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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in jon_a_ross' LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
    8:33 pm
    100 Computer Games to play before you die
    Blowing the Dust off my livejournal for my first post in over a year today it seems.

    Regardless, Just finished reading '100 Computer Games to Play Before you Die' by Steve Bowden

    As Steve Bowden states this isn't a list of the best games, but rather a list of games he feels you need to play to understand the industry before you die or so. (He puts it better in his forward.) 

    I am going to present here his list of games and mark with bold hose I have played and underline he ones I agree with. There should be no surprises really.

    Animal Crossing: Wild Worl
    Baldur's Gat
    Batman: Arkham Asylum
    Bayonett
    Beyond Good & Evil
    Braid
    Burnout 3: Takedown
    Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
    Sid Meier's Civilization
    Counter-strike: Source
    Dancing Stage (AKA Dance Dance Revolution)
    Defender
    Demon's Souls
    Deus Ex
    Diablo
    Donkey Kong
    Doom
    The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
    Elite
    Eve Online
    F-Zero GX
    Final Fantasy VII
    Forza Motorsports 3
    Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
    God Hand
    God of War
    Goldeneye 007
    Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
    Half-life 2
    Halo: Combat Evolved
    Hearts of Iron II
    Hitman: Blood Money
    Ico
    Ikaruga
    IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey
    Katamari Damacy
    Left 4 Dead
    The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
    Lemmings
    Limbo
    Little Big Planet
    LocoRoco
    Mega Man 2
    Metal Gear Solid
    Metroid Prime
    Micro Machines
    Myst
    N
    Nights into Dreams...
    No More Heroes
    Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
    Pac-man Vs.
    Paperboy
    Peggle
    Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
    Picross 3D
    Plants vs Zombies
    Pokemon Red/Blue
    Portal
    Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
    Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
    Resident Evil 2
    Resident Evil 4

    Rez
    Rock Band 3
    The Secret of Monkey Islands
    Sensible World of Soccer
    Shadow of the Colossus
    Shenmue
    Silent Hill 2
    Simcity 2000
    The Sims
    Sonic The Hedgehog CD
    Soulcalibur
    Space Invaders
    (Tom Clancy's) Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
    Starcraft
    Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
    Super Bomberman
    Super Mario Galaxy
    Super Mario Kart
    Super Mario World
    Super Metroid
    Super Monkey Ball
    Super Street Fighter IV

    System Shock 2
    Tempest
    Tetris
    Time Crisis II

    Tomb Raider Anniversary
    Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
    Uplink
    Vib-ribbon
    Warioware, Inc.: Minigame Mania
    Way of the Samurai
    Wii Sports
    The World Ends with You
    World of Warcraft
    Worms


    So I have played 73 out of the 100. I am sorta proud of that. I don't agree with a large number on his list, but I look for different things in the games rather then a first example of X style of play or Y characteristic. Or in a few cases they made it on his list because they were the Best example of X or Y. The book is a short read if you find it, and worth a browsing anyway.
    Friday, December 2nd, 2011
    7:01 am
    Schlock Mercenary's "The 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries"
    1. Pillage, Then Burn
    2. A sergeant in motion outranks a lieutenant who doesn't know what's going on.
    3. An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody.
    4. Close air-support covereth a multitude of sins.
    5. Close air-support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
    6. If violence wasn't your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it.
    7. If the food is good enough the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.
    8. Mockery and derision have their place. Usually it's on the far side of the airlock.
    9. Never turn your back on an enemy.
    10. Sometimes the only way out is through... through the hull.
    11. Everything is air-droppable at least once.
    12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head.

    These Gems are slowly handed out over the comic's ten year plus run.
    I was going to share a longer blog about a dream but instead this shall do as John has a cold.
    Monday, September 5th, 2011
    7:25 pm
    From a vision that struck me just now.
    From the depths of the shadow, a figure strolled forth.
    A mask of pure white hung on his face without any sign of strap nor string.
    Ripped and worn, stained and tainted by untold distance traveled a yellow robe was stretched across a tall skeletal frame.
    The fingers of the hands were made all the longer by the unraveling bandages that dripped from each.
    The faint smell of rotting roses assaults the senses.
    Eyes that both seem mad and coldly calm speak to you from underneath the emotionless mask.
    Perhaps a smile flickers on the lips as the light hits it. Perhaps the mask is sad.
     
    I know not how I understand the words.
    The feeling of crawling sounds, creeping towards me from under the mask, are what I hear.
    The sounds are not spoken in English and perhaps not even by a throat of any human kind.
    But their meaning and the promises are clear.
     
    The King in Yellow stands before me and speaks of the end of all that is upon the galaxy.
    His mate shall lose the battle.
    Mankind, accident that it is upon the fabric, shall finally know his true form.
    The crawling chaos shall play the horns that sound the ending of the world.
    The ending of this is foretold, as the light shall blaze between the mountains of Yory’th and Say’eth and I shall stand upon the earth for all time.
     
    The king speaks more.
    Words and images and future secrets and past truths roll into me. Burrow into me.
    Crawl and itch under my skin.
    And I as a hold back a scream that if given voice would have ended me there and then the king speaks more.
     
    His true name is spoken once, and my ears bleed.
    His name is spoken twice and the teeth in my mouth bite the tongue to stop it repeating that which I know.
     
    I am told that the third time it shall be spoken will be the end.
    The king removes his mask and bows low to me.
     
