Posts Tagged ‘GOG’

Wing Commander Review

Wing Commander Featured

Wing Commander Boxart

Developer:  Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Consoles – 3DO, PlayStation, Sega CD, SNES, PC – Amiga, Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG*

Wing Commander is a series that flourished in the 90s and helped bring about a whole new style for space sims to come. The first Wing Commander, released in 1990, was a revelation. The pixel graphics were crisp, the action was incredible, and the dynamic soundtrack kept excitement going. Over 20 years later, the game is still impressive.

You begin as the newest member on the TCS Tiger’s Claw. The crew of pilots are tasked with stopping the alien race Kilrathi’s plans of domination. Over the course of a dozen or so missions, you’ll have to fight against them time and time again. The meat of Wing Commander is dogfights, so you’d best be prepared.

The game is pretty tough. Battles are displayed from the cockpit, meaning less than half the screen actually shows what’s going on in space. However, the cockpit has multiple readouts that are necessary for skillful play. You can fly in any direction, speed up and break, launch targeted missiles, and order your partner about.  If you can’t shoot down the enemy then they’ll take you down. You always have a partner during missions but they can die too, or save your hide.  Whether you win or lose partners, the game continues. This is perhaps the strangest and most “modern” feature.

Wing Commander Screenshot

Shooting is difficult in part because of imperfect mouse control but also because of having to judge where bullets will land. After enough fights you get the hang of it, but sometimes it doesn’t seem correct. At least an audible cue sounds when a bullet collides with an enemy ship’s exterior.

The biggest letdown when playing Wing Commander is that there’s very little story to dig into. Although characters have been set up, they hardly bring anything noteworthy to the table. Instead, the focus is 90% on missions and battles. As entertaining as these are, the game is simply too short. Those who buy the GOG release gain access to the expansion packs The Secret Missions and The Secret Missions 2: Crusade which add more playtime via new missions.

Considering its age, Wing Commander is still an excellent introduction to the series. It offers an incredible amount of replay value (missions change based on your performance) and excellent fight sequences. Just don’t jump into the cockpit expecting a deep storyline. It seems that is only implemented later in the series.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Theme Park Review

Theme Park Featured

Theme Park Boxart

Developer: Bullfrog Productions
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – Amiga, Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG*

Many 90s children grew up with a little game called Roller Coaster Tycoon. However, it was not the first great theme park-related tycoon out there. That honor should be attributed to Bullfrog’s wonderful Theme Park. This title gets overlooked at times due to Theme Hospital, which they developed a few years later. In any case, let’s take a look back at this classic simulation game.

Theme Park, as the name implies, has the player take on the role of a theme park entrepreneur. Starting from scratch, it is your duty to design the layout, hire staff, pay attention to visitors, and keep track of new park technology. Basically anything that you might expect to have to do when managing a theme park is in this game.

It’s a bit tough to comprehend at first. Laying out park attractions, restaurants, bathrooms, and foliage is fun – until you realize you must think ahead. Spend all your money creating a massive park and staff get left out in the cold. Similarly, if you make your park cramped by design it will be harder to expand later without demolishing buildings. Your staff also happens to be ridiculously incompetent. Janitors in particular like to run laps in the cleanest corners of a park, leaving visitors to experience a yucky walkway. Be absolutely sure to institute patrols for each of them!

Theme Park Featured

Even after roughing out the park, there is more to do. Restaurants require food supplies which don’t replenish on their own. Sometimes, union workers try to increase their wages. On other occasions, one poor visitor may become sick and cause a chain reaction of vomiting. You simply must be prepared for anything. Unfortunately, the map’s default zoom is quite close making it hard to know exactly what is happening at all times.

Although Theme Park is over twenty years old it has an art style that still holds up. The pixelated landscape has a really nice style to it. Buildings are also depicted in fun ways, such as burger stands being shaped like gigantic cartoon hamburgers. Everything looks wonderfully charming and inviting. Of course, it’s actually a pretty tough title, but at least it looks cute!

