Archive for the ‘PC/Mac’ Category
Normally I wouldn’t see myself even taking a second glance at a title like this. Thanks to the re-invention of shovelware on the Wii and subsequent titles of its ilk, it’s not a good day to be a 3D rendition of a classic game. Couple that with Chip’s lackluster impressions of the multiplayer – which were spot on – and I did not go into Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures with high expectations. To my surprise this title is a rock solid 3D platformer that can almost serve as a pseudo Kameo 2, borrowing most of its gameplay elements from that title, but there just isn’t enough here to justify even the budget price associated with it.
Pac-Man has never done well as a platformer. Whether it’s with the 16-bit era titles in the Pac-Land series or really anything Namco has done with him other than re-creating the original game, there just doesn’t seem to be anything there to differentiate these games from all the rest, until now. Pac-Man’s world has changed quite a bit. He’s back in high school (and apparently appropriate age despite being older than I am), the four ghosts that plagued him in the original arcade title are now his friends, and he loves to wear different hats that grant him special powers. None of this begins to define a worthwhile game until you start playing the initial levels and using early hats like the frost beam or the iguana that have grounded but useful applications. Then you realize the level design compliments these powers well and a bit of Mario nostalgia sneaks in. Pac-Man retains the eating ghosts mechanic and can even use a “scare” power to turn them blue and devour them old school style. Before you know it you’re having a blast traversing the game’s six worlds, all borrowed from video game tropes of old, and you don’t want to stop playing.
That’s the hook, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures does a fantastic job of keeping what works in classic games and borrowing different aspects of contemporary platforms into balance. Levels don’t feel too long or too short and all challenges you face are either easy to recognize or recycled from a game in the past. Perhaps it puts the game into a niche category of lifelong gamers in their 30s that can remember the past and present alike, but I feel confident this game is just as properly suited for younger audiences that enjoy the likes of New Super Mario Bros. and Skylanders. What these classic adult gamers will quickly note that younger gamers may not is that the game just delivers too little all of the time. I loved some of the late boss battles, but there are only like five in the game so you aren’t experiencing them much. Additionally Pac-Man has multiple hearts of life to assist him completing his task, but if he has a hat on he will lose that instead of taking damage. Since each boss requires a special hat to overcome, all you really have to do is pick up another hat as fast as you can to have infinite life. The same goes for collecting extra lives, something I feel the developers were well aware was an effortless task due to an achievement for having more than 50 lives. I accidentally unlocked that one. Each world only has a handful of levels along with a couple of bonus levels, which results in no more than 45 minutes of dedication to complete and an overall completion time just over 4 hours. There’s also a push to have you complete each level twice, but the reward is completely pointless. It just feels like a game where developers did just enough to consider it complete.
That doesn’t mean that this title lacks polish, just that the overall content is lazy. I never had any issues with glitches, errors, pop-ins, or defects, the game ran smooth as silk and looked quite good in the process. Load times were hardly noticed and all cutscenes could be skipped with ease. I mention this because too few budget titles these days – and even high caliber titles like Arham Origins – don’t seem to be getting the coat of polish that major boxed releases deserve. While Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures offers a more scant amount of content, it is at least properly tweaked and well programmed. Unfortunately any hardcore gamer that picks this up will breeze through it in a weekend (if not a day) and be left with little else to do. Well, I guess there’s multiplayer. What the Pac-Man universe definitely didn’t need is a 3rd person perspective of the original game where you play as the ghosts and screw each other over to avoid being eaten. It’s a stupid premise from the very onset and doesn’t work out all that well when you put it into practice. Most of the time standing still or getting lucky is the way to win and I don’t think players both young and old prefer a multiplayer mode like that (and even if they do there are plenty of free options). So for the record, this is not a game to be played in multiplayer.
I must say I am pleasantly surprised with Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures and found it an enjoyable campaign for the weekend. In fact, had it shared the nearly triple length that Kameo, a game that utilized most of the puzzle platform and elemental powers this game does, I would be giving it a much higher score. Even adding different difficulties or alternative versions of the original levels would do, anything to extend the gameplay I was enjoying. It doesn’t, though, and by the time your 4 hours are up, possibly a couple more hours for achievement/trophy farming, this game can be discarded. If you can rent it or find it on the cheap under $20, platformer fans may want to consider jumping at the opportunity, but as for the rest of the gaming audience it just doesn’t deliver enough to justify taking notice.
