Review – Goat Simulator

Ready for the next generation in goat simulation?

Ready for the next generation in goat simulation?

Released today on steam for only $10 is the much anticipated new simulation game from well established Coffee Stain Studios: Goat Simulator. Coffee Stain Studios has opted to take a break from their usual offerings of FPS/Tower Defense Hybrids to tackle the incredibly touchy and high bar genre of Farm Animal Sims.

Maxis first broke into the farm animal simulations with their epic: Sim Goat

Maxis first broke into the farm animal simulations with their 1998 epic: Sim Goat

You may ask if we truly need yet another goat simulation experience. With Maxis pretty much hitting it out of the park in the late 90’s with their PC classic: SimGoat. There were many poor attempts to cash in on the farm animal simulation craze of the era. Most notably were Goats! Goats! Goats! and Goat Herder Tycoon. However by the mid 2000’s the industry seemed to have milked that goat for all they could and turned their attentions towards farm machinery simulation.

Goat Sim meets modern graphics!

Goat Sim meets modern graphics!

Then out of nowhere came last year’s surprise hit: Goat Petting Simulator. Now the industry seems to be clamoring to get on the goat wagon once more. The first out of the gate of what will undoubtedly be a large herd of goats is none other than Coffee Stain Studio’s Goat Simulator. As you would expect from the well established genre, you are put in charge of a goat and must do goaty things.

Ooops, someone let the goat out!

Oops, someone let the goat out!

There is the usual eating, licking, bleating, and jumping over things as you might expect from any goat sim. Also, with a modern graphics and physics engine we can experience the more destructive side of goats in full glorious 3d. Rag-doll physics are of course everywhere and you can get a little bit of glee as you watch your evil goat smash about.

Evil? Goats aren't evil! ...or are they?

Evil? Goats aren’t evil! …or are they?

There is also a lot of depth hidden here under the glossy surface. If your four legged fellah gets bored of his pen’s toys there’s plenty to explore and see. There is a nice, beautiful farm stretching off into the distance or your goat might fancy exploring the city. Like Goat Tycoon there are shops and such but there seems to be no sort of in-game economy. Lots of nice things to see in the store but no way to buy them. I was very disappointed there.

What good is a shop if you can't buy anything?

What good is a shop if you can’t buy anything?

The game also tries to incorporate a quest system, like Goat Control. Although they are not clearly labeled there is plenty of things to do if you’re willing to explore and find it. Rise to the goat throne, summon aliens, rocket yourself off to space, or SACRIFICE THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT TO YOUR DARK GOAT GODS. Really they did a great job of coming up with so many little side quests and distractions. Some of them require a fair bit of planning as well, getting to space is especially hard, much harder even than Kerbel Space Program.

Lick the Sun! Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

Lick the Sun! Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

I must say though, mixing modern physics engines and graphics into Goat Simulation is quite a pleasant experience. The game is really well polished here and I’m quite amazed how well they pulled it off. There’s very few instances of objects clipping through walls or the goat suddenly spazzing out and rocketing up into the sky. There’s also a well done skater game style trick system that works really smoothly allowing you to land cool flips and such.

Is that a person sticking out of a wall with their shadow left behind or modern art?

Is that a person sticking out of a wall with their shadow left behind or modern art?

Demon goat spazzing out or ominously flying above the city looking for the blood of the innocent?

Demon goat spazzing out or ominously flying above the city SEEKING THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT?

Goat Simulator also does a great job of incorporating cool unlocks and add-ons. As you explore the world you will come across collectables here and there, some unlocking cool additions. Other add-ons are unlocked by completing some of the many quests, such as SACRIFICING THE SOULS OF THE INNOCENT TO THE DARK GOAT GODS. This adds to an already lengthy game as you can play through again as a tall goat, a fast goat, or even a rocket powered goat!

Tall goat is taaaaaaaall!

Tall goat is taaaaaaaall!

I also thought the combat in the game seemed a little over powered. I mean THE SOULS OF THE INNOCENT DO NOT OFFER ANY INKLING OF RESISTANCE. And once you upgrade your goat with the baseball launcher, just forget about it. Game over. Nothing can stand in your way. It’s like a Michael Bay film and nothing will stop you as you blast everything in sight.

Nerf Now!

OP’D! Nerf Now!

Overall though as I played and UNLEASHED UTTER TERROR AND HELL UPON THE SOULS OF THE INNOCENT, I couldn’t help but think this game just does not quite stack up to the old goat simulator classics of the late 90’s. Sure the graphics are shiny and there’s a nice new physics engine but the game just doesn’t bring anything new to the table. In the end you are just looking to set a new high score and I was very disappointed at a lack of multiplayer modes. The quests are cool and it’s fun trying out the different combinations of goat add-ons but did we really need another Goat Simulator? However if you’ve got $10 to spare I suppose you couldn’t do worse for a purchase on this April Fool’s Day.