    An honor for not breaking my place upon the ground at his feet.
     
    I lose consciousness for a time. The wind was now from the west… The sickly light from the fainting sun splashes like blood over the stains of my encounter.
     
    The name echoed in my ears for the score of years from then to now.
    It is now a dull roar against my brain.
    I must speak it to be free.
    But before I do I must do what I can to stop this.
    Here, inside this journal, are my notes on how to stop what I have seen happening.
     
    I know you will take up the challenge, for I have seen you fail.
    But if you take this with you perhaps you can change what is to be.
    What has already been.
     
    A hand written note that falls out of an old book you picked up at the library. It was perhaps a disappointment to someone that you didn’t see the note and returned the book to the shelf when it wasn’t the one you wanted.
     
     
    Thursday, July 7th, 2011
    7:21 pm
    The Wild Wild West (part 1 as my son is demanding more attention)
    Watching the third season of The Wild Wild West. From 1968 this season is… The story idea is very similar to the horrible movie that came out if it years later. We have some spies running around the old west using advanced technology to solve villain of the day stories. Using pocket sized gramophone players to cause a distraction, special bullets that stick into the barrel of their pistols and so on. It is quite silly overall.

    But what I notice most is that they had a limited pool of extras. So the three thugs that were hiding up a tree guarding a giant tuning fork that was being used to destroy buildings are also part of the midget evil genius circuit gang. And part of the drug smuggling ring. The lady who runs a penny arcade is also the most beautiful actress in all of the states the next week.

    It really does distract me.

    Michael Dunn is the actor that played the evil genius, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0242692/ . The list of films he was in both impressive and sad for the roles he was given. Yes, in the Wild Wild West they make a number of Napoleon Bonaparte references. A joke that Jack of All Trades would use over 30 years later. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0220906/
    Thursday, May 5th, 2011
    5:25 pm
    Written on the train
    The guy who sat down across from me would not normally have registered on me. The train was full of people drained from a day of work. 
    I had other objectives in my mind that interfered with my usual people watching. 
    But he had a tattoo on the webbing of his left hand. 
    It was a tattoo of the yellow sign. 
    Not that crude three lines in a vague triangle but that of a master. 
    Dozens of points that roughly described the simple shape, yet those dots were also runes. 
    Layers upon layers. 
    I had to look away. Trying to focus on the details of the tattoo would only make me stand out. 
    I think he saw my interest anyway. 
    He got off at the next stop, losing himself in the crowd. 
    It didn't matter. 
    I never saw his face. 
    That didn't matter either. 
    I had already been give the address of his family. 
    Right now, they were all that mattered. 
    My masters had spoken. 

    Posted via m.livejournal.com.

    Thursday, January 20th, 2011
    7:54 am
    Going to the Loom
    Reviewing my steam games, pulling threads on Loom by Lucasarts.

    Loom is an early point and click adventure game. Coming out between the text adventure games like Zork and the full point and click games of Monkey Island. As a puzzle game you will face a number of challenges that have only one specific answer.

    Compounding the existing issues of point and click puzzle games you have the early prototype teething issues. Specifically you have only a single interaction option, click. There is no look, take or anything else. Clicking does one (or sometimes two) thing on each object that you interact with. Sometimes it treats it like a look. Sometimes a take. Sometimes a break, or learn the magic of or a sneak up and listen in on. Not knowing before you click what will happen can be annoying.

    They haven't bothered to update the graphics for this release, so you have the same limited graphics that were the best they could do in the late 90s. It is hard to say if they are cute or just really dated. I’m going to go with dated because of the sour taste the ending left in my mouth.

    Loom used sound as the source of magic. So almost everything used 8 bit sounds and when you heard a four note pattern you could count on it as being a source of magic. Four holes in the trees with owls that hoot different notes on a scale become the magic for a light spell. And the logic is about that fuzzy for most of the other magic as well.

    But the game doesn’t tell you in game that reversing the pattern can reverse the effect. I found it annoying that when you first encounter a water spout on your path you need to know that the four notes the water spout makes can be reversed to untwist it. And that it is a twisting magic you are learning. So when you find a staircase that needs to be untwisted you do the same spell again. My mind wasn’t in the same space as the game designers.

    Having finished the game I felt the ending was weak, left open clearly for a sequel that never game. The character you play seems poorly constructed. He is from a mysterious clan but knows all the other characters in the game. You don’t, so all you get is a brief bit of text. “It is the Bishop” and so on. I was completely disconnected from the world and never brought in. Made more vexing by some of the puzzles being solved by game world knowledge that you don’t have. One example that stands out in my mind is that your characters hood hides something dark and perhaps evil. So when another NPC wants to look under your hood it removes him as a threat.

    I think with a walkthrough and knowing just where to go a person could finish the game inside an hour or so. It took me longer as I explored and bumbled around, but I got madder and madder at the game. I spent the first hour of playing the game just walking around without finding the first seed of the plot because I didn’t realize I could walk on a black space as a floor to get to the Mcguffin.

    Calling the game done at 4.9 hours of playing, giving it a value of $9 under my system. I actually feel the game is worth much less, as the ending and content left me unhappy over all. I cannot suggest anyone else get the game unless the old classics really interest you.
    7:24 am
    Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
    Shooting through my steam games, this time with Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days by IO Interactive.

    Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is a 3rd person shooter set in a dark Shanghai. I played the game co-op, over two nights. Playing with a friend was the way to go, as the gameplay itself wasn’t anything special to bring be back to the game.

