Monday, 31 December 2007

top ten indie games of 2007

Yeah, yeah, Portal's great and all, but for a bunch of awards for games you might not have heard of, because they don't have massive budgets and million-dollar ad campaigns, visit GameTunnel for the end-of-year indie awards.

a game I'd never heard of

Braindead 13, apparently of the Dragon's Lair genre of interactive cartoons where you die every three seconds.

Just videos of someone playing it, not a link to the game. Unfortuantely it's a bit hard to hear the voices clearly.

... you mean we won? is that supposed to happen?

After one player spent a few nights playing the game solitaire (and having astaroth repeatedly destroy the world) and reading up on strategy, we tackled the game again, this time both knowing HOW to win and having a couple of fake player-characters who we used to farm items. More players does mean more monsters, but carefully choosing party skills to maximise getting all the cool loot early in the game meant that we could generally handle the monsters. This time, we won without too much trouble, and it took less than three hours.

I feel like we cheated, somehow. Other player says, "It's not cheating to go straight to where the items that make you win the game are and get the items that make you win the game, that's more appropriately called 'playing'."

Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at

Sunday, 30 December 2007


There are the beginnings of quiet sulking that I have already invested more time in playing my new Zelda than in messing with Odin Sphere.

Dear reader, please recall that I actually *own* a DS. I chose it for myself. I have multiple games. I am quite fond of the thing. Among its many merits, it is well designed for a busy computer user, who may be waiting through a long boring upload or compile or server-is-down or any number of other things that leave me bored for very short periods of time. The DS is easy to pick up and play a little and then close if I suddenly need to do something else.

I do not own a PS2. There is one in the house, but it's not mine. Using it requires leaving my stuff and going and setting myself up somewhere else, where I can do nothing but play the PS2. It may require plugging and unplugging things, depending on who's been fooling around with the house equipment. And, of course, everyone can watch me play. It is not as conducive to spur-of-the-moment gaming desire.

Both these devices will quickly leave me with sore hands. One just feels a little more welcoming in the process.

... There are times when I'd *like* to be able to beam the DS image onto the TV for everyone to watch, of course...

Maybe I just have too short an attention span?

Saturday, 29 December 2007

ia! ia!

so, tonight we pulled out the shiny new Arkham Horror boardgame for the first time and tried to give it a go.

First, don't do this if you don't have at least four hours to kill. It's not like any of us were going anywhere, but I wasn't expecting a game to run as long as it did... I don't even KNOW how long we were playing, except that by the end of it I walked away from the table to get some food and some aspirin (headache) and refused to come back.

The game is MASSIVELY complicated. There are fifty zillion different pieces, some of which are completely unnecessary, all of which make it take ages just to set the game up. If you've never played a hardcore boardgame you seriously have no concept of how many pieces we're talking. This isn't Monopoly. I think there are over twenty different types of card deck to draw from, and hundreds of different tokens and doodads... The rules are tangled up enough that we were constantly discovering new things we were supposed to have done in the past and having to carefully walk through what order events occur in, over and over again. And most importantly, we had no idea how to actually win the game. That is, we had some vague concept of a few victory conditions but didn't have any idea how to achieve them. We spent HOURS at this game heading for our inexorable demise and made absolutely no progress towards winning. We were doing something that seemed reasonable, but actually wasn't.

Dying horribly until we all learned the strategies for success would be reasonable if the game didn't take so long. Also, the magic system doesn't really work for me... I would have been happier with more items that would definitely work but only work once, so that there would have been reasonable strategy in "Use it or save it?" instead of needing a degree in statistics:

If I roll 2d6 and at least one of them is 5 or 6 then I will be able to roll 5d6 and if at least two of them are 5 or 6 then I will survive. If I roll 2d6 and neither of them is 5 or 6 then I will have to roll 3d6 and if at least two of them are 5 or 6 then I will survive. What are my chances of surviving? I'm sure SOMEONE reading this journal can do that in their head easily. I look at it and just say "I'm doomed, aren't I?" Which, while it may be right, doesn't help when trying to weigh up multiple options and all of them equate in my mind to "... this is never going to work."

Anyway, now that we've read reviews and have some idea of what a successful strategy is, we'll try it again and maybe it will work better.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

follow the brightly painted signs!

