Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tomba! (1998)

Genre: Platformer | Players: 1 | Developer: Whoopee Camp

The feral wild child Tomba with the pink coif is just going about his day hunting wild game when he stumbles upon some anthropomorphic pigs robbing a carriage and intervenes. He is at first successful, but is then knocked unconscious and his gold bracelet is stolen. It being the only keepsake of his deceased grandfather, he takes off in pursuit of the pigs.

Tomba runs around several 2D colorful landscapes attacking enemies either by jumping on them and hurling them into obstacles or with various weapons while completing the games missions. The missions are surprisingly varied ranging from exploring and talking to NPCs to fetch quests and puzzles. Though the objectives can sometimes be incredibly vague. This makes exploration essential and the game rewards players for it with hidden items, chests and missions to find in overlooked nooks and by talking to the various other characters that also vary widely from humans to flying dogs and parasol carrying monkeys in striped pants. Tomba will also gain new abilities that allow faster movement and further exploration of both new and old areas.

The cartoony graphic style has aged rather well and its soundtrack, while nothing special, is competent enough to do the job. Its strange premise is also a nice throwback to a time before the rule of muddy brown realism where enemies weren't terrorists and the main character could crack a smile. A wonderful, colorful and most of all fun if rather short adventure.

Buyer's Guide:
The old physical PS1 discs are collectors items and thus carry a premium often up past $100 for mint copies, but Sony has just recently re-released it on PSN for a much more palatable $9.99.

Stomachs as an infinite Bag of Holding out of 5

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fallout Tactics (2001)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1 + Multi via Lan / Online | Developer: Micro Forté

I was once told that every game series needs its turd.  A few escape relatively unscathed, like Baldur's Gate or Elder Scrolls, others get... well... something of Fallout Tactics calibre.

At first sight it's interesting: a tactical, squad-based adventure game that explores a bit more the Fallout universe.  The only problem was that the game development was obviously rushed, and in a pretty bad way.  Some designs are atrocious, and the general look of the game looks like a few steps BACKWARD when compared to Fallout 2.  Still, it had some strong points: squad based combat is a perfect fit for the Fallout universe, and the game offers a lot of possibilities in terms of characters, gameplay and equipment.
That's all.  The A.I. is flawed; its main behaviours akin to a constant zerg rush: send its entire troop at you, not bothering with things like subtlety, and often putting its men in a nice column that you only need to shower with lead.  As I said, the designs are bad but the worst injury comes from the game system; it's neither turn based nor real time.  Basically, it's a mess.  A buggy mess which smells like "unfinished product" to me.  And I'm right, as the following shows:

"If Interplay had allowed more time (and money), MicroForte would have been in a position to deliver a better game.  That's fairly typical of the publisher/developer relationship. [...] Keep in mind that the amount of testing on Fallout Tactics was tragically short.  IIRC, Interplay received the first full beta/fully playable to the end on a Saturday.  The following Wednesday, after one - maybe two - revs, it was sent off for mastering.  That's an amazingly short amount of time (most projects have at least a month between fully playable and gold mastering, RPGs usually have longer).  Myself and a few others asked for more time to do more testing and we were denied.  There was a strong desire to get the game out as fast as possible by someone at Interplay.  I don't think it helped that I had walked out of a marketing meeting a month or so earlier, so my opinion towards the end wasn't well received.
Additional testing time would have allowed: more bug fixes, better balancing (especially in Turn-Based, since the limited amount of testing time, most of QA was testing in real-time) and more tweaks to the game system."

Who says that?  Chris Taylor (RPG Codex forum), Fallout lead designer and a producer on Tactics.  In other words the game release was rushed, released with close to no testing, and knowing it had rather poor gameplay (hell, it's a slaughter-fest even worse than Icewind Dale, with nearly NO role-playing), very little humour (keep in mind Fallout and Fallout 2 were full of easter eggs and funny little things found here and there) and ugly designs.  Gameplay-wise, the game isn't balanced at all (enemies are either too strong or too easy for you, some missions are close to impossible, and a few are downright impossible), and finally Inon Zur was obviously uninspired as the music is quite bland and forgettable...

So yeah. Fallout Tactics is the bad egg of the Fallout family.

Buyer’s Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, Steam, and GOG.com.

½ don't rush your game release or they'll end in the toilets like the piece of shit they are out of 5.*

*The ½ point is for that monstrous heavy machine gun that can one-shot nearly anything, and for which you find TONS of ammo.

