Posts Tagged ‘2008’

Game 36: Drop7

Posted: March 7, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 883/1001 according to the list

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: PC/iPhone
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Area/Code

Sometimes all you need is a decent puzzle game. Today’s blog post, Drop7, is our first puzzle game in a while. It also helps that since Final Fantasy VIII took us an age that we could spend an afternoon on this to try to make up some of the time lost.

For the sake of ease we have delved into Drop7’s original internet incarnation Chain Factor which by all accounts (of what we read both in print and online) is the same game. This is available for free here and we would love your opinions on this game as well.

Our Thoughts

Here’s a nice, short game to discuss. We really did need a game that could be covered in as short a time as possible to make up for the time taken for this blog’s previous offering. And this was a good one we came across as I was researching some games to discuss. Found it online, clicked it and I very much enjoyed it from the start. It’s a game I remember from university… a real little time eater this one. I hadn’t heard of it before, but seemed to get it quite easily. The coveted goal of all simple online puzzles really. The combination of a premise anyone can understand that is also addictive in nature. (And get better than his partner at within a few minutes) (Makes sense that I excel better at games involving quick decisions whilst you flourish with those of a more cerebral nature)

What makes this game all the more extraordinary is that it was really made as a marketing ploy for the American procedural drama Numb3rs. Basically, doing well at this game was one of the ways of moving a metaplot along that preceded the release of the series, one that involved public billboards, secret websites and more of such things for those people who got more involved with that side of things. Dropping numbers was just as useful. Nice to think that my taking time out of my degree helped the advancement of the metaplot of a TV show that I had never heard of. I’m sure you must’ve felt so proud. Not even out of university and already a slave to media.

Now, for the game itself, it’s worth mentioning that this was released as ‘Drop7‘ for the iPhone, and that’s the title it is listed as in the book. As we don’t have an iPhone to play it on, and the book includes the original, we’ve played the online version at http://chainfactor.com/ instead. In gameplay, they’re very similar, the main differences are in look and in a game mode or two that were slightly modified. The gameplay stays the same. I guess that the only way that the games would possibly differ is the implementation of the iPhone’s touch screen.  This would make the game somewhat feel more intuitive since you are able to have a greater degree of control over which column… but then there is the constant threat of a finger slip leading to a game over. Which means it basically ends up working similar to the mouse controls of the Flash version. Also, I think that the graphics also remain on a similar enough levels between the two ports. Yeah, they seem to be.

Now, the game itself. It’s quite simple: You get these numbers on discs and drop them in columns.  The numbered discs disappear when they’re in a horizontal or vertical group of their number’s length – so a ‘3’ disc disappears if there are three discs horizontally or vertically, with gaps next to them. There are grey discs, that need to be cleared in two goes by having a block disappear next to them, that become numbered discs afterwards. You can, in some game modes, enable further powers, but that’s it. The challenge is to combine them for as many points as possible without having the blocks in a column reach the top, not helped by the row of blocks being shoved in at the upper side before. One thing that is very important about this game is that you get just as far through sheer strategy as you can through dumb luck. There is something rather satisfying about watching the blocks fall and explode in the midst of a chain reaction. Something that lies at the heart of every good puzzle game is it’s ability to let you sit back and revel in your triumphs. Yes, we know how stupid but it’s a fundamental truth about the life of a gamer. How else would you explain the popularity of Minecraft? Not a game we’ve gotten into.

And that’s one thing the game does. It’s addictive and makes time pass faster than you think. What more could you want there? How about for every chain reaction it sent me an Amazon gift card? I do long for a Playstation 3. Patience, love, patience…

Final Thoughts

Who says that you need a budget of millions and a staff of hundreds to turn out a work of addictive genius. We will be covering other games which, like both this and Audiosurf, were produced far more frugally. Proof, if it were needed, that a simple well executed idea can outshine a glossy convoluted mess.

