Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ready to go

OK, the games, where needed, have been bought (not all have them have arrived yet, though... that could bring this whole thing crashing down). Templates have been set up for the writing. Images have been manipulated. My games controllers all have working batteries (where needed).

I think we're about set.

I hope you all enjoy the next 25 days. I've spent about 40 quid on games... so take note of the fact that you are all literally depriving my children of Christmas presents by reading this blog.

Not really.

I've got a real mixed bag of gaming coming up. The plan was to play as many games as possible that were new to me... that's always been the point of the blog. They range from the classic to the rare gem to the weird to the just plain rubbish. It should be an interesting ride... hope you all stick with it. If nothing else, at least reading it will help you remember how many days are left until Santa turns up...

Monday, 29 November 2010

Starting on Wednesday - A Game A Day Advent Calendar

I've been working on this for the last few weeks... figuring out which games to use, and actually getting hold of some of them (and some are still in the post... if this weather doesn't perk up, this could still fall to bits). If you're sick of chocolate advent calendars, why not try mine as an alternative? I'll be writing about a different game every day up until Christmas... when you see the theme, you might realise why I've had such a hard time... it's been bloody difficult getting everything I've wanted!

Anyway, it all kicks off on Wednesday 1st December... here's an image to whet your appetites...

Doesn't work as well reduced...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Planescape: Torment (PC)

Here's a game I've meant to play for years. I'd originally bought it when I was living in America. At that time, there were companies that were re-releasing classic PC games in cool cardboard slipcase/jewel case packages, costing no more than $9.99. Every time we went to any mall or outlet, I'd pop into the games stores and see what new stuff they had on the racks. I managed to build up a fairly substantial and, dare I say it, impressive collection... only to lose a fair bit of it when I sold a lot of stuff before I moved back here.

It's proven more difficult to find over here, but recently it's had a physical re-release and has been made available on the fantastic GOG.com. And that's where I got it from.

Well, that's just lovely, that is.

Planescape: Torment is a computer RPG based on Dungeons & Dragons rules. That means nothing to me, as I only briefly dabbled in D&D and that was when I was about nine years old, when an older lad who fancied himself as a Dungeon Master both created and killed my character within the space of about two hours. Wanker.

Anyway, enough of my mental scarring. When I first played this I got stuck in the first room and didn't have the patience to carry on... that, plus I had too many other games to play (that bit hasn't changed at all!). This time, I vowed to do better and see exactly why this game is so highly rated in the gaming community.

Damn the limitations of a 400px wide image.

It turns out that the reason the game is so highly rated because of the dialogue. Planescape: Torment is very dialogue-heavy. In many games this can be tedious, but Planescape: Torment has some very funny and quirky dialogue which is almost always a joy to click through. You're an undead character, waking up on a morgue table and not actually realising your plight. And you'd probably never realise your plight, if it wasn't for the incredibly mouthy skull that befriends you and proceeds to rabbit on the whole way around.

Morte is your new friend's name, and he's the sassiest, sarkiest skull this side of Trap Door, but with a healthier sexual appetite. Yes, you read that right. Those cadaverous laydeez that wander around the place are right up his street, and he doesn't mind letting you know it. It's a bit bizarre, and pretty funny.

Phwooooarrr, eh? Look at that bit of stuff.

Dialogue aside, I have struggled a bit with the actual game so far. It's an isometric 3D adventure... it's not exactly Knight Lore, it's a bit more advanced than that, and it employs a "fog of war" technique which keeps large areas of the playfield obscured until you actually need to see it. That hasn't been the issue for me, it's that the game has a lot of menus and I still haven't quite got to grips with all the options and icons.

Still, that's my own cack-handedness to blame. It's not the game's fault that I have a hard time actually clicking on the thing I want to kill. Combat hasn't been particularly exciting so far either... it's pretty much a slugfest at the moment. It's obvious that there's far more depth to Planescape: Torment than has been revealed to me so far, and the banter alone is easily enough to keep me going, with the interesting storyline adding an extra hook. I reckon I'll be getting a netbook soon, and I can easily see me installing this on there and playing through it at a leisurely pace.

Here's what's going to happen.

OK, you're probably sick of reading posts from me saying "I'm doing stuff, honest!".

