Posts Tagged ‘2.0’

Dragon Lore: The Legend Begins Review

Dragon Lore: The Legend Begins Featured

Dragon Lore: The Legend Begins Boxart

Developer: Cryo Interactive
Publisher: Mindscape / Anuman Interactive
Platform: 3DO PC – DOS, GOG*

The early ’90s were an incredible time of change for gaming. It was in these years that developers began taking 3D art animation seriously and creating full 3D games. Of course, many of the earliest were crude, but full of exciting ideas that would eventually work out. Dragon Lore: The Legend Begins is one of these formative titles, although it doesn’t get nearly as much credit as The 7th Guest. Dragon Lore shares the tale of a young man named Werner Von Wallenrod on a quest to become a Dragon Knight.

Things aren’t so easy for the fellow, as his birthright was stolen from him when his father was betrayed by another Knight. Because of it, Werner spent his youth being raised by one of the castle’s men, completely unaware of his lineage, until his 18th birthday. From there, you must figure out the pertinent parts of Werner’s past and also try to convince the warriors of the Valley to allow you to join their ranks.

Dragon Lore plays out as a first person point and click game. Players move through the 3D environments by clicking areas of the screen they wish to move toward. Along the way, there are many items to pick up and use as weapons or for completing puzzles. Unfortunately, Werner’s pockets are not infinite, so there is a limit to the inventory. This causes issue when you’re not sure if certain items will be needed later. Here’s a hint: Keep non-weapon objects. Weapons are usually just needed for fights, and therefore a huge stack of them isn’t required.

Dragon Lore: The Legend Begins Featured

The world is surprisingly expansive, even though it is mostly empty aside from warriors and a few enemies. When talking to the council members, they discuss what they are looking for in the next Dragon Knight. Some favor wisdom while others favor bloodshed. This means that no matter what you do, some of them simply won’t vote for you. It’s a pretty neat concept and makes the final vote at the end a nail-biting experience.

Of course, Dragon Lore is also a product of the time. The point and click interface is incredibly rough, making it more of a chore to use than most. Then there are the graphics themselves which are silly to today’s eyes. Weirdly, some characters have faces fully sculpted in 3D, while others have flat faces with digital images overlaying them. Voice acting is average, and the music is mostly forgettable. As for sound effects, they are completely laughable. Still, the gameplay is mostly solid if you can handle the rest of it. The sequel, Dragon Lore II: The Heart of the Dragon Man, is currently not available on GOG or Steam.

Score: 2
2 out of 5 alpacas

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Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now Review

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Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now Boxart

Developer: Stainless Software
Publisher: Sales Curve Interactive
Platform: PC – GOG*

Oh, Carmageddon… Alongside other hyper violent games such as Mortal Kombat, video games were becoming an incredibly divisive past time. Some parents got up in arms about the violence their children were exposed to and this of course led to the ESRB. By the time Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now came out, it received a definitive M for Mature. Instead of fearing government or parents, Stainless Software thumbed their noses at opposition and created one of the bloodiest games of the year.

Looking over reviews of the game in 1998 it seems that gamble was for the best. Reviewers seem to have nothing but praise for the lavish depictions of blood and gore. And it certainly contains copious amounts of it. But does that make Carmageddon 2 worth playing? The rest of the experience is, unfortunately, not nearly as memorable.

There are a great deal of races to participate in, but they must all be unlocked. This is done by completing at least one race in a specific group, then doing the correlated “mission” afterward. After a mission is completed the player can move onto the next grouping of races. Three difficulty settings exist although even the easiest becomes harder later on. For players who don’t want to slick the streets with human blood, there are also options to tone gore down or completely off.

Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now Screenshot

Races in Carmageddon 2 follow the same clear conditions of the original. You can either race the normal way (do a certain number of laps in time), demolish all competing racers’ cars, or kill every pedestrian on the stage. The last option might sound fun to some but is actually incredibly difficult considering they often number in the hundreds. Also, stages are fairly open-ended meaning there’s a lot to explore beyond the exact track path. To be fair, open worlds were very unusual to see in any racers of the time and only now do we really see it coming back into favor.

Controls are where any racing game must show competence and it just doesn’t feel that way here. Cars are kind of tough to control and this is only increased by the fact that players can’t easily tweak their key bindings. Well, they can, but you’ll find that it doesn’t allow you to re-bind keys to WASD. The best solution to this problem is available in the GOG forums but is definitely an extra, annoying step. At least there are a variety of wacky looking cars to drive. You just have to demolish them in a race first to unlock one.

