Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Game With No Name - Dos

I have no idea who ART is.

ASCII, or the programmers guide to using characters instead of actually coming up with graphics, can be used to make some interesting games and with games like Jason Jupiter, Rogue and Kingdom of Kroz, it gives older games and programmers a chance to realise their games as whatever it is they wanted it to be, assuming that a big smiling face was acceptable for their main character (usually).
It's supposed to be a jungle I guess.

The Game With No Name, actually has a name and it's "The Game With No Name" so we're off to a confusing start already. It is a simple little platformer that uses a single screen to display each level and has the usual expected ticks on the platformers guide to making a platform game. Little character? Check. Enemies that move in predictable directions? Check. Collection of items to beat the level? Check. Password system for later levels? Check. Puzzle element that requires a little bit of thinking to make sure you don't get stuck? Double Check. Lifts and other traps? Check.

Level 1, filled with suspense and danger! Until you realise that there's no suspense, or danger.

Trapped somewhere (like it really matters) you're tasked with collecting fuel/diamonds (expensive isn't it but what fuel station isn't these days? Right??? nevermind...) by navigating your way through various surprisingly colourful levels in order to hop, collect and acquire the necessary fuel to escape from your location. Along the way you'll have to also find key items that will do various things from unlocking doors, illuminating your way etc. otherwise you will be unable to progress further in the game. (Which entirely negates the point of a password system to jump levels as it doesn't give you the items you will have missed by jumping ahead!)

Think fast! Or really really slowly given the speed your machine needs to run at.

Some tout this game as one of the hardest to play, in a way they're right. The game is broken in many versions in that the fifth level has 1 less diamond than the game is searching for and as such, is physically impossible to defeat it. On top of that, there's also the issue of multiple enemies that have to be navigated around and in some cases, used as stepping stones before they kill you in a shower of red blocks. Other regular traps include a fountain that has to be switched off in order to gain access to the rest of the level otherwise the falling water will kill you.

Yes, I AM running out of ideas for pictures at this point.

But the biggest problem in the game is being VERY careful in planning your route, getting a diamond removes it from play and as such, may have been serving as a stepping stone towards other diamonds that you will require to find within that level. Other traps include lifts/elevators that raise you up, into enemies or into the ceiling if you're not careful. That said, the design and innovation in the levels is interesting enough to encourage players to keep playing in order to get to the next level just to see the next challenge. The problem with this is that while you can resume play on a level by getting the password to it (and they’re all to do with computers and hardware), you will miss the key items you require to continue usually after those levels are over.

Game over? Thank fuck for that.

There's no sound in the game so nothing to talk about in that regard. But I imagine it would be beepy-boopy, but not in a dubstep way.

If you use your imagination, with these graphics, you can almost see, the bad ASCII being used.

It's a challenging little game that's presented rather well, all in all and for what it's worth, will keep people entertained for a short while in the least, but it's never going to be a long term game though can be worth a gander if you're curious to see how people have used the ASCII settings to create games.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Terminator: Future Shock - PC/DOS

T-800 is going to shoot you in the face, from an FMV

The first game to use the XnGine from Bethesda Softworks back in 1995 before later being used to develop Daggerfall and further TES games before Morrowind plumped for a better engine, but you can see the work being laid down in this game and the direction it started to take gaming.

He's not joking, he's dying but won't until you actually begin the mission.

Future Shock takes the Terminator franchise and gives us a 3D world in which to explore level by level, as we develop from a general runaway in the future from murderous robots into a fighter with the resistance to the greatly exalted SAVIOUR OF EVERYTHING! Yes the game does escalate your achievements quickly towards the end but justifiably so. As said, you start off as someone that escapes a disposal camp and while being chased down, is rescued by a resistance fighter that gets killed in the process. Upon talking to the dying man, you're given the objective to get back to the resistance and alert John Connor. From there it all goes mad.

A little exploration will net you stronger weapons than you'd usually find.