    Actually I cannot decide if the style choices the game when with harmed it or helped it. The game chose to look like a gritty handheld documentary style game, with the issues a low quality camera would have in the places the characters go. Adding to this is a curious drive to make it a dirty realistic game and still have a pg-13 rating. All the extreme acts of violence as well as the nudity have a digital pixel distortion going on. The look was clearly meant to be what you would see for a TV documentary.

    Most of the issues they faked, lens flaring, vertical lines and so on, can be turned off. And I did, because they got in the way of actually shooting people. The digital distortion couldn’t be removed officially, but you can download tools from the internet to remove it if you want. While I didn’t my co-op player did for the second night. His reports were that you didn’t see anything, as there was nothing to see. So a face that was blurred out because it took a shotgun blast at point blank range was just the characters face normally.

    The game really wanted you to play it as a multiplayer over and over again experience. Which I think is why they drove to have the low pg rating. If you could get six or eight teens to play the game for a couple of hours a day and talk about it to their friends you can get a stream of income. It would also explain the downloadable content (DLC) for sale. None of it adds to the main game, but rather exists just to change up the verses multiplayer. Some of it even gives better weapons, which seems unfair. I personally didn’t try any of the verses multiplayer.

    The story is quite bad, almost lazy. The characters are so stereotyped, and the world so two dimensional, that it was physically painful at points. And short, as I was able to finish it in less than five hours. I think the writing and design team just gave up, which is why you have a level in which the characters are naked trying to escape from the mob through a closed mall. Clearly they thought we have this centering software in place we might as well use it as much as possible.

    Calling it finished and just over five hours of playing I’m going to give it a value of $10. About as much as a new movie, and it was about that much fun. But two player co-op was the only way to do this.
    6:32 am
    Sticky with World of Goo
    Reviewing my steam games, this week looking at World of Goo by 2d Boy.

    The first thing I want to say is that World of Goo first came to my attention by sharing their users statistics as a comment on video game piracy. Specifically they had sold one copy for every ten people submitting scores to their scoreboard. Which makes it sound bad, but there would be lots of reasons for this.

    The first is that they offered the game on all three computer platforms. So if you have two different computers or even two different operating systems on one computer you would show up twice. Adding to this is that World of Goo is such a small program that transporting it on a usb key (or downloading it again) onto work computers or other systems is easy. So I think the nine out of ten people would steal a video game claim that was being made based on those stats is false.

    I would also say that the numbers are no longer so warped. Thanks to 2d Boy pushing their game as hard as possible I’ve ended up owning three copies myself: One by buying the game direct from them, a second from the Indie Humble Bundle and the third was included on a Steam Indie bundle. So I’ve played World of Goo on seven or eight computers and own three copies. And the game is good enough I’m not upset about paying for it three times. (That and times I didn’t pay more then 25 dollars combined and got nine additional games.)

    World of Goo itself is a puzzle game. At the start of each map they tell you the objective, usually get X number of goo balls into the pipe somewhere on the map. To keep the game interesting they keep introducing new types of goo to play with. But at first all your goo balls will do is stick together to build towers or bridges.

    The game is mostly a physics puzzle engine. The goo balls stick together, but the mass of the tower being built is taken into account. You can build your tower to thin and have a strut break. Then you have an often heartbreaking scene as tower collapses, bouncing as bits of it hit the ground.

    Some goo builds better, stronger bonds then others. Some goo can be removed from a tower as it is being constructed. Others are stuck once placed. Some goo is flammable, other goo is sticky. One type of goo is able to float upwards like a balloon. Other goo can form long chains.

    No map has more then three types of goo on it, which helps keep the game focused. The maps are interesting and colourful. And while you do return to some puzzles, the map and the challenges have changed. These changes are in line with the storyline as well.

    Each chapter consists of a score of maps. Each chapter is based on a single theme. And as you complete each chapter you see a story unfolding. You see the goo attempt to understand industrialization and even escape into a virtual computer system. The instructions for each map are written on little signs usually whimsically written by an unseen game character called ‘The Sign Painter.’

    I quite enjoy the game, and steam tells me that it took six hours for me to finish it this time. I have finished it twice more, but I’ll not count those for assigning the valve of the game. With six hours and finishing the game gives it a value of $11. I don’t think I’ll keep the game installed on my computer, but I could see myself returning to it eventually.
    5:39 am
    Reviewing my steam games, going in deep with Aquaria.

    Aquaria was a game that I picked up on the cheap as part of the Indie Humble Bundle. The idea at the time was that five independent developers of games got together and offered up five games for a single price. That price was whatever you thought those games would be worth to you. Each developer also had their game available for PC, Mac and Linux systems, so everyone could buy it.

    They tracked the stats an some of them were interesting in the numbers are fun kind of way. PC users were cheaper on average then Mac or Linux, that sort of thing. But like all numbers they can be adjusted to show whatever you like. As the games were cross platform and I actually have a computer running one of each of those formats, it seemed like a great deal.

    That being said, I didn't actually get around to playing the game until today. About two months ago I noticed that anyone who bought the Humble Bundle was able to get them to send unlock codes to access the games via steam. No doubt this was done to take away downloads from the indie team's own servers. Steam does so much traffic the small games that are the one included in the bundle would go unnoticed.

    So what does this small indie game actually play like? That is where it starts to fall down for me.