Dream big.

Dream big. Dream Goat.

Final Score:
Graphics: 8/10
Game Play: 7/10
Music / Ambiance: 5/10
Story: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Overall: 6.8/10

(I ran out of review and have more awesome pictures to share. Enjoy!)

Say No to Penis Shaped foods!

Say No to Penis Shaped Food! I’m looking at you hotdogs!

Beam me up Goaty!

Beam me up Goaty!

All hail the lord of the goat throne!

All hail the lord of the goat throne!

 

Cleaning up the Library: Week 1

So I managed to force myself through four games this week… Leaving- way too many games to go. *sigh* Anyway here’s my thoughts for the first few:

1…2…3… Kick it! thumbsdown & AaAaAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity thumbsup

1...2...3... KICK IT! Involves a lot of falling...

1…2…3… KICK IT! Involves a lot of falling…

As does AaAaAA!!!

As does AaAaAA!!!

The first two games I played which happened to be right at the top of my library list also happened to be almost nearly identical. They’re both from the same developer and both involve falling and getting points by trying to stay close to objects without actually hitting them. AaAaAA!!! Is much more refined and has a lot more to do. It is, in fact, an actually complete game unlike 1…2…3… KICK IT!. I thought AaAaAA!! was somewhat entertaining as there’s plenty to do as you’re falling, wave to fans, flip off your enemies, graffiti buildings, hit targets, land in better spots for more points, etc. It still got a little dull after a while but very well polished and has a very nice style. 1…2…3… KICK IT! However, is an incomplete “early access” game that hasn’t been updated in almost a year. I think the selling point of KICK IT was to incorporate your own custom music and have courses generated to match the beat but I was unimpressed. Probably best to pass on that one especially as there doesn’t seem to be any active updates on it.

Age of Empires III thumbsup

High resolution has not done this older game much favors...

High resolution has not done this older game much favors…

As both a Civ fan and an RTS fan I surprisingly never really got into Age of Empires. I’m not entirely convinced if the two genres should be mixed. I ran through a couple missions and once I got the hang of things the game was pretty enjoyable but also forgettable. I will, however, just laugh at the absurdity of one of the missions. We were heading to the new world to chase down the Ottomans for whatever reason but got headed off by pirates. What are we to do!? Why found a colony on a tiny island of course! Just kinda silly to me but still I’ve played worse RTS’s.

Alan Wake thumbsdown

Alan Wake, brought to you by Energizer Batteries! It keeps on going... and going... and going...

Alan Wake, brought to you by Energizer Batteries! It keeps on going… and going… and going…

I had been putting off Alan Wake because I was afraid it’d suck up too much time. However, 30 minutes in and I couldn’t wait for the hour to be over. I was surprised at just how bad this game was. I mean come on, a game about a novel writer, with me being a novel writer, this should be perfect for me! However the game is horribly forced, everything in its plot makes me groan loudly, the combat is bad, and the camera angle drives me absolutely nuts! This is one of those horrible disasters that are sadly not quite so bad that it’s nice to watch it fail. Just… uhg… felt like a waste of my time. Oh and the product placements were really really bad. Definitely recommend a pass on it.

That’s it? Well I’ll try to have more next week but no promises!

My out of control Steam Library

So it’s been a little while since I’ve reviewed a game due to a combination of several factors. There’s been a lot of far too similar games released lately, there are only so many metroidvania action platformers a guy can play before he gets rather tired of any of them. And I’ve let my list of unplayed games on Steam get far far far too large! There are far too many games on this list that have no play time at all! I counted 65 on my little list… which ought to keep me busy for a bit.

I’d like to say it’s not all my fault here. Thank steam and their gosh darn amazing deals on big packs of games to just load up my library with a plethora of games that I only kinda want to play. Well it’s time to rectify this! My goal over the next weeks or months or however long is to go through my out of control list of games and give them all at least an hour of my time. And those who prove worth their while I will play until I beat the game (or get horribly frustrated or a week has passed) and report the results. More importantly it will help my wallet recover from my recent vacation by not buying any more games until I’ve cleared my list!

Just a little To-Do List for the next few weeks... or months...

