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Look Ma, no hams!

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Fifteen minutes of GAME: September

Welcome to the latest instalment of this series, where I play games from my backlog for fifteen minutes to decide if they're worth playing for longer.

Mayhem Intergalactic

Mayhem Intergalactic is a turn-based space-themed 'strategy' game from 2007. I tend to ignore Steam reviews but this one had a 'mixed' rating and only 14 reviews at all, which suggested it wasn't going to be a classic. I was doubly surprised, then, to find myself enjoying it. The game is very simple, with no diplomacy, ship design, construction options, tactical view, fog of war, research… you have one upgrade that increases production, which you can use repeatedly every turn or so instead of building ships, and that's all. The rest is equally simple - you have planets, they make ships, you order ships to other planets; when two players' ships meet, the bigger group wins. I finished a game on default settings in under fifteen minutes, but I wasn't giving it full attention and was learning the ropes, and also discovered at the end that the AI was set to easiest and I literally couldn't have lost. There's a variety of pre-designed maps and random layouts, and a bunch of settings to affect game speed/fairness/difficulty, none of which I touched. It also has multiplayer, but it would probably be impossible to find other players at this point even if I wanted to.

Do I want to continue? Despite all the positivity, no. Depth and complexity isn't a necessity in all games, but I already have plenty of simple time-killing games. I could be wrong - there might be a complex game hidden underneath the purposely stupid AI and default settings - but I can't see myself sticking with it for long.

Vektor Wars

Vektor Wars (not yet on the wiki) is a 2015 indie retro FPS, which are a-dime-a-dozen these days; the only reason I bought this one was because I'd enjoyed the developer's last game, and fifteen minutes of play later I wasn't regretting that purchase. The game has several modes; I only tried 'Story' which, after a few screens of flavorsome but irrelevant exposition, put me in a neon-green city facing off against several waves of enemies. The game was simultaneously simple and confusing. The goal was obvious - shoot the things that are shooting you - but I was left to discover the game mechanics by myself, figuring out sprinting, the unusual ammo/reload system, pickups, the minimap… at one point I fell into water and thought I'd broken the game, with the nearest ladder some distance away and out of sight. The main draw of the game after the gameplay is probably its visual style, and it does look nice, but at times I felt either overwhelmed with visual noise or simply confused at what was going on. On the other hand the enemies themselves are very unique and easy to distinguish, which prevented the game from seeming actually unfair.

Do I want to continue? Yes. It's faster-paced than I'd like, but at least next time I won't have to relearn all the basics. It might be too much to finish, though.

Escape Machines

Escape Machines (not yet on the wiki) is an isometric game, looking somewhat similar to Zombie Shooter with more upgrade options. It's also unfinished, and in the midst of an engine upgrade, so it's probably not the best time to evaluate it. Moving on…

Crash Drive 2

Crash Drive 2 (not yet on the wiki, and no relation to Crash Time 2) is a casual competitive driving game. It's multiplayer-only, which explains why I got a free copy. In fact, it's online-multiplayer-only, and the nearest server is about 10,000 km away. It's also ported from a mobile game - but unlike the multiplayer factors, it's actually a very good port, and apparently it includes cross-platform play. So what about the gameplay? You pick a vehicle, which upgrades itself (drive fast to level up top speed, that kind of thing), and compete in various game modes in themed arenas, messing around doing whatever you want between events. The driving is delightfully casual, and the visual style is just on the right side of cartoony. There were plenty of people online when I played, which is a nice sign, but I eventually stopped and tried to force it into the 'offline' singleplayer mode. There are supposed to be AI opponents so the game isn't unplayable, but I couldn't get them to appear. I don't care for enforced multiplayer so this - and the fact you can't just choose the singleplayer mode, it only happens when it can't connect - is kind of a problem.

Do I want to continue? Maybe one day, which if I'm honest means 'no'.

Ford Racing 3

Ford Racing 3 is a fairly generic racing game from 2007. In terms of realism, this looked more my style - I even hooked up a racing wheel before getting started. Opening the game, I wasn't immediately impressed - think NFS: High Stakes without cops (except that came out in 1999). Trying a quick race, the graphics were appalling and there were no in-game settings to fix it. I paused the timer and went hunting in install files, finding the manual mentioned a config program should have run first (Steam gets the blame for that mistake). Five minutes later, back in game, I switched back to keyboard control rather than waste time properly adjusting the steering wheel, and promptly won my next race without letting go of the accelerator. The game has no damage model, the courses slide you frictionlessly away from most obstacles to prevent crashing, there are no realism settings, the AI aren't very interesting, there's no cockpit view, and it doesn't properly support widescreen resolutions. But it's not 100% terrible - the graphics are tolerable, there's a wide variety of tracks and event types, and despite all being Fords there's a decent selection of different car types, including some 'vintage' models that were unfortunately locked from selection. And the menu design feels old-fashioned in a pleasantly nostalgic way.

Do I want to continue? No. I might complete this to get details for the wiki page, and be mildly entertained in the process, but otherwise I'm uninterested. Since writing this, I went back and finished Ford Racing 3, finding it a great way to pass the time while catching up on podcasts. The game did get hard enough to need the brake, and AI got faster rather than smarter. Still - I was wrong.

Trainz Trouble

Trainz Trouble is a casual puzzle game about setting junctions and other pieces to get trains to their destination. Remember how I mentioned Crash Drive 2 was a good mobile port? There's not even a shred of effort here; the game even talks about tapping and shows an extended finger to demonstrate how. It also has irritating music with only an on/off volume control (because why would a mobile game need more?), let alone separate sound/music sliders, which got me annoyed before I'd even started playing. It has a shop button; this was disabled whenever I saw it, but its mere presence was concerning. Finally, at one point it stopped registering clicks, and I had to restart the game. The actual puzzles were easy, but that was to be expected at the start; they were grouped into four country-themed areas (US, UK, Australia, Germany) but rather than jump in the deep end I only tried the US ones, which mostly had a 'wild west' theme. Even if the puzzles had been more challenging I don't think I'd feel rewarded for solving them, and I didn't like the time-based factor; you can speed/slow time a little, but the game makes it hard to just pause the game and think ahead. And I remained continually annoyed at the game's assumption I was using a finger on a touchscreen.

Do I want to continue? No. Or rather, I do want to, because games like this are designed to be more-ish, but if I stop now I avoid wasting time on an annoying game while pretending I'm having fun.


Watch_Dogs is a game you might actually have heard of before. I was generous and didn't start the timer until I was done with Uplay (which has become a lot more complex since I last encountered it). Still, the first fifteen minutes only involved a tiny amount of gameplay, and almost all of that involved moving from one piece of cover to the next. I remember there being 'controversy' about a graphics downgrade, but even on low it looked fantastic. Admittedly, I didn't even get outside, so perhaps my opinion on that will change. The story wasn't immediately enticing, but 'revenge' isn't the worst concept to start with, and the few hacking mechanics I experienced were fun. It was also an interesting change to play an open-world game set in a real place, though I've never been near Chicago so there's no real impact.

Do I want to continue? Yes… and I did. So keep reading!

Normally I don't go right back and play more of the games I've written about in this series, but here I made an exception. I continued to play far enough to get outside, with the idea I'd experiment with higher graphical settings once I got there. That was a foolish hope - not only was it much more obvious what 'low' settings meant (think GTA 3 with better textures), the framerate was already eye-wateringly bad. Silver linings - I saw the 'blackout' event before I got there, and that and everything else inside still looked impressive.

So, do I want to continue? Not until I get a new computer - but with an eight-year-old Core 2 Duo inside it, that's hardly surprising.

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