art with code

2010-05-15

Quick game reviews

The night is dark and long and I have nothing to do.

Puzzle Quest, a character-building story battle game with movement done on a map and battles resolved in Bejeweled. 65 hours played. Addictive, not all that fun to play, the match-three matches take too long, the item & spell combos are fun to come up with but haven't gotten powerful enough to shorten the matches. The art is nice but the gameplay GUI art is not so nice. Story is whatever but has a non-stereotypical stereotypical fantasy world with the player helping everyone regardless of what they want to do. And what they want to do always seems to involve playing Bejeweled against megafauna / Bob Warlord. Playable in 15-min increments in the same way that you can smoke just one cig a day. Story: A bad guy is resuscitating people and no-one wants to help and minotaurs are turning into robots to kidnap dragons and orcs and ogres are being belligerent and you must put some other minotaur bad guy together and resuscitate it so that it can fight the other bad guy and my head is hurting.

Company of Heroes, a WW2 RTS about the U.S. experience on the Western Front to take out of the remaining 20% of the Nazi army. 19 hours played. Nice graphics, jaggedy shadow maps, paintings shown between missions lack finish. Battles take too long, three guys building a tank factory to build an endless supply of Shermans makes it very RTS gamey. Not casual, takes hours per campaign map. Cover system good. UI less good than in SupCom. Not all that fun to play, but not addictive either. Story: terrorists have taken over Europe and you must kill them all. I guess?

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, a cloning-based puzzle platformer about pies. One hour played. Good presentation. Strong style. Good music loops. Figuring out the tricks to the levels is fun but means frustration, which is less fun. Not quite casual, requires ~half hour per session. Story very wtf.

Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 2, a character-building story battle game with movement done by walking characters around sets and battles resolved in turn-based combat. Half an hour played (plus Episode 1). Much like Episode 1. Maybe too much. Gabe's special attack minigame is no longer the most frustrating thing ever, which is good. Good presentation, strong style. Has battle-helping items with a time penalty to utilize, making one less likely to bother. Not quite casual, half hour sessions. Story: there are more robots and you should break them all.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a character-building story battle game with movement done by walking characters around sets and battles resolved in pausable real-time combat. 1.5 hours played. Good presentation. Oh god do I have to talk to everyone here and beat up military people and this racist city is very boring why do I have a sword and a glow-bolt pistol where should I go now this is a lot like Baldur's Gate I'm assigning skill points to some skills I don't know anything about, hey I'm dying in these combat sequences, how quaint. I'll play more at a later date (said five months ago.) I guess it has a story to it?

Torchlight, a character-building story battle game with movement done by walking characters around sets and battles resolved in real-time combat. 41 hours played. Nice presentation, good ambient music, randomly generated maps, way too many drops, decent feel of POWER in attacks (I would still take it up a notch but I'm weird like that), fiddly targeting. Addictive. If Diablo 2 is Zangband (well, noooot really but), this is Moria. Go down down a dungeon, down down down. Down. When done with the story dungeon, there's a new random dungeon that never ends. The random dungeon generation system is nifty. Summoning golems is nifty. Lightnings and laser beams are nifty. Can be played in short stints but takes a while to load and is kinda iffy windowed. Story: There's a McGuffin in the earth and it turns you into a monster. Except not really. Only the bad guy can do that. In the meantime you just genocide everything living down there because they're hindering your walk.

Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2, a character-building story battle game with movement done by clicking on a map and battles resolved in tactical RTS-ish real-time combat. Played 20 hours. Randomly generated maps (I.. think.) Boss fight at the end of each map. Playing it feels like using Photoshop, very much a keyboard shortcut game. Move your four squads of bald robot men from cover to cover in a very micro fashion. Starts off challenging, gets difficult, mocks you for doing less than perfectly. Game gets uglier the more you screw up (invading monster army turns the air green with red flakes). Not casual, maps take hours to play and you're punished for failing. Presentation much like Company of Heroes (same engine, same studio) but with more shiny metal bits and glowy glow guns. Story: an invasive space species carried by the space winds is taking over space planets and the indigenous surface dwellers try to chase it off before it turns their C-H-O into its C-H-O.

CoH vs. DoW2: In WW2 you try to look like a tree or a grass because you are a hunter and don't want to be spotted. In the grim future where there is only war you wear colorful shiny clothes because war is waged as an amusement and proving ground for the aristocrats, so you must have bright clothes to show off the colors of your team.

Trees and grass are a form of water and air that absorb solar radiation to turn more water and air into tree and grass. Hence they try very hard to not be shiny reflective, hence clothes that try to look like they're trees and grass are also not shiny, hence a WW2 infantry game is not shiny. Also, you're more likely capable of digesting plastic than metal. Because plastic is made of C-H-O, same as you. Metal is not what you're made out of, so you can't turn it into your own mass, so you don't have a way to digest it. And you're mostly made out of air and water too. With some small gunks of dissolved crust elements such as Ca, P, K, S, Cl, Na, Mg, Fe.

Beyond Good & Evil, a story game with photography and occasional real-time combat, movement by walking characters on sets. Two hours played. Good presentation. Strong style. Controls on PC quite horrible. Performance problems. Tells a story, creates a world. Should finish it.

Trine, a character-building physics puzzle platformer with real-time combat. 1.5 hours played. Very nice level graphics and main character models. Paintings less nice. Somewhat frustrating. Story whatever at least up to now. Puzzle Quest ate all my time so I haven't played this much. Story: A McGuffin spares game designer from having to come up with a way to have three separate characters working together in a single-player action game.

Prince of Persia (2008), a running and jumping game with real-time combat. Played it through. Production values through the roof. Fun to play, pretty scenery, good sounds, strong style, non-obtrusive storytelling. You're constantly being saved. Story: bad gods help people, good gods do nothing, felling trees is bad but sometimes you gotta do it.

Hammerfight, a skill-based real-time combat game. Played the demo through. Super difficult, but good impact when your attacks connect. GUI graphics rather awesome, game graphics good too with glowing colors and banners waving in the wind. Slow renderer, most lacking in fillrate for smoke. Talking heads in story not so good. Story: Neighbouring emperor wants to conquer you! And he succeeds! Man.

Why do I buy these games if I don't play them? Probably because it's easy and they're cheap. And grocery shopping desensitizes you to paying 10e for something.
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Built art installations, web sites, graphics libraries, web browsers, mobile apps, desktop apps, media player themes, many nutty prototypes, much bad code, much bad art.

Have freelanced for Verizon, Google, Mozilla, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Valve Software, TDK Electronics.

Ex-Chrome Developer Relations.