Is this the real Mouse? (Pictorial Spoilers)

So, as always, I just finished playing a game and now I want to talk about it.

Today I played Disney Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (God, that's kind of a mouthful). I should note now I bought it on steam for $14.99. I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to wait for a sale to purchase it.

What a delight this game is. Visually, it's very appealing and every inch of it tickles my nostalgia senses.

Simple, yet evil, mushrooms.

Disney is no stranger to nostalgia, and often we think more of what we remember of Disney than what they are now (really are they even relevant anymore? I mean, Pixar is fantastic but its not really Disney). In that sense Disney is what it is still because of what we remember Disney being for us at one time or another in our lives. I'm sure at some point there will be others who think back on Disney as something else entirely different from what I think about Disney(although I do wonder if the next generation will even care about Disney).

Anyway, despite my meandering I actually wanted to talk about Mickey in all of this. I realized today I haven't seen Mickey Mouse in any real relevant use in a very long time. There may be a show or something he's in now (I don't know, I stopped watching cartoons around the time the average cartoon became garbage), but Mickey hasnt really been culturally relevant in a long time.

I think the thing I loved most with Mickey were the old black and white cartoons. They were always my favorite things with Mickey. I actually always think back to the haunted house cartoon. It's a masterpiece and if you haven't seen it then you probably should (how weirdly relevant, being that all these horror games are coming out around this week and next month is October).

I grew up in the 80's, and while the black and whites were no longer "new" they still played them on the (at the time) new Disney channel (late 80s, early 90s something like that). My favorite time of the year for these cartoons, at the time, was halloween. Disney holiday specials around that time were some of the best ever created even today, but my favorites were always the halloween ones. Maybe because making something scary and also ok for kids is a real difficult task and so it comes incredible when its done perfectly. You have to make it scary but also funny. Disney always seemed to be able to pull that kind of thing off, at least for me, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I remember, now, how much I hate jumping from leaf to leaf.

I'm rambling, though. Castle of Illusion 2013 (I shortened the name, sue me) is an amalgamation of several 3d and 2d games. It is a lot what it aims to be- a reboot or remake of a classic game a lot of people loved- and it is a little bit something else. It delivers the original game in a lot of ways and even finds ways to surprise you a few times.

I really enjoyed the different layouts of the worlds and the simple, but fun, puzzles sprinkled in here and there through out the game. Traversing it also is fine (although I have heard somewhere that the controls on XBLA are awful) and for the most part I did not feel hampered. I think my only gripe was my own want to keep moving forward, really. I found myself frustrating myself more than anything. With patience and observation all the platforming, boss fighting, and (short) puzzle solving is really fairly simple.

Speaking of bosses; this game has a few. I read somewhere (maybe it was Polygon) that the boss fights in this game were the weakest part of the game. I disagree with that. They were fairly well done and while it's a simple act of discovering their patterns I think they do what games used to do which was force you to figure them out and challenge your ability to progress.

Speaking of bosses; this one was particularly simplistic.

The boss fights, one and all, can be frustrating, certainly. Really, though, the majority of the frustration will come as you are trying to discover the patterns before you die. You should just give up on that first life in a first encounter with a boss, though. You will probably die the first time on most of them. Well, maybe. I mean if you have quick reflexes and adapt quickly then you can handle them fairly easily. Once you get the hang of the bosses they become simple at which point it can be a test of endurance.

The music and sound design in this game is probably my favorite part. I am so happy for that too. The game I always think of when it comes to Mickey Mouse is The World of Illusion (which was the Genesis sequel to Castle of Illusion). That game was so good I played and completed it so many times as a child I dont even remember. To top it off YOU COULD PLAY AS DONALD DUCK COOPERATIVELY WITH MICKEY! That was the greatest thing ever! It added so much more charm to the game on top of all the charm that game already had. I really actually hope this game does well so they remake or HD-ify World of Illusion because that game was SO GOOD!

Ok. Last thing I want to touch on is the how the developers tried to do something different. The game is not JUST a 2D platformer. I mean it is a platformer all the way through, but they add in moments where it suddenly shifts to a 3d plane so you can move anywhere, or makes you run up and down, or rotates the world. There's a lot of clever stuff like that that keep every world fresh and interesting all the way through the game. It never once got boring.

The game is most certainly short, which may throw some people off. I think it's the same length as the original though (clocking in for average Josh me at 2 and half hours to complete the whole game). I enjoyed every minute of it, though, and would still most certainly recommend it. The best part is, it's even great for kids. How often can you even say that about a video game anymore?

I am going to leave a photo dump at the bottom. Enjoy!

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Thinking back on Gone Home (spoilers)

I just finished playing Gone Home yesterday and I feel compelled to write about it. It's incredibly impressive when I come across games that try something different. That try to say that playing a game can mean something that you're not used to.

Finally home. I wonder what everyone is up to.

Developers certainly have a long way to go, but when something like Dear Esther comes along and its hard to define what it is, I feel anyway, that you know the medium is growing.