Final Score: 2 out of 5
View our review policy and meaning of scores here.
This game was provided for review from the publisher on the Xbox 360 platform. It was completed by the reviewer in approximately 4 hours, with an additional 2 hours given to single player replays and an hour with multiplayer both online and offline. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U, and PC for an MSRP of $39.99.
This week Fred is joined by Chip Cella of the B-Team and Derrick H of All Games and Dead Pixel Live fame to discuss how games used to come packaged. This includes the box, instructions, and a bunch of freebies we pay good money for today.
Opening Song – Joe Esposito You’re The Best
Closing Song – Iron Maiden Run to the Hills
This week Fred is joined by Chip Cella of the B-Team Podcast to discuss one of the few colorful platformers born completely from the 3D generation, despite the first game playing on a 2D plain. Ubisoft’s Michel Ansel all but saved the then struggling developer/publisher and gave way to a challenging but fun series starring a character with no limbs.
Opening Song – Rayman Theme from the original Rayman on PS1
Closing Song – Madder by Groove Armada (Fred incorrectly refers to this song as Hoodlum in the show)
Most HD remakes require a certain degree of love for the original game, especially when you consider a brunt of them just increase the resolution on lower quality assets. In the case of NES classic DuckTales, this doesn’t really apply. It was a stunning game that had few flaws when placed up against other titles of its time. There was much work to do bringing it into modern times and if you are going to do this type of upgrade while still retaining sprites, WayForward is probably the best equipped for the job. The visual result is spectacular, justifying the somewhat melodramatic title of Remastered in a mere screenshot. Unfortunately it seems the team was so focused on keeping the aesthetics intact that they spent little time on gameplay. As a result DuckTales Remastered is a title that will tug at your nostalgic heartstrings before crushing them under the minor, but significant, tweaks of this modernization.
If you aren’t familiar with WayForward’s previous works, they have grown a reputation for bringing back the past with hand drawn sprites integrated into contemporary gameplay. It is an astronomical cost in both work and resources, but I have been impressed with everything they have provided before (Contra 4, A Boy and His Blob, and Bloodrayne Betrayal to name a few). Not only that, but this developer has also shown striking success with licensed products as well, Batman: Brave and the Bold and Aliens: Infestation are must plays, so I felt that with Capcom and Disney at its back this was a match made in heaven. Upon starting up the game it looks like all the time and money sure paid off. It’s like the cartoon came to life, with solid animation that looks like it leaped off the cells of an animator’s sketchpad. Environments are bright and beautiful, re-creating the worlds from the NES counterpart to perfectly adjust for “nostalgia goggles” (ie: what your mind remembers of a game versus what it really looks like today). Touched up with all of the original voice actors and not a flat performance in the bunch, I can’t imagine how this title could ever demo poorly, especially if your previewers aren’t playing. In terms of visual and audio appeal, WayForward knocked it out of the park.
Then comes the gameplay, which is where the whole project falls apart. The technical complication with such gorgeous sprites is that collision detection cannot be properly determined and therefore hit boxes are utilized. WayForward has always struggled with this on big screen console games, although the portable outings, whether by the benefit of low resolution or smaller screens, don’t seem to suffer the same fate. When you couple that with the dexterity and precision that DuckTales requires, it can get quite frustrating when Scrooge falls right through a massive boss, receives damage, and puts him right in the pattern to get hit again. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if you hadn’t just played a 20-30 minute level for the forth time, which in contrast had almost none of the challenge these boss encounters or late dexterity tests do, and had to skip through dozens of annoying cutscenes along the way. Furthermore Scrooge’s jumps and pogos seem a little off, feeling floaty and imprecise when compared to the much older version. I know many of you readers may scoff at this statement, claiming Scrooge seems to control perfectly with no awkwardness to his movement at all. If you’re comparing it to today’s games, sure, but when you play the NES version and this version back to back, the pixel-counting detail we used to commit to games simply doesn’t hold up in Remastered. I heard of pogo issues from other reviewers, but I must admit that I didn’t have any problems. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t perform like an ideal update 90 percent of the time, but in this particular case the devil is in the details.
