Monday, April 14, 2008

You have to kill the joke

This isn't going to be much a game review, since You Have To Burn The Rope isn't much of a game.

No, instead I want to write about driving a joke RIGHT INTO THE GROUND.

Okay, the premise of You Have to Burn The Rope is that you're some dude in a platform game about to fight a boss, but your attacks do nothing to him. Instead, you have to burn the rope on the chandelier above him. Then a song plays and the game ends.

It was mildly amusing, but then I find people have written "extensive" walkthroughs for the game, informing you that you have to burn the rope.

Then someone else made a text adventure version that consists of typing "Burn rope with torch" and it's done. It kinda makes having to download and Infocom interpreter just to see a variation on the joke kinda lame. Couldn't the author have at least coded something stand-alone? It wouldn't have been that hard.

I guess my point is, this is last week's version of "The cake is a lie", as in, let it go already!

But admittedly, that song was pretty cool.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

An update at last...

Alright, I guess I did kind of start letting this place languish a bit...but it wasn't for lack of gaming for once.

So without further ado, here's a bunch of mini-reviews of crazy indie games I've been playing lately:

Rom Check Fail
Rom Check Fail from Farbs looks at what might happen if somehow the ROM data from a bunch of old 8-bit games became corrupted and...merged.

A level might start with Link having to do battle with Windows 3.1 screensavers with the music from Bubble Bobble playing in the background then suddenly switch to the Space Invaders cannon firing at Goombas.

Also, the characters you control retain their abilities and limitations from the original games. For example, Pacman can go anywhere, but needs to eat his white pill before he can devour the bad guys, while the Space Invaders cannon can only move left and right and fire upwards.

It makes the game a little annoying when you're Pacman about to eat the last ghost then suddenly become the Space Invaders cannon and can't get the dude because he's behind you...

But it's a free download from, and a pretty fun waste of time, so I guess I can't complain excessively.

Fedora Spade

Ah, yes, I downloaded this one right away after reading a Phoenix Wright comparison because, well, Phoenix Wright is awesome.

Unfortunately what I got (from the first episode, anyway) was a really bad rip-off of the courtroom game. While the game play interface is lifted from Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, the gameplay is almost identical to Phoenix Wright but with awful dialogue and none of the Asian charm.

That said, I am glad I didn't give up immediately and also grabbed episodes 2 and 3, since they were a significant improvement. In the next episodes, Fedora Spade actually gains some plot and not a bad one at that. There's a lot of travelling to locations to gather clues and while sometimes the way the pieces fit is pretty obvious, other times it does require some actual thought (or maybe it didn't, but I felt smart!)

Though, episode 3 did have one really annoying sequence where I could not figure out what to do to make the story advance...eventually it did move ahead, but I still don't know what I did to make it happen. I swore, I'd found every piece of evidence possible and talked to everyone about everything...alas.

Fedora Spade is a free download from RPGCreations.


1213 is the creation of Ben "Yathzee" Crowshaw, best known as the venom-spewing reviewer of Zero Punctuation fame.

But when he's not trashing other people's games, he's also making his own.

1213 opens with a fairly cliche storyline, guy wakes up in a cell with no memory...somehow gets out of his cell and gets a gun and goes on a rampage to escape.

However, ignoring that the basic premise is fairly played out, the writing in this game is actually fairly astounding. The story is mostly told through finding the journals of employees of the facility on various computers, but right from the beginning, it's obvious something twisted is going on.

Admittedly, I was expecting it to build up to more cliches, but no...the game actually twists in some directions I wasn't expecting at all, leading up to one of the most shocking endings I've ever encountered in a video game.

Great writing aside, the actual gameplay isn't much to write home about. It's a platform shooter with a few stealth elements, but unfortunately there are many issues. Jumping is annoying since unless you jump from exactly the right location, you're probably going to end up splattered on the floor below.

There's a lot of jumping and grabbing platforms above, but again, positioning has to be exact, which can again lead to certain doom when you're running away from a fast moving security drone. Also, collision detection isn't very well executed so even a slight touch of one of said security drones leads to be zapped, usually to death.

Finally, while there are supposed to be stealth sequences, they won't work very well since the guards you're trying to avoid usually only look in the opposite direction for one second, leaving you almost no time to get by undetected.

