Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Peggle – XBLA, 800 points

April 18, 2009

pegglecover

Vinegar is a smell I’ll forever more associate with this game, because I still remember the night I discovered Peggle. I was googling ‘physics based games’ when I came across a blog which reviewed just those very games. Peggle immediately stood out. I downloaded the trial and less an hour later I was typing in credit card details, paying what seemed like far too much for such a simple game. My parents had just arrived home with chips. They asked me if I wanted any. I said yes. Vinegar flooded the room as “Extreme Fever!” was reached in a flurry of triumphant fireworks and joyously overzealous music. It was from that moment onwards I wanted- no, needed an Xbox Live Arcade version complete with all the improvements that would bring. My prayers were finally answered not so long ago.

Like many games, Peggle is deceptively simple. You control a mechanism at the top of the screen which fires one ball at a time. Once the ball is fired, physics determine the outcome. Your objective: Clear all the orange pegs. Blue and purple pegs are for extra points. Green pegs activate character specific powers. Get the ball in the moving bucket at the bottom and you’ll be rewarded with another ball. In a nutshell, that’s it. However, the difficulty of each level ramps up quickly, forcing you to use your green pegs wisely, choose the order of your shots carefully and plan ahead. The clichéd phrase “easy to play, hard to master” has never been more appropriate in relation to Peggle. There’s certainly an element of luck involved while playing but that’s just the nature of the game, for better or for worse.

The XBLA version of the game is a perfect port from the PC original. Controls feel spot on despite the absence of a mouse, characters and music still ooze charming personality and hearing the warm ‘ting’ of a freshly hit peg never gets old. Most noticeably however, is the inclusion of online play in the form of two modes. Duel and Peg Party. The former pits two players head to head, while the latter allows for up to four players to simultaneously attempt to top each other’s scores. Both are well presented, run smoothly and set to deliver hours of entertainment.

I dare you to play it and not get addicted.

All praise the mighty Peggle.

Fable II Pub Games – Reviewed

August 26, 2008

A lot of smaller sections in large games get overlooked. Take western RPGs for example. There may be some sort of gambling mini-game, in which you can win big or lose big. The problem is, because these games are so vast and feature so many other ways (and quite possibly, better ways) to earn currency, these smaller diversions often go unnoticed. But what if the smaller game was the entire game?

That’s what Fable II Pub Games is. A vertical slice of Fable II, a sampling of one element. The gambling element. Pub Games is a good idea for number of reasons. It helps keep the main game in the media spot and helps tide fans over till release. Obviously, it makes Lionhead a nice cash bonus but most interestingly however, it forces players who want in on Fable action early to focus their attention on these smaller, otherwise overlooked mini-games. It’s a very clever form of marketing and it’s a very clever way of ensuring most players experience your game in the fullest way possible.

So the actual games themselves. One is excellent, two are merely good. Fortune’s Tower is the stand out game of the bunch, a card game of chance and luck, in which you can either take the current dealers offer or press on in an attempt to win more cash. Keystone, an interesting spin on roulette (lol) where the game ends when certain parts of the board fall apart due to certain dice rolls. And finally, Spinnerbox. A take on slot machines and a frustrating one at that. Luck plays a large part in every game, as it is gambling after all, but there’s some skill and strategy to found in Fortune’s Tower and Keystone. The same cannot be said for Spinnerbox. It is 100% luck based which means it’s incredibly irritating and becomes tedious very very quickly.

If you make a profit during your gambling escapades, you’ll have the opportunity to bring that gold into Fable II on release. You’re also able to win items that can only be found in Pub Games by placing high in tournaments.

It’s difficult to say with certainly whether Pub Games is worth the 800 points it’s being sold for. It’s certainly enjoyable and the opportunity to begin your adventure in Fable II with some extra cash is an appealing one. It simply boils down to whether you’ll like Fable II or not. Unfortunately there’s no way of knowing that right now but it’s fairly safe to say if you enjoyed the first game, you’ll enjoy the sequel. Just don’t get yourself into debt, or you’ll have the loansharks performing the traditional loanshark ritual, of leg breaking.

[7]

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords – Reviewed

August 25, 2008

There are many genres in video gaming. First person shooters, platformers, music rhythm games, RPGs, and puzzlers are several of the most popular. However, the latter two need to be singled out for a specific reason; they remain very much unchanged since their conception.

Enter Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. One brief glance at the game would lead you to believe it’s your standard take on the genre. Match three gems of the same colour to clear them from the playing field. In this sense, it is a fairly traditional puzzler except, it isn’t just a puzzler. It’s an RPG puzzler. A blend of two distinct and vastly different genres. It’s an unlikely match-up that works shockingly well in practise.

Each different coloured gem on the board corresponds to particular type of mana. Mana is used to cast different magic spells with can have a variety of different effects such as damaging your enemy or changing gems from one colour to another. Yes, enemy and yes, damage. Two concepts that are completely alien to the puzzle genre.

Let’s take a step back. There’s a large, beautifully hand drawn map to explore in the game. You visit towns and cities to obtain quests and to buy new equipment such as armour and swords. The puzzle aspect of the game doesn’t come into play until combat is initiated with an enemy. In order to defeat your opponent, you must reduce his health points to zero. This can be done through spells but more usually through matching three skulls, which take off a sizeable chunk of health. It sounds simple and at it’s base level, it is. Puzzle Quest is both straightforward and complex. You can play it the way you want. Strategically make moves and plan ahead or hope that luck will carry you through. The game can be played in both ways.

What is both a blessing and a curse of is the aforementioned aspect of luck. There’s a heavy reliance on luck, as it is a puzzle game and some aspects are just out of the player’s control. One battle may be over swiftly and easily and end in your favour while the next may result in a hammering. It’s certainly frustrating when your opponent manages an endless streak of luck and almost feels cheap at times.  It’s an aspect of the genre that needs to be accepted, no matter how many white hot moments of rage it may cause.

A breath of fresh air is quite possibly the most accurate way to describe Puzzle Quest. It successfully manages to blend two genres seamlessly and provides for a very enjoyable experience. Even if the computer tends to be a cheating fucker occasionally.

[8]

Team Fortress 2 – Why Snipers are a hated breed

August 25, 2008

You pull the tigger. You hear the shot. You see the splatter.