The first thing that grabs you when you start to play is that the levels are huge, especially considering at the time that the usual game was ranging from Doom, to Duke Nukem, to Quake with significantly smaller (but also more involving) levels. Here we have the first level can take players around 30 minutes to complete if they get involved in the exploration incentive of the layout. Wandering the nuclear wasteland of post-apocalyptica lets you head into derelict buildings and ransack them but with the added details you tend to find the untold stories of families murdered in their homes but the machines and left to rot, while other places show signs of damage and destruction and few skeletons huddled together in one of the bedrooms, the detail is surprising and bleak.

Yep, it's the map. Yep, it's a little complicated but moves in fluid 3D.

That's the beauty of Future Shock, you can explore the entire map and find weapon caches with access to a rocket launcher on the first level IF and ONLY IF, you find and locate them and that alone can take some serious levels of exploring to achieve. The rocket launcher for example is found in a laser-fenced off area, atop a building that you can leap to if you have the health to survive but after jumping over or around a human-sized blending machine. Later weapons are even more difficult to find.

Certainly a bleak outlook.

The story however, unfolds steadily in cut-scenes and in small snippets received during play. As such it delves into the idea behind time manipulation, branching into theories of quantum mechanics and deploys various gaming tricks to involve the ideas into more than just back ground plot. The key focus is the idea that the main bad guy, SkyNET is capable of sending itself information into the past to alert itself of key and critical points in time. As such, it can send more and more robots your way, resulting in time based teleportation of robots appearing in front of you when we switch one timeline for another. More impressively is the design of some levels to mimic déjà vu and repeats key components of the levels to repeat themselves which leaves the player genuinely wondering if they're actually lost or being subjected to the time dilation issue mentioned within the game.

Flying missions and personalised messages!

As you progress, the game throws out bigger and more powerful robots until you're faced with floating/flying monstrosities that can shred you instantly (and the first time you meet THESE is when your back is turned to them) as well as a hovering uprightly little tank with a laser gun and TWIN ROCKET PODS of which you will NEVER HEAR IT COMING. You will learn quickly to hate this little fucker. On top of that you'll come up against the less subtle robots like the HKs and the Goliaths which are based straight on the large tank looking robot from the first film "The Terminator" that was fought in a flashback-of-the-future and generally is the game's bullet sponge for draining ammo and giving back nothing in return.

Ho, Ho, Ho, now I have a machine gun.

Weaponry is fairly varied though limited at the same time. Machine gun, Assault Rifle and Uzi use the same ammo and jump pump out more at a time. The shotgun is fairly standard, reliable but slow. Grenade launcher has no reticule thanks to gravity affliction. Rockets are powerful but so rare and valuable you'd not feel up to using it, laser rifle and laser cannon eat through ammo too quickly and plasma weapons are too slow to cause significant damage at a sufficiently fast pace. However, throwables like Molotovs, pipe bombs, grenades, canisters (ow) and the satchel charges (missions only and be CAREFUL WHERE YOU USE IT!) give a little extra to play with while battling the robots.

A steady mix of on-foot, driving and flying missions to battle through.

But you won't be fighting the robots for the most part. Instead you'll be fighting the scripting within the game engine. The biggest problem with the game is that unless you do the right thing at the right time, you'll not be able to progress. For example, and it may seem obvious at the time I say this, but in the third level if you venture into the processing point for human captives, you'll be trapped. It seems obvious but at the same time this is a game that has encouraged wanton exploration and now punishes you HEAVILY if you venture in and more so if you save because that means you're starting over from the beginning. Later missions have the issue of making sure you hit the right button at the right time in the right order otherwise you're sunk and not going any further in the game's progression and there's NO real clue as to the order required until you realise you're stuck and not going to be making it home to see little Timmy for Xmas.

Whether an oversight or intention, be careful here as you too can end up trapped like the others and doomed forever.

The game has quite the level of emersion if you let it take you and can really sell itself on the "end of the world" situation and how it plays but if you hit one of this sticking points that disrupts your game entirely then reality is brought crashing back with such a suddenness that you'll find it harder to get back into the game. Aside from that, if you can stomach the bugs, you'll find an impressive game to enjoy.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Terminator: SkyNET - PC/DOS

T-800 is going to shoot you in the FACE!

