Cities Skylines: Idle Gaming

No, not ‘game idling’, that’s leaving TF2 running on an empty server because you’re desperately trying to get a hat as cool as my heavy’s purple-super-awesome-fuzzy-hat; it’ll never happen, so you should probably stop trying now. 

In the past week I’ve once more returned to ‘Cities: Skylines’, which may not be the most catchy name, but I guess the developers decided against calling it ‘Cities: The Game That SimCity Reboot Should Have Been’. I first tried my hand at this gentle brand of city planning back in 2015 when it made the list of top 5 games I played that year and, despite rarely being touched since the close of that twelve-months, it remained installed on my PC; a worthy achievement as I tend to clear space pretty regularly to make way for new titles. Working on the ‘Field of Dreams’ school of thought the player lays out roads, infrastructure, designated zones, and the population, like ballplayers through a cornfield, arrive to live, work, and shop. It’s a tried and tested formula that, in all the important ways, has remained unchanged since the first SimCity hit consoles and home computers in 1989 (if you can believe that!). ‘Cities: Skylines’ brings back all the important elements and adds a few more for good measure; along with overall budgeting the player can designate districts within their virtual utopia specifying local bylaws and incentives; for example you could designate a district which gives tax breaks to small businesses, or distribute smoke detectors to residents of a specific residential area. Along with this the game allows you to place certain landmark buildings as you reach gameplay milestones which in broad terms bring in more tourism and act as some kind of indicator of ingame progress. Continue reading “Cities Skylines: Idle Gaming”

STRAFE: Wolf in Some Other Wolf’s Clothing

So those mischievous developers over at Pixel Titans had us all hoodwinked when they released Strafe a couple of weeks ago. This very successful KickStarter project promised a procedurally generated 90’s style FPS experience, but actually delivered something quite different once you peel away the crispy-polygon coating, and personally I’m pretty thrilled about that. As regular readers will be aware, I have mixed feelings about … Continue reading STRAFE: Wolf in Some Other Wolf’s Clothing

Please Insert Disk Two: Episode 1 – Banjo Kazooie (Podcast)

Oh yes! It’s not a prank; you can now hear me speak! Introducing:
Please Insert Disk Two
A new collaborative podcast with my good friend Chinery

A Podcast you say?… tell me more…

“Please Insert Disk Two” is a collaborative project that I’m venturing in to with a good friend of mine; the aforementioned, Chinery. Having spoken many times about putting a podcast together, we finally moved out of the all important “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” phase of the project and decided to just jump in and give it a shot.

The concept began to form itself in my mind late last year when I posted this piece about ‘Dead Rising’. We all have titles in our ‘gaming history’ that we attach sentiment to; maybe it was a great title, maybe we just played it at a time when we were particularly susceptible to the theme, or maybe we just attach it to a specific time in our lives. Whatever the reason, trying to convey ‘why’ this is particular game is a classic to a friend who didn’t experience this first hand is a tricky business. Chinery and I have decided to embrace this idea, dust off out microphones, and share our thoughts as we each pick landmark games from our own histories for the other to jump in to for the first time.

Continue reading “Please Insert Disk Two: Episode 1 – Banjo Kazooie (Podcast)”

Stories Untold: Antiquated Hardware

Spoiler Warning: Whilst I havn’t intentionally included spoilers, this game is best enjoyed going on entirely cold

It was a rare treat last year when, one dreary evening, I discovered and played the freely available short title, ‘The House Abandon‘ by No Code Studio. Every aspect of the game appealed to me from the ‘Spectrum inspired’ loading screen of the ingame hardware to the tension created using only the lightest of touches. I had assumed that it would remain an enchanting ‘one-off’; a short exploration of what might be possible. No Code proved me wrong earlier this year by releasing ‘Stories Untold’, a fully fleshed out four-part drama in which ‘The House Abandon’ features as Act I. I picked it up a little while ago, but decided to save it for a few consecutive evenings where I could put my headphones on, dive into it, and become immersed in this chilling tale without interruption.

My chance finally came last weekend where, over the course of two evenings, I tentatively made my way through ‘Stories Untold’, both captivated and un-nerved. Part of me is tempted to just stop typing here.

If you have an interest in this game then go and play it, the less you know going in the more you will enjoy the experience.

Unfortunately that would be an unsatisfying post to write (or read), so I’m going to cautiously pick through the game and say what I can about it without spoiling the plot.

Continue reading “Stories Untold: Antiquated Hardware”

The Signal from Tölva: Sci-Fi Ambience

Even disregarding my own skewed interest in space exploration I think we’re due a resurgence of alien based sci-fi. Where the space race ignited the public’s interest in travel beyond our planet in the 50’s and 60’s, recent remote exploration in Mars and the discovery of exoplanets such as Trappist-1e has been trickling down into the public’s imagination and sparking that interest once again. In contrast to last year’s controversial ‘No Man’s Sky’ which attempted to generate an entire galaxy’s worth of planets, ‘The Signal from Tölva’ focuses on providing the player with an insight into one such imagined exoplanet.

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So long ‘Mad Catz’; at least I have my R.A.T. to remember you…

In an uncharacteristic move, I’m going to do something of a current gaming news type blogpost to lament the movement of staple game hardware manufacturer ‘Mad Catz’ from “Woooh! we’re a company” status, to “Urgh! We’ve filed for bankruptcy” as reported late last week. As a company they were dubiously renowned for producing opinion dividing products, specifically in their console market given some of the rants that I’ve just found on various forums, but it’s equally valid to say that anytime a company drops out of the market (particularly the less populated 3rd party gaming hardware market) we lose diversity & choice when it comes to how we bridge the gap between fingertips and machine. As gamers, when we’re wrapped up in that world, most of us would likely say that whatever control interface is forgotten… and that should be the goal of controller manufacturers… to make us forget that bridge from our hand to the game. I think this is why I struggle to write hardware reviews (as I discovered previously), the best compliment you can give many pieces of gaming hardware is that when it works, you forget about it.

So, in memory of fallen ‘Mad Catz’ (I’m avoiding making the 9 lives joke that so many gaming news sites have made) I’m going to give it the old college try and attempt to elucidate my thoughts on the R.A.T. 5 gaming mouse that has been a permanent fixture on my desk for the past few years.

Continue reading “So long ‘Mad Catz’; at least I have my R.A.T. to remember you…”

Owlboy: PixelArt Elegance

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone comment on ‘Owlboy‘ without using the word ‘Beautiful’; D-Pad Studio’s troubled little owl has captured the hearts, of what seems like, everyone who has had the pleasure of soaring with Otus. The reported 10 year development time is striking, not only for the commitment and dedication from the small dev team, but because I’ve seen the evidence of that dedication in every screen of the game thus far in the hours I have spent with Otus. It would be easy at this point to reach for Hundstrasse’s “Big Book of Cliches” and use one of the many appropriate phrases such as “Owlboy is a love letter to the 16-bit era“, or “The creation of ‘Owlboy’ serves as an homage to the retro platformers that crossed swords in the fabled console wars of the 90’s“, but this would be doing a disservice to what ‘Owlboy’ ‘is’.

‘Owlboy’ is a beautiful and engrossing sprite based platform game.

The developers may have intended ‘Owlboy’ to be a 16-bit inspired metroidvania style action-adventure-puzzle-platformer*, but my experience with Otus tells me that it doesn’t need to carry a disclaimer that it is trying to be something; it stands very easily as its own thing.

It is .. erm.. detailed!

Continue reading “Owlboy: PixelArt Elegance”