Thursday, 31 July 2014

Lemmings (NES)

The 3rd option is a lie.

Perhaps it's an odd thing to watch multiple things running and scurrying along before unwittingly hurling themselves to their deaths. But enough of thinking about investment bankers, I'm here to review Lemmings and in particular on the NES. Brace yourself, shit games are coming.


If you've not worked out from the first paragraph, I'm not in favour of this game in the slightest. This goes two-fold on the grounds that as a rendition of Lemmings, the NES version is very weak and in my opinion (and when I compare it to other systems and platforms) shouldn't have been ported to the NES as a crappy cash-in attempt but rather left for more powerful and more capable systems that can handle the workload of sending hundreds of bankers (Sorry, Lemmings) off to their inevitable doom.

At least I get to kill one of the little bastards.

For those not in the know, take up to 100 furry little critters and drop them into an arena where there's possible jobs to give them in order to get a prerequisite number of the lemmings back out again. This can be from 1 to all of them back out through the exit doorway. Your basic lemming will walk back and forth and fall off edges if it can. Falling too far will kill the lemming while so will water drown your lemming, traps will trigger to kill it and you can always blow it up yourself if you want.

Sometimes there's a little trick to the levels, spelled out like a slap in the balls.

Lemmings can be given various job is you've the option to do so, from bashing through the walls horizontally, mining down through them at an angle, digging straight down, given umbrellas to survive long falls, ability to climb walls, build bridges... slowly, stop and prevent other lemmings walking past (until blow up), blow them up or blow them all up because a) You like fireworks or b) You screwed up the level too badly to win and you're not waiting 2minutes for the end of the level time limit to pass.

Just kill them all.

For a lot of levels at the start, it's quite simple. You get x amount of a key skill that you'll need to assign to get the lemmings into the exit and out in the open world of ... another death trap. While later levels it becomes a little more vague what needs to be done in that some of the possibilities won't help at all and others will but only if one lemming is doing x, another is doing y and a third is doing your mum. Or not, but it might as well be. Other puzzles end up being pixel perfect requirements of where to place bridges and blockers and losing too many lemmings because your bridge was a pixel too high at the end of its length, that all your bankers fall to their doom, is a very common occurrence.

The fun begins... oh dear god help me.

While I have to admit I'm not a fan of the game, I can still appreciate the puzzle structure that is picking and choosing which chars will go where to do what and when, it's just a very finicky control system that tends to be time and time again not so much the players fault for getting the wrong choice, but the wrong choice at the wrong time offset by one pixel.

I think the bigger question is, would I care enough to want to do it again?

While on the NES, it gets far worse. The graphics have been toned down, but one would expect that for a 16bit game going onto an 8bit machine. But in doing so the levels looks like pastiche's of the original and there's little here that's original that would have suited the NES better. The controls aren't bad for the game, holding B will let you select between one option and another while attributing lemmings with that skill/ability is done with A and it works well for the two-button system. But the way the game is displayed and the odd transfer in resolutions of original screen size to NES screen size, means that the reticule is slightly elongated in one direction and there's a fair level of imprecision when picking a lemming.

I lost mine with this game, a long time ago

And thanks to the lack of graphics in the game compared to other ports, you don't even get a nice firework effect when you nuke all the annoying little shits. If you're a fan of lemmings, stay away from this one, get it on something more powerful and don't even take the time to look in, it's really not worth it at all.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Serious Sam 2 (PC)

Sam he is.

In this day and age of tactical shooters, games where you're running as part of a team that does all the hard work while you're standing around and occasionally allowed to do something when the game decides "ok, let's have you do this and see ALL THE HEAVENLY GLORY" (thank you Bruce Lee), it's nice to sometimes kick back, switch off the brain and let the reflexes take over as you, the one-man(or woman, let's not discriminate) army, takes the enemy down to ownage town and go overkill on anything that moves.

From standard, to fantasy, to shrunk/giant levels and beyond.

