#53 Gyruss

Posted: 17th April 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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595th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1983
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

Time for another early game – I have some room for them. Time for another shooter – I need more of them. Just playing more gmae. Yeah!

Our Thoughts

So we’ve played Tempest and its many, many clones (several made by the same developer) plenty of times before. Gyruss uses the same basic formula of a tunnel you move your ship around, shooting inwards. In this case, there is just a single circle, no fancy shapes, and you don’t quite have enemies climbing up, but it felt somewhat similar.

What happens instead is that you get waves coming in from outside the screen, like so many other shooters following a formation. You have to both avoid and shoot them. Lots of them are colour coded and it creates the sort of groups we saw in Galaga.

Instead of reaching a formation at the top of the screen, however, they cluster in a central group. You can sort of see where they are, but they are mostly too deep to do much, and mostly avoid your shots. From then on, different groups swarm out at you, attack and return to the center until you take them all out. This means that if you do better early on – taking out more enemies – the second half of each level gets a lot easier. It creates a back and forth that is really rewarding.

The downside of this is that enemy behaviour and look gets repetitive more quickly. In the end it’s just avoid and hit until you’ve worn them down or they get you. It’s fun enough, but nothing that stays that exciting, really. Fun for a few rounds, but not as much (I suspect) as a home game unless you’re really good at it.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed playing Gyruss. It felts like it hit all the good parts of the shooter genre and created the sort of variety it needed – at least within the single screen formation based setup. I wouldn’t seek it out, but I feel that this is the game to imitate, not the likes of Tempest.

#196 Snake Rattle’N’Roll

Posted: 13th April 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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594th played so far

snake_rattle_n_roll_gamebox

Genre: Platform
Platform: NES
Year of Release: 1990
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo/Sega

For some reason, I kept confusing this game with Marble Madness for a long time. It doesn’t make any sense, none of it really matches, but the isometric perspective is similar and I haven’t looked much beyond screenshots. I’ll just have to play it.

One of the more notable things about this game is that it’s an early Rare game. Not the first, but I played this off the Rare Replay collection, which made for a nice experience as well. I’m sure this won’t quite compare though.

Our Thoughts

And after a few hours, I’m still not quite sure what I was playing. The basic idea is that you go around a level and get heavy enough to operate a switch that lets you leave. You need to avoid enemies and water, and it mostly follows the isometric platform idea.

Obviously, more complex situations are added as you go on, but what stood out to me is how difficult some of the platforming gets early on. I noticed some secret areas straight away, but my skills just aren’t good enough to reach them. About three levels in, I spent most of my lifes repeatedly climbing a hill to get to the end switch, missing jumps each time and simply not making it. And I honestly tried for some time until it was really clear it wasn’t going to happen.

The graphics are colourful and cartoonish. They really stand out for NES era graphics – they really fall more into the later era of the console. Not quite Super Mario Bros 3 style, but it stands out how much it has developed. The areas go through a similar development as well – loads of common graphics, combined in a way that makes them seem more distinct.

Final Thoughts

In the end, this game was a bit too difficult for me to enjoy fully. I still had a good time with what was there, and it felt like a good enough twist on the platforming formula. We’ll see more of its kind down the line, with plenty of isometric platformers waiting, but I think this will number amongst the best of them.

#417 Quake III Arena

Posted: 9th April 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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593rd played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Activision

A bit of a jump in genre here. Somewhere around 2000 – and obviously, in case of this game, in 1999, several publishers and developers realised that the main thing that kept people playing FPS games was the multiplayer – some played single player, but the long term attraction was playing against friends, or random strangers online.

Several franchises shifted to an online model, dispensing with the often more expensive single player element. One where we’ll only see the multiplayer component is the Unreal series, but we have previously discussed Quake and its sequel, and this game really embraced multiplayer for the series more than anything ever before.

Our Thoughts

So with a multiplayer focused game, the single player parts are, as you’d expect, mostly play against bots. The nice thing about it is that this isn’t done by just dropping you in a large group. Instead, it slowly builds up, first putting you in a smaller arena against a single, easy bot. It then starts ramping up the difficulty of the bots, the complexity of the area (as well as items available in them) and, at times, the number of bots you play against.

It creates a decent learning curve that meant I never really felt lost. I had to do a lot more learning on my feet, as there was pretty much no hand holding, but the it was never difficult enough that this became a problem.

One of the big items that surprised me while playing is how much sound mattered. I tried to use it to locate enemies in the arena several times and either tracked them down or got ready to face them. Giving the bots shouts on some events helped with that as well, creating more of an atmosphere. It’s something that falls away as more bots joined the game, but it’s still a welcome set up.

