#905 Colin McRae: Dirt 2

Posted: 20th April 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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687th played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters

I’ve been enjoying racing games in the past – while loads get frustrating and I always feel unlikely to pick them up myself, I enjoy playing them as long as they go okay. Colin McRae: Dirt was an example of what I enjoyed – tough, with plenty of challenges, but also letting you progress without perfect results. It compromised and delivered a lot of fun.

For today, I pulled out the sequel to that game, and I’m optimistic that I’ll enjoy this one as well.

Our Thoughts

It didn’t quite work out as easy this time, and the first race almost feels to blame. Tutorials in racing games, I’ve come to realise, are crap because they don’t seem to match quite how the game plays normally. I always struggle more with them than the races that follow, which feels wrong. I mean, I’m still not great, but I never feel the tutorial helps me that much. Not having any customization in the first race doesn’t help either – the vehicle didn’t really suit me.

And it’s such a shame considering how the game is set up afterwards. Regardless of your result, you always get some cash and get closer to the end result, so it’s actually incredibly friendly to keeping you going once you get past this hurdle. Sure, it’s not easy, and especially not to get high in the rankings, but the game realises that you can play just to have fun, without having to be the best all the game. Sure, it helps and gives you a goal, but I don’t always feel the need to.

The other advantage, again, is that the game has many game modes. You’re not just racing around a circuit trying to beat a time (although there’s some of that as well) but end up doing rally stints, parts of laps and all sorts of different modes. It really adds to the variety of the game.

Final Thoughts

The variety and contents of the levels in the game make the whole thing enjoyable and I feel the game cares more about having fun than pushing you to always be the best. It’s quite refreshing and why it still feels like one of my favourite racing series.

#515 Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

Posted: 16th April 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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686th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Ubi Soft
Publisher: Ubi Soft

Tom Clancy games have, in the past, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter showed earlier that its politics feel quite objectionable. That’s probably because the past few years have left me more open to seeing it, but it still feels a bit gross.

Splinter Cellis a bit older, but takes us to an alternative Georgia where the president was killed and a dictator took power. Because the Americans need to come about to protect against that. Here we go again.

Our Thoughts

Setting aside politics for the moment – I’ve gone through some of it before, and I’m sure far more eloquent people have written about it – I mostly tuned out on plot beats. Be stealthy, don’t get noticed and make your way into places. Why? It’s a game, I don’t really care this time. It’s not interesting and a lot of the game feels interchangable between settings anyway.

You’ve got a lengthy enough tutorial to introduce a bunch of different systems – though mostly standard for the genre at this point. Then it’s tackling the different missions. Checkpoints are frequent enough, but there were a few that I absolutely needed. The first mission has you breaking into a house, sneaking in to find some information. I was killed several times from direct fire and needed to sneak in. Whether or not I was hidden was unclear – some bushes did it, but others didn’t. In the end, there was a combination of sneaking when I had a chance, but violence when there was trouble. Not really as the game seemed to intend, but it worked for now. The frustration was there, though, and too early for me to say I just quit. I have standards here, just barely!

Final Thoughts

Splinter Cell was decent, not my favourite stealth experience, but it sufficed. The series turns me off, and I don’t get much more about of the shooting, but what’s there seems to have been competently done.

#980 Space Invaders Infinity Gene

Posted: 12th April 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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685th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Iphone
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito

Finally, this is the last of the rushed iOS games – everything else has an off-iOS alternative or just works. Here, you’d imagine that a company the size and age of Taito would have the ability to port one of their games, but apparently it hasn’t happened.

We’ve already played the first two listed Space Invaders games: both the original and Space Invaders Extreme. The new game is focused more on evolving gameplay, which should make for an interesting shift in the game.

Our Thoughts

While the game starts off like Space Invaders, the game’s whole point is that it starts to play with the formula – evolving it, as the game says. It’s a good way to modernise it – you don’t get the sudden change you might have in normal sequels, it doesn’t stay too simple, but gets a chance to ramp up quickly.

A good example of this comes early. A basic component of Space Invaders is you stuck in the bottom row, aliens advancing while you can only move left and right. Free movement feels like something of a later era. Here, however, it’s one of the evolutions that is introduced and gives the game a different atmosphere. It really changes the game, but with the ‘narrative’ justifying it, it becomes more natural. Beyond that, a lot of it seems to come down to weapon powerups and changes, as well as enemy behaviour.

Final Thoughts

I am not sure I would have accepted this game as much if it hadn’t been Space Invaders – so far, it hasn’t offered anything other shooters haven’t done. As a way to evolve a franchise, however, it has its high points.

#922 geoDefense Swarm

Posted: 8th April 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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684th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Iphone
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Critical Thought Games

Time for another iOS game, knocking out the batch of games that won’t be playable once the old phone and ipad stop working. With geoDefense Swarm, we’re covering a tower defense game, one that looks fairly straight forward.

