Sunday, October 8, 2017

A week in review: Freeman: Star Edge, SORE and Under Hero.

So this week brings with it my first overall negative preview. I try to avoid publishing a review unless I can score it at or just below average or it has some sort of hook. Something that a rating system can't cope with and even a poor rating cannot eclipse. Here goes!

Freeman: Star Edge [ALPHA]: 5/5
Full disclosure: I love this game so much I'm trying to help promote it any way I can. This article snippet is part of that but not in the pushy way. The demo is free on KickStarter. Judge for yourself.

I will be revisiting this title quite often but for now I'll give you my initial impression. Which was a good impression. Quite impressed. Very impressive. This unity based open world promises a lot of what we loved about the Mass Effect and various Bethesda games. All in a tighter package and based on unity! This means that even low spec machines should be able to enjoy this entire game with very little reduction in the visual aethetic.

The game needs more polish but before that can be done many features need to be added. You don't polish the chrome until after you've put the engine block back in, Granddad. It will be some time before the game is ready for Beta. As it is right NOW it feels fairly complete and would trounce most of what's on offer via Steam Direct or the old Greenlight system.

The various systems will see some loving soon and we're about 2 weeks away from an update. The music and audio effects work. The lore is being worked on pro-bono by someone who really loves the direction. The art and aesthetics leave much to be desired but are functional. You can also fall through the map, get stuck on map features and end up with bandits flying across the screen as they die. Even then. In this alpha state, it is obvious the dev and community care and are working to improve everything they can bit by bit.

SORE: 3/3
Boy. This sure is a game. It's one of those Room-isodes. Try to leave the room by any means. This is gonna be short because there's not much going on here. The aesthetic is retro and minimalistic. The dialogs are translated from Russian (I believe) and it's tone is very dark.

You are a ghost and you are somehow stuck in the cell you recently committed suicide in. Your guard doesn't seem put off in the least that there's a corpse and the corpse's ghost on the other side of the door talking to him. He gives you clues and some dark humor. That's about it. You have to find the keys needed to unlock the door by interacting with your environment.

There's not much going on here but the existential and psychological ramifications seem quite clear for the protagonist. He just wants out. I could spend hours trying to MacGyver my way out and I did on a live stream. I had to quit as I was over time and no closer to the last key. An excellent time sink. It earns a score better than most mobile games and earns a bonus for not having micro-transactions.

Neorj: This is the game I can't even being to try and explain away. As of 10-8-2017 I've no opinion to express so I won't..

Under Hero [Demo]: 7/7
Another retro styled game. This one is a platformer with a very unique combat system unlike other unique combat systems but similar to a few. Keep in mind there are two modes: Exploration and Encounter. Both have different control schemes. Also, and this is VERY important, when in doubt do not use Escape use Backspace. I threw myself into a tizzy trying to exit a shop dialog because I forgot to use backspace.

So what happens when a world has gotten used to the same gimmick over and over? Bad guy kidnaps princess, hero rescues princess. New bad guy kidnaps more recent princess and a new hero shows up. So on and so forth. Gotta get tiring huh? Well sir... someone did something about it. I low order minion dropped a chandelier on Smug-face McSmartpants and his stupid scarf. Now he's inna pickle. With no Szechuan sauce in sight. It's up to the lil masked kid to do his errands, level up, and defeat his own boss before it's too late.

RIVETING amirite?? We're looking at high marks for sound, music, graphical quality, content, the whole shebang. After you acclimate to the controls and dual modes you should feel right at home along similar titles like the Mario and Luigi and Paper Mario games. Though you may relapse and sometimes forget you are in an encounter and not exploring which tosses your button timing out the window. Over all the demo shows a lot of care and polish. Once the full game is out I'm expecting it to be as widely played as Undertale. But only if the story is up to snuff and the price is right.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Get down with the CGN.US

CGN.us
Aka: An acronym I fucking forgot.

We all know and have an ambivalent love/hate relationship with Valve's Steam platform. While this miracle child of former Microsoft Drone turned Industry Maven Gabe Newell has turned piracy on its head it has also failed to allow gamers to really connect with one another. Much like XBL has failed to condition its users for boardroom decorum. For proof of this just look up "Breaded Chicken 'Jerome Meets Flocka'.". It is a masterpiece of XBL interaction. This sort of fuckery is pervasive in a climate where everyone assumes they have the protection of anonymity. But what if you want to interact with fellow gamers in a slightly less ass-pants-on-head fashion? That's where a lot of social gaming sites try to fill the breach. I've tried a load of them too. From sub-reddits to old school forum/chatroom hybrids most turn into Jupiter's big red-hole sized shit storms and get abandoned like an elevator with a particularly flatulent occupant. For much the same reason (too much wind). Then there's CGN.us.