But I really am! And I'll soon be ready to start posting again... Wednesday, in fact, will be the start of the project I've been working on...

I'll try and put something up before then to keep things ticking over, but the real work begins on Wednesday...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Westbang (iPhone/iPod Touch)

I know what you're thinking... the same thing as me. Bit of a rubbish title, that. And yes, it is... but it does serve the purpose of immediately letting a certain section of gamesplayer know exactly what the game is... a copy of Commodore 64 classic, West Bank.

Die, fatboy! Watch out, granny!

West Bank, of course, is a clone of arcade game Bank Panic, where you are the trusty lawman protecting the bank from varmint robbers and collecting and safeguarding the honest citizens' cash. It's a simple formula and a simple game, and it's pretty addictive if done well.

Look at that. Don't mess with me, robber scum.

Westbang is done well. It hasn't messed with the formula much... it's dispensed with the need to scroll left and right (they must have set the game in a time when Wild West towns had smaller banks), and have added kind of a boss duel draw screen, where a boss bad guy stands, flanked by a couple of minions, and you have to dispatch them all when they draw their guns.

Bit unfair... one on one might be fair. Oh well, you're all going down!

And that's about all there is to it. Chances are you've played and enjoyed a variant of this at some point, and you'll welcome the opportunity to lose large chunks of your day to it again. It's colourful, with nice, up-to-date graphics, the controls are perfect for the iPhone just by the nature of the game, and it's a lot of fun. Best of all, it's cheap... or free, in fact, if you grab it quickly. Do it!

Westbang (iPhone/iPod Touch) - Free!

Netbook, or iPod Touch?

Christmas is coming, and it seems that everyone in my family is getting new tech. Lorraine is already the proud owner of a Kindle, and Aidan will be getting... well, something. Even Ryan got a kiddy laptop for his birthday.

So, I'm feeling a bit left out. To compensate, I've pretty much convinced myself that I'll be having something nice at Christmas. The question is: what?

Originally, I was determined to get a 4G iPod Touch. Mine is 1st Gen, and I love it. But now apps are being released that don't work on 1st Gen, and some are actually apps that I want. It's inevitable that I'll upgrade.

Lately though, I've been thinking about getting a netbook. There are some decent ones available for a pound under 200 quid, and if I had one I could probably keep my blog up-to-date a bit better. The iPod Touch is fantastic for browsing message boards, but as a second PC it's not ideal. The whole family uses our laptop... this way, I could probably have the best of both worlds.

But the new Touch is fantastic...

What do you folks think?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

It's all going on behind the scenes...

Hi gang,

Well, it might not seem like I'm doing much blog-wise at the moment... you're probably getting sick of hearing about me playing Deadly Premonition and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Either that or you're playing said games and you haven't got time to be reading my waffle.

It's true that those two games have taken up a lot of my time lately... and not surprising either, they're excellent games. But don't think that the lack of written activity here means I'm negelcting the blog... ooohhhh, noooo.

I'm actually doing a lot of research, because I've got plans for December and January. You bet I have. I'm going to be really busy with blog games for the next couple of months, there's no doubt about that. So don't go anywhere... it's just you that'll be losing out!

Tell you what though... this researching lark can be a bit of a pain sometimes...

Friday, 19 November 2010

Caught Speed-ing

Oh man, this is awesome.

I'm saying that only an hour in, so I suppose it could all go wrong... but I can't imagine how.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 on the PS2 is, as I have said many times before in many different places, one of my favourite games ever. Not just racing games... all games. I love that game. But after that, things have been a bit hit or miss with the Need for Speed series, as you'll read here someday (soon-ish) when I start my rundown of the entire series...

I definitely need some speed now... I'm last!

I think, in the main, that Need for Speed has a need for cops. They add an extra dimension to the racing that lifts it above the average. I was really happy to hear they were going back down that route, but apprehensive... could they get it right? Then I heard that Criterion were on the case, and I relaxed a little. Criterion are awesome.

And after an hour, I can say that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is awesome. It's exactly what I'd hoped for from a Hot Pursuit game, with lots more thrown in because Criterion loves us.

It's got aggressive cops - they're going to give you a hard time. And that's a Good Thing. It would be no fun if they chased you and then just milled around politely, hoping you might pull over. No, they'll ram you hard and aim to damage you as much as possible. Bring it on.