New christmas present - Legend of Zelda - The Phantom Hourglass

Haven't played much yet but so far it's fun, except for the little detail of rather over-the-top handholding. Both in the form of 'Stop trying to be a clever little explorer! Go to the next plot point and nowhere else!' and in the form of endlessly repeating completely obvious information. "This is a KEY! You can use it to open a DOOR! Click on the DOOR to open it!" might have been useful to a moron the first time. The fourth time, I THINK I KNOW WHAT A KEY IS DAMMIT.

Also, the recognition of the circular motions is sometimes a little dodgy. It can take multiple tries to pull off a somersault or a spin attack. Which is extra annoying when the tutorial berates you for multiple screens for not following directions.

Naturally, there are chickens to chase. It wouldn't be Zelda without chickens.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

wrapping up the christmas games

Now that the season is OVER, most of the holiday games will probably fade and die. So long, Santa's Super Friends! Buh-bye, Linkit - A Christmas Carol! Will anyone still want to play you after the weekend?

.... of course, when it comes to Elf Bowling, which I'm intentionally not linking, I'm not sure why people want to play them during the holiday season either. Hopefully the end of the season means that those elves will disappear completely for a good long time.

But people who are looking for slightly more risque holiday entertainment may still be interested in Kissing Under The Mistletoe (warning - while the page I'm linking to is not particularly naughty, it IS talking about a game in which people get naked, so if you're likely to be offended by that, don't go there.)

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

merry christmas

I have been given a copy of Odin Sphere

Upside - It always did look cool.
Downside - I, er, don't know how to use a PS2. The controllers are so big! Controllers should never have gotten bigger than the SNES! You don't need all these controls! :)

first comments:

I really am out of practise gripping big game controllers. Fighting to the first boss I found (unicorn knight?) and taking a couple of attempts to kill him left me with ouchiness inside my elbows and sore thumbs.

It's very pretty, and fun in the old-school way (although the idea of having to level up instead of pumping in more quarters is still slightly strange.... yes, I played through the whole X-Men six-player beat-em-up in the arcades. And the TMNT one except I ran out of quarters at the end boss and had to leave, VERY sulkily.) but I'm still a bit baffled by bits of it. And having trouble getting the hang of the controller. I find the symbol-buttons on the playstation less memorable than the letters of the Nintendo games and I keep forgetting what's what. (Also, sometimes, a button press doesn't seem to do what I expect... maybe because I can't check my items while I'm reeling from an attack?)

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

you say tomato i say

So, the latest Zero Punctuation gives the impression that Mass Effect is too deep and wordy for someone who just wants to shoot things.

Obviously, I *should* get the game!

(Also, the Adventure Game people say that all their designers should go play the game and revel in its dialog system.)

Of course, I don't have a whatever-console-it-is-that-the-game-is-on but there will be a PC version eventually. The question is, will it be any more compelling than Jade Empire, which I *still* haven't gotten back to playing?

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

dancing dollies

I love my DS. I like rhthym games. I like dollies, and I'm even familiar with the dolls this title is based on.

I'm still dubious about Kira Kira Pop Princess.

I don't exactly have a gaggle of giggling girlfriends to show off the outfits I unlock and dress the girl in, and I don't really like the graphics for the character, the way they show up in the screenshots at least (It's some strange kind of cel-shaded 3d, I guess, but it doesn't quite work for me.)

If it's a GOOD rhythm game and comes with good songs, maybe the boys of the house will be willing to get pink with me?

... i might be more excited if it came with a free doll. yes, i know, shaddap.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

spy game

So here's an idea. I've mumbled somewhere about cutscenes and how problematic they are - the player hates standing still listening to idiots ramble especially when it's obvious they should be shooting in the speaker's face, and the designer has to nail the player's feet down to STOP them from shooting in the speaker's face especially when the speaker is supposed to be on the player's side...

What about a game where interrupting cutscenes is actually a major gameplay element?

Say you're some sort of thief or assassin character. You trail your target off to his secret lair and he, not aware of your presence, starts opening a safe that only he knows the combination to.

Do you:

1. Kill him immediately, thus forfeiting the big pile of jewels inside the safe that you can't open once he's dead?
2. Let him open the safe before attacking, risking him having hidden a nice big gun in there which will make it easier for him to fight you?

