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Archive for the ‘gaming’ tag

Recommend Me A Board Game

Posted on 27th Nov 2009 at 10:48 by Joe Martin with 46 comments

Joe Martin
My love of games extends further than just computer games, you know. I’m also something of a board game fiend – a fan of games in any form, to tell the truth. In the last few months I’ve especially enjoyed getting together with a few friends to play some board games, and that enjoyment is hopefully going to be buoyed further by a recent discovery of mine.

I found a really cool shop in the centre of nearby Reading – one which I’ve walked past many times but only recently investigated. It’s called Eclectic Games and is a board game and collectible card game specialist.

Eclectic Games is very much My Kind Of Place. It’s large and warmly decorated, with a huge selection of games, both niche and well-known. It also has a library of games - which you’re free to try out in the gaming hall out back - and the owners regularly organise events where you can meet other gamers and get involved in tournaments. It’s small enough to be charming and independent too – exactly the type of place I’d like to support with my patronage.

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Free Games I Like: Gravity Bone

Posted on 18th Nov 2009 at 10:43 by Joe Martin with 3 comments

Joe Martin
Gravity Bone is by Brendon Chung, an indie developer I’ve long been a fan of and who has made some of my favourite indie games ever. Gravity Bone is his most recent and complete game, as well as the most stylised and striking.

Like most of Chung’s games, Gravity Bone exists without any exposition or context. It just is and everything in it relies on inference, with explicit instructions being very rare and a streamlined level design ethic ensuring the common sense is all you need to play the game. Every game also contains a wicked sense of wit that makes them worth playing even if you hate everything else.

Gravity Bone is about a hitman or a spy, who goes around doing spy-type stuff. There’s but two missions in the game, which takes about ten minutes to finish. The first is a straightforward introduction with no real challenges. The second is where all the gameplay is, but I won’t spoil why.

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Free Games I Like: Black Shades

Posted on 17th Nov 2009 at 08:25 by Joe Martin with 1 comments

Joe Martin
Black Shades isn’t a new game, it’s just a free game that I really like. It’s basically the opposite of Hitman, but reduced down to twitch shooter basics and presented in a typically indie way.

Rather than playing as a hitman, Black Shades casts you as a bodyguard for a VIP who's wandering aimlessly through a crowded city. It’s your job to protect him from the increasing number of assailants who will try to kill him.

What distinguishes Black Shades from that old trope of the FPS escort mission is that the VIP is pursuing a random path through a city which is basically an infinite grid of buildings. Also, the assassins who come from him are randomly generated and will use a variety of weapons and approaches. Oh, and nearly everyone in the city looks alike too – grey and white polygon figures.

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Free Games I Like: Home

Posted on 12th Nov 2009 at 12:21 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
Another short post for another short game – Home is a tiny pixel-art game from Increpare about what it’s like to fall apart, bit by bit.

There isn’t a huge amount to say about this game as the entire experience lasts just five minutes at most and the artwork and mechanics on show have been streamlined to the extreme. Everything in the game has been trimmed down until all that’s left is a clunky orange graphic that would look outdated on a Spectrum.

The idea is simple: your name is Charles and you’ve just been put into an old people’s home. Your life is simple and easy, which is good because you’re not really capable of much. All you have to do is manage your four simple needs; food, friendship, going to the toilet and getting a good night's rest. Simple.

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Free Games I Like: Small Worlds

Posted on 5th Nov 2009 at 11:51 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
This blog post will be, like the game it’s about, small. I don’t really have a huge amount to say about Small Worlds, which was developed for a recent Casual Games Competition with the theme 'Explore', other than that it’s a remarkably elegant and effective piece of pixel-art brilliance.

A game which only ever alludes to having a deeper plot, Small Worlds opens with a single line before jumping to the gameplay – “There is too much noise”.

The gameplay itself is simple. At the start of each of the five levels the viewpoint is zoomed in on you – a small red line with a pale face and zero animation. The aim of each level is then to find the exit, which returns you to a hub level before you move on to the next world. There’s no fighting, no skill trees and no enemies. It’s just a gentle and rather lovely paced matter of exploration.

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Games I Own: Deus Ex 2

Posted on 21st Oct 2009 at 12:46 by Joe Martin with 9 comments

Joe Martin
Deus Ex 2: Invisible War is a game which gets a bad rap whenever you see it discussed among PC gamers, who inevitably love the first game and loathe the sequel. To be honest though, I never thought it was half as bad as anyone was making out. If approached with reasonable rationality and not the more obvious optimism, the game actually held up quite well.