At this point, it seems that Carmageddon 2 best serves as a memory of when game developers pushed the edge with violence. Back then, it was a scary proposition. Today, we see so much gore in games that it has totally lost that edge over most players. But just viewed as a racing game, Carmageddon 2 offers cool concepts but unrefined execution.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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The 7th Guest Review

The 7th Guest Featured

The 7th Guest Boxart

Developer: Trilobyte Games
Publisher: Night Dive Studios – Contact
Platform: iOS, PC – Amazon, DotEmu, GamersGate, GOG*, Steam (Reviewed)

The 7th Guest was a game far ahead of its time when it launched in 1993. At the time, games were still commonly seen on floppy discs. Unlike them, The 7th Guest was a visual feat, meaning it could only release on CD. It became the “must have” title for many gamers although they would have to buy a brand new CD drive first! Times have certainly changed since then. No longer do we view full-motion video (FMV) games as impressive, but more of a silly footnote in history.

That’s why anyone with a real interest in gaming owes it to themselves to play The 7th Guest. Sure, it is hammy and weird but this was the beginning of a new era. Someone had to try and it just happened to be Trilobyte who did it! They crafted a simple story of six (with a 7th guest coming) people in a mansion. They’ve all been invited there by a strange, eccentric man who said he would grant one of their wishes. It’s certainly not the first time such a plot has been utilized – just look at the film House on Haunted Hill. But there’s more to it than that. There are dolls… and dying children. Spooky, indeed.

The 7th Guest Featured

The adventure title takes place entirely within the mansion. Your main task is to search it from top to bottom via a point and click interface. For the most part, you seek out puzzles and, upon successful completion, are shown a story scene. Puzzles range from simple to confusing, but most can be solved with determined clicking if you don’t know how to win. It is possible to use the open book in the library for hints and to complete a puzzle if you get stuck. However, this method keeps players from viewing the respective story scene afterward. If nothing else, use the book on a certain microscope puzzle. It’s way too much of an unfair time sink!

What exactly made The 7th Guest such a standout at the time? It certainly wasn’t being a point and click adventure title, since Sierra and others were pumping out those titles for years already. The big change was to pre-rendered CG backdrops and FMV actors. How more real can you get than actual film of people playing roles? You can’t! So this was a huge deal, alongside the then gorgeous environments free for you to explore. Even now, the mansion still looks pretty good. Of course, the live scenes were compressed heavily due to space constraints. Not only that, but they are superimposed into the game with a gross “halo” about them. It doesn’t stand up to the test of time.

The 7th Guest Screenshot

The same holds true for the acting, although it’s likely they were never going for a completely serious game. Viewing it today, there’s a distinctly ridiculous charm. The story makes sense and there are honestly a few creepy touches, even if they’re outweighed by an overacting cast. The music is also seriously dated but it has some goofy charm about it as well. Aside from the credits theme though, you won’t likely search out the soundtrack after playing.

Maybe it was because of the sheer novelty or because players were immersed into the world, but a sequel by the name of The 11th Hour came out two years later. As far as production values are concerned that is the better game, but nothing beats the enthusiasm present in The 7th Guest. No, it is hardly a technical tour de force today, and doesn’t even have really great puzzles, but it is definitely a noteworthy game worth experiencing at least once.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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Ghosts in the Machine Review

Ghosts in the Machine Featured

Ghosts in the Machine

Author(s): Rollin Bishop, Andrew Vanden Bossche, Ian Miles Cheong, Shelley Du, Denis Farr, Ryan Morning, Maddy Myers, Lana Polansky, Ashton Raze, Matt Riche, Dylan Sabin, Alan Williamson, Alois Wittwer
Editor(s): Lana Polansky, Brendan Keogh
Purchase: Amazon, Gumroad, Lulu

Ghosts in the Machine is an intriguing anthology of short stories by a cast of well-known people in the games writing scene and artists. At least, they appear as figureheads of the communities I follow on Twitter. It’s likely the gaming “majority”, whatever that consists of, is less aware of those invested in critically discussing video games.

In any case, the stories aren’t necessarily all about games, but use them as the starting point. Game glitches, the things we all laugh at or get angry about, are what each story shares – although in very different ways. Because Ghosts in the Machine is a special sort of book, I’m going to try to give the review a conversational tone, responding to the short stories with my own thoughts rather than necessarily dissecting them.

Of course, a standard review will also be provided. Take a look at that if you don’t want to see my ramblings. Or read both! With that said, here is the review.

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Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land Review

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land Featured

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land Boxart

Developer: Red Wasp Design
Publisher: Red Wasp Design
Platform: Android, iOS, PC

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

H.P. Lovecraft was a 20th century writer who is desperately loved to this day thanks to his incredibly odd, and sometimes horrific, fiction. He is best known for being the progenitor of the Cthulhu mythos. A handful of games have attempted to make use of said mythology and some have been successful while others floundered. Where does Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land stack up?

