psi_star_psi: (BTTH)
After the previous two Saints Row games, I eventually started the most recent. I actually started it before we moved to Portland, but oddly enough, things got busy afterward. I finished it off finally a couple of weeks ago.

In this installment, you are the President of the United States. Because after having conquered several cities and defeated the elite of the U.S. Military, what else were you going to do? As the game begins, an alien armada attacks the Earth and captures you and your closest homies. Though you quickly escape into their fleet in general, you must enter their computer network, represented as a simulation of the same city in the SR3, and disrupt the simulation to locate and rescue your compatriots.

Since its a computer simulation, as you level up, you gain access to more hacks of the system. This leads to a variety of superpowers on top of the usual assortment of overpowered weaponry. Your ability to dispense damage and chaos is stupefying. This game is ridiculous -- and that's talking about a series where in the previous installment you drove around with a tiger in your car.

Using the character customization, I went with the same form I'd used in the previous games. As [livejournal.com profile] aelfie helped me realize, it is pretty much Queen Latifah. I can deal with Queen Latifah as a superhero.

Thumbs up.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
Before I packed up the PS2 for the moved back in August, I gave it one last round of gaming. I figured I should try something on the back burner for a while, so I loaded up Final Fantasy XII for the first time in ~5-6 years.

My biggest problem with FF games is the clock in the corner of the status screen, ticking, ticking, recording exactly how much time you've spent staring at this screen. I don't need that much self-awareness. By the time I finished this, it was 19x hours, so let's say 200 hours. That's over a week of time without sleep.

Ah, but that's the complication. FF XIIs system of character advancement was long ago snarked in Penny Arcade. As you progress, you gain the ability to unlock commands in a programming language for your characters. Eventually, you have a party that buffs at each other, status damages monsters, provides healing, and fights on occasion. It can pretty much run on autopilot at that point.

Note that time period since my last playing the game. That was back before Gray was born, before I had my CPAP. I regularly passed out in the middle of playing PS2 games on the couch. In this case, it would just merrily go along bashing the monsters. I'd wake up either to find the party standing around, or occasionally all of the active characters KO'd. Then I'd have to bring in the backup squad and run for the save point.

The standard interminable FF side quest on this outing is Monster Hunting. You get bounties for unique monsters you have to track down and off. I spent an hour of this first playing in a while having my ass handed to me by a couple of these super-monsters that I could locate. Then I remembered that this save point was just before the Big Finale. Ah, why not just wrap this thing up, then? So I did.

I couldn't tell you what the plot was after all of this time. Cid was there, in a flying machine. That was all I needed for context. Some stuff about a spiky-haired, sword-wielding teen wanting to be a Sky Pirate and saving the world. You know, like every other FF game ever made.

OK, so that's ... 1, 2, and 12. 11 & 13 are on-line, and they're up to what, 14 now? So, only 9 FF's to go. Well, then there's 10.2 and 7.2...gah.

The Book of Unwritten Tales is a nicely-made P&C adventure with my brand of humor. You flip between a snooty elf maiden, a young gnome with wizard aspirations, and a roguish airship captain. (They couldn't call him Cid or Han, but take it as read.) You quest to prevent the forces of evil from acquiring an artifact of ludicrous power. I think I've heard that plot somewhere before. The voice work is good, the jokes are funny, and the puzzles are reasonable. I picked it up on sale on GoG for a few bucks, and it is well worth the investment.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
Far Cry 3 is another entry in the FC series. As usual, the relation to the previous games is solely in the engine and impressive scope of the game. In this installment, you are a 20-something dude taking an adventure holiday with your brothers and friends in the South Pacific. You all stumble onto an island full of pirates and drug trafficers, whereupon you are all captured and separated. You manage to escape at the cost of your elder brother's life and fall in with the local natives. You are granted a tattoo of power which gives you the skills of a warrior, and set forth to seek your friends and your vengeance.

You can approach this game with guns blazing, but it rewards stealth. Some of the skills you can pick up build up some impressive stealth takedowns, and completing some missions without detection provides bonus XP. You buy and enhance a wide array of weaponry, gather animal hides to increase your ammo and carrying capacity, and harvest plants to make boosts. There are assorted vehicles to drive, animals to hunt, and enemy bases to overthrow. It's a big game with a decent plot. I enjoyed it.