What makes this site different? Not much yet. It's still in its infancy. It has great potential to be sure. Initially the staff seems to motivated and driven toward their goals. To this end they have gone out of their way to attract users who really want to interact and engage. Make no mistake. This is no hug box/cuddle pile of m'ladies and gentlesirs. Most of those on the site are at least attempting to be friendly, inclusive and professional. They are not above some trolling and 'social experimentation'. Most seem to have a firm grasp on when enough is enough. Not family friendly in the least but not acid spitting and toxically faux edgy for the sake of shock value. With CGN.us you not only get a hub for sharing your content as a gamer but also a place to buy or even earn games and interact with fans and creators alike on equal footing. This includes devs and publisher's agents.

The staff at the site have been working full tilt on getting a list of contacts from within the industry and have streamlined a lot of the outreach process for gamers, creators, devs and fans. They provide a forum, a chat system, a direct message inbox, alerts and notifications along with their own store front with discounts. All you have to do is put it to use. The site itself is a powerful tool and is only going to grow. The staff is ready to scale up with the demand as well. Systems for blocking, reporting and cessation of abuses are already in place. There's a second chance appeals system so you don't lose everything if you fucked up once. There's also a system to swat those who weaponize the reporting ability. Though at the moment it does rely heavily on safe-harbor via Youtube and other media sites by providing a hub for content in the near future CGN.us may be able to host its own services. Time will tell if they are able to provide protections beyond that.

Wanna join? Use this referral link: https://cgn.us/refer/12870/
Then give me a follow so I can follow back! Let's see where CGN.us takes us.

A week in review: Raiders of the Broken Planet, MEG 9 and This Strange Realm of Mine.

This week we have three titles. But one unifies them all. I played 'em AND enjoyed them. All titles listed were provided to me free for review with no other consideration.

Raiders of the Broken Planet: UNRATED
It's not a complete game. This is an ambitious episodic title from a publisher and developer that have yet to prove their mettle. If season one's episodes are complete and on time without being shitty or rushed then I'd have no problems investing in a season pass for season 2. Mercury Steam has written a big check here but they signed it with a kiss. There's every reason to believe they'll deliver. I am cautiously optimistic but I can't recommend pre-purchasing the episodes before release.

The first missions are free. You get an adequate introduction to the Raiders, their boss, and their motives. We also see the introduction of no less than two rival factions. While the writing is a bit hit or miss (son of a thousand dingos??) the voice acting carries it. There's a lot of story yet to be seen and I sincerely hope they get to conclude this season in a way that's satisfying to their audience. Although I remain skeptical of Mercury Steam they've proven so far they can combine a unique graphical aesthetic and writing with humor and a driving sound track.

Buying a season of unreleased episodes feels like too much of a gamble. Already there seems to be a framework in place for paid DLC and micro-transactions. As it is the whole setup feels like Loot Crate the Game. When episode 2 hows up will it be any good? No one knows. Even the episodes director doesn't have a clear few as they are too close to the project to see it as a paying customer would. Raiders of the Broken Planet is a lot like the hot hook up at the bar. You have no idea what it's going to be like when you get them home and no clue if you'll regret it when you see them the next morning.

MEG 9: Lost Echoes: 10/10
The game is nearly flawless. The list of issues I have is so short I can list them here:
1) Too short for the cost
2) Some higher graphical setting seem to crash
3) The initial load time was very long for me and asset pop-in was common during play

The voice acting and writing seem to match up. The voice acting itself was beyond the wooden tone I was expecting since a lot of scifi games try to imitate B scifi movies. An effect Elias Toufexis pulls of flawlessly in the recent Deus Ex games while I know for a fact he has amazing range (just listen to any work hes done in commercials). There's a crisp military tone that softens considerably once your operator, his RIG and AI MEG are in the field. Communications with your coordinator become more casual and even conversational at times.

Playability wise the games does a lot for you. Not in a hand-holdy way either. In the three missions available in Lost Echoes they show off a lot of what they plan for future installments. It plays like a triple A title and at first feels like an absolute bargain. Right up until it's over. You're left wanting more so you give the Flashpoint mode a try. For some that might be enough. For me it felt like a MetalGear Ground Zeroes flashback. A full price game with only one map repeated tirelessly. Don't get me wrong. The game is as near perfect as I can conceive. The music pumps, the graphics entice and the story is evocative. But at the asking price I can't recommend this game. If it included the full game's sound track as a teaser bonus it'd be worth it. Though if you can snag it cheaper at or less than 6.99 then GET IT. It is absolutely worth that.

This Strange Realm of Mine: 7/7
A perfect score for a retro indie title. Much like Captain Kaon this game reminds me a lot of the late era of DOS and console gaming. In this case it's a throw back to the '3D' FPSes. The game's style closely follows the Wolfenstines and DOOMs of yore. There's even a bit of Elder Scrolls Arena in this title as there is a 'hub world' that's just a bar really. A place of clam in the eye of the storm. There's no open world. You can just pick a direction and keep walking. But the missions are concise and are tied together by the storyline.

This is a graphically retro game. It attempts (and succeeds) in emulating the 2.75 D look we came to expect in Apogee and ID software titles. It even does a good job of recreating some of the external area levels common tot he DOOM and Quake series. The graphical achievements top out around the same level as Build engine games like Duke Nukem and Shadow Warrior of the late 90s. The music is actually much better. Opting for a modern aesthetic rather than trying to recreate the MIDI music of the era. It does, however, reproduce selections of music popular at the time.

