Tag Archives: game reviews

Review: General Horse And The Package Of Doom

Now that’s a game title!

In the early nineties, CD-ROMs began to emerge as the future of gaming. The early adaptors of the CD format didn’t really know how to use them effectively for gaming. A slew of titles began to appear on the market that were nothing more than simple ‘games’ with full motion video (FMV) clips to forward the story, and thus the sub-genre of the FMV games were born. Titles like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Myst and the infamous Night Trap were actually pretty good games… except for Night Trap, but they were hardly groundbreaking in terms of gameplay. They just looked great (at the time) due to the addition of FMV. Anyway, it took a while for developers to really use CD technology for more than just grainy-looking movies. Those early FMV titles all shared a few things in common, they were cheesy, full of wooden acting, below par special effects and very low quality movies. Eventually, the FMV games died out as developers got to grips with telling Hollywood quality stories using the in-game graphics. No need to build expensive sets when you can do it all digitally.

From publisher/developers Studio spektar and Porcupine Parkour comes General Horse And The Package of Doom, a new FMV game that’s as stupid as the title suggests. Well to get this one started, I guess I’d better go over the story first.

You play as the very red haired and titular General Horse who has to deliver the also titular package of doom. General Horse is the last surviving military postman in the galaxy. After the great war with the Chaotics, pretty much everyone else was dead. There was nothing left for him, but to take the highest position left in the military.

GH 1

On his journey to deliver the mail, he meets scavengers who try to steal his package. His duty, as a Postmaster General, is to protect what he considers to be sacred; and that is a package with an official post stamp. It needs to be delivered wherever it needs to be delivered!

Join him on a dangerous voyage throughout his home solar system. He will fight, explore, barter, scavenge, and beg, just to deliver a package he knows nothing about!

As already explained, this is an FMV game and it plays just like those titles from the early nineties too. The main game screen has you (General Horse) in his spaceship travelling from planet to planet to deliver the package of doom. Buttons such as ‘storage’, ‘status’ and ‘map’ do pretty much what you’d expect. Then there’s your food, fuel, battery power and health you need to manage on your journey. The ‘time warp’ button moves you forward on your galactic trip. Each time you do move forward, closer to delivering the package, you’ll use some of your resources. But with every press of the time warp button, you’ll be presented with a random encounter. You will usually come across an object floating around in space, which you can beam aboard. That object could be extra food, fuel or it could be something more sinister that does you harm. You have to roll the dice and take a chance on what it could be to keep moving  forward.

GH 2

You might find a space station, which you can chose to dock with (using fuel) and explore, meet new characters that can help and hinder you on your quest or just keep on your journey to deliver the package. Maybe you’ll stumble upon space pirates, do you try to communicate or open fire? Land on planets and explore via a simple arrow click interface. That’s basically the whole game, you press buttons, get involved in random encounters and make basic decisions… you know, like an early nineties FMV game. Yes, the gameplay is minimal and yes it is stupid… but it’s also genius at the same time.

All these button clicks and decisions you make are inter-cut with FMV sequences. Badly acted FMV that look like they are mostly filmed in someone’s back garden, a disused building site and feature some really bad green screen work. But it is all this badness that just adds to the enjoyment, I don’t know if that was intentional or the guys behind this are genuinely this bad, but it works. There are terrible props, shoddy effects and acting that’s worse than a daytime TV soap, but it’s all very charming. There’s a genuine sense of humour here too, some jokes had me smiling from ear to ear, others where a bit more of a miss to be honest.

GH 3

General Horse and the Package of Doom is either a wonderful satire of FMV games or just a horrible mess. Either way, I enjoyed it and have to applaud those who made the game. They’re either geniuses who have made the perfect spoof of FMV games, or just a few mates messing around and having fun and to be honest, I enjoy both of those scenarios too much to hate this. I was actually gearing myself up to really rip into this and lambaste it for it’s badness, but I just can’t. Yes it’s cheesy, yes it’s rough and yes it’s a bit crappy but that’s exactly what those early FMV games were like.

General Horse and the Package of Doom is currently priced at £6.99 on Steam, which I feel is a tad too much for what you get. If you can get it in a sale, then I say grab it and enjoy some early nineties cheese made today.

Thanks to Badger over at Stoffel Presents for the review code.

Relicta Review: Magnetic Attraction Or Repulsion?

Ever since falling in love with Portal back in 2007, I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for these first-person, physics-based puzzle games. Especially those that offer some interesting gameplay mechanics to test not only your reflexes, but that also get the old noodle working too. From indie developers Mighty Polygon comes Relicta, the new first-person puzzler on the block.