Just a little To-Do List for the next few weeks… or months…

There are a couple games on the list I’m embarrassed I never got around to playing, such as Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Bioshock 1&2. There’s also a lot of smaller lesser known games on the list too and all deserve at least a little bit of my time. So each week I’ll give a report of the games I’ve played. Also if you follow me on steam, I’ll try to write a little blurb about each game as I play them so might be a great way to get some tidbits on what I’m up to there. I’m also going to ditch the in-depth rating system for a simple 5 tier system:
thumbsupthumbsup (two thumbs-up): Definitely worth checking out
thumbsup (one thumb-up): I enjoyed it but I can see some people wouldn’t.
Meh: I didn’t like it either way or I couldn’t get the game to work.
thumbsdown (one thumb-down): I didn’t like it but some people might.
thumbsdownthumbsdown (two thumbs-down): Avoid at all costs!

 

Suck it gas bag!

Suck it gas bag!

Bastion: thumbsupthumbsup

The first game I knocked off my list was Bastion which I played through this game last night in a half dozen hours. I really enjoyed the art style, the story was pretty good (although a little trope-ish) and I loved the way they had the running commentary worked into the story itself. It does, however, suffer from upgrade scheme problems. As you progress you get better weapons so anything you’ve invested in older weapons often feels like a waste of your resources. And, further, once you’ve upgraded the top weapons fully the game starts to become downright easy. I even started a newgame+ for a bit more challenge which kept my old weapon and I’m more likely to kill myself with my rocket launcher than actually be harmed by the enemies. However all in all it was a pretty enjoyable couple of hours and definitely worth checking out!

I’m going to try going through the games in alphabetical order, more or less. The only exception might be on squeals. Bioshock 1 & 2 for example might take up far too much time all by themselves so I might want to space them out a bit. I also know there are some games on the list that just don’t play nicely with modern computers. I’ll do what I can to try to coax them into cooperating but there’s only so much a guy can do! Anyway, hopefully each Sunday I’ll have a report of a couple of games to give me something to write about. Next on the list: 1… 2… 3… Kick it!

The hook isn’t just for the reader.

Total Word Count: 8,686
Previous Word Count: 0
Weekly Word Count: 8,686

Hey hey hey! I’m writing again! While I figure out how to distribute The Retired Mercenary I have begun novel #2. This means of course, weekly writing journals! I have the misfortune (or fortune if you wish) of having about a half dozen novel ideas circling around in my head all set in my fantasy world. So I suppose I better start hammering ‘em out before they start to spoil.

The next novel, after some debate, revolves around a stuttering half-breed (half elf, half human) artificer coming up with a new world changing method of long distance travel. Absolutely nothing could possibly go wrong! It took me a little while to get the ball rolling on this story and I realized it wasn’t due to lack of ideas. I pretty much have a general (albeit slightly organic) summary of events in my head. The hard part is the initial writing, finding a starting point, and going with it.

What I need of course, is the hook. It’s a common element of story telling, something interesting that quickly grabs the audience’s attention and gets them invested in the story. Something that makes them want to find out more about the characters and follow along with the plot. There’s lots of ways to do it, action scenes, intrigues, mysteries, I’ve even seen it done effectively with just a bold statement. But every story needs a starting point, and that starting point should be darn interesting if you want to keep your audience.

As I was trying to figure out how to start my story I realized that it is just as important for the story teller as it is for the audience to get a good hook. I may be the one putting words onto the paper but I am just as interested in this story (if not more so) than the reader is. Having a great hook motivates me to keep the story flowing and once the words start pouring out there’s not much I can do to stop them.

So to me, really, if I’m going to really tell a story that I’m invested in, I need a great hook. I need something that gets my blood pumping, makes me sit up, and pay attention. Otherwise, without a hook, it’s not story telling, it’s just sharing events.

Review – A-Men

A-Men, not to be confused with the A-Team.

A-Men, not to be confused with the A-Team.

Released this week on steam by developer Bloober Team is the new game: A-Men for $14.99 (on sale until the end of the month for $11.99.) I have to make full disclosure here, A-Men and I got off to a bad start. Once again another game that can’t seem to support two monitors in portrait mode. I had to switch over to landscape, tilt my head, tweak settings, and tweak again, and again, until I finally got the game working in windowed mode. And if I ever go back to the options the game crashes, probably when trying to detect available resolutions. *sigh* Just kinda sick of such poor quality control. A-Men bills itself as a platform puzzle game “inspired by classic, well-known titles, such as Lemmings and Lost Vikings.” and that they decided to “go for clever and addictive entertainment for hardcore players.” Sadly I’m not sure if I could describe this game as being clever or addictive.

Something went screwy at this resolution....

Something went screwy at this resolution….

The goal of the game is to destroy a certain number of A-droids, androids that look like Napoleonic toy soldiers, all equipped with… muskets. Really not the most terror inspiring foe, and all that I’ve come across just wander around aimlessly and stab you if you get too close. I can’t help but thinking the entire time a single soldier with an assault rifle and plenty of ammunition would have no trouble cleaning up the mess. But sadly no, you just have a hapless soldier with almost no ammo and has to rely on various methods in the environment to deal with the disappointing death droids.

