Tagged: computer games

PRISM: Guard Shield: Sponsored by the National Guard.

Happy after-Thanksgiving, everybody. Hope you had your fill of fattening birds, parade floats and talking to your very bigoted grandparents. Unless you’re reading this on a day that’s not Thanksgiving, in that case then happy whatever-day-it-is.

I was gonna write about this game on Thanksgiving Day itself, but stuff came up. However, it has been a while since I last dabbled in bargain bin shenanigans, and this one is gonna be a doozy.

You’ve probably heard of America’s Army. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, the game was a significant hit back in its day. It was known for being an accurate simulation of the Army’s functions and operations — at least, for a military video game, anyway. A decent little game for its time, in spite of the blatant “JOIN THE ARMY” overtones.

At one point, the U.S. Navy sponsored Sony’s SOCOM series of video games. Realizing the “big boys” were getting video game deals, the U.S. National Guard decided to have their own sponsored game. A free, sponsored game, just like the U.S. Army did.  The problem is, it’s one of the worst free games I’ve ever played. And I’ve played a fair share of garbage.

As opposed to what, the seventh line of defense?

The National Guard’s sponsored game is PRISM: Guard Shield, a futuristic first-person shooter. I don’t know who the developer is exactly, the company mentioned on the (now defunct) website is Rival Interactive, a developer of unknown, unremarkable strategy game Real War, and a program about… Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I’m not making this up, by the way, it was on their website when it was still around.

However, the game also features the logo of another familiar developer: Rebellion Developments. Ah yes, that wonderful UK developer that gave us such great hits like Dead to Rights: Reckoning, Shellshock 2: Blood TrialsNeverDead and motherfuckin’ Rogue Warrior. Oh, and a bunch of Sniper Elite games, I guess. I’ve played Dead to Rights: Reckoning and Call of Duty: World at War – Final Fronts, so I am familiar with their body of work. It usually varies from “not completely terrible” to “how in god’s name did this get commercially released?” So, I knew to temper my expectations accordingly.

I’m familiar with this game for one reason: Back when this was brand new, I got an email from Fileplanet (RIP) saying I could get a free T-shirt if I filled out a form and played this silly game. I happily obliged, and after installing it, I played it and was shocked at how poor it was.

I remember playing this during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005, alternating between playing the game, and watching the floats and silly Broadway numbers. So if you’re wondering why this is somewhat Thanksgiving themed, that’s why.

As for the T-shirt, I got it months later, in the wrong size. It was a black T-shirt with the logo on the front and a dead link to the website on the back. As far as I know, it’s somewhere in my house with other junk clothes, including a NASCAR t-shirt I won from a GameSpot stream back in 2006. I can’t say I’m really attached to that shirt.

Onto the game itself, our hero is a nameless, faceless character named Frank Shepherd. No, he’s not related to the Half-Life: Opposing Force character, and I doubt he’ll tell you that what their favorite store on the Citadel is. A successful graduate of the Gordon Freeman School of Character Development, Frank does his routine security guard beat at a “New York Harbor” — which I’m not sure which harbor in New York they’re referring to — which gets ambushed by evil bad guys, forcing you to shoot a bunch of generic goons while occasionally picking up intel and scanning laptops.

Look at those wonderful particle effects! Far Cry 2, eat your heart out.

Continue reading…

I Bought Stuff! 10/2/2012: Convention finds edition.

Since I just got back from going to two conventions in the course of a month, it’s about time for me to show that I Bought Stuff. It’s gonna be a double-header this time around: We’re gonna be covering not only the stuff I got from last weekend’s haul at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, but also what I stumbled upon after PAX back in early September. It’s gonna be a fun one, indeed.

A bunch of Sierra and some Pat Sajak for your Tuesday. (or any day, really.)

Police Quest 2: The Vengeance (DOS, $3)

The Colonel’s Bequest (DOS, $3)

Pat Sajak’s Lucky Letters (PC, $3)

I got these three games the day after PAX ended, on Monday. I had some free time to kill before I had to get to the train station to get home, so I had a doughnut at Top Pot Doughnuts — highly recommend you do so if you’re visiting Seattle — and found a Value Village several blocks away from where the main convention center was. After poking around the store that was in an old building complete with freight elevators, I found these three gems.

Police Quest 2: The Vengeance and The Colonel’s Bequest are classic Sierra-published games. This was back in Sierra’s heyday, when they made a whole bunch of adventure game titles. Granted, most of them have not aged well primarily due to their obtuse puzzle mechanics, but finding complete box copies of both games is a treat.

