Saturday, March 14, 2009

Knytt Stories

The Vancouver Straight has posted my write up of Knytt Stories. You can check it out HERE.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blast from the past: Star Control 2

The first time I came across this game, I was expecting a fast paced space shooter. Five hours later, I'd barely killed anything. And yet, I was having a blast.

That's because Star Control 2 (SC2) is driven more by narrative than anything else. You'll start off as a colonist on a lonely outer rim world. Before you know it, a series of kick ass events drops you into the role of an interstellar star ship captain. There's no moral ambiguity here, you're the galaxy's newest hero. It sounds tired and lame, but that's only the weak (spoiler free) version. What makes SC2 really worthwhile is how engrossing it's universe is. Your quests will carry you to worlds populated by sexy alien lady's, dour goth creatures, and cosmic clouds that have achieved consciousness, among 20 some odd other bizarre critters. The whole thing is by turns funny, dramatic, and surreal. And this is all so well done it doesn't end up feeling ridiculous. That's a hard line to walk, but this classic pulled it off.

Navigating the universe is straight forward, and combat plays out like asteroids on steroids. The in game controls are simple, and while they'll seem a little foreign to modern gamers, navigating menus becomes second nature very quickly. You start of in a bare bones ship, and the goal is to upgrade it towards battle cruiser status. This ends up working as a sort of RPG system. Progressing through the world involves some rewarding puzzle solving, constructive diplomacy, and at times a quick trigger finger. It all looks good, and the in game music is catchy. As this is an old school adventure game, you'd best have a notepad close at hand.

This is one of those few times you'll find yourself laughing out loud at a game. This classic is highly recommended, and every gamer should play it through at least once.

Click HERE for SC2's homepage.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gravity Bone

Gravity Bone has class. But, I can't really talk about it. To spoil the trip for you would be irresponsible, nay, criminal of me. Suffice it to say, the story line makes sense in a demented sort of way. Gravity Bone is about story, humor, and probably art. It's easy to draw connections between this games different elements, but chances are you'd end up sounding like a schizophrenic. This title makes you think about things that aren't there...

It's fun as sin, the sound is well done, and it looks great.

Gravity Bone Homepage

Monday, March 9, 2009

Savage 2 Review

FreewareGenius has posted my review of the free-to-play Savage 2.
You can read it here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Requiem: Bloodymare Review

Requiem: Bloodymare is a gruesome game. Occasionally a title comes along that lets gamers live out their most violent fantasies. Put your grandmother in front of any of the Grand Theft Auto games, and she'll be running over fellow elderly, capping cops, and committing other disturbing acts quicker than you'd think. Requiem bills itself as a horror massively multiplayer game, but it's really more a showcase of the grotesque. And that's fine. Created by Gravity Corporation, the same developer responsible for Ragnarok Online, Requiem signifies a serious change in stylistic direction for the developer.

The game takes place in a time when humanity's quest for knowledge has pretty much ruined everything. Mutants of mankind's own creation walk the planes, and indeed the gamers themselves play as something not quite human. This is an apocalyptic future brought on by technology unrestrained. It's a world where biochemical giants have had their way for a few millennium too long.

Aside from the back story, Requiem is a pretty standard MMORPG. Players grind levels alone, with friends, fight above and bellow ground, and play as rough parallels to the more typical mage, melee and support classes we're all familiar with. The most noticeable shortcoming is really the way this all takes place. The leveling system is unintuitive, and sadly under explained. The games interface is a stark reminder of why games like World of Warcraft are so popular: they're accessible and intuitive. Requiem is not for those unfamiliar with MMO's, it has a learning curve that would simply be to daunting for those new to the genre.

Requiem is largely fun to play. Once you've surpassed the games learning curve, the classic appeal of MMORPG's kicks in. You want to level up, and when you do it's gratifying. Combat is cool, and the level of gore takes a while to become desensitized to. If you're playing this game, that means you enjoy this sort of thing. The lack of creative quest's is a lost opportunity, but it's still a fun ride.

Sound is largely ok. The game's music is appropriate, if somewhat subdued. The only sound effects that really stand out are those encountered in combat. The killing noises are probably best described as "wet." The unfortunate thing about all this is that for a game striving to be scary, spooky sound effects are imperative. Acoustic details like nearby breaking twigs, ethereal howls in the distance, and the wind screaming through the mountains are largely missing.

Graphically Requiem stands out. As an apocalyptic game world populated by the sort of creatures described by H.P. Lovecraft, this is a universe you haven't seen before. Gone are the fairy's and dwarfs we accept as standard for the genre. Done away with are the pretty color pallet's of Requiem's more popular cousins, this is a desolate world. A game sub titled "Bloodymare" has a lot to live up to, and gore abounds. Dispatched enemy's are reduced to jiggling chunks of raw meat. Trails of gore follow your every sword strike. More so, spell effects look great, and the steam punk settlements you encounter are impressive.

This is a cool universe, and as such you'll want to come back and explore it a few times. Unfortunately Requiem doesn't capture the addictive quality necessary for a really great MMORPG. On a more casual level Requiem is fine. As a free-to-play mmorpg, that's really what I'd hoped for.

I'm surprised by how well put together Requiem is. It's a creative, gory game, and we don't see that as often as we should. What won me over was the apocalyptic world, and I'm willing to over look its shortcomings in favor of it. For those who like their MMORPG's serious and stuffed with mature content, you could do a lot worse. Just don't expect to understand how Requiem works before you've done the legwork.

Play Requiem: Bloodymare Here

Thursday, March 5, 2009

TrackMania Nations Forever Review

The good people over at FreewareGenius have posted my review of the freeware racing game, TrackMania Nations Forever. You can check it out Here.