Tag Archives: pc

Black Ice – Cyberpunk FPS, Hacking, RPG begins a journey

Retro inspired games have a unique market, generally delivering 2D sprite based environments as a throwback to the early days of gaming. Black Ice goes in a different direction, instead focusing on the neon glow that haunted the 80’s with a dash of Tron inspired computer environments in a 3D world. It’s a game of hack and dash with RPG elements as players have to tackle difficult hacks to obtain crucial tech to advance and eventually take down the master system.

While it sounds potentially easy, it’s a mind boggling mess, shooting speed and ammo are based on available RAM (within the game world) cycle speed and other factors are crucial for survival. While it seems like a given to just beef up your memory and hacking  speed it’s not that easy, Black Ice provides an array of enemies including reaaally annoying spiders that slowly eat away at your soul / health. Normally I don’t care about insects of any level, suddenly I do and I can thank this game for that.

It’s not all trauma, the weapons are brilliant when you have the right stats, using a plasma cutter to mow through everything (yes everything) is magically rewarding given how swarms bite and chip away so often.

While words could go on forever about Black Ice in it’s early stages of development, I’ll leave it to the two current videos recorded to demonstrate what there is within. If you’d like to try Black Ice for yourself, head over to the website and grab the latest demo.

Preview – PAWS (Prime Alien Watch Squad)

Some days something just drops in your lap that you take a second look at, PAWS is one of those games, the cute and simple looking hex battle game allowing animals to go head to head against alien invaders with a minimalist battle system.

We’re using a demo build of where the game is at while they kick off their Kickstarter campaign. Needless to say it’s an easy game to get used to, it’s also an easy one to lose all your points on. Medals for behavior act as currency to summon extra hit points, satellite lasers and a full bombing run from aerial support, how they have the ability to do all this? I have no idea, in fact I would prefer not to know just so I can keep thinking that Squirrel is just a harmless fellow addicted to nuts.

The attack system is point and click with units holding certain class balances. Warriors / melee attackers have a wider net to reach across the board, although their damage points vary and critical strikes can fall short when you need them most. Range attackers have lower HP but they have a steady damage average. You also get the wildcard (turtle) who can hit multiple opponents as a melee but tends to ride on the low end of the HP scale.

It’s a game of balance and budgeting these cute animals, it’s easy to spam the bombing commands the lasers and juice up early in the game only to realize later the crucial moment of “oh… that’s why I had so many points to start with” as the aliens just reign hell by ganging up on your team.

Currently each map and opponent group are randomly selected while your team varies with its own challenges. Having double or triple medics seems great until you have to generate enough damage while keeping everyone alive to avoid a complete loss. It’s an interesting title that shows forethought into the generated levels and balance of the characters. While some later areas might initially feel impossible it’s just a situation where it requires players to apply themselves a little more.

PAWS is still in development and if this Beta is an indication of what to continue expecting then I’d say it’s a worthwhile Kickstarter project to check out and consider.

MIX LA 2013 – Bringing a flood of Indie for one night

A limited engagement opportunity was available during GDC Next, it was in fact, MIX LA being held just off-site from the convention. Taking press and independent developers and putting them on a stylish rooftop in the middle of downtown.  We were able to wait through some of the lines and check out some new titles coming to consumers in the future ahead.

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Escape Goat 2 – Magical Time Bean

Love solving puzzles? Using multiple modes of movement to maneuver the myriad of solutions to mind melting challenges? Did you love the excessive use of words with M in that last statement? Well Escape Goat 2 might be something you’re interested in, packing in tons of levels, challenges, environmental factors and a rat friend. Players save sheep, defy death traps and  take part in classic puzzle solving challenges through each space, the world offers multiple paths and the ability to return to old areas if left incomplete.

Personally I made a complete embarrassment out of handling the ice levels and minor gaps, instead of using the tools available I simply thought too hard around every challenge. It happens and it’s likely because there’s often much more to environments so we expect so it’s easy to use excessive movements. It’s still in the revision phase but Escape Goat 2 is something I really want to play more of, even if I horribly botched my initial shot.