A-droid problem? Try spikes!

A-droid problem? Try spikes!

There’s a decent variety of ways to deal with the droids but I’d describe the game as unintuitive rather than difficult. The first few times I played I had few clues as to what I should do. Once I had finally figured out the thought process involved in the level design the game was no longer difficult, it was just tedious. Basically you look over a level, find kill spots, slowly and methodically get your guys to the right spots to interact with things, and kill off enough droids for the chopper to land and take you off to the next zone. It felt like I was taking care of mechanical janitorial work, not some fun, thrilling, life or death struggle.

"Bored and then bored some more." My thoughts exactly.

“Bored and then bored some more.” My thoughts exactly.

The game is definitely not helped by the cast of characters and the cheesy cut scenes between each mission. Sadly they’re not cheesy in a funny, campy sort of way. More cheesy in a five year old playing with toys while copying what his dad screams into his headset ‘pwning newbs’ in the latest Call of Duty multiplayer game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game resorts to toilet humor at some point but I just couldn’t keep enough interest to play past the first few tedious levels.

"Over and over the same. Zero originality." Yup.

“Over and over the same. Zero originality.” Yup.

The game just wasn’t hard or mind boggling as advertised, nor did it feel like I had to use much creativity to find ways to kill the required number of droids. Just tedious, dull, and bleh. It’s not that the game is terrible it’s just… not as challenging or interesting as I was expecting. I’d give this game a definite pass if I were you. Oh and PS: Having a snarky Engineer that breaks the fourth wall by constantly criticizing your game, probably not a good idea. Players might start to agree with him.

Getting a 'C' might be considered passing, but it's nothing really to be proud of...

Getting a ‘C’ might be considered passing, but it’s nothing really to be proud of…

Final Score:
Graphics: 7/10
Game Play: 5/10
Music / Ambiance: 7/10
Story: 3/10
Value: 6/10
Overall: 5.6/10

 

Review – The Banner Saga

The Banner Saga has a pretty impressive Banner!

The Banner Saga has a pretty impressive Banner!

Recently released on steam this week and garnering a fair share of attention is the newest game released from Stoic: The Banner Saga. This ambitious Indy project stands above the rest with its beautiful, detailed artwork and amazing sound track. While its $25 price tag is a lot steeper than most Indy games, it boasts a deep and rich story inspired by Norse Mythology. It’s rather a nice take on fantasy and I have to say it was definitely worth the cost of admission.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

It is difficult to describe exactly what kind of game The Banner Saga is. One part Tactical RPG, one part Oregon Trail, and one part choose your own adventure novel. And I mean novel, there’s a lot to read in this game. Much of the game is spent watching your caravan of warriors and/or refuges march across beautiful scenery as your supplies slowly dwindle. Occasionally there are encounters and fights mixed in here and there. Some are small scale that involve you and your band of heroes while others are large scale battles that involve your entire company. Intermixed between the travels are many encounter that make you take some excruciatingly tough decisions.

I will walk 5,000 miles and I will walk 5,000 more!

I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more!

I mean really tough decisions. If I may give you an example: My ragtag group of villagers who have been fleeing from the Dredge, a giant group of evil black monsters that have pretty much annihilated everything in their path, have been walking through the wastes for more than a month now. We’ve been without food for several days and we come across a group of brigands holding up a group of peasants. The brigands offered me a bribe of food to just leave the peasants to their fate, the right thing might have been to save the peasants but then I would have even more mouths to feed and no food to feed them. I really did feel bad for taking the bribe but my people were starving to death!

To be the man who walked 1,000 miles! To fall down at your door!

To be the man who walked 1,000 miles! To fall down at your door!

The game is split up into two parties, one a group of Varl (giant) tax collectors who more or less raise a large army to confront (and eventually run away from) the Dredge. This party has a fairly straight forward and easy time of it without much problems in the ‘feeding all the mouths’ or ‘fighting big battles department’. The other party is made up of previously mentioned human refuges and they more or less are constantly on the verge of starvation and barely hold together. Even if you do get enough renown there might not even be enough food to buy at the few towns you come across and it proves to be quite the challenge to keep everyone alive and moral up during your journey.

Your enemy: The Dredge.

Your enemy: The Dredge.