Set on Chandra Base, an outpost on the moon which is powered by a crystal structure, the titular Relicta. You play as physicist Dr. Angelica Patel, who finds herself stuck on the base after an incident and separated from he colleagues. You have to deal with the A.I. of the base that is having some obvious issues, as you search for clues as to exactly what went wrong at the base and discover the secrets of the Relicta itself.

So first things first. These type of games always have some kind of gameplay hook that you have to master to progress though the various challenges. With Portal it was… well portals. Here with Relicta, your going to have to get to grips and toy around with gravity and magnetism. You are given a pair of special gloves which allow you to lift and move specific blocks with ease or even magnetise them. All of which is the main thrust and mechanic you’ll be dealing with to solve the ever increasing complex puzzles you’ll face. Charge a block with either positive or negative magnetism, give it a touch of anti-gravity and you’ll soon be moving blocks around with ease.

The game is split into multiple areas, the main hub being the Chandra Base where you can run around and explore, go looking for collectables, etc as the story slowly evolves. Then the main puzzle element takes place in various biomes, each with their own look and aesthetics. You’ll be puzzle solving on icy glaciers, arid canyons, tropical beaches and more. Each biome is split into smaller, gated areas and it is in these areas where you have to use the game’s main gameplay mechanics, that gravity and magnetism thing. You use your special gloves to either positively or negatively charge blocks or even apply anti-gravity. The main goal is to move a block or several blocks to open the main gate and move onto the next area, where you will learn more of what has happened on the base. Sounds easy, but it is the obstacles and puzzles you’ll have to work out that makes things a tad more tricky.

RELICTA SCREEN 1

It is those puzzles that really sell these type of games. They have to be creative, yet familiar. Taxing, but not overtly so. There has to be a strict balance for the game to work, and several of these first person puzzle games just don’t have that. Thankfully, Relicta isn’t one of them. The puzzles here are very well thought out and designed. They’ll have you continually experimenting to try and get to the exit of each biome. Though the basics with the gravity and magnetism remain constant through the game, each biome you have to deal with adds a new twist. It could be the ability to add magnetism to a wall, mastering turning your block(s) into movable platforms, force-fields that you can not physically cross but the blocks can, teleporters, drones that cancel out any effects you apply and more. Every time you clear one biome, you’re given a new, fresh challenging set of puzzles in the next that offers more and more variety, while still using those same basic mechanics of gravity and magnetism. They just get used in new ways each time.

The puzzles here are both clever and fiendish. While I got stuck on many of them several times, I never felt cheated. I could either see what I had to so, but not quite work out how to do it, or it would be vice versa. I would find myself often running through the solution in my mind and then trying to act it out in game… to fail. But that failure was not because the puzzle was ever badly designed, it was because I was overlooking something or I had missed a pretty obvious factor. I’d go back and re-plan, try something else, tweak my approach until it all just fell into place. In short, the reason you will get stuck is not because of how the game is designed, but more so because you are either over or under-thinking the solution. Relicta is wonderfully simple and beautifully crafty with its puzzles that can be as complex as they can be easy and despite getting myself stuck, it just enticed me to keep on playing and experimenting with the game’s mechanics.

Story-wise, to be honest, I kind of lost interest with what was going on. The moon-base has gone very wrong (or you have) and the A.I. installed to help doesn’t much. There’s a plot about you trying to contact your daughter, Kira, a subplot about your ex-husband setting you up or something and all sorts going on. All while trying to unwrap the mysteries of the Relicta itself. But truth be told, I didn’t really care. The story of these games is not what pulls you in and keeps you playing for the most part, that’s just pretty set-dressing. It’s the puzzles in these games that really draw you in, and that’s exactly what they do here. Now, I don’t blame the writing of the game for my lack of interest in the story at all, it’s really just me. I was too focused on all the puzzle solving that I just auto-tuned out whenever a story beat popped up and just lost the thread of what was going on.

RELICTA SCREEN 2

Relicta is also a very pretty looking game too. The various biomes you’ll find yourself in graphically vary, always giving you something new to look at. The sterility of the main base itself with it’s typical sci-fi-like looks gives way to warm and welcoming mountain ranges, plush green forests, stunning ice caves, lush jungles and more. Being stuck, trying to work out a specific element of a puzzle is actually quite rewarding on the eyes as you take in the wonderful and beautiful vistas. It really is a very stunning game to look at and the various biomes offer a feast for the eyes one after another.

There doesn’t seem like a lot of replayability here, unless I am missing something, once the story is done… that’s it. It would’ve been nice too see some special challenge rooms, online leaderboards for fastest time to finish a puzzle, maybe even a puzzle creator mode to challenge others online or something. As far as I can tell, Relicta is very much a one-and-done type of game. Plus, I also felt that, for a game of this type, it did go on a bit too long, and it’s possible that some players may become a little tiresome before the credits roll. But what is here is really bloody enjoyable. A nice puzzle game that is as frustrating as it is rewarding.

