Tag Archives: gaming

Review: Blood

bloodcoverSpeaking of nineties shooters, how about Blood? Published by 3D Realms and developed by gaming legends Monolith Productions, Blood answers the question that no one asked; ‘What if Duke Nukem 3D was a comically violent horror game’?

Created with the Build Engine not long after Duke Nukem 3D, it’s impossible to not see the strong similarities between the two on the surface. From the weapon and items systems, to the structure of the levels, to the mini-map, it almost feels like a high-end mod. However, where Duke took his cues from sci-fi and action pop culture of the eighties and nineties, Blood instead found its inspiration in the horror movies of the same era.

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Excuse me sir, have you given any thought to donating blood?

Blood‘s story is pretty negligible. You’re Caleb, an evil undead guy who is betrayed by his even more evil undead master, and so you must wreak bloody vengeance upon him. That is literally the entire plot right there. The many levels between you and your master have little to no relation to each other and are mostly made up of a random selection of set-pieces ripped straight from popular horror movies. This is all Blood is, really, just a big crazy quilt of all the developers’ favorite horror movies. You’ll travel to sinister temples, grimy slaughterhouses, Camp Crystal Lake, zombie filled malls, and more, and find Easter eggs ranging from The Shining to A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Along Caleb’s journey you’ll battle quite the menagerie of foes, some of which will surely be quite familiar, such as the robed midgets that look suspiciously like the ones from the Phantasm series or aggressive severed hands that taunt you with ‘I’ll swallow your soul’! Caleb’s dialogue is also entirely and unapologetically made up of direct movie quotes, mostly consisting of lines by Ash Williams of Evil Dead fame.

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Don’t underestimate the power of that flare gun.

Naturally, in the process of this journey you will commit many a violent atrocity upon your fellow undead. Shooting, stabbing, igniting, and exploding your way through them in ways that would make Shang Tsung blush. Assuming you can survive that long, anyway. This is one tough game. Blood‘s baddies are incredibly aggressive, prone to ambushes, and dish out damage like it’s on clearance sale. Luckily the game offers manual saving, because you are going to die, a lot. Any given corner turned without care can easily end in a swift death. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with your enemies’ weaknesses too, as certain weapons are much more effective on some enemies than others.

Fair warning, there are some aspects of Blood‘s design that tarnish the experience a bit. The controls are terribly archaic, forcing you to go back to the ancient ways of putting your right hand on the arrow keys and your left hand on Ctrl, Alt, Space, and etc. There is a mouse look feature that can be enabled, but it’s too jerky and imprecise to be relied on. The lack of identification of locked doors on the mini-map and overabundance of key types (there are SIX of ’em!) can make some of the larger, more labyrinthine levels quite the exercises in patience too.

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Hot dogs, anyone?

That said, while it doesn’t quite live up to my seventeen year old self’s belief that it was the greatest game of all time, twenty years later it still holds up well enough to live up to its legend of being a classic game that can be enjoyed by fans of challenging, over-the-top nineties shooters and of old-timey horror movies.

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From The Armchair: Fire Emblem FTW

What ho, chums!

First of all, a big thanks to everyone who has contacted me about writing for A Most Agreeable Pastime, it’s great to hear from you. Sorry for my lack of replies so far – I’ve been hugely busy over the past couple of weeks, but I will get back you all eventually. There are exciting times ahead in The Manor, watch this space!

Last week I wrote about The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, as The Year of Zelda got off to a cracking start. I actually finished that game quite a few weeks ago, and I fully intended to slide straight into Oracle of Ages – but Fire Emblem leapt into my face like a barking Chiahuahua with ADHD and insisted that I play with it.

It all started with Fire Emblem Heroes, that gacha-style mobile game that, to all intents and purposes, is a sort of ‘Fire Emblem Lite’ with added gambling. I was sceptical of its tiny maps and lack of permadeath at first, but it soon had its quasi-medieval tendrils hooked into me. In fact, I’ve been playing it every single day, often multiple times – the tiny maps and constantly refreshing quests are perfect for quick five-minute breaks during the working day. I’ve been tending to my ‘A’ team of Lucina, Ephraim, Camilla and Setsuma like a digital shepherd with an overly fond and possibly questionable appreciation of his flock.

