Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Despair in Life and Death: Wither

What's this? More GameBoy graphics on the almighty PC? Surely a modern PC can handle better graphics than the 1989 portable gaming brick, right? Well, yes, they can, but this is a design choice called style. I guess.

Wither is a free RPG Maker game by Rastek. It's a short adventure game where your only goal is to collect 12 flowers to place on your recently-deceased brother's gravestone. There's no combat or any other tricky nonsense, you just explore the small town, talk to people, find clues, and collect flowers. The game design is intelligent, with sufficient clues to guide you through without obvious solutions, but the story (or premise, perhaps the better term) is the real hook as you try to figure out what happened and what's going on.

This one is open to interpretation, meaning that a lot of its meaning comes from your own thoughts and reactions. These kinds of games have a tendency to come off as pretentious, but I don't get that vibe from Wither: it's a solid game with enough cranial stimulation to make it worth recommending. (It takes about 30 minutes to play.) My own analysis comes after the jump.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Great Games You Never Played: Killing Floor

"Fine, obscure gems." Part of a periodical series: Great Games You Never Played.

On the surface, Tripwire Interactive's Killing Floor is a lot like Valve's Left 4 Dead series: multi-player first-person shooter survival co-op with zombies. Except that Killing Floor is actually much deeper than L4D, requiring more tact, strategy, skill, teamwork, and experience to succeed. Killing Floor boasts more enemy types that all function differently, a greater quantity and variety of weapons to use, and a class system that has players performing different roles in the group. To top it all off, Killing Floor has superior "in your face" gunplay that simply proves more cathartic than what you can find in any other co-op zombie-killing game.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Smashing Good Time: Super Smash Land

In an ever-popular avenue of indie games development wherein people "demake" classic games for older consoles, Dan Fornace has given us Super Smash Land, a free "GameBoy rendition" of the Super Smash Bros. franchise. Everything about it screams nostalgia, harkening back to the good old days of the early 90s portable gaming scene and the usual fun of smashing classic Nintendo characters to bits. Super Smash Land is definitely worth some of your time; it's impressive and fun, but I do have some minor nitpickings to lay against it. Video footage and my full run-down after the jump.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another Computer Bites the Dust

A little more than a week after my laptop fried itself and became completely useless, I dug out my old desktop computer that I had custom assembled back in 2004/2005. I dusted everything off and it booted up just fine, except that the CPU seemed bogged down with a bunch of software and processes that I don't remember putting on there. Since I hadn't reinstalled the OS in all the time I'd had that computer, I thought maybe it was time for a fresh start---reformat the drive and start new.

Well I couldn't find my Windows XP (Home Edition) disc, so I borrowed one from my brother and proceeded to reinstall the OS like usual. Formatted the hard-drive for a clean installation, thereby wiping out the old installation and all of the cluttered file systems on the drive; installation went fine. And then when it prompted me for my license key, I entered the key from the sticker on my case and it told me it was not valid. Reinstallation of Windows XP came to a crashing halt.

So now I'm left with two completely useless, inert computers. The hardware on the laptop is fried and the software on the desktop refuses to cooperate. I'm not even sure what the problem is with the desktop, since I'm using a valid key and using the same disc version as my OS. I may have to resign myself to calling Microsoft tech support in the morning, but until then I'm left with nothing to do but cry myself to sleep, if my brain doesn't have an aneurysm before then.

I mean, why wouldn't it verify that I have a valid key BEFORE reformatting the drive? At least that way I could've determined that I had a problem and still had a functional PC. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Video Games in TV: Full House

I don't have very much to say about this one. In this season 8, episode 9 of Full House, Michelle plays a fictional Super Nintendo game, "Montezano's Quest," which she says is a "very complicated game that takes timing, skill, and plenty of brain power." So when she naturally fails (and the sophisticated voice-over system declares "YOU HAVE FAILED! AH HA HA!"), she turns to uncle Jesse for help, and pretty soon all of the adults are engrossed in the video game. We never see the game in action and only hear obscure things about the gameplay (intergalactic wombats, power biscuits, hyper punches, trolls, and enchanted kayaks). The whole affair ends with Michelle forcefully ripping the cartridge out of the console, instead of just pressing the "eject" button like any sensible person who takes care of their electronics.

So what kind of video game could Montezano's Quest be? Is it the hokey sequel to Montezuma's Revenge? What other whacky things are we missing out on that we never see or hear about in the episode?

Interestingly enough, the ninth episode of the eighth season of The Cosby Show also featured a subplot with children playing a video game that the adults eventually become obsessed with. Although the Cosby Show's version isn't nearly as fun or developed as Full House's. Coincidence?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Up is Down: Do You Invert the Mouse's Y-Axis?

In the last couple of weeks, I've seen a few posts in forums for specific games with people outraged over there being no option to invert the mouse's vertical axis. In most cases, they say that it's the most logical way to control with the mouse. Which boggled my mind, because even though I invert the y-axis with joysticks, it's never even occurred to me to invert the vertical axis on a mouse.

I grew up playing flight sims (X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, which I used a joystick for) where "up is down" is the natural, logical way to control your craft. Even with first-person games, when I'm playing on a controller, I perceive the joystick as my character's head; pulling back on the stick translates to looking up with my character's eyes. With third-person games I invert the camera controls by default, because I envision an actual camera that I'm physically moving around to set up a frame.

But with a mouse, I've never inverted the vertical axis. It seems only natural that up would be up with a mouse. Unlike joysticks, the mouse moves on a flat plane; it doesn't move in a three-dimensional space. On the desktop screen, if you want to move your mouse cursor up, you move the mouse forward, and so if you want to aim the barrel of your gun up, you move the mouse forward. That's just the way I've always done it. 

Can anyone actually justify why you would invert the vertical axis on the mouse, especially in a first-person game?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Spelunking for Treasure and Damsels

Spelunky, a free indie game by Derek Yu, may be the most addicting game I've played in a long while. A 2D platformer/roguelike, your goal is to make it to the bottom of each level, collecting as much treasure as you can and rescuing damsels along the way, all while avoiding traps and enemies. The levels are randomly generated to be unique every time, which is essential because the game's challenging difficulty means that you will die. A lot. And that's what makes it so damn fun. Throw in some interesting items and a monetary system, and you've got a game that keeps bringing you back for "just one more try."

For the more detailed description, continue reading the full article.