Still, leaving the issues alone, 1213 is probably the best game I've played lately. It's downloadable from Fully Ramblomatic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Peggle Extreme

Peggle Extreme was offered up as a free download once I activated my Steam account to play the Orange Box so I figure, what better to play over morning coffee than a free casual game.

Peggle meets Half-Life

Starting this Pop Cap Games release, I discover immediately that it's a Half-Life branded version of Peggle. Some cute unicorn informs me that Peggle land is under attack from evil critters from another dimension (head crabs and whatnot) and the only way to repel them is to, well, play Peggle.

Peggle it seems is some kind of pinball type game where you fire off balls and they bounce around except in the Peggle world, the things you hit are usually destroyed.

In the case of Peggle Extreme, the object is to take out all the orange pegs.

The gameplay is pretty simple: point a nozzle in the direction you want to ball to shoot, fire it and watch as it ricochets, hoping it takes out as many orange pegs.

You've got 10 balls and if you run out while there are still orange pegs, you lose. It's not that hard to score free balls by landing them in some kind moving...crater, I guess...thing at the bottom of the screen.

And...that's pretty much all there is to the game. Where, in this version there is one power-up. If you nail a green peg, you get some kind of fancy aiming ability where pointing your hose at a target will get you a line showing where the ricochet will go.


Just as I felt the game was getting repetitive, it gets broken up with some Portal branded levels.

I've already written about the awesomeness that is Portal so I was pretty happy to see levels that involve shooting balls through Portals, complete with taunts from GlaDos, the passive aggressive computer.


Though before I knew it, the game was over. There were only ten levels, really making this more of a demo.

Actually, I think it might be a little more sinister than a demo.

See, Pop Cap Games already has everyone's mom hooked on their products, I suspect this was an attempt in true drug-pusher fashion to get Half-Life fans to try a game they probably wouldn't normally touch and then get them hooked, thus getting them to buy the whole thing.

So will I keep playing? Really not sure, I'll need to shell out the money for the full version which I'm just not willing to do at the moment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Serious Sam

I'm gonna open this review by saying straight-out, I'm not really a fan of most first-person shooters. Personally, I find most of them insanely repetitive and the worst of them always seem to degrade into more of a maze game than a shooting game. Basically, I find them dull.

So, with my bias out of the way, I will now discuss time spent playing Serious Sam.

Starting out

Like many older games, upon launching Serious Sam, you're presented with a demo watching the computer play a bit to get a feel for the game.

However, upon hitting a key to stop it and actually play the game myself, it loads another demo instead. Strange. Hitting the escape key fortunately brings me to a menu where I can start a new game.

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

The game opens with a shot of space and Earth with text explaining the plot so far scrolling up the screen. Apparently the universe is under siege from evil aliens from another dimension and Earth's armies keep losing the battle to's discovered that the only way to stop them involves going back in time. The person they choose to send is an strong soldier named Sam "Serious" Stone.

And with that, the game actually begins with this Serious Sam fellow dropping into an ancient civilization armed with nothing but a .45 revolver and a combat knife.

I feel kinda unequipped, considering I'm supposed to be Earth's last hope, but whatever. It's standard FPS fare to make you gradually get better and better weapons.

Oh well, time to start shooting. The first enemies seem to be some kind of head soldiers that fire beams of yellow light towards, but they're quickly dispatched and then....

You've Got Mail!

As soon as I've killed my first baddies, a message pops up in the middle of the screen informing me that I have an e-mail. Huh?

I go into some computer type system where the e-mail contains an analysis of the bad guys I just took out. It seems that they are revived soldiers who carry their heads around and fire magic missiles...I thought this was serious FPS, not Dungeons and Dragons.

These analysis e-mails pop up every time I encounter a new enemy and frankly, it's kinda annoying. But so is watching e-mail pile up. I never thought I'd have to apply Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero methodologies to a first-person shooter...

Moving through some temple like area, I finally score a pump-action shotgun...only to find out getting it triggers a scripted sequence where a crap-tonne of aliens come rushing at me.