Of course, if you've been doing your stalking properly ahead of time you should KNOW what he's got in that safe so that you know which option to pick.

But just - LOTS of stuff like that. Eavesdropping on conversations to get information. Pretending to be helpless to let the villain drone on about his Evil Plan before you attack him. Or being in a boss fight and stabbing the guy and have him actually start talking to try and stop you from finishing him.... he can start to tell you secrets and draw out the fight (but maybe he's stalling for time so his minions can arrive!)

This gives up two problems - what do you do if the player just slaughters everything and therefore doesn't get any of the information vital to the plot? and also, what do you do if the player just slaughters everything but reads a walkthrough and tries to continue with the plot anyway?

You'd need to design the game so that a player who missed all the clues was still channeled towards some kind of (bad) ending... For the second problem, to some extent you'd probably have to allow it, in order to let the world be somewhat open and not forced from quest-point to quest-point, but you might have some randomly generated things where if you didn't listen and get the clue (which would be recorded for you in some kind of quest journal) you can't get the reward?

Friday, 14 December 2007

let me get this straight

apparently the only way to enjoy the gameplay that I bought the game for without suffering through the tutorials on a newly-started profile is to PLAY THE FREE ONLINE VERSION. how ridiculous.

and, of course, the free online version has nice handy 'skip' buttons if you don't want to listen to the story yakking. I don't believe the paid one does. grr. argh.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

cute little game

a sweet little point-and-click Flash adventure game, very children's storybook:

And if you need hints for the puzzles there is a walkthrough at

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

bookworm adventure arena

Arena mode is hard, especially when I'm having a Brain Fail. I don't enjoy it nearly as much as the adventure mode. But annoyingly, I can't go back and play any of those levels without starting over, and if I start over I have to go through the stupid tutorial stuff again! ARGH!

Why did they choose this? Why can't I just play some nice untimed battles?

Monday, 10 December 2007

final aquaria demo thoughts

I dig the game, but trying to play the full version at this point will probably be too frustrating. When it's been out for a while and there are more complete guides available, then maybe.

(Some of the things the walkthrough said needed doing would have been fairly unlikely for me to come up with myself, I think. So, clearly, I need to wait for better walkthroughs.)

If you ended up here because you have the demo and are trying to find the walkthrough, go to your start menu entry for Aquaria and pick the "Readme". Scroll down to where it says "Stuck in the first part of the game?" and there's a walkthrough link there. It came with the demo.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

more aquaria thinking

I think part of what's making me nervous about the game is a lack of sense of stable-progress.

Thinking about Mario, in the earliest games there was no way to preserve your progress. You ran on and on and on and maybe you won the game and maybe you didn't. There were warps to make it easier, but you couldn't really see an overview of things. Mario 3 / Super Mario World changed that a lot. There was a World Map. You could see the levels stretched out in front of you. You could easily back up to revisit places you'd been before. You could make choices about which direction to go and clearly see what difference it would make.

Not that there's anything wrong with wandering around exploring a mysterious landscape!

But with limited save points and a minimap that is not always all that helpful...

You don't know where the next save point will be. You're not sure how easily you can reorient yourself if you restore a saved game later. Will you be able to tell where you were and where you were going? There are multiple save slots - why? Will you ever need to restore an older game to fix a mistake you made in your newer game? What sort of mistakes can you make? When I tried to zone dragging a mysterious object and it didn't zone with me, what happened to it? Is it lost forever? Will I have to start over?

I don't have a sense of *stability* yet. I don't know whether I will have to slowly backtrack through dozens of levels to get back to where I was. And I don't know how far it will be to the next save point. All of this adds extra nervousness and uncertainty to my wandering around in the water... it makes it tempting to just stay curled up in my nice pretty cave. (You know, I would happily play Underwater Harvest Moon in this environment, planting and sowing and tending pets...)

Also, it's fun to explore but I'm nervous about the prospect of boss-battling like this... My only attempt at fighting was met with *total* confusion and instant death, even with the walkthrough. Oh well.

edit: After discovering that the walkthrough was not very clear and the place I was supposed to be was THAT WAY, I managed to fight something properly. Okay, that's better. Still, this would work fine as a wandering adventure game without death really...