Theme Park is the kind of game that never ages. Even though many new tycoon games have come and gone, there’s something innately special about this one. It grants the player complete control but balances it with strategic elements. Making your park the best around is tough, but very much worth it.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Teslagrad Review

Teslagrad Featured

Teslagrad Boxart

Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Platform: PC – Desura, GOG*, Steam

What is it about the puzzle platformer that continues to draw independent developers to the genre? In many respects, it doesn’t seem the easiest type of game to make. Instead, it seems one that (despite rampant saturation) is a genre full of new and exciting possibilities. Teslagrad is the latest puzzle platformer out that shows the greatest promise. Whether it lives up to expectations, however, is debatable.

Teslagrad is most certainly trying very hard. By simply starting up the game for the first time you’re greeted to a rainy night against gorgeous hand-drawn backdrops. Without any words, the story begins, as a young boy is forced to run far away from home in the stormy night. He comes upon the Tesla Tower and enters, wherein he will face a great many puzzling challenges.

Yes, Teslagrad is so named for Nikola Tesla. Why? Because the primary feature of most puzzles deals with electricity (and magnetism). You begin with nothing, but gain new items which allow you to interact with electrically charged platforms, charge items yourself, and the like. For some reason it was hard for me to get a firm grasp on electricity puzzles, though. It’s not as if I hate the genre. On the contrary, most of my free time is spent playing various puzzlers. So why these puzzles continued to feel more like guesswork than skill was an incredibly odd experience. It shouldn’t have to be said, but your own playthrough may very well feel different.

Teslagrad Screenshot

Metroidvania fans will be happy to know that Teslagrad also fits into that style. Tesla’s Tower is not a completely linear thing and you can charge into a variety of rooms whenever you want. If one puzzle seems too hard at the moment, go elsewhere. Maybe you’ll find a new item! Or, maybe you’ll stumble across one of the game’s five bosses. Considering how expansive the game feels, it was a bit of a letdown to see there were not more boss encounters. They are pretty neat battles, even if they rely very heavily on simple pattern recognition.

So we’ve got a game that is entirely ambitious, looks great, and has a huge non-linear castle to explore. Yet, something about it only ends up feeling slightly above average. Puzzles that required very precise jumps were incredibly annoying, especially when there were not checkpoints in the middle of them. Making a game mechanically tough can be done well, but it doesn’t feel like Teslagrad pulls that off. After all, it varies back and forth between easy and hard. Usually, if a game is hard it stays that way throughout, or slowly ramps up in difficulty.

There are definitely players out there that will love the intriguing experience that Teslagrad provides. If you think that’s you then go ahead and buy it! For me, I just couldn’t get over the feeling that the designers crammed all their expertise into creating something gorgeous and expansive but forgot the most important ingredient – heart.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Zombie Shooter Review

Zombie Shooter Featured

Zombie Shooter Boxart

Developer: Sigma Team
Publisher: Sigma Team
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Ah, the twin stick shooter. Its simplicity is what draws me in. Sigma Team are a fairly well known name within the genre thanks to their Alien Shooter games. But did you know they made a couple of zombie versions? That’s exactly what Zombie Shooter is. Instead of aliens you’re faced with copious hordes of the undead.

Players can choose to play as a woman or man and then level up their character between stages. There are a handful of stages and each has its own appearance. Levels aren’t huge although you usually have to locate and then plant dynamite to proceed. Other times, you flip switches to open doors. In any case, enemies constantly flock you making it difficult.

The main method of increasing difficulty seems simply to offer more of the stronger enemies at a time the further you proceed. This is kind of annoying, but also exciting. Playing through the first few levels is a breeze but Zombie Shooter suddenly kicks into high gear. By the end, you’re frantically running for cover and hoping you’ll survive the next massive wave. The leveling system of weapons makes it so you usually don’t run out of ammo, though.

Zombie Shooter Featured

Graphics are not particularly fancy but they weren’t even at launch. They seem to recall 90s games more than anything of their actual generation. One thing that they got right was the blood. Tons of gore proliferates the screen. Eventually, stages end up being so caked with blood that the floor is entirely red. You can change the blood color but what’s the point?