Metro: Exodus – Movement Of Jah People Oh Oh Oh, Yeah!

So I have a confession to make – I was never a big fan of the Metro games. It’s not that I thought they were crap but more a case of they just didn’t grab me as they did with others. The previous games, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light released in 2010 and 2013 respectively were both critically and commercially successful with favourable reviews across the board as well as strong enough sales warrant sequels all from the same developer, 4A Games.

4A Games

Well 4A Games are back with the third game in the series, Metro Exodus and after being given a review code (thanks to publisher Deep Silver) I thought I’d go back and experience the first two games once more before I tackled the latest entry… and I really enjoyed myself too. I found the games much more entertaining than I originally remembered and seeing as the first game is coming up to 9 years old this year – it holds up surprisingly well. Anyway, the point is that I was initially wrong.

I guess a quick bit of coverage of what the Metro games actually are would be good. Well, the best way to describe them is that they are first person, survival horror shooters – with a blending of resource management, stealth and action. The first game is based on the novel of the same name from writer Dmitry Glukhovsky. And you play as a guy called Artyom who has to fight and defend his home and people from the horrors lurking in the metro tunnels after a nuclear war in Russia. Artyom and others struggle to survive in the harshness of nuclear fallout as they fight the mutants created as well as have to scavenge what they can endure and withstand the horrors of nuclear fallout.

Metro Exodus Gasmask

Look, just go play the games as they’re really enjoyable but make sure you play them on the hardest difficulty to get the most of of the survival horror elements. I need to crack on with looking at the newest game Metro Exodus.

Well Artyom is back doing pretty much what he was doing in the previous games, killing mutants and scavenging whatever he can to help him and his fellow survivors stay alive. I suppose the first thing to cover is the new gameplay style. See, the first two games were pretty linear with you being stuck underground for the most part. Occasionally you would pop up the the surface but the majority of the previous games took place in the underground metro, it’s stations and tunnels. Then when you would go above ground now and then, it was still a linear experience as you had to follow a pre-set path to get to your objective. Now things have changed as while there still is some of that underground metro action (the game starts out like that), most of the game actually takes place in the open. The linearity of the previous games has all but gone, save a few sections, in favour of open world hubs. Now you have the freedom to explore and interact with these open world hubs however you wish.

Metro Exodus Openworld

While you will always have a main/story objective to complete, there are plenty of side quests you can discover and complete too. And you can do these at your own leisure as long as you are on the hub in question. You’ll find yourself going off the beaten track and seeing what else the map has to offer, not only to find more and more side missions, but also to scavenge for ammo, weapon upgrades and the like. Then each of the open world hubs are graphically very different from each other and offer their own unique characteristics. From snowy areas to deserts (watch out for sandstorms) and cities. One of the things that bored me in the first two games was the lack of variety in the graphics, I just got tired of seeing the same brown tunnels over and over. Metro Exodus addresses this by adding a lot more deviation and this made me want to see what the maps had to offer.

The upgrading of weapons is back from the previous games, only now with a lot more to play round with. These upgrades no only change how the gun looks but also how it feels and works. Add a scope and longer barrel to an assault rifle, an increased magazine size to a sub-machine gun, pimp out a sniper rifle to make it even more deadly – you can take a simple revolver and turn it into a hand-cannon. There is so much to the upgrading and customisation of the guns that I could play around and experiment with it for hours and create new and different guns each time. Speaking of the guns and coming off replaying the previous games recently, I found the gun-play here to be much more snappy and responsive too. Guns will also get dirty with excessive use making them less effective and prone to jamming, so you’ll have to find a workbench to clean it up and repair.

Metro Exodus Gun Upgrades

The open world hubs also give way to open styled missions. Do you go into the enemy camp all guns blazing, killing anyone you see… or maybe you go in sneaky, stealthy quiet as a mouse and just knock the bad guys out. How you play will affect the ending too. If you go around doing as many side missions as possible and knock people out instead of killing them, then you get the good ending. But running around like a loon and putting bullets into any and everyone you see while ignoring the side missions and you’ll see the bad ending… as I did.

Metro Exodus Enemy

Resources are scarce. Ammo, scrap and ingredients to make equipment and upgrade guns are around… but you’ll really need scour every nook and cranny to find them. Search dead bodies, find and open lockers and lock-boxes to gather much needed ammo and resources. Resources you’ll need to make more ammo, medi-kits, throwables and so on. You’ll even have to look after your gas-mask which will become damaged especially after a particularly brutal fight, as a gas-mask with a gaping hole in it is no good against nuclear fallout. Survival is key and while Metro Exodus isn’t a hardcore survival game, it’s a FPS first and foremost, the survival elements are still important and work very well especially on the hardest setting, which is how a Metro game should be played.