FC3: Blood Dragon is an additional story using the same game engine. The look and feel are very different, though the moves are clearly similar. It's a smaller story over all. The conceit in this game is that you are a cybercommando straight out of a cheeseball 80s film. Everything is pure 80s drivel right up the wazoo. It is very well done, and completely hysterical. Awesome game.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
A couple of months ago Steam had a sale for the entire Far Cry series. I'd had the original Far Cry years ago, but I tried installing it a few months back without success. I've reached the point where all of the 10+ year old games on my shelf are just easier to pick up from Steam or GoG, rather than try to fight them into installing from CD. (I also picked up the Independence War series off GoG. I've tried to get through the first game twice so far, and I will get it eventually. It's just such an awesome space simulator.)

I haven't finished the first game in the FC series yet because it runs by checkpoints. Gah, I hate checkpoints. But Far Cry 2 lets you save at any time. That's the way I like my FPS's.

Um, plot, plot. You've been sent to *mumble*-ania in Africa where a civil war is raging. The Jackal, notorious international arms dealer, is supplying both sides. You must kill The Jackal. Easy. Except you come down with a horrific case of malaria immediately, and when you are able to weakly move about your hotel room, the Kill All Foreigners riot starts up in the capital. You stumble around until rescued by some unsavory dude and put to work.

The missions are all manner of wetwork for one side or the other, the weapons shops (to drive up prices), or the mysterious satellite phone robo-voiced hit jobs. You gather diamonds which permit you to buy access to different weapon types, weapon upgrades, or personal boosts (camo, vehicle repair, increased healing item capacity).

So, basically, you drive around the countryside, shooting almost everything that moves. Not a lot of subtlety, but the different weapons are fun. They're all realistic modern weapons (modern as sometime in the last century). By the end, I tended to wander around with a sniper rife, rocket launcher, and grenade launcher. I like to soften up an area before I walk into it. (I tried the flamethrower for a bit, but it tended to take too long to finish off opponents. Huh.)

Overall, a pretty standard open world sort of thing. I have greater expectations for Far Cry 3, about which I'ver heard good things.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
A couple of years ago I got The Witcher for Christmas. I played it through the Prologue and first chapter, then got distracted for a while. Last month, I took it up again to finish off the rest of the five chapters and Epilogue.

From the closing credits, I learned that this is based on a fantasy series by a Polish author. I may have to hunt it up now, because the story and characters in the game are awesome.

A witcher is a monster-hunter recruited for training at a young age and mutated by magic and alchemy. The training gives special combat maneuvers vs. the various monsters one encounters around the landscape. The mutations grant immunity to disease, extended lifespan, rapid healing, toughness, ability to use buff potions, and infertility. Witchers are trained in a few magic abilities termed signs. Their eyes are cat-like. Given all of this, almost everyone treats them as creepy freaks. But when the monsters come to your town, who you gonna call?

Witchers' signature ability is their potions. They have an extensive knowledge of alchemical components and a vast array of buff formulae. Going into a tough fight? Chug some buffs for regeneration of health and stamina, night vision, haste, whatnot resistance, etc. It's a party all around? How can you fail?

Oh, did I forget to mention that potions are toxic? Yes, chug and buff away, but drink to many and you'll gak yourself. Careless. Once you get to about half of your maximum toxicity, you start experiencing visual distortions. After one battle, I was at 90%. I had to stagger back to my rest spot in a zombie shuffle.

Fortunately, an hour or two's meditation is enough to heal your ills and clear the toxins from your system. You can also throw together a potion while you are resting to build up you reserves of buffs.

The story opens with your character recently recovered from a bad case of dead (not a normal witcher ability, everyone's a bit confused how you pulled that off), with the requisite amnesia and impaired abilities. You're hanging out at the witcher training castle, chatting with your fellow witchers, when unknown forces assault the castle and steal all of your secret mutagenic methods and potion formulae. You are dispatched to recover all of these things. (Nice mechanic to gradually gain new potions as you go along.)

