Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Special 2014

This Christmas is brought with a little extra. An animated GIF aren't you all lucky!

Full of festive cheer as always.

Merry Xmas all and keep up the good gaming!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Typing of the Dead - Dreamcast/PC

That's right, TYPING of the Dead.

UltraKey, Mavis Beacon, Typing Instructor, all popular and famous typing tutor programs that people have used through the years. Programs that deal with accuracy, learning the home keys (asdf and jkl; for those interested) while also there's the lovely aspect of online competition for some programs that allow for people to duel off at writing up pangrams, anagrams of pangrams and words that consist of either the left hand, right hand, or specific rows of the keys like Typewriter (Top row only on QWERTY). But did anybody really consider we could use such a program to kill zombies?

Viciously villifying vocabulary there.

Typing of the Dead, a game that takes Hose of The Dead 2 from the Dreamcast and gives you a keyboard instead of a light gun and sets you up to type zombies to death. It is as impressive as it sounds. Though it's on the PC, it's clear that this is a conversion from the Dreamcast as you can see that the characters are carrying keyboards, with Dreamcasts on their back with a GIANT BATTERY atop that. Which also explains why you cannot quit out of the program and have to switch to the Task Manager to get out (or alt-tab) as the Dreamcast would have just switched off.

Dreamcasts and keyboards!

The game is essentially the same, same levels, same bosses, same secrets and bonus routes but there's more. Oh so much more in this game. Firstly, there's a whole tutorial session that lets you practise to improve your skills, there's Arcade mode which is just straight forward typing at enemies and bosses, Original mode that gives you bonus items and power ups from Molotov's that kills all on screen to golden hands that auto type the right keys regardless of what you type. You can also go the route of the tests and boss runs or even play against the CPU (how's that even fair?) and Network modes.

No, it's not Cell phone.

But the gameplay is what really sells this game. The first level will run you with words like AD, R2 and D2 (and not unintentionally I should add) while some of the bonus areas will have things like defeating 10 or so zombies without getting hit, while the words will be specifically focused ranging from all of them having double letters, or all themed on animals, or themed on greetings for a date. The topics and selection of words is very ranged and varied to the point of being outlandishly obscure such as "Everyone's a Schoolgirl". You just have to type the word in the box (spaces are optional) before the monster hits you. Some will be huge sentences, some just words, and the quick fire ones will be a single character from A to Z, symbols and numbers.

"Wasting my life writing shitty articles" isn't an option?

The real gem in this is the outright ridiculous humour and wordplay that comes in the last few levels. Bosses that require you to type out answers to questions. Questions like "What can you not buy in a shop?" and of the three responses, "Body parts" should be your answer. Other questions have all three answers as viable and yet crazy to the point where I've lost hit points as a result of laugh my arse off at the options. Though you can take hits from enemies, it should be noted that with every perfect response (no typos), you build up a refill bar, once that's topped off, you get another free life point. You can also pick up lives from saving people and being quick enough to hit the keys when you're passing boxes and crates with items within them.

You won the game, now type out the credits.

Having to answer the question "What do you do in bed?" and being treated with answers like "Make a bed fort", "Pretend to be sick" and "Have a wan-" ok maybe not that last one, but it's almost as close to the mark as some of the options available to us. The game itself modifies from the original in that zombies will hold back as long as you're typing their words consistently, inaccuracies will cause you to drop score ratings on those enemies while bosses are a lot less forgiving. It's a fascinating idea and the humour is rife through the game with how it's delivered. Play it, if only to laugh at the humour, laugh at the risible notion of a typing tutor that fuses apocalyptic zombies scenarios and keyboard accuracy and laugh at a game that pokes as much fun at you as it does at itself and western society.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Berzerk - Arcade

Sorry, there is no title screen for this game. Here's an empty highscore table instead.

A game steeped in infamy, a game that is responsible for at least one person dying, a game that features possibly the happiest nemesis you will ever encounter. I am talking about of course, Berzerk. A game possibly made famous because of the associated death but also having a level of uniqueness to it that other games back in 1980 didn't quite have.


Berzerk has you, as a happily animated little green character, running around a maze while either trying to shoot or avoid robots. A group of rather vocal robots that will happily announce their intentions to "Stop the intruder" or "Kill the humanoid" and various other insults that run along the lines of indicating that you are indeed a card-carrying member of some poultry based organisation. While you're running around, you can either leave by one of the doorways at the edge of the screen or go for the bonus points and try to kill every single robot in the room before Evil Otto turns up to shepherd you out of the arena. Or kill you.

There's Otto, he's killed 2 people already, you might be next.

Mazes are a rather unassuming group in that the maze is usually randomly generated upon death/starting over and each maze has usually, 4 exits. However, if you entered into the maze from one direction, you cannot leave in that direction as there'll be a door there. Touching or brushing against any of the walls of the maze or locked doors, much in the same way as touching a robot or being shot, or getting caught by Evil Otto, will kill you. In a lovely display of flashy colours for your little humanoid.

Whoo! Lots of red robots!

Where the difficulties stand within the game, as also are the predictable nature of the AI, is that your shooting can only be done in 8 directions and in the direction in which you're moving at the time of firing the shot off. At the same time as this, if an enemy robot has line of sight on you and there's room in the maze for a shot, it WILL fire at you, even if it means hitting the walls. While your character shoots directly from their hand rather than the middle of where their bounding boxes are located, so your attacks will invariably be inaccurate, initially.

Cyan robots! They shoot MORE bullets!