The graphics are stunning too making the world you are in believable. The burnt out husks of what used to be buildings, the desolate wastelands left after the nuclear war, the grotesque and unrelenting mutant animals you’ll come across all look beautiful in a macabre way.

Metro Exodus Flying Enemy.jpeg

Metro Exodus is a wonderful game and a thrilling title. For me, the best of the three as developer 4A Games have taken what made the previous games enjoyable and tinkered with the formula just enough to keep the game as it should be but also bring forth a slew of great features to keep the concept fresh.

Now full disclosure here. I played through the game on easy just to finish it so I could do this review. The Metro games (as I previously said) should be played on the hardest possible setting. This is when the survival elements really come to life as you desperately need to conserve ammo and resources, scavenging is harder as there is less loot around and enemies are harder to kill while you are easier to end. I have started a play through on the hardest setting and it’s amazing, the fear is amped as I run out of ammo for my weapons and filters for my gas-mask. On easy, Metro Exodus was thoroughly enjoyable but on Ranger (hardest) difficulty its a whole new game and one I’m loving every second of it’s brutality.

 

Pac-Man – Arcade

Start

Little Bit of History: Originally released on May 22, 1980 (today’s his 35th Birthday) by Namco. Pac-Man (originally called Puck-Man) was created by Tōru Iwatani based on a pizza with a slice missing. Pac-Man is one of gamings all-time great and most iconic characters. This game featured some very early AI programming in the form of the ghost enemies who were programmed to act differently. The original arcade version is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: No real plot. You control Pac-Man around mazes having to eat up all the smaller pellets and power pills to clear the maze while avoiding ghosts.

Little Bit of Character: Joining the titular Pac-Man in the game were the just as famous ghosts; Blinky was the red ghost and was the chaser following Pac-Man’s every move. Pinky was the…well pink one and designed to be an ambusher. Inky was cyan in colour and would try to get in front of Pac-Man. While Clyde the orange one was programmed to act quite randomly.

Little Bit of Influence: Pac-Man went on to spawn a long running franchise in games. But also have 2 animated TV shows, a hit single. Pac-Man would even appear in TV and films, plus he had his own themed area at Six Flags Over Texas. But Pac-Man also spawned many clones and for both arcade and home formats.

Little Bit of Memories: That intro music just before you start as well as that little ditty as Pac-Man dies is burnt into my memory forever. I recall this being one of my most loved childhood games and still is today. I also remember those cutscenes that were often very humorous.

Little Bit of Playability: For me, this is still one of the most playable games today. Its simplicity is a huge part of it’s attraction and I have Pac-Man Museum installed on my Xbox 360. I could see modern gamers not really enjoying the game though, but I would recommend trying; Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, which is a stunning remake and offers a lot of gameplay and variety.

original

This is just one part of my Pac-Man Birthday celebrations. Please feel free to read my Pac-Man Bio and even multi-part retrospective at every official Pac-Man game in the franchise.

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Super Mario World – SNES

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Little Bit of History: Released in 1990 and bundled with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) at launch. Produced & directed by Shigeru Miyamoto and published by Nintendo. Super Mario World was THE defining platform game of it’s time and often considered to being one of the best games ever made.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: It’s a Mario game…what plot? Princess Toadstool has been kidnapped by Bowser…again and Mario & Luigi are tasked to saving her…again.

Little Bit of Character: Joining Mario and Luigi in the quest to save Princess Toadstool…again, along for the ride is dinosaur thing Yoshi. Evil King Koopa Bowser brings his Koopalings with him; Larry Koopa, Morton Koopa Jr., Wendy O. Koopa, Iggy Koopa, Roy Koopa, Lemmy Koopa and Ludwig von Koopa.

Little Bit of Influence: By this time, Super Mario was already an established IP with this being the 4th official Super Mario Brothers game. The franchise is still going today. Yoshi went on to have his own franchise starting with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. There was even a direct follow up planned called: Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds but it was in development for the Philips CD-i machine which was a huge failure and the game never saw the light of day. Super Mario World even spawned it’s own animated TV show.

Little Bit of Memories: My best mate Paul brought a SNES and he would stay at mine usually on a Friday night where we would stay up playing Super Mario World all night into the early hours while listening to 90’s dance music. I remember the time we finally finished the game and all 96 levels, including that damn tricky Star Road unlocking the new alternate world…all without a guide. That Butter Bridge level still haunts me to this day but the music was catchy.

Little Bit of Playability: Oh hell yes. Still one of the best (if not THE best) platform games ever made. Any classic gaming fan should play Super Mario World or it’s remake Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 on the Gameboy Advance. If you have the chance to play this game…play it.

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