Thus, you set out into the world to recover the witchers' Knowledge Too Dangerous for Others. If you happen to wreak revenge for the friend killed during the attack, well, that's just a bonus.

I really, really enjoyed this game. This is a very dark universe. The people in this land are seriously messed up. You aren't much better of course. Incredible stamina, immunity to disease, infertility -- can you say popular with the ladies? One of the touches I enjoyed inappropriately much is the main character's opportunity to bang about half of all the adult female NPC's encountered. (It's a pity it was heteronormative.) When you do, that person's character page in your journal gets a little heart you can click on to see the trading card of her in a state of dishabille. It's so very wrong.

I've been regaling [livejournal.com profile] aelfie with my adventures while playing the game for nearly a month. This morning, I informed her that I'd finished the game. She was thrilled and relieved. "So now I can finally stop hearing all about your manwhore?" I tried to suppress my grin but failed. Her excitement faded. "Or is there another game?"

Tonight I start The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings!
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
Evoland is a quick trip through 25+ years of CRPG history. You start out in monochromatic 8-bit graphics with no sound then unlock various upgrades (sound, combat, better graphics, etc.) as you go. The plot riffs on the giants of the genre, the DQ, FF, and Zelda series, with a few other things thrown into the mix. It was a quick play (Steam says I took 6 hours), but I got it on sale, so I'm satisfied with the value. It is a cute concept and well-executed. Try it out if you are a CRPG fan.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
The legendary mythical game, Duke Nukem Forever, 15 years in the making. Was all of that time well-spent?

Don't be ridiculous. There's no way 15 years of game development could possibly turn out to be worth all of that effort. The original Duke Nukem 1 & 2 were perfectly nice side-scrollers. When Duke Nukem 3D came out, it was an awesome game on the order of Doom, Quake, and Unreal. This one...well, it's a FPS all right.

If this didn't have the baggage of Duke Nukem, it might be an OK game in its own right. But it can't live up to the hype.

Things I didn't like
1) Checkpoints. Bah, it was a console game by design. DN started on PC. Screw you all, console weenies!
2) Only two weapons at a time. Old school FPS heroes had a bag of holding for all of their weapons and ammo. Limited weaponry is Halo. Halo is a way beyond this game.
3) Pointless stacking/jumping puzzles. I hate these in all FPS.

Things I liked
1) Interesting weaponry. The freeze and shrink rays are back, as well as the handy pipe bombs. Some new Devastating weaponry lifted off the aliens are available for that extra punch every once in a while. No, really, it's called the Devastator. It softens up a room before you go in.
2) Duke's monster truck
3) Duke's ridiculous over the top attitude - I'm juvenile enough to still enjoy this foolishness.

Overall, meh. I can't recommend this to anyone but a completist. I've played DN1, DN2, about half of DN3D, and DN:Manhattan Project. I tried installing DN3D again, but the controls are so awful I need to remap them to WASD just to try playing it. I haven't bothered yet.
psi_star_psi: (BTTH)
Sleeping Dogs is yet another of the open-world, gangster-fest games like GTA or Saints Row. This one has just the slightest bit of morally redeeming value though. In this game, you play Wei Shen, an aspiring member of the Sun On Yee triad, the strongest of the gangs controlling Hong Kong. You've just returned to your hometown after a couple of decades in the U.S., where you were a low-level gang member in the SF Bay Area, and now you're going to make your name in your old stomping grounds.

Ah, but in reality, you are an undercover cop. Things got a bit too hot for you in the States, so you've come to Hong Kong to clean up the city. Of course, if you manage to clean up some old personal grudges along the way, well, that's the way things go. Surely you will manage to retain your core identity as a good guy in the midst of your convincing portrayal of a psychopathic gangster. Or is it an act?

This game is part Jackie Chan, part Chow Yun Fat. You spend a good quarter of the game before you ever even see a gun. Up to that point, it's all about the beatdown. Even afterward, guns are the exception. You advance in Cop level, Triad level, Face level, and gain new moves from your childhood martial arts master. Chug soda, drink tea, eat food or get a massage to gain buffs. Buy clothes and cars, win street races, sing karaoke, hijack armored cars, and go on dates with hot ladies that end with a fade to black. Plus lots of other activities.