    The game has a paper cut out animated character as the lead. By which I mean you have a character who moves an arm by rotating the upper arm from the torso and the lower arm at a join at the elbow. The hand gets swapped out when it needs to change. This is the site of animation I personally connect to flash, but that is because it is the style I learned while getting into flash myself years ago. This fact is only important because the fish around her are a more flowing animation style, giving a very strong striking contrast.

    The world of Aquaria is a very rich one, with other fish swimming in the waters around you. Some are hostile and some are neutral. Only there is no easy way to tell them apart until you take damage. The visual language isn't used to have all the purple, yellow or orange fish to be dangerous and the blue and green ones friendly. Instead the game has you learn through trial and error.

    The game doesn't give you any reason to explore its world at first. The game implies that you are at first a simple creature not really thinking about anything. Then an event brings you to full awareness and comes wrapped in a flashforward/flashback to a homing missile firing version of yourself. Even then you are free to stroll around a world map without any goal. A point was lit up to visit, but it just gave you a handful of resources with the goal of scavanger hunting up bits and pieces.

    I think the game wanted you to feel like you have the whole ocean to visit. But what I found instead was a series of dead ends that stopped in doors I knew I could open later in the game. It was not endearing me to the game.

    After about 45 minutes or so I find the plot key to start an info dump of what I should be doing. But by then I was not into the game at all. I played out the rest of the hour just to see if the game would speed up, but no. I broke down and pulled up a walkthrough from the internet. It seems that most of the game is spent going back and forth from one side of the ocean to the other, collecting items. Then the final battle is the usual multi-state endboss nonsense. Four stages too. Ugh.

    Floated around in the game world for just over an hour, which gives it a value of a buck under my scale. I don’t recall what I chose to pay for the Indie Humble Bundle, so I’m just going to call that good enough. I do not see myself returning to this game but I may point my son at it when he hits three or four.
    Saturday, January 15th, 2011
    10:05 pm
    Manhole
    Reviewing my steam games, this time an old classic called Manhole from Cyan Worlds Inc.

    This is an interesting little game, if that is the right word. What we have here is a classic 1988 program that has been recreated with full sound. This program took you into a world through the manhole, after the white rabbit. It wasn’t a game that had an evil wakened for you to kill, nor any foes at all to overcome. You just explored the world that was offered.

    I didn’t know that when the game launched for the first time. So I spent half an hour just moving around looking for what barriers I was to overcome, what foes I needed to defeat. I didn’t come across anything that stopped my travels.

    I don’t regret the exploring, but my brief visit left be confused. There was nothing for me to battle, so I ran to wikipedia to look up the game. That revealed that there was no goal to this game. No walk through to explain where I was to go and what I was to overcome.

    The graphics are simple, about 520 by 360 pixel images done in 16 bit colours. They are fun and childish, and often very silly. You will find a sunken ship, and in the hold of that ship you will find a forest with a bear at a door that leads up to a castle. The bear says something to the effect that when the ship sunk the hold only had seeds, now it has a forest.

    There is no story here either. The world is in status. So you can talk to a number of characters, but they will never change.

    I’ll save this game for my son, I’m not sure what he will make of it when he is old enough to explore this world. I have put only 30 minutes but paid nothing for this game so I’m going to call that good enough. Not counting it as finished, but not going back until my son can take the helm.
    Friday, January 14th, 2011
    8:30 pm
    Reviewing my steam games, taking to the skies with Dogfighter by Dark Water Studios Ltd.

    What Dogfighter is not is a flightsim. The trailer for it posted up on steam states that as the opening line and yet myself and three of my friends who tried it all hooked up a joystick before launching the game. This game is not designed to be played using a joystick and it handles really poorly for any sort of flight sim.

    Instead what Dogfighter is would happen to be a not bad arcade style shooter best controlled by your mouse. If you play it that way, thinking of the plane aspect as a style choice more then anything else, it leaves you feeling happy. Seriously, don’t think about using a joystick with this one.

    The graphics are fun and a little cartoony. The planes are not pulled directly out of the real world, nor are they bizarre creations that wouldn’t fit there. What we have is a stylistic middle ground choice. I haven’t played the game extensively but none of the areas grew dull and boring.

    The game does feel missing something if you play it solo. There is no solo mode and basically the same multiplayer game types are available verse bots. No reason for you to go to any of these places in fact. Unlike the Crimson Skies (xbox version) game the environments seem to have made no concessions to all the planes overhead. Crimson Skies perhaps took it too far, with almost every farmer’s field having a landing strip, but it would explain how come there were so many planes in the sky.

    Like most standard shooters, you have a number of power ups to collect. Better weapons, rear firing weapons, team boosts and team penalties. That last seems a bit out of place, where you can go to pick up a radar out power up and instead it takes out your team’s radar instead. The game basically says 50/50 chance. That is something I don’t think I would have included if the game was my baby.

    No so many weapons are available that they overlap, nor are they hard to find. Enough pickup points appear to exist that even with a full 16 players you will not have anyone camping out a power up spawn point.

    I personally never tried the multiplayer on this game. I have six friends who already own it according to steam, so the failure there is on my part not to try to arrange something.

    With just under 4 hours of play time I will give this game a value of $3. So it is an improvement on what I spent, but I cannot say that with so many other games I will keep this one around unless my friends who do have it start throwing down the gauntlet. Then I will return to teach them a lesson.
    Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
    9:56 pm
    Zen Bound 2 up for review.
    Reviewing my steam games, tied up this time with Zen Bound 2 by Secret Exit Ltd.