Seems a shame to smash a car, ramming a roadblock like that...

It's got decent and aggressive AI opponents. Even from the first race, you're not going to just pass everybody on the first straight and roar off into the distance. This game has opponents that want to win. Again - bring it on.

It's got shortcuts - proper, long offroad shortcuts like Hot Pursuit 2, and plenty of them. This is important. The shortcuts not only give you ways to get the jump on your opponents, but also provide ways around police roadblocks. The shortcuts were an integral part of Hot Pursuit 2... I'm glad to see them used properly in this game.

It looks lovely, and it feels great. Being a racer is as great as you'd hope (and they've given you limited weaponry in some races now, too), and being a cop feels, in some events, as much like a modern-day Chase HQ as you're ever likely to get. The only thing(s) it seems to be missing are the huge jumps... I haven't done any yet. I'm not missing them enough to matter.

This is huge fun, and pretty much a dream arcade racer for me. This is after two hours... I broke off from writing this to go back to the game. And now I'm going back to it again. This isn't a review, just my initial impression... there's loads of game to play yet. Loads of lovely game. It's absolutely clear to me that at least a few of the chaps at Criterion must have played and loved Hot Pursuit 2 at least as much as I did. They get what it is that made that such a great game and have taken all that and put it into this game, whilst adding the best of Burnout and their fantastic knowledge of the online system. Cheers, gang, I can't get enough of this game..

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Need for... a faster postal service.

I'm a bit disappointed today. I pre-ordered Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit last week. It was posted yesterday, and I kind of hoped it might be here today. I'm just being greedy, I know. Still, it should be here tomorrow, and I'm finishing work early (a happy coincidence).

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 on the PS2 is one of my favourite games ever, so I'm really excited about this. Hang on... does that make this a prequel?

Anyway, I'll be posting my initial thoughts on the game at some point tomorrow (presuming it does indeed turn up). Somewhere in the future, possibly in the Christmas period, I'll be doing a rundown of the entire Need for Speed series...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Oids (Atari ST)

Oids is a rubbish name for a game. What kind of Oids? Androids? Humanoids? Haemorrhoids? You need to be more specific with these things.

Still, despite that obvious flaw, Oids has gained a reputation as one of the ST's finest games. That being the case, it's always been high on my list of games to play for the blog, despite not having a clue about what kind of game it is.

It's actually a bit of a mixture of games. There's a fair bit of Thrust there, a little bit of Lunar Lander and some Choplifter. I would actually say, having played this, that Gravitron 2 (and probably the original) was as much inspired by this as Thrust.

That's the way. Clear a nice little landing space.

The Oids of the title, so say the instructions, are android slaves (see? Why didn't it say this in the title?) that you need to free from their prisons and rescue. They're held across many different planetoids (oh... more than one type of Oids... now I see), and you must fly in in your V-wing ship to rescue them. As you would expect, it's not as easy as it sounds...

Having said that, at first, it appears as though it is as easy as it sounds. I was quite disappointed as I was able to fly around at leisure and at no great speed, picking off ground installations as I pleased and rescuing Oids with the greatest of ease. The pace was extremely slow and the game was very easy... I couldn't see why this was so highly regarded.

I flew into one of those little sun things once. Don't know where I ended up.

But once I'd got a few levels into the game, it all kicked off. Reverse gravity has a massive effect as you're trying to negotiate the landscape, ensuring you have to take things carefully. Installations will fire at you, as you would expect. They're more devious than that, though... some will launch homing missiles, whereas other, hidden installations will appear and launch a barrage of firepower at you.

Luckily, as you would expect of any game where you control a V-shaped spaceship, you have a limited shield. And of course, you can fire back. You've got your normal peashooter bullets... effective enough to take care of most ground installations. For those things where you need a bigger bang, you've got a mushroom-cloud-laying mofo of a bomb. Satisfying.

Argh! Erm... alright, I get the message!

Once you fill up with rescuees (eight) or clear the planetoid of captives, you can dock with your mothership and deposit the Oids to safety. It's a simple and tried-and-tested gameplay mechanic, but it usually works, and when it's particularly well done as it is with Oids, it's a joy.

