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Monthly Archives: January 2012

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: 2 levels (out of 8); ~1 hour
Platform: PC (Steam)

People who are fans of space sims have had very slim pickings for the last decade, ever since Freespace 2. While the amazing X series has also come out in that period, their heavy emphasis on the sim part can turn away many people (I know I have a hard time getting into X3, though I’m looking forward to the new title~). In fact, on that point, other then some foreign developers, the space sim genre has mostly died after Freespace came out. There’s been a recent resurgence, though, which SOL: Exodus is a part of.

SOL: Exodus is the first half of a story that’s mostly your basic sci-fi fare: Some time in the future, Humans ruin Earth and move to space colonies. Then they find out that they ruined the sun, so they need to find somewhere entirely new. The colonies form a new government and send a fleet out to scout for a new planet to live on. Decades past, and the colonies of Earth, having not heard anything from the fleet they sent, start getting desperate and turn to a new religion that basically says that blowing up with the sun is a great way to die. So of course they arm themselves, and head out to stop the fleet that’s scouting for a new home since, you know, if people think they have somewhere better to go, then that kind of ruins their whole operation.

What happens after is also pretty standard: After an attack from the COD (Children of Dawn), you become the leader of the fleet, and now need to fight your way back to Earth to let folks know that they don’t HAVE to die in a supernova. And along the way, you need to shoot down any enemy ship that happens to stand (or fly, really) in your way, while helping folks escape.

And by the same token, the gameplay is very simple. Don’t take that as a ding against it, though; simple is actually what I was looking for! Your ship has your standard loadout of infinite-ammo guns, limited ammo missiles, and a secondary gun that shoots a slow-moving but powerful blast. You don’t need to manage shields, or change your weapons as you develop new tech or to meet the enemy types; you just have the same things each mission (that I played). If you get too damaged, or run out of missiles, you can dock in your mothership to be repaired and resupplied, though this dings you a bit in the end-of-mission scoring.

Missions are a good length each (Probably 20~25 minutes each in the two I played) and in those two had a good mix of objectives, with one being the tutorial where you just killed enemies until the plot progressed, and the other having you defend transports from COD fighters. Though if this is the basic formula for the game as a whole, it will likely start to get a little stale, especially with no mission checkpoints. You can also replay missions to get better scores, and there’s also higher difficulty levels to challenge yourself on as well. It seems that the higher difficulties are only unlocked after you beat the game once, though.

Completing a mission gets you an upgrade point which you can use to improve the stats of your fighter. Each mission also has a secret objective that you don’t get told about until after it’s over, which gives you a second upgrade point. And any upgrade you get also applies to replaying earlier levels, so if you’re having a hard time clearing one of the bonus objectives, you can just come back later with a powered up fighter.

All in all, SOL: Exodus is a good game to whet one’s appetite if they’re pining for the days of old, yet find games like X to be far above their skill level. Don’t go into it expecting much more then an action title.

 

Full Reviews:

IGN: Review

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

 

Amount Played for Review: 4 levels (out of 21); ~1 hour
Platform: PC (Steam)

 

No, it’s not that. Though it was definitely the first thing I thought of when I saw the title.

 

So, I haven’t really been a big fan of tower defence titles, though it’s not because I think they’re bad. Most of them are just really the same game, so if there’s ones I like, well, there’s not really a reason to play many others, after all! And with it seeming like there’s a new TD title every other week, I just have no interest in them generally.

What grabbed me at first about Unstoppable Gorg was, in fact, the name. Because of the video I linked above. After that fact, though, the game is draped in a hilarious 50s sci-fi story of alien invasion, complete with grainy newsreel footage of spacecraft with obvious wires and sparklers. And it’s utterly ridiculous, to boot. It’s pulled off with pizzazz.

Now, for the gameplay. The thing that is setting Unstoppable Gorg from other TD titles is that each map is centred around an object, and you place your towers in orbit around it. The rings don’t rotate on their own, normally, though. You can move your towers around the orbit to have them in rage of the enemy as their attack pattern shifts. Since they’re coming through space, there’s no terrain to stop them or create choke points, after all!