In the same vein we have Gone Home. Going in really you know nothing about what's going on, and that is truly the beauty of it. Do not spoil yourself on this one. Honestly, if you like a good story and the act of discovering the pieces as you go, go ahead and check this game out now. Don't read about it any further, and certainly don't watch someone else play it (well you can, but I feel that may diminish the impact a bit). When you're done all the blogs and articles about the game will still be there- as will the videos.

I know this probably seems pompous, or incredibly hyperbolic, but I feel this game is really important- at least as a way to tell a story in a game. I have never played a game that left me feeling any connection to its story on such a relatable level- much like a good film. I have liked a lot of games stories for certain reasons, some have even made me cry, but how often can I truly relate on some level to what the story is saying?

He can't be that bad if he let you borrow his Nintendo.

Sure, it's been incredible seeing what people can do with the apocalypse and zombies, and there have been amazing choices to make in games around that, but while you can ask yourself "what would I do in this situation" can you truly ever understand it? Can you ever really know what it feels like to shoot a child? While some may say yes this is a very small amount of people. It doesn't diminish the impact by any means but its thankfully a question we would not normally have to answer and most people never will have to think about it beyond whatever amount of gaming they do. I just bring this up because I found the story of Gone Home one that many can relate to- even me in a lot of ways.

Really, all you're doing is trying to find out why there is no one home when you get home from a year long trip and your rummaging through the house to find clues or answers to the questions that keep piling up. At it's core, though, it's a love story. A fairly simple one, too, but very effective.

It's fascinating to me the things I learned about myself when playing this. For one, there is never really any danger yet at the beginning you have this sense of foreboding. I don't know why. Maybe it's the sound of the rain, or the old creaky house, but I felt more and more as the game progressed that something bad happened and I am marching towards a terrible scene. So much so nearing the end I had become deeply worried that things would take a terrible turn and I was hoping so much that it wasn't what my mind was thinking it was.

This house is spooky.

It also brought me back to high school quite a bit. I was surprised by that.

Maybe it's because it's set in the 90's around when I was in high school, or maybe the attention to detail on the thought process of people, but while Sam's character certainly goes through something I have not I can relate to how out of place in the world she feels. I did as well in high school and often still do sometimes. We learn as we get older that is fairly normal, but in high school we believe it's just us. Really, everything feels so oppressive when you're in high school and I can remember this sense that if I just got to do what I wanted everything would be better. Of course, that is much more difficult than we understand at that age.

Oh well.

It's a really touching story that I would recommend. Much like Dear Esther it's not your standard game play but I have less problem calling this one a game as you do interact with the world beyond moving forward and you discover things about the story by interaction so there is a sense of engagement at the player level.

I found it really fascinating what they did with the story here and anyone looking for something different should definitely check it out.

See how many lights you leave on (or don't if you're like me and have to turn them off when you're out of a room). It's actually quite insane how many lights this house has.

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Who are the people in your Neverhood?

I remember getting The Neverhood at a local Software Etc. in the mall. I think Topanga mall in California, actually- probably 1997 or so.

The most intriguing thing about the game was that they made it completely in claymation, which is still still pretty unheard of (even the spiritual successor, Armikrog, is going to have some CG from the sound of it). I mentioned this before in another thread, but I have a love for claymation. There's always been something intriguing about it to me. It has a look, that is defined by it's meticulous shot by shot style of animation, and everything about it tends to be exaggerated- often (I would imagine) to save frames and therefore time.

Take an apple from the tree, and see how much it makes you burp.

The Neverhood is no exception to this, really. In fact it maybe does it more so than most claymation, and I would guess that was due to time constraints. It is not uncommon in The Neverhood for a frame of animation to hold longer than normal, or a movement to transition to another in a way that is uniquely claymation but also a tad off. It's not done in a bad way, mind you. It's just weird, and I like weird, so that's ok with me. It reminds me a lot of older Anime. Often, in older anime, they would hold a still frame for longer than necessary, and even just animate some form of color and line movement in the background to express something but for an exaggerated amount of time (it's possible this is still done). This is sort of what The Neverhood animation trades in, and does so mostly successfully.

I still enjoy the jokes, the tree that makes you burp and Willie (who you really don't know much about at the particular point in the game) dropping a flower in a pot on your head for some reason when you look up as he calls to you. It's very clever, and sometimes cute (the robot that loves his teddie bear comes to mind).

Don't mess with this thing. It's scary! Doesn't it look scary?

The story is done in an environmental way. You find video cartridges in various rooms and insert them into a viewer to get pieces of the back story. It is required you find all of these to even finish the game. This is another thing I would guess was done due to possibly time and money constraints. It's not bad, and helps to further give a sense of mystery to the world. Since it's a fairly linear game for the most part I don't feel lost. The interesting thing, to me, that I never noticed before was the games strong lenience on Christian philosophy. It's essentially the story of creation (as done in a way to suit a world made of Klay, and the game has a sense of this element which creates it, and mentions it in passing in things you can read or see within the game). It's probably for the best the game is self aware in this way, as the scenery (as claymation back drops go) seems very rushed. Again, I do suspect it was due to time and money, but one fairly obviously thing they rushed was the back grounds. The scenery often has a very muddy consistency- as if they slathered on the clay onto the back drop in a hurry. It does fit the story, as you come to find this world was created not long before you awoke, so you could also presume this was mildly intentional.

