Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Bodycount - First Impressions.

'By no means does this demo portray the graphics, gameplay or quality of the finished product'

The rather perplexing sentence inscribed on the opening title screen of Bodycount whose demo was released recently. I'm sure this is just some tacked-on legal thing, but whenever I see it I can't help but think: "Um Codemasters? If that sentence really is the case then couldn't you have released something that had nothing to do with Bodycount?  Like a banana with a logo on the side of it or something? Eating it probably would have been more fun than the Bodycount demo.

More destruction was really needed.
Some people may be growing a bit tired of the FPS genre in recent times, believing a certain air of stagnation seems to be hovering over the major franchises as everyone tries to emulate whats popular. Personally I don't think this is entirely true as there is some innovation out there and to give Bodycount it's due it is trying something slightly different, but where it excels in theory it falls flat on it's arse in execution.

You start the demo with somebody who sounds eerily like Cortana from the Halo series bellowing in your ear-hole about some warlord you've got to track down. Then you're set loose and immediately you notice my first, and possibly most irritating gripe. When iron-sight aiming you can't move, you can only sway left and right like a bullet-ridden daisy in a light breeze. Who in the name of god thought that would be a good idea in a fast paced shooter? Naturally this led to death time and time again as I tried to break that awful habit of aiming my weapon.

TOWERING INFERNO! just imagine it.
Secondly, the game employs a multi-kill system as a means of granting you rewards and resupplies. Sounds good, but it manifests itself as nothing more than a number in the top left of the screen. Hardly befitting, what it really needs is a deep Brian Blessed style voice booming "EXPLOSIVE OCTOKILL!" followed by an impromptu fireworks display and kick-ass guitar solo. With nothing more than a number to reward me the destruction feels like a bit of a letdown.

The graphics are also in need of a bit of a perk up, as well as the clunky movement controls. A fun game is in there somewhere desperately trying to poke it's head through. If Codemasters takes the criticisms it's received onboard this could be one to watch. If they manage to get Brian Blessed onboard this might be one to watch for GOTY.

Publisher: Codemasters

Want it? Get the demo on XBLA. 


Monday, 22 August 2011

Ezio Appears on Parisian Building.

If you haven't seen it already, here's Ubisoft's three-storey-high Ezio made entirely out of Post-it-notes! If the trailer didn't convince you to buy Revelations this surely will.

Pikachu and Bowser however, recieve little press.

A Story of Your Own

Edward Neville was a fairly detestable creature to gaze upon. Not a conventionally ugly man, just disproportionate, meek, the sort of man who appeared he would crumble from the force of a bus driving too close. In the darkness Edward's thoughts quickly turned to his mother and father, a strange mix of love and resentment washed over him, they after all had gotten him into this mess. Edward's father was a Russian, a postman by trade, he had met his English mother whilst she was visiting Moscow. An inspiring love story but one Edward had heard too many times before, and had no wish of unnecessarily recanting in a time of such horror. For Edward was on a mission, the year was 2033 and the Moscow Metro beckoned.

Hope you like rusting tubes.
Just to clarify, no, this post is not a piece of limp-wristed fan fiction. This was the character I decided to guide through the underground depths of Metro 2033. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Artyom and his struggle against the Dark Ones, rather that when I played Metro 2033 it was in short bursts, often weeks apart. Couple this with the fact that the environments, though immersive, are often very repetitive and it soon becomes difficult to know just whats going on and why Artyom puts up with all this shit. Thus, Edward Neville was born, as was a new hobby of crafting my own stories into a linear game.

Far more interesting than a 'Dark-Elf theif'
Granted this is hardly a new practice, role-playing has been a key ingredient in video games since their inception. Take for instance an open-world RPG like Oblivion or Fallout, your main story arc may be as linear as any FPS but the expansive setting allows for hours of role-playing. No more so is this demonstrated as it is in the character creation stage. You form your character from the ground up, instilling in them virtues that you personally crafted. They are the blank canvas that you imprint yourself onto throughout your journey, and they are forever your character.