There are some problems with Zombie Shooter and the biggest is the main character’s ability to get stuck on environment geometry. It happened on three stages for me and was a source of very unneeded panic and frustration. Getting randomly stuck makes you an open target from all angles and routinely caused failure. Another issue is due to the isometric viewpoint. With no ability to change the angle, zombies can be hidden and launch surprise attacks.

All of this is to say that the game is fun, but very brief, and you likely won’t come back later. For whatever reason there is no multiplayer mode which would have enticed me to play some more. It won’t do much harm to play Zombie Shooter but you’ll probably want to seek out something with a pulse.

Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas

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Wasteland 1 – The Original Classic Review

Wasteland Featured

Wasteland Boxart

Developer: Interplay Productions/inXile Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts/inXile Entertainment
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Wasteland is one of those games that everyone knows about, but as time drags on, less of us have played. As is the case with me, I had never before ventured into the title before despite knowing how important it was to the development of modern series like Fallout. Playing it now proves an incredibly difficult experience.

I don’t mean simply in the level of challenge enemies provide, but simply in controlling the game. Of course, Wasteland is also damn hard in the former respect as well. That’s the way a lot of people like it! My playthrough was a very strenuous one even when guided by extraneous FAQs. So much is going on as you play and one must always be aware of the consequences of their actions.

Wasteland Screenshot 1

Wasteland itself takes places in a post-apocalyptic world. You play as a group of rangers who must venture through the land and hopefully survive the adventure. Starting out with a group is necessary since you’ll suffer casualties for sure. Even if every ranger dies though, the effects of their actions will remain in place. World persistence was one of the biggest surprises of the game for me. So too, was the vicious nature of the language.

This is the wasteland, after all, so bad things happen. You can kill children, contract STDs, or explode like a blood sausage. The writing is key here, and still stands up to the test of time. Of course, all the writing isn’t within the game. There are journals and other pieces to read that came with the game itself upon release. Now you can get these necessary manuals and booklets as scanned PDFs when purchasing from GOG. Unfortunately, I’m unaware if Steam includes them as well. They had better because some of this information is very important.

The biggest hangups I had with playing focused on not knowing what to do nor how to really control battles. Things eventually worked themselves out, but the game still requires a lot of menus and such to navigate. Included is a macro system which allows players to set their own keys, but it seemed like too much work for one game.

Wasteland Screenshot 2

Wasteland 1 – The Original Classic is the name given to this recent re-release of the game. They have updated the portraits and also instituted some sort of pixel smoothing filter. Thankfully, you can turn these features off if you wish. In particular, the smoothed text was quite frankly disgusting. There’s no reason inXile Entertainment should fear the pixelated nature of their product. Anyone seriously taking the time to play is likely a fan of the graphics anyway.

Although I recognize Wasteland as a touchstone title in the history of video games, I find it an incredibly tough game to enjoy. Perhaps it’s not even about enjoyment but pushing skill to the limit. In any case, it would be hard to get many modern gamers to sit down and play through it. Tastes have changed, after all.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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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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Race the Sun Review

Race the Sun Featured

Race the Sun Boxart

Developer: Flippfly
Publisher: Flippfly
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*

Although I enjoy racing games, it’s pretty safe to say that the genre is usually pretty stagnant. Instead of innovation, the focus tends to be on continually improving graphics. That’s why Race the Sun is such a refreshing experience. At its core it is a racer, but an incredibly unique one.

Race the Sun has players controlling a sleek, solar-powered craft. It has wings, which allows you to glide at times, and a lot of possible upgrades. The goal is to race as long as possible before the sun goes down. Of course, this is an inevitability, so the real fun comes in trying to prolong the light a little more each race. This is accomplished via pickups on the playing field, which can reverse the sun’s descent, speed you up, and the like.

