add rockets, wheels, ropes, pulleys and balloons. You can literally make anything from sculptures to rocket-powered mecha robots.

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Games I Own: Atmosfear The Video Board Game

Posted on 18th May 2009 at 10:29 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
The usual joke computer game journalists make about board games is that it’s good to have a few around in case there’s a power cut and your handheld is out of battery, but other than that why bother? It’s a joke I’ve made before when the topic has come up, but the reality is that I love board games. It isn’t cool to say so, but board games are cool.

Board games were a huge part of my childhood. I come from a family of seven and my mum worked nights, which meant we often had to be quiet during the day; of course board games were a significant part of my childhood. My dad would even make up little alternate reality games where we’d run around in the woods, solve ancient riddles and search for ‘hidden’ things, with the final ‘treasure’ usually being a board game for us all.

I can still remember fighting my brother, who was wearing a huge papier machie helmet to make him look like a centaur, with a wooden broadsword over a ‘treasure chest’ containing The Legend of Zagor boardgame. That particular ARG went on throughout all the summer holidays…but now I’m getting off track.

The point is: one of my favourite board games growing up was Atmosfear: The Video Board Game. It was a horror-themed game for up to six people where players had to go round a graveyard collecting keys as fast as possible. The game came with an accompanying VHS video, so you played in front of a TV which had a clock counting down on it and you’d collect Time cards that told you to do certain things at certain times. You had one hour to get six keys and escape the cemetery or the Gatekeeper would claim your soul.

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Games I Wish Worked on Vista

Posted on 12th May 2009 at 10:08 by Joe Martin with 26 comments

Joe Martin
I only upgraded from Windows XP to Vista relatively recently – it was really only when I started at bit-tech.net that I actually became concerned with keeping up to date. Until then I'd been happy to stay with whatever OS let me play the games I wanted to play, upgrading only as I needed to to play the latest games.

I’ve regretted the move to Vista ever since, though I was at least wily enough to ensure that my girlfriend’s PC ran XP still, ensuring I had at least one option when struck by the sudden need to play a classic game. You know the need I’m referring to – it usually comes when you’re doing some menial task and you’re somehow reminded of an old game you really liked. Quickly that flash of memory grows, flares into an obsession and you find yourself reinstalling games you haven’t played in years, usually Deus Ex.

That quick burst of obsession is something I experience fairly regularly, mainly because games are such a massive part of my life and I find it hard to break away from them. Some days I can’t cross the street without thinking that I should quicksave first. Oh, how I wish I was joking.

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I played Diablo 2 and I hated it

Posted on 5th May 2009 at 10:14 by Joe Martin with 32 comments

Joe Martin
So, I played Diablo 2, just as you asked me to. True to my word I got bit-tech developer Jamie to lend me his copy and I gave it a good ol’ go - by which I mean I played it until I didn't want to play it any more, then tried to persevere for another hour before giving up.

I was utterly underwhelmed by Diablo 2. It appealed to me even less than the very similar Titan Quest – and that’s saying something, considering how I enjoyed that game about as much as I’d enjoy passing a cupful of kidney stones all at once. I hated Diablo 2 because there seemed to be absolutely no need for me to be there. I actually felt that the game would play itself better if I just wasn’t there, as the entire role of the player is to click-click-click-click their character along a pseudo-random, utterly linear path that offers no real chance for exploration or involvement.

Playing Diablo 2 I was left with the impression that it didn’t matter what I did in the game, as fundamentally everything I did only ever had one logical outcome, so I may as well not do anything. I was stifled by the utter lack of room for player expression. You could level the same complaint against almost any FPS where players are funnelled through linear levels too, but at least those games are usually fast paced and full of explosions and a sense of interaction and puzzle solving. Diablo 2 didn’t feel that way to me.

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How I Met Tim Schafer

Posted on 1st May 2009 at 09:58 by Joe Martin with 7 comments

Joe Martin
Meeting your heroes is always a strange thing and all too often such events end in disappointment. Thankfully though, that wasn’t the case yesterday when I met Tim Schafer – who co-wrote The Secret of Monkey Island and the creator of Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and some truly hilarious blog posts of his very own.

Tim is, to put it bluntly, someone I’ve admired for a long, long time and in the run-up to the EA event I met him at I was a little worried that he might not be as funny and random as all the interviews I’d read with him over the years had led me to expect. Worse, I was worried that I might make a tit of myself in front of him or that I’d just collapse in sweaty palms and schoolgirl giggles.