The combat portion of the game is tactical turn based. It throws in a few interesting twists into your usual grid based combat by rotating turns between each side after each character action. Also the amount of damage a unit does is based upon their level of health so thanks to hints from a friend I’ve found in most fights the system can be exploited by weakening all enemies but not killing them. This strategy diverts significantly from most strategy type games I’ve played because it’s best to have a bunch of wounded, weak, units wasting your enemy’s turns. Combat both in the turn based portion and in the very vague ‘chose a strategy then go’ larger battles really feels like it could have come off a bit cleaner. Fighting isn’t *that* bad but it feels like it gets in the way of an amazing story rather than helping it.

 

Find the MacGuffin!

Find the MacGuffin!

And really, the story is the whole selling point of this game. It’s really quite impressive that an Indy studio pulled off an ambitious project such as this with it’s amazing musical score, deep story, and endless supply of beautiful artwork. This game is probably one of the first where the story makes everything else worth it. Even if you don’t like the trail bits or don’t really care for the combat system, if you like a good story then pick up this game. It’s deep, it’s rich, with great characters, and a dang good plot. Unfortunately it’s only Act 1 of a much larger story but from what I understand the developers didn’t have enough funds to completely finish the game and hope sales from this will help them finish the story. Since I want to experience the rest of the story, buy this game!

I has a sad....

I has a sad….

Final Score:
Graphics: 10/10
Game Play: 7.5/10
Music / Ambiance: 9/10
Story: 10/10
Value: 6/10
Overall: 8.5/10

Review – Freedom Fall

Fall for your freedom!

Fall for your freedom!

Recently released on Steam this week is a platformer that caught my eye: Freedom Fall, available for $9.99. Freedom Fall is a pretty looking game that seems to involve… falling for your freedom. And it doesn’t disappoint, the game is an exquisitely crafted, easy on the eyes, smooth platformer in which you escape from death row by navigating an ever perilous descent out of a deadly tower.

Get down!

Get down! Hope you don’t have Acrophobia.

Really, this game is pretty. Perhaps because I have been playing some games that have been disregarding graphics lately but I really enjoyed the visuals in Freedom Fall. The towering heights, the deadly spikes and spinning blades, the cloudy backgrounds, and best of all the graffiti scrawled around the tower. You’re treated to some equally impressive visuals if you make it to the bottom and looking around at this fantastical world.

Rawr! Dinosaurs eating unicorns!

Rawr! Dinosaurs eating unicorns!

So the justice system in this strange world involves locking people up in insanely high towers and then giving them the option to wait in their cell and be executed or attempt to find freedom by navigating a fairly suicidal descent. It’s a brilliant premise and I really am almost gushing at how brilliantly the story is told in this game. Developers and game designers take some notes here! A way to tell a fairly deep and engrossing story without heavy handed cut scenes or dialogue boxes and never interrupting the flow of game-play.

You might think the mute princess leaving messages on the wall is trying to help you... but she isn't!

You might think the mute princess leaving messages on the wall is trying to help you… but she isn’t!

The princess in the tower is not some damsel in distress that needs rescuing nor a helpful guide that you might think she is at first. No she is a monstrous, murderous, malevolent creature who has designed this mad death trap for her own amusement. Although you’ve thrown a wrench into her intricate mechanism by your uncanny ability to resurrect quickly after each of your painful deaths. I guess that’s why you got locked up to begin with, stealing (or being framed for stealing) the elixir of life, making you immortal.

And me, all out of marshmallows....

And me, all out of marshmallows….

You might be immortal but there’s plenty of ways to send you back to the nearest resurrection shrine throughout your descent. The variety of deadly traps is quite impressive with spikes, blades, scythes, flames, fireballs, water, electricity, killer mechanical shark, and a dragon all out to kill you. The levels keep coming at you with more and more challenges but it’s not so frantic and unforgiving that you want to quit. The best feature is the game quickly resurrecting you, not wasting time on monotonous death scenes or loading screens and instead throws you right back into the action to try again when you fail. And you will fail a lot. A LOT!

The only problem is the game isn't very long...

The only problem is the game isn’t very long…

The only problem I really have with the game is it’s short length. Once you’ve gotten used to the various death traps and mastered the upgrades you’re fighting the final boss and then it’s over. Taking my time I beat the game in a little over an hour, then played again trying to go faster and beat it in under 50 minutes. Despite it’s short length and price tag though I was really satisfied by this game. It is highly concentrated goodness that delivers. Better to make a really good short game than a really long, drawn out, bad game.

Not sure who rescued who here...

Not sure who rescued who here…

I recommend if you pick this game up to go slow your first time, read all the notes from the princess, the story that is told is really worth it. Then after you beat the game once, try again going as fast as you can for some extra challenge. I got a nice thrill testing my blade avoiding parkour skills as I tried to beat the game a third time as fast as possible while trying to die as few times as possible. And with a built in leader board you can compare your skills with all of the internet for bragging rights. I can understand not wanting to pay the full price for a game that can be completed in under an hour but at its current 35% off sale it’s definitely worth it!

