Tagged: computer games

Sonic & Knuckles Collection: Back when Sega published PC games.

Back in the mid ’90s, when Sega slowly was losing its competitive edge against veteran Nintendo and newcomer Sony, they were also publishing a fair share of their games on Windows PCs. This isn’t as well known as their other stuff, considering most of them were ports of existing Genesis and Saturn games.

Most of their games was ports of stuff like Comix Zone and Tomcat Alley. But then a certain blue hedgehog burst onto the PC scene, and I don’t mean by strange fan games made in Klik’n’Play….

Featuring The Best Sonic Game. Anyone who says Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the best Sonic game is a goddamn liar.

Sonic & Knuckles Collection was released in 1997, and was the second Sonic game to reach PC, the first being two different ports of Sonic CD. It was smart for Sega to port The Best Sonic Game to Windows machines, for people like me.

I was strictly a Nintendo kid pretty much until the late ’90s, when I got my first PC, and later getting a Dreamcast in 2000. Because of that, the Genesis is a system that I owned but didn’t really experience properly, thus I never got to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles until this PC release.

…Well, that and the infamous platform jumping in water in Sonic 2‘s Chemical Plant Act 2 traumatized me so bad when I was younger. Thus when I got to Hydrocity Zone, I got so scared that I shut off the Genesis and asked to take the game back. Damn you Yukifumi Makino and your scary drowning music!

Nooo don’t send me down there

I have not one, not two, but three copies of this game. The first one I got was part of a Jack in the Box promotion, which had a few other Sega PC games like Sonic 3D Blast and Ecco the Dolphin. The others were a complete-in-box copy and a CD jewel case copy that came in a Sonic three pack with Sonic CD and Sonic R. That’s probably more copies than I need of this game, but hey.

The menu where you choose what game you want to play. I like the fairly random “2-PLAY OK” on the side.

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Shadowgrounds: A fun little top-down action game.

If you’re like me, you probably have a massive backlog of games. It’s not surprising, Steam sales have become the bane of our existence. In my case, I sometimes buy games and wonder why I bought them, like Chrome. I almost wrote something about that game, but I kept dying even on easy, so I bailed out of playing that one.

This is just a small excerpt of some of the games I’ve bought on countless Steam sales and never played or finished.

So let’s see what else I got. It’s a bit early in the year to write about Amnesia: The Dark Descent, stuff like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim has been done to death, and I don’t think there’s interest in me writing about the Telltale Wallace & Gromit games…

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“Doom 3 meets Smash TV” is quite an unusual boxquote.

Here we go. Shadowgrounds, a game from Frozenbyte, a Finnish developer who’d later be known for the Trine series of games. This was one of their earlier efforts, and holds a bit of a memory for me. We have to go back to the far-flung past of 2006 to explain this story.

While Steam is an absolute juggernaut and considered the gold standard of PC digital distribution now, back in 2006 Steam was a much different beast. Besides Valve’s own titles, there wasn’t much third party support for the storefront, outside of a few indie games like the wonderful Darwinia and the one-note forgettable Rag Doll Kung Fu.

Frozenbyte’s Shadowgrounds was one of those early adopters of Valve’s content delivery service, and while it probably wasn’t a breakout hit, I remember it being one of those standout games during Steam’s early years. Considering this was during the transition period for PC gaming where games were still sold in physical boxes in stores, this was probably a better place for the game than being stuck in a bargain rack at a GameStop.

I bought this along with its sequel, Shadowgrounds: Survivor during a Steam summer sale. I was familiar with the game through a demo, but I figure the full game was probably worth a try. It being $1.24 during a Steam summer sale probably helped too, as I’m a sucker for impulse-buying games for super cheap.

You play as engineer William Tyler, who is sent to the moon Ganymede to do some routine generator repair. As expected in fiction like this, stuff goes wrong and aliens begin to invade. Armed with only a pistol, Tyler must fight loads of aliens as he fights for his life while trying to find out the mystery of this invasion. Along the way you meet people that try to help you make sense of this mess.

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Even for a top-down shooter, this game has pretty good level complexity.

Shadowgrounds is a top-down shooter. It reminds me of Valve’s Alien Swarm, though European readers may liken this more to Team17’s Alien Breed series of games. The game is fairly straightforward: Shoot the aliens before they attack you and kill you.

A lot of the arsenal is fairly commonplace stuff for these kind of action games: You start with a pistol, then later get an assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, stuff like that. The only unique weapons on display is a laser rifle, a longer-range railgun and an electric zapper weapon towards the end of the game.