Final Thoughts

As a multiplayer averse gamer who prefers story over action, there isn’t as much meat on the bones of this game – although there was a fair amount more than I expected. There is a bunch of variety in the game, it’s challenging in enough places, but in the end, unless you play against others, you’ll get bored soon enough.

#116 Out Run

Posted: 5th April 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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592nd played so far

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Genre: Driving
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1986
Developer: Sega AM 2
Publisher: Sega

Next, we have an older driving game. Out Run sets you off on a trip around a summery city area. You go on a drive and go fast. Why does that sound familiar? Maybe thanks to OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast – a game I didn’t remember as being the same franchise.

Our Thoughts

Out Run really is a driving, rather than a racing game. Although you have a time limit to reach the end of a course, there are no opponents and the only other cars are obstacles. The difference is one that, to be honest, I often can’t really see, but it’s quite clear here.

Probably the main issue I had while playing this game is an obvious one in the arcade era: The difficulty is high and it felt impossible to beat the game. I’ve seen a lot of the first level, but didn’t play much of any later ones. This while I thought I’d already completed the level and was in the end bit – the UI got rather confusing there.

I mean, beyond that it’s a decent 2D racer. They aren’t necessarily the most complicated, as the track moves under you and you don’t get a sense of the world beyond whether you need to go left or right, and what speed you do it at, and what you need to avoid. Looking back is never needed. It works for a driving game like this though, racing past the beach scene, driving for joy. At a speed faster than what I can handle.

Final Thoughts

My main criticism of this game is really the difficulty it has, and that keeps me from fully enjoying the game. It’s unfortunate, but what was there was pretty decent. Not enough to go back to, but Out Run certainly presents a different atmosphere from racers, and that feels good to play through.

#629 Battlefield 2

Posted: 1st April 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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591st played so far

battlefield2cover

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: EA Games

It’s a quick return to the Battlefield series. At the time of writing the first game hasn’t been published on here yet, showing the quick turnaround. Aside from being a long series, however, it’s also a set of FPS games I wanted to see more of.

The second (main) game in the series is set in modern times, rather than WWII like the previousg ame discussed. It might work, we’ll see.

Our Thoughts

So aisde from the setting, this game doesn’t feel noticeably different from its predecessor – an incremental upgrade like you might get with the FIFA type sports games. Of course, as a game that is, in effect, focused on multiplayer, changes aren’t necessarily massive – more than just adding maps, but not something that necessarily wants to mess with the formula too much.

Now, there are some changes here. Having a commander and squads seems like it’s new, although mainly playing single player, it didn’t make a big difference to how I played. It just made it feel like I should have more power than I actually had.

But beyond that, my notes mostly ask what’s different. Probably mostly better graphics – the ragdolls in particular seem to have stood out – but nothing that affected me getting into the game more. If anything, considering how much of it repeated the earlier game, it was less interesting. It feels like the environments are a bit more samey, the assignments less interesting (and in single player focused on you attacking rather than defending) and the setting less defined.

Final Thoughts

Multiplayer FPS games are a mixed batch for me. Some have sort of grabbed me, but it rarely works that well and I have rarely stuck with one. Something like Overwatch or Team Fortress is possibly closer to my tastes, while the realistic shooters have never really grabbed me. This is no exception, and has been less appealing than the previous game in the series. Two more to go…

#320 Metal Slug

Posted: 28th March 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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590th played so far

metal_slug_cover

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Neo Geo
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nazca Corporation
Publisher: Nazca Corporation/SNK

One of the difficulties I’m starting to face with this list is that a bunch of games blur together. Metal Slug is a run and gun platform shooter, It looks a bit like Ghosts ‘n Goblins or, to stick to the genre slightly better, Green Beret.

Metal Slug is ten years newer, which shows in the graphics and should in the gameplay. Beyond that, the book doesn’t add more on what makes it unique, other than being well balanced in its setup.

Our Thoughts

I don’t think I’ve ever really goten this genre. I don’t enjoy being overwhelmed by enemies this way – I prefer more deliberate play – and beyond that it can feel like there’s little in the game that interests me.

The graphics and environment are the two things that impress the most, and in a way that links the two together. The game has its cartoonish elements. It’s quite colourful and varied, not just from taking you many places, but from the details that are present in the environments. These aren’t the clean, simple houses from earlier games. They’re ramshackle, patched up where needed and with plenty of loose items. These same items also prove useful – you can shoot them, making them fall, then dropping them on enemies or unlocking the path forward. There’s a bunch of different versions of this, and often the fact that it happens is enough of a nice surprise.