When Oids first started, I was expecting a fast-paced blast. It's not like that at all, it's far more measured and a little bland to start with. But a few levels in, it becomes a real challenge and a real test of your gaming skills. Although it's not really a shoot 'em up, it certainly becomes frantic as you try to fend off the planets' defences and rescue the poor, downtrodden Oids. I've had a lot of fun with this game... I can see myself playing it for a long time to come.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


Sorry for the lack of posts this week... I've just found myself totally absorbed by Deadly Premonition! It's just so bizarre and entertaining, I find myself going back to it every night and not really making time for anything else. Part detective story, part survival horror, and aaaaalllllll mad.

The voice acting is really good... it really sells the whole story. I suppose the detective and driving parts slow the game down a lot just when you've been battling through intense moments, but that kind of light and shade is good. And the conversations are either so mental or so entertaining that you don't mind anyway.

I've got a few things lined up for the coming days, so keep an eye out and I'll get back to the business of updating this thing. I'm also looking at what I've played this year... there will be a top ten rundown towards the end of the year. I think that Deadly Premonition might well figure in that rundown somewhere...

Sunday, 7 November 2010


I've signed up for NaNoWriMo.


How silly.

If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, click the link. Basically, though, the aim is to write a 50,000 word novel... during the month of November. I've got no idea what I'm doing or writing about, so signing up with a week of the month gone might not be very smart, and I'm obviously destined to fail.

On the other hand, victory would be glorious.

This might impact my blog posting for three weeks, but I'm determined to keep it going on a similar to level to that of the last few weeks. This would be fantastic if I didn't have a job that keeps me out of the house for as much as fourteen hours a day, five days a week...

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Frostbite (Atari VCS/2600)

I always wanted Frostbite back when I owned an Atari... it always seemed like, if you'll excuse the turn of phrase, a cool game. Never did end up with it, though. Of course, in this day and age it's easy to play the old games, classics or otherwise, either by emulation or other means. I happen to have bought this on Microsoft's Game Room... as well as the Activision Anthology a few years ago.

And I'm glad that I did. Frostbite is a fun little game... what's important is that it's got the qualities that were essential in making a VCS game successful. It's fast paced, it's cute, and games don't usually last too long, making it an ideal arcade-style game.

Nip, nip! Those crabs might be almost underwater, but they'll still get ya.

The object of Frostbite is to build an igloo before the temperature drops so low that it freezes you to death. This being the arctic, that's easier said that done. You have to jump on ice blocks as they float past... each time you turn the ice blue, a block is added to your igloo. Later levels see the ice crack apart causing further complications, but you can reverse the flow for your own means.

Hang on though... that sounds simple! Naturally there's more to it than just that... there would have to be, or it wouldn't be much of a game. Polar critters roam around, getting in your way. If it wasn't bad enough that Arctic crabs, snow geese and clams shove you off the ice into the bitterly cold water, once your igloo is complete there's a polar bear patrolling the ice around your home! Well, if you will choose to live there...

Clams and crabs and bears, oh my!

So, was it worth the almost thirty year wait to play this? I'd have to say yes, it was. Sure, I'd probably have appreciated it a lot more at the time, and likely as not would have played it until I'd earned my sew-on patch. Nowadays it's unlikely you'd play it for more than fifteen minutes at a time, but from my point of view I'm likely to play it for fifteen minutes now and again for quite a while to come. Frostbite is cute, it's fun and it's a great example of just how good Activision could be in those days.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Tower of Evil (Commodore C16/+4)

What on Earth am I doing, writing about this? Well, before I (or anyone I knew) got our Commodore 64s, one of our mates had a C16. When we weren't booting a footy around on the field outside his house, we were likely to be in his room, mucking about on his C16. Although having said that, I only really got to know him a short time before he got his 64, and so I didn't really get to play with the C16 much. I do remember, though, that one of the games he owned was called Tower of Evil, and I might have played it about twice, but it stuck with me and I really fancied giving it a shot, just to see what it was like. And hey, it's nice to bring in other systems.

That's it! The way to the next level. Just got to fight past the Pac-Man rejects...

So, what is it like? Well, it's like Atic Atac... or for me, Wizard's Lair (as you know, I had a C64 but not a Spectrum, so I've never played Atic Atac...). Anyway, it's a game where you have a large number of interconnected rooms that you have to explore. As is the tradition in these games, you have to find treasures while avoiding attacks from the resident monsters...