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You can’t tell in the screenshot, but the character’s head-in-a-box has a moving mouth, but not their in-game version. Looks kinda weird to me.

Throughout the game there’s a lot of PDAs and computers that explain the shady dealings that this military base does, which is kinda cool. While this does give some Doom 3 vibes, it at least seems more interesting especially when one of the PDAs is a small gag about a chef’s love for meatballs.

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I bought stuff! 4/18/16: Finding leaks and filling in the cracks.

Sometimes you get bored and lack motivation to do something. What do you do when you’re me, someone who writes silly things on the internet and looking for dumb stuff to write about? That’s right, time to do some thrift store shopping.

I will admit that most of the items I found this time around are random curiosities more than anything. There are some fairly common and interesting things in here, however, and may be something to write about in future blog posts. If all else fails, it’s a good document of all the junk I get and how I got it.

I roamed around the Oak Grove/Oregon City area for this, checking two chain thrift stores and a Goodwill, plus a special hobby shop on the edge of Oregon City. Let’s rock.

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There’s a post-it over Quake III Team Arena because the CD key would otherwise be visible. Can’t let you steal my CD key for a 20-year-old game.

$4: Four random CDs:

  • Quake Mission Pack No. 2: Disillusion of Eternity (PC)

  • Shellshock: ‘Nam 67 (PC)

  • Quake III Team Arena (PC)

  • Disney Karaoke Series: The Cheetah Girls (music CD)

My first hit was a local chain thrift store. I thought I was gonna strike out, but the CDs I got have some interest.

I had Quake Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon, but not the second expansion, Dissolution of Eternity. Now I have both. I remember not hearing too many great things about this one compared to Scourge, but hey, might as well get it to complete my Quake collection.

I also snagged Quake III Team Arena, aka that one game when id Software saw how popular Unreal Tournament was and realized their game didn’t have many team modes, so they hastily put out a paid expansion. Again, I bought this because I wanted to have the complete Quake III experience. Nowadays, Quake Live pretty much covers that Quake III/Team Arena void, so this is more for collection’s sake.

The third and final game is Shellshock: Nam ’67, one of the many Vietnam War games that came out in the early to mid 2000s. This game is notable for being made by Guerrilla Games, the guys who’d be later known for the semi-popular Killzone series. This was the sole game they made before Sony bought them around 2004. I don’t know if this game’s any good, but it can’t be that bad, can it?

Then there’s the last one: A Cheetah Girls Karaoke CD. This is probably the weirdest of the lot, but I bought it because it’s a Karaoke CD that supports the CD+G format that I covered a long while back here. Sadly it’s a different form of CD+G than the stuff featured in the Rock Paintings album, so I couldn’t get lyrics or music to show up. It appears I didn’t know much about this stuff as I thought.

Hopefully I’ll never have to explain why I own a Cheetah Girls CD.

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Rage and the Art of Reloading.

Alright folks, time for me to get a bit “technical,” as it were. This is one of these posts where I’m gonna talk briefly about a game mechanic and how it actually benefits the player subtly. I know most of my content is a bit more fluff, but hear me out on this one.

I recently beat id Software’s Rage, a solid first-person shooter/driving game hybrid. I was looking to play something after trying to beat Modern Combat 5, and this seemed like a prime candidate.

I seemed to go through a phase where I was playing a bunch of older id Software games to see their career trajectory, as earlier in the year I had ran through Doom 3 — the original, not through the somewhat inferior BFG Edition — just to see if it was bad as I remembered it. It actually wasn’t awful, and is a pretty good game. Hasn’t aged gracefully in the graphics department, but what has?

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it’s too short.

Which brought me onto playing Rage. As time has gone on, this game has been mostly forgotten by hardcore shooter fans, shoved off into the “oh right, that was a game” category that other id games like Quake 4, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and that 2009 Wolfenstein game have been victim to.

It was also a changing of the guard, being one of the last major games John Carmack worked on at the company before he left for Oculus, and with most of the original people who made some of id’s classics gone, it just seemed like id was in a weird career limbo where they had no idea where to go next. Basically, they went from being the pioneers of video gaming to attempting to be in with the modern shooter crowd, and failing in the process.

But enough about id software’s midlife crisis. I wanna talk about something this game does that people take for granted. Rage has two minor mechanics that while aren’t explicitly mentioned, but really help out the player. It involves the simple concept of reloading your weapons.

In most first-person shooters, when you reload, you can’t cancel out of the reload until it finishes, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Secondly, the reload animation has to play out fully before you can fire again. In a fast-paced shooter, it can be frustrating to have to wait for your dude to slowly tap a magazine into their assault rifle and pull the charging handle before being able to shoot again.