Constant-C – IGS

Left to yourself to investigate and fix a damaged ship, that’s the objective for players in Constant-C. Now add gravity control sprinkle in magnetic fields for activity and environment rotation and we’re seeing something special. Constant-C isn’t a regular puzzle solver, it’s hundreds of levels of challenge balancing  the magnetic field of our hero, speed and gravity while trying to reach doors to advance.

Being a helper bot on an occupied ship it makes perfect sense to include lasers, spinning blades and other death devices throughout. It wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it was that easy, we did step in for a few rounds with the upcoming release for Steam (already out on Desura) and it was amazingly hard yet fun. If you’re in for a puzzle solving field day, just slap this and Escape Goat 2 together for the full range.

It’s incredibly simple to lose yourself in the rotation and field control as deaths mount but how it happens is what makes Constant-C a challenge I’d always come back to.

Videoball Videoball… Videoball… – Midnight City

There’s nothing to really say about Videoball, it’s all expressed as you play in heated frustration against your opponents and partner. Teamwork isn’t a natural element in most games, many have to train to operate with others and stop acting like the ultimate hero on the planet.  Videoball forces that cooperation in the wild, get on the same page and play as a group or get decimated, you can amplify the embarrassment depending on the skill of your opponents also.

It’s a game of timing, skill, shooting and defense. You don’t just try to score or move the ball in the step you’re taking, you’re anticipating the extra moves ahead because it’s almost a given your opponent is already plotting numerous ways to completely ruin those plans.  It’s frustrating, it’s magical, it’s Videoball and it will allow you to ruin souls or get yours trampled.

Personally, the leveled up shots bring in extra challenge elements as they cause different velocity levels if you can execute them. For players who always want to go big, you can create an array of blocks by holding in too long for that level 3 shot. Sure it’s almost an instant goal but if it goes wrong it’s just a massive joke when the match is heated. The reality is that a block defense only works if you block the entire goal grid and maintain it without being stunned. It’s not an easy task at all and it removes 1 player from being in the action to generate points. In it’s current state, Videoball is easier and more rewarding to play it on the live field for offense with a partner than it is with 2 stations.

Aztez – Team Colorblind

When I first sat in with Aztez my brain kept pumping “Mad World” constantly, the intense contrast, the bath of blood on the screen, Aztez strikes a comic like element that I can’t help but be drawn to.  We got our hands on the battle arena, while it’s not the primary focus of the game mechanics, it’s certainly one of the most brutal and appreciated of the group. Our goal was to last through the clock against incoming hordes of swordsmen and spear wielding angry fellows. The first run, well that went terribly, something about not dodging or blocking and being impaled by enemies because dancing around in a group of them is a bad idea.

The second round was much more rewarding, jumping, dodging, slashing, using melee attacks and surviving the hordes. While it wasn’t a total win in that 5 minute counter it was still something that felt like a victory to last more  than a few minutes. Hopefully it’s just as challenging when it hits in early 2014, it’s always nice having a game that absolutely shuts the idea of an easy victory down. If you want to win you need to earn it and Aztez lives by that example.

The evening was packed with indie developers, while we saw many games we selected this group to showcase in our impressions from the casual night up on top of 1010 Wilshire. We hope to see more from these devs in the future and bring more highlights as they near their release.

Valve reveals SteamOS as part 1 of 3 major announcements

Last week a mysterious word went out about upcoming Valve announcements, today we see the first of those coming to light. SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system developed strictly with a gaming focus, allowing users to harness titles developed specifically for SteamOS or stream their existing library from their Windows or Mac machine to their Steam box. Users may recognize a similar setup with the Vita and PS4 using Gaikai technology, we’re not seeing it with PC’s within the home network.

Part of this push brings Big Picture mode to the forefront as a HTPC GUI, Valve plans to supplement this push by including music, tv and movie services within SteamOS to allow users a seamless experience as they dive within the offerings. No jumping to a new browser or switching inputs, just one massive entertainment OS for all.

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We also found out about Steam and Family Sharing, SteamOS will include that feature out of the gate, allowing family to share games from their libraries with no hassle, allowing full functionality including individual save games and cloud storage. As a living room centerpiece it’s a bit of a worry to have everyone seeing everything available to each member, family options will also allow users to control visible games, features and other personal details from being widely displayed to everyone.