This is a great game, well worth a play-through.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
During the first week of the Great Road Trip last month, when I was alone at home, I caved and got Saints Row 3 off of Steam. I played SR2 almost entirely during [livejournal.com profile] aelfie's time at school, so she didn't see much of the game. When I tried to describe it, she told me flat out that she was disappointed that I would play something so completely without any redeeming value.

This time, she saw me playing the actual game. And even though I was wearing headphones, she was laughing out loud at the ridiculous things going on. I think the element that won her over was when I was tearing around the city in a convertible with a tiger in the passenger seat. The tiger periodically reaches over and waps the driver upside the head, leading to a reasonable loss of control of the vehicle. This makes as much sense as anything else in the game. And it is both howlingly funny and an enormous amount of fun.

I didn't describe my avatar in my SR2 review, because I was frankly embarrassed to admit that I constructed a character so un-PC for my sociopath gang leader. I used the same character design in this game. A few weeks ago, I read an article about a new talk show, which discussed the host's previous career with pictures from some of her films. And that's when I realized what my subconscious had slipped by - my avatar is quite clearly based on Queen Latifah (as in Set It Off, which I've never seen). I'm don't think that makes it any less appalling, but I'm relieved to know I didn't conjure the image out of nowhere.

The enemy gangs in this version are Euro-mafia, Mexican masked wrestlers, and TRON-fashioned hackers. Mutated super-soldiers appear when you really antagonize a faction, and eventually the special forces are sent in to enforce martial law. It is insane.

I fully recommend this game to people 18+.
psi_star_psi: (KBDH)
Saints Row 2 is a GTA-style open-world sandbox game where you play the leader of the Third Street Saints criminal gang. Apparently you were blown up real good at the end of the first game (unavailable for PC, so I couldn't try it) and spent five years in a coma. You wake up in prison, but that's not going to hold you for any time worth mentioning. Things in town have changed in your absence, so it's time to remind everyone who really owns this town.

Let me say up front that the protagonist of this game is a horrible, horrible person. Many of the side missions in the game are reprehensible activities. I am a bad person, and I should feel bad for having played this. Now for the but...

I laughed so hard at some of the dialogue in this thing. One of the less awful side missions is one where you lower property values in an area by spraying the contents of a sewage truck on everything in sight - people, buildings, the impotent police. The commentary from the truck driver had me nearly in tears many times.

The voice acting is excellent, and the credits show why. Eliza Dushku, NPH, Daniel Dae Kim, and Michael Dorn. Nice group.

The best part, though, was the musical selection. Sure, there were all sorts of rap, hip-hop, grunge, 80s, and so forth, but the music stores also had a Classical selection. I collected the whole set of that genre early on. Tearing around the city at full speed with a pack of some enemy gang's vehicles hot on my trail, spraying automatic weapon fire back at them while they burst into fireballs, all while The Hall of the Mountain King or The Ride plays...yeah, I now get the appeal of these games.

And none of my kids will ever get near one while they're in my house. This just means they'll play at someone else's house, but I do what I can.
psi_star_psi: (Zarkov Gun)
Things polished off in the last couple of weeks -

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - Latest "Vorkosigan" by Lois McMaster Bujold. I missed the previous one, but it turns out they are chronologically swapped. All for the best. In this installment, we finally have an adventure entirely about That Idiot Ivan. Who is, as we know, quite competent on his own. He's just not Miles -- fast talk is not his thing. Still, hilarity ensues, most of Vorbarr Sultana remains standing by the end, and Emperor Gregor does not burst a blood vessel. Quite. Having named one of my daughters after a Bujold character, my opinion of her work starts at a high level. It was a fine book.

Portal 2 - As I noted in March, I got the "all the songs" Jonathan Coulton collection. Inspired by "Still Alive", I replayed Portal. Just as I was finishing it off, Steam had a huge discount on Portal 2. Well, there you go.
GLaDOS has been, justifiably, compared to SHODAN. But her moment of appearance in this second game is reminiscent of the arrival of Sinistar. Every bit as underwear-soiling, just accomplished in her more understated way. I laughed out loud many times at her lines. The script on this is excellent, the new gameplay features are nice additions, and the closing song has grown on me, just like "Still Alive". All this, and it was a good 2.5-3 times longer than the first game. Awesome all around.