Enemies were your standard fare for TD titles, from what I played. You got your generic drones, your zippy ones that don’t attack, your slow tanks, ones that attack from further ranges, and so on. It’s enough variety for the type of game it is.

Likewise, your own towers are fairly standard fare, ranging from towers that generate resources and research (which can be used between levels to improve your towers’ upgrade cap), to rapid firing but weak cannons, to long-range missiles, to short-range powerful cannons.

In addition to the story mode, doing well in a level also unlocks a challenge mode for that map. The challenges range from locking certain rings, preventing their movement, to having some rings automatically rotate, to having the defence target only have 1 hit point. They exist to give players, well, a challenge on top of the normal levels, which can be pretty hard themselves.

And in addition to the challenges, there’s also an Arcade mode which is just an infinite wave survival challenge. You can choose from the satellite types you have unlocked so far to use, and the only way to get money is to clear waves or destroy enemy ships. Enemy ships are also generally limited to ones you have seen (when I played I got a ship I hadn’t seen yet, but I think it was supposed to be in the next level, since I had access to the weapons from that level).

While down at it’s core, Unstoppable Gorg is your pretty standard tower defence title, it has enough of a spin on the formula to make it interesting, even in such a saturated market. Also, the fact that they got guys to record such ridiculous FMV for the story? That’s worth the 10$ right there.

 

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb: Quick Look

GameSpot: Review

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

 

Amount Played for Review: 5 areas (out of 9?); ~2 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

 

Don’t feel bad if you looked at screens of Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) and got confused for a moment. First off, that’s a pretty ridiculous name. But more importantly, screens of sterile white environments and first-person puzzle solving is sure to make anyone harken back to earlier in 2011. And I bet it’s intentional; you just can’t do something like this anymore without expecting it.

Q.U.B.E. starts you off with a scene of a strange glove, and the white cubes making up the area moving around to make walkways. There’s no story, no explanation, no dialog. It’s just you, the cubes, and a pair of magic gloves that can interact with them. And that’s where the puzzle solving comes in!

The world has a number of different types of cubes: from red ones that can be pulled to make a maximum height of 3, to yellow ones that come in groups of three where the one you pull is the furthest, to blue ones that act as spring boards. There’s also cubes that bend light beams, or pale colour cubes that change the colour of objects that pass through them.

And all this time, the game looks and runs amazing. There’s some minor troubles with the “aiming reticle” not registering what you’re aiming at if there’s things around it, but not many of the puzzles I’ve dealt with involved split second reaction times. Some fast reaction times, sure, but not so precise. And they’re always retry-able if you don’t quite get it.

You wouldn’t think that a game which is comprised of nothing but differently coloured cubes could look amazing, but Q.U.B.E. simplicity is what makes it all stand out. And everything moves very fluidly, which is probably helped a lot by the fact that there’s not much else on the screen!

Even if there’s no story directly presented to the player, there is a good amount just from the environment itself. The rooms shift to direct you to different testing chambers, or to bring you to different areas of whatever place you’re in. You go from the bright white area of the first few sectors to a lower level that’s pitch dark and requires you to use power switches to illuminate different block types one at a time, and finally (at least, for me when I stopped played to write this) to a ruined section of the facility, where many cubes are cracked or destroyed, and power needs to be restored to some areas in order for your glove to affect things.

All in all, Q.U.B.E. is an amazing puzzle game. It may not have much behind it once you’re finished all the levels, but it’s also cheap on Steam, and comes with some Steamworks acheivements. As one of the first games of 2012, let’s hope it’s a good sign for things to come!

 

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb: Quick Look

Joystiq: Review

This doesn’t really belong in the review proper, but I figured that I would talk about the Deluxe Edition of Jurassic Park: The Game.

I’m a sucker for Collector’s Editions of stuff, and will almost always buy it if I have the ability. And Jurassic Park’s was actually pretty great.

Unlike the Deluxe Edition for Back to the Future: The Game, Jurassic Park’s was actually shipped to me in a series-appropriate shipping container, which just adds to the realism. The package is meant to be as if it was for a new employee of the park, and comes with a temporary pass, a part pamphlet, an employee handbook, a patch, a letter from John Hammond, and the game on DVD with the soundtrack and Making Of videos.