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Game 20: Mario Kart Wii

Posted: January 18, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 818/1001 according to the list


Genre: Racing
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Earlier we kinda made a pledge that if there was a series then we would cover them from the first game on the 1001 list… we may not have mentioned it on here but such a promise was made to ourselves. Such ideals really do get thrown out of the window when you have relatives over who are itching to play titles from your gaming collection. Not that I’m complaining, I really do love this game.

The Mario Kart franchise started life back in 1992 when released on the SNES (yes we will be covering it) and has since become one of the most successful series of racing games ever released. This current incarnation sees it move onto the Wii and as such embrace the Wii motion technology. Every addition of the game was packed with a Wii Wheel which meant you could control how your car steered by turning the wheel itself (next thing will be the Wii Motion Accelerator pedals…maybe). If  this wasn’t for you then there was always the option of using an old Gamecube remote or the Wii Remote in conjunction with the nunchuck controller.

Our Playthrough

This has become known as one of the essential multiplayer games. In this vein we played this game with Jeroen’s brother as well as over the internet with our friend Mike. I would say that we’ll try out every character… but when you get settled into a racer you love it’s very hard to shift (hooray for King Boo!)

Our Thoughts

Wow, how much racing has changed; I remember playing Mario Kart on the SNES, looked worse and was quite a bit simpler. My first attempt at a racing game was an arcade version of Sega Rally Championship. Will we be covering that? Yes, game 299. Fantastic, this time it won’t take my mum’s 50ps! Awwww… that can’t have been pleasant for her.

She always preferred the Point Blank machine. I am not surprised somehow (excuse me, I need to move out of the way before physical violence is enacted) Haha, just throw another bloody blue shell at me if you want to see true violence being enacted on your person. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I am going to beat you which happens on special occasions. True, but it’s not entirely unheard of either. Yea, then again I have had probably 100 times more hours spent on it compared with you, no exaggeration. It made me miss the fun times I had with the housemates.

That makes any win worth celebrating, apart from when it’s been at the hands of the really strange AI which is really the only downside of this game. It’s been complained about by everyone who has played it that the AI in the game doesn’t act consistently and sometimes ‘cheats’. Like how suddenly in a space of 4 seconds you get red-shelled, inked, blue-shelled and then struck by lightning.

It can get rather overwhelming, and seems to be a lot of ‘all or nothing’. You can go a race without seeing anything, or have a race where you’re beaten on left, right and centre. It’s worse when suddenly your blue-shelled at the finish line… and yet when you are sitting in 3rd place for the entire last lap all you get is bananas. To be fair, part of that is based on the items you get (with default settings) being based on your position in the race. It’s worth wondering whether that applies to AI players, though.

The slight unevenness can make you feel like you are playing against human opponents even in single player mode. It certainly does, and it becomes quite a tough game, unexpectedly so at times. The difficulty curve almost becomes a vertical line when you get to certain courses (Rainbow Road being an obvious ones and the revival of Ghost Valley 2 from the SNES version).

Why don’t they ever fall off the course? I think it’s because the world is against you personally.

The SNES tracks (and it’s worth noting half the courses are remakes from earlier games) are relatively hard anything, due to their harsh turns and small layouts that are quite a change from the faster tracks with gentler curves new to the game or from other games. The oil slicks on Mario Circuit 3 are a real bitch. Absolutely, and a number of 180 degree turns that they are always in. Those are usually supplemented by Boost Pads where you can do jumps of off to get an extra speed boost. Yes, making the turns harder but allowing you to maintain speed as long as you don’t run into anything, very true.

Needless to say though, this is one fantastic racing game. Absolutely, and one of the more interesting things that set this game apart are the controls (that is to say, the Wii Wheel). I love using the Wii Wheel for this, somehow it feels like a more relaxing method to play a game… yet it’s more difficult. It probably gives the least feedback of how you’re steering, with the control stick normally providing this; you don’t know how far you’re actually turning, and are likely to overcompensate or steer too little and so are more likely to drive into a Chain Chomp. It’s especially lethal in stages like the aforementioned Rainbow Road. Still, it’s an interesting addition to a good racing game series and worth playing as its latest instalment.