    Zen Bound 2 is a little puzzle game. Puzzling in its very nature for the game is a little abstract. The goal is to use a length of rope to wrap up objects, covering as much of the object as possible. The game shows this your progress by painting the object as you wrap it. The designers believe the game is more relating then stressful.

    When the game first was listed on steam the game design interested me. So it was with some happiness I picked it up when it went super cheap. So far it hasn’t disappointed me.

    As the game is simple, the graphics look quite good. Each puzzle starts with a 3d object – usually an abstract shape- and a length of rope to tie it. The rope moves and shifts in a mostly realistic means. Sometimes you will see an odd and visible artifact as the textures on the rope sections don’t line up. But I have to say I was looking for those so it is possible the casual player will not notice.

    There is no story in the game. You just have to complete all the puzzles on all the trees and finish all the puzzles. One little detail is that there are two achievements that I may never get. The first is to get three flowers (the highest rating) on all the puzzles in the game. The second is to erase your progress once you have gotten three flowers on all the trees.

    Actually the game did a good job of keeping itself true to a theme. You have a list of trees to complete, each with some loose theme. People, birds, and so on. Each puzzle has three levels of completion. Each level you achieve causes a flower to bloom on the tree. This gives you a very nice impression as you scroll up the tree to wherever you left off playing.

    I have put in just over my hour into the game, so it has a value of $1 to me. This is roughly what I paid for the game so it is a break even at this point. But I have to say that I will keep this one on my computer as well. I do look forward to solving all the puzzles here.
    Monday, January 10th, 2011
    4:43 pm
    Reviewing Delve Deeper.
    Reviewing my steam games, this time digging in with Delve Deeper by Lunar Giant.

    Delve Deeper is a clever little turn based strategy game featuring up to four teams of dwarves digging in the name of their king for treasure. Each team is make up from Miners, Warriors or Scouts to the choice of the player controlling them. Then using the strengths of each type of dwarf you delve into a map trying to bring home more loot then the other guys.

    I actually had some problems when I first got this game. It didn't want to run on my laptop, a secondary computer I have. The tech support from Lunar Giant was quite friendly, quick to respond to my request and had a patch out within a week that helped get the game running. Another week or two and a second patch resolved all the issues that I was aware of. I was also able to play the game on my main computer, so it wasn't a buggy release, just the age of the laptop in question.

    My other first impression of the game was on the lack of online multiplayer. As a simple turn based game I had picked it up to test it out. If I enjoyed it I would have badgered one of my friends into getting it just for the chance to battle them online. I prefer to battle in turn based games over FPS because I can win in turn based ones. But the listed multiplayer feature is limited to a hot seat approach. Which would allow for up to four people to play against each other, if they don't mind sharing the same seat over and over.

    The graphics themselves are fun. Each of the dwarf types animated for a walking, fighting and mining animation. The foes are also styled in a cute over realistic. This ties in to the writing style. Each of the official maps comes with some comments from the king before you begin. These brief little lines are often cleverly written – at least the first time you read them – and add to the game.

    This is also another game where there is no story beyond what you want to make yourself. Each map feels more or less like all the others. Sure some have more grey goblins over green slime, but one monster is just like another in the middle of a battle. It will be hard to determine when I have finished this game. I am not sure which maps I have completed successfully and which I haven’t.

    One last thing to find some extra value in the game is on the treasure descriptions. Most of them are based on making fun of the dungeons and dragons style treasure. As they are random collecting the whole set (which is an achievement) will be almost impossible.

    I have put in over fifteen hours. I don’t regret it, but I am not sure how much more I’m going to get out of the game. I also cannot say without reservation that the game is worth collecting for full price. But the game was cheap enough during the black Friday sales.
    Sunday, January 9th, 2011
    9:43 pm
    Tropico Reloaded Review.
    Reviewing my steam titles, going out on a beach for today’s game. Tropico: Reloaded published by Kalypso Media Digital. It appears that the base game, the first expansion (Paradise Island) and the second game were all developed by different studios. As I played the first game with the first expansion included I am just going to thank the publisher.

    Tropico is a sim game in which you control a whole island of people in the 1950's. The game lets you build your dictator, so you can be a farm worker installed by the KGB, or a college professor who won in a fair election. What your background is will effect how the people of the island see you as well as the cost of various buildings and other events around the island.

    The game takes a humorous look at the idea of being a tin pot dictator, so you have the power to fix elections, assassinate or imprison your enemies or otherwise be a bad guy. You can also strive to win the people's respect and keep yourself in power by doing what is best for them or at least making them happy. The game only scores you at the end (but it does let you know how you are doing as you go along) so results are really all that matters.

    The game, like most sims, can be seen to be fairly open-ended. After all, you are only scored after 50 years in power. But in order to add to the replayability of the game we have a number of scenarios included. From my research online it appears that most of them were added by the expansion pack, but I have over 50 different scenarios to pick from for the next time I return to the island. So I will have to decide if I want to have a simple mission (I'm a crashed KGB agent who is put in charge of the island until I can build an airport to take me home) or a harder one (I have to get the island population to below 100 people and still make 100,000 dollars so that I can turn the island into a Jurassic park experiment).