Doom 2 did it well, Duke Nukem too, though one game really brought it back to its roots of the one-man army shooter, was Serious Sam. While I'm reviewing that one today, I am however looking at the more overlooked sequel (one of many I should add, given the various versions on the Xbox original, GameCube and PS2), Serious Sam 2. Let's be clear here, this is not Serious Sam The Second Encounter. That's Serious Sam 1 part 2. This is the fully realised Serious Sam game and it's quite a bit different though not always in an better way.

That's right, the boss IS the building.

First of all, the game does not take itself seriously, at all. Within the first few moments you're talking to comically bad aliens about trying to find the various artefacts that will take down the evil overlord of the series, Mental. After a quick transition of things, Sam agrees to undertake a mission while taking a dig at the "Blondie Guy" that's taking "Forever" before the computer inside of the Sam's head begins speaking for the first time, to which this is lampooned immediately and explained by there being something called "A bigger budget", setting the tone of humour for the rest of the game.

Canyons and lava, there's a huge variation between each of the worlds, setting clear and distinct themes.

If this game was a household wares seller, it'd stock nothing but lampshades as it hangs them over almost everything within the game and First Person Shooters as a whole. Questions raised regarding who leaves the weapons around for people to find, weapons being bigger than in previous games, physics puzzles used once and ONCE only (Valve... Take note...), comical weapons ranging from parrots carrying bombs to large bombs with smiles on their faces that wipe out EVERYTHING (except bosses). The comedy in the game is paramount from start to finish though the jokes get a little thin towards the end when the levels get larger and longer. However bonus points given to the pre-fight conversation with a pink dragon that realised it doesn't want to have stolen a princess, that Sam doesn't want to rescue.

It might come as a bit of a shock, but games USED to be this colourful.

Your weapons range from the circular saw, to pistols, rotary barrel shotguns, sub machineguns, rocket launchers, cannons, laser blasters and beyond, while have grenades as an alternative fire that explode on impact with enemies, giving you a change to attack between rounds of the heavier fire powered weapons. As a result, you soon become a literal arsenal on legs, running and gunning everything from troops to tanks to monsters, giants and bigger. Taking on creatures of such enormity that almost defy the idea of what an engine for gaming can do. It's always an eye-opener when you're fighting human-ish sized enemies then something the size of Godzilla turns the corner and you're staring it right in the toenail, then blasting the monster repeatedly with a cannon while it hits back with lasers the size of buildings.

Arachnaphobics need not apply, they get bigger than this.

But that's this game in a nutshell, go bigger, go faster, go harder, go bigger again and then fight a skyscraper. Having said that, it takes a long time for the game to build up to the fun and chaos of the original games. The whole streams and swarms of armies aren't exactly in this game even though there's the potential as they show up in the final levels, but by then it serves to just pad out long levels and you really begin to feel the tactic dragging on, killing the enthusiasm you might have for the levels you would normally have had.

Sadly the action rarely lets up enough for you to fully enjoy the scenary.

Oddly, the bright colourisation and lively design of the game's levels come across as overly cartoony. However that's not because they're intentionally meant to be that buy rather the industry of gaming at this point doesn't use such a selection of colours within their design spectrums, opting for dulled colours and gritty, grainy browns. Seeing lush green grass and yellow dirt tracks, is such a shock on the senses that one can't help but feel the game is out of place, but it's not. Not when you realise that it simply NOT following the over-done realism bullshit of other mainstream games.

He LOOKS big, but he's the baby of the tank family. No I'm not joking.

The levels are rather linear, lamp-shaded again by the game itself with the amusing exchange "Let's take the main road there!" "Like there's any other roads to take" while amusing, doesn't deny the fact that the game will railroad you through many levels and the levels built around villages/towns can be a little jarring as it requires some actual exploration rather than trekking your way across a landscape and blowing up anything that shows an ugly face (or neck in some headless cases). Fans of the original games will be happy to see a return of old enemies (The Kleer... which I'm NOT happy to see given how infamous they are in the original. Love/Hate relationships...) while there's a lot of new enemies that don't seem to fit in with the original game but do fit in with the new art style and direction, it's a little jarring at first but you get used to it.