I really like the way the game looks, nonetheless (again, I have a softspot for claymation), and more often than not I found myself again enjoying looking at the world of The Neverhood.

The Hall of busts. Bust hall. I don't actually know what this room is called I just like saying busts.

The sound design in this game is mostly fantastic. Minus a few technical irks (such as Klaymans walking- which I mention later) it's a lot of fun. Very cartoon sounding effects for the most part, which are done well and fit the comedy the game goes for.

The music is incredible. I think it's probably one of my favorite soundtracks in an adventure game, ever... still. Terry S. Taylor did a brilliant job at making a crazy, twisted, sometimes somber, often spastic soundtrack. I think there's a total of like... 40 songs or something in this game. Maybe not, but there's a ton and everyone one of them is so much fun to listen to (with the crown jewel probably being The Neverhood theme itself). As a kid I loved the sound track so much I copied it to a cassette tape so I could listen to it more. Such a great sound track.

I do remember in the demo (I still have somewhere) the music is actually different and the music in that is also really good- I don't remember if it featured any of the songs in the actual game I only remember that they are different. The music was another big reason I got the game, though, as when I played the demo (now that I recall) the music really stood out; it's just so incredibly well done. I can't gush over the music enough.

Oh no! Save Bill, quick!

I do have to mention the puzzles now, though. I think there are some really frustrating things about this game (I have always felt this way). For instance, the games INCESSANT need to back track. Now I played this game a lot when I got it, so playing it again over a decade later I did find the answers to things just by memory sometimes, and I knew how grueling certain things were (such as you have to find all the video cartridges just for example, I knew that was a requirement to finish so I made sure not to forget- although I did still manage to forget one and had to backtrack for it) but it still weighs on you when you have to do it. I know it was/is an adventure game trope, and the most unpopular one at that. I feel a lot of good classic adventure games found smart ways to back track but still instill a sense of discovery while doing so. The worst thing is always forgetting something or not knowing you needed something you didn't get so you have to find it which means walking all the way back to somewhere on the other side of the game world. It's compounded in The Neverhood because there is a constant stream of things you have to do and often you don't really realize what something does because it triggers something for later or you cant get something until you do something else. Sometimes its a small thing (like turning on the water) and others it feels obscure until you stumble on it later (like the foghorn button door). Thankfully the game is never picky about skipping cut scenes so moving around the world is mostly easy to do and quick, but it gets slowed at times by certain means of travel (such as using the transporter) and the way Klayman walks sometimes makes me want to bash my head into the desk because it's slower on the third person scenes than it is on the first person ones and it cant be skipped when its third person (due to it not being cut scenes when he walks)- there's also something I cant place about how he walks I cant stand either. I think it's mainly the volume of his foot steps.

Bil versus that... guy. I want to call him classy Mecha Raptor guy.

The puzzles themselves are smartly designed; consisting of sound puzzles, sliding puzzles, a memory puzzle, a switching puzzle (that involves dynamite which is actually a fairly simplistic puzzle), and environmental puzzles- among, probably, others . The puzzles themselves usually make sense, and the most annoying thing for me is that most of them always change so even if you remember what to do you still have to figure it out again. I like to move along when I'm replaying a game, so that slightly annoys me when they do that but I know that is kind of silly. Still... slider logic puzzles. Has anyone ever liked those? haha

This game unfortunately came out too late- having released at the end of the Adventure game domination (actually just as the genre was "dieing") so the game was a financial failure. I always thought that was unfortunate, as adventure games go it is a smartly made one. It has several moments that annoy the hell out of me still (and the amount of note taking you have to do- I still am not sure if I think it's smart or annoying the things that I have to write down for this game) but all in all I still enjoy going to The Neverhood. It's a weird place, with varying degrees of beautiful scenery, amazing claymation cutscenes that are fun to watch, and some alright puzzles that annoy the hell out of me. Although, I still feel smart when I solve a puzzle (although less so because often I can remember the answer) and I enjoy the absurdity of the worlds context.

So, in closing I'll just say that I really enjoy The Neverhood still. I do have a lot of nostalgia for it, but playing it again is a reminder of the things I both hate about some adventure games and the things that I love. I hope with Armikrog they go beyond what they did with The Neverhood. They can leave out things like the hall of records (which is 38 screens of text [I think] on a wall that you have to walk all the way down for a video cartridge) and finding ways to not backtrack, or at least backtrack in more interesting ways and I'd probably be happier with it. All in all, though, it's still a one of a kind adventure. You wont see an all claymation video game anywhere else.

As always, a photo dump at the end. Enjoy!