Nutted by Docrate1 (who won’t be campaigning for a Fallout Tactics 2 any time soon).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Icewind Dale Complete (2000/2001)

Genre: RPG / Hack’n’Slash |  Players: 1- 6 (via TCP IP/Lan)
Developer: Black Isle Studios

First and foremost: if you came to play Icewind Dale to delve back into the intrigue and mysteries of Faerun... forget it. While its forefather Baldur's Gate shone with enigmas, twisted puzzles and little quests that had to be solved, Icewind Dale is more or less devoid of all that making it more Diablo-like than RPG.  The story is as linear as humanly possible, the game is one long slaughter-fest from start to end.  The secondary quests are often limited to "find object A and bring it to Character B to obtain object/reward C" which is a far cry from some BG quests.  Probably because Bioware didn't develop this one, Black Isle did.  Still, as BI developed Fallout 2, which is a masterpiece in terms of storyline and accessory quests, questions could be asked as to whether they worked seriously on Icewind Dale or not.

In terms of graphics, the game uses a refined Infinity Engine and offers really beautiful sceneries, as well as very nice music by Jeremy Soule.  In terms of gameplay... well... it's the same as Baldur’s Gate but with lots of new classes, character options, and equipment (prefiguring BG 2 that would be released only a few months later).
The only originality is that you don't recruit any characters.  You create your whole party at the beginning, from 1 to 6 characters, with the classes you wish.  Don't forget the basic: one thief, one wizard, and one priest.  Then add a few tanks.  I mean warriors/rangers.

Now the add-ons.  Yes, plural.  First Heart of Winter: Well, Heart of Winter continues a bit the story of Icewind Dale but doesn't add anything like subtlety or puzzles.  The game is still a slaughter-fest, only with more experience levels and more powerful tools for your heroes to slaughter their enemies with, hear the lamentation of their women, blah, blah, blah...

And then there's the free expansion, Trials of the Luremaster.  It offers some tough enigmas, although not that hard if you compare them to the hellish difficulty of some in BG2, a series of REALLY tough dungeons and some incredible loot, all spoiled by the most annoying end boss.  Still, a good challenge for an advanced party.  I would advise people to play these dungeons when you're mid-game in Heart of Winter.  Yes, TotL is an expansion to an expansion.  And that was a decade before Inception.

All in all, a good game yet miles away from the genius that shone in Baldur's Gate and light-years away from the pearl that is Baldur's Gate 2.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, and GOG.com.

3 "this game is expansionception" out of 5.

Nutted by Docrate1

Sunday, September 23, 2012

SEGA Classics collection (2006)

Genre: Various  |  Players: One  / Two  |  Developer: D3 Publisher

A collection of retro SEGA 'Classics' released on the PS2 back in 2006. Normally in such a collection you get one or two gems accompanied by some crap that wouldn't shift any units on its on. On first glance that appears to be the case, but, unfortunately, the games you know to be good are the Sega Ages versions, not the originals and that makes all the difference. Games on offer:

Golden Axe is fully deserving of the 'Classic' title. Often whilst skipping school I'd play Golden Axe at the local arcade, so I can say with a level of experience that while the travesty on the disc bears some resemblance to the game I know, it's most definitely NOT that game. The names remain but the visuals and character animations are changed and appear to have been coloured by a Marvel inbetweener’s six-year-old daughter. There's also re-recorded music, new level design and new enemies. The Mega Drive/Genesis version is superior.
Space Harrier is similarly garish. It’s got a new skin but retains the same old controls. It’s not aged particularly well, but it rubbed my nostalgia nipple briefly.
Outrun is OutRun, plain and simple.
Virtua Racer is an F1 racer. I managed to not explode and not finish last.
Columns is exactly how I remembered it: a Tetris clone that sucked ass. I'm not sure what they changed. It’s still a Tetris clone and still sucks ass.
Monaco GP is a top-down racer that might be fun if you like that sort of thing.
Fantasy Zone. Ah, F Zone, how I loved thee. It’s largely unchanged. It’s still as hard as ever. It was always colourful, so the difference isn't as noticeable. Are there more options in the Shop? I'm not sure.
Tant R & Bonanza Bros. I don’t know why they're bundled together. but they deserve each other. Bonanza Bros was never any good and still isn't. Tant R was new to me. It's a collection of party games, such as having to stop a car from racing off a cliff edge by hitting the brakes as late as possible.

Buyer's Guide:
Available from ebay and a number of skanky and sticky second hand shops. The US edition adds Alien Syndrome. I can't comment on it, thankfully.