    The graphics are quite nice for a ten year old game. We have enough detail to see what the people roughly look like (basically what their profession is) as well as a number of different buildings and shapes to the island. Ancient ruins, historical forts and other items of interest are quite well designed to be eye catching as you scroll over your island. And all the man made structures are quite well designed to be 50's style constructs. It does seem a little out of place for a 50's era apartment building to be constructed when the game is up to the 90's but that also fits the stereotype they are mocking.

    There is no specific story to the game, outside of that set by the scenario, and most of those scenario guidelines are only a handful of sentences each. Not that you really need one, as this is a fairly nice sim.

    The complexities of the game are balanced by the scale. Each citizen has opinions on food, shelter, entertainment, your leadership and so on. At least a dozen bars define them inside the game world. But you will be dealing with less then 200 of these citizens; and in most games less then 50 or 60 when you have to worry about them. So if you see a brave but low in leadership citizen you can ignore them as a threat to your power. But a high in leadership, mostly brave citizen might be the seed that starts a revolution against you.

    So you could fire that individual from his job, or increase his pay and make him happy with you. The scale lets you see inside their minds (at least as far the game is concerned) and while you cannot control anyone directly you can change the environment to make them do different things.

    It is important to note that the game expects you to pay attention to little details like this. A citizen will have to go home to sleep at the end of the day, and then they get up to go to work. It is possible that they will take half a day to get from their job to their home. And half a day back. So even though a job may show as fully staffed, your workers may not actually be spending any time doing their job.

    I put 3.5 hours into the game so far, which got me through the tutorial and one scenario. So the game can move fast for those people who don't want their sims to be more then a single sitting. (I'm looking at you sim city) This gives the game a value of $3 under my system. I know I'll return to the game, but I think I will give the other game in the pack I got from steam a try first. So next week some time I'll try Tropico 2: Pirate Cove and see what they changed and what they didn't.
    7:35 pm
    Looking at Cogs for my steam game review
    Reviewing my steam games, today’s game is Cogs by Lazy 8 Studios.

    Cogs is a clever little puzzle game. You slide tiles around 3D objects attempting to connect pipes, link gears or otherwise bridge gaps to make the 3D object work. I am not personally a big fan of those one piece missing slide the tile around games, but I really do enjoy Cogs. Perhaps it is just because I am fond of computer games that this one reaches me.

    When I first launched Cogs I didn’t know quite what to expect. I believe that I got it as part of a five pack of Indie Games. Cogs wasn’t the game I was getting the pack for but I have to say that sliding bits and pieces around to solve puzzles is a great five or ten minute time waster.

    Graphically the game is simple, but far more detailed then it would need to be. Each puzzle is modeled in 3D, even if it is only a 2D problem. This lets you use the same interface and handling when you come to a 3D problem, getting steam to both sides of a cube or similar. I don’t think you could increase the graphics on this game and actually improve the game in any way. Well done to Lazy 8 Studios for finding that perfect mix of simple to complex balance for their game.

    No story to speak of, just 50 puzzles to solve. Each time you solve a puzzle you are rated on how many moves it took you and how long it took for you to solve it. The better, the more gears you are rewarded. You need 300 gears to finish the game and view the credits (which may or may not be a puzzle). Each time you solve a puzzle you are awarded 3 gears and then you can earn up to 6 more. So you have to earn six gears on average for each puzzle to be able to finish the game. It means I’ll have to do some of my completed ones over again.

    I’ve put in only an hour or so into the game but it was a good hour. So it has only earned a dollar under my value system, but it will be sticking around as a good way to spend those spare moments thinking.
    Saturday, January 8th, 2011
    9:54 pm
    Reviewing Chime, from my steam games
    Reviewing my steam games, this time looking at the musical game Chime, by Zoë Mode.

    All chime happens to be is putting down different shapes on different game boards while music plays. And on the surface of that it is hard to see why it is a very addictive game.

    So it is in the little details that this game comes alive. Each of the six levels is really just a different song. Each time the beat bar goes down the playing field left to right it triggers different sound loops based on what shapes it encounters as it goes. When you have created a block of three by three or larger rectangular section a different sound will be triggered. The section you have activated will start to fill up. While it is filling you can add to the sides of the section and spread it. You score points based on the final size of the section. The more of these sections you can create all the stray pieces are cleaned up the higher your score multiplier.

    I played each level once with the sound on, but for my replays of the game I have just been leaving the sound off. As neat as it was the first time to hear the game react to how you were mixing up the pieces, it loses something after the first six minutes. And with easy mode being nine minutes on a map I honestly felt the music overstayed its welcome by the time I was done.

    This last is especially true for the song 'Still Alive' by Jonathan Coulton. I am a big fan of the song, but unlike the other five it was added to the game because it was popular not because it fit the format of the game. So they broke up the lyrics and you only hear them when you complete a certain amount of the map. It is very distracting as you find yourself waiting for the next verse to start so you can sing along, or the final line repeated twenty some odd times as you attempt to finally clear the map.

    To clear a map, the objective of the game, you need to fill every square with a completed section at some point. Not all at once, but just at some point. When a section has finished being filled in as stated above the beat bar will touch it and 'stamp' it down onto the playing field. This allows you to place new shapes overtop and prevents you from having to panic if you drop something in the wrong spot.

    I personally cannot think of anything else to say about the game, it is really that simple. I have 7.3 hours of game play on record, plus I have finished all the maps. So a total value under my system of $12. Much higher then what I paid for it, and if you get the game cheap I can suggest that playing each level at least once is worth it.
    Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
    7:40 pm
    Looking at my Steam games, this time Genesis Rising
    Reviewing my steam games, a young boys game called Genesis Rising by Metamorf is up to be talked about.

