Thursday, 24 September 2015

In The Hunt - Arcade

For Octobers of Redness?

While some might compare In The Hunt to the film, Hunt For The Red October, it probably isn't too far of a stretch to say that one has inspired the other but thankfully in this game, there's no Sean Connery playing a Russian Submarine commander with a Scottish accent. Scratch that, a Sean Connery accent. However the game is entirely about you BEING a submarine commander and you're taking on more sub-acquatic forces than the world actually has, three to four times over. But then it'd be boring if we just played Cold War and nobody really did anything other than promise to use and not quite use nukes on each other.

Bombs, torps, missiles, mines, icebergs... All are nasty threats here

In The Hunt shows that once again, Metal Slug has been borrowing heavily from its former employers and co-workers. It's Irem's sub acquatic baby and you can clearly see the high level of graphical detail that in later Metal Slug games might as well have taken lock, stock and barrel. Though rather than just be one level, or part of a level using a submarine, the entire game is you using a submarine to blow up boats, ships, subs, underwater tanks, helicopters, planes and jets (no those last few are not underwater, but that would be impressive nonetheless).

Sunken Stadium, a rather unique choice for a level backdrop.

Combat as such in In The Hunt, takes place in the 2D horizontal planar and has a slower moving spaceship... Submarine, that steadily cruises through the waters to fire torpedos, launch depth charges and underwater to surface missiles. The game does mix up convention in that if you are to breach the surface, your missiles now become anti-aircraft weaponry and function differently in that they can assault the skies and not blow up when they reach the surface.

This game has bosses galore, but it does limit itself in having to theme everything around an aquatic approach

Graphically, the game looks gorgeous as one might expect from the team that later started to make Metal Slug and as such In The Hunt sports some deliciously detailed and smoothly animated effects that serve as a real treat to the arcade gamer, espcially in a time period when the first few 3D games were coming out along the lines of the hardware firepower of the Playstation. There's attention, detail, precision and a lot of focus on making the game look amazing from the icey waters around icebergs, to the industrial sites and sunken cities, everything is gobsmackingly stunning and may at times catch the player out if they spend too long admiring the backgrounds and little details.

Erm... Ok... Moving along.

In that sense, In The Hunt is rather like one of those Naked Gun films in that you have to watch it time and time again to make sure you get all the jokes and the details. While there's not much in the way of jokes in In The Hunt (until you reach level 5, then it just becomes weird), there's so much going on that you could easily play through a few times and notice something different each time.

It doesn't take long before the boss level becomes "unfair"

The sound in In The Hunt does suffer somewhat in that the music just feels very out of place, it doesn't quite hold the adrenaline rush that you'd hope from a frantic boss fight, nor does the levels seem to fit with the tune and composition of the music set and associated with each particular level, it's quite the shame but thankfully a lot of it is masked with the copious amounts of explosions and attacks going on that you'll barely register the issue if at all.

All things said, In The Hunt is a hard game, if only because your movement is fairly limited and restricted in that you're slow, weapons are fast, and the eternally scrolling levels can force you into moments you'd rather not be in. It's an entertaining and fun game that will take you a good hour or so to beat but the likelihood is that you'd rather not blow all those credits on it. Well worth a play however and another glimpse at the history behind Metal Slug.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

X-Men vs. Street Fighter - Arcade


It's the crossover nobody asked for and yet nearly everyone welcomes with its loud, proud, almost flamboyant use of colour, speed and graphic clarity, it's X-Men Vs. Street Fighter. Taking a medley of X-men characters ranging from The Juggernaut (bitch!), Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Cyclops, Gambit, Sabertooth and more. While also throwing in various Street Fighter characters as Ryu, Ken (Seriously, what self-respecting Street Fighter doesn't have these two... oh wait... THAT one...), Chun-Li, Bison, Charlie, Akuma (secret but easy to find), Dhalsim and more, ranking up a total of 8 from each franchise and pitting 2-on-2 battles using a tag-team system.

Could be a bit of a match up here, in theory entirely unbalanced, as a game, fight time!

Taking the usual battle system found in many other Capcom titles, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter uses the 6-button layout for combat. Meaning it has a set of punches and a set of kicks ranging from weak to medium and strong/fierce giving you 6 buttons for attack. Throw in the joystick for movement and pulling off special moves and you're sitting pretty for some fairly intense action ranging from fireballs to combos, aerial attacks and launchers, high jumps and teleportation with also the option to switch out your player for the other partner by pressing both strong attacks at the same time, letting the partner that's out of the fight regain some health.

And the hits keep piling up!

What's interesting for X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, is that there's hyper moves, the energy for which builds up over time either by being struck or hitting the other player, or pulling off special moves and for each bar that's completed, gives the player the change to use a much more powerful, usually devastating, hyper move that usually involves doing a special move and hitting more than one attack button of the same type i.e. two punch buttons rather than one. Often causing a large steady, multi-hitting beam move, or an uninterruptable combo if the first strike lands. If you can mix-combo these into a standard combo, you're pretty much laughing at your opponent.

Ahhhh.... Viennaaaaa....

Battles in X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, take place along a myriad of locations, ranging from a shopping mall, the back of a blackbird (the plane, not the small creature, though that would be fascinating to see for about 2 seconds), a gas storage plant, a backstreet surrounded by police, a TV show and several others, all which have a lavish level of detail within and often have a few hidden extras in the background, like one level showing Blanka and Beast in the background, while other levels will change based upon either the time taken in the fight or depending upon which round of combat you're in. It adds to a little extra variation we're not normally used to seeing.