That’s where the game continued to keep me going. The rush of new environments gives me a reason to keep going, but it gets hard. You can find and free prisoners of war, but dying removes those from your list, never giving me the bonus points.

Final Thoughts

While I see this as one of the better games of its type, the difficulty and speed required clearly don’t sit that well with me as far as playing it goes. Still, the amount of time it entertained me says how well the game actually does its job.

#688 Prey

Posted: 24th March 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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589th played so far

prey_xbox_360

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Human Head Studios
Publisher: 2K Games

Ignore the category above – this is an FPS that just wasn’t categorised by the book as one, while we didn’t pick up on it earlier. Now the stats drive us forward, and we always need more shoot ’em ups.

Prey takes a shooter and sets it in space. Not gritty sci fi as we saw back in Doom, or even Dead Space, but anti-gravity and magical seeming portals type of space. The story starts with an alien abduction. We’re going for the fantastical here.

Our Thoughts

So Prey is a science fiction FPS with super powers. In genre similar to Psi-Ops, but in quite a different setting. Aside from the start, all action so far has taken place in a giant spaceship that assimilates different alien cultures… there’s a lot to it. You escape capture and travel through the ship trying to free your sweetheart.

It’s a straight forward love story and one that is, to be honest, the most boring part of the game. The protagonist doesn’t want to do anything, hates everything, just has the love interest to go after, and is, to be honest, acting quite stupidly as he is doing so.

The gameplay works far better for me, and is what kept me going. Although it starts off as a standard shooters, you soon find that the game introduces portals that allow you to travel from one part of the ship to another. You can’t control them yourself, but while they’re partially used to separate levels, they are also used as part of puzzles and to let you snipe enemies in places. Similarly, you can walk on walls, through variable gravity, which mostly makes for a weird experience, but also means the game makes far more use of its space. There are some other weird going ons related to it (like you ending up in what seemed like a snow globe at one ponit), but it mostly makes exploration far more exciting.

Then the most interesting thing happens. Our main character is Native American and at one point he gets a vision. That leads to him getting the ability to leave his body and spirit walk, bypassing forcefields but limiting interaction with it. You also have your spirit animal follow you, mostly used to point out points of interest. It makes for a nice mix of powers that create more interesting puzzles in the world, as well as some tactical implications.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure Prey wowed me with its story – it certainly didn’t with its protagonist – but it created an interesting world to explore using far more interesting powers than other shooters do. It also feels more interesting to go through than Psi-Ops‘s world, although that’s a trickier comparison to make. They may seem similar but the environment they take place in make sure they’re not.

588th played so far

the_elder_scrolls_v_skyrim_cover

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2011
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Looking back on the Elder Scrolls series, I think I preferred Morrowind over Oblivion. Sure, the latter is more modern, with better graphics, but it wasn’t quite as weird as Morrowind, while having to worry about how you level in Oblivion ruins some of the freedom of play you want to get out of it.

Skyrim is certainly meant to resolve the latter, while the world is at least more interesting than generic fantasy. At the same time, it offers the better graphics and modern gameplay of Oblivion – or Fallout 3, closer to the release date, really.

Our Thoughts

So Skyrim is a good game. It has been dominating our evenings for a few weeks now, we have to keep playing to see more of the world. The game starts with a tutorial, but it’s fairly short and fun. When you get out you get led to the first town, and first city from there, with some pointers on where to proceed – useful for the first game – but it allows things to mostly stay completely open. You get some bonuses by following the first few plot threads, leading you to the first few useful bits, but you can let go whenever you want – and soon enough the game encourages you to by throwing many different things at you.

I mean, let’s be honest, Skyrim isn’t the best written RPG. This isn’t the fault of the writers, but being an open world game gives you a lot of places to with things, while being fully voiced limits what you can put in. The large dialogue trees of Morrowind don’t apply here. Because of the open world feel, there isn’t always a need to go in different directions either.

The quests can have similar problems. There are loads of them, but most are fairly straight forward – often go to dungeon, fight to the end, get item, go back. It’s an easy way to set up the quest, especially necessary for the semi-random quests the game throws at you, but it mostly makes the special quests shine far more, when it’s not just fighting and looting, but there’s more conversation and more variety involved. As it stands, sometimes it’s just a case of “which quest dungeon do I take out today?”