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New Site, New Blog, New Leisure Suit

I had to write this in my Microsoft Office Word pad because the site was down. I really hope I remember to put the pictures in where I want them. I guess it doesn't matter because what I write tends to be very niche which is why my blogs are so sporadic. I know I'm not for everyone, nor are my tastes, so I only write when I am feeling super talkative about something I don't see a lot of people talking about, and I think they should- even though I know they won't. It's part of being in a niche audience.

I think Giantbombers would know that well. It's not everyday you walk into a grocery store and see someone wearing a Giantbomb sweatshirt (I haven't yet, but I wear mine a lot right now because it's still cold enough to do so. YAY!). We're a niche audience, as is most things on the internet (popular or not), and as such we don't get the chance to talk about the things we like about the internet with a lot of people. Those of you who do are very lucky and should count your blessings.

To get on with it already (because I know my tangents are long and boring) I am a kickstarter (kickstarter-teer? kickstarter-ino? Fuck, I don't know- guy that paid money) of the new Leisure suit Larry reboot, amply named Leisure suit Larry Reloaded. They recently put out an Alpha build of the game and it looks... great! So great I couldn't help but talk about it.

I am not going to post video, even though they aren't going to stop people who do (you can find video of it, which is sort of approved by Replay in so much as they have not given us an NDA and said "we wont stop it" pretty flat out- they seem pretty cool with it). I mainly just don't want to spoil it for people, but really want people to know about it. So far, in such an early state, it seems great. The writing, from the little I have seen of course, is top notch like you would expect, and the animation is great.

It is very important I share, though, that this game is in Alpha. That means it's not done at all yet. Anything you see in these pictures, good or bad, is subject to change and it must be understood that it is in no way representative of what the final game will be.

Having that out of the way (because Replay kindly requested we share that, and frankly I don't want to be the asshole who doesn't make it clear, but am totally cool knowing some assholes will still be assholes even knowing that) I wanted to share what we know and have seen of the game so far.

The majority of the game is actually in the Alpha. In a broken state, anyway. I wasn't able to finish the game myself (I broke the code on my play through and haven't had time to go back to it yet as I'm currently in the middle of a lot of real life stuff) but I have seen all the locations. All the places you remember are still there. They have been changed, some in smaller ways then others, but for the most part it's like Leisure Suit Larry being released again in higher resolution with references to more modern things.

To some this may be pretty meh, to others they probably wont even care enough to read this, but for those of us that love adventure games and like nostalgia fixes, this is pretty great (wait until you hear the opening theme, it's amazing!).

As of right now, I don't know if they have a release date (I think it's sometime in April or something, but I don't have a website to check and I don't feel like searching the kickstarter page right now) but if you were ever a fan of Leisure suit Larry this one will be worth checking out. If you didn't fund the Kickstarter look for it on steam when it comes out.

I'll put a photo dump at the bottom for any pictures I haven't already posted. Enjoy!

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My Thoughts on Heart of Darkness


 
 
I don't know why, but I felt compelled to write a blog about this game. I was thinking about it ever since the only forum thread it has re-emerged and couldn't get it out of my head. So I played through it again and now for some reason am very bored and feeling compelled to write about it. This is not a review (I don't do those) and should only be taken as my feelings on this game.      

 Andy is the greatest 12 year old acrobat in the swamp. Now what will the swamp monster eat?
I remember when I first got Heart of darkness, sometime in the late 90s (probably 99 as I didn't get it when it came out) I really hated it. At the time I felt it was incredibly difficult and unforgiving. I got all the way to the end only to give up. Another game that defeated me (honestly, a lot do- I either don't have time to finish a game and something new comes out and I forget about the game or I just give up because I suck to much at the game- not all games mind you but a lot of them).  
 
I do remember at the time being impressed with the graphics, it's method of story telling and impressive environmental puzzle design. The game really was fun for me at the time in all ways except playing it. I found playing it to be incredibly frustrating. See, I have this on PC and it feels as though it's more developed for consoles. This may have contributed to my disdain at the time.  
 
But enough of annoying me as a younger man, what about now? Well, first thing when you pop it in (if you have Win 7) you will notice is it suffers from the problem most Win 95 era games suffer from. There is this annoying graphical anomaly that happens (the original Diablo does this as well). You can't photograph it but you know it when it happens, it looks the same on all games it happens on. I scoured the internet for a solution but never found one.  
  
Then it dawned on me it was the same issue as Diablo and with research, when I was playing that not to long ago, I found the solution. The solution is the exact same for Heart of Darkness and anyone that cares to know I will tell you- everyone else can skip a couple paragraphs down. Since this does stop your explorer I must say- DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK.   
 
