Reviews

I Review: All the other things!

It’s time to put on my pretentious hat and make believe I know what I’m talking about!

My reviews with no videos! At least, no let’s-experience-the-storyline gameplay. You might see me dicking about in-game, if it’s funny. I’ll link them anyway, where appropriate.

ED: It’s all gone bold. Why has it all gone bold? Will be fixed shortly.

Alien Swarm is a F2P game on Steam (available for PC and possibly Mac as well, to the observant people who spotted the caption) produced by Valve where you and up to three friends jump into a  colony-warehouse-disaster zone. But before I get started: same as ever, my patented mini-browsable tl;dr system is in action. For a crappy tl;dr, just read the bits in bold.

Alien Swarm is an online-with-friends setup, where up to four of you can take on a mishmash of roles from Officer, Special Weapons (read Heavy), Medic, and Tech to squash some very overgrown bugs. Each class has two ‘subclasses’, if you will – two characters with different stats: Crash and Vegas, the two Tech characters, have varying health, damage and whatnot.

The aim of the bug-squishing game is to complete every mission – get to the end of the level, and carry on without everyone dying. On the offline practice mode (where you play through the first third of the missions or so) all the missions blend together, but in multiplayer they are split into well-sized chunks where you can swap out roles and weapons.

It has a unique mechanic I’ve never seen anywhere else in online play; in the single player campaign you bring along three AI players to support you in alien-crunching madness, but in MP it’s only the online team, all alone. Sadly, the game also provides the Tech as a compulsory character needed for hacking though doors and activating lifts, so if you’re in with a single buddy you’d better get used to swapping between Tech and Medic I’m afraid! As the Tech character is compulsory, the game also has the irritating habit of auto-losing the level if the Tech dies with uncompleted tasks – understandable, if you follow the storyline – but makes playing anything other than Tech/Medic as the first two characters a sluggish game indeed.

Speaking of sluggish gameplay, there are a few technical birthing issues – Alt-Tabbing out of the game (using Alt-Tab to switch out of game, and then switch back in – checking Facebook during the outrageous load times, for example) creates a tantrum worthy of a Big Brother contestant, and the game doesn’t handle very well under anything but superb internet connection speeds; the Lag Demon is ferocious when provoked. A awkward key reloading mechanic is the final issue worthy of mention – you lose all extra bullets in your clip when you reload (understandable, when you think about it), but have the opportunity to do a ‘speed reload’ if you time a thing well on a scrolly bar, but the lack of any real tutorial left a giant question mark over my head for some time on that one.

All that said the actual gameplay is very entertaining, but only really if taken as a toy game from my experiences of playing. The heavily stereotyped characters and ridiculously overpowered attacks make serious gameplay a tricky goal – we (Montes Rook, cottonlips and myself – links below) tried playing a ‘realistic’ game, but when one punch is enough to turn the basic enemy unit into ET-jam the mission will often times degenerate into a dicking-about fest. That is by no means a bad thing, just not a very serious one.

The picture at top tells the rest of this messy, Salvador Dali warping of a game review; very nice graphics and animation, sound and HUD is a tick VG, but as a game from Valve this is kinda bread and butter stuff. We won’t miss it until it’s gone.

Overall verdict? If you and three friends have good internet and a few hours to kill? Go for it – it’s free and entertaining for a while. Want to play for more than 6 hours, ever? You might  be pressing your luck there, I’m afraid. Want to be strategic? I give it 30 seconds.

30 good seconds, though.

Youtube links (as promised):

Dotwo – It’s in the sidebar! C’mon guys! – http://www.youtube.com/DotwoLP

Montes Rook – www.youtube.com/MontesRooky

Cottonlips (part of the PeaPals duo) – www.youtube.com/PeaPals

notwesleycrusher, signing off.

With ET-jam-sandwiches in hand.

 

 

In which it is possible to design a game of style “Game development”. That shit got recursive. But lets back up – or iterate back up through loops, if you’d rather.

For the batshit tl;dr, check out the bits in bold.

Many of you have heard about Game Dev Tycoon because of the hilarious if not slightly depressing story of its release; but that’s not my story to tell. Check it out at: http://www.greenheartgames.com/2013/04/29/what-happens-when-pirates-play-a-game-development-simulator-and-then-go-bankrupt-because-of-piracy/

Game Dev Tycoon is a new game recently released by Greenheart Games, a game studio a pair of brothers set up, based in Australia. You create your character, your company, and you are flung bodily into the world of making games in a very abstract manner.

So began the adventures of BetterThanEA, my soon-to-be Leviathan-ic games company of awesomeness and good love all around. The system is delightfully clean – click anywhere on the screen to bring up your menu, which simply reads “Develop New Game…”.

You name your game, choose a topic (Fantasy, Sci Fi, Military, etc), a Genre (Action, RPG, Strategy, et. al.) and a platform. Starting off in (roughly) the late 70s/early 80s, the only available platforms are the G64 and the PC. Choose platform wisely, as each platform has development costs as well as a Marketshare with fluctuating popularity.

OH GOD THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

I, being immature, decided no matter how disgusting my games it would most definitely be BetterThanEA (see what I did there?). Ready as I was for the imminent skyrocketing in popularity of the PC, Anal Prolapse, my shining debut into the world of Game Devving, was a 2D space adventure game on the PC. Thanks to some lovely sliders, I put most of my efforts into the Engine Design, Level Design, and Graphics (out of 9 areas to divide your time between.)

As you work, your hard grind is converted into little ‘popping’ bubbles that, well, bubble to the toolbar HUD at the top of the screen. It’s a most satisfying sensation, with a most satisfying noise. When the game was done, and I’d worked all the bugs out, I released my game to the big wide world!