However, a linear game focusing more on narrative very rarely gives you this option. The characters involved, their motivations, their actions, are not yours, you're merely enjoying the ride. When done well this can be story-telling at it's finest (*cough cough* Bioshock), but when executed poorly a game can quickly become a chore. This was the stage Edward Neville came into being, I'd long forgotten why I was in the Metro, but enjoyed the game mechanics enough to keep playing. Edward and his neurosis, mysterious package, and love for fine vodka, gave me a reason to once again become emotionally invested. For that reason, to everyone with an Edward of their own out there, or anyone thinking of inventing one, good luck.

Edward Neville never made it past the amoebas.     

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Pokemon but With Animals Instead Part 2.

Sure to be enjoyed by anyone whose played the games, watched the anime, collected the cards or was just born in the early 90's.

Check out more from 'The Ham Wallet' here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Plants vs. The Popular Hatred of Casual Gaming.

We all know a crazy guy named Dave.
Within recent years a torrent of abuse has washed through gaming forums, blogs and videos arguing whether or not the emergence of perhaps the most recent of gaming phenomenons, ‘Casual Gaming’ is or isn’t beneficial to the industry as a whole. Surely though, herein we find a contradiction. By their very nature, causal gamers aren’t interested in the intricacies of the games industry. Consequently, the casual crowd are absent from the majority of forums where these arguments take place. How then can an argument take place if one side is oblivious? A metaphysical conundrum for a far more intellectual blog than this one.

Firstly, I’d like to make it clear now I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘Casual Gaming’. Surely all games are approached casually unless you work for the industry? Either that or you’re the sort of humourless automaton that wouldn’t chuckle if the pope dropped a sly fart during Christmas mass. Like it or not, Casual gaming is one of the most profitable wings of the gaming industry with Popcap boasting an 85.3% boost in profits following the release of ‘Bejewelled Twist’ and the Wii selling out faster than Gwen Stefani . If I know anything about Capitalism that means casual gaming is here to stay and frankly, I think that can do only good.

Prime example of Plants vs. Zombies humor.
Recently, my girlfriend and I have been playing ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ one of the bejewels in Popcap’s crown. Prior to this my girlfriend had never played video games (except for a few spells on the Wii) and represented a prime example of a Casual gamer. Within a few minutes she had mastered the core mechanics and was sailing through the introductory levels. Within a few hours I’d grown bored of my uninterrupted session of Metro 2033 and decided to see how she was doing. With the gradual introduction of more complicated elements she was raking in the sunshine and making those decomposing shufflers her bitch with a confidence neither of us expected. Just as when I’d played the first Sonic on the Mega-Drive circa 1997 she was hooked and has since played Left 4 Dead and Portal 2, hardly casual titles.

Casual games such as Plants vs. Zombies and Bejewelled are introducing gaming to a much wider audience. If we want gaming culture to blossom and grow past the gritty tea-bag brown shoot-fest we seem to be lodged in, we need to merge the conflicting gaming styles and inject the ‘Hardcore’ with some of the colour and ingenuity of casual gaming. Hopefully, getting us one step closer to convincing investors that aiming for the Monster Energy fuelled frat boy demographic is a thing of the past. After all, what games are remembered? Frontline: Fuels of War? Homefront? Any other COD clone you care to mention? No. Mass Effect, Portal, Team Fortress 2, these are the games we remember, the colour, the wit, the charm, this is what gaming needs. All of these games are perfect examples of the ingenuity and charm of casual games mixed with all the elements of a ‘Hardcore’ title. Gaming needs a renaissance to take us away from accepted mediocrity and with luck the sudden popularity of casual gaming will help us achieve it. 

Want Plants vs. Zombies? Get it here.    

New Power Up for Mario Galaxy 3 Revealed, I Wish.

Wonderful Mario/Ezio Mash up T-shirt. It's a Me! Ezio! by Nathan Davies.

World of Goo

Following the surmise of the Humble Indie Bundle 3 I wrote for my last post, my hard drive has since become engorged with indie games. However, it must be said that after playing a few of them you begin to notice a reoccurring theme. Much like it's cousin independent cinema, many independent games ooze pretension. Even confessing a taste for indie games these days can feel like you're inadvertently proclaiming a love for skinny mochas and even skinnier jeans. However, 2D Boy's World of Goo bucks this trend expertly, and the only thing you have to worry about World of Goo oozing is goo...lots and lots of goo.