I'd use this as a jumping off point into a rant about scripted sequences in action games but I shouldn't be surprised. Why else would there be a shotgun sitting around in 1300B.C.? Clearly, it was a trap.

Wisecracks and Kamikazes

The second level opens with a massive pile of shotgun shells being available for the taking.

I'm scared.

I've played enough action games to know that when you're given a shitload of ammo, it means you're gonna need it.

As it turns out, I'm right. One kamikaze dude comes running over a hill and I blast him before he can blow me up. After Serious Sam makes a wisecrack (and I get an e-mail explaining the kamikaze character) a whole slew of them comes running over....AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Wait a second...first-person shooter...evil aliens...male protagonist with too much testosterone who keeps making quips...I've played this game before. Except it was called Duke Nukem 3D last time.

With that realization out of the way and having been killed by the horde of suicide bombers a few times, I figured out that the trick is to shoot one of them in the middle of a group. The way when he explodes, he takes a bunch of his buddies with him.


I continued playing a little while longer and ran into more new baddies followed by an e-mail and more scripted sequences that triggers large groups of these bad guys to come rushing after me...this is the repetition I find so annoying about these games.

So will I keep playing? Probably not. It's definitely not a terrible game but since its release in 1999, there have been so many FPS games that are significantly better, many of which I still haven't had time to play.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I recently picked up a copy of the Orange Box and have to admit, Portal was the game I couldn't wait to start playing.

With the all the hype this one received last year, I went in with pretty high expectations. Well, it's a good thing I that I couldn't wait until my morning coffee to fire this guy up, because there were some hurdles to jump through first.

Getting the game to work

I realize that my main PC at the moment is a laptop with an integrated graphics chip, far from ideal for gaming but everything in the system requirements indicated that I should be able to get this guy running.

Well, it runs but it took a lot of work.

At first, the game would start, opening in some kind of glass encased room with a radio blaring some kind of mariachi sounding music. Then a computer starts talking. It's about to give safety advice while at the Aperture research center then suddenly sounds like an old cassette tape being eaten. I guess this is the sardonic humour I keep hearing about. I'm then informed that the portal will open in 10 seconds.

Ten seconds later, a portal does in fact. A few seconds after that, I'm greeted by the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.

Playing Portal: Take two

After about an hour of reading forums, I finally find some command line options to make Portal playable (it turns out I needed to add an option to force DirectX 9.0) So, on to the real review.

Moving through the portal, I'm led into another room with an exit and a button. Standing on the button opens the exit, but it closes as soon as I step off the button. Clearly I need to put some weight on it.

Fortunately, there's a large cube nearby that I carry over to the button to get out of the room.

First-person puzzle game

As it turns out, this is a puzzle game based on the Half-Life 2 engine. It plays like a first-person shooter, but it's all about the puzzles, which is unique and rather cool.

The first few rooms are rather easy to solve, which each adding a new element in order to introduce it. Plus, there's usually a bit of getting through portal involved.

Eventually, I score myself a cannon that creates portals, so now I control where they go and where they lead to. This leads to some rather unique solutions for some rooms, forcing me to think in odd ways. So far, this is really fun.

Plus, there's that obnoxious computer that warns me about things like impending death in a completely monotone voice. I can't decide if it's just the fact that it's a computer or if it's really passive-aggressive.

In one level, it keeps apologizing for the broken room which has no solution. But considering that I refused to accept that this game wouldn't run on my integrated graphics chip equipped laptop, I definitely wasn't accepting a room with no solution.

Fortunately, I figured it out (without a walkthrough - I'm proud of myself - I can be a total wuss and turn to them pretty quickly sometimes) and I'm off.

Motion Sickness

Oh man, moving through, some of the solutions to the rooms get weirder and weirder. One involves using forward momentum through portals (as the computer puts it, 'speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out') to propel yourself across the room but the way the camera twists around while flying through the air...I swear, I thought I was gonna throw up.


It's not a very long game, by the time I stopped to write this, I had almost completed all the test levels.

That said, it kept me going that long and never got boring. Which weird, since I'm not usually a fan of puzzle games (nor am I usually a fan of first-person shooters for that matter.)