You begin as a crew of four men who are engaged in World War I-era firefights. You’re on the side of the British and quickly realize there is something very wrong with the opposing force. Within the first mission there are zombie-like soldiers taking up arms! Thankfully, they are still able to be taken down with normal bullets.

How does the turn-based strategy title play out? On their turn, players can select teammates and tell them to either move, heal, shoot an enemy, or just stand still. Since each character has their own action points, refueled after a passing enemy turn, you have to make each action count. Assigning more action points to an attack can even increase the probability of a successful strike.

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land Featured

After each successful battle, a shop opens up allowing each character to receive upgrades to their stats or to have their loadout tweaked. It might be hard to get to the end of a level though considering most have a second objective that opens up after beating the first one. It’s easy to be caught off guard and end up unprepared for the next objective’s enemies. There are also only nine missions available, but then again, this is a title that began on the smartphone platform.

There are a fair bit of quirks players will have to become accustomed to though. For one, you can only move one teammate at once. This means you also can’t start moving another before the animation of the previous character finishes. There is a fast forward button though. Also, the default zoom for isometric perspective is far too close. Battlefields often have enemies lurking in the corners, outside of the screen completely. Yes, you can look around it manually but it’s annoying the camera couldn’t be pulled back more.

The Wasted Land is not a fantastic turn-based game or even just as a title based off H.P. Lovecraft’s work. However, it is likely much better than a lot of the mobile market offerings. Instead of being a “click/buy to win” game it is something that requires actual strategy! Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is fun while it lasts as long as you aren’t expecting the next X-COM.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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Killer is Dead Review

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Killer Is Dead Cover

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: 360, PS3

Oh, Killer is Dead, you showed so much promise. It seems with every new Goichi Suda (Suda 51) game I am left wanting more than I get. Or maybe, my expectations are far too high. Perhaps I’m inadvertently a part of the “everything new sucks” club. It’s hard to know why games helmed with his name continue to disappoint me but they do. So let’s talk about why!

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0D Beat Drop Review

0D Beat Drop Featured

0D Beat Drop Boxart

Developer: Cyclone Zero
Publisher: Arc System Works
Platform: Xbox 360 – XBLA

Ever since the massively successful Tetris first hit the scene, developers have been trying to find any way to cash in on a similarly addictive formula. Sometimes they get pretty close. Usually though you end up with something ranging from mediocre to creative. Which camp does 0D Beat Drop fall into?

Thankfully, the game succeeds quite well. It feels at first like a mix of Lumines and Puzzle Fighter. Almost every mode pits you against at least one player (human or CPU). From there, you work to match four or more colored blocks in various orientations. If you succeed, then some of your blocks will be dropped on the enemy. Similarly, if they do well, you’re likely to get their blocks tossed onto your side.

0D Beat Drop Featured

What connects this to Lumines? Well, 0D Beat Drop employs a musical system for the casting of blocks from one side to the other. Simply lining up four in a row won’t clear them. Instead, you must hit the proper button on the background music’s beat for it to work. This starts out easily enough but quickly becomes more challenging, as each successful hit causes your window of accuracy for the beat to become much smaller.

It creates a fairly enthralling experience when you’re not only focusing on blocks but on the beat. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of songs available (with more as DLC). Still, there are a couple of varied modes available that extend the package between 10 stages. Give it a look if you’re a fan of rhythm-based puzzling.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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Water Closet: The Forbidden Chamber Review

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Water Closet Boxart

Developer: Will
Publisher: Peach Princess
Platform: PC

For all the great games that arrive in North America there are always hundreds (or thousands?) others that are relegated to Japanese-exclusive launches. Western game fans have long since lamented this state of affairs and sometimes even import titles they wish to play most. It’s possible that someone in America really wanted to play Water Closet: The Forbidden Chamber, but it definitely isn’t on most collectors’ radar.

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Dinner Date Review

Dinner Date Featured

Dinner Date boxart

Developer: Stout Games
Publisher: Stout Games
Platform: PC

Have you ever felt yourself worrying that you’ve been stood up on a date? If so, then this is likely a game you can relate to. If not, then it shows a pretty depressing example of how worrying the whole process of waiting for a date to arrive can be.

As the name implies, you engage in the preparations and waiting for a date to have dinner with. The dinner is intimate, with a single candle and wine, despite being in the protagonist’s cramped kitchen. You can look at the clock – again and again, as well as interact with the objects nearby.

Dinner Date Featured

This is not any sort of typical game focused on gameplay. Instead, you mostly soak up the internal diegetic of the protagonist while waiting for your date’s arrival. There’s nothing wrong with exploring narrative over actual play in games, but have that expectation in mind beforehand. Dinner Date is a neat, if very brief, experience. I just would have liked to see the idea expanded further.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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