Ghost Trick - This was originally for one of the handheld game things, but I played it on my phone. This is a fascinating puzzle game with a great mystery story. You start out as an amnesiac newly-deceased spirit learning about your Powers of the Dead. You can hop from object to object at a short range of about a meter, "activate" objects (turn knobs, switch lights, open cabinets), traverse phone lines, and link to corpses. Linking to a corpse allows you to talk with the dead spirit for some basic info, then use your last special ability to rewind time to 4 minutes before their death. You travel the city seeking info on yourself, using your abilities to avert people's deaths, and gradually unravel the vast mystery that explains how you can do all of this in the first place. Wonderful game.
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
A flurry of video game completion lately.

Venetica - As the current incarnation of Death's daughter, you must hunt down the cabal of necromancers who plan a coup over the power of Death in Renaissance Venice. If you are killed, you transition to the land of Death for a while before returning. The return costs a charge that may be recovered by defeating opponents with a particular magic sword. Your charges increase over the course of the game. This is a third-person action RPG. I thought it was pretty good.

Rage - You are the sole survivor during the re-emergence of an Arc, one of a number of underground facilities designed to preserve humanity after an apocalypse. You find yourself in a wasteland of bandit camps, settlements among the ruins, mutant nests, and the high-tech forces of the Authority. Soup up your growing collection of jalopies with armor and weaponry for vehicle combat in arenas and while traveling between missions. Wow, these game designers are lucky they don't have Bethesda's lawyers on their ass...wait, it was published by Bethesda and developed by id? Why didn't they just call it Fallout Racing and be done with it?
Anyway, this game is excellent. You acquire blueprints to make handy gizmos, collect cards for a gambling mini-game, and indulge in car racing/exploding. And blast the bejeezus out of everything in sight. A high quality FPS.

Ghostbusters - Join the four classic Ghostbusters as the silent Rookie. Master the use of your proton pack as additional capabilities become available just in time to meet new paranormal threats. Enjoy the schadenfreude as The Asshat of the 80s returns for more abuse. (That would be William Atherton. I had a post here award him that title, but I can't find it just now.) Another very well done game.
psi_star_psi: (CG-ABS)
Some stuff I've done lately -

Finished the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the third game in the Deus Ex series. The first was one of the greatest games ever made. The second was a nice game, but much too console-ified, and lost some of the spirit of the original. I've discussed this previously. This third game is ... drumroll... Awesome! They went back to the origins in just the right ways, yet added new capabilities smoothly. You can blast through killing everything in sight, or you can stealth your way and only knock out the opponents. Stealth and non-lethal are worth more XP, so the morality is layered on obviously. But you'll certainly get through faster just blowing everyone away. Your call. The advancement path is free-form and sensible within the context of the story. The plot is just an intricate as the original. This is a proud addition to the series, and I fully recommend it as worthy of your gaming time.

Read Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller. I TA'd for this fellow back at Berkeley, and when I decided to leave grad school and physics, he was the only faculty member to ask me if I was really certain that was what I wanted to do. So I like the guy, and I figured I'd read his book. It is adapted from the course of the same name (it used to be PH 10 - "Physics for Poets" when I was there, before he was teaching it), for which he has won teaching awards for much of the last decade. The major subjects are Terrorism, Energy, Nukes, Space, and Global Warming. While I know the basic physics, I didn't know every fiddly detail that comprises real-world effects. It is a fascinating book. If you just don't feel up to this, then you can read the condensed version (which I read beforehand), The Instant Physicist. It highlights the critical points and has amusing illustrations.

After 30 years of seeking and having naming my eldest child after the author, I finally located and read The Sensuous Dirty Old Man by Dr. "A". So...that's one off the bucket list. Let's just say it's not one of Asimov's better efforts and move along.

Last week, I watched Office Space. Yes, I'm a bit late to the party, thanks. Yes, I know most of the good lines because I do occasionally read things on the Internet. Now I know what line goes with the creepy picture of Diedrich Bader (is there any other kind?). It will make the next time Ike watches "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" that much more surreal. Anyway, it was sufficiently amusing and worth a watch.