Do I even need to both answer the question as to whether I'll keep playing or not? Between the dark the humour and the unique game play, it would be insanely difficult for me to NOT like this game.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sam and Max Season 2 Episode 3: Night of the Raving Dead

Ah, it's a new month which means a new episode of Telltale Games' revival of Sam and Max: Freelance Police.

In the third episode of season two, the talking dog and psychopathic rabbit-type-thing find themselves up against fruity eurotrash emo zombie and his army of the undead....what follows is the usually first-impressions played over morning coffee.


This episode opens in the middle of the action with the German emo zombie ready to kill Sam and Max before unleashing the classic evil MAWHAHAHAHAHA laugh. Sam curses the laugh as it becomes clear that he now owes Max five bucks over it.

But before the doom machine crushes the pair, Sam enters into a flashback as to how they got there....beginning the game.

Following the credit sequence, the crazed duo are back in their office where Max is meditating, seeing visions ("a goat born with an HDMI port") but gets interrupted by an uninvited zombie.

"You'll have to speak up commissioner, we're experiencing a zombie attack."

As with the opening of every Sam and Max game, there's a call from the commissioner, this time informing the freelance police that there are zombie attacks all over and they have to shut down the Zombie Factory to deal with it.

And so the game begins, finally giving me control. There doesn't seem to be anything worthwhile in the office at this point, but the streets are full of zombies wandering about.

Unlike the most of the other games in the series, there's no obvious puzzle that needs solving right away, so it's mostly just talking to the cast of characters.

Sybil, having broken up with the reanimated Abe Lincoln in the last episode is looking for a new boyfriend...and insists that the zombies have a right to gather and should be left alone.

Abe Lincoln is over in Stinky's Diner moping about his break-up. So far nothing useful, until a visit to the C.O.P.S (Computer Obsolescence Prevention Society) where they announce that they've set up a new online service (S.O.L.) for zombies. They've also developed some kind of super-powered WiFi antennae but won't fork it over until you complete one of their now standard driving mini-games.

Old-School Flashback: Paperboy!

Frankly, I'd already grown tired over the C.O.P.S' drive around and hit things mini-games this season (I miss the car chases from Season 1) but this one is actually pretty cool. They recreate the arcade classic Paperboy (you know, where you ride around on a bike whacking stuff with newspapers?)

Though, this time you need to fire S.O.L. CDs from a cannon to potential customers (zombies) - the humour in these games kills me.

Fruity Eurotrash Emo Zombie

Following the mini-game, I can't see much else to do but head off to Germany to confront the zombies. Upon arriving, I quickly discover that the Zombie Factory is in fact some kind of club...with a line to get in. This leads to the game's first puzzle.

Without giving too much away, I'll say it involves distracting the line-up with with gushy foods (a zombie's favourite.)

Oddly enough, there's also a pack of garlic clove cigarette's lying around.

Inside, I find dancing zombie's and the villain who, in true emo fashion, whines that no one understands him and manages to give away his plan of an undead army (who at the moment are too busy doing The Robot to care about much else.)

I'm free to wander the dance floor and even drop some phat beats at the DJ booth. I'm certain this area requires a little more fiddling to move on, but I figured I should take a break and write this up.


I'll admit, I'm biased going in because I think this series ROCKS but whatever. So, am I gonna keep playing? Damn straight, I only stopped so I could write this up.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bonus review: Ego Orb in Space

I've been considering myself lucky if I manage to do one write up every morning, but today, I'll throw in a little bonus after discovering this little homebrew gem: Ego Orb in Space.

It's a space shooting game based on EarthBound (one of my all time favourite games.)

Admittedly, I was kinda hoping for an RPG but this is still fun. You control the Ego Orb, one of many strange baddies from EarthBound, flying around in space shooting at other bad guys from the EarthBound world.

It's a pretty straightforward side-scroller. Just keep shooting at everything that isn't you. There are a few power-ups: extra lives, bottle rockets and something that causes a flying saucer piloting Mr. Saturn to come to your aid.

Each level ends with a boss fight (I made it a point to save my bottle rockets for these) and then you're on to new terrain.

There's really not much else to say since this is a demo that only has two playable levels, but still, made my morning a little more interesting.

Ego Orb in Space is available as a free download here.

Also, thanks to Destructoid for bringing it to my attention.