And as sure as soft drugs lead to hard drugs and The Beatles led to dance music (FACT: without ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ there would be no Chemical Brothers), my time with FEH spurred me into buying Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, and now I can’t put the damn thing down.

I’m still not sure whether it’s better or worse than Fire Emblem: Awakening, but I’m certain that it’s damn good fun. The story is compelling, the little support vignettes between the characters are almost always endearing, and the swoopy 3D of the battles genuinely made me gasp the first time I saw it. I also liked the fact that they’ve done away with weapon durability – swords, axes and lances are now effectively unbreakable – but I miss moving characters over the map world, as it’s hard to get the same sense of progression.

Anyway, I’m almost done with Birthright now, but I’ve already downloaded its companion game, Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, and I’m keen to see the conflict from the other side. Not only that, you wouldn’t believe the number of hours I’ve been putting into Xenoblade Chronicles X… but more on that another time.

All in all, it means that The Year of Zelda has been put on hold briefly – at least until I can liberate the residents of Nohr/Hoshido and New Los Angeles, that is.

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The Year of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons

A while back, I set myself the goal of finishing all of the Zelda games I’ve yet to play before I start the latest game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Oracle of Seasons is the first one I can tick off that list.

Originally released for the Game Boy Color back in 2001, just as the ageing handheld was being superseded by the Game Boy Advance, Oracle of Seasons is an odd fish. For a start, it was the first Zelda game to be developed by an outside studio, Capcom, and confusingly, it was actually released as two games – Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. At the time, I assumed that this dual release was a way to jump on the Pokemon bandwagon, a tactic of releasing two basically identical games with a few minor differences. But that’s not the case – each game is a fully fledged, unique, standalone adventure, although there’s an overarching narrative that spans the two. Cleverly, you get a password when you complete one of them that lets you carry over your save game to the next instalment, although it doesn’t matter which order you play the games in.

Apparently, the whole thing was originally going to be THREE games, each representing an aspect of the Triforce. But the third game was cancelled, and the protracted development saw the concept undergo enormous changes – hence why the games were released so late into the GBC’s life cycle. In fact, they didn’t emerge until well after the release of the GBA, the GBC’s replacement. The Oracle games’ huge ambition and wonderful graphics are typical of late-stage software for an ageing console, as developers finally master the hardware and are able to push it to its absolute limits.

The Rod of Seasons lets you change, ahem, the season, which is key to solving puzzles.

But to start with, I wasn’t enormously enthusiastic about playing Oracle of Seasons. I recalled a few reviews from the time being a little lukewarm about the game, especially in the wake of the astonishing Ocarina of Time, so I never saw it as a ‘must-play’ title. How wrong I was.

I’ll just put this out there right now – I reckon Oracle of Seasons is better than Link’s Awakening. In fact, I’d easily class it in my top 5 Zelda games, it’s that good. It’s just packed with so many great ideas, such as a boxing kangaroo called Ricky that you can ride on to leap over holes and punch out enemies. (In fact, that bit was so fun, it’s a real shame that Link stuck to riding boring old horses in the later entries – bring back Ricky, I say.) The collectible items are also inspired, particularly the magnetic gloves, which allow you to attract or repel certain enemies and pull yourself across gaps by latching onto a metal pole.

Hey Ricky, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Ricky!

But it’s the brilliant dungeons that really make the game. The below instalment of Boss Keys does a much better job than I could of explaining what makes these dungeons so good. They’re a joy to play through – challenging but never frustrating, with a real sense of achievement when you make it through alive. Wonderful stuff.

I’ve already started on the next game, Oracle of Ages, and judging by how much I enjoyed Oracle of Seasons, The Year of Zelda is going to be a very fun year indeed.


This article is part of The Year of Zelda, an attempt to play through all of the Zelda games I’ve yet to finish.

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The Chibi-Robo amiibo is ADORABLE

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Just look at the wee little fella! He’s brightened up my desk with his cheeky little face – surely Chibi-Robo easily takes the prize as the cutest amiibo so far.

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I bought the cheeky scamp as part of the above package with the game Chibi-Robo Zip Lash – I spotted the bundle for the absolutely bargainous price of £16 online, and I couldn’t resist adding it to my collection.