Run the gauntlet, before the clock zeroes out and so does your health.

Musically there's a lot of ambient tracks with some of the boss fights and levels more along the lines of hard rocking, fast tempo, pulse-increasing beats and power chords which add to the excitement, especially in the "game show levels" (Sam got captured by a banana under a box before having to run gauntlets on a game show while the resistance tries to rescue him) where you're not only fighting wave after wave of enemies, but also against a fairly lapse time limit of instant death. It's a welcome change to the mix though happens so late in the game that it feels thrown in and could have been used a little more often for it.

Tree huggers welcome too!

It's a fun, mad silly mess of a chaotic game, marred by a few broken scripts if you're kill TOO well but then upgrade the difficulty to counteract that, blowing up everything with impunity while running the gauntlet with whoever that wants to be filled with lead. If you want something other than the usual tactical, cover-fire, chest high wall syndrome games, try this one.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Quake - recap (Happy birthday to bloggie)

Enter... It awaits you. The blood is a nice touch.

If I had to look back on the all games I've played, reviewed and seen over the years, the one I'd say that was the biggest influence on everything, is Quake. While I have reviewed it before, I feel that for the 1 year anniversary, I'd revisit it.

Gibs, not quite ludicrous however, that belongs to Rise of the Triad.

One word, "Quake", most of which is summarised just by that titular word. From Id software comes one of the biggest and most influential titles ever to grace the gaming world. Looking at it today, it's a brown coloured, ugly looking polygonal shooter without the need for reloading or fancy things like regenerating health. It's fast paced, it's dirty, it's brutal, it's Quake. Yes I know you shouldn't use a word to describe itself but it's still Quake and it's Quake to do so.

If the cyberdemon didn't teach you to strafe, this guy will.

At the bare bones, it's a first person shooter that went almost fully polygonal and is a massive step up from games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D where we're using actual 3D maps and worlds to be created rather than the 5D Space of some engines of the 2D shooters. Plot wise it's about as basic as it gets, ID wasn't really known for enthralling in that regard. Mankind invents teleporters, something else hacks into teleports, monsters arrive, shit goes down, you're all that's left and now you're going to fix it. Basically it's DOOM but the monsters aren't quite demons... Even if some of them are based on the HP Lovecraft mythos.

Ogres... Why the chainsaw and grenades though?

The game is split into 4 chapters branching off from a main hub, each chapter consisting of multiple levels with a particular battle at the end. Though the game cheats out of this one, as chapter one has a boss that requires a specific puzzle to be solved to defeat them, the other levels feature no such other bosses, but rather battles against slightly tougher enemies than one would normally encounter or a run through a gauntlet of lots of enemies with little chance to recover or recuperate items and weapons.

It begins... after one enemy and a secret.

Quake runs a fairly standard affair regarding weaponry. You have an axe for when you're out of ammo or don't want to spend any ammo killing something. A shotgun that has little spread and acts more like a pistol/sniper with minor damage. Double barrel shotgun carried over from Doom2s days which stops most minor enemies but gets shrugged off by larger ones. A nail gun that acts like a projectile based machinegun, quad nail gun for even more nails being fire faster, a grenade launcher for those that like their explosives to bounce off walls and pull off trick shots with grenades that either explode when they hit an enemy or a few seconds after being fired. A rocket launcher for those that like grenades to be a lot more direct and finally the Lightning Gun that fires a short range stream of electricity and butchers most enemies in seconds. Hint: Do NOT use it underwater, or even near water, you won't survive unless invincible.... but then neither will anything else.

There's some very interesting architecture in this game. AND Low gravity.