Anal Prolapse was not popular. Reviews included “Meh!” – Star Games, “Pretty Bad” – All Games, and my favourite of all: “The name says it all” – Game Hero. Hehehehehe. Still, it sold 1,333 units in its first week, and went on to make a total of £41.5k.

Game #1 : Average score 4, Profit £10k. This shit is harder than I thought.

And onward it flows, introducing more game topics, features (Stereo sound! A Level Editor! AI Companions!), and an experience system that makes it very play-more-able. (It’s a little disheartening to know that my in-game avatar is most probably better at making games than I’ll ever be, but what ho.)

What could make this experience better? In-game popups, that’s the fuck what! Helpful marketing contacts, industrial espionage and a Nigerian Prince all come along to say hello, and try to get some of your hard-earned cash.

And the further into the game you progress, the more involved it gets! Trends emerge, your fans have opinions, and when more platforms get introduce EVERYTHING gets more complex. Three hours in, I make my first big cock-up. FuckShitUp, my fighting simulator was a hit so I fell into the trap of EA-ism; I immediately rehashed FuckMoreShitUp with zero additions or changes to the formula. And it fucking DIED. It was brutal man; the reviews tore me a new one, and I was struck dumb at how EA I had become. Foolishly following my Rollercoaster Tycoon method of ‘I’m in trouble, let’s spin some money out of these guys.’, I had unwittingly become the very thing I hated most.

So I moved on, reshaping my methods until The Zegend of Lelda hit big. So big I finally hit the mythical £1m mark, and moved into a bigger office. No more garage for me!

And that’s when things become less clean. The risk/reward needle began to swing more and more wildly, and my sliiiightly tenuous position the industry became shaky when coupled with my appalling business sense. Only PC games seemed to make me any profit,  I had unlocked so many menu options that clicking anywhere on-screen caused a cascade of business opportunities, so much so that I began to pray a patch would let me customise left/right clicking.

If I’m honest that’s about as far as I’ve gotten – the second ‘level’, if you will, and many reloads to try and un-fuck up my latest fuck-up. I’ve put in about 10 hours so far, and it’s as playable as when I started, if at danger of becoming a little samey if it isn’t careful.

Would I recommend it? Of course. But not until you’ve finished this semester – or your dreams of developing hit games will be forever relegated to this game.

 

 

Microvolts. I guess I’d better start simple. For the tl;dr, just read the bits in bold.

MV is a TF2 styled FPS, or in polysyllabic terms, it’s a bright shiny shoot-the-fuck-out-of-everything-with-big-flashy-guns-in-kiddies-poster-paint art style game where the biggest challenge is surviving long enough to snipe the irritating 12 year old calling you a ‘nob’. You choose one of the four above characters to play as (I chose the Asian schoolgirl. For science.), throwing yourself into random battles with complete strangers (or not) to shoot things, have merriment, and die in a burst of electricity and rocket-fire.

Those of you with keen eyes will be able to see the slight oddities of the characters joints – you play as a 6″ high robot (I hope that means ‘Inch’ not ‘Foot) – 15cm for the rest of the world – whose sole aim in life is to navigate the hilarious arenas and blow shit to bolts. Owing to your minute physique, your roaming death matches take place in and around sensible locations for tiny robots to be; a moving van, a large kitchen, child’s wild west town, that kinda thing.

I say it’s alike TF2 in the same way saying a Mars bar is like a Snickers – there really isn’t any other way to compare a Mars bar arbitrarily, and if there were you probably wouldn’t use it anyway. (Good grief, the analogy police will be using that one in court.). You jump into a server, then a chat stream, and then into a lobby where a selection delightful games await. Combat is exactly like TF2 (lots of jumping and spamming weapons), but holds far more replay value for me in a way I shall describe in two paragraphs.

It’s all very bright and engaging, and in my opinion (esteemed as it is) has two very strong weapons in it’s arsenal – the first being it’s complete lack of giving a shit about looking sensible. The game knows that it’s dicking around in class, and gives the characters a wide range of things to dick about with; it’s very funny (kinda) to make your schoolgirl spank herself accidentally – Shift being ‘Taunt’ not ‘Sprint’, for some obscure reason – while making noises no child should ever utter, but after the 30th time of hitting Shift instead of Ctrl, and seeing the exact same animation it get tiresome. For the record, each character has multiple taunts; they just seem to pick one at random and ONLY perform that taunt for an entire 30 minute game.

The other major advantage over other similar cartoon FPS games which shall not be mentioned is the decision to give all the characters all the weapons; when you start a game, your schoolgirl (or what have you) comes fully equipped with:

A shovel (with the mysterious power of double-jump);

Repeating pistol;

Shotgun;

Sniper rifle;

Minigun;

Rocket launcher;

Grenade launcher;

And a shop in which better versions of all (and clothing upgrades (for the schoolgirl, read “downsizing“)) can be purchased with EASE.

And this makes the game far more engrossing for me. I have no interest in constantly being strategeric and smart, so the fact I have the same weapons as any other player (although not nearly the skill or weapon quality) gives a vaguely level playing field. Whereas if your finely balanced team of TF2 bods is pinned down by 8 snipers and a single medic, it’s tricky to deal with on the fly.

To be quite frank, I can’t really see what TF2 has over this, aside from a wider range of voice-snippets, pixel-perfect players (try saying that 5 times fast), more map styles (with less clipping issues, granted) and a metric fucktonne of hats. Both are free, both are simple to play with friends, and both have many game styles. So yes, TF2 might be more sturdy.

But does it let you spank a schoolgirl, eh?

 

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