I'm #1! I'm #1!

I’m #1! I’m #1! Although I’ve probably been dethroned by now… Better run it again to defend my title!

Final Score:
Graphics: 9/10
Game Play: 9/10
Music / Ambiance: 8/10
Story: 9/10
Value: 5/10
Overall: 8/10

 

Goals for 2014

So it’s a new year. A new start, a new chance to set things right. More or less 2013 was a pretty good year for me. I finished my first novel, failed to find a lit agent, got it edited, and started looking for a lit agent again. Career and school wise has been more up than down and as for my social life… well… let’s not get into that. Since it’s a new year I thought I would share a few of my goals with the internet at large and maybe help keep me motivated to achieve them.

Time to hit those weights!

Time to hit those weights!

Goal 1: Get back in shape.
I’ve kinda let myself go recently. Weight has always been an issue for me and something I will probably have to work at my whole life unless I decide I want a career in the Sumo Wrestling Federation. I set myself a goal of trying to lose two pounds a week this year, and more importantly getting back to the gym on a regular basis. I know I will never be a six pack endowed underwear model but there’s really no excuse not to be healthy. My plan is to get to the gym three times a week and take Sparky for a nice long walk on days I’m not pumping iron. My school schedule for the Spring semester has plenty of open time between school and work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays so I really don’t have an excuse.

Time to publish!

Time to publish!

Goal 2: Get first novel out!
So I was hoping to have the novel out on the kindle market in time for Christmas but my artist kinda fell through on that. While I’m waiting on him I decided to seek out a fresh set of literary agents now that I actually know what a synopsis is supposed to be and created what I think to be a great query letter. Here’s hoping for the best. If I still don’t get anywhere with traditional publishing I do want to get my novel out on the market anyway and start pimping it as best as I can.

Time to write!

Time to write!

Goal 3: Write second novel.
So yes, I have a few ideas for follow up novels all set in the same world as the first. I had thought I had settled on one but after some input from my friend decided on something else that will do a better job of showing off the world. An idea for a novel that has more of a global feel to it, if you will. I’m laying down the mental framework for it now and hope to start writing soon. With any luck I will have the first draft done and ready to start refining well before the end of the year.

Time to graduate!

Time to graduate!

Goal 4: Graduate from community college
So I’ve been going to Mesa Community College since, forever. (Well 2002 anyway). I haven’t exactly been going at it constantly, with lots of breaks, drop outs, etc. thanks to life getting in the way. But I am in line to graduate with my Associate’s in Science this spring and then move on to Arizona State University next fall. Just need to do well in my classes this semester, pieces of cake: Calculus 3 and Modern Differential Equations.

Time to get more traffic!

Time to get more traffic!

Goal 5: Get more traffic to this blog
This is going to be the hard one. As I haven’t really come up with a big plan outside of keeping up with my weekly Indy game reviews. But I would like to see more traffic head this way for the blog. Anybody have any suggestions? I’m sure I probably could start some advertisement campaign or hire a PR specialist but I don’t exactly have lots of spare money at the moment. For now I’ll keep up with what I hope are well written reviews and articles that peak people’s interest.

Anyway, some big plans for 2014! Here’s hoping for a prosperous and successful year!

Images Courtesy of Bill Longshaw, t0zz, photoraidz, ddpavumba, & winnond via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Review – Gunman Clive

Gunman Clive, pow pow, western!

Gunman Clive, pow pow, western!

I was starting to get worried about not having any new Indy games to review this week. Christmas has this tendency to skew release dates so no new games had come out since December 19th. But luckily the lull is over and a handful of games came out last Friday. Being a bit spread thin from the holiday season and entertaining my nephews over the last week, I decided to try out the cheapest of the lot. Gunman Clive’s regular price of $1.99 is pretty easy on my wallet and the art style looked decent enough to give it a try.

Eat lead ducky!

Eat lead ducky!

Don’t expect a deep story or anything for your $2 but you do get a fairly clean, straight forward, old-fashioned style action platformer set in the old west. You play as Gunman Clive and save the damsel in distress as you go shooting your way through some old west themed areas. If you’re feeling the damsel in distress scenario is a bit sexist, you can reverse the rolls and play as Ms. Johnson while she saves Clive instead. The game is a fairly even mix of tricky timing platform puzzles and action combat. Controls are fairly smooth, action is good, and the game doesn’t last long enough to get too repetitive.

Ah... Spring Shrooms... my one true nemesis.

Ah… Spring Shrooms… my one true nemesis.