Put it all together and you have a game that looks, sounds, and presents itself as the best gift a retro gamer could receive, but after a few hours you’re left hurt and heartbroken. This truly proves that the best graphics and sound in the world cannot hide the fact that if a game doesn’t play right, it just isn’t enjoyable. Normally I side with WayForward’s titles, appreciating the full presentation despite the weak collision and amped difficulty, but in the case of DuckTales Remastered I just cannot ignore the flaws. It’s not difficult in the way old games were meant to be – you would replay frustrating obstacles in an attempt to perfect your run – this whole high risk high reward at a mere boss battle or new area isn’t difficulty, it’s developer trickery. Still, there is an audience for this game and assuming you can commit to hours of working your way through the levels and overcoming the annoying gameplay tweaks it can be one rewarding accomplishment. Perhaps I don’t have the time or patience to learn a game inside and out, not for difficulty but rather for flaws, in order to see that coveted game ending. As a retro gamer my heart tells me I wanted a remake like this – and I can’t stress enough that if WayForward working with Capcom couldn’t pull it off, there aren’t many other options – but now that I’ve tasted the finished product I’m feeling that perhaps the gems of the past should remain that way.
Final Score: 2 out of 5 Please see our review policy for how games are scored and what each score means.
DuckTales Remastered was played via a review copy provided by Capcom and was tested on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. I played for approximately seven hours and was unable to complete the game at this time. A majority of the game was played on medium, however this was adjusted to both easy and hard to assist in determining differences in difficulty.
This week Fred is flying solo and discussing the origins of the Doom clone. Named for early first person shooters, a little startup company called id Software created a reboot of Wolfenstein that eventually led to a demon slaughter in hell known as Doom. From there the flood gates opened and it seemed everyone had a game where you ran around and violently killed legions of enemies.
Release Date: 07/31/2013
Developer: Interceptor Entertainment
Publisher: Apogee Software
Platforms: PC (Windows-based only)
Availability: Digital Download Only
Services for Distribution: Steam (online DRM), Good Old Games (DRM-free)
Please Note: This is for the 2013 release. The review for the original 1994 title Rise of the Triad: Dark War can be found here.
It seems like more and more games are being rebooted from the past, specifically the mid 1990s, and given new life for today’s audience. Of all the games that probably didn’t need to be brought back, Apogee’s Rise of the Triad is high on the list. Let’s face it, the game wasn’t that good, most people didn’t play it, and save for coining “ludicrous gibs” it’s a title best lost in nostalgia. From the initial announcement I’m thinking ”why are they doing this?” Well as it turns out this updated Rise of the Triad does the one thing I never expected: re-creates a classic “Doom clone” with all the dated gameplay style and features intact. It’s like the last 20 years of first-person shooters (FPS) never happened and now we’re back with a fast paced, tough as nails, rocket launcher frenzy with awkward controls and heavy metal music. It’s jarring at first and my initial hour made me want to put this title away and never think about it again – I had spent more than an hour trying to complete the first level, how was I ever going to overcome the entire game? Once I overcame the initial hurdle of figuring how to adjust for 1995 shooter gaming I was rewarded with a crazy, addictive title that just shouldn’t exist today. I’m quite happy it does.
When I receive titles for review that are harkening back to the past, it’s a rather binary hit or miss. Never have I been able to jump into a game and provided I still retained skills from 20 years ago I would be set. This game will aggravate Call of Duty players and be responsible for massive rage quits from today’s gamers that don’t like repeating sections or losing 20-30 minutes of progress due to carelessness (although I doubt it will catch on with the Dark Souls crowd either). All of the skills modern shooters ask for: timed accuracy, twitch reflexes, ammo conservation, headshots, and linear progression are almost absent. You need to move fast, kill at will with the biggest weapon on you at the time, and find that beloved steel door marked “Exit”. If you die, and you will often, there is no saving like old school games, merely a random checkpoint somewhere in the middle of the level that no matter what you’ve done, will crush your will when you respawn. This doesn’t even get into the signature traps and first-person platforming, which isn’t fun or very accurate but almost always has nearby checkpoints so I was able to tolerate it. Each of the four chapters ends in a boss battle, like the original, that will test your ability to juggle circling a room, on-the-run accuracy, and finding safe zones in order to break down multiple life bars. I didn’t much care for them while I was trying to best the bosses, but you sure feel accomplished upon killing them. Also returning are the ridiculous number of rocket launchers, amusing God (and now Dog) mode, and of course “ludicrous gibs” that sends the enemy’s eyeballs smacking into your peripheral vision. These little touches don’t seem like much here but trust me they are the personality touch that keeps you going.