Our Thoughts

geoDefense Swarm is a pretty standard tower defense game. It has a heavy focus on tower placement, guiding creatures around the area, rather than using a standard path like we’ve seen in the likes of Defense Grid: The Awakening. It looks fairly standard, with futuristic wireframe graphics for both the towers and enemies. It’s effective but works to make it stay simple. Tower functionality is standard, with building, upgrading and standard setup.

There are plenty of enemies in each level, in groups that overwhelm you quickly. I struggled quite a bit at some of the levels. Although I didn’t lose yet in the levels I could play, it got closer than I was comfortable with.

Final Thoughts

I’ve played a bunch of tower defense games now and, to be honest, this one is quite standard. It works well for a mobile tower defense game, and will probably offer that if you can still get it. It doesn’t feel like quite as big of a loss, though, considering how the genre has grown.

#910 Eliss

Posted: 4th April 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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683rd played so far

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: Iphone
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Steph Tirion

So we continue going through a bunch of iOS games and doing so involves looking at a lot of puzzle games, as that’s what the platform was about at this time – the cynic in me says that it’s the trend that led to simpler puzzle games like the match three games that dominate now.

Eliss looks very abstract, which suits with all of that, and it mostly makes me wonder whether I can work it out.

Our Thoughts

Eliss looks simple and, for the most part, it is. You combine and split spheres (they are supposed to be planets, but most planets I know aren’t that malleable) and have them in the right area to get absorbed and disappear. These ‘portals’, or squeesars, are of a certain size and colour, and so you need to combine, split and move spheres to let this happen. The phone interface makes it harder because you get given limited space, while the spheres obviously need to be usable on a touch screen. Having spheres overlap does health damage, doing it for too long ends the level, so you’re spending a lot of time on space management, trying to figure out how you can split and combine the blobs without getting in the way.

The levels build a bunch of mechanisms to make it more complicated – things like whirlpools that pull your blobs together, different sized portals (including undersized) and bright red blobs that attack everyone else.

The graphics are incredibly minimalistic, which suits the puzzles. There’s little that’s unneeded, which keeps gameplay focused well.

Final Thoughts

Eliss is focused on its puzzles, from every angle including its graphics. Its difficulty rises quite rapidly, although I’m not sure how many levels there really are – this might be completely intended anyway. Play it while you can – your new phone might not, and this will be gone.

#961 Rolando 2

Posted: 31st March 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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682nd played so far

Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
Platform: Iphone
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: HandCircus
Publisher: ngmoco

So here was a bit of a challenge – similar to our ngage worries for Reset Generation, a number of iOS games are no longer available on new devices as they do not have 64 bit builds. A few, like Pac-Man Championship Edition and Critter Crunch have made it over to other platforms, but we’ve found another few (four, in fact) that are no longer available on the app store and won’t play on modern phones or OSes.

Rolando 2 is the reason we checked in the first place, and so the first game we’ll play. It’s a puzzle game involving a lot of rolling…

Our Thoughts

… And that’s really where it starts. Rolandos are these creatures that roll around the screen as you tilt your tablet or phone. You use that to travel around different levels, making your way to the end, solving puzzles and defeating the enemies that stand in the way. You have a minimum number that needs to make it to the end and while that may sound like Lemmings, this game feels a lot more active. There is a bunch of bouncing around as you roll around the level, with a bunch of active events in certain areas and a bunch of enemies to defeat.

It gets a bit clunky in places, where the way you control the game can also feel a bit sluggish. As a concept, however, it’s really good and surprisingly flexible in the different levels the system supports.

Final Thoughts

Rolando 2 is a fun puzzle game that threads its levels together with a nice adventure story, mostly framing what’s going on on a map, but it works to build a colourful world that extends further than most mobile puzzle games do these days.

#222 Axelay

Posted: 27th March 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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681st played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: SNES
Year of Release: 1992
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

Here’s another random shooter drawn from the virtual bucket. I genuinely struggle to differentiate these most of the time. This one comes from the stable of Gradius and Salamander, which I struggled to introduce last time. Here we go again for what might be more of the same.

Our Thoughts

Listening to podcasts earlier this week, I heard some stories on how we don’t have the time to really learn games anymore – because there is so much more choice, a game has to have a lot of promise if you’re spending hours or days to get really good at them to progress. For me, these shooters are one of the places where this really shows. The arcade shooters tend to have the advantage that I can turn on unlimited lives and such, giving me more progress for a while, but I don’t have that advantage with a console shooter. With those, it becomes exhausting and difficult – too much for me, really, and that shows on Axelay.

The game itself is a fine shooter, helped by a decent selection of weapons. One of them in particular was helpful – changing the angle of fire based on how long you press the button, which helps with sweeps around the screen.

The graphics make good use of the SNES’s parallax options, creating a decent sense of depth – one that works well for the game, and that the game was clearly optimized for.

Final Thoughts

Axelay is a standard shooter. It’s tough, and because of the difficulty I didn’t get as much out of the game as I otherwise could have. It’s fine, really.