I see many parallels to Contra as a side scrolling style shooter even including the ever effective spread gun as one of the upgrades you can find. Although the wild west model only shoots three bullets instead of five. When not slaughtering cowboys, wildlife, and aliens there are a few jumping puzzles that really offer the most challenge from the game. The hardest of these, I found, are the dang Spring Shrooms. I had a really hard timing when I’m supposed to hit the jump button after I hit them to maximize my spring, and ended up having to take a break due to raw frustration.

I hate having to fight trains... And no Sabin around to suplex it.!

I hate having to fight trains… And no Sabin around to suplex it!

The game does do a good job of mixing things up and adding more complexity as you go along. Jumping over bottomless pits turns into jumping over spikes with moving platforms, which turns into spinning platforms while dodging spinning blades, which turns into crazy disorientating gravity switching. All quickly escalating fast enough to keep you from getting bored. I really have only two major complaints of the game. First I hate that taking damage sends you on an uncontrolled backwards jump. It leads to several ‘OH C’MON!’ moments when you complete a tricky set of jumps only to have your character get pushed off of a ledge to their doom when they get hit by a duck. Secondly the game is short, really short. I suppose you shouldn’t expect an epic game for two bucks but you can easily beat this game in less than an hour on your first play through.

Want even more challenge? Play as a duck!

Want even more challenge? Play as a duck!

To add a little bit of re-playability, you can try beating the game with each of the two starting characters, Clive and Ms Johnson. Ms Johnson, kinda like Peach from Mario Bros 2, can slow fall a bit. And after you’ve beaten the game once you unlock… duck mode. Which lets you play as a duck. Despite your ability of some flight the game is a heck of a lot harder without the ability to fight back. Duck mode also skips boss fights, so there’s that. If you really want to squeeze all your money’s worth out of the $2 it might be worth it but I started getting bored by then.

I'm a cowboy on a rocket!

I’m a cowboy on a rocket!

Still for two bucks you can do a lot worse. It’s a cheap and fun way to kill an hour or two. The art style is pretty easy on the eyes, the music ain’t too bad, and it is fun. I would have liked to see a few more levels that had all the different elements in it as I felt the gravity changing areas were under utilized. All in all, if you want a simple western game that reminds you of some old classics, give it a try.

Hey, damsels aren't gonna go rescue themselves!

Hey, damsels aren’t gonna go rescue themselves!

Final Score:
Graphics: 7/10
Game Play: 8/10
Music / Ambiance: 8/10
Story: 5/10
Value: 10/10
Overall: 7.6/10

 

2013 Year in Review pt 3: Awards!

Well 2013 is nearly over and it’s time to hand out some hardware! I was too lazy to do much in terms of trophies but I doubt anybody’s going to display them proudly anyway. Here are my favorites and most disliked amongst a variety of topics here in 2013.

Welcome to Rogue Legacy! Choose your Heir!

2013’s game of the year: Rogue Legacy!

Best game of 2013: Rogue Legacy
I’m not going to do that BS save best for last stuff, let’s get it out of the way right now, I loved Rogue Legacy this year. It’s fun, it’s well made, great action, smooth controls, even a decent story hidden into a great take on rogue-likes. Yeah sure, it is nothing deep or life changing and after you’ve played the game a few hundred times it does start to lose some of its luster but it was definitely the game I enjoyed most this year.

It's time to enter.... THE PIT!

2013’s dud of the year: The Pit

Worst game of 2013: The Pit
Everything you don’t want in a Rogue-like game. Dull, boring combat. Little to no effect on the game based upon input of the player. Oh and best of all, absolutely nothing you can do if the game decides not to drop food and your character starves to death. Shake fist and move on!

Telltale Games: Developer of the year!

Telltale Games: Developer of the year!

Best Developer of 2013: Telltale games.
There used to be a great way to tell if a game is going to suck: it has a big Hollywood license. While the industry hasn’t done enough to change this bias, Telltale Games certainly has moved the industry in the right direction. All this while bringing back ‘point and click adventures’ a genre most had thought died off in the mid 90’s. Great writing, voice acting, good graphics, and compelling stories are a recipe for success and telltale has nailed it with both serious games like The Walking Dead and less serious enjoyments such as Poker Night 2. Keep up the great work Telltale, I look forward to seeing what you bring to us in the future (and hopefully another Poker Night game?)

GLaDOS! ...in a beard?

GLaDOS! …in a beard?

Show Stealer of 2013: GLaDOS
It seems no matter what game GLaDOS appears in she can’t help but steal the show. Sure she’s the main person you interact with in Portal and Portal 2 but the best dealer at a poker game is one you don’t notice. Instead GLaDOS might be the best character in Poker Night as she sarcastically questioning your decisions. All while avoiding the flirtatious advances of Claptrap and managing to randomly generate playing cards for all the players.