Thankfully, neither situation happened and while Tim was certainly a lot quieter and more modest than I expected he definitely lived up to my rather presumptuous expectations. I chalk my lack of humiliation up to the fact that I was wearing my lucky Fallout 3 t-shirt.

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Should We Change Our Game Reviews?

Posted on 25th Apr 2009 at 12:35 by Joe Martin with 54 comments

This is a blog post I’ve been thinking of writing for a long time, but I’ve chosen not to get around to it until now because it hasn’t really been very relevant.

There’s not been that many good PC games coming out lately that have required an in-depth look at graphics. Well, not from me anyway. A good thing about being part of Dennis Publishing is that delegation is nearly always an option.

The crux of this blog post rests on one question; how useful is the graphics coverage we give in PC game reviews at the moment?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then, well I guess that gives me an answer right there. You see, before I joined bit-tech the site had a policy of doing very in-depth graphic analysis for each and every PC game review that came along and console games were mainly ignored. Tim, Richard and co. would even graphically analyse new patches for games and game reviews would focus heavily on graphics.

Should We Change Our Game Reviews?

As far as I’m aware that started to change when my predecessor Ryan joined bit-tech. Console games started to get a bit more attention and the graphics coverage of specific games became less quantitative and more comparative – like in this Darkstar One review.

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Games I Own: Doom 3

Posted on 15th Apr 2009 at 17:40 by Joe Martin with 6 comments

Joe Martin
In response to my last Games I Own blogpost someone asked me when I was going to start blogging about some of the really bad games I own. Well, now I am. I don’t like Doom 3.

Or, rather, I don’t like much of Doom 3. The first half an hour or so of the game is pretty good, despite being pretty much a straight rip-off of Half-Life, and there are some bits that really make you jump later on…but the rest of it? Bleh.

There’s three main reasons I don’t like Doom 3. The first is that it’s endlessly repetitive – dark hallways go on forever, punctuated only by utterly redundant outside sections and oh, another scared scientist. Worse, it doesn’t even seem like there’s any variation to the game; all I can remember of it is fighting endless bloody imps.

The second reason I don’t like it is that the game as a whole is massively contrived and manufactured. There isn’t a single part of Doom 3 that stands out as being an example of where game design and concept meet; this is a high-tech science base that’s supposed to be utterly self-reliant yet even the well-lit areas are dismal and dim. Everyone moans that there should be duct tape somewhere in the base, but I’m more concerned by the poor lighting conditions even before the demons appear. And a marine should have more important things to do then go fetch eggheads, right? And why doesn’t a single scientist decide to follow the man with a gun, or at least mug him for his weapons?

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The Game That Made Me Cry

Posted on 6th Apr 2009 at 14:42 by Joe Martin with 24 comments

Joe Martin
Beyond Good and Evil is one of those games I have to actually restrain myself from talking about – and anyone who knows me will confirm that it’s very rare for me to be prevented from talking, so I guess that’s saying something. No pun intended.

Giving myself free reign for a minute or two though, Beyond Good and Evil is probably one of the best games I’ve ever played, though it bears the distinction of being one of the only games I can say that about but have only actually finished once. Unlike the other games on my list of favoured titles (Planescape, Sands of Time, etc), once is enough when it comes to Beyond Good and Evil. It also has one of my favourite game trailers ever.

Beyond Good and Evil has a more unique distinction though, one which is a whole lot more damning and which I can’t recall ever really writing about in detail before. Beyond Good and Evil is the only game that’s ever made me cry. I’ve got misty over a lot of games – but Beyond Good and Evil pushed me over that breach and made me actually start sobbing.

I’m going to explain why now, so if that idea interests you and you think you might be interested in playing Beyond Good and Evil at some point then I implore you not to read any further. There be spoilers beyond!

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Games I Own: The Thief Series

Posted on 27th Mar 2009 at 15:07 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
First, a confession; I wasn’t going to write about Thief originally. I was actually trying to write a blog post about the gaming achievement I was most proud of, which for me was completing Bookworm in classic mode. In the course of writing that post I started talking about Thief though and before long the game was dominating the post. I love Thief.

I got introduced to Thief back when the first demo came out on a PC Gamer cover disc, though I actually only tried the demo as a matter of curiosity. Even back then the graphics were too ugly to attract my attention straight away.

When I got in to the demo though, which was the entire first level of the game, I was hooked. Not just hooked in the way that I played it three or four times either; I was physically addicted. I’m confident that, if someone put a gun to my head, I could play that level with my eyes shut. Lord Bafford’s Manor was permanently etched onto my brain with the kind of furious heat that only comes from eyes that burn from staring at a screen so long.

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