There are no other players to race against in the main mode, although there is asynchronous co-op and leaderboards to place on.  Basically, it’s just your craft alone in a host of procedurally generated levels. Getting used to the specifics of each level is exciting, and you’ll never be able to master them, as main stages change every day. Featured user levels also switch out regularly.

Race the Sun Featured

Playing is a very simplistic but entertaining experience as you glide your craft gracefully (or not) through obstacles. At full charge, you’ll be speeding along and hoping that your skills are enough to avoid crashes. The visuals and soundtrack help make Race the Sun less stressful, as well. It looks futuristic, which appeals to me. Then there is the music which is quite soothing. With these elements combined, it is more enticing to continue coming back into a stage for one more try.

Of course, this compulsion is also aided by a checklist of tasks to complete. Do well, and new levels and items are unlocked. This manages to be one of the best and most cumbersome design choices for the game. While some tasks are easy to complete, others will remain locked on your screen a while because of their difficulty. Not completing them keeps new features hidden, and that is annoying.

While Race the Sun excels at simplicity, it is this minimalist tone that may be viewed as a “lack of content” to some. However, that’s absolutely the wrong way to approach it. Sure, there are not hundreds of levels to choose from right out of the gate. But there are infinitely many stages available since they are updated daily. There is a devoted fanbase already involved with the game, and there will only be more once this Greenlight success finally launches on Steam.

Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender Review

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Featured

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Boxart

Developer: Tikipod
Publisher: Tikipod
Platform: PC – Desura, GOG* PS Vita – PSN Xbox 360 – XBLIG

One of the first video games that ever hooked me as a child was Seaquest for the Atari 2600. It basically placed players in control of a submarine that had to ferry divers to the surface. However, sea creatures would attack the people first if you couldn’t get to them in time. It still stands as one of my favorite games. This is relevant because Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender by Tikipod reminded me of those past experiences. They created a similar, but far more engaging, title.

Aqua Kitty situates players in a world where kitties are in desperate need of milk. They’re not just our pets, but instead seem to have taken the place of humans. The top feline scientists have found milk within the Earth and you are now part of the crew who is harvesting it in the oceans. There’s only one problem – tons of weird, robotic fish are trying to stop the harvesting effort! As one or two cats (in two player co-op), you run around in a submarine trying to keep the crew safe from the malevolent bots.

Each level has at least one kitty to protect. If weird UFO-like robots get to it, they’ll slowly abduct it away until you can’t save them. The game would be super easy if that’s all you had to contend with, but each stage ups the ante with more fish/robot types to stand in the way. Some bounce and shoot while others act as shields. Things quickly become hectic, but thankfully, the play screen isn’t that large. It simply scrolls horizontally and you loop back to the other side after reaching the end of the screen.

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Featured

A little radar maps sits at the top of the screen to keep you alerted to when UFO ships are coming. However, it’s very easy to feel overrun by other enemies and completely miss that a UFO has arrived. That’s when audio cues come in, as the kitty researches will make a distressed mew upon being captured. Rush back and save them if you can! Aqua Kitty quickly becomes a very frantic game, even when playing on easy mode. The high difficulty might make the game impossible to finish for some players (try co-op to alleviate some challenge).

The visuals are another high point. They evoke retro games but also have enough style to be obviously modern. Of course, the pixellated kitties are incredibly adorable as well. Music in the game seems inspired from Commodore 64 greats, which I appreciated quite a bit. As a whole, Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender is a great, well-put together shooter. It’s a little short, but considering its origins on XBLIG and PS Mobile, that is forgivable.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Long Live the Queen Review

Long Live the Queen Featured

Long Live the Queen Boxart

Developer: Hanako Games
Publisher: Hanako Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Would you love to have the power of a queen or king? With legions of people devoted to you and absolute power, how could anything go wrong? Reality is nothing like such fantasies, of course, and any ruling party has to deal with a range of problems. This is the case for young Elodie who suddenly ascends to the throne after her mother’s death. Can she handle the many stresses of being queen? That’s all up to how the player shapes her fate in Long Live the Queen.