1 Fantasy Zone frustration out of 5

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (2010)

Genre: 3rd Person Shooter / Action  |  Players: One / Online Multi  |
Developer: Rockstar North / Rockstar San Diego

All they had to do was give us more of the same awesomeness for this Red Dead Redemption expansion and I'd have fapped in their coffee cups.  But they didn’t, they changed things, which is a pleasant way of saying they fucked it up.

The undead have appeared in the Wild West and waste no time in shitting up everyone’s routine.  You once again play as John Marston; his quiet life has been interrupted so he sets out to remedy it.  You’ll meet some old friends from RDR along the way, so it pays to have played it first.
The core game mechanic is the same but what they do with it is painfully formulaic.  You ride into town, kill zombies, ride into the next town, kill some zombies, ride into the next town… yawn.

Beyond that, the game is an endless hunt for ammunition.  You can’t buy it.  You have to farm it from the dead zombies.  To kill a zombie you have to get a headshot and blow his/her brains all over the dusty plains.  Worse still, to save a town from being overrun you have to give away a portion of your precious ammo to the townsfolk, who, in an act of asshat economics, will get overrun again 2 hours later while you’re off doing something else, and they will all die.  Your great heroic deed is for naught.  You could drop what you’re doing at the time and go save their sorry asses again but that is even more tedious than farming for ammo from dead dead people.

In the regions where there’s no high ground for you to climb, you’ll spend 90% of your time running away from a horde of hungry dead cretins so you can line up a shot.  By the time you’ve picked off 2 or 3 the remainder are clawing at you, killing you; you will die.  When you respawn they will all be back but your valued ammo stock will still be depleted.  To succeed you have to drop your aim and run away some more, etc.  It’s hateful and it’s the polar opposite of fun.

Heaven forbid your horse gets killed.  You’ll be stuck with a zombie horse that controls like a supermarket trolley; the one with the wobbly wheel.  I’m not even kidding.  The bastard nag won’t run straight.  He’ll pull you off ledges and bridges and into rocks and trees.  I couldn't even gain any joy in shooting it in the head because technically it was already dead.

Fuck you, Rockstar.  You turned one of the best sandbox games you've ever made into the worst sandbox game you’ve ever made.  I may well be the only person that doesn't think this is good but I care not.  I can't even give it away as I bought it from PSN.  Another reason to hate digital D/L.

Buyer’s Guide:
Available on PS3 and Xbox 360 as a D/L from the stores.  The D/L can either be as regular DLC, or as a full game (also available on disc) which will give you access to further add-ons, and multiplayer even with those that just own the original RDR.

2 run away, shoot, run away, run away, shoot, farm ammo out of 5

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Red Dead Redemption (2010)

Genre: 3rd Person Shooter / Action |  Players: One / Online Multi
Developer: Rockstar San Diego

Westerns rock!  Take all that's good about the film medium and mix it with satire and social commentary (Rockstar style) and you’ll have RDR.  You've maybe heard it described as Grand Theft Auto: Wild West, and while that’s essentially true, they’re both sandbox games sharing many features, it’s also a disservice to the scope and underlying heart of Red Dead, which is something that GTA lacked.

You control John Marston, a visibly scarred former outlaw who now plays by the rules, mostly.  He still carries a gun and can kill a man if need be but in truth Marston is a friendly, politically neutral character.  It’s up to the player to define his morality and guide his choices much of the time.

The story is carried along by successive events.  Missions and tasks are triggered by people you meet.  That takes you over a large open-world map that's mostly deserted prairies with the occasional town or community encampment scattered throughout.  The game world feels alive.  The towns in particular are microcosms of the larger whole.  The violence you’ll encounter there, the domestic abuse and greed, is something you can actively stop if the notion takes you.

It may seem initially time-consuming to have to travel from town to town on horseback but it soon becomes apparent that it’s the journey, those lengthy moments of solitude, that make the game special.  It gives you time to get emotionally attached to Marston and makes it all the more important that tasks are completed successfully.  The loneliness becomes the very thing that drives you onward, as weird as that sounds.

There are dozens of diverse side-missions and lengthy lists to pass the time between missions.  You’ll be herding cattle, hunting bounties, hunting treasure, gambling at saloons, brawling, collecting flowers (really) and much more.

The music is an integral part of the experience and representative of different regions.  The voice acting is also top class, full of pathos and wry, sarcastic humour when needed.  The varying cast of ranchers, bandits, renegades, law-men and general nut-jobs keep things fresh.