You need to create a text file in the games folder (saved as hod.bat- a batch file) with this: 
 

@echo off
taskkill /f /im explorer.exe

 Death by fireball!
hodwin32.exe
pause
start explorer.exe
exit
To break it down, for those afraid of the demon words I spew, the first line just tells it to not repeat what it says in the command line. The second line tells it to stop explorer.exe- the process which runs your desktop/taskbar/etc. . The third line tells it to run the game. The fourth line tells the batch file to wait until you hit a button in command prompt to continue. The fifth line tells it to start explorer again. The fifth line exits command prompt (so it doesn't just hang around on your desktop). Some people are terrified of messing with the explorer.exe, and thats fine. You can find other ways to get these games to run but this is what works for me. I also recommend restarting your computer after playing- just in case. For reference, ANY GAME that has the graphical anomaly in Win 7 that compatibility doesn't fix, can be fixed with this method and work just fine (that is a theory of mine, not proven, but it works on the original Diablo and Heart of Darkness so far- so I'm 2 for 2). I haven't an explanation for what about the explorer causes programs to degrade graphically when its on, just that turning it off while playing games fixes it.  
 
Edit: Oh, I forgot to add you may also need to set compatibility so it runs in 256 colors and in 640x480. A lot of people recommend turning all the switches on and setting it to at least Win XP sp2 compatibility- I don't know which ones you don't need after turning off the explorer, so feel free to play around with the compatibility if you need to. It may not be necessary at all.
 
 The beginning of one of the most frustrating levels in the game.
Anywho, I got the game working. I was surprised to find my XBOX 360 controller actually works in the game. It's surprising how robust this controller is.  
 
The first thing I found was the cut scene graphics are clearly dated (as should be obvious as this was a PS1 game). The story isn't bad though and they go through a surprising amount of effort to make it propel the game play, and do so surprisingly well in spots. It's not a story over game play type of game, as this is brought to you by the developers of Out of This World who are great at environmental puzzles, but they had more room to play with the story and did so.  
 
The actual in game graphics, to me anyway, hold up fairly well. It still looks pretty good (in that now retro indie way) and there's a surprising (well not for this developer) amount of focus on animations which are pretty fluid and look really good. Minus the falling off stuff FMV the death animations are generally interesting even if you are probably frustrated from dieing on this puzzle for the 10th time. 
 
Another surprising thing for me was I found this game much more accessible then I remember it. I'd even go so far as to say they tried to make it more accessible then the lead Developers past game. The xbox 360 controller may have had a lot to do with it, but I found it to be mostly fluid in control and he generally does what I want I want him to. I found myself dieing far less then I remembered. 
 An animated gif would be much more brutal, but I think this will do.
 
Don't get me wrong, the game is still difficult (and wow- the ways that they animate killing this kid are often brutal) but with the controller at least it's much more doable then some may say. The ending in particular, though, is a real beast. 
  
The only downside for me was while there is the option to remap the controller- it doesn't work right. I will hit buttons randomly and sometimes they just remove them or sometimes do nothing at all. It makes no sense but just do what I did and get used to the default settings. They're not ideal, but it works and I got used to it. 
 
All in all, I felt Heart of Darkness surprisingly holds up after all these years and is way better then my younger self had me believe. Play it with a controller and I'd say you'll be fine. If you're playing it on Win 7 look out for that graphical glitch. 
 
So, that's all my thoughts on Heart of Darkness, the game not at all related to the book which Apocalypse Now was based on. 
 
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My Thoughts on "Dear Esther"

So, I just finished Dear Esther. It's not a game- at all- but as an experience it's quite interesting. I kind of see it akin to touring a museum or art house. It was fun and intriguing, and if we had Virtual Reality this would make a fascinating means of using that kind of technology (just my opinion). As a form of entertainment (that shouldn't be confused for a video game- which it isn't) it's quite compelling and I am glad I paid for it. 

The graphics are amazing (especially in the cave). I couldn't resist making a lot of screen shots to use as wallpaper for my desktop. It's really beautiful. The story is a tad artsy, which is fine, and I was enjoying its mystique until the end. I don't feel it expressed enough for me to make any conclusion as to what the game is attempting to say (if anything). I don't need to be spoon fed (I mean, damn, I am one of the few people in the world to enjoy The Fountain) but I found the end too confusing. 

It's cool that they leave things for interpretation, the intent clearly is for you to experience it multiple times to try and make sense of it (I get that), but I feel it left to much up to interpretation and so the ending left me feeling confused. From what I understand, which is unfortunately little, the intent is to prove they can invoke an emotion with no actual mechanics- or something. If the emotion they were going for was confusion, then I can say this was a success.  

 
Anyway, I recommend it if you don't mind experiencing artistic storytelling and don't mind that there is no game play- no challenge here (because this isn't a game)- and want to see some beautiful visuals accompanied by a haunting score and an intriguing story (with an ending, admittedly that is trying to hard to be symbolic and mysterious) I say check it out. If you're on the fence due to the price, definitely wait until its cheap, and if you want game play steer clear because it doesn't have that.
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Halloween 2011 Game: Undying

I had considered playing this again when it was discussed Vinny and Dave may actually play it on their random PC game thing they do. They haven't played it yet (being the month of All Hallows Eve, this is a shame) but they may.

Another lonely voyage into a grand adventure.

In the meantime I myself wanted to play it again as it's a horror game I love and I have always considered to be pretty terrifying.

