Moved!

19 Feb

I don’t think I’ll be updating gamegameblog anymore, it’s been fun but I’ve started writing about more than just games.

Thanks to anyone who read this over it’s brief life, I’m surprised it got as many hits as it did!

If you’d like to read more of what I write check out landsleaving.wordpress.com

See you there!

Mortal Kombat Demo Impressions

29 Mar mortal_kombat_9logo1

Mortal Kombat has an interesting legacy to live up to. The original wasn’t exactly the greatest fighting game, even at the time of its release, but it holds a certain nostalgic appeal to a lot of gamers. It’s sequel was a superior title, but it’s gameplay was massively overshadowed by Street Fighter II. As years passed, Mortal Kombat tried 3d, attempted a scrolling brawler, shoehorned in a cart racer and never relinquished its gore. Sadly, none of the games ever lived up to MK2, and many were less than stellar.

The ninth iteration of the series is on the horizon and I must admit to mixed feelings. I was a Mortal Kombat fan in the early nineties, not because of the gore and controversy, but because it was fun. Any offense caused by the game was absurd to me, even then, because it was cartoon violence. Itchy and Scratchy on The Simpsons showed more gore than Mortal Kombat’s pixellated people did and the furore it caused was ridiculous. Graphics have come a long way though, so I approached the new game with some trepidation, assuming it would be extremely graphic.

This... is supposed to offend me?

Well, it is and it isn’t. The game is brutal in some ways, heads are chopped off, limbs are severed, the usual, but it’s still cartoon violence. It’s not just too over the top to be taken seriously, it’s nicely judged in terms of how graphic the violence actually is. Scorpion’s fatality is basically him chopping an opponent in half at the waist, then lopping off his head at the neck. He then boots the torso, causing the head to fly skywards, which he then cuts down the middle. The blood is minimal throughout, there’s no sound of slicing through bone or any real hideousness and it just doesn’t seem all that violent. It’s still a cartoon really, and layers of graphical polish haven’t changed that.

The only genuinely graphic element is the X-Ray move. These moves show the screen in black and white, except for the part of the victims skeleton which is affected by the move. Again though, there’s something altogether silly about the whole thing, as jaws shatter unrealistically into pieces and limbs snap, only for the victim to return to the fight with a slight graze. I’m sure some will say that it’s a bad message, but the game is 18 rated, and any child whose parents are irresponsible/permissive enough to let them play it will just scoff at any parental disgust, as we did in the 90′s.

Will reptile still be a nightmare to unlock?

The game itself is a fun fighter. It’s not Street Fighter IV, but it’s a great return for the series. Fights have their own style, reminiscent of Tekken on a 2D plane. It’s full of nostalgic appeal, classic characters like Sub-Zero and Johnny Cage, and trees with evil faces. Fans of the originals should enjoy it a lot. It does start to feel a little lacking in depth, but I don’t claim to be an expert on fighters, so I could be wrong on that. 2-Player is the best part really, it’s a battle to see who can perform the most ridiculous moves and get to do their fatality. The fatality commands have mercifully been simplified, so even novices can pull them off.

It’s not genre defining, but a solid effort nonetheless. It’s an improvement over Armageddon certainly. The problem is, the reboot concept, and the marketing to go along with it are overselling the game to a huge degree. It’s probably best left to gamers who remember MK in its heyday, who’ll revel in shoving their opponent into a nearby tree’s gaping maw. Gamers who never enjoyed it won’t, on the demo at least, be won over, and younger players would be better off with Soul Calibur or Street Fighter. If they really want graphic violence, I’d even suggest that this probably isn’t enough. It really is just as silly, over the top and unrealistic as the originals, nowhere near as violent as the press, the Australian censor and the publishers would have you believe.

If you liked MK and have some friends and a few beers/energy drinks/methamphetamines, then I’d say this will be worth buying. If not, unless you really love the demo, or the full release is a massively improved game, it’s probably not really worth paying full price for. Could be a real bargain bin classic though.

The Indie Ethos – An Interview with Project Zomboid’s Developers

19 Mar lemmy

I was lucky enough to get to interview Lemmy and Binky – the guys behind Project Zomboid. They were absolutely brilliant, very funny, affable and had a LOT to say about the games industry.