One-liner of 2013: GLaDOS “Surprise”
Hey while we’re still on GLaDOS she also manages to, in my opinion, deliver the best one-liner of the year. She seems to especially enjoy it when players get knocked out of the tournament and my favorite is when Brock Samson says, “I really didn’t see this coming.” GLaDOS in all her computer glory notes that she, indeed, did see this coming but she didn’t want to ruin the surprise. The best part is the party horn and confetti as she announces, “Surprise!” Had me laughing pretty loudly on that one.

2013-12-31_00001

Gunboat diplomacy = everyone loves you!

Nerf me now award: Civilization 5: Brave New World’s Gunboat Diplomacy
So Civ 5 has been a pretty well balanced game then the developers threw a wrench into it with the latest expansion. BNW brought all sorts of cool things to the game and it broke a lot of things as well. Most of this has been patched and tweaked out but one small feature continues to dominate the late game and completely throws off balance towards the Autocracy ideal. Gunboat Diplomacy is a late tier 3 Autocracy policy which generates influence points over city-states as long as they fear your military. This means once you’ve unlocked it and parked a few battleships or infantry next to each city-state, over time they all become your allies. Quickly that constant supply of influence will make it impossible for anyone else to wrest control of them from you. With all the city-states lined up you will not only dominate the world congress and ensure an easy diplomatic victory but also have access to all their luxuries and strategic resources. And if you go to war with someone, the entire world’s city-states will declare war with you! Just slightly OP’d…

Beatbuddy! That's some damn nice looking splash page art!

Beatbuddy, a game about music, has good music. Who knew?

Best music of 2013: Beatbuddy
I was almost tempted to give this game to Farcry 3 Blood Dragon for it’s cool 80’s style music but Beatbuddy was far and away the best sounding game of 2013. I especially enjoy the way they incorporated sound tracks of each level’s song into the enemies so the music dynamically changes based upon the types of enemies around you. Really, really, good stuff!

Entry... DENIED!

Papers, Please. Still frustrates me.

Most frustrating game of 2013: Papers, Please.
I get it, a lot of people loved this game. But to me it was still just boring, tedious, hard work. There is nothing more frustrating than peering over somebody’s papers, spending several minutes checking all the documents, not able to find anything wrong so you approve them. As they walk away you hear the ominous crunching sound of the mechanical printer signifying you have just gotten another fine. Arg! I can’t afford to pay rent now because of that! And my son needs medicine and we haven’t been able to afford heat and and and… *sigh*

Hurry up and be released already!

I call bullshit on this screenshot

Biggest Disappointment of 2013: Elder Scrolls Online Beta
Surprisingly, SimCity was not my biggest disappointment of 2013. I kinda new once I tried it that EA had done all they could to ruin that game. I still wished it was better but bleh. Hopefully, without jeopardizing my NDA agreement, I want to say my biggest disappointment came after playing the ESO beta. Now truth be told there’s still plenty of time to turn the game around but currently ESO is just… a mediocre MMO with some Elder Scrolls elements. It’s not the epic, awesome, amazing adventure that Skyrim was. I don’t know if an MMO ever can be, but ESO just came out as generic, mediocre, mush. Their decision not to use private instances for dungeons ruins any sense of ambiance and well… I hope they rethink it. I still hope they might be able to turn the Elder Scrolls franchise into something great but my dreams have been crushed and I still lack a good MMO to look forward to.

Most overused thingy? Early Access.

Most overused design feature? Early Access.

Excessive Lense Flare award: Early Access.
Lense Flares are a bit of an old school reference for video games and refers to a feature that is adopted by EVERYONE. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is not. This year, with the rise of the indy game developer and crowd source funding, Early Access has become THE THING to raise capitol for a fledgling game studio. As soon as you have a playable alpha release ready (or sometimes even before that) rush out an early access game to start getting money coming in. I understand that having a cash flow can really help a game but I’m worried the excessive amount of Early Access games is going to pollute the waters with too much garbage. Most Early Access games have little to offer for the average player and only the really dedicated hardcore fan wants to put up with excessive bugs and have a constantly changing game that is hard to keep up with. Yeah there’s some appeal of having a hand in the development of a game but let’s be honest with ourselves here, as a developer you’ll never be able to make everyone happy. I decided early on I would never review an Early Access game because anything I write about it is probably going to be made worthless a few months from now and at what point do you take a game off of early access and call it done? To keep myself from ranting too much, I just wish steam had a way to filter out Early Access games. That’s a genre that’s far too hardcore for me.

And with that we wrap up the the unlucky year of 2013. What will 2014 bring? I don’t know, but I’ll be sure to complain about it loudly!

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