The motion control aspect really does make it deserve a place on the list, as will the 3d aspect of the upcoming Mario Kart 3DS. I cannot wait for that handheld to arrive!

Final Thoughts

A very playable racing game, from a series that started off nice and got better. It’s fun and looks good. The controls are getting, better, with the Wii Wheel being a great addition. While the game can be frustrating, the AI makes the game as tough at times as playing with people sitting next to you… even though the taunting possible when playing with real people is far more worth it.

Game 17: Audiosurf

Posted: January 9, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 810/1001 according to the list


Genre: Puzzle/Music
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Dylan Fitterer
Publisher: Steam (online), Ascaron (hard-copy)

Many games have been released that have tried to capitalise on visualisations of music. We will be covering a bunch of these later on but Audiosurf already does something that they can not; create a puzzle that is truly customisable based on the song that you put in. With this comes a large online community of leader boards where almost all songs are somehow covered.

Even though I have written this introduction without yet having fully played the 5 hours it is already obvious that this is a must-have game for any musical fanatic.

Our Playthrough

We went through my iTunes folders and tried a wide variety of music using all the characters available. Music that we covered included the likes of ABBA, Sleigh Bells, Lady Gaga, Utada Hikaru, VV Brown, Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire.

Our Thoughts

I believe that we have finally found a game which accurately simulates the feeling of driving when on an acid trip while the strangest music plays (ha ha I have odd music tastes).

It is quite possibly the best visualization of music you can have. I agree wholeheartedly. As mentioned before we are still to cover games such as Frequency and Amplitude but this will surely blow them out of the water in every conceivable way as it allows the use of ANY piece of music. Of course you need to have an mp3 or one of several other audio formats, to be fair. Yes that was a bit of a disservice to the game. Many audio files (such as iTunes’ favourite) are also compatible. Yeah

So in other words, have music, select it in the game, and get going. But there is a lot more to it. The visuals are astonishing for an independent game. It looks good; strange, but good. It’s, as said, psychedelic, and with the shifting colours, turns and blocks sliding past while shapes turn in the background, it’s interesting and colourful experience although while it looks odd, it’s not distracting from the actual gameplay.

Agreed. The gameplay is helped by the number of different cars you can play around with; each with their own powers. Yeah and when you get beyond the psychedelic track, the actual gameplay is worthy of any other puzzle game: You go forward following the beat of the music and have to collect blocks that are placed based on the music. If you line up at least three, you get points and they disappear. Collect too many and you crash and need to wait to re-spawn and depending on your character you can then shuffle these around, push blocks out of your way and even launch your car over them.

You could also spend the entire track sitting in the hard shoulder whilst watching the dazzling racetrack… if you really wanted to. But what’d be the fun in that? Get someone else to play while you look at the marvels something I enjoyed doing whilst we experimented with various genres.

If you want a really fast game that’s challenging I would recommend either ‘Rachel’ by Sleigh Bells or ‘evolution’ by Ayumi Hamasaki. (Trust him, he’d know) but it makes you want to try out other songs as well, just to see what they look like. It’s amazing what slower songs can look like on there too.  ‘Devil’s Spoke’ by Laura Marling was surprisingly complex.

Another nice feature is the leaderboards. Rather than playing on your own, your point total gets compared to other people who played the same song and you can see who did best on it. By developing a nice little online competitive community they have been able to really extend the game’s longevity. Aside from the obvious trying out of new music after it plops onto the doormat.

Making this a game not just worth trying, but keeping up with for some time, whenever you want to combine colourful graphics, good music and a nice puzzle to make it more worthwhile.

Final Thoughts

This may be too early to call it (seeing that we are only 17 games in) but with the exception of the games with the little plastic instruments (I am eagerly anticipating a DJ Hero set at some point in the future) I can not think of a music game that will come close to beating this one.