The Colonel’s Bequest was the first game in a mystery series starring Laura Bow, which she returned in another Sierra game a few years later, The Dagger of Amon Ra. I have no idea where this ranks on terms of quality Sierra games, but judging how I didn’t hear of this until I bought it, I assume it’s one of the forgettable ones.

Police Quest 2 continues the same silly stuff that other Police Quest games did where you had to follow every step of police procedure to the absolute letter. I preferred the later spinoff series SWAT, which went from being a bad FMV game to a strategy game to a solid squad FPS that rivaled Rainbow Six in its day. As an unexpected bonus, Police Quest 2 had extra 5 1/4″ copies somebody made presumably to give to a friend. Funny, considering the original disks are also inside. I guess somebody didn’t watch Don’t Copy That Floppy.

Pat Sajak’s Lucky Letters, on the other hand, was more of a gimmick purchase. It had never been opened, and one copy there had a dozen GameStop price stickers on it, going from $20, to $10, to $5, to $2 by the end of it. This is the Wheel of Fortune host’s first foray into making video games after having a weird aversion to appearing in Wheel of Fortune games for a solid two decades. At least he eventually got over that.

This casual game is a hybrid of crossword puzzles mixed in with elements from The Joker’s Wild. Put into a sleek casual games package, it’s an interesting little game made around the time of the casual games boom. There was another game under the Pat Sajak Games label named Trivia Gems, but I don’t know if that ever got a retail package. Bet both of those games are worth looking into.

The rest of my PAX swag was a shitload of buttons, energy drinks, cards and promo stuff, followed by Guitar Hero: Van Halen. I mean, when Dan Amrich (then of Activision and One of Swords in 2012, currently at Ubisoft) just hands them out for just showing up at a panel, you can’t resist. Then again, I heard that lots of people got copies of that game, apparently they had excess stock.

Continue reading…

I Bought Stuff! 8/29/2012: Pre-PAX Edition.

So, the Penny Arcade Expo is coming up. That popular video game thing in Seattle that has all the cool video game and nerd-culture related things that’s right in my neck of the woods.

But instead of packing and getting ready to hop on a train tomorrow, I decided to go check some thrift stores and hope to find some interesting stuff. And I definitely found some of that. This will be a small, but interesting haul indeed.

Quite the bizarre combination on hand here.

  • Virtua Fighter (32X, $3)

  • Metal Head (32X, $3)

  • The LucasArts Archives Volume IV: The Star Wars Collection Volume II (PC, $5)

Over the years I’ve amassed a fairly small collection of 32X games, that ill-fated add-on for the Sega Genesis that was pretty much the Beginning of The End for Sega. I have a fair share of the ones people remember like Doom and Virtua Racing Deluxe, but a few other games elude me primarily because of how popular they are, like Knuckles Chaotix. In hindsight I should’ve grabbed it when they were $30 for a loose cartridge, because it’s definitely much higher these days.

Virtua Fighter really doesn’t need much explanation: A 3D fighting game in the infancy of 3D graphics in arcades. The 32X version is likely an acceptable version of that game, but probably not the most ideal version to play these days. I’m not even big on fighting games, but I consider this significant enough to own.

Metal Head is basically a first-person shooter in a mech. While not particularly new — stuff like MechWarrior existed for years before this — it’s something unexpected for the 32X, and had some surprisingly good 3D out of it. A shame it was put onto this dying system.

Both of the Goodwills I went to had a surprisingly influx of NES, SNES and Genesis games, but most of them were the common licensed schlock or sports games. I even saw the infamous Pit Fighter for the SNES, but I’d rather not waste my money on garbage I’d only own for the novelty value.

Continue reading…

Mods and maps: A tactical Quake bonanza!

As much as I love the mod scene for old PC games, I realized I haven’t looked much at Quake‘s mod scene compared to others. The last mods I played for Quake was stuff like Quake Done Quick with a Vengeance, which was made more as a demo of the game rather than something actually playable.

So for today, we’re gonna tackle some Quake mods that tried their best to be a bit more tactical in their approach. Both of these were released around the same time, and share a few similarities but both have their own unique quirks.

Sadly, Michael Biehn and Charlie Sheen don’t appear in this.