Flashy Special Elite Alpha Finish! (Mk 3, upper)

The music in X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, changes depending upon the players being swapped in and out. When a player is defeated, the next player to join the battle usually has their theme tune ringing out from previous games (namely Street Fighter Alphas and X-Men: Children of the Atom) adding to an odd but welcome mix of audio. Every hit, impact and strike sounds like lightning and thunder going off and power moves often sound as powerful as they are destructive to the other players health bars (and your own, often your own). While the graphics are fast, fluid, looking like comics/cartoons in appearance which can be a little jarring to some of the more realistic backgrounds but everything looks how it should and plays steadily.

As if I'd leave out a Raging Demon move...

With a final boss that is worthy of the X-Men franchise (and reused from an earlier game) taking up over a whole screen and with some incredibly cheap moves (it IS the final boss...) there's a lot in this game that will bring fans back for more. Though people that don't appreciate or like this genre of game might want to give it a few cursory goes, but would do better watching the more capable players for what the game is really able to showcase.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Dungeon Magic / Light Bringer

4 People off to kick arse, take names and kill demons.

Basic Premise, take four archetypes from the Dungeons and Dragons gaming series, Warrior, Monk/Thief, Elf/Archer and Wizard/OldGuy, give them all a back-story that is drawn out over four levels and have them save the world from a demon that you know is going to wake up just before the end of the game to be fought. That's effectively what Dungeon Magic is but my brief description is like saying a nuclear bomb is just a big firework.

Your typical choice. Youngish Knight, Dark-Past warrior, Female Elf Magic, Old-man More Magic

Dungeon Magic takes up to four people, and really needs four people if you want to experience the full story, to play through a non-linear set of levels and dungeons. The true mastery in this game is that there's multiple routes, all of which are filled with tricks, traps, enemies and bosses. It's almost guaranteed that you could play this game and every time you play it, you'll face different threats and opponents unless you're someone who only takes the same route every single time. Throw in extra secrets like hidden doors and walls and you've a true glut of gaming potential just in the level design alone.

Really wasn't expecting this.

Each character in Dungeon Magic has a weapon, ranging from Sword to Arm Brace (I've no idea what it's called), Bow and Staff for the main characters respectively and each weapon can range from standard, to fire, ice and lightning giving bonus damage to specific enemies (and bosses) or negating damage from those that are resistant to it. Sadly you can't drop a weapon until you die or pick up another one. Add to this that you can find extra axes, knives, torches, shields (LOTS of them) from chests and other enemies and you've a great selection and potential for causing more damage to your opponents.


The characters within Dungeon Magic also have your standard melee combo attack, a charged attack which is different depending upon the character and a super charged attack which takes longer to charge but does much more damage and impact. For example the Warrior character has a leaping sword strike while the archer actually fires the arrow, charge it up more and it becomes a flaming leaping sword attack or a high powered arrow capable of skewering multiple enemies. Throw in some grapples and throws along with a finite number of desperation attacks that don't draining your health and you've a large variation between each character that makes the game worth playing through as all of them. Collection of treasures and items will either boost your health or give you experience points and with enough of those, you'll level up, which basically gives you a bigger health bar. But at least they kept the IDEA of experience points in the game for us.

It's got scales, it's also going to be very big.

Enemies in Dungeon Magic have a large variety, ranging from "Mad Box" (It's a mimic for legal), wolf men, lizard men, spiders, snakes, dragons, living plants and animated skeletons. While bosses range from giant snakes, to huge knights, Dridders (Spider/Human combo), demons and more powerful demons. Though hazards range from spears being dropped at key buttons, spikes, pits (non-lethal, just painful) falling rocks (not everyone dies), poison sprays, petrification beams, arrow machines, conveyor belts and plenty, plenty more. Add to all of this a time limit which wipes everyone out if they stay in a room for too long and little ghosts that cause minor damage when the timer is getting low and you've enough of a reason to haul arse and get a move on.

Hmm... I think... Maybe... It's a trap...?

From an aesthetic standpoint, Dungeon Magic looks impressive, although there are times where the dungeons do get rather repetitive within a level, but there's little tips and nods towards the plot where the dungeon steadily becomes darker and more "infected" while the plot progresses and waters that healed and did nothing to the player, now begin to poison and hinder them instead. Enemies all look rather impressive (except the blobs, for blobbish reasons) and the graphic effects of fire, lightning and such are illustrated very cleanly.

Levels get monotonous eventually.

Sounds and music are a mixed bunch in Dungeon Magic, while the sounds and effects are crisp, clean and clearly audible, including even the speech of monsters dying, players dying and the almost memetic "you just powered up" which seems like a large acknowledgement to Altered Beast, the music within the game lacks the volume that such an orchestral fanfare should have. There's the idea behind this of an epic scaled accompaniment piece of music with the game but it's lost behind the battles and fights going on, which is a shame as there's a lot here to be really appreciated if the game itself wasn't almost entirely overshadowed by another Dungeon based game that had a more official backing from the original source material.

Odds on, these chests will attack you.

That's not to say there aren't flaws to Dungeon Magic. The puzzles within the game can be difficult to figure out (I.e. WHERE is that damned switch, oh it's behind the foreground where I can never see it clearly) and some characters are massively inferior to others. Such that the Warrior/Knight character is possibly the weakest while the Wizard is likely the strongest and most powerful character as a result of his charged attacks and special moves. But any player can do well with the other main characters too, if they pay particular attention to the game's hints and clues (if found on their travels).

Lots of rooms, but almost all of them can kill you.

Having said all that for Dungeon Magic, it's a very long game too. Easily taking around an hour to beat and longer if you're finding some of the levels a nightmare to navigate. In particular level 3 which involves finding 4 keystones and destroying them before the game will let you progress. So if you're looking for a fun game that will take you a while and has a great replay ability factor to, you would do well to give this one a try.