Posted on 5th Jun 2011 at 11:50 by Joe Martin with 31 comments
I’ve been playing Star Wars: Jedi Academy lately. I didn’t play it when it first came out, but good word of mouth and a budget Steam price proved hard to resist. Overall, it’s a pretty good game too, although I’ll never be as effusive about it as my pals. One thing I can’t get over, though, is how incredibly dated the game looks.
It’s been hard for me to pin down exactly why Jedi Academy feels so dated, as the graphics actually hold up very well for a seven year old game using the twelve year old id Tech 3 engine. Lately, I’ve come to think that it’s the sparseness of the levels that makes it feel archaic. There are too many empty desks in the cantinas, too many barren walls; there’s not enough clutter in the world.
Posted on 15th May 2011 at 09:30 by Joe Martin with 29 comments
It may seem an odd subject to focus on, as jumping doesn't seem to be very important on the face of it – cut it out of a game, though, and it can make a huge difference. Games in which players can’t jump, or at the very least dodge or roll, can seem painfully slow, dull and static. Games in which players can jump around and use that movement to interact with the environment can seem immeasurably more fun because of it.
Take Half-Life 2
, for example. It’s a game which nearly everyone would agree is well-made, decently written, fun and fast to play through. Now cast your mind back to the first scene in Kliener’s lab, where Gordon is first properly introduced to his allies, where the plot is given its first proper push and where you’re gifted with the HEV suit again. It’s a busy sequence; lots to do, lots to take in. You’d expect most players to pay close attention, at least the first time around.
Instead, every single player I know spends most of the time jumping around. Sometimes they try to jump on the scenery or knock over objects, other times they just leapfrog around the room when a simple stroll would suffice.
Posted on 7th May 2011 at 10:18 by David Hing with 10 comments
The iPad is an ideal platform for board games. It's large enough for more than one person to sit round it for a local game without feeling stupid, and its touchscreen is sizeable enough to make it practical to move pieces, even if you have chubby fingers. Thus, it was only a matter of time before classic board games such as Carcassonne jumped to the platform.
The game itself is easy to learn, and is mostly based around the idea of developing the areas around the titular French town. At higher levels, though, the strategies and tactics involved can become enormously complex, although this iPad version eases you in with spoken tutorials and a full digital manual. It takes very little time to get to grips with the mechanics, with only a few references back to the documentation, and the interface is kept gloriously pristine.
There are a few different basic game-types, including a Solitaire mode that follows slightly adapted rules to the core game, plus online, local and AI matches.
Posted on 17th Apr 2011 at 10:38 by Joe Martin with 25 comments
This is Heather Poe. She’s a young woman, living in Los Angeles and attending college there, though it isn’t her hometown. She’s kind, happy, eager to please and a little bit geeky. She’s also one of the best features of one of my favourite games, Troika’s Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines.
You find Heather in the hospital, where she’s been rushed into the emergency room for some strange neck wound. As a newly turned vampire yourself, you know that there’s more to this story than meets the eye, but your heightened senses also tell you that she’ll survive her undead encounter if she just gets some fresh haemoglobin. Unfortunately, there isn’t a doctor to hand and the hospital is criminally understaffed.
Posted on 11th Apr 2011 at 10:50 by David Hing with 12 comments
Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP for the iPad is like nothing else you have ever played. Described as ‘a 21st century interpretation of the archetypical old school videogame adventure’ it uses beautifully crafted pixel-scapes to do for video gaming what the impressionist painters did for art.
A collaborative project from indie studio Capybara, rock musicians and art from the Superbrothers themselves, Sword and Sworcery EP is a essentially a point and click adventure game that sees you cast as a warrior out to destroy an ancient evil. To do that you’ll need to solve puzzles, fight bears and collect an artefact called the Megatome – so far, so adventure-game. What sets is apart from the likes of Kings Quest however are the lashings of surrealism, abstraction and poetry that somehow never slips into infuriating pretentiousness.