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I’ve never played the original Chibi-Robo game, but I hope to some day – I listed it as one of the ten GameCube games I’d most like to see on the Nintendo Switch Virtual Console. Chibi-Robo Zip Lash met with fairly mediocre reviews when it came out, but I’m still keen to give it a go. To be honest though, I bought the bundle more for the amiibo than the game.

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As with previous amiibo, the attention to detail is fantastic. Chibi’s cable is made from a kind of stiff rubber that’s different from the plug atop his head, and I love the little grass patch he’s sitting on. Bravo, Nintendo, bravo.

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Spiffing Reads: Geralt in Real Life, Trump vs Final Fantasy VII and Bye Bye Wii U

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start with a look at who Geralt is in real life…

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The voice behind The Witcher (Eurogamer)

Even though I’ve never played any of the Witcher games (except the board game), I found this a fascinating read. Partly because it turns out that Geralt lives in Bournemouth. It was also fascinating to read about the divorce between Geralt as perceived by the game-playing public and the actual nature of the voiceover job – just a few days in a sound studio that was quickly forgotten about as the actor moved on to other projects.

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Punching Nazis (Eurogamer)

Last week I featured a well-written article from Mr Biffo about his uncomfortable feelings surrounding the internet celebration of the smack in the face received by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer live on TV. This article by Alexis Kennedy covers the same topic with some excellent, well backed-up points. It turns out that Nazis really WANT to be punched – because it means you’ve given up arguing against their skewed world view.

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Love, Loss and the Human Threads of The Banner Saga (Kotaku UK)

This article passed me by last week, but I’m glad I discovered it – it’s another very well written piece by Sam Greer, who wrote an excellent article on Shadow of the Colossus a while back. This time she muses on what makes The Banner Saga so damn good – and after reading it, I’m itching to sample the game for myself.

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20 years after its release, Final Fantasy VII’s Trumpian dystopia has arrived (A.V. Club)

At first glance, this article seems like a very stupid idea – a comparison of the Donald Trump administration with the imaginary world of Final Fantasy VII. But if you ignore that and read on, the author makes some really interesting points and covers some political ramifications of Trump’s presidency that I hadn’t even considered. Splendid stuff.

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Video games don’t love or hate you – they’re just built that way (Eurogamer)

RIP Wii U: Nintendo’s glorious, quirky failure (The Guardian)

And finally, we have a couple of great articles by Keith Stuart. The first pulls back the veil on video games and reveals the simple programming tricks that can fool us into thinking computer opponents in games have some kind of personality. The bit about how AI racers are programmed in Micro Machines is fascinating – it turns out there’s no AI at all.

The second is a bittersweet look back at the Wii U, a machine that no one seemed to understand, yet still had some of the best games released in the past five years. Bye bye Wii U, I for one will miss you.

Sob.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: Nintendo Switch, Invisible Warcraft Bunnies and the Worst Game Ever

This week on Spiffing Reads, we kick off with a couple of interesting opinion pieces on the Nintendo Switch…

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Don’t Judge Switch by the Stagnant Competition (Kotaku UK)

This article struck a chord with me, particularly in how it accuses many in the games industry of not being able to look past technical specs. “There are a few problems with how we look at it, the first being the hardware bores who talk tech in terms of upper limits rather than capabilities. The deathly-dull teardowns of components, the red-meat comparisons for the troll brigade, none of it’s illuminating. It’s not that specs or framerates or resolutions are unimportant, just that they’re much less important than the overall experience they’re being used to create, which gets lost beneath meaningless technical gotchas.” Personally, I stopped caring about tech specs once they stopped counting ‘bits’.

Switch’s challenge is unique software, not PS4 competition (GamesIndustry.biz)

Another fascinating article from Rob Fahey, with some really interesting points about the timing of the Switch’s launch in the console cycle in comparison with its predecessor, the Wii U.

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The six worst US presidents in video game history (The Guardian)

I have to thank this article for reminding me that in a gaming world somewhere out there, J. K. Simmons is the US President.