680th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Ensemble Studios
Publisher: Microsoft

Age of Empires was an interesting one, one where I got stopped in what I normally feel is an annoying but necessary part of these games – the tutorial. Age of Mythology went better, but then, that’s newer. I assume a lot more was refined in those times. Now we play the middle game of the three (with a mobile game to follow), which makes me wonder where we end up.

Our Thoughts

I suppose the tutorial was fine this time, nothing notable this time. What got me more is the difficulty spike after the tutorial. You see, while a lot of these games are set up around base building, and the mechanics for this game are even more so, your campaign starts out with… escort missions. The first mission and a half, and then elements after that. It’s unfortunate, but even more important, the game doesn’t offer interesting ones. Red Alert does it so much better.

Beyond that, the game offers a lot of options, units and upgrades, where I think another part of the issue I had came in. The first game slowly introduces things – most strategy games do – but here it feels it’s at a higher pace. Again, it makes sense, but I think I got overwhelmed when I got to that point, possibly not helped by, in the first big base building mission, your base came half pre built. I didn’t feel like I got time to get used to it.

Final Thoughts

I think this game is a real sequel – building on what came before and assuming you got into it more than I did. I think I got the gist of it… but it was exhausting and not as fun as I think it could be. The balance was off, unfortunately.

#658 Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

Posted: 19th March 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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679th played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: DS
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo

Out of the various Mario RPGs, it feels like this is the one I played most – it was released early in the DS’s life and it gave me a good early game to play. For that reason, I start this write up knowing what to expect already. Following Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, let’s double the series’ main cast for Partners in Time!

Our Thoughts

A lot of series rely on making sequels that are somewhat similar to each other – expanding and polishing a concept. Paper Mario and Thousand Year Door feature the same basic gameplay, with the latter layering some systems on top. Outisde of Nintendo this is even clearer – Doom 2 is more of the same, Pokemon relies on putting the same or similar mechanics in a different world and let’s not start on sports franchises.

The Mario & Luigi series, although to some extend building on the first game, introduce something quite different for each sequel. We’ll have a game where half of it takes place in Bowser’s body soon (somewhere in the next three years or so), one that’s partially based in Luigi’s dreams and a ‘simple’ Paper Mario crossover. Today’s game has you play with four instead of two main characters – thanks to the DS’s added buttons – as it introduces Mario and Luigi’s baby selfs thanks to a time travel plot. So far, thankfully, the time travel shenanigans have been kept simple and it’s mostly been an excuse to dole out some different powers and see some different versions of some of the levels.

The controls do become more complicated at this point – both because there are more timings to remember, and because you have to keep track of two groups at different times. Getting the timing on battles right, for example, gets that bit more frustrating here than it was before and I believe muscle memory helped me through battles this time – they didn’t always do that.

Final Thoughts

I’ve had a good time with this game. The timing catches me out sometimes, but the different puzzles that the splitting of characters gives you is a lot of fun, while the characterization still works well. It’s got the usual charm, with a twist that works well.

#533 Beyond Good & Evil

Posted: 15th March 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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678th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft

Beyond Good & Evil often gets advertised with the two protagonists of the game – a young woman and a pig man. As in a pig’s head and such. That latter part always looked interesting and made me curious about the game. Now, I get to see what that’s about in today’s action/adventure.

Our Thoughts

For the most part of the game, this has been a lot of fun to play. I had an issue on the timing of one minigame – a chase/race that relied on awkward controls – but for the most part this game ramps that up well. What’s good about it?

First of all, you’re dealing with a lot of interesting characters. You’re a young woman running an orphanage that’s running low on money, so you step up as a photojournalist as well. Your companion Pey’J – the pig-like creature – is an inventor who creates a bunch of the gadgets that increase your powers as you go along. I believe we find out more about him later, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers here – I certainly thought he was fun to have around.

The world builds on that, with interesting characters. The setup is a city dominated by a military dictatorship, with plenty of underground criminals, so there are enough small sidequests there. You end up joining the resistance to try to make things better. At the same time, you need to collect money and finish side quests to be able to afford your upgrades. The collectibles themselves are first of all photos of different species, for financial gain, while others increase your health. It’s a good mix and gives a lot of rewards.

Playing the game itself is straightforward in the best way too. There are no jumping puzzles and jumping feels fluid and intuitive, it didn’t get in my way. Beyond that the puzzles were simple and combat didn’t involve too much (yet). Vehicle combat wasn’t as good, but it clearly didn’t matter as much. Combat in general felt fine – most of the challenge came from being overwhelmed, but the first big boss we fought had a great mix of puzzle and action elements where you were always able to keep moving.

Final Thoughts

Beyond Good & Evil is a game where everyone was surprised it never got a sequel, and I can see why it’s that surprising – the world is unique enough, with a interesting, gripping backstory, while the mechanics feel balanced for what the game is trying to be. A good polish pass would probably smooth out the few remaining bits, but it’s still a worthwhile game to play.