PU:BG – Bathroom Surprise!

It’s been difficult to miss the wave of enthusiasm within the gaming community for the fabled ‘PLAYER UNKNOWN’s BATTLEGROUNDS’; a currently early access title with its roots set in the modding community (like so many great games before it) and with a user base now measured in millions. Having only a cursory understanding of the game, but a high degree of curiosity, I jumped in a couple of weeks ago and with about 24 hours of playtime I’ve been staring at a blank screen trying to work out how to go about wrapping up these hours in a digestible and entertaining form… If I’m honest I’ve begun and scrapped half-a-dozen attempts to take a witty spin on it, or begin in a quirky off the wall way, and come to the conclusion that for PU:BG, a blunt direct approach might just be the best for what is in essence a clean and straightforward concept.

If there is anyone out there that still has no idea what I’m jabbering on about, PU:BG is a Battle Royale game based on an open world island; 100 players skydive in, all with the aim of being the last standing. Periodically the blue shimmering play boundary, known only as “the circle” shrinks, forcing those hiding and trembling survivors to scamper from their rabbit holes into the rapidly diminishing territory. Players outside the circle are ‘encouraged’ back in through the use of physical damage, and an occasional air strike is thrown in just to keep everyone on their toes. Other than that the game is fairly standard shooter fare with weapons, health, & armour pickups in buildings, vehicles to move hastily (but noisily), and an island peppered with soviet era towns, buildings, & bridges along with a healthy dose of wilderness. The task can be tackled in solo, pair, or four person squad modes and although the island is always the same, the vector of the transport aircraft along with the shirking play-zone seems to keep gameplay fresh whilst allowing the player to quickly recognise landmarks (and even pick out the odd favourite  haunt amongst the buildings). Continue reading “PU:BG – Bathroom Surprise!”

Jurassic Park CD: Hundstrasse Plays Another Jurassic Park Game…

My only guidance was a few grainy images from in a well-thumbed issue of ‘Mean Machines Sega’, but as a child I had made up my mind that the Sega CD’s Jurassic Park Game was the definitive way to experience first-hand the wonder of John Hammond’s ill-fated theme park…

For those of you who havn’t picked up on the subtlety with which I’ve mentioned it in the past, ‘Jurassic Park’ is one of my favourite films. It’s enchanting, exciting, and mysterious, but most of all it is set in a world with blurry edges everywhere making it feel real and expansive rather than enclosed. The characters are all larger than life and caricaturish, each with a distinctive personality and matching wardrobe. Unfortunately it’s a franchise which has never really found its place in the videogame world to the loss of gamers everywhere as it is a setting that is more than ready. Arguably my favourite JP game was the recent ‘Lego Jurassic World’ which made both the ‘list of top 5 games I played in 2015’ and also my recommendation for ‘the best game for non-gamers’. Having said that, there were aspects to the flawed TellTale offering that I also found enchanting, mainly the devotion to the source material and plot (even if the gameplay was weak… to be super-nice to it…). At the time of writing that article, I mentioned the mysterious draw of the SegaCD Jurassic Park game, so one idle Friday evening I set out to play it.

As my opening paragraph alluded, this is a game that had been on my radar for some time; as a child the SegaCD was an enigmatic system where everything seemed to be FMV based (Full Motion video.. as opposed to what?… Half Motion Video?… No Motion Video?) relying on actors and grainy footage to cobble together some kind of game. I’m going to avoid criticising the technology too much, these early CD games were necessary for the development of the medium, havn’t stood the test of time (I think that the controversial ‘Night Trap’ is possibly the only one with any kind of following), but even by these standards, this is a pretty terrible game, so let me walk you through my experiences of it…

Continue reading “Jurassic Park CD: Hundstrasse Plays Another Jurassic Park Game…”

The Witness: A Cross-Examination

I was going to write this one without spoilers, but some things I wanted to discuss certainly fall into that category so consider yourself duly warned… SPOILERS AHEAD ME HEARTIES!!! 

It’s currently one of Steam’s “Quick! Now’s your chance to trim that wishlist!” events which means I’ve parted with some cash to pick up some games in what I tell myself is a sly and savvy bit of retail action, but in reality is money that I wouldn’t necessarily have spent otherwise.

One of these purchases… specifically the one I’ve sunk 17 hours into over the past week... is ‘The Witness’, Jonathan Blow’s enigmatic follow up to to ‘Braid’. It’s a game that was pretty difficult to miss when it was released 18 months ago, as it seemed to gather polarised reviews and sparked some controversy over its perceived high prices “for an indie title“. As the dust has settled, it seems to be widely regarded as a creative success receiving solid review scores and being hailed as a work of art by many for its visual style, and ‘hidden depths’. The player jumps into the shoes (well, we assume, the topic of footwear never actually comes up) of a mysterious person emerging from an underground chamber to be greeted by a bright, colourful, highly stylised, and above all mysterious island. To escape our subterranean ingress point that player is presented with a door; a symbol, a dot with a line attached, sits expectantly on the panel and the player must tap the dot and trace the line to the end in order to open the door. That’s the first one… repeat about 400 times until you reach the ‘end’ of the game… and many more if you want to 100% (which as we’ve talked about isn’t my thing).

… that’s it… blog post over…    Continue reading “The Witness: A Cross-Examination”

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”