May 10, 2010
Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos (to give it its full name) is a fairly rare beast; an ancient relic from a genre that has very much gone out of fashion in the two decades since it was released on the NES. Ostensibly a puzzler, it plays more like a precision platformer, rendered entirely in an isometric aesthetic. I snapped it up as a kid – its fantasy setting made it a must-buy out of my pocket money; anything in that genre turned my head ever since I read Lord Of The Rings at 9 years old on a particularly uneventful family holiday to Corfu.
February 2, 2010
Darksiders’ wide-eyed adoration of God Of War and the Zelda franchise has been well-documented (both on this blog and elsewhere) but its gamut of influences doesn’t stop there. It even finds time to channel the 3rd-person shooter mechanics of Gears Of War and the mind-bending puzzles of Portal over its fifteen hours or so of gameplay. It’s clear that the debut release from Texas-based Vigil Games is an open love letter to its more well-known contemporaries, but does it stand alone as its own game, or fall flat as an act of plagiarism?
December 22, 2009
“Are you marvellous or moronic?” intones the Narrator, all rolling Rs and bombastic pomp. More often than not, judged by this yardstick at least, you’ll be marvellous. The 12 puzzles that make up each episode of Blue Toad Murder Files are not likely to cause most people too many problems; you’ll find yourself more often than not breezing through with a gold medal for your efforts too. But its simplicity is not the key point here; Relentless aren’t trying to tax gamers here, rather to bring the whole household together in front of the TV to solve the whodunnit. As creators of Buzz!, they have plenty of experience of doing just that.
November 30, 2009
I’ve been playing a lot of ‘heavy’ videogames recently. I’ve been asked to eliminate terrorists in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, shoot hundreds and hundreds of people in order to recover lost treasures in Uncharted 2, blow up planes in GTA: The Ballad Of Gay Tony and slip hidden blades into the ribs of Templars in Assassin’s Creed 2. That’s a whole lotta killing. Critter Crunch, then, is the perfect tonic for my frayed nerves and battered psyche.
September 28, 2009
‘They don’t make them like they used to’ is a common enough adage. If you are the quick-to-anger type (like myself, I should add) you’ll be quite glad of that. After dying in the region of 30-40 times in my first half hour of play, I can safely predict that Heart Of Darkness is likely to be the most testing game I’ve ever played.
The plot elements I’ve uncovered so far are rather far-fetched. The player controls a boy called Andy; a rascally little imp who escapes the classroom in the opening ‘cinematic’ (it’s incredible to see how far CG has come in 11 years) to lounge around on grassy hill with his favourite companion, his dog Whiskey. A solar eclipse occurs, and for some reason, sucks up the dog. Even more illogicly, the boy has somehow managed to craft a spaceship in his treehouse, and sets off into the sky in order to save his canine, but the crash lands into a twisted other world, with the primary objective of rescuing his dog from a shadowy figure called the Master of Darkness. Oh, that old chestnut, right?
So, cue a tortuous platform-puzzler hybrid that sees you trynig to navigate the dangers of each screen, whether they take the form of shadowy, spider-like monsters or ginormous gelatinous lizards and more, in order to reach the next (harder) one. Think Flashback breeding with Samorost, yet a thousand times more sadistic. I’ve already died in a multitude of different ways, each one ‘rewarded’ with some really beautiful animation, and a cutscene depicting Andy falling to his death that I’m already painfully familiar with. As anathema to the multidinous ways of playing the current crop of the industry’s finest games, there is one way and one way only to tackle each screen – the challenge comes in how few deaths you endure in finding it. Requiring pin-point timing, some lateral thinking, and sheer bloody-mindedness, Heart Of Darkness is an old-fashioned challenge, but one that I’m looking forward to now that I’ve come to terms that I’ll be sending Andy to grisly deaths over and over and over again.
September 2, 2009
My Wii has probably been feeling neglected recently. It’s slight white frame sits right next to the shiny black beast that is the Ps3, positively cowering in it’s shadow. It probably couldn’t believe it’s luck when I booted it up in favour of it’s more powerful cousin and slid de Blob into it’s whirring bowels. If more Wii games offered the sheer exuberant uniqueness of Blue Tongue’s paint-em-up, maybe Nintendo’s magic box wouldn’t be as dusty as it currently is.
A whirlwind half hour of play on de Blob goes by in a riotous blur of colour and cute characters, but also paints a picture of what I imagine the rest of the game to offer. I expect the developer’s initial pitch to publishers THQ was an interesting day – I imagine it went something like this:
“So you control this blob character that whizzes around this city.”
“O…K. What’s the character’s name?”
“Blob. Just Blob.”
“And this evil corporation has sucked out all of the colour in the city. And basically you have to go around absorbing paint up and repainting the buildings.”
Despite the odd premise, de Blob’s slick controls, bright colours and huge sprites feels instantly familiar, even if the developers made the odd decision to map the jump function to a swing of the Wii-mote instead of a button press, making some of the tricker platforms a frustrating experience to navigate. Buildings receive their lick of paint in showers of sparkle and glitz, each renovated block freeing up Graydians, little blobbies that you hoover up as one of the game’s many collectibles; each one giving an adorable little squee of delight and pulse of colour that brings back fond memories of Super Mario Galaxy. If de Blob does well in earning a comparison with such stellar alumni, it struggles to match the Wii’s flagship mascot title in terms of gameplay variety. Although I’ve admittedly only played through the first level for this First Impressions post, that level really only did contain painting buildings, whether from the outside or in. I’m hoping for more diversity of challenge from this point on.
As a reminder that games don’t have to follow tired old tropes though, de Blob excels. A quick half hour joy-ride in Chroma City, slinging primary colours about is enough to convince anyone that there is still a place for innovation in an industry where sequels and franchises currently enjoy a stranglehold.