Yes, Invisible War had issues. It obviously suffered from attempts to bring the series to consoles. The tiny, insular and empty levels. The universal ammo system. The constant load times and clunky, overly rounded feel of the engine – these were all issues that dogged the game and deservedly so, but slamming Deus Ex 2 for not living up to the legend of it’s predecessor is easier than fist-fighting with a one-armed toddler.

Instead, I prefer to think of the good things about Deus Ex 2 – the things it did better than the original. Believe me, they’re there.

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I'm Only Stupid Because I Know Too Much

Posted on 8th Oct 2009 at 12:09 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
I was playing Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box yesterday (in the course of writing the review) when I had a moment of utter brain failure. It’s embarrassing to even admit it, that’s how stupid it was of me.

The question was; if you have a rectangular piece of paper and fold it so that there’s an extra centimetre on one side and then you fold it the other way with a centimetre extra on the other end, then how far in millimetres would it be between the two creases when the paper is unfolded?

It’s a simple, easy question and the game gave me three spaces to write a number into. I quickly scribbled my answer down; 100mm and was told that was incorrect. Baffled, I got a piece of paper out and tried it out – measuring the gap as one centimetre. Again I put my answer in. Again; incorrect. It was only on the third go that I slapped my face and realised that there were only 10 millimetres in a centimetre – not 100. I was being a moron and had been led astray by the fact that the game gave you three spaces to put an answer in, not two. I’m an idiot.

That then got me thinking (as best as I was able anyway) about how my brain is stuffed with useless information that I use everyday and all the actual useful stuff that I never need to know has trickled away over the years. It’s ironic and twisted, but I can get more use out of game memory than I’d ever get from remembering how to do trigonometry properly.

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What Makes You Quit A Multiplayer Game?

Posted on 6th Oct 2009 at 14:24 by Joe Martin with 51 comments

Joe Martin
Those of you who listened to last week’s Gaming Podcast will know that, between the filthy jokes and my off-mike laughing fit, we talked about our lunchtime gaming habits – specifically COD4. We play every lunch time and occasionally after work too, with ‘we’ being most bit-tech, ComputerShopper and Micromart staff.

In the wake of our most recent after-work game an interesting dilemma presented itself though and we schedule our next big match for November 10th. The day that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 goes on sale. Thus is was asked; do we carry on playing COD4 for the time being, or do we switch over to the sequel?

Strangely enough, only two people said that they wanted to switch to the new game. Many reasons were given – shortage of funds, can’t be bothered to install, PCs that won’t run it, etc. My own reason however was simply that I wasn’t ready to leave COD4 just yet and don’t feel I’ve got everything I can out of it.

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I Have Never Played A Good Star Trek Game

Posted on 29th Sep 2009 at 10:05 by Joe Martin with 42 comments

Joe Martin
I’ve owned a lot of games in my life. I was also a bit of a Trekkie growing up. There have been points in my life where those two facts have overlapped and I’ve owned computer games that are based around Star Trek – but I’ve never played a good Star Trek game, ever. I’m honestly not even sure they exist.

I’ve played a lot of them, from idiotic non-games like The Captain’s Chair which offer a virtual tour of some of the ships in the series, to poorly thought out action games like Hidden Evil. The ones I’ve spent the most time with though are probably A Final Unity and Generations.

Generations is a particular sore spot for me, as I pressured my parents into pre-ordering it for me from America based solely on hype I’d read in a copy of the official Star Trek magazine.

Yes, I was that sad as a teenager. I like to think I’m a lot cooler now though, even if I still can’t grow a beard.

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Games I Own: Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park, Theme Hospital

Posted on 26th Sep 2009 at 11:38 by Joe Martin with 16 comments

Joe Martin
I was never any good at Dungeon Keeper – and when I say ‘not any good’, I really do mean that I was seriously pants at it. Something to do with being only 12 when the game came out and not really being interested in strategy games – which kind of begs the question of why I played it at all.

There are two answers.

Firstly, it wasn’t my game. It was my brothers and, while I can’t remember if it was a present or something he actually bought, I do know it was his. In the days when the family shared just one PC and my brother and I shared every game, it was inevitable that I would play it. Likewise, it was inevitable then when he stopped playing PC games and I moved out that I would steal it from him, along with about ten other games. Sorry, Sam!

Secondly, making people think that they liked strategy games even though they didn’t really was one of the things that made Bullfrog such a successful company.

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