Also, sometimes I have real trouble picking up objects, because they fall near me - too near for me to MOVE if I click, but not near enough to touch.

whine about demos

Okay, so Aquaria is out now.

Of course, at least when I tried, the top two links on that page didn't work. (Having your OWN version of the demo be down? Huh?)

Also, the demo wails at me in anguish when I quit. Which doesn't really encourage me to launch it again, especially since I don't feel up to buying it at the moment.

And console-style save slots? Argh!

It's very pretty. And neat. And interesting. It just has many little details that make me whine. Like, maybe it's just that I'm not very awake at the moment, so my eyes aren't 100%, but I'm having trouble telling some of the colors apart. This means a lot of awkward fumbling around with the singing, trying to guess what color I'm supposed to be using.

It's pretty. I'm sure people will like it. I don't have time to own it right now.

Also, I think I may have broken it by trying to drag an item across room borders, making it disappear...

Also, to Parhedros - I want to try out your RPG and find out why it is flying under the radar. WHY ARE YOU INSISTING ON INSTALLING TO MY C DRIVE? My C drive does not have ROOM for a big 3d game. Now I have to write the makers and complain before I can even manage to install the demo... IF they'll make another one.

OTOH the screenshots don't look that great and they're in 3d, so... maybe it's for the best?

Friday, 7 December 2007

my work here is done?

Today I introduced someone to Diablo.

And after explaining my experiences on first being dragged into the game and grumbling and getting caught by the swear filter and therefore naming my fighter 'Blowsgoats', I convinced him to name his 'Assgoblin'.

(Don't ask how someone can have never played Diablo by this day and age. He was mostly too busy with Nethack to look for anything else?)

Thursday, 6 December 2007

games as they once were and are now

Just wandering through to see how many of these games I knew in their original incarnations.

Frogger I played - didn't everyone? I may have played some ripoff version rather than the original, it was harder to tell back then. No deep fondness for it, though.

Kirby - I like the real Kirby and have no interest in a 3d version. Kirby on the DS where you trace a line is great, btw. Go Kirby!

Choplifter - This looks familiar and I think I remember SEEING it, but not PLAYING it.

A lot of these I can't even figure out what they're supposed to be...

I heard the ghostbusters game was great but I never played it.

Asteroids was hard to avoid but I was never really into it.

Dig Dug I played in the arcades, I think. I preferred Mr Do.

That 3d version of Donkey Kong looks CREEEEEPY. Yes, I did play the original.

Donkey Kong jr! I had that on my coleco. Ditto for Ladybug, although my mom liked that more t han I did. She actually woke me up once to show me she'd gotten to a new level. Me, a little kid. How often did YOUR parents wake you up to show you videogames?

Tetris is hardly worth mentioning - hasn't everyone played it, and many versions since?

Twilight Treasures - Looks vaguely familiar but I don't think I ever played that treasure diving thing.

I fail to see the point in making a bad Mario knockoff. Hrmph.

Hrm... not that much then.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Sunday, 2 December 2007

a list of cool freeware games

made by somebody else.

This is posted partly to remind me to go look at them, because I haven't played a Grow game in a while, and they're cool.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

ooh shiny

Yes, I can be shallow too. My reaction to the soon-to-be-released Aquaria does have a lot to do with graphics.

Well, that and "... That voice is familiar. Who IS that?" Although apparently she isn't actually anyone I've heard before, she just sounds like somebody else.

Well. As previously mentioned, I can be a hardsell on $30 games. Expect that I will try the demo, comment on it here, and then EVEN IF I LIKE IT, fail to buy it any time soon. I know, I suck. I'm that bad with physical purchases too... you'll very rarely catch me paying full price. I haunt ebay and discount bins.

Some indie game sellers get very cranky about discounts. But really - downloadable games are stingy! They rarely fall in price (except when some game producers decide to make their old games free) and that makes them unattractive to insane penny-pinchers...

puzzle quest followup

The person I gave it to as a present is now downright obsessed with it and keeps playing it until the DS battery flickers and fails and he has to come whining to me to plug it back into the charger.

So. I guess it hits its target market, its target market just isn't me.

I am not hardcore enough for this match-3. That's sort of mindboggling. :)