The Invisible Bunnies That Power World of Warcraft (Kotaku UK)

I love this story. It turns out that some of the spells in Warcraft are powered by invisible rabbits – and they’re just one of the bizarre animal-based shortcuts that programmers have used to save time.

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How a Tetris clone on the front of a tape-player led to spiritual enlightenment (Eurogamer)

This is something a bit different – an article from a self-confessed ‘non-gamer’ about how gaming changed her perception of the world. I’ve experienced a bit of ‘Tetrishead’ myself, but nothing like she describes. A great read.

THE PUNCH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD – by Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)

Nothing to do with video games, this one, but a very well written and interesting article about the internet reaction to neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched on live TV. Mr Biffo echoes my own feelings – as much as I loathe neo-Nazis, beating them up is nothing to be celebrated. And if anything, it’s only going to strengthen their resolve.

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The story behind the worst game ever made (Eurogamer)

It’s always interesting to hear tales from the eighties gaming scene, which was basically a kind of pixellated Wild West where anyone could do pretty much anything and get away with it. But even then, it’s hard to believe that a publisher could release a game that literally doesn’t work at all and still get away with it. Sort of puts modern day-one patches into perspective.

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The Sin City game that never was (Eurogamer)

My first thought on reading this headline was that Sin City would make a brilliant video game, particularly with it’s stark black and white (and red) stylings, a la the under-rated MadWorld. But then I read how the publisher and writer kept demanding horrible, horrible changes to the characters and script, to the point where it was a mercy that the game was eventually killed.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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The Year of Zelda

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Like pretty much everyone else in the gaming world, I’m very excited for the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After the slightly lacklustre reveal of the Nintendo Switch, I’ve decided to get the game on the Wii U and hold off on purchasing a Switch until there are a few more games. But before I buy it, I want to polish off the few Zelda games I’ve yet to complete.

I’ve played almost every Zelda game out there, but there are still a few that passed me by for one reason or another. I missed out on Minish Cap on the Game Boy Advance, although I recently purchased it for the Wii U. I played Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS, but I never got around to buying its sequel, Spirit Tracks. I got Skyward Sword just after its release, but six years on, I’ve still yet to play it. I’m not sure why I keep putting it off – somehow it just feels like I need to save it for a special occasion.

Well, I guess now that special occasion has arrived. The release of Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be a landmark moment for the series, and I’ve resolved to play through every Zelda game I’ve missed before buying this latest entry. That might mean I miss playing it at release in March, but I can wait – it will only make playing it for the first time all the sweeter.

Changing the season in Oracle of Seasons is key to solving puzzles.

Changing the season in Oracle of Seasons is key to solving puzzles.

At the moment, I’m about two-thirds of the way through Oracle of Seasons, one of a pair of Zelda games for the Game Boy Color that were, uniquely for the series, co-developed with an outside developer, Capcom. I remember the two games, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, got a lukewarm reception at the time, but I’m heartily enjoying my playthrough of Seasons. I’d even go so far as to sat that – heresy! – it’s better than Link’s Awakening. Don’t lynch me!

Anyway, here’s the list of Zelda games I’m planning to play through before finally getting my hands on Breath of the Wild, roughly in the order I intend to play them. I’m leaving out Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures and Tri Force Heroes, as really they’re spinoffs (and they don’t particularly appeal to me, anyway).

  • Oracle of Seasons (GBC)
  • Oracle of Ages (GBC)
  • Minish Cap (GBA)
  • The Legend of Zelda (NES)
  • The Adventure of Link (NES)
  • Spirit Tracks (DS)
  • Wind Waker HD (Wii U)
  • Skyward Sword (Wii)

I’m aware that the two NES titles might be a slog to play nowadays, and Adventure of Link is renowned as being the worst in the series, so I may very well just dip into these rather than playing them to completion. Similarly, I’ll probably only dip into Wind Waker HD, as I completed the original back in the GameCube days, but I’m intrigued to see how they’ve tarted it up for the HD generation.

I’m also intrigued to play Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland on the DS, starring everyone’s favourite fairy-wannabee manchild. If I can get hold of it, I might add it to the list.

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Are there any Zelda games you’ve missed out on? I’d love to hear if you’re planning a similar Zelda marathon ahead of the launch of Breath of the Wild.

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