This level's called 'Fisty's Bog', seriously.
Times are changing in the World of Goo. Ominous pipes are springing up everywhere and Goo Balls previously untouched by human civilization are being awoken. You play as the, surprisingly adorable, gelatinous creatures and help them in there naive quest to investigate the pipes, surely they lead to a better place? In order to reach your new cylindrical metal friends you must use your Goo Balls to build towers, bridges and many other remarkably inventive designs. As you move a Goo Ball they will latch themselves onto any other Goo Balls nearby, eventually leading to creaking structures aching under their own weight and swaying perilously in the breeze.

It's difficult to pigeon hole a game like World of Goo, the only classification I can really think to give it is the wonderfully vague 'physics puzzler', though personally I prefer 'goo-em-up'. The later puzzles can get treacherously difficult but the trickier elements are introduced so well you don't seem to realise. The main aim of each level is to get your Goo Balls through the nasties and up into the pipe but each level also poses optional 'OCD' criteria. The OCD challenges boost the difficulty substantially, posing stringent gameplay tasks such as completing a level with very few moves, or in a very low time limit. Interesting for completionists but as the OCD challenges give no rewards I imagine many players will avoid them altogether.

'Ode to a Bridge Builder' in all it's golden glory.
After playing World of Goo the one thing that sticks in my mind is the amazing art style. the cartoon like graphics are infinitely charming and throughout the game the art style shifts to fit the tone of the level. One of the levels in the first chapter, 'Ode to A Bridge Builder', employs a silhouetted chasm with the backdrop of the setting autumnal sun. A lone bugle plays and a strange shiver was sent down my spine as I bridged the gorge with my goo. A reaction I never expected going into such a light hearted game.

With World of Goo 2D boy have created a credit to independent gaming. You'd imagine that creating towers with your Goo Balls would eventually grow tiresome, but the sheer creativeness employed in some of the levels ensure this is impossible. One minute you'll be building a simple tower, but the next you'll be fashioning a balloon supported bridge emerging from a frogs stomach. If you see indie games as a plethora of dark, gritty puzzle platformers I implore you to play World of Goo but be warned, prepare to get attached to those homogeneous little blobs.

Verdict: 4/5

Format: PC, Wii
Publisher: 2D Boy 

Want it? Get it here.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Humble Indie Bundle 3

Very rarely do we as gamers get to publicly feel good about the medium in which we invest so much of our time. Everywhere you look you see the knuckle dragging half-wits of the right wing media panning games for, allegedly, trying to sub-consciously convince us to go outside and stab each other in the eyeballs. It's for this reason that when such wonderful projects as the Humble Indie Bundle come around, we should all as a community get involved.

The Humble Indie Bundle, now in it's third iteration, consists of 6 shining examples of the bustling indie games scene, paid for with the donation of your choice. A portion of this donation (or all of it if you so wish) goes to help the great work of the Child's Play Fund, providing toys and games to sick children throughout the world. A very worthwhile cause I'm sure you'll agree. What then (apart from that gooey feeling of a good deed)  does the bundle include?

Viridian and his outer space scaffolding.
VVVVVV is a charming sci-fi puzzle platformer set in deep reaches of a 1980's adaption of outer-space. You play as Captain Viridian, who after a 'dimensional interference' must evacuate the crew of his ship. However, during the evacuation the ship's teleporter, that was presumably running on Windows Vista, craps out and scatters the crew throughout the VVVVVV dimension, leaving Viridian to mop up the mess and track down his missing crew mates.

Crayon Physics
Issac Newton even makes a cameo.
Second up in the bundle is the 'does what it says on the tin' Crayon Physics. Set in a world of a child's drawing, you must work a ball towards a star using doodles you draw with the mouse. the physics puzzles work fantastically here with pivots, bridges, see-saws and many others all depending on your child like scribblings. Finishing a level using a make-shift trampoline and a badly drawn elephant is unbelievably satisfying, and frankly, any game that allows you to complete it's levels with such variety is definitely worth a look.