First on our list is a mod called Navy Seals Quake. This mod features a bevvy of new weapons such as the Mark 23 SOCOM pistol, the MP5 (and its silenced variant), a Mossberg tactical shotgun, even an M16 assault rifle with grenade launcher. While those seem like fairly common things now, for when this came out in 1998, that was considered pretty impressive.

There are three unique levels made for Navy Seals Quake, though selecting New Game oddly takes you to the default Quake start level. The levels all feature you going in and killing everything while completing objectives like destroying a jet and disarming “RADEK” bombs. You can also play through regular Quake with these new weapons, giving you a different taste of the game, but only a handful of characters were replaced, leaving you with custom marine models mixed in with default Quake enemies like Ogres and Scrags.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOwPcmcOSNY&w=640&h=480]

In a unique twist, Navy Seals Quake features weapons that reload, realistic ammo management where partial-ammo reloads remove the bullets inside, the option to use flashbang grenades, even allowing you to headshot enemies and gib their heads. This was pretty advanced for its time, and it’s quite impressive.

Sometimes the only solution is to rip everything to shreds, Rambo style. It’s like they know me.

There is one interesting thing about Navy Seals Quake – it was made by a guy named Minh “Gooseman” Le. He would later go on to help make Action Quake II and a little fun multiplayer FPS you might’ve heard of called Counter-Strike. Le was one of the co-creators of Counter-Strike, who later worked with Valve up until Counter-Strike: Source. Le would later go on to make a CS successor called Tactical Intervention, which had some of the same features as Counter-Strike but with some new twists. While it wasn’t particularly outstanding, it did leave for some dumb moments.

Continue reading…

I Bought Stuff! 7/31/2012: Video game… comic books?

I really should be getting prepared for a camping trip (as I originally wrote this). Instead I went to some thrift stores and found some interesting finds. But first, some GameStop finds.

Surprising no one, finding interesting stuff at GameStop is a crapshoot. While I did find Perfect Dark Zero for a ridiculous $2, Boom Blox was considerably less ridiculous at $13. I’m trying to burn off the excess store credit I have with GameStop so I don’t have to do much business with them anymore, especially with some of their terrible business practices.

Since I bought games on the Steam Summer sale from a few weeks back, I suddenly had games on systems I didn’t need. Such as a shrinkwrapped copy of Saints Row: The Third for Xbox 360. GameStop wanted $18 credit for it, so I opted to try my luck with my reliable Video Game Wizards, a local Portland game store I’ve talked about in the past.

Since it was unopened, they offered me $14 in cash or $21 in store credit. I opted for the store credit, which was more than GS was gonna give me. I then rebought 007: Agent Under Fire007: Everything or Nothing and 007: Nightfire all on the PlayStation 2 for a total of $8. I’m trying to replace my multiplatform released games from the GameCube with PS2 or Xbox equivalents, mainly because most of the multiplatform ports on the GC suck control-wise or for other reasons.

2020 update: As time goes on I realized that this wasn’t necessary for some games, and I ended up selling most of these back years later. I still follow this rule for some multiplatform games, but only on ones I don’t already have elsewhere.

Sometimes when I’m in downtown Portland, I poke my head inside a couple thrift stores in the area, as I’ve gotten a few interesting things from them in the past. Like one time I found a Japanese copy of Hot Shots Golf 2 for the PlayStation.

My usual thrift store haunts in downtown Portland were a bust, except in one store. This thrift store had a comic book I saw, which I decided to snatch up immediately. While I was there, I decided to thumb through their surprisingly vast comics section. I then walked out with about $2.40 of comic books. I’m no comic book nerd, the last comic I bought was Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog many years ago, but I couldn’t pass these up.

Hellgate, Timecop and Mass Effect… what a combination.

 

$2.40 for seven comics:

  • Mass Effect: Redemption issue 1

  • Mass Effect: Invasion issue 3

  • Mass Effect: Evolution issue 4

  • Hellgate: London issue 0

  • Star Wars: The Old Republic – The Lost Suns issue 5

  • Timecop issues 1 and 2

It was the Mass Effect: Invasion issue that caught my eye and made me thumb through their comics. With the exception of Timecop — that’s based off the cornball Jean-Claude Van Damme film of the same name — they were all video game tie-ins.

The Hellgate: London one was especially interesting, considering that game was an absolute bust at this point, only living on through a Korean acquisition.

