Thursday, 25 September 2014

VVVVVV - Steam

Simple, short and sweet, the old day return.

Retro. I've spoken about this before in earlier articles and reviews but this is a game that truly qualifies as being Retro by definition that a Retro game is a modern game made to be styled after an earlier/older fashion either in the core of the game or the style in which it modelled after. VVVVVV is certainly a retro game that almost stays TOO close to its roots and harkens from a time when games would bound to tapes and huge (but small in data) diskettes and would invariably take a long time to load. So it was with a great surprise that I'd pick up VVVVVV and find myself whisked back to days long gone of Monty On The Run and the ilk.

Full Level Editor, let the replayability grow!

VVVVVV is a platformer, probably down to its barest possible roots as a platformer and yet is so much more within itself. As a story, VVVVVV begins with the inevitable crashing of a spaceship which leads to our Captain Viridian being our Captain Protagonist (That joke doesn't work so well when the main character is called Captain...). Once evacuation of the ship has taken place via teleportation, it becomes apparent that the other characters are scattered all over the Dimension VVVVVV and that the main plot of the game is to rescue these people and ultimately escape the Dimension before it collapses and traps everyone there.

...Or run past, and leave Vitellary to feel loneliness and solitude.

Unlike a lot of other platformers, VVVVVV has no jump. Instead what it has is the ability to flip gravity at the touch of a button and leave the main character either falling up or downwards. Meaning that at some points (quite a lot of some points actually) you'll be running across the ceiling to escape traps and enemies or flipping back and forth to avoid spike pits (who puts them anywhere though, really?) and using all manner of gravity switching tricks to escape death and continue onwards into the game. As such, there's no way to reverse a flip in mid-air, once you switch gravity you're committed until you land or hit one of the gravity lines found in various parts of some of the levels.

It's in the room but nobody talks about it.

Everything, graphically, stinks of the old C64 days and like a good cheese, it stinks so nicely. For those that grew up and played the old ZX81 and C64 games, you will find a wealth of reminders of the old days of gaming. I cited Monty On the Run as an example earlier with the seemingly randomly themed enemies (Teapots chasing you down...) and the usually psychedelic colouring system for the development of levels and platforms to show the difference between one screen and another while navigating and traversing a level. For younger players, they may find the graphical design either to be interesting from a historical point of view or turned off by the simplistic style compared to many modern games of today. Their loss if they do.

You need to remember this game wraps around.

Controls are about as simplistic as it can get, left and right move you left and right and the spacebar can be used to flip the gravity for Captain Vermillion. In some places you can access teleporters that let you navigate from one part of the game to another and also signify the end of a particular chunk of a level, usually bringing the rescued teammate home or leading to another sub-dimension with more traps and puzzles to solve. Interestingly there is also a dab of escort missions here and there when rescuing other crewmates.

They defy gravity and move quickly, I love the old enemy styles.

The game has a LOT to offer regarding exploration, level dynamics and variation. Each new aspect is steadily introduced and then pushed further and further in use until you're doing some very advanced and mind-bending tasks with the new toys. What can catch some people out is that later, towards the endgame, some of these come back and it can take a moment or two to get to grips again with the concepts that were introduced earlier in the game.

One of the last gauntlet sessions, a vertically scrolling spike trap.

It's a short game is VVVVVV, but having said that, it never overstays itself and is very welcomed in that regard. Nothing is really overused or allowed to overstay its welcome and things change and develop at a very appropriate pace for what essentially could be a very fast game. The regular use of checkpoints prevent a large level of frustration at beating certain puzzles and having to re-do them so any and all progression in the game is recorded and a welcome relief once having solved a particularly difficult situation in platforming.

The plot is there, if you hunt aruond enough for it.

Well worth playing, particularly if you're fan of older games from a bygone era.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

SCP - Containment Breach

Not as scary as Slender, but certainly more going on

For those that like Creepy Pasta (and I'm not talking about Conchiglie) or those that like the idea of being stalked by something that you can't realistically fight, or enjoy playing games like Slenderman and such, you might want to consider the up and coming development that is SCP - Containment Breach. A currently free game (as of writing) for people to download and enjoy the horror of being the sole survivor trying to escape a pseudo-supernatural force.

The guy on the left is a friend. He will help you. I'm trustworthy.

SCP, Secure Contain Protect is a community-run project of creepy pastas, or horror writings, involving bizarre and otherworldly entities supposedly being documents in a sort of scientifically realistic fashion. Ranging from mirrors that can access other dimensions, unkillable creatures from another reality, possibly God, stairwells that descend forever until a face floats its way up to you, doorways to mazes that change when the door is closed, infections that turn people clockwork, living plants, all possible flavour coke-machines, and a multitude of various monsters and creatures.