The Terminator franchise has a lot going for it and sadly not a lot really been done all that well with it, arguably beyond the second film. The potential to have stories of multiple Terminators being sent back and forth to fight and protect various people has been played around with by the comic books and the films mash up a few things here and there that the TV series ignores and acknowledges in multiple incongruous ways. Terminator SkyNET, is the follow up to the original Terminator Future Shock (Of which I'll likely review next week).

Unlike the films, the shotgun is rather effective.

The idea is simple (ish...) enough, it's set after the wars, after the first two films and based in the future where you, Captain McNoFace and Generic Hero WITH a voice (little off-putting actually) are already in the Resistance and fighting alongside John Connor, Saviour of the Human Race from deadly robots. It pays a level of homage to the source material which makes slightly more sense with that context. Rather than pumping humans and robots back through time, this game deals with having to confront the eponymous SkyNET and stop one of its plans.

Battling robots amongst skeletons of old buildings.

You start with a selection of nice weapons from the start including grenades, pipe bombs, an Uzi, Assault Rifle, Shotgun and Plasma Rifle with slight zoom scope based on the first film. (This actually was ground breaking in that you began the game with more than Sweet Fuck All but more about that later). You're tasked with running into a robot compound filled with murderous robots that aren't too happy that you're alive and fleshy and will try to make you relatively unfleshy as soon as possible. It's here that you do a bit of snooping around with all the subtlety of a suicide bomber. Upon which you find the super secret weapon... A nuke.

Found it? Wasn't exactly well hidden now was it?

For those that don't know, nukes caused all this devastation in the first place and the super weapon is to use the same weapon again. So for a computer that can calculate how to traverse time and space, seems someone left the Read-Only option on for the "Learning Lessons" section of the AI. Either way, it's your mission soon to investigate which nuke this is (Like it matters?), find out how and where to disable it if possible, attempt to take it out and finally get yourself to where it is and disable it in a series of 8 or so missions. This will also involve driving cars around and flying one of the Hunter Killer machines to get this done.

There's quite a variety of Terminators in the game.

Terminator SkyNET uses and slightly improves upon the previous engine of the game with a little extra in the physics department (Bouncing grenades) and manages to also negate issues like game flags not triggering where multiple options are not performed in EXACTLY the right way and time. As such the missions in this game aren't exactly that difficult or taxing beyond "Find place, hit button, run for it" though some of the layouts require taking a BIG leap of faith (Looking at you level 3... and your bullshit building jumping madness) and some are just a straightforward slog through the environment.

Bigger guns please!

Given the time and capacity of the engine, SkyNET makes a very good go at giving a real sense of doom and gloom with the game's graphics and appearance. Locations look destroyed and the inclusion of pockets of radiation do take away any real sense of accomplishment in that if you win or lose, this planet is still looking like a Scorched Earth situation. Buildings can be entered to scavenge for supplies but will require a loading screen that takes the edge off the immersion a little while derelicts can be trawled through to find dead soldier's supplies here and there and to get higher vantage points in the game. Bonus points to the game for including the night club from the first film complete with hologram dancers and lots of dead bodies.

Yes, the legs WILL keep coming for you.

The music and sounds in the game compliment SkyNET with various remixes and rehashes of Brad Fiedel's famous composition for the film The Terminator. While the guns sound hefty and meaty and add to the feeling that you're packing a punch with these implements of robot-dismantling. It's a shame though that the graphics haven't fared too well over the years as this would be a good game to return to from time to time. Having said that it remains a solid game with a key flaw to it...

Get ready for bad acting in cutscenes.

Overall, the game is a patch that was released as a standalone. This set of missions should have been part of the original game and formed a cohesion in the main story rather than being as it is here, a set of side-missions masquerading as a full game in itself. Though having said that, it does remain a rather plot driven, plot focused game with no hints on how to achieve objectives beyond the initial blurb of the introduction to the mission, so there's no way points or guides on the HUD, you have to work it out for yourself. Not that THAT is a bad thing, it just would be nice if the game was longer or part of the original and followed the initial intentions laid out for this add-on pack turned full title.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Moraff's World - DOS

Thanks to the set up, this was the best title screen I could get. Shut up.