Monsters are a varied sort of melee and projectile based enemies. Some will fly and float, others will pounce and claw, some chainsaw and lob grenades (called ogres... go figure). Later monsters are magic wielding knights, huge behemothic monsters that throw lightning bolts and spidery creatures that hurl uncannily-homing projectiles that explode. While there's also blobs that blow up on death, laser toting marines, dogs and if it's not the enemies trying to kill you, it's the levels with a multitude of traps from spikes, pits, crushers, lava, acid or just trying to drown you like a sack of kittens. Minus the sack... and kittens.

And "psych" in 3... 2... 1...

The single player only goes so far though. Quake, while having a fast paced single-player mode, was made more famous by the multiplayer and with that, some of the most frantic, almost arcade-fast, death matches, team matches and co-op play for the time. Modems, networks and the internet soon after it was released brought about Quake as THE online death match game to play and thanks to additional software like Quake Spy and Quake World, online gaming caught like wildfire and the game ascended into fame.

He never stood a chance.

Death match works on the principle that every player gets a shotgun and some shells and they're shoved into a map for either a set amount of time or until someone gets X number of kills. Depending upon the map would depend upon the tactics, some had all the weapons, some featured tower-like layouts, some were huge sprawling areas for open combat and others were claustrophobic nightmares with traps for the unwary. Rocket jumping, grenade hopping (though coined earlier by games like Marathon) and learning maps by sound (i.e. hearing when and where items were picked up could indicate where another player was in the game, bringing about people not picking up every item to make others THINK they were elsewhere, then ambush those planning an ambush... We got rather sneaky!) were advances made for the more tactical player. Or it's a race for the rocket launcher and quad damage.

Remember, this was groundbreaking stuff in the post-doom era.

Quake however really took off when the game began to be modded by other players. While not a unique concept, mods had been created by many other games and in multiple ways ranging from changing all the enemies to look like cocks to the more advanced things like Total Conversions where only the original game engine was the same and even then the physics and style of the game was drastically different. For an example, think Doom and Aliens TC for an idea, or go further with Action Doom and such changes. Quake had itself an army of modifications that ranged from the bonus content of add-ons like Quake mission packs, the more high brow mods like Quess (Quake done as a chess game in the style almost of battle chess), Flight Sims with players fighting it out in planes and helicopters, Rally Quake for those that liked driving with guns, bonus models and skins, playing through quake as a monster rather than the usual human and the list really does keep on going.

Say it with me now, STRAFE!

It spawned a new wave of bedroom coders and modifiers that took to it like a duck to water and later development companies took the original engine and boosted it to the point that it became Half Life. Online communities sprang up around quake and around even individual modifications took on feverous fan bases that decried others and touted their own personal favourites as the best thing since, well.. Quake.

Dark, moody and atmospheric. Also very, very, brown.

But while it spawned mods and inspired generations of engines to be developed, it also fronted the art (and it's a fine art if you can do this unassisted) of Speed Running. Quake done Quick being one of the first, biggest and best examples of taking a game and trying to find the fastest route you'll possibly imagine (and many you won't until you see these videos) in setting personal targets of fastest times, killing everything, all secrets, in hardest modes and so on until you've so many different ways of doing a game quickly that it becomes about as complicated as judging scores in the para-olympics for handicap specification and setting. Take the fastest first level done on the hardest difficulty and you're looking at less time than most people take just picking their first difficulty setting. 25 seconds and it's getting faster and more chaotic from there onwards. A combination of grenade hops, rocket jumps (and descents to fall faster), strafe jumping and using enemies as a catapult when they strike, brings a game beaten from start to finish in less time than some people take to beat the first level.

Go ahead, enter...

In closing, bow down, thank it profusely and be glad that a game like this helped catapult forward and shape the gaming world as we know it today (before bullshit like regenerating health, slow pace-controlled levels and mad things like PLOT get involved) and remember that even now.

The Dopefish still lives.

P.S: From here on, I shall be posting to the blog only once a week so that I can continue work on a rather lovely website, 30+ Gamer where I have been posting mostly about arcade games and will continue to do so. So hopefully, I'll see you there for more Bod related articles, particularly ones on being disappointed but, as already said on the front page, it's fairly expected.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Shaq Fu (Megadrive)

Umm... Ego much?