And lastly, [livejournal.com profile] aelfie is at class tonight, and the kids have their TV time. I decided that I should take advantage of her Amazon Prime for a little something. Scanning through the selections, I came to just the thing. So now I've seen the pilot of "Firefly". That makes two episodes in just over 10 years. I will be done in ... 2132. No, wait, there's also the movie, so 2142.

VGC: Risen

Dec. 11th, 2012 12:39 am
psi_star_psi: (freaky)
Risen is a third-person fantasy RPG. You start out shipwrecked on an island where ancient temples have recently risen (aha!) up to the surface of the land, and various factions are competing to gain the treasure and powerful artifacts contained within. The ship you had been on also carried a mainland Inquisitor, who uses the religious forces to take control of the local city and gather the artifacts to further his goals. Meanwhile, the former lord of the city has retreated to the swamps where his bandits plunder the gold of the temples. And then the mages are cooperating with the Inquisitor while they sort out who is working for the best interests of the island.

You can throw in with any of the three sides, though joining the mages will require much more work to qualify. Naturally, this was the path I chose. Anyone may use scrolls, temple guards and mages may use crystals which focus magic power into magic, fire, or cold blasts, and mages may use spell runes. Combat skills are sword, axe, staff, bow, and crossbow. Alchemy, smithing, sneak, acrobatics, lockpicking, and pickpocket round out the skill sets. Advancement is through training points per level, which permit instructors to bump your skills for a "modest" fee.

The plot advances with numerous side quests as you gradually figure out that Big Trouble is coming and sort out how to settle its hash. At key locations you may discover teleport scrolls which significantly cut down on the running around between quests.

Too many RPGs these days seem to be just too huge for my available time to play. This one seemed just right to me. Granted, I got it cheap on Steam, so I got plenty of value for the price, but it was a nice play structure that didn't go on and on. Pick it up when it's a bargain.
psi_star_psi: (Zarkov Gun)
I finished off Fallout 3 a few nights ago. This makes the fourth Fallout series game that I have completely finished (1/2, PC Brotherhood of Steel). On to New Vegas sometime.

I've seen this one described as a little too Elder Scrolls, which comes of it being done by Bethesda now instead of Interplay. I'll grant that the interface is clearly the same engine as TES: Oblivion. This brings the overall gameplay from 3/4 perspective to FPS. That's not a small change, but how does the RPG nature come out?

The SPECIAL character development systems remains from the other Fallout games. A few tweaks annoyed me -- skill cap at 100, level cap at 20. It used to be that you could just keep pumping up your skills and gaining perks. I miss that 200 point skill in Energy Weapons that let me shoot eyes from across the map. Ah, well.

The previous games were turn-based combat based on Action Points (a derivative of the Agility characteristic). Now that it's an FPS interface, one might think that is gone. Instead, it is interestingly transmogrified. Your own FPS aiming skill helps, but precision is handicapped by your weapon skill. And you can activate "VATS"-mode, which pauses everything while you select specific critical hit locations (head, appendages, torso, etc.) in a string until you run out of AP. Then you blast off a burst of attacks to the various selected locations. AP regenerate at a rate influenced by the perks you take. You can proceed with standard FPS attacks while you wait for the AP to build up, or dive for cover.

The plot is well crafted. Liam Neeson provides an important character voice, which is always a win. Your loyal canine companion Dogmeat is back and better than ever. Harold the undying ghoul is out there, somewhere. It's got the allusions to the previous games required, plus plenty of nice new wrinkles. I think Fallout 2 remains my favorite so far, but this one was a respectable member of the series.
psi_star_psi: (KBZ)
I finished up Overlord a few nights ago. It is a fun game, but it fell victim to my computer upgrade a couple of years back. That is, I didn't immediately install all of the games I'd had on the previous system, so I just add them back as I get a hankering to play them.