Steel Storm - Burning Retribution
Not your average cross-channel affair
Next in the bundle is Kot-in-Action's, two part, Steel Storm - Burning Retribution. In this intriguing 'hovercraft-em-up' you zoom around various locations collecting power-ups, completing objectives, and mostly zapping anything that moves. Part one is strictly single player, but part two includes both LAN and online multiplayer allowing you to blast it out with up to sixteen hovercraft bound friends. I can't help but think that cross-channel hovercraft would still be in business if the reality was like this.

And Yet it Moves
Indiana Jones, the construction paper sequel.
Possibly my favourite game of the package, And Yet it Moves is a puzzle platformer where you find yourself playing as a paper cut-out of what is presumably an anthropomorphised pineapple, attempting to reunite himself with the scraps of paper he was originally cut from. And Yet it Moves employs one of the most interesting art styles I've ever seen, with everything looking like it was ripped straight from the pages of National Geographic. pineapple man also has the power to move the world around 90 degrees at a time leading to gameplay that's a weird mix of Super Mario meets a Rubix Cube.

Do you want to power a steampunk tank? of course you do.
If you ever imagined what a Christmas-cracker slider puzzle was like during the Industrial Revolution, 'Cogs', is probably the closest example you'll be able to find in an easily downloadable format. Simply, you must slide cogs to power a motor. As levels progress the complexities of the puzzles increase and new elements, such as bell ringing and rotating puzzles are introduced. A fantastic little game, especially for OCD puzzle heads who love a bit of a challenge.

Never mess with an axe wielding spaceship.

Last, but by no means least, is Kranx Productions Hammerfight. Gameplay will be instantly recognisable to anyone who played conkers as a child. With your hover vehicle, you fly around levels smashing up anything that looks at you funny with a massive hammer, obviously a winning formula. The Centripetal force based physics work remarkably well and landing a killing blow is always a satisfying experience. Safety goggles definitely not required.

All in all, the Humble Indie Bundle is a joy to pay for and a joy to play. Considering the package now comes with the second Humble Indie Bundle included (with the likes of Braid and Machinarium) only one question remains, why don't you have it yet?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Bet the Templars are bricking it.....Sorry.

Seen the Assassins Creed: Revelations trailer? Yes? Seen it in Lego? Props to 'Namwwe24' for this one.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


*250 word review submitted for Xbox 360 Gamer Magazines review section. Future reviews will be rather more detailed.*

The TMD aging process.
The first thing you’re bound to notice as you drudge through the abandoned hallways of research facility ‘Katorga 12’ is the odd sense of familiarity that grips you around 10 minutes in to the game. By the time you’ve reached the hour mark you start to wonder whether ‘Katorga 12’ was really intended to research the effects of newly discovered mineral ‘E99’ or was it investigating the effects of rehashed FPS mechanics on impatient gamers. The Cold War paranoia of Call of Duty, the vent crawling of Half Life, the audio logs and general atmosphere of Bioshock is all here and despite its slight unoriginality it does make for an enjoyable experience.

The weapons are your standard assault rifle, pistol, shotgun etc. which are all fun to use but Singularity’s main innovation is the ‘Time Manipulation Device’ or TMD. With it you can age enemies and objects, or reinvigorate destroyed objects, that are rife with E99 energy. Watching stairs and archways decay and rebuild before your eyes is very intriguing and the TMD does make for some fun (though often overused) puzzles. All men are created equal but those with time manipulating wrist watches are obviously more equal than others.

The story revolves around the time travelling exploits of US Air Force Pilot, Nate Renko, who is dropped into ‘Katorga 12’ following a downed American satellite. The often very engaging story that unfolds coupled with the fun mechanics make this a very worthwhile pick up, especially for its current low price.

Despite its slight unoriginality it’s very easy to become gripped by its story and is definitely worth the £10-15 asking price.

Verdict: 3/5

Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer:  Raven Software

Want it? Get it here.