Just like the rest of the game, multiplayer is a chaotic frag fest where everyone dashes for the multiple explosive weapons on the map and proceeds to eradicate one another when paths cross. There may be more to multiplayer, but I was so hooked with this classic style that I spent all my time just killing and running. Graphically the game is a bit muddy, but this was expected as an Unreal 3 title, however I was surprised at some of the random framerate drops I was seeing with a graphics card that can easily handle the requirements. It didn’t really matter, for the most part I was running through my current task so rapidly I hardly had time to notice or care. Rise of the Triad is a niche title for those that want to re-live the glory days of the mid 90s, but if you stick with it and get acquainted the rewards are huge, especially for a $15 game. My first run through the campaign was just over 15 hours, but your mileage may vary depending on your ability to zip through the levels (there is an achievement for completing the whole game in under 4 hours, which I will never get). It really is a great package at a great price, unfortunately I’m just not sure how many gamers are looking for this type of experience.
Final Score: 3 out of 5
Please refer to our Review Policy for interpretation and rules of review scores.
Rise of the Triad is more significant than it initially seems in the annals of first-person shooter (or Doom clone) history. In fact, had it remained under its original title, Rise of the Triad: Wolfenstein 3D Part II it would probably have more awareness and fall under the pantheon of id titles still garnering praise on Steam and Good Old Games. Due to several disputes that arguably are the direct result of John Carmack, a co-founder of developer id Software and lead in milestone shooters Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, the project was terminated in 1993 to avoid clashing with upcoming title Doom. This led to several disputes within the developer of Doom, id Software, and the planned publisher of Doom and previous publisher of several other titles, Apogee Software.
In the beginning there were two companies: developer id Software and publisher Apogee Software. For the most part Apogee was better known as its later developer 3D Realms, the team responsible for Duke Nukem 3D and originally Prey. Before that all happened, Apogee was making its money publishing id Software’s earliest successes including Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D. Apogee utilized the plan of “shareware” to market games, which is a method of giving people approximately 25-33 percent of a game to try out with the option to purchase the full game if interested. John Romero, the then lead designer on Doom at id Software, canceled Rise of the Triad and John Carmack decided to have id self publish so Apogee ended up not publishing Doom. id Software’s co-founder Tom Hall (Carmack and Romero were the other founders) left id to join Apogee. Apparently Hall had concern over the amount of violence and gore in Doom, a project he assisted greatly in creating. Ironically a year later when he completed work as lead designer on Rise of the Triad for Apogee, it would have even more blood and gore than Doom, including a random occurrence where an enemy would explode into gory giblets and “Ludicrous Gibs!” would appear on the screen.
After the split, id Software would celebrate success with Doom and its next franchise, Quake, as a combination developer and publisher. id would continue to utilize the shareware marketing strategy begun by Apogee and even coin the term “gibs” in Quake, meaning literally giblets of human gore and flesh. While the concept of gibs in games was started in either Wolfenstein 3D or Doom, both created by id, I don’t recall seeing the word “gibs” until Rise of the Triad and definitely know it was popularized by Quake. Apogee would release Rise of the Triad on its own as both publisher and developer, the project led by Tom Hall and his team he dubbed the “developers of incredible power”. Aside from some preliminary work in the early-to-mid 90s on Prey, which would eventually be re-developed by Human Head Studio and published by 3D Realms (Apogee) 12 years later, the team’s only title was Rise of the Triad. When Apogee renamed itself to 3D Realms (although it kept Apogee as its traded company name) in 1994, Hall would assist in the Duke Nukem series including the very popular Duke Nukem 3D before leaving to work with John Romero at Ion Storm and produce Deus Ex.