It also seems these were done as special editions, as my 5 minutes of Google searching revealed that every comic series here was a 4-5 issue special edition rather than a regular series. Two of the comics were a mere quarter, while the rest were 50 cents each. Coupled with the thrift store doing an end-of-month drawing where they cut a random percentage off the sale — mine was 20% — meant that I spent $2.40 for all seven.

Coincidentally all the comics I bought are published by Dark Horse Comics. Hell, about a good 95% of the comics on sale there were Dark Horse-published. This is an amusing coincidence, as Dark Horse Comics’ main office is in nearby Milwaukie, Oregon. I’ve gone past there a few times, and I didn’t know they were the king of licensed comics. Well, with the exception of Timecop, they can’t all be winners.

I should eventually see how cheap it would be to complete the set, or at least find these online to read. While I may not be big on Mass Effect or Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’m down for reading some interesting video game stories. Sure beats reading the Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog stuff again.

Shadow Warrior: I messed with Lo Wang, and got my ass beat.

Man, remember when 3D Realms were considered one of the coolest PC publishers? Then Duke Nukem Forever happened and now they’re just a shell of their former glory only to be laughed at. Where did it start going all wrong? Probably when they thought they could make a Duke Nukem 3D ripoff of their own.

This looks eerily similar to the Duke Nukem 3D box.

This is Shadow Warrior. Released in 1997 on the PC, it was a first-person shooter much in the vein of Duke Nukem 3D. Sadly, it didn’t sell as well as Duke 3D did. Shadow Warrior is considered to be part of the “Holy Trinity” of shooters that used Ken Silverman’s Build engine: The others being Duke Nukem 3D and either Redneck Rampage or Blood, depending on who you talk to.

I had already bought DukeRedneck Rampage and Blood through GOG.com, but as of the time I wrote this, Shadow Warrior was nowhere to be found on that service. The only ways to buy it were through 3D Realms’ online store at a ridiculous-for-an-old-game price of $10, or hunt down a copy on eBay or local shops.

Well, luck was on my side when I finally found a copy at a Goodwill recently. After a little cajoling with DOSBox to get it to work properly, I was ready to play Shadow Warrior, told by the man himself that “You no mess with the Lo Wang.” I had heard from friends that this game wasn’t very good. Was this gonna be a repeat of the Blood II debacle, where I found enjoyment in a game everybody else hated? Well, not really.

“Zilla sends his regards…” with ninjas that will quickly die to my fancy katana.

The game starts out in Lo Wang’s dojo, where some goons come in from Master Zilla, who apparently wants you dead after you find out he wants to rule the world or something to that effect, and even kills Lo Wang’s master in the process later in the game, forcing Wang to avenge his death and kill Master Zilla. Granted, this was pre-Half-Life and pre-Deus Ex. Shadow Warrior was made when stories in first-person shooters were there just to make the unrelated levels connect to each other somehow. I can’t fault 3D Realms for the paper-thin storyline.

Wouldn’t be a 3D Realms game without a poke at other games in it.

Unlike Duke Nukem’s claim to fame from stealing from Roddy Piper and Bruce Campbell, Lo Wang doesn’t crib from any kung fu movies, so we get wonderful lines like “Howsa that for Kung Fu Fighting you Chickenashit?!” to “Cocks and balls, squashy penis,” even saying “Ancient Chinese secret!” any time you find a secret area. The jokes come off flat, crude and mostly unfunny. The voice of Lo Wang, John Galt, gave it a shot, but Lo Wang just doesn’t hold a candle to Duke in terms of cheesy one liners.

Since this game is a pastiche of Asian cinema, there are references all over the place that don’t quite fit. It has dojos, references to eating animals, fortune cookies as health boosts, plus weird anime references before anime was even a thing in the US. I can give them effort for trying, but in a sense this comes off as a bit culturally insensitive. Granted I’m the whitest person around, so I cannot really give my piece about some of the game’s questionable elements.

The game loves throwing tough foes at you even early on.

The game is also punishingly difficult, with many enemies being able to do rapid amounts of damage and small enemies that are a real nuisance to hit. Granted, Build engine games can be tough for many different reasons, but Shadow Warrior is considerably harder due to enemies that can easily whittle down your health pretty fast. Not only that, armor is considerably scarcer in this game. I usually don’t have problems with Blood or even Duke Nukem 3D, but the quicksave button got a lot of use while playing.

Ah, the days when you could make a blatant Speed Racer reference and *not* get sued.