Long Live the Queen Screenshot 1

The game is a strategy/simulation where you choose what Elodie will spend her days learning about. She can become an incredible strategist with tomes of knowledge about foreign and domestic political issues. Or, Elodie can learn how to fight directly and keep her people safe in a much more direct way. She can become a very regal queen, learning about how to present herself as true royalty and taking interest in music. Really, the only constraints on what kind of queen she’ll become are dependent on the configuration of skills the player chooses to pursue.

Much of the fun in Long Live the Queen is seeing how different skills affect events. Some are pretty obvious, such as the fact that you likely won’t win a battle if you know nothing about military strategy and logistics. However, other events are likely to shock – and sometimes be fatal. Somehow, losing is still enjoyable! It just makes you want to jump right back in and try to skew Elodie’s learning in a way that works to resolve the otherwise deadly event. Each event has a number of traits affecting it, so players aren’t shoehorned into doing the same thing every time.

Long Live the Queen Screenshot 3

However, there is another facet to skill learning that makes the game harder. You see, Elodie has a mood meter with a few specific mood types. Her aptitude for learning specific skills changes dependent on her mood. If she’s angry, she’ll do better with weapons and military training. Figuring out what moods suit specific types of learning can be a bit tough, especially when you’re already trying to resolve government and interpersonal conflicts in the main game. It’s also a bit annoying to have to regularly flip between all these screens with no way to compare two at the same time.

Long Live the Queen is far tougher, and darker, than most expect. It’s not just a cutesy little Princess Maker clone. No, this game deals with some serious political intrigue, with other nobles seeking to kill the incumbent queen to increase their own power. Definitely play this game if you’re up for some strategic excitement and see if you can survive through all Elodie’s trials!

Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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Redshirt Review

Redshirt Featured

Redshirt Logo

Developer: The Tiniest Shark
Publisher: Positech Games
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Mac Game Store, Steam

For better or for worse, many of us are participants in the “Facebook age”. For whatever reason, we enjoy sharing tidbits of our lives with others while also gaining more insight into others. Or rather, simply using the site as a means to waste time. Redshirt is the first title I’ve played that makes a game out of Facebook. In it, players assume the role of a lowly redshirt (basically, a stock character in sci-fi) janitor on a space station. From there, you can work your way up in ranks thanks to being a skillful social networker.

Redshirt is definitely unique. All gameplay takes place through Spacebook, which helps you forge new friendships or gain new enemies. You want to climb the job ladder but the only way to do so is to improve various skills. In order to do so, you must participate in either solo or group activities… but you’ll never get to have any group fun without friends! So, players must take to Spacebook and comment, “like”, and privately message others on the space station.

Redshirt Screenshot 2

It’s pretty funny to see these fictional characters posting music lyrics, or attempting to flirt with you via status updates. Despite being a cast of total strangers, it doesn’t feel all removed from Facebook. As such, I tend to reject conversations in-game and opt for the impersonal “like” button. It was weird to discover how ingrained my social media habits are that even in a game it was hard to act differently.

In any case, each day you have only so many activity points to spend. Often, there’s time pulled out of the day to go to work as well. Sometimes there are away missions which tend to end with most everyone dying. Events such as these will make you pay attention to your character’s stats, as they need to maintain some balance of happiness and health. Learning how to use the various menus can take some time, but everything quickly falls into place.

Redshirt Screenshot 1

Perhaps my favorite part of Redshirt is the character creation portion. This is because you can choose to select male, female, or somewhere in between as the option is a slider. You can also select to keep that information private (although most species’ still have a gendered appearance). There is also free range of skin tones to choose from! Finally, you can mark an interest in men, women, or both. Only a few games offer such free form character choices like this so I really appreciated it.

With all that said, those who abhor social networking probably won’t be able to get deep into Redshirt, even with all its sci-fi flourishes. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. In my case, playing through the game felt like a chore at times while amusing at others. The concepts are cool and it would be great to see social networking examined/utilized more in the future. Personally, I want to see what type of game The Tiniest Shark creates next!

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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