The world itself is well realised. There are some really good bits of environmental story telling, and loads more stories that emerge as you play, from interactions you cause by doing quests in specific orders, speaking to the right people, and just dealing with random challenges the game throws at you. More than once, I managed to avoid a difficult battle because a second group turned up and they started fighting each other before facing me.

The game also looks good. Sure, the boundary of graphics is always being pushed, and this game certainly isn’t leading the pack (especially considering the fantastical monsters it needs to display, as well as the large environments), but it’s immersive enough that it feels special to walk across the snow coverered areas where the road sometimes disappears, while animals run around. It’s one of the really nice bits of the game – just walking around finding things.

Final Thoughts

Going into an Elder Scrolls – or really Bethesda – game sets you up for a certain type of experience. Not many in depth quests or characters, like, say, a Mass Effect or recent day The Witcher offers, but a large, living world where you have more freedom to create your own experiences instead. That’s where a lot of power exists, in a way that makes me want to go back to play it right now.

#680 Resident Evil 4

Posted: 16th March 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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587th played so far

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Genre: Survival Horror/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

I can’t say I’ve enjoyed the previous Resident Evil games much. There were some okay adventure elements and such, but the controls were terrible and shooting difficult. Partially it’s said this was meant to create horror, but I felt like Dead Space managed to create the right atmosphere pretty well while still giving you normal shooter controls.

Jumping ahead to 2005, however, Resident Evil 4 is done as a third person shooter, with an over the shoulder perspective. Possibly one of the earlier games to use this specific perspective, we probably have something more revolutionary on our hands.

Our Thoughts

Those controls really increased my enjoyment of the game. A lot of the other survival elements were still there, but a lot easier to handle on the easier difficulty that I was playing on. Still, the big change are the controls, and the more conventional setup pays off everywhere.

It gave me a chance to get into the creepier parts of the game. At first, it’s you investigating a weird village. Soon, they gain horde like qualities and start to seem a bit like zombies. It starts off unsettling, and the horror starts to develop from there. There aren’t that many answers, it just keeps getting weirder.

I also felt far more that sound was used well to set an atmosphere – hinting at dangers, sure, but setting you up there. You know the danger is out there, you know roughly where it is, but whether the jump will help or hurt is always a question.

The puzzles and exploring is a lot easier than other games might do. It’s not really an adventure game, but has some puzzles of its type in there, with some minor rewards for exploring. It feels a bit unnecessary, but I suppose it changes things up. The real draw, now at least, is in dealing with the different zombies and getting rid of them before bits of exploration.

Final Thoughts

This is, I suppose, closer to what I want from the Resident Evil franchise. Maybe with a bit less shooting, less hordes and more individual, trickier fights, but it works well enough here. There is also a lot of space for story beats, enough of it implied, that it adds to the game as well. I’m hoping for more of this.

#50 Star Wars

Posted: 12th March 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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586th played so far

starwars_arcade

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1983
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

There are many different games called Star Wars. The one I’m familiar with was the NES iteration that mixed platforming and top down planet exploration sections with space battles. That one was released in 1991, while the one we’re talking about today goes back further.

In 1983, an arcade cabinet was released that used vector graphics to simulate the space battles in the Star Wars movie series. It’s the best suited for early game play, really, as it covers the most gamey moments in the film, but just reading about it makes it seem samey. This certainly won’t be a Knights of the Old Republic for us.

Our Thoughts

This game is divided in three distinct levels, each with its own challenges. The first is a free movement three dimensional shooter like we’ll see in Wing Commander one day, and a more basic version of Elite‘s type of navigation. I usually lost quite a bit of my health here, but managed – I simply lose my bearing after it.

The second (which I believe is skipped on the lowest level) has you go across the surface of the Death Star to take out laser turrets. Or, as I saw it, has you go destroy evil trees. It’s fairly simple, with obstacles being your main problem, but it’s manageable.

Then the third confused me most. You’re in a tunnel and have to avoid beams in the air, by flying on different heights to get through gaps. You have to shoot the exhaust at the end, but I didn’t quite realise the timing for that until several games in. It’s still the most fun, because it feels like it’s far more about flying maneuverability than just shooting.

As said, this is all done through vector graphics, which makes it look fairly simple. It works really well to create the semi-3D feel, but on the whole it leads to some confusing moments early on, especially in the first round. It does convey the sense of speed quite well.

Final Thoughts

This game is obviously about the action, and it packs a surprising amount of variety in, with a natural difficulty curve that goes beyond more and bigger to also adding more interesting aspects to the levels. It can be tricky to follow – as so often, probably a consequence of not wanting to spend too much time to learn – but it works together really well despite that.