The package as a whole is really neat, and was definitely worth the extra to get it from Telltale’s store instead of getting the game through Steam.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!
 

Amount Played For Review: Episode 1 (of 4); ~1.5 hours
Platform: PC

 

Jurassic Park is frightening in the dark.

Now that we have that out of the way, Jurassic Park is the latest title from Telltale Games. While Telltale normally produces high quality adventure games, Jurassic Park is their attempt to make a more cinematic and action-y title. And it didn’t really work out too well.

But let’s not get ahead of myself here. At it’s heart, Jurassic Park: The Game is a series of scenes with some occasional interaction to determine whether the scene progresses or not. And this is where Telltale runs into trouble.

The game is broken down into 12 scenes (at least, Episode 1 was), and players get ranked on how much they don’t mess up the various Quick Time Event commands within it. Once you’ve cleared a scene, you can replay it to get a better score. If you have the game on Steam or for consoles, there are achievements for getting all of the Gold medals, of course. And some of the scenes are pretty hard, especially when a few of the QTEs require very quick reactions. And the game does a poor job of highlighting these scenes; sometimes the game gives you a few seconds to enter the button commands when you’re facing down a dinosaur, and sometimes you only have a second.

As well, sometimes a failed QTE will let you continue through the scene, while sometimes it just means death. Dying in a Telltale game is by itself fairly unusual, but the game is really forgiving about them: each scene has a (large) number of checkpoints (basically one after every potential death scene, from what it seems like), and you get reset to the checkpoint with a “failure” mark against you, as if you had just messed up one of the unimportant QTEs. I’m not really so upset about this, but it does kind of make one wonder why they even bothered.

There’s more to the game then just QTE events and cutscenes, though. Interspersed among the scenes are places where you need to solve standard adventure game puzzles, like distracting a security guard or coaxing a triceratops back into it’s pen. These are placed fairly logically, and work very well to progress the story.

Speaking of the story, Jurassic Park covers the fate of the can of Barbasol after Dennis Nedry meets his… unfortunate end. Within the first episode, you get introduced to three groups of people that you change between at different parts in the story: Miles Chadwick and Nima Cruz, which were Nedry’s contacts; Gerry Harding, the park’s chief vet and his daughter Jess, who was just visiting; and Dr. Laura Sorkin, one of the park scientists who is trapped in one of the research labs. Different scenes have you controlling different groups, and even different people within the groups, as required to progress the story. It works well, and makes the whole experience feel much more like a movie, when the QTEs cooperate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The types of QTEs in the game is also pretty varied, and usually there’s enough time given to determine the type of actions required for the event. Not always, though, as there were a few that I basically failed instantly because I wasn’t given much time to determine what I was expected to do. And some scenes just have a ridiculous number of QTEs, as well.

Complaints I’ve seen of the console versions make it seem like the buttons it tells you to press often seem very disconnected from the events on the screen, but that doesn’t seem to be the case on the PC: It’s almost always the direction key for the movement the character is making, or the direction they are aiming. That said, many of the events were for things that seemed very strange to require an event for, like walking down a flight of stairs, or examining footprints. The impression I got was that they felt that they needed to have the player doing SOMETHING during these scenes, even if they were basically just cutscenes. And that’s probably the core problem with the game; Telltale wanted to try something new, but made the game TOO cinematic, and then shoved some awkward QTEs in to make it interactive.

But enough about the game. The engine itself also seemed to have some troubles, which is strange since they were things that they did right in previous games. Changing the resolution is a one-at-a-time selection option, and the game needs to adjust the resolution each time. This meant I needed to sit through the game adjusting resolution something like 10 times before I got it to the right size for my computer. This is incredibly strange, since not only have every other Telltale game had “Apply” before it adjusted resolution, but so do most games!

As well, some scenes in the game look quite good, but often have parts that looks quite awkward; as if the main polygon object was actually some kind of flat sprite with a 3D object overlayed on top of it. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it was quite noticeable.

Overall, Jurassic Park: The Game wasn’t a terrible experience, but it certainly shows that while Telltale is a master of their domain, they have troubles going outside of it. Hopefully their next non-adventure title will take notes from the troubles they had with Jurassic Park.

 

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb: Quick Look

Joystiq: Review

IGN: Review