Despite my frustration of this, there are a few good things going for it. The art style’s good in spite of the Asian stereotypes, Lee Jackson’s soundtrack is filled with goddamn bangers, and some pretty unique interactivity where you can drive RC cars by using your mouse and keyboard among other drivable vehicles. This was pretty cool stuff for 1997, all things considered.

There were going to be three expansions, which only two — Twin Dragons and Wanton Destruction — got released; the other one would be cancelled after the poor sales of the original game. Both of these are freeware now, so if you wanted more Wang, there you go.

No, Lo Wang isn’t gonna try to eat the rabbit. He’s trying to snatch a fly with those chopsticks.

I feel a little bit bad for 3D Realms. They clearly wanted this to be the next Duke Nukem, going a big marketing blitz, complete with novels based on the game, which I heard are worse than even the Doom novels. But it wasn’t enough as people were already enamored by id Software’s Quake and its innovative 3D engine, and nobody wanted these old looking “2D” shooters.

When I look at this, I see a shooter that despite some cringe-worthy moments like mostly naked anime girls and terrible stereotypes, is actually alright. It does justify its place in the “holy trinity” of Build engine games. It’s tough as balls, but still fun in the end. That’s really all that matters.

If you wanna play it now, it’s freely available on either GOG or Steam, but this is the original game in a DOSBox wrapper. If you want something a bit easier to handle on more modern machines, there’s Shadow Warrior Classic Redux, which was ported by General Arcade. Either way, Shadow Warrior is worth a look at least, in spite of its issues.

Oh well, at least 3D Realms got better after this, right?

Balls of steel, indeed.

 

Nope, they did not.

Updated 1/16/2020 for grammar and tone changes. Added screenshots from the more recent Redux release.

Vietnam: Black Ops: Not the Black Ops you’re thinking of.

Way back in January of 2012, I had written a post about a bargain bin shooter I had grabbed called Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima. That wasn’t a fun game to play. But there are several other bargain bin shooters out there, some of which that are actually alright.

Granted, I wouldn’t say it’s good, but I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima. It’s yet another game based on a war, this time a little more recent. So let’s play Black Ops.

Sadly, Woods did not learn time travel and appear in a budget game from 2000. Though anything’s possible these days.

No, no, silly, not that Black Ops. Though I wouldn’t mind talking about probably one of the better games in the Call of Duty franchise, we’re actually talking about a game called Vietnam: Black Ops, and it was made way back in the year 2000. Insert your “In the year 2000” joke here.

With that font, I wonder if I’m playing Black Ops or Postal…

Made by a podunk little studio called Fused Software, this would end up being their only published game. Most of the people would work on this game and a handful of other projects around the late 90s to early 2000s, though one art designer for this is still in the biz working on art for stuff like Dragon Age: Origins, so good on him.

Oh, and this is another Valusoft joint. I had mentioned them in the previous post, and I wasn’t expecting to be playing two war games published by the same company. It shows how ubiquitous they were during this period. While I can’t say I remember this era fondly, it was certainly more interesting than seeing copies of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 on my PC budget aisles.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuyN8Njt5c4]

You play as some unknown marine during the Vietnam War. Captured by Vietcong, your goal is to kill General Phan, and get out of there safely. Occasionally you’ll see text giving your character some personality, but that’s about it. Honestly, I’ll take Alex Mason and him babbling about “hearing the fucking numbers” over this bare-bones plot.

So, it’s another first-person shooter on the Lithtech engine. Which is weird, because I thought it was the Quake engine at first, until I dug into the files and realized it used the REZ file format that Lithtech uses.

In every level, you just get to kill a bunch of Vietcong, do some slightly obnoxious platforming, and get to the end of the level each time.

You start with a useless knife, then get an AK47, M16, a M60, a Sniper Rifle, and two explosive launchers during your travels. Most of the weapons will be in your collection not long after you start, and unlike Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima, there’s actually ammo for these guns this time!

Never thought the Vietnamese would have some hidden temple like this.

However, that doesn’t excuse the game’s punishing difficulty. You have 100 health and no armor, and it doesn’t take much for you to die. Get used to seeing the Purple Heart and “Taps” playing repeatedly every time you die, because you will likely see it a lot. Expect to be hitting the quick save key a lot.

Now I can give this game credit for something: The levels are pretty large, which is impressive for a 2000-era game. Problem is the the levels look blocky and simplistic, with the later levels being “my first FPS level” in some spots. They look like they belong in an action-adventure Tomb Raider knockoff rather than a Vietnam War FPS, but I’m not expecting realism here.