Installation was no fuss, shouldn't be surprising as the computer I have was built not that long after this game was released. As you can imagine I can play it at Max settings. The only oddity is the in game configuration is kind of weird- it seems they wanted it to auto configure for the most part. If you want to make tweaks you need to use the console in the game or the .ini file in one of the games folders.

That being said, it is really easy to tweak the setting, as the game is actually pretty accepting of any resolution you put in even if in the game settings it doesn't show it there, odds are it will work. It also, unlike most older games, has no problem with dual monitor setups for those interested in knowing.

The first thing most people who haven't played this ask me is "Does it hold up even today? Is it still scary? What are the graphics like?"

Yes, the graphics are noticeably dated but they aren't that bad.

The graphics are ok, but a tad muddy in comparison to design of today. The most notable thing you will immediately notice, though, is the animations are really stiff. Be gentle in your judgement, my friends, as this game was built using I believe the first UT engine in early 2001. I do believe it is somewhat excusable as this game came out not long after the first

half life

and

unreal

, so obviously it will show it's age. It's actually amazing it accepts a lot of the modern day resolutions- a lot of people will like that, but as I said above, you may have to tweak it manually. There is a few patches (an official one and some unofficial ones) that you can use to make the graphics less muddy and I recommend using them. For the sake of purity (because I'm crazy like that) I am not using the unofficial patches at the moment. I may install one I found tomorrow, not sure yet.

Anyway, I decided to boot the game up and see what I have not played in a little over 5 years now. After the interesting opening cut scene (if you don't like them by the way the game forgives you and lets you skip them, but you really shouldn't if you never played this as the game is about story and atmosphere. You really shouldn't bother to play this if you don't like games with these intentions) I almost immediately remembered what was so horrifying about this game. Besides the daunting controls (as there is a fair amount you can eventually do, being able to dual wield weapons and magic) the atmosphere and especially sound design is still magnificent and horrifying. Even if the animations and graphics show their age, the game still has an amazing atmosphere and may help you not worry as much about the game being old.

I can't lie, sometimes this game is reminiscent of Disney Haunted mansion- but much more adult and spookier.

Thunder has a sufficient crack, the pistol has a satisfying bang, and the magic is sufficiently mystifying. There are also times when you will hear voices, and not know where they are from. Sometimes it's like you are hearing voices in your head (I think he is- I cant recall if that's is explained somewhere) that basically tell you when to use your scrye spell (not that directly though, of course). This spell basically lets you see what's really there. There some terrifying things to see underneath the surface. I use it a lot of the time as a light source as it gives you a glow that helps you see a little better in the dark, but when you

should

use it... you'll know.

I've only scratched the surface, as I only played for an hour today due to setup, but I wanted to share my journey experiencing this again. Is it still scary? Yes, I think it is. The graphics are dated, and there are some weird animations that date it quite a bit, but the sound design more then makes up for it and with the atmosphere continues to frighten me even to this day.

I may write more of these if time permits, and I get the itch to share anything else about it but so far it's just as good as I remember, even if a bit old now. It's worth checking out, even today in my opinion.

This lady is kinda weird. Something about her...
The voice says to... WHAT? OH MY GOD, LADY! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU!?!
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Pre Playing the game thoughts on Duke Nukem Forever

Firstly, don't blame gearbox for what this is, readers. Gearbox only polished it for release, they didn't develop it. I guess you can blame them for taking the reigns, but I don't really think that's something they should be punished for. I agree they should be lauded that they released it

Second I know Jeff and Ryan feel this need to be honest to the consumer- and I will always respect that, but the quick look and their play of it on the happy hour just show they have expectations that don't match the time line. It seems like they were expecting to much.

This game was in development so long 3 generations went by almost. There is no way this game could be good in the AAA sense. I expect this game to be bad. It cant be good- that would be crazy awesome if it was but I think that thought is impossible.

I don't want it because I expect it to be good, I want it because I expect it to be the ideas and iterations of every game in the past 15 years (which from what I keep reading and hearing, is what it is). I want it because its been in development so long it insane it exists as an actual physical thing and isn't just a myth. I want it because it represents where gaming has come from and how much culture changes in time.

There's so many reasons I want this game, and none have to do with the game being any good- because I know a game in development that long cant be good. Duke Nukem is a personification of a action hero that no longer exists.

I guess I could say I just want it for nostalgic sake, but it's not even that. I own, and have played, the original Duke games many times. I don't know, there's something fascinating about owning the game that should not exist.

Do I think I will enjoy the game? Well, I don't know. I still think Duke is funny, and the game play is old school in weird ways (like a jumble of ideas through different eras) from what I've seen, the graphic design betrays its age, the focus on women is much more prevalent it seems, and there's some other oddities to it.

I will reserve what I think of the game until after I play it, though. I'm getting in the mail today so I'll play it after I get off work and post those thoughts then. If you do get Duke Nukem Forever, and you expect it to be a good game in a traditional sense you're getting the wrong game.

I can't wait. I am honestly more intrigued by other things then the game play.

Just my opinion though. Hard to express what it is, but it's a game I feel I have to play- I'm obligated in some strange way.