    Now, I have to say that I got this game because my friend bought it as well, and it listed Multiplayer as an option. I thought that it would be fun to do a space based game in the style of Command & Conquer 3. I never actually played it multiplayer, which if it is a saving grace I’ll never know.

    This game has a very ugly interface; it makes it hard to get into. Combined with the 2d space battle fights, the really bad story and battle animations I was not able to enjoy my hour with this game.

    The graphics themselves are not bad, they were looking for something unique. But I find the character designs to be so bad I was offended. The game feels like a bunch of 30-somethings trying to sell a game to 12 year olds. We have extreme blood whenever you kill a ship. Yeah, ships explode into a shower of blood. The female character has a bare mid-drift and design that makes Lora Croft from the first tomb raider look normal. Insulted because I know I could personally do better. And there is no way a paid professional designer couldn’t do better while drunk unless this was their objective.

    The tutorial missions introduced me to the game concepts. You kill other ships, drink blood from their corpses to heal and steal their genes to upgrade your own weapons. Not a bad idea. But then the controls are this swirling 3d view trying to control objects in a 2d plane. So if you are not looking directly down on the plane you cannot say for sure where your ship is going to end up. (You can also ask the computer to draw the reference plane as a grid, but that isn’t as helpful as they thought.)

    Thinking about it, that 3d controls on a 2d plane felt much like my 3d modeling programs. You can swirl, twirl and zoom around a fixed point in 3d space and then use the arrow keys to shift along the 2d axis. All this viewing control makes for a fine control scheme in a slow placed design environment. But when you are in a battle situation you should have the controls maximized for action which response.

    So the tutorial missions left me in a bad mood, unhappy with the game. But they have this 8 minute long cut scene that was the final straw.

    We start with the mission with your father giving you this ship. And then takes you to another ship that is actually your birthday present. I watched the scene twice to make sure I hadn’t misread that. It is clear your father gives you the ship you are in (as a young boy, too young to own your own space ship, as the game points out.) You then fight in a mission so lopsided that you can seriously not give your ship any orders at all and still win. As I said this was the final straw and I did it twice to make sure it happens as I will complain about.

    From this fight we go to eight minutes of cut scenes. In these eight minutes we are told it is forty years later, making your character at least fifty yet looking maybe late twenties. You get info dumped hardcore as to who these people are telling you what you need to do. The Emperor of mankind is telling you to go find this McGuffin out in the same zone of space in which your father vanished years before. You get to have dialogue options of blue (choir boy) or red (jerk) with a handful of people. And then you watch these battle scenes in which armored aliens and armored humans fight with pistols and assault rifles within arms reach of each other. Seriously, they could reach out and push the gun away sort of close. And in mixed formation, humans and aliens standing (not running, but standing and shooting) around killing each other. It just struck me as a really poorly thought out scene of a dozen alien models and a dozen human models not animated at all well.

    And I was done with the game. Perhaps the tutorial missions were lame and hard to control was because they were more interested in teaching us instead of making it fun. Perhaps the game play improves once you get into the game and the missions. I personally doubt it, from the reviews of others.

    I also read a walkthrough for the game, talking about what missions are coming up. You go back in time to your young self and help your father against an attack that seeks to alter the time line. And then as your young self you return to your fleet in the present. So if you were the target 12ish year old boy then “Yeah! I could do it” should be going on inside your head. I personally would be twitching and suffering a minor stroke if I understood the walkthrough correctly.

    So I never played the multiplayer, and I didn’t give the game more then an hour of my time, including watching the same eight minute cut scene twice to make sure it was as bad as I thought the first time. Under my value system that gives it one dollar. And even that it didn’t really earn.

    As soon as this gets posted I will delete the game off my computer and never see it again. With any luck.
    3:39 pm
    Reviewing games: And Yet it Moves
    Reviewing my steam games, this turn of the page looking at And Yet It Moves, by Broken Rules.

    What you find here with And Yet it Moves is a very true to its design platformer. The idea is that your character, made up of different bits of a paper drawing, is moving through a whole world made out of paper. The backgrounds and foreground is constructed out of collages of paper images. And as you are a paper construct in a paper world you can turn the whole environment to solve problems.

    So, the first example the game gives is a cliff that is too far down for you to just jump. You leap over the edge and then rotate the whole world so that your character falls only a few feet instead of to his death. All of this is explained in game by little notes tacked to the paper. Almost nothing breaks out of this metaphor. Black becomes death, a space where there is no paper.

    And you will die. Lots. There is an achievement for dying one thousand times. I finished the game and had only two hundred deaths to go in order to get it.

    But to make up for that (or perhaps because of that) there are numerous checkpoints throughout the whole game. Each level uses these checkpoints to not only mark your progress through the level but point the way to the next checkpoint.

    The images and graphics are simple paper craft or collage pictures, but you do need a more powerful computer then you would think to run this game. The graphic demands are not overly great, but strong enough that when the computer chugs while you are playing it can lead to your death. At least that is my excuse.

    There is no actual story that I can tell. You just want to get from one end of the map to the other. Nothing else to the game, no reason why you are trying to escape or where you are going. But the whole world is very well developed.