Thought I'd go WAY back to the dawn of time and pluck forth from the depths of DOS, a game that first got me into the whole Dungeons and/or Dragons principle of wandering around a dungeon with various health points, other sorts of stats and generally kicking the shit out of multiple monsters that couldn't reach the upper level where it was safe and I was the only person in the town that could do anything at all, ever. I am of course referring to Moraff's World.

Choose your race, or whichever set of numbers looks nicer to you.

The idea is simple enough, create a character using a quick sheet and wandering your way through approximately 200 levels of dungeons in your quest to punch out the Red Dragon King. (I didn't vote for him...) On the way you'll encounter a veritable army of monsters ranging from badly drawn orcs, to badly drawn puffballs, to badly drawn dragons and many other badly drawn creatures. Combat is an easy enough affair of simply pressing F for fight when they're up close to you and the winner is the one still with a positive number of hit points.

Well, what teenager isn't this these days?

 Interestingly, the screen splits the view into 4 view screens, each one showing your perspective while facing in the four key compass directions. Upper view showing North, Lower view showing South and so on, which allows you to see in all directions and lowers the chance of something sneaking up on you and taking you by surprise. (I said 'lowers' not 'stops'...) What it doesn't stop, is that some walls are fake and enemies can pop out from them at a moment's notice.

How would you like to play? Pick carefully or you're going to be in trouble.

Depending upon your character will depend upon whether they're capable of using weapons, or spells, if they have access to any or all spells and if they gain Experience by wandering around or by fighting and killing things. There's a host of different ways to play the game but regardless of that, it's all a very similar experience.

Slightly confusing at first but the display lets you see all round at all times.

There is only one dungeon and even if you leave to head into the wilderness, you won't find a different dungeon, just the same one again and again. That said, the dungeon is huge at 200 levels and a town where you'll be running back to in order to level up or exchange your hard won cash into game-legal tender (carrying too much will slow you down and give faster monsters more attacks before you can retaliate). You'll also be able to head into the Temple and cure poisons, diseases and resurrect yourself should you bite the big one.

Killing monsters and taking stones, repeat, repeat, repeat.... Ad Nauseam.

The biggest issue in the game is that of combating boredom. After a while it becomes an endless slog through dungeon floor after dungeon floor before you get to the point you MIGHT want to find and kill a boss monster and gain from it a key that will let you descend to that floor instantly. IF you can find the ladder that will take you there. The other big issue here is that without spells or items that can tell you, there's little indication as to which floor of the dungeon you're on. Some ladders in the dungeon drop you one floor, some will drop you multiple floors and the almost undetectable trapdoors can drop any number of levels downwards. Of course this doesn't sound too bad but remember that the further down you go, the higher the level of the monsters and the more powerful monsters come out to play. You know the ones I mean. Those that can strip you of your armour in one move, those that can poison and inflict diseases upon you, those that can drain your levels for you. You know now, the fun ones.

Ah yes, the lovely "Blocker" types of low attack/high hp that just waste your time.

Finding treasures is a random event that happens on the defeat of every monster, you could, for instance, find the most powerful armour on the first creature you battle, or the most powerful weapon but at the same time you might first 1 copper piece, which isn't worth anything in real terms within the game. Typically, Cups of Health will be found initially at the start of the game but later on, you'll be running back and forth from town to the lower levels in search of the stronger monsters so that you might level up sooner rather than later.

The bat, it could infect you, but at 3HP you're more likely to catch a cold than a disease.

Outside of the scope of the instructions, there's little here to keep people playing once they grow tired of the monotonous exploration and discovery, new threats of monsters become annoying when you realise that it will take considerable time and preparation to even begin fighting them and then to realise that some monsters can ignore powerful attacks and spells on the basis of "I'm just not going to accept that" and then it's out of health time and you're dead, or resurrected if you paid enough for it.