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My Thoughts on Rift

 I decided to write a blog overviewing Rift. I just started playing a couple days ago, and have settled on a class I think I will enjoy (I tried cleric first, as I prefer to heal, but leveling on it was dull and I didn't like it at all- so I started a mage).
 
Anyway, this is not a review by any means, just my thoughts on the game.

Rift

 
We'll start at the beginning. Rift is a fantasy MMO boasting that "We're not in Azeroth anymore". While I quite enjoy the Wizard of Oz reference, most have taken this to be a gloves off throw down between World of Warcraft and Rift. WoW will probably win that fight, but I'll get to that.
 
 Use at your own risk. Systemrequirementslab is almost always wrong but can give you a general idea.
First thing you do before purchasing the game is see if your computer can handle it (if your like me and cant afford right now to upgrade to a current PC- if you have a beast machine you probably don't check). My computer is 7 years old now, was high end when I bought it, but quickly became not so much and is now probably more low end. While I can run things like Bioshock or Assassin's Creed fine, anything after said games generally requires I start lowering graphics settings. That being said, the requirements for the game on steam (and the often not to be believed systemrequirementslab.com) said I meet at least (if not a little above) the minimum requirements.
 
First thing you do, if you're like me, after downloading and installing the game (which didn't take long comparing to other recent releases such as DCUO, and current MMOs out there like WoW, the patch downloader for Rift is faster from what I've seen, which is great) you want to set your settings to your liking. It wanted me to use the low res textures (because my computer is old) I didn't believe the game though and fiddled with it for about an hour until I found it was right and have since settled on the lowest settings for my best performance.  
 This is just the options, cut down for size.

 
Anyway, character creation is ok, but not great. Yes, you have some facial customization, a height slider, color, and make up changes- as well as a few facial tattoos to choose from for your character. What strikes me as interesting, though, was- while it's better than WoW (which had basically no customization) it's not really better than some other MMOs (like EQ2 for example, or SWG). When you consider the best customization being still CoX, and SWG being below that and then EQ2- this being below that still says something. Yes, you can make your character look kind of unique, but it's still very limited. That being said, it's not terrible customization and if you spend enough time fiddling with the sliders you will probably be fairly happy with your character.
 
 Look Familiar?
You will immediately find, when playing, that the quest system is fairly monotonous on it's own. There's really not much difference between it and EQ (some would say WoW, but WOW just reiterated on EQ so I'll stick with that. Others would say Ultima, I know, but I don't count that one as while there is some similarities EQ is more prevalent). You get a quest, you go find the creatures to kill or things to collect, rinse and repeat. For about 8 levels you'll be wondering if maybe this isn't so great and maybe you should just give up again and cave in to playing WoW again, but then you encounter your first rift (it will be around level 8 or 9, guarantee it).
 
Now Rifts are really just a story integrated way of giving players a Player Quest (a quest for all players in the Area to partake in). I think they're much better handled than Warhammer (if you're curious to know), but they are still just PQs. When you are in the area of one you get a large "Join Public Group" button that groups you with everyone in the area instantly- basically rallying everyone to the PQ (if you are doing the same quest as someone near you, you can also target them and click the "join public group" button over their picture). The cool thing about them is they can appear at any time, almost anywhere (they do have specific spawn points but there's a ton of points and it's random where and when they spawn), and sometimes even send another event out called "Invaders" (which is basically an attacking force sent from the Rift to attack a settlement or City consisting of 1 Leader and 2 or more companions depending on the amount
 Bare in mind my computer sucks; this is at lowest settings.
of players in the area). Minor Rifts can generally be soloed, and the system will up the difficulty if more players are around.  Major Rifts require a group to take down, are often epic, and if you do them fast enough generally culminate in a nice boss battle.
 
The nice thing about Rifts is the game makes them important to take out and rewards you well for doing so. I'm only level 20, but having done Rifts as well as Invasions (which I'll cover in a minute) has netted me enough to earn one epic piece of loot so far- in 25 hours of play (on the specific character I refer too; i stopped playing at lvl 20 on my first character and have about 45 hours in game total). If you don't take out a rift it sends invaders to take out a settlement or city which means you will have a problem when trying to get quests. This makes it necessary to defend the Ward Stones. If you don't you can't quest without getting killed in a normally safe area within a city or a settlement.
 
 During an invasion forces will attack the cities constantly until you succeed.
Another really neat thing they do are Invasions. Basically, a plane will randomly decide to attack the zone and the Zone's Leader will call out for everyone to attack. This gives a zone wide PQ to meet certain requirements. If you do this in time, you will spawn the Invasion Leader which is basically a huge World Raid Boss. These fights are epic and a lot of fun to do. There is very little in the way of failing to fight off an invasion, really all that happens if you fail is you don't get a reward for completing the World Event. Same as a singular Rift, you can ignore these Invasions, but it's even more important you take care of invasions- as, if you don't, all the settlements and cities will be over run and you will not be able to quest until the invasion is beaten back. I have never found the Invasions or Rifts to not be fun to do, though, so really the only times I haven't done them is when I'm in the middle of a quest and no where near the Rift or Groups taking on the Invasion.