Rage doesn’t do that. If you start reloading mid-magazine and hold down the fire button, the reload is immediately canceled, letting you expend the rest of the magazine. Secondly, if you’re reloading from an empty magazine, you can hold down the fire button before the player pulls the charging handle, letting you skip the rest of the reload and get back to shooting quickly.

You can see this in the video I shot from one of the bonus Sewer levels, but there’s a better demonstration if you skip ahead to 1:53.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge help. Rage has you fighting between the quick and melee-heavy mutants, common grunts, and big boss monsters. The last thing you want is to have to watch a painstaking long reload sequence while having enemies take pot shots at you.

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Diving into the Windows 10 Marketplace with Modern Combat 5: Blackout.

For a while, I wasn’t going to upgrade to Windows 10. But then a friend convinced me of a few cool features, and I decided to finally take the plunge since it’s free as of this writing. Since my current PC was on Windows 7, I missed out on all the cool apps that came out during the Windows 8 era. After perusing the store, I found a few interesting games. Boy, I wasn’t expecting this…

It's time for STERN MILITARY SOLDIER POSE

It’s time for STERN MILITARY SOLDIER POSE

Modern Combat 5: Blackout is probably the most generic title for a game ever. This is the product of Gameloft, a French-based development studio known famously for their mobile phone and handheld games. Naturally, this is a “port” from iOS/Android devices, supporting cumbersome touch screen controls.

While I haven’t played the previous entries in the Modern Combat franchise, I am familiar with it. One of the games, Modern Combat: Domination, made it to consoles and I remember Giant Bomb covering it once. At the time, it looked like a mish-mash of Call of Duty 4 with a pinch of Counter-Strike‘s elements. By default, I go into any new game I play with mild skepticism and low expectations just so I don’t hype myself up for disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much here.

This is a hell of a way to start a game...

This is a hell of a way to start a game…

You play as Phoenix, a mercenary for works for some corporation. With the help of a bald marine named Bull, you two storm through San Marco, escaping from evil terrorists, and eventually escaping a helicopter in a boat chase sequence. Pretty exciting for the beginning of a Call of Duty clone.

Is this some spirit animal allegory I’m not aware of?

Afterwards, Phoenix wakes up in Japan, taken over by raiders during some terrorist attack or something. I’ll admit, I barely remember the story of this game, and that’s coming from a guy who played through Battlefield 3 and 4, which had really unremarkable generic campaigns. But from what I gleaned from a wiki for the series, it’s basically double-crossing between various factions, and a surprise plot twist that the CEO of the Gilman corporation is also a mercenary soldier who caused the double-crossing. Hardly oscar-caliber story writing, but I got what I paid for. (Nothing.)

Something I noticed while playing was that a lot of the voice actors for this game are familiar to me. They’ve voiced characters in the Pokemon anime, mostly as minor characters. However, there is one voice I was surprised to hear: Jason Griffith, once the voice of a certain blue hedgehog, voices a minor character in this game. How the mighty have fallen, I guess.

One of the many classes you can choose from. You get Recon to start, and the rest require you to either grind or pay up.

One of the many classes you can choose from. You get Recon to start, and the rest require you to either grind levels or pay up to unlock.

Modern Combat 5 has a leveling system and unlockables. There’s a create-a-class option, weapons can be upgraded by using them in the game to unlock attachments and better weapons, and each class has special skills that are upgraded using SP. SP is gained between some missions, leveling up, and between events Gameloft put up. One thing I liked is how the rankings persist between both single player and multiplayer, which I wish more games did.

There are seven tiers of each weapon. While all the weapons are based of real guns, somebody at Gameloft thought that Tier 7 should be future-looking versions of old guns. The SMGs get a futuristic Thompson called the “Bromson,” Sniper rifles get a modernized Lee-Enfield called the “BSW 77,” and the pistol gets a future space Luger called the “Mrager.” I am not making this up. This is so ridiculous that I had to get screenshots of them:

Multiplayer is typical military FPS in a post-Call of Duty 4 world: You have perks, you have a powerup you can use, there’s killstreaks like recon drones and EMP strikes, and you get XP for kills. There’s the common FPS gamemodes: Free-for-All, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and an unusual TDM variant called VIP where the VIP is always visible on the minimap and killing them rewards more points than killing other players. Fun, but a VIP kill is 5 points and the scorelimit is 50, making the matches go by faster than expected.

My dad once said that combat drones will be the future of combat. I guess he was right.

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