Rise of the Triad is not only significant for being a game where the point is to navigate a predominantly linear level killing everything in your path (Call of Duty says “hi”), but also as the first title to be a total conversion mod. It started as an expansion pack and became a highly modified engine of Wolfenstein 3D, but little hints like the Nazi-esque uniforms of enemies give away what it originally started life as. Furthermore the engine was a technical marvel containing features like panoramic skies, simulated dynamic lighting, fog, bullet holes, breakable glass walls, and even multi-level environments – although it faked it well, Doom was a flat plain in the eyes of the engine. Rise of the Triad was going to be even more dynamic with pre-loaded enemy packs that would randomly generate and extra levels and challenge runs, but all were scrapped due to time constraints and technical limitations. It is also one of the few games of the time that had environmental hazards so drastic that they were usually one-hit kills.
Although mostly forgotten in time, Rise of the Triad is significant in assisting to move the genre of the first-person shooter to the complex world it is today. As a transitional title, it really has a hard time holding up against the more beloved and popular shooters of the time (as our review clearly demonstrates). Still, it was in the nucleus of shooter innovation and many of the crazies and best features of contemporary FPS started almost 20 years ago with the only shooter ever to come out of Apogee software and the Developers of Incredible Power.
Console: PC/DOS, Mac
Digital Release? Yes – PC/Mac (Steam/gog.com), iOS
Price: $3-$5, depending on digital distributor
Please Note: This review is based on the original 1994 PC game, for the 2013 updated version, our review can be found here.
In 1994 the first-person shooter was rampant. Like today, you just couldn’t look over a rack of games without a large number of the genre present, although at this time they were simply known as “Doom clones”. Ironically, one of the craziest of these titles, Rise of the Triad (ROTT), was played by almost no one unless you were like me and relied heavily on free shareware titles. People keep thinking they’ve played it, but once I start describing it quickly discover it’s a different game. It’s basically a Wolfenstein 3D-like title, which makes sense because it started life as the sequel, and focuses on graphic violence, crazy traps and platforming, and plenty of different explosive weapons. You play as one of five members of spec ops group H.U.N.T. (High-risk United Nations Task-force), each has a value of 1-5 in either strength and speed that balances to the same total amount for each. It’s not as diverse as it sounds in terms of character class, but it allows mild adaptation to your play style. In the game H.U.N.T finds itself trapped on an island after a rescue boat gets destroyed and your goal is simple: kill.
The similarities to Wolfenstein 3D are striking, developer Apogee was also the publisher for id’s early titles (including Wolfenstein 3D) and had begun to get into development as well. As a result ROTT comes off as more of a total conversion mod that places you in a futuristic death-trap facility rather than an ancient Nazi castle. Graphically the game has received an appropriate facelift, looking much more realistic than 1993′s Doom by comparison. It’s also just plain crazy. Like creative freedom crazy with over-the-top violent deaths including the random “ludicrous gibs!” effect where the enemy explodes into giblets of human matter. There’s also a God Mode power-up that temporarily turns you into an invincible version of the almighty, smiting enemies in your way and yawning at the apparent boredom of being perfect (possibly even digging on players that relied on God Mode in other games as a way to complete them). Side objectives like boss battles and coin collecting switch it up, but not enough to be notable.
This all sounds good and well but these days the game is clunky as hell, controlling like you’ve been drugged and forced to tap the keyboard with boxing gloves on. It’s also tough as hell and unforgiving – you can easily die at the hands of one properly placed enemy or random instant death trap and have to start the whole level over. Consequently you pace slowly through the game, quick saving and reloading at will, which was not compelling or much fun. Multiplayer, if you can find a game, is a clumsy frag fest that makes Doom look like a modern shooter. Also this title has odd resolution in DosBox, which is required to play on modern PCs. Sadly it’s a great example of the period but a bit too dated to enjoy without nostalgia.
Score: 2 out of 5
See our review policy for the definition of each review score.