One of several locations that will stock equipment and essentials, blinking still at a premium.

This game features one such creature, SCP 173, which for all intents and purposes is a statue that doesn't move until it's not being watched, then it moves incredibly quickly and assaults with inhuman strength, anything it can get its grubby little hands on. As such, you have to avoid becoming one of these little victims.

Some areas are VERY dark and give rise to possibly seeing other SCP monsters roaming around.

You start off as a form of highly expendable person, thrown into high risk factors for the sake of throwing lives away and are confronted with trying to guide and manipulate SCP 173. Shit goes down, things get fucked up beyond all recognition (FUBAR) and you're left in the middle of chaos with an incredibly fast moving monster when you're not looking at it. It's very much like facing off against the Weeping Angels of Dr Who fame.

Ambient lighting and shadows give lend to a strong atmosphere in the game.

As per a lock down procedure, you've got a lot of locked doors that require key cards, traps and systems in place that stop SCP 173 from escaping but will also hinder you in the process. Also scattered here and there around the game are snippets of information relating to other SCP subjects as a happy nod towards the community driven entries. In your travels you will also come across other SCPs in various guises and some of which are just as deadly while others can be rather benevolent in helping you get through the game.

Sometimes it's too dark to see what's going on.

That said, having a near encyclopaedic knowledge of the SCP site isn't necessary but knowing of the most popular entries WILL be beneficial to your play through as you'll be able to identify and realise how to deal with various monsters and traps found within the game as you push towards your (as of the latest update) one of four endings.

One of the many containment cages, no you can't trap 173 in it.

As a game, it does create quite an effective level of suspense and atmosphere which is instantly broken and destroyed whenever SCP 173 glitches through a wall and snaps your neck before you realise it. On top of that, SCP 106 can easily spawn upon you and kill you almost instantly though the creepiness factor of some of the other SCP whose sole purpose of existence is to flit about within your peripheral vision, can be a little jarring at first and later just annoying but it keeps you pondering what's going on while ever mindful of the presence of SCP 173.

Almost everything in this game can kill you, including display monitors if they show a certain SCP.

It's still in development but for what it is, a randomly generated map setting, areas that can loop back on themselves and twist reality within the game so you're never sure if you're coming or go, monsters and creatures that can kill, help, hinder or delay you and an actual resolution to the game situation while exploring the underlying plot through reports and details, it's a promising looking series of developments that any SCP fan might want to consider while those with less of an understanding of the source material might want to skip this in favour of one of the other "ooh shit" scary games.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Unicorns, dragons and owls coming up.

It's hard to describe this game in a simple manner without it sounding like a pile of pants. Take a vertical drop board, add in a lot of brightly coloured pins and bricks, most of them blue, some of them orange and give the player several ball bearings they can drop in from the top of the play area. Watch it bounce around the area like some Two-Penny Shove It arcade until it hits the bottom and any of the pins and bricks it hits are removed from play. Rinse and repeat until all orange pins and bricks are gone or the player runs out of balls.

Doesn't sound like much does it. Thankfully, Peggle is a lot more than that.

Lots of levels on offer

Peggle, fundamentally, is similar to Pachinko where in balls are dropped down a table of sorts and depending upon where they end up and how they get there, players are rewarded with more balls and such. In Peggle, players are rewarded with points based upon various combos and qualifiers such as attaining a long shot to reach a target orange, or hitting several oranges consecutively. There's also other bonuses coming from hitting the randomly chosen pink peg which will boost your score for the remainder of that shot.

Annoyingly, the most prickish looking ones are the most useful.

Each usual level has a limit of orange blocks (not including special challenge levels), the more blocks that are removed from play, the higher the multiplier within the game for that round, boost this with the pink peg and you can really start stacking up with extra balls to help you clear the level of all oranges. On top of all this, there's the "bucket" that steadily sways back and forth along the bottom of the arena, land your ball in that and you instantly get another ball to play with.

Take aim, fire, wish for the best.

That's not all though, you've a selection of colourful characters that also have a special ability. Be it having a longer projection distance, explosive impacts, temporary flippers like a pinball table, flaming destruction that passes through blocks, a touch of the random selection, an instant return ball, multiball, improving shots and more. Though you need to play through the adventure mode first to unlock the characters, a second play through will give you the ability to choose whomever you wish for every level.

Ooh look, themes!

It's a simple game, almost too simple in some regards but there's a lot of charm and appeal here for people to enjoy time and time again. Whether it's trying to play through and beat all of the levels or taking on the task of beating high scores, or going one step further and attempting the challenge modes where players take on a multitude of tasks from beating levels with fewer balls, beating a series of levels with one set of balls, beating a level with a minimum requisite score and in some cases, a combination of all of the aforementioned criteria. 