Robots themselves come in multiple flavours. The brown/yellow ones just idle around getting shot by the player. The red ones will take it in turns to fire a shot at you before someone picks the bullet up and fires another shot like some artillery based game of hot-potato. While the blue robots will have 2 bullets they share in which to try and terminate your existence. They do manage to do it surprisingly quickly for simplified artificial intelligence.

Fight, or run off. If you run, you'll be called a "chicken".

But that's not to say that combat on that level is the only choice available to the player. You could for example, get the robots to shoot each other, how you go about doing that is down to you but it can happen. Also, any exploding robot is deadly to everything, yourself AND other robots so you could try chain-linking some deaths together.

Redraw lines, repeat until brain seeps out of eyesockets and slithers off in shame.
As fun and quick as the game is, with some fantastic voice effects and quite an extensive vocabulary for the game itself, it falls into that old arcade adage of mindless repetition. Each level varies by a small amount of differentiation and ultimately, it gets dull quickly as you run through similar levels while occasionally being caught up by the ever-present Evil Otto. The shock and awe factor of 2 people having died while playing or shortly after playing, wears off quickly and you realise that death CAN COME as the game attempts to bore you to death. Avoid it or take a look for the sake of the infamy, but realise you're looking not because it's recommended as a good game, but because it's the "killer" game.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

House Of The Dead 2 - PC

There's the dead, it's the second game, but... Not so much the House from the first game.

I have to admit, I'm a big fan of light-gun games. Whether it's the joystick-cum-machinegun in the form of Operation Thunderbolt/Wolf, Mechanised Attack or Beast Busters, or an actual light gun that you specifically aim and shoot such as Point Blank, Time Crisis and this lovely little game, House of The Dead 2. On the PC, without a light gun... Well technically you could buy it with a sort of light gun and it came with House of the Dead 2 and it came with Virtua Cop... It didn't work so well.

This is a boss. This is also how to kill the boss. Shoot the annoying gobby one.

But here it is on the PC, House of the Dead 2 and you get to use the mouse with the game instead of the light gun... Pretty much defeating the point but hey-ho, let's go onwards with the game as it is.

Hold my fire? Seriously???

House of the Dead 2, a game by SEGA where you take it upon yourself as an agent of some sort armed with unlimited clips of ammo and a pistol, to uncover the undead conspiracy (it's a kind of obvious to be honest), and battle your way through armies of the undead, monsters, mutations and all other sorts of nastiness in an effort to... Get to the end of the game and see if you earned some sort of award. At least, that's the arcade part.

Yeah um.... Ooops...

Journeying your way through the desolate and ruined city, you'll encounter other agents and hear more of the plot, not that it matters as you'll be fighting your way through things regardless. What you can do however, is find that fights are easier if you score headshots and hidden in places around the game are a whole host of little bonuses such as extra points, extra hit points and even alternative routes depending upon if you hit the right item at the right time or if you rescue specific innocents before their untimely demise. (Or you shoot them yourself).

Dead in 3... 2... 1...

The levels start out easy enough with relatively few enemies appearing and those that do give you plenty of chance to line up, squeeze off the right shot and move onto the next little confrontation. While later levels and later within levels, you'll be set upon by more and more immediate threats that pop up and require not only quick reflexes but multiple shots to dispatch of your foes. Get far enough through the level and you'll be greeted by one of the game's many bosses. Ranging from "Flying nutcase with a headless knight" to "Giant chainsaw man" to "My cousin as a fish monster" and my personal favourite "The Magician" from the first game. Yes, I actually grinned at the opportunity to fight this little mascot of House Of The Dead again.

Welcome back, Magician. Let's go for Round 2!

What the PC (and home console) version have however, is an abundance of extra options beyond just the game itself. There's the Original mode where players can play through multiple times in order to gain extra powerups and adjustments that give them an extra edge, such as larger clips, different guns, more powerful rounds, unlimited ammo machine guns etc. But at a single use cost for that play through and performing better in levels will net more purposeful and powerful rewards. It does make quite the difference when you upgrade your pistol for a grenade launcher.

The further you get into the game, the more futuristic things become.

Boss mode, Training and Network modes are available for those that want to practise on the bosses, practise at practising the game with various tasks and options and lastly, for people that like to play co-operative not on one machine. There's a little extra here for others that gives a slightly better replay value and the die-hard fans can also get themselves bonus items for 5* ratings on EVERYTHING but you're rewarded some VERY powerful items and infinite use items such as credits too. Though by this point, there's going to be little challenge in the game for those players.

Bonus lessons in Gray's Anatomy did not feature this.

The music and audio are fairly good though don't pause the game as the whole music restarts if you do. It keeps to light little upbeat tempo with an undertone of orchestral accompaniment and doesn't become overbearing on the actual gameplay. Though the final boss fight and magician boss fight feature the more pronounced compositional work, with the Magician in particular being a reprise of the original game's final boss music and a welcome return it is too.

There's a lot of different, varied, and sometimes stupid ways, to lose health. This is the stupid way.

Everything looks a little dated by today's standards. The 3D engine fitting well with the game back in arcades on the AM2 systems and the Dreamcast but the transition to the PC has left things feeling a little hollow, animations and movements come across straight from the uncanny valley and the lack of facial expressions leads us to believe that this city is inhabited by the army of the uncaring bastard when people watch their friends and family eaten alive and still show the same nonchalant expression.

Dead, of the House...2?

It's a fun game but without the light gun and that extra level of immersion, it falls flat on itself, you'd be better off finding it in the arcades (or the later games for that matter) or getting the home console version.