On the bright side, a handful of the levels feel somewhat non-linear, allowing you to take one of two different paths which probably take you to the same place anyway. At least, it felt that way, I didn’t replay the game to be sure if I was right.

Besides the ugly graphics and very banal gameplay of shooting dudes and getting to the exit, there really isn’t much else to this game. Thankfully it’s ridiculously short: I beat it in an hour and a half over two separate sessions. Honestly I was hoping for something longer, but then I flashback to WWII Iwo Jima and realized how much the game padded its levels with ridiculous difficulty spikes, so I’ll take the short length.

I found this in a thrift store for $2. For the time I got with it, $2 is the right price. It’s not mindblowing, but it’s not awful. Hence, Vietnam: Black Ops is just a passable, but ultimately forgettable game.

Surprisingly, there was a sequel: Vietnam 2: Special Assignment. Some of the developers from Black Ops return for the sequel, which surprised me. I haven’t found a copy of this anywhere, but I’m not expecting anything mind-blowing. Maybe I’ll find it and get around to writing about it some day…

Call of Duty: Black Ops promo picture taken from the Call of Duty Wiki. Vietnam: Black Ops video courtesy of YouTube user Marphy Black.

I Bought Stuff! 4/25/2012: Some ’90s PC nostalgia.

Before I started this blog, I used to document my thrift store hauls and finds on my more personal blog. Now with a more centralized place to write about my video game-related things, I’ll start writing about them here. The stuff I’m about to show you will show some insight into ’90s era PC gaming, as well as a bunch of demo discs with free games on it. Because, hey, who doesn’t like free games? As my experience with getting one from GameStop earlier this year proved…

More freebies than you can shake a stick at!

25 cents each:

  • PCGAMES.EXE’s July/August 1998 demo disc

  • Computer Gaming World’s November 1999 demo disc

  • PC Gamer’s July 2000 demo disc

  • Computer Gaming World’s March 2001 demo disc

  • A shareware copy of Wolfenstein 3D

One place I stumbled upon had a few demo discs. Did I say a few? I mean 50 demo discs. For 25 cents each. From the early days of PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World to lesser known ones like that PCGAMES.EXE disc up there, which I could find no information on who published these. I only grabbed a few of these since I really didn’t need every demo disc, just ones that seemed appealing. Hell, for 25 cents each, I had to resist from buying all of them. Somebody must have dumped their old PC gaming collection.

The first one on the upper left is from Computer Gaming World’s November 1999 issue. It has demos of games like Freespace 2 and Midtown Madness, but what really caught my eye was that it had a trailer for Halo. Yes, that Halo. Back before it was a first-person shooter title for the Xbox, it was once going to be a third-person shooter that was supposed to be a PC and Mac game before Microsoft snatched it up for the console’s 2001 launch. The trailer on the disc is almost identical to the one featured below, the only difference being a slight change in the intro. I thought it was an interesting piece of nostalgia, and it seemed even in 1999 that Halo theme was in full force.

 

Continue reading…

Blood II: The Chosen: Oft maligned, but is it that bad?

Critical opinion of games can vary wildly. Some games are universally praised, such as the major AAA entries, while others are universally slammed for their absolute badness. Though in all honesty, the games that are merely okay are the most interesting.

As time goes on, some games have stood the test of time and are still praised to this very day. Others have not aged as well and thus have a more negative reception now than they did back then. Despite that, there’s some games that are old enough that while the game is universally disliked now, there’s some people that have fondness for the game because of the time they played it. For me, that’s Blood II: The Chosen.

Caleb lives… again.

Taking place in the far-flung future of 2028, the protagonist Caleb from the original Blood is brought back from the dead to stop Gideon from unleashing the Cabal and causing hell on earth. While Caleb goes through darkened alleys, desolate hotels and the obligatory sewer level, he bumps into a few supporting characters who spout goofy tidbits of advice. All this culminates in Caleb having to destroy “The Chosen One” in a dark parallel world. It’s typical late 1990s first-person shooter fare: Little story, strange levels to roam around in, baddies to shoot, and the occasional jumping puzzle. Because hey, people LOVED jumping puzzles back in the day! (/sarcasm)

Blood II was one of the first games to use Monolith’s new Lithtech engine. When it was released in late 1998, the game had very mixed opinions. GameSpot gave it a respectable 7.8 in its heyday, IGN gave it a slightly weaker 6.8, and GamePro was the most critical of the game, giving it a 2/5. The general opinion seems to be that Blood II wasn’t as good, giving Blood considerably more praise. This opinion is agreed upon with most of my friends, regardless of playing it when it was new back in 1998, or when replaying it today.

