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.

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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.

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It is .. erm.. detailed!

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Resident Evil Revelations 1 & 2: Distant Cousins at Best…

After my experiences with ‘Resident Evil 4‘ last year, I had been perched precariously on a fence panel trying to work out if that was ‘it’ and I should just abandon the series entirely, allowing those early games the peace of being able to settle in the warm recesses of my memory. It was a comment from Halsdoll that finally nudged me off my perch back into that world of survival horror by suggesting I give ‘Revelations’ a shot at pretty much the same time that Steam were having something like their “6:57pm sale because it happens to be a Tuesday” event, so I decided to jump right in and pick up both Revelations 1 & 2 to savour over the holiday period. This is the part of the post where I try to place the ‘Resident Evil Revelations’ sub-series in the setting of the other Resident Evil titles, but pulling together any kind of coherency in the Resident Evil world is tricky given all the spin-offs, re-releases, changes in focus, and generation. From what I can tell (and feel free to correct me), ‘Resident Evil Revelations’ is set after ‘Resident Evil 4’ (but not one of the main numbered series) and ‘Revelations 2’ is set after 5, not that either of these games take directly from the main overarching plot of the series. It’s much easier to just accept them as having occurred after Raccoon City when all the main characters have been posting their CV’s around liberally and have been hired by different counter Bio Organic Weapon organisations.

As games they’re different enough that I was tempted to split them up into two distinct posts. Certainly there are commonalities, however they veer hugely from each other in both plot & atmosphere and, whilst I don’t have any inside knowledge to back this up, I was left with the impression that maybe they were originally meant to be more closely tied, but somewhere in development decisions were made that drove them apart.

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Paladins Beta: A Weekend of First Impressions

Since its beta release back in September, the Steam storefront has been pushing and shoving me into ‘Paladins’ via a less than subtle almost continuous presence on my recommended list and often up there in the hallowed reaches of the featured titles. I’m assuming that the hefty number of hours that I’ve spent scurrying around the deserts and factories of that other, now free-to-play, class-based shooter, TF2, has swayed the great recommendation algorithm into drawing this particular circle around me…  And I’m carefully avoiding (or more accurately: typing and deleting) descending into a rant spiral about the jumbled mess that is the Stream storefront in favour of rambling about my experience with that fantasy class-based FPS, ‘Paladins’, thus far.

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… nice place… 

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Dead Rising: Gaming Without Nostalgia

…kick off your shoes, grab some kind of vessel full to the brim of your favourite beverage, order takeout food, and fire up *INSERT READER’S FAVOURITE GAME OF PAST GENERATIONS HERE*…

A nostalgic gaming session is all about reliving the emotions from the first time that you fired up a retro-classic from your own personal library of seminal games. The blank screen melts away to reveal the game’s title, you hit start, the familiar opening scenes play out, and your hands instinctively slip into some comfortable, deeply programmed, position removing the barrier between your consciousness and the onscreen action. You know where to go, how to deal with obstacles, and the best way to tackle each situation…

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Armello: Yes, A Physical Version Might Sound Good, But It’s Not What You Want…

It may be bad form, but I’m opening with a tangent; I’ve always had a ‘thing’ about zooming in and snooping around whenever a game asks you to take a more ‘deitesque’ approach to gameplay. ‘Cities: Skylines’ made my list of ‘Best Games I played in 2015‘ and whilst I didn’t admit it at the time, had the zoom option been absent (or more likely my scroll wheel broken) I would want to circle back past that year’s offerings carefully when weighing up if I should retain Paradox Interactive’s embarrassingly superior homage to Sim City on that particular register. Just hovering, formless, over a street corner, the street lights gently glowing, the wind in trees mixing playfully with the distant traffic noise, watching those late commuters returning to their virtual homes; it is captivating. The same was true of the mostly forgotten Atari STe title, ‘Prince’, (in the bundled ‘Entertainment’ pack) which, past some truly epic title music, was for me an exercise in zooming in and marvelling at the various pixel sprite villages strewn over this medieval battleground before my army was overrun and I was forced to start again. The delicately pieced together tiles that make up the kingdom of ‘Armello’ have that same ‘cosy’ quality, and with that as my kicking off point, the rest of the game isn’t too shabby either.

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See what I mean?… no?… ok, just me then… 

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