Please see our supplemental article for historical data on why Rise of the Triad is significant to gaming history and today’s development.
Originally hitting arcades back in 1993, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom was quite the oddity. It prominently featured gameplay similar to that of its other brawler brethren, specifically the combat system of Final Fight mixed with the license quality of titles like The Simpsons, but also with the added benefit of being part of the complex D&D story. Not only was the game addictive but mild RPG elements, power-ups, and branching paths that had you etching a unique campaign were almost unheard of in arcades. Unfortunately this gameplay style and a long branching campaign required two important things: time and money. It probably costs somewhere between $5-$10 in quarters to conquer the first game, and probably twice that to take on the sequel Shadow Over Mystara and at least an hour of your time. As it stood, I never completed this game as a child, either due to lack of time or money, and I always wondered how fun it would be to have this title at home. Well finally Capcom has decided to bring this classic arcade duo in digital format and finally give free rein to a pair of arcade games that are among my favorite of all time.
As for the games themselves, they haven’t changed much. You get unlimited credits, all of the gameplay straight from the arcade, and both games in one. Not only that, but Capcom has integrated a sort of save system that remembers each level as you complete it. This is a great benefit over the arcade version because it’s hard to find 1-2 hours (or more depending on how much playing you want to do) without interruption, so now you can quit anytime and pick up at the beginning of the level you left off. Additionally the controls are left untouched, the four face buttons of whatever platform you choose relates directly to the original 4-buttons of the arcade and I was pleased to see my fight stick gave the game that true arcade feel. A front end menu system not unlike the ones recently seen in Darkstalkers Resurrection provides a collection of all the loot that can be collected in a checklist format, plenty of challenges to activate as you play, a mostly useless leveling system based on completion of the overall collection, and unlockable art and content. It all bundles the collection into a nice package for those that enjoyed it in the past.
Not only did Capcom bring both games together, but it has plenty of additional options to tweak the gameplay to your liking. Whether you prefer the world of smooth, slick modern visuals or want to try to capture that old school arcade feel the options are there for you. Display resolutions are available in traditional 4:3 boxed versions, a widescreen perspective, a stretched mode for full screen, and even three arcade views including a zoomed out over-the-shoulder view of the original 4-player dual cabinet. I don’t know why anyone would want to view the game that way, but now you can at the press of a button. You can also toggle scanlines, make the graphics smooth or sharp, and even have a modern type bezel art that shows you how close you are to completing challenges. With online capabilities you now have drop-in drop-out co-op play for up to four people, which can be as open or limited as you choose. Some of the aforementioned unlocked bonus content is the ability to have mods in the game such as regenerating health or unbreakable equipment, which can make the game more amusing when trying to do a speed run or assisting someone else. There are even passive options like seeing stats on your friends, leaderboards, and even the ability to make spell and equipment selections on the gamepad in the WiiU version. While I honestly think the visual options are the only true necessary extra, I was pleased to see that although an inexpensive HD re-release, this wasn’t thrown together.
To this day I still love Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons games to the point that I dropped around $50 to import the Japan-only Saturn port of this collection long ago. Now it’s fully localized and available without any sacrifice to the gameplay and at a much lower price. If you are a fan of arcade games, the D&D universe, or brawlers you definitely need to check out one of the most impressive sprite-based arcade titles to ever release. Now I may actually get to explore all of the various alternate routes and branching paths thanks to an unlimited amount of credits and time. Despite the fact that Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara does little more than bring back the two arcade titles to home consoles, the games themselves justify the purchase even if they were nothing more than direct ports of the original. Thank you Capcom, now my collection of favorite license-based brawler titles is nearly complete.
This title is available for $15 starting today on PSN and Steam, with the XBLA version going live tomorrow. No information was given on the upcoming WiiU digital release. A review copy of this title was provided with the main campaign of both games totaling about two and a half hours. We played approximately six hours of gameplay for this review including online and offline co-op and several replays of the campaigns.
This week Fred and Trees are talking about the Tomb Raider series and its busty protagonist Lara Croft that shadowed the video game as a pop culture icon in the late 1990s. We discuss development, creation, and production of both Core and recent Crystal Dynamics’ vision for Lara and her many adventures.