This is where I'll talk about graphics. Graphics are not a big deal to me, and really you only need to know this if you have a low end
 My Cleric, Carver, is really boring to play.
PC (as a lot that play WoW do, as one big reason so many play wow is just about any computer can run it). Rift will lose ultimately to WoW because it does not cater so well to low end computers. While I can run the game fine at lowest settings, the game begins to chug badly when an invasion starts. Just the act of the invasion being around makes my frame rate drop, and being in a battle of epic proportions that often come from the invasions slows the game to a crawl. I generally just spam my fireball spell until it ends as I'm pretty useless other than that. Now I know my computer is old, and I know that makes me less likely to matter, but just the fact that I can run WoW on high settings fine but chug on low settings on this leads me to believe this game could never win in a fight against wow. A large portion of WoW players don't have computers that much better than mine so my speculation is most wouldn't switch to a game their computer can barely handle during it's most fun event.

I already know I need to upgrade, give me money and I most certainly will (haha). Until I can afford to build my new computer, though, I will personally deal with the chugging. The game is still fun for me. My only point, really, is this does not seem to be a WoW Killer for this reason (there are others but this is one that stands out for me).
 
 This is the soul tree for my mage. I currently only have 1 role but you can buy others.
The class system is interesting, but not ultimately new. Some will be interested in the amount of what the game calls souls (which are basically just specializations) as they have things like Bard or Justicar- but may be disappointed in some of the skills (at least as little as I have seen).
 
Druid, for instance, is tied into the Cleric Class. It's less of the wizard/shape shifting class in WoW, and more of a melee DPS/spells/heals/fairy pet class. I found that a bit disappointing- as I really enjoyed the way it played in WoW- but Trion decided to take a different approach and in that I can't really fault them, but it's just something to know.
 
Anyway, each class (Mage, Cleric, Warrior, and Rogue) has 8 souls (and I hear 1 pvp soul although I don't know anything about that- sorry I don't PvP much). You start with 3 that you get from quests when you begin, and can earn the other 5 at level 13 doing quests to obtain them (which is extremely easy to do). You can buy 3 additional roles (alternate class specializations that you can switch to at any time out of combat- similar to WoW's secondary role you can choose to buy) totaling 4 specializations you can have when you can afford to unlock all the roles. You can also respecialize anytime from a trainer for a (what I can tell anyway) decent fee so if you don't like your setup you can always change it and getting other souls if you don't like your soul is also no big deal (as said earlier it's easy to get these, I just got  all 5 on my mage in about 30 minutes at lvl 21).
The Next Big Thing? It's ok, but I don't know about WoW killer.


All in all, the game at it's core is not much different than it's predecessors. It's a lot of fun when Rifts (and especially invasions) come into play, but other than that it doesn't do much to innovate on MMOs as a whole. It is a really good start, as the developers are quick to patch up any issues, but if your looking for something different than what the Normal MMO has to offer you won't necessarily be impressed.
 
Hope you enjoyed my thoughts; Please feel free to share what you think of the game and/or to critique my grammar if that's your thing. 
Telara ain't bad, but it's nothing new either.
18 Comments

Stargate worlds website officially closed

 



 As of now (I think it may have happened last night or yesterday) the Stargate Worlds website is officially down- even the forums. If you went there all you'd get is this:
 

 Jan 17, 2011
As we indicated in our previous announcement, as of January 16, 2011, we are unfortunately no longer able to sell or operate Stargate Resistance. We are actively evaluating options for Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, Inc. and its products, and will update you as soon as additional information is available. Thank you for your continued support.


 I only post this because I am sad. I put a lot of my own free time in to help these developers around 2008-2009. I had hoped this would be a great game to compensate for the end of a great show. Sadly, money troubles got in the way and they went into receivership in Mar of 2010. 

Even SGR (Stargate Resistance; which I didn't get into and didn't seem all that great to me personally) is officially down for what may be for good as well.  
 They were off to a good start with great concepts and Ideas.


I will, however, be forever grateful they allowed me to help in the way they did- I have never seen that from a developer for a fan before. While they were unconventional and in some ways doing things wrong (sorry to say) I will forever remember the good times. 
 
It is only a shame I didn't know the forums would be taken down when it was or I could have said my goodbyes to what little was left of the community before it shut down. It was a great community and we shared a lot of laughs, we also argued over the finer points of certain things and some people were harsh in how they shared their views. All-in-all, though, we had one thing in common; we wanted SGW to be great.
 
It may still come back someday, but I guarantee even if with CME it wont be in that form (if) at all. It could still be a great game, if funded and developed properly, and I will continue to wait for that Stargate MMO that comes out- assuming it's not cursed to always get canceled developments.
 
 Into the vast unknown we tread.

  I don't know if anyone that peruses Giantbomb participated or had any interest in SGW, but feel free to share your thoughts on it as well.
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