It’s up on Push-Start now, and well worth a read. Some great insights into the life of a developer in a big studio and into indie games.

CLICK ME PLEASE, I’LL BE YOUR FRIEND!

As per usual, here’s another cute picture (of penguins!) to make up for you having to click a link.

Minecraft Meets Dawn of the Dead in ‘Project Zomboid’

16 Mar ZombieScreens_Lemmy

I’ve mentioned being sick of zombie games, but in the same article I did say they had potential if handled correctly. As is becoming standard in gaming lately, it’s the indie developers who come up with interesting ways to approach familiar concepts, like Minecraft’s sandbox utopia or Braid’s platform-puzzling. A pair of developers nicknamed ‘Lemmy’ and ‘Binky’ are doing just that with zombies, and offering what could be the most interesting zombie-related piece of entertainment since ‘Shaun of the Dead’ parodied the genre wonderfully.

The premise is simple, a randomly generated world in which you must survive an apocalyptic scenario in which zombies run rampant through the streets, nothing new really. What makes this interesting is that the characters and encounters are not only random, but according to the description offered on the creator’s blog, rather unpredictable. The idea that your companions can seek solace in alcohol, only to find them depressed or dangerous, is incredibly intriguing.

Simple looks, big ideas

The game is essentially an RPG, but like Minecraft, would appear to have few immediate goals beyond survival. This approach made Mincraft a haven for gamers with imagination and creativity, and this concept applied to a more immediate survival-based gameplay has huge potential. The game may look simple, but the ideas are big, and Lemmy suggests the game will take some time to perfect. Like Minecraft though, this will be based on players having access to early edition of the game, offering input and advice to its creators.

The community aspect of indie games, which creates a dialogue between creator and player, is a fantastic model. It’s great to see developers who understand the importance of player input. In a game with massive ambitions, it makes sense to let players direct, to some degree, what the game becomes, as this allows the developers to focus on the elements which most appeal to players.

The game uses a classic isometric viewpoint

The only problem for the creators of ‘Project Zomboid’ is that they are brimming with ideas. RPG elements which allow the player to become better at various aspects of survival, crafting of items and weapons, a progressing wider story which allows events in the game’s wider world to affect the smaller world inhabited by the player and zombies which react to sound and lighting are just some of the ambitious features of the project. There are just so many features that some may have to be cut to get the game out in the wild. They do say they’ll spend the time getting this right, and Mineraft has shown that a game doesn’t need to be finished to be fun.

It sounds fantastic, and is exactly what many gamers have been looking for from a zombie experience. With none of the fanfare or, thankfully, melodrama of Dead Island, this is likely to fly under many people’s radars, but it really deserves more attention – and for more than just the promise of the game. The developers were keeping this project a secret up till now, and have only revealed the project in the hope of getting donations from gamers who are interested. Hopefully there are many gamers willing to offer a little to this extremely exciting project.

You can find more information about the game, and donate to its development (rewards for this are offered) here.

DICE – As Lazy as the Competition – On Push-Start Now

14 Mar bf3_white_gradient_lg

Another article of mine on Push-Start.co.uk, this time a reaction to DICE calling their competition lazy.

CLICK HERE!

Go read it, leave a comment too, if you like.

And here’s another cute thing:

Top 100 Games – 91 – F-Zero X

14 Mar f-zero-x-wii

F-Zero X
Year: 1998
Genre: Racing

Driving games are, by their nature, limited. They have little to offer in terms of longevity or variety and often, despite the best efforts of developers, can be disappointing. F-Zero X is different. The original SNES version was a good racer, fun and different and with a reasonably impressive sense of speed for the time. The N64 iteration blows it away in every possible way. There’s a lot of depth to F-Zero X in comparison with other racing games, and it’s not just in the huge amount of unlockables on offer. There’s a learning curve that’s more long than steep, with the game being simple enough for a beginner to enjoy, but mastering each track requires a huge investment of time and effort.