In Overlord you are a freshly resurrected Evil Overlord, brought back by your primary Minion to restore your tower, conquer the countryside, and reclaim the awe and terror that is your due. Though you can fight by yourself, your primary method of interaction is through your Minions. Minions are short Gremlin-like creatures that follow you around and obey your commands. You may send them individually in the direction you are facing, sweep them around in a glob, set a rally point, or recall them to you. They will attack enemies, smash breakables, and recover useful items. They come in four colors, with elemental affinity and special abilities per type.

Your advancement is a combo of using minions to overcome environmental obstacles to retrieve power upgrade objects and forging better personal equipment through the sacrifice of minions. Minions are powered by elemental globs left behind by defeating enemies, so you will generally have a much larger number of potential minions than you may control at a given time. This excess potential may be fused into weapons or armor to provide stat boosts related to the elemental minion type.

Some of the missions allow you to choose one of two resolutions. The choice will increase or decrease your Corruption. You may be an Evil Overlord, but you are not required to be completely heartless. Your call.

So it's a third-person RPG/RTS/Dungeon Keeper/stew of interesting genres mixed together, and it works really well. I look forward to picking up the sequel.
psi_star_psi: (Default)
Three weeks ago, while I was on "vacation" watching the kids for [livejournal.com profile] aelfie's first week of school out of town, I took the kids to a local comic book shop. Everyone got something. Ike got an Asterix collection, Elli got a Super Disney characters thing, Gwen got a Darkwing Duck book, and Gray got the Madagascar 3 prequel. I got something called TRON: Ghost in the Machine, "Inspired by the classic film and hit video game!"

Let me be very clear about this. Note that it says "classic film", not films. This graphic novel is three years old, and it's a collection of issues that predate that. This is based solely on the original film, and the "hit video game". But wait, TRON has had about a bazillion video games based on it. Which one? Why, the greatest of all, TRON 2.0.

Again, you should understand that TRON 2.0 is a game from nine years ago! I'm guessing the original run of the comic was a bit more current with the game, but I missed it's earlier appearance. But before I read it, I needed to brush up on the source material, so I dug that game out of the garage and installed it. It's not trivial to get a nine-year-old game for XP working on Win7, but the scream alone is worth itI'm motivated.

I originally played the game through on the normal difficulty level, and about half-way through on the hard level. This time, I set it for hard and slogged in. This victory would be earned.

In this game, you play Jet Bradley, son of Alan Bradley (that would be Bruce Boxleitner, TRON himself, of course). You get zapped with the old digitizer, and it's on to party time in the computer world.

The graphics for this game were stunning at the time. Thanks to the clean nature of the TRON universe, they are still mighty fine. The immersion in computer lore and nomenclature is great. If you don't care about TRON at all, then yeah, this is an FPS with an odd primary weapon. But if you're a TRON fan, then the details are awesome.

All of your abilities come from routines you pick up along the way. You can acquire offense, defense, and support routines. A routine can be found as alpha, beta, or gold versions. The better the version, the better the capabilities provided and the less memory space is required to install that routine. You encounter optimizers on your travels that can each improve one routine one level. When you change computer systems, you must reconfigure your abilities to fit within the new system memory arrangement.

The configuration is important because one of the status attacks is corruption. One of your routines becomes infected with a virus and begins to degrade. When it is completely degraded, it will infect the adjacent routines in memory. You have to perform some juggling and use of you virus scanner to keep everything from degrading in the middle of a fight. That would be bad.

Your standard default weapon is the throwing disc, which may also be used to block if it's in your hands. Equivalents of sniper rifle, grenade, shotgun, etc. are gathered over time, but each has it own behavior and computer-appropriate name. You start out fighting the system security forces and rogue corrupted programs.

There's so much more to this game, but I would rather leave the rest for interested folks to discover themselves. Just ask yourself these three questions:

1) Do I like video games?
2) Do I like TRON? (The original, don't bother with whatever you might think of the recent film.)
3) Do I own a PC?

If you answer yes to all three of these questions, then you must play this game. Don't just sit there, go. Do it. Now!
psi_star_psi: (Default)
A couple of weeks ago I finished off Tak and the Power of Juju on PS2. This is the first in the Tak series, of which there are N. I believe the games came before the TV series, but perhaps they were simultaneous. The publisher is Nickelodeon games, so they were clearly planning for multimedia.