Posted on 18th Mar 2011 at 16:33 by David Hing with 8 comments
Developers around the world have submitted over 61,000 games made in Game Maker to the YoYo Games site since 2007. The rate at which they are being submitted is that, when I started writing and researching this article, it was closer to 60,900. A new game is submitted every 20 minutes.
As you can probably guess based on the rate of submissions, a lot of these games are more works in progress than stable, finished releases. There’s no real quality control and the content ranges from the likes of Crimelife 2
to Box Dodger
There are a lot of indie developers who use Game Maker as a way of producing very high quality titles, but what I find more interesting is the number of what I would describe as ‘hobby developers’ there are out there.
Posted on 18th Feb 2011 at 07:39 by Joe Martin with 25 comments
This isn’t really a review, and I can’t label it as such, if only because Arctic Cooling’s GCM isn’t really the type of device we usually cover. Still, when it landed in the office I just couldn’t help myself. It looked so cheap and nasty that the other guys in the office recoiled from it in melodramatic disgust. I had to write about it.
You’ve seen gizmos like the GCM before, probably. It wouldn’t be out of place on the prize rack of a fairground attraction, or in a machine at that really run-down arcade that your parents never let you go to. The packaging is emblazoned with bold claims that try to sell the GCM to you on a sheer value factor – 80 games in 1? Wowee! – all of which strengthens the impression that it’s going to be rubbish.
But, hey, at least it comes with its own Arctic Cooling batteries!
Posted on 17th Feb 2011 at 12:08 by Clive Webster with 18 comments
Despite its occasional eccentricities, I rather liked the original Blood Bowl computer game. The races all had their own characteristics, so every game had different challenges, and the sense of humour and style fitted the world of the ultra-violent American Football game. Best yet, it brought back memories of playing the board game on which it's based. Legendary Edition adds 11 new races to the game, plus new pitches, rules and a Story mode, so I got myself a copy a few weeks ago.
Posted on 14th Feb 2011 at 14:05 by Paul Goodhead with 27 comments
As a marketing graduate I often find myself idly assesing the marketing strategies that tech companies employ. It’s an industry that's fairly set in its ways - Taiwanese companies tend to think a CG picture of a pretty girl with an ornate sword or huge gun can sell anything, no matter what we in the West say. Meanwhile, here in the West, we can't help but work the touch-feely lifestyle angle - 'this laptop is good because you can help the kids with their homework on it!'
My interest was piqued therefore when I saw Nintendo’s latest Super Mario advert which marks the 25th anniversary of Mario series of games. The advert is initially quite unremarkable, showing men and women of all ages, some of whom are celebrities, talking about the Mario games and their memories of them. So far, so Nintendo; the company has been using softer, more personal adverts targeted at casual and first time gamers for a while now.
What I did find remarkable though was the end of the advert which contained the message the ad was there to convey - ‘Super Mario Brothers, part of the family since 1985’. It’s the first time I’ve seen a computer game use a heritage message, a message that emphasises the history and longevity of a brand or product.
Posted on 13th Feb 2011 at 10:02 by Joe Martin with 13 comments
Requiem: Avenging Angel is a classic example of a game that should be very well known, but isn’t. In fact, it’s more likely that you've never heard of it, which is odd considering that it was the first ever game to feature bullet time, while having similar gameplay to Jedi Knight. That sounds like a winning formula, right?
Requiem has more going for it than just a single feature and a passing similarity, though. It was also one of the first modern games to tread in Half-Life’s shoes; trapping players in a first person perspective and allowing players to travel back and forth through some levels.
Unfortunately, Requiem had a whole heap of problems, which outweighed these strengths and stopped it from collecting acclaim of either the critical or commercial variety. Firstly, the levels were incredibly boring to fight through and, while Requiem opens strongly with a few gory levels in hellish Limbo, it eventually descends into a blocky romp through generic sci-fi locations. The obligatory sewer section doesn’t help either.
Requiem’s biggest problem, however, is simply the subject matter; Catholicism.