The single player game is where F-Zero X shines brightest. Featuring a similar concept to Mario Kart – three race series of varying degrees of difficulty, on top of a huge roster of racers. The game is customisable based on player preference. While only 6 vehicles are available at the beginning, there are 30 in total, and unlocking them all is quite a challenge. Each vehicle is unique, despite there being only three stats – Body, boost and grip. The acceleration and max speed must be balanced before each race as well, and can be tailored to suit each of the many tracks. It’s quite detailed, and finding the right vehicle for your style takes a bit of time, but once you do, you know – it just feels right. This is a game that wants to give the player an abundance of choice, and a lot of variation in how races are tackled.

The racers are weird and wonderful - from dnosaurs to robots

Variety is the greatest strength of F-Zero X. Each track is unique, with tubes, tunnels, jumps, chicanes and various other hazards to be dealt with. Choosing whether to muscle past opponents, aim for speed or play it safe is critical, but each approach can pay off. This is where the game is tough to master. It’s not too hard to win on easier difficulty levels, but when trying to unlock some of the game’s content, the races become a tremendous challenge. With 30 opponents all vying for victory, a rival seeking to knock you out of the race and constant environmental dangers, races come down to a balance between aggressively battling other racers, boosting and hoping the energy recharge is coming up. It’s very much risk-reward based, as boosting consumes energy and leave you vulnerable, creating an exciting and brilliantly realised racer. The influence on future titles like Burnout is clear in the incredible sense of speed and gameplay mechanics, but F-Zero X is an incredible title in its own right and one of the best racing games ever made.

WWE All-Stars Preview

10 Mar wweallstars

Professional Wrestling games hit a peak of sorts during the PS1 era with the original (then WWF) Smackdown, the game which has evolved into the current WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series. Unfortunately for WWE fans, the series has stagnated. Matches are extremely slow, there are far too many control options for casual players to enjoy and what began as a fast-paced, exciting take on sports entertainment has failed to innovate in years of annual updates. WWE All-Stars looks set to change all that.

Developed in house by licence-holder THQ, All-Stars is a return to the glory days of wrestling games. The wrestlers look larger-than-life, as they should, and move with fluidity. While SDvsR sees realistic versions of John Cena et al. All-Stars’ wrestlers look like the steroid-enhanced physiques of the 80’s have made a comeback, it’s pure caricature. Clearly, someone at THQ saw the potential for a version of the WWE as over-the-top as what happens on screen, and it looks fantastic. Featuring a roster not only of current stars, there are also a host of past favourites, so this is one for people just looking for a fun game. Even if you wouldn’t recognise Sheamus if he walked by you on the street (and he’s pretty hard to miss) the inclusion of the likes of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant lend a certain air of nostalgia to the game and the style of play looks like what a child sees on screen.

The action is ridiculously over-the-top

The gameplay, from what THQ have shown, is fast and furious. Videos show wrestlers juggling others with punches, bouncing them off the ropes and into a suplex. It appears to have more in common with Soul Calibur than Smackdown, and that’s no bad thing. A control scheme ever increasing in complexity has hampered WWE games massively, so simplifying this and ramping up the pace is a much-needed change. It’s not that the WWE games have been awful, just that the main changes to gameplay made have added layers of difficult button combos to what started off as a system which avoided the slow pacing of the 16-bit era games. All-Stars looks to have some classic arcade-style gameplay, a throwback to match the visuals.

There are, though, potential pitfalls for All-Stars. Legends of Wrestlemania attempted something along these lines recently, and lacked depth. This game needs to have the level of immersion that the realistic editions offer, season modes and customisation. Without that, there may be little to encourage players to keep coming back to All-Stars. If the career mode that is included is reasonably robust however, this could be a hit. With gameplay based on combos, it seems a little like a mix between the classic WWF Smackdown and the excellent No Mercy on N64. The look is appealing, so if the developers can back that up with solid gameplay mechanics, we might see a game that doesn’t alienate all but hardcore WWE fans. If nothing else, it’s shaping up to be a fun trip down memory lane, both in terms of gameplay and style.

But enough from me, here’s the Macho Man Randy Savage to tell you more. Oooooh Yeahh.

And here he is on GamesMaster. No, really.

WWE All-Stars will be available on March 29th in the US and April 1st in Europe.

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