In this game you are Tak, one of a tribe of generic top-notted, witch-doctor-possessing primitives. As the witch doctor's apprentice, you are the only member of the tribe who was out screwing around when the villian turned everyone else to sheep. First you restore the tribe so your teacher can figure out how to recover the village's Hero (Patrick Warburton). He turns out to be useless, so you'll just have to take on the Big Bad yourself.

You have a fairy/spirit companion to dispense advice as you go around, and sheep, gorillas, and other fauna can be used to bypass obstacles. This is a pretty decent platformer...until the final battle.

From the timestamp, I'd last played it 4 years ago. I was stalled on the final boss, so frustrated that I put it aside until I was ready to try again. When I reached that point of readiness last month, it still took about an hour to complete the battle. This is a stupefying level of difficulty for what is supposed to be a kid's game.

There are only two possibilities.
1) The developers badly misjudged the final encounter's difficulty.
2) I'm an old fogy who doesn't have the reactions I did 30 years ago.

So the rest of the Tak games can jolly well get offa my lawn, because I don't have the time to spend that frustrated.

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 3: Night of the Quinkan follows on the first two Ty games as a set of Evil Aliens invade the neighborhood. Ty and his friends must demonstrate that this sort of nonsense will not be tolerated by doling out a heaping helping of power suit punches, aerial combat, racing challenges, and the ever-recurring wide selection of configurable 'rangs. Oh, and some sort of crab tank for getting around the countryside. Wacky stuff.

I enjoyed this one, though not quite as much as Ty 2. The quirky change in this one is that instead of gaining new boomerangs with different powers, now you gain boomerang chassis with slots that you fill with various power stones. Eh, it was cute, but not compelling. Still, it is a good game in the Ty series, which I've enjoyed. No further games in the series have appeared, according to the Internet. Oh, well.
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Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale is a recent 4th Edition D&D video game. It's clearly a console port to the PC. I haven't explored 4th Edition at all, so I was new to the concepts. I recall a brief review that mentioned that all of the classes have ability choices that smooth out the previous vast differences amongst classes play feel. That is, while a wizard gets magic abilities that do such and such effect which causes thus damage every so often, fighters get combat abilities that do such and such effect which causes thus damage every so often, Clerics these others, Rogues these others, etc. Seemed that Wizards wouldn't be as cool as I always expect from prior D&D, but hey, I tried one anyway.

It was a decent choice. I tended to stay back from the enemies, aided by my main Class Feature of Teleport. Old school would have called this power more of a cross between Blink and Expeditious Retreat. I also had Magic Missile (sadly no ogre-slaying knife was found), Fireball, Lightnight, Ice mumble, and a couple of things I never found useful. (Something along the lines of Wave of Weakness and Animate Dead. Woo.)

D&D 4e mechanics aside, the game was great. Auto-save at quest completion, good mapping, challenging enemy AI, nice progression of difficulty, and not too long. Normally a short game would be an issue, but this holds the possibility of replay value with one of the other character choices. (As mentioned, Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard. And no one needs food at all.) I have a Cleric that I started up a little to see the difference, and I may finish that character off since the total play time was under 20 hours.

Well worth it if you find it for <$20 as I did.
psi_star_psi: (Zarkov Gun)
Meet the Robinsons is the video game tie-in to the movie of the same name. We've all enjoyed the movie, so when I saw the game for $5, I figured it would be a good choice for Ike. And me.

The core game is a platformer, though without the detailed jumping of most examples of the genre. Jumping is automatic here, either you can make it safely, or you don't try. A great reduction in needless deaths. You play as Wilbur Robinson as he initially steals the time machine and then corrects several mistakes along the way. It can be argued that it is a prequel to the movie, in as much as you can well-order a time travel plot.

In addition to the main run around, shoot, and solve puzzles plot, the side-games include a Marble Madness variant, a Discs of Tron variant, and a Boulder Dash variant. *sigh* The classic games of my youth are now merely bonus content in movie tie-ins. Get off my lawn.

Anyway, it was a nice game, not too long, and the difficulty level is probably just about right for Ike. Once he's finished Arthur and the Incredibles, I shall recommend it to him.

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