Shaq Fu, it's been said that this game is monumentally bad. I however had never played the game until recently and decided that maybe it'd be worth taking a look and seeing what redeemable features (if any) this game has. Ever one to support an underdog and play Devil's Advocate in such circumstances, I picked up a copy for the Megadrive (....Genesis.¬.¬).

My brain hurt itself with the level of sophistication shown

30 seconds in and I'm ready to shut this off and throw it out the fucking window into a wood chipper with acid-coated blades. The music is like listening to something I'd expect a 5 year old to generate on a synth when they're doing it just to be annoying. The tones and shift of the music are painful and I'm still yet to press the Start button on this bastard. Not really setting itself up well at the moment.

I envy Shaq, I wish I was knocked out for this game.

Oddly, it proudly touts Delphi Software as a developer, the same group that brought us Another World, Flashback, Operation Stealth... Future Wars... Fade to Black... Ok, starting to see a trend now. Though games were made after Shaq Fu, it certainly helped hammer a few nails into the coffin it would seem.

The setting, detail and backgrounds look stunning, but then so did Rise of the Robots

Shat Fuqup however is a beat-em-up for those who don't know. Featuring Shaquille O'Neal, though barely recognisable when in game, the game focuses on Shaq decided to pop into a shop while sight-seeing, get accosted into the back room and ends up in a world where some mummy has kidnapped a kid. A mix of The Mummy and The Golden Child if we're taking film references for inspiration.

I won't be back, Mummy Boy, and return the Legion of Doom's shoulder pads.

The story mode has Shaq running around a central hub/map and going to locations and fighting someone there. There's no build up in story other than "Here's Shaq, arse will be kicked" or at the very least, something might happen. There's no real reason for the fights from what I can see other than "Shaq turned up, now we must kung-fu fight" which makes far less sense than say, Street Fighter which is about a tournament and justifies why people are fighting. Here it's Shaq running up to someone's home, knocking on the door and then punching them in the mouth and running off until he finds the right door with the kidnapped kid behind it and punch the kidnapper in the mouth before running off.

Fight and already taken damage, seems fair to me...

However, the fighting... Well... Where do I begin? The AI tends to start the fight before you even do, "Begin" you're told and already you've gotten a boot to the face. Combat is a series of single attacks from kicks and punches with the directional control modifying the attack slightly. I.e. Towards and Kick is a lunging kick, while Kick on its own is a standard straight kick and back with kick is a round house. Each character has 2-3 moves that barely can be said to be moves for some characters, while other characters have such overpowered attacks with little cool-down after that makes them effectively death-on-legs, assuming you can time the move well enough to pull it off.

No life... Ironic really...

The responsiveness of the controls is shit-and-miss at best. Jumping and attacking is... A lottery at best of who wins which attack and how. The special moves are almost impossible to pull off without inadvertently doing another move instead or just standing there and back flipping into an oncoming attack. 2 player duelling is just a hammer fest of buttons and good luck trying to counter any attacks or time it well enough to hit someone after they've been blocked before they hit you again.

Shaq ignores the metallic body gear however.

Graphically speaking it's a mixed back. The background and setting look impressive as one might come to expect from Delphine Software, but the characters in fighting are tiny by comparison to games like Mortal Kombat and it's as if they reused their own Point and Click engine to make this game, where in each command is just another command you'd find in something like Flash Back or Future Wars. It just doesn't work and makes the game unbearable to view, even less so with that annoying music in the background that doesn't fit but seems more at home in a hospital on a life-support machine while I'm reaching for the plug!

Thank God, it's nearly over. Yes that few pixels on the bridge is YOU.

It still seems to me that this was originally going to be something else and the fighting was thrown in at the last minute, then someone up top decided that the fighting was going to be the ONLY thing. Before this pile of abuse was hurled to players around the planet. Avoid it, steer clear as I wish I had.