We still have 2 more reveals, we’ll just have to hold tight to see what Valve has up their sleeve next. Many were aware Valve would explore Linux as an open platform for computing after their statements on Windows 8, if it was to this extent is entirely in the air, using Big Picture and a heavy focus on developing a performance environment for gaming is a huge task and they’ve excelled at it as we’ve seen with performance reports on in-house titles they’ve ported in the past year.

Review – Alien Rage (PC)

At E3 this year I was able to catch a glimpse of Alien Rage, an sci-fi shooter aiming to bring back some memories from the old days of Unreal combined with score counters, combo levels and heavy levels of AI swarms and massive bosses. This isn’t Gears or COD, its a massive solo assault on a horde of bad guys set on total annihilation.

Our review focus on the PC version in single player mode, Alien Rage is launching soon and as the servers populate with traffic I’ll have a feature for that. The game takes place on a mining rock where humans and aliens clash over the most powerful potential fuel in the universe.  Things go sour and soon the aliens are the only ones standing still, to even the score and keep the Earth safe, a lone soul lands and sets forward on fixing the score.

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Alien Rage focuses on discovery (finding audio files to fill in the history) and massive amounts of survival and scoring players on how well they can do it. While this might seem easy, it’s actually rough because the AI rushes, shoots longer and uses technology beyond what players have. It’s a bit stacked against players and then you get the big boys, the guardians who occupy the main transitions it’s just a massive stab at proportional balance as they have bigger guns and just general size.

Thankfully there’s a motivator, Alien Rage has scoring, combos, achievements and well, scoring. Every combo, every headshot, every melee combo and successive streak rings with badges, bonuses and rewards for taking down hordes, it’s excessive to the point where you can run around even a minute later and have the game catch up with how much damage and how many streaks and combinations you’ve executed in a short spree just prior. 

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Action comes from a variety of weapons, machine guns, shotguns, rifles, rocket launchers and so much more. Each possessing primary and secondary firing options, for pure players, the primary presents a unique challenge to progression but it’s possible. Secondary firing modes are incredibly powerful, they are the equalizer to any flood and they decimate anything in their path. Alien Rage offers tons of options and it’s up to players to manage ammo and the best gun for the job before death just pours in from all sides.

 

This quick impressions video drives home all the reasons I loved checking out this game, if you can’t take people talking on video just skip to about 40 seconds and watch what I assembled for you.

Performance wise, the Unreal 3 engine continue challenging PC’s, Alien Rage delivers intense environments with heavy particles, detailed textures, depth of field and so many other options. It’s a gun’s blazing joy ride through a world of eye candy. On the test system (Phenom II X4, 7870) there haven’t been issues going into launch for speed and the frame rate at the recommended setting of High post-processing, medium textures and medium shadows ran at 60fps solid with few dips.

Coming in at $19.99 (15.99 if you pre-order) Alien Rage is a great value on the PC, the single player experience is incredible and long and torturing even for experienced players, crank up the difficulty and it will simply induce nightmares for weeks. If you’re on Xbox or Playstation, the game does not include online play but the single player is strong enough to keep players engaged.

PC gamers can find Alien Rage on Steam tomorrow, I suggest lining up early for those $4 off while it lasts.

The good:

  • Intense action in single player that isn’t rushed along
  • Tons of weapons with their primary and secondary fire modes
  • Immense boss fights, incredible odds at stake
  • Gorgeous level design and details surrounding each area
  • Scoring allows players to challenge themselves when replaying levels

The not so good:

  • For difficulty sensitive players, Alien Rage doesn’t just roll over
  • Graphics really do benefit from higher level settings

Review – Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed Heart

Artifex Mundi brings Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart to the table this month as they push for Greenlight approval, the game is already available outside of Steam but they’re pushing to reach that next audience. Adventure games are a secret love of mine, I used to play them for ages along the likes of Doom II and Duke Nukem, simple narrative driven stories that weren’t competitive but made your brain rage out anyway.  Is this one of those games? Lets take a look and see what Nightmares from the Deep packs and how it executes upon that goal.