From early on in the game. These guys have the funniest voice, including saying goofy gibberish which sounded like “Strongalellie,” which I still don’t get what it means.

Continue reading…

StoneLoops! of Jurassica: An interesting GameStop freebie.

So I’m sitting here, browsing the internet and looking at goofy forum posts, when I get an email from GameStop. Usually they’re for dumb deals where you can save $5 off a copy of some used game from six months ago or something. But this one caught my eye.

A free downloadable game? Can’t beat free! Sign me up!

I’m a complete sucker for free games, so I couldn’t resist the temptation to snag a free game, despite it being somewhat of a clunky way to do this.

Normally I don’t frequent GameStop because of their nasty business practices of pushing pre-orders, plus I often find games on sale elsewhere, so often times my GameStop visits are usually that: visits. This was back before they branched out to “geek culture” alongside games.

So I buy a few games at a store just to use up another coupon I had: Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition for PS3, since I had heard it was a pretty cool game; and Die Hard: Vendetta for the Gamecube, since they were gonna stop selling Gamecube games soon. (Note from me in 2019: I played Arkham Asylum and thought it was great, but I still haven’t played Die Hard: Vendetta to this day.)

I get home and go through the less-than-interesting set of events, including having to register for GameStop’s Impulse service, and then installed StoneLoops! of Jurassica. In my excitement and fervor for something free, I didn’t realize what the free game really was.

This looks like something I’ve seen before…

Look familiar? Yeah, it’s similar to the Magnetica series of games (or Ballistic/Puzz Loop, if you prefer). A color matching ball shooter game created by Mitchell Corporation, duplicated by many others, notably PopCap’s Zuma and MumboJumbo’s Luxor.

For those who haven’t played these kind of games, the goal is to shoot balls of a color into a matching color to stack combos for points. Luxor changed it up a bit where instead of shooting randomly colored balls like Zuma or Magnetica, you’d pull a ball over and shoot it back onto a stack to make combos, clearing groups of balls being pushed by special monsters (Beetles in StoneLoops!). Luxor added to this by giving the player powerups like spears and time stoppers, almost like the powerups in games like Arkanoid.

StoneLoops! is based on Luxor‘s gameplay style, yet has a theme/style more reminiscent of Zuma, so in a sense it’s a weird mashup of the whole ball shooter genre. The similarities to Luxor were so blatant that MumboJumbo actually muscled Apple to remove an iOS version of StoneLoops! from the App Store. Not a big deal for developer CodeMinion, as they still have the game available on other platforms, including the PC.

Though I doubt Luxor has an excited announcer yelling words like “ASTONISHING!” and “AVALANCHE!” when you’ve done great combos. Guy could give the Unreal Tournament announcer a run for his money. StoneLoops! has the same kind of gameplay loop these ball shooters have, including upgrading your hut (which doesn’t do much of anything), and a long story progression of multiple levels of challenge.

There really isn’t much else to this game, the game is fairly innocuous and no different than the other color-matching ball shooters out there. Despite that, it’s a decent time-waster.

You can try StoneLoops! of Jurassica for yourself on CodeMinion’s official website, free of charge. Sadly it’s a trial version and not the full game, but an hour is probably enough to see the StoneLoops! experience for yourself. I recommend it just to hear that overexcited announcer.


2019 update:

This would be the first out of two games I’d get from GameStop’s Impulse service, the other being a free copy of Darksiders that I didn’t use. (It came with a Steam key, so I gave the key to a friend.) It was clear GameStop was using this to attract people to the Impulse service, which wasn’t a big success as it would shut down in 2014. Which means this whole adventure was kind of a waste, in retrospect.

However, I downloaded the trial again recently and found it just as goofy as I remember it. I’m not even super-big on casual games like these and I had a fun time for about 10 minutes. I can see the appeal and the addictive nature of these games, for sure.

This post has been completely overhauled, making it drastically different from when I originally wrote it, where it was more like a blog post. I tried to update it more how I usually write things these days. My apologies for it being so short, these kind of games are fairly simple and don’t require a lot of words.