Archive for the ‘PC/Mac’ Category
Episode 3: Chaos Theory
The story of lead character Max, her best friend Chloe, and the various people that cross paths with these girls in the small Oregon town of Arcadia Bay continues. We are now on the third episode of five, which is the time where typically the twist of the season presents itself and the direction for the overall story arc begins to come into view. I don’t know where Life is Strange is headed – the twist at the end I never saw coming and it only furthered my intrigue – but I am pleased to say that the flaws I was detecting in the second episode are quite absent this time around. In fact, it feels like perhaps two different teams at Dontnod are programming episodes because Chaos Theory feels more like the first episode and might even be able to get by if episode 2 didn’t exist (save for a plot point or two). Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this third iteration, although despite my gripes from episode 2 being resolved, all new ones have emerged that prove there’s still room for improvement on this project.
Episode 2: Out of Time
I was quite taken with my initial impressions of Life is Strange, the episodic game that’s part modern adventure and part Choose Your Own Adventure, but there’s a part of me that acknowledged many works have started with fantastic openings and fall short at the end. In fact, much of the first episode was probably how the game was pitched for development. Typically the second outing, especially in the case of episodic titles, give us a much better feeling of what the overall title is going to be like and allows us to gauge how effectively or ineffectively the unwinding story and gameplay goals are executing. It’s also important to note that almost universally the second episode is hit with the largest amount of criticism and negative feedback, if only because it’s a focused burst of reality on the high hopes of the first episode, but also because it’s an awkward in-between time for the plot. I wish I could say Life is Strange overcomes this potential hitch, but it does appear that like most of the others it just doesn’t quite pack the punch of the first.
Of Fred’s 3 random games he has to cover this month, one was a sports game that apparently was the best hockey game on the PS2. NHL 2002, developed and published by EA, touts funny announcers, crazy gameplay mechanics, and some of the smoothest action for the generation. Fred gives it an initial go and if nothing else, exploits the unbalanced nature of the AI on both sides of the difficulty spectrum. More coverage and a review to follow, but here’s the initial 30 minutes and it ends with a Sum41 song, woo hoo game license cross-promotion!
Switching It Up
A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3). For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release. In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades. The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas. These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games. Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title. It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory. Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite. Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.
Platform: Mega Drive and PS2 (Japan Only), English translation available on XBLA (360), PSN (PS3), and Virtual Console (Wii)
Released: 1994 (Japan only), 2012 (English Translation)
Developer: Westone (English port handled by M2)
Digital Release? Yes
Price: $8.00 (Wii), $9.99 (XBLA & PSN – part of Monster World Collection)
The Wonder Boy/Monster World series is one of those unappreciated darlings in gaming that has spread its love across various Sega consoles and even arcades but never reached it’s height of popularity in the West. So I guess it made sense that the series swan song, titled Monster World IV, was released on the Mega Drive in Japan only. It was not until 2012 that a official English re-release came out on services like XLBA and PSN, which is the version I will review here. [Editor’s Note: There is a fan translation of the original game released by DeJap in 2000, that site can be found here. Our review does not account for or evaluate this fan translation.]
Platform: Playstation, Saturn, Arcade
Publisher: Fox Interactive
Digital Release? No
Price: $3.92 (PS1)/$15.99 (Saturn) – Disc Only, $5.49 (PS1)/$24.99 (Saturn) – Complete, $14.95 (PS1)/$62.97 (Saturn) – Sealed according to Price Charting
Die Hard Trilogy was released in the early days of the Sony PlayStation and was generally well received. We were all excited for this because 3D was becoming big as developers looked to leave the 2D style of game in favour of the blocky 3D models. Also this is Die Hard, one of the coolest film franchises ever, so why wouldn’t people want to play this? Well time has passed and the dust has now settled. Is this game really as good as we remember, or has it gone the way of the film franchise?
Platform: Playstation, Saturn, Arcade
Digital Release? No
Price: $5.75 (PS1)/$11.64 (Saturn) – Disc Only, $14.47 (PS1)/$21.99 (Saturn) – complete, $74.99 (PS1)/$34.99 (Saturn) – Sealed according to Price Charting
Alien Trilogy was developed and released in 1996 as the bigger budget, larger team, and more experienced group making a full scale Doom clone alongside the presumed B-Team at Probe Software. That other team was set to make Die Hard With a Vengeance to release alongside the film and eventually widened scope to release the Die Hard Trilogy. Two games, each with its own take on large popular franchises in the 20th Century Fox vaults, and trying to hit it big. Did Alien Trilogy succeed by cloning the more popular franchise and game genre? Find out after the jump.
The better title for this episode was probably “Because 90’s”, but either way Fred and Jam tackle six massive movies made into two interesting games by one single studio. Both released in 1996, Probe Software’s Alien Trilogy was a re-writing of three movies in one single genre (Doom clone) whereas Die Hard Trilogy was a compilation of three different genres (3rd person shooter, light gun shooter, and driving game) based on each game. The results are interesting and stems some interesting conversation on these powerhouse trilogies.
Platform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010
These days there is a good chance any gamer is familiar with the “twin stick shooter”, a concept where you move with the left stick and shoot with the right. Back in 1982 when fantastic game designer Eugene Jarvis premiered the concept in Robotron: 2084, it was unlike anything we had ever seen. The merits of that game, and what it brought to video games, cannot be denied and if you want an idea of how Robotron played you need look no further than recent neo-retro release Rock Boshers Dx. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in 1990’s fantastic Smash TV, that Jarvis along with a talented team at Williams created one of the most addicting arcade games from my youth. Set in the year 1999 – oh how we thought so much was going to change with the year 2000 back then – Smash TV has you and potentially one other person shooting it out in a room-to-room TV studio playing the most violent game show of all time (Running Man anyone?). It takes the building blocks of Robotron: 2084 and brings it into the nineties by giving you a second player, having you kill tons of humans instead of rescue them like in Robotron, and of course you’re doing it all for cash prizes to selfishly grow your wealth. I loved it then and I love it now.
With the regretful closing of Maxis this year and the recent discussions of the value of city simulation games, I thought it was appropriate to return to Will Wright’s massively successful city simulation game that started it all. Although this game was not the first of Wright’s, that was a so-so top down shooter called Raid on Bungeling Bay for the Commodore 64 in 1984, this seemingly tame and rote concept came from that initial title when Wright was developing map builders for its levels. From there a few engineering books and some other research led to the genesis of Micropolis, the game about miniature versions of cities and managing the development and monthly activities. The title was supposed to release years earlier on the Commodore 64 by publisher Broderbund, who had handled Bungeling Bay, but they could not see the value in trying to market and sell a game like this – I wouldn’t have either – so it remained unreleased. It wasn’t until the late 80s that Wright had a meeting with Maxis founder Jeff Braun and secured the license for a Macintosh port that eventually released in 1989.