The story introduces a loving duo, a mother and her daughter leading an exhibition on a legendary dreaded pirate. Recovered in scary levels of preservation and with a boatload of swag they’re able to put on a massive exhibition… well, until someone decides to start outfitting our dear pirate captain with enchanted accessories. Suddenly the story goes sideways and the deeper truth behind his amazing preservation and trinkets comes forward.  Cursed ships, undead pirates mysterious enchantments and a deal with the devil while the curator’s daughter pushes closer to her own ill-fate all emerge in the story.

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To some degree I enjoy the story, it’s honest and while a bit taxing to build it piece by piece to find the entire back story (there’s a challenge for that). That said, sticking it to the undead, there’s nothing better than that, they can run off some smart remark about how you’re incapable or you’ll fail and then you shove it in their face and it’s just majestic beyond words to throw at them.  What I didn’t care for, introducing a massive geographical change and then not resolving it, because it only happens once but it still bugs about why it’s unresolved. You’re introducing a story driven game with lots of thinking mechanics to a demographic that will think about everything you throw at them. It’s not a deal breaker but sometimes it’s just an extra moment spent on review of the plot where one would go “ooh… we should probably make a note about that”.

While the story may have some rough edges, it’s easy to get distracted while playing due to the detail levels of the art within Nightmare of the Deep. There’s something about just heavy illustrations with painterly style, watching these intense scenes of still ambience without relying on lighting elements to paint it in the moment.  It’s a crafted moment and easy to take a moment to appreciate the intense labor to develop each scene. To some degree I can really say I almost wish they even omitted trying to use mouth animations as it does remove some of the immersion (it’s not really in sync at all).

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Players have to piece together just about everything in The Cursed Heart, jump back to the mid-late 90’s adventure era where things were click based, arranged, mixed and so on and that’s where you go. Artifex Mundi actually accounts for this and created 2 modes to cater to new audiences and classic players.

Regular Mode:

  • No misclick penalty for hidden-object scenes
  • Active zones glimmer frequently
  • The hint and skip button recharge quickly
  • Locations with an available action are indicated on the map

Expert Mode:

  • There is a misclick penalty in hidden-object scenes
  • The hint and skip buttons take longer to recharge
  • Active zones, except hidden-object scenes, are not indicated
  • Locations with an available action are not indicated on the map

Odd facts about those:

  • I played on regular mode, I’m extremely defiant about click spam, I still focused on targeting those or playing the Mahjong mini game to finish out those I could not finish
  • Had no use for the hint or skip buttons, most of the challenges are very accessible
  • I did notice glimmer but honestly I figured that was just part of the atmosphere of a cursed pirated adventure, wasn’t my focus
  • I never used the map unless it was an interactive event

You can act completely oblivious in this game on either mode and still have a fun time and a challenging experience, I urge players who do attempt to take on Nightmare of the Deep to also ignore the skip and hint options as with a decent pace, the game is only about 4 hours long with full exploration and even some double backing.

It’s been ages since I really dove into an adventure game, with so much experimentation and hybrid design it became off-putting to really keep after the genre. The art and general design of Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed heart make for an enjoyable experience, the story tackles pirate lore and a lighter supernatural layer without trying too hard. I’d suggest checking into it now or boosting it on Steam Greenlight if you’d rather have it managed in Steam.

The good:

  • Beautiful areas, just flat out stunning art to look at
  • Challenging but not to the point of pure rage and quitting
  • Applies itself to new and old players, pick your entry level
  • Story is reasonable, not overkill but easy to relate to
  • Low entry point at $6.99 currently through Artifex Mundi

The not so good:

  • CG actually is a disservice, blocky resolution not sure how to avoid it
  • Facial mouth movements aren’t remotely synchronized
  • Using the tip and skip feature could probably make this game about an hour shorter if used

As Nightmare of the Deep released in 2012, a lot of people might already have the game, regardless I think it’s still worth supporting to see on Greenlight, it would give an enjoyable experience to the genre and bring in some new players to the adventure genre. The flaws within the game are cosmetic and not game breaking which are easy to overlook in the overall picture.

Link: Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart (Steam)