Online multiplayer is another great feature.  You’ll be traversing the same terrain but there’ll be other players.  You can team up for unique co-op missions, or go it alone to clear an area of bandits for some greedy exp points.  There are the usual death-match games too if that kind of thing gives you wood.

If you don’t make it to the end of the story you’ll be missing out on perhaps the best part; the climax is the most emotional that Rockstar have ever produced.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PS3 and Xbox 360 on disc or as a D/L from the stores.

5 hog-tied whores out of 5

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Simpsons Game (2007)

Genre: Action / Platformer  |  Players: One / Co-op  |  Developer: Electronic Arts

The game is broken. If you’re a developer and you don’t have an in-game camera system that works then you don’t have a game that works.

You’re forced to control the dysfunctional family if you stick it out. Each level gives you two family members to switch between at will. You’ll need to do just that to solve the asinine puzzles that block advancement. However, there's little or no instruction in what you have to do during those times.

The tutorial covers abilities unique to your character, but it’s up to you to figure out everything else. In a perfect world that makes sense, but this is a game and nothing makes any sense. You figured out the pipe puzzle first time? Do tell...liar.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, and PSP.
I played the PS2 version, so there's a chance the other versions are better, but I don’t hold out much hope of that actually being the case.

1 yellow bastard out of 5

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fallout 2 (1998)

Genre: RPG  |  Players: One  |  Developer: Black Isle Studios

Roughly 90 years separate the original Fallout from its sequel.  Visually, the game hasn't changed much.  One could even say it hasn't changed at all, which isn't true.
New environments (with a lot more life in them), new NPC skins, new companions (robots, cyber dogs, mutants), new weapons, a lot more secondary quests, and many, many easter eggs to find: references to Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Star Trek, Mad Max and, if you are imaginative enough... Hokuto no Ken (take the right perks, don the black leather armor, go hand to hand and bam... you'll make people explode with your bare hands, Hokuto No ken style!) etc.  Hell, even the final boss is a wink to old man Eastwood.

All in all, the game is better balanced than the first one, less buggy, and provides a compelling story with lots of adventures, gunfights, and bad mistakes to be done in the grand Fallout tradition but above all this game provides you SO much more freedom.

Fallout 2 was one of the first games to give you the opportunity to be either an angel or the worst asshole in the wastelands.  With a good management of reputation you can be considered a monster in one town, and a hero in another, which makes the game all the better.  There are lots of moral choices, each having consequences at the games end.  There is no real need to play the game in any order.  Missed a location?  A quest?  You'll have time to do it AFTER the game.  Yep, you heard me.  Fallout 2 is probably one of the first games that allow you to continue playing after the ending.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, OnLive, Steam, and GOG.com.

5 War... War really never changes out of 5.

Nutted by: Docrate1 (The Wasteland Veteran)

Fallout (1997)

Genre: RPG | Players: One | Developer: Black Isle Studios

The post nuclear Role playing game.  That's what I call a tagline.  Back in 1997, most PC  RPGs  meant dragons, elves and orcs.  Fallout barged in full of gun-toting raiders, criminals exploiting the nuclear aftermath, and the shadowy force that's threatening the survivors.  Fallout was damn innovative, and not only by the fact it had a REAL RPG system backing it.  Your character is more than a skin, it's, as in  Pen and Paper  RPGs, a set of attributes, skills, and perks.

Another innovation: tired of playing a goody two shoes?  Play an asshole for a change (sadly, the game really punishes you if you do so but it'll be extra extra hard to finish it this way when every damn person tries to shoot you down).  The story is quite simple: your vaults water purification system is down, and the replacement part is missing.  Guess who has to go outside and find it?

You'll meet communities that survived and organized themselves after the war: the Junkyard, the Hub, Shady Sands, etc.  Each offer various "job" opportunities and info on where to continue your mission.  Speaking of which, the game is fairly hard, of course; you can recruit allies, from a simple dog to a hardened mercenary, but still.  One of the game's problems is that it's mostly sand and asphalt.  In other words, the backgrounds are a bit lifeless and repetitive but that would be corrected in the next opus.  Another problem is that the game suffers from a few bugs, some of which can hinder the completion of the main quest.  Still, Fallout is a damn fine game that spawned 3 sequels, and renewed interest for post apocalyptic games.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PC, Mac, OnLive, Steam, and GOG.com.

4 War... War never changes out of 5

Nutted by: Docrate1