    I have 5.8 hours in the game and I have finished it, giving it a value of ten dollars. There are some challenge modes, for speed running through the game in under an hour. I don’t think that is going to happen. I also don’t think that I personally will return to the game, but I may keep it around just to show other people.
    2:44 pm
    Review of steam games: Brainpipe - A Plunge into unhumanity
    Reviewing my steam games, this time looking at Brainpipe: A Plunge to Unhumanity, by Digital Eel.

    The game calls itself an addictive endurance run, which is a fair enough description. Basically you control a circle with your mouse and you plunge down a twisting curving tunnel (or indeed pipe) dodging energy fields, stray balls of energy or what have you trying to collect bonuses. It’s fairly abstract in fact.

    Very colourful little game, but it does not leave me much to talk about with it. What we have here is just an arcade game with the goal to get the highest score possible while surviving. You can even select which of the ten levels you start on, if you die on level 4 and want to play each level of the game.

    Using very simple graphics we have a game which knew what it had to do and did no more. Fun, but I got it cheap so it was worth it to me.

    The theme of the game is that you are plunging through what is the brain and the elements of the self the game designers thought important. I have to say that I remember none of them now that I go to write about it, so the game is at least addictive in that regard. But unless I skipped it by mistake, there is nothing at the end to complete this theme.

    I put about an hour into Brainpipe and finished it. Under my 2011 scoring system that gives it a value of six dollars. Far more then I paid for it, so a win for me. But it is unlikely that I will ever return to this game.
    Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
    9:47 pm
    Game review, Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers
    Reviewing my steam games, this time looking at Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers, by Stainless games. Based on the cult card game that it seems is still around.

    What I had hoped for when I bought this game is that it would be an digital version of the card game. I personally had endless fun playing with friends, setting up different decks and otherwise basically killing time. I have to say that we played the game enough that we got to the point where we could play without the cards. Just saying ‘I play a forest, tap it for an elf’ sort of thing. The often unspoken rule was that if you started playing rare cards the other guy could too, so stick to commons and stuff in your deck and play for stalemate.

    So with my expectations high I could not help but be disappointed.

    But before I get there let me say that for a computer game based on a card game they did a really good job of bringing it straight across. You have the play area, just like you would at a table. The cards go in the official positions (actually, the computers area is flipped to be the same layout as yours, which is cleaner to look at) and you may zoom in to read any card you want at any time. The game goes through the formal turns, so if you know the physical game this is just the same.

    The cards are not animated, nor do you see little digital versions fight. Just cards being tapped and slid forward to show which are attacking, little lines drawn to who blocks and damage dealt. So visually the game is nothing to write home about.

    Other issues with the visuals can be seen on the card art. Some of the cards I remember were hit or miss on the art. But seeing what was a 2 inch by 3 inch picture blown up to my monitors resolution isn’t always a good thing. What the human eye blended and cleaned up is now a jagged pixel line.

    There isn’t a story mode, for all that they call it a campaign. You basically fight 8 decks twice. Each deck has some personality, but not as much as you would encounter in the friendly games I was used to playing. The second time you see the same deck it has some more powerful (uncommon or rare) cards included. But as the random draw seems to apply to both sides that second visit to the decks can have the same or even an easier battle.

    They also included a challenge mode, in which you are given a situation and told that there is a way to win in a single turn. Find that way to pass the challenge.

    In some ways I was grateful for this mode. I didn’t play Magic for a cut throat kill the other guy in two turns sort of game. This computer game is based entirely around that approach. Thanks to the challenges, I was able to start thinking like they wanted me to. Even if half the challenges were only winnable because of some new rule they introduced in the ten years I have been away from the game.

    But one thing that makes me unhappy is that you don’t really have any control over what is inside your deck. For all they give you nine different decks to play with, all you can do is change the sideboard. (The sideboard in tournaments was ten cards that you could include or take out of your registered deck based on what sort of foe you were facing. It was where you would put your anti-black cards so that when you are facing a red player they are not in your deck and worthless.) In this game the sideboard is basically all the uncommon and rare cards you have unlocked by winning matches. A fully unlocked deck is therefore more powerful then the starting version.

    But I liked a slim 66 card deck when I played. 22 land cards, 20 creature cards, 20 spell cards and 4 artifacts. It was what I got used to using. And all of a single colour.

    This game likes multicolour and odd numbers on the deck. The land to other card ratio is less then 1/3, no doubt based on someone’s over analysis of the game. And you cannot adjust the cores of the decks.

    But if you are willing to pay for it (I wasn’t) you can get all the decks unlocked from the start of the game. As the game only had 16 battles and 8 challenges, I am glad I didn’t even think about it. The cost of unlocking everything is more then the cost of the game. And you can, if you play it enough, unlock everything yourself. It does take more time and energy then I will ever put into it. I would need to win 116 more games in order to unlock everything. I don’t think that is worth it to me.

    There is also an online battle mode. You can take your decks (with any cards you have unlocked) and battle other people online. It didn’t sound like much fun to me, as the computer was cut throat enough to drain some of the joy out of the game. Going up against people who most likely bought all their cards at the same time they got the game just wouldn’t do it for me.

    The three expansions are all just more of the same from what I understand. 16 more decks (the same new ones twice) and 8 challenges or so. Not worth 5 bucks a peace.

    Well, under my system of scoring, I put in ten hours of play and finished the game. That gives it a total value of $6. More then I paid for it, so I came out ahead, but I’ll not be going back to this game.
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