The alien gets to blow things up, no fair!

Thanks to the easy 'pick up and play' learning curve, even the first few levels slowly introduce the bonuses and specials, allowing players to get to grips with the physics of the game before we start hitting them with a gradual trickle of new features but the crowning glory likely goes to the music and audio of the game, in particular the rendition of "Beethoven's 9th" every time that you succeed in beating the level which plays with enough frequency to always feel like you've earned the win that you've achieved.

Harder to see here, but parts of some levels also move.

It's a game for many. For those who want to master every possible trick shot and every single special ability to maximise their gaming potential and scores or for those that want a quick pick up and play session with little need to commit a huge amount of time to the game. Peggle is a peg that fits many a hole.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Five Nights At Freddy's (Steam)

Just run now

It's rare in this day and age to come across a horror game that actually manages to get it right. The first Silent Hill managed it very, as did the second by establishing a level of helplessness and suspense rather than outright gore and slashy stuff. Horror has evolved in gaming from the point of being about the violence and grimness of a situation and then moving towards the more masterful suspense and ambience of horror, then it got sidelined with being too damn good looking and about the BOO! (Wah! Shat myself) type of horror that rams violence down your throat and blows a load over your stomach and leaves you feeling used up. Must stop watching porn before reviewing... Or watching more... Never mind.


Horror games have started to come full circle, taking it back to a simpler time with games like Slenderman/White Noise (depending on your format), online horror from Murder on Garry's Mod and Kill fest in Doom games to a game like this which seems to have hit the ground quietly but is now running with the continued impulse of a steam train. I am of course referring to Five Nights At Freddy's.

Your base, with light draining stuff going on that you can't stop

The premise is simple enough. You work at a Pizza House that has some aborted looking animatronics robot animals. These robots sing, dance and perform during the day and at night sit quietly around the place, waiting for the next day to happen. LIKE FUCK THEY DO. You are employed as the night-watchman and it turns out that you're not there to guard the place but simply to keep the robots out of your office. They move around at night and apparently their programming means that if they see you, you're going to get stuffed into a suit that will kill you in the process. Fun!

Everyone where they should be... For now...

Much like an episode of Dr Who, the robots won't move unless they are not being watched. You have a selection of cameras in which to keep an eye on them but they also can sneakily blank out the screens and take various routes through the building towards where you are. Watching them will drain power to your nightly allowance and closing either of the huge security doors will also drain the power as well. Using the lights on either side of your room to illuminate the hallways will drain power and if you run out of power, you're as good as dead. UNLESS... You hit 6am the next morning. You can be in the middle of being sung your death and you'll get 6AM then you're safe and good for the next day.

It hungers... for more...

What you don't get, is the bone chilling horror and suspense of losing sight of the robots, then finding them a LOT closer to your hideaway then you want them to be. The bunny on the left, the duck on the right and the Bear and Fox attacking in later days. If you're very unlucky... Something more sinister can show up and kill you too but I don't want to ruin the whole game. Your only real defence is checking up on the robots and seeing where they are before they try to attack and kill you, though one of them will just try to bum rush you at the last moment and kill you unless you're quick in getting the door shut.

You are very close to death, very close.

Each day gets harder with the robots barely making an attempt on you in the first day, up to them almost instantly hitting the doors by the end of the week (and the bonus 4/20 mode where only 5 or so people have beaten it at the time of writing, will leave you dead in seconds if you're not a) quick and b) LUCKY). To add to this, the game plays darkly, is hard to see clearly but rather than being annoying it all enhances the overall atmosphere of the game. The phone calls at the start boost the story by giving you a short rundown of things as the days go by from the previous worker who thought to leave you some messages during his week of work. Though listening to them fully on the later days will likely get you killed before they finish.

I see you too, I'm not liking what I see however.

The horror is brought about by the lack of impact your decisions have on the situation. You can fend them off but you have to leave yourself vulnerable for a while if you want to survive until the night is over. The fact you've GOT to leave yourself vulnerable is as much of a scare as waiting for the monsters to turn up and attack you. Of course you will start to recognise patterns, once you've been caught a few times you'll know when you're done before it happens, killing the suspense as it's already known that you're already dead, but it is still entertaining to try and avoid such a fate of high-pitched squeals and cut-to-blacks.

I'm right outside your door... Keep it open for me.

Perfect? Far from it. But the presentation is very good for what it is and while it will grow old quickly, it will provide you with a few decent scares and impending sense of dread while playing it. Try not to let the power go out... I hear the tune now, Toreador...