At its core TSRoM is a dream wrapped in the last few moments of the protagonists death. The End is where all starts. The worlds you visit eventually force you to face the same blighted creatures you ran from on the opening level. Many tropes are subverted as well. Reloading a gun means you lose those bullets. Your vision dims as you take damage. The protagonist is aware of their recent mortality and their current situation. The story unfold itself gradually in an attempt to not 'overwhelm' the protagonist. Its introspective and challenging while adding on a layer of nostalgia for an era you may not even been a part of. Worth every cent of the 9 dollar asking price and a bigger bargain when on sale.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Filling it in with Niche.


Niche recipes with no eggs required:
The game could not have a better title. It’s not often you see a puzzle game where the main objective is to survive. There’s crafting even. Making nests. Making babies (eyebrow wiggle). Making friends of the opposite gender through foodie bribes to make said babies. I mean, it works. It gets deep too.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Let's get LOADED. ShellShock LIVE!

Artillery games have been around a while. Many were distributed as demos with PC related magazines or even as full source code within the magazine itself. Later when the dial up Bulletin Board Services and Internet came along we had the luxury of downloading a copy to disk and sharing it with friends. Friends we'd often lose (at least until lunch) when ever we splattered them accross a colorful pixelated landscape. These games made it to the computer labs and offices of many a school and were among the most successful time wasters for students and faculty. Flash games made a splash to such a degree many sites still host these games and use various HTML5 tricks to make them run. WebGL does a great job too in most respects. Before these standards existed the only way to get into one of these games in the lab was to have a really cool teacher and the right access. You can forget all that now though. Just jump on your laptop or Windows tablet and bring up Steam. WHAMMO. Shell Shock LIVE!

I adore this game. Being good at Scorched Earth won me a lot of bets and earned me a lot of free sodas and candy. Other folks played similar games though. Cannon Fodder for Macintosh comes to mind as does the QBASIC classic 'Gorillas'. Shell Shock live borrows a lot from these oldies and does it with a gorgeous presentation in both visuals and audio. The game supports a very legacy-minded 'hotseat mode' which you may have seen in some Android and iOS games. They're the ones that tell you to pass the device to the next player. It supports controllers. It supports online multiplayer. It can also be purchased on
steam in a convenient 4 pack.

For me the game has only one major issue. It suffers from what I like to call FFF or Freemium False Fanfare. It's that naughty mobile app habit of making a lot of noise and splashing around a lot of color and special effects to celebrate minutia. If I could turn that off in favor of a simple feed of what XP I earned and what weapons I unlocked I'd be that much happier with the game. Some might complain that the game never tells you what exactly weapons do but I prefer it that way. Sometimes it leads to some accidental awesome or some hilarious fail.

Score: 98/100
Just give us a way to turn off those annoying 'winning game', 'unlock' and 'level up' screen fulls of particle effects and the epilepsy inducing celebration screens..
You'll get a perfect 100 from me then :3

Sunday, June 25, 2017

PoPPc pre-show blog for June 24th 2017

WarSong's 5:

Google's gonna stop snooping on your emails and I'm not happy about it - https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/technology/gmail-ads.html

Your medical records should be private but somehow they ended up search-able on Google and they are fixing that. I'm happy about this one - http://www.nola.com/health/index.ssf/2017/06/google_to_remove_private_medic.html

Windows 10 leaks. Oh and some of the source code ended up getting out too - https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/24/15867350/microsoft-windows-10-source-code-leak

Rockstar slaps TakeTwo around until they see reason and 'real purdy stars' over modding fuck up - https://www.gamespot.com/articles/after-angering-gta-5-fans-rockstar-releases-new-st/1100-6451151/

You'll be able to buy a standalone version of the Modern Warfare 4 remaster whil being reamed for more money than it is worth - https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2017/06/23/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-remastered-standalone-release-has-one-big-problem/#7b9987683780

Pokemon Go raids and balance for Gyms with OP defenders - http://comicbook.com/gaming/2017/06/24/pokemon-go-motivation-losses/

Sunday, June 18, 2017

PoPPc Pre-show blog for June 17th 2017

WarSong's 5:

Amazon vs Walmart - https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/upshot/the-amazon-walmart-showdown-that-explains-the-modern-economy.html?_r=0

Philanthropy and Jeff Bezos - https://www.forbes.com/sites/jakehayman/2017/06/17/open-letter-to-jeff-bezos/#1cb0d1411d62

Amazon to buy Whole Foods in 12 billion dollar deal -https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/business/dealbook/amazon-whole-foods.html?_r=1

Amazon's patent on shop-blocking while in brick and mortar stores -http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Amazon-has-a-patent-to-keep-you-from-11225265.php

Keep It Simple, Stupid: The 2 Pizza Method - https://finance.yahoo.com/news/two-pizza-rule-amazon-ceo-184400983.html