Considering it's a very early version of this type of game, it's quite interesting. Certain can give you temporary invincibility if picked up, or they might increase your firepower. Handy features, both. Teleport machines can be located around the tower, giving you access to other levels... but putting you at the mercy of other, different tower-dwelling critters.

Ugh. Seagulls. If only I could pick up some fish and chips, I could get rid of them.

It's simplistic stuff, for sure. The character you play is basically Berzerk's Evil Otto with arms and legs. Different levels are defined merely by different coloured walls and differently-shaped beasties. Oh, and as you progress to higher levels, they gather up the nerve to shoot back at you. How very dare they.

Tower of Evil is ancient in videogame terms, and nowadays it shows. It is what it is... there's no apparent variety to the gameplay, although maybe if you get far enough it changes (from my research, the Spectrum version has an extra bit that I imagine the C16/Plus 4 didn't have the memory for). It doesn't hold up particularly well now, although I did enjoy whizzing around from room to room... thankfully, everything moves at a fair clip. I'm glad I gave it a go, although I probably wouldn't choose to play it again... but I can easily imagine that if you bought this back in the day, you could think it was the best thing ever.

Deadly Premonition (XBox 360)

I've just spent the last hour playing a game I bought on the way home this afternoon... Deadly Premonition, on the XBox 360. Don't consider this a review (not many of my posts are reviews anyway, really)... an hour's worth is nowhere near enough to do it justice. I'm just setting down some initial thoughts.

Deadly Premonition is a survival horror game... more specifically, it's a Japanese survival horror, which means it's gloriously fucked up. First impressions, though, are a bit iffy. I mean, it looks like a PS2 game which, given that we're years into the 360's lifespan, is a bit worrying.

Bet I wouldn't have had this problem if I'd bought a Zippo.

Still, right from the start it's interesting, with a bizarre-but-attention-grabbing opening sequence. It's not giving anything away to say there's been a murder, and you're playing the detective sent in to the sleepy backwater town to investigate. And I think it's fair to say that this guy has issues of his own...

Deadly Premonition, as well as being a survival horror game, also has a bit of RPG thrown in. Weapons deteriorate through use, meaning you'll want to carry a few at once and switch between them. But as well as maintaining weapons and health, you'll have to eat, drink, sleep and avoid getting too scruffy. I'm not sure how that works yet, I haven't been playing long enough.

There, there, lads... it'll be alright. Actually, it might not.

I've read a few things about this game in the past few days. Reviews have been about as mixed as for any game I've seen. The graphics have been hit the hardest, but they're serviceable, and what do you expect for a cheap game anyway? I've also read that the controls are bad. Listen, if you've ever played Resident Evil 4 to any degree of proficiency, you won't have a problem playing this game.

So far, I've found Deadly Premonition to be genuinely weird, genuinely funny and genuniely creepy. When those twisted, backwards-facing "Ju-on"-like ghouls appear from seemingly nowhere, moaning "I want to diiiiiiie" with voices like a Rick Astley seven-inch single played on 33 RPM, you'll definitely jump, and quite high at times.

Oh, for Christ's sake. That's just wrong.

Get further into the game and you have to maintain vehicles, and you'll encounter local townsfolk who you'll need to interact with if you're to get anywhere. Seemingly, accepting side missions will give you additional rewards. No idea what they could be, but they can only be good things, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to finding out how it all works, and how it pans out.

So, from my first hour or so it seems that Deadly Premonition is part Resident Evil 4, part Alan Wake, with a bit of the twisted side of killer7 thrown in for good measure and to keep you on your toes. Seems like a winning combination to me... I'm suitably intrigued enough to be invested in it now. Fantastically, as the title screen appears it says "Marvelous Entertainment 2010". Yes. Yes, it is.

Monday, 1 November 2010


Soooo tired today. I've got a one-year-old that didn't feel like sleeping last night. He's getting injections at the doctor's tomorrow, and I'm taking a half day off work to look after him in the afternoon. Being off work for that long means I'm hoping to do two updates tomorrow! I've got one almost finished...

So, look out for those tomorrow. You wouldn't guess one of them in a million years...