Archive for July, 2011

Review: Bastion (Xbox Live Arcade)

It’s typical, really. You leave town for a few days, and everything falls apart.


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Review: Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team (Xbox Live Arcade)

Publishers will try all sorts of tricks to try and publicise their upcoming games. Adverts in magazines and on websites. Posters and billboards. TV adverts. Public betas. Flashy events, sometimes for the press, sometimes the public. Opening a shop in Soho. And, occasionally, tie-in games.

The Fable titles like this approach, releasing cheap mini-games before their release, the playing of which gives the player in-game benefits; Croteam, meanwhile, have been using the “Serious Sam Indie Series” to publicise the upcoming Serious Sam 3. Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team is unusual, however, in its positioning as a premium Xbox Live Arcade title: where the aforementioned titles are cheap mini-games and indie spin-offs, clearly distinguished as side-shows to the game they advertise, Kill Team could almost be a stand-alone product. Does it deserve to be treated as such?
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Anger Management #5: Save Games

Let me have them, you massive, massive wankers.

By which I mean: if you are a games developer, or publisher, or distribution platform, or hardware platform, and you decide to restrict your players’ ability to copy, backup or otherwise move their saves around, you are an unforgivable, small-minded cretin.

If you tie your saves to anything which relies on the player being online, or having access to a unique identifier tied to their system, you are an unforgivable, small-minded cretin.

If you conceal the location of your saves, force them to be saved on a specific drive letter ignoring the install path of the game they’re tied to or the location of Windows’ libraries, you are an unforgivable, small-minded cretin.

If you don’t allow the player to easily manage and delete their saves from within the game… well, you’re quite annoying. But I can just about forgive you, so long as the above issues aren’t the case, and all I have to do is browse to an easy to find save directory where my saves are logically laid out and delete from there.
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Review: The Final Hours of Portal 2

Well, this is something we don’t see enough of.

Games development processes are all-too-rarely made public. There’s the rare bright spot – the fantastic one hour documentary about the history of Volition (developers of Descent, Red Faction and Saints Row) being one. But mostly gamers – and even games journalists – are kept out of the loop, aside from the occasional development diary. Geoff Keighley’s Behind the Games series was one of the few attempts to really explore this side of games, and Valve – famous for doing things differently – have previously shown an unusual openness about their development process: be it Gabe Newell’s frankness in interviews with, well, almost anyone; the inclusion of interactive commentaries in many of their games; or their past co-operation with Geoff Keighley in his previous “The Final Hours of Half-Life 2” article. Which, sad to say, was his last feature in that series – until Portal 2.
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Review: Trenched (Xbox Live Arcade)

Here’s a thing about Trenched: it’s a weird tower defence / customisable mech combat game hybrid developed by Double Fine, with a strong emphasis on online multiplayer, that thanks to fun trademark issues isn’t on sale in most of Europe.

He’s a thing about me: I’m a big fan of tower defence and customisable mech combat games, love most of Double Fine’s output, but don’t have a subscription to Xbox Live Gold, and live in Europe. Hmm.

Obviously, I had to chronicle my relationship with the game.
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Give me consequence or give me death!

I’m not speaking figuratively.

At the GameCamp unconference earlier this year, one of the talks given was on The Failure of the Failstate; a debate in which the speaker was arguing that gaming’s traditional punishment for failure – the Game Over screen – had been invalidated by save states and checkpoints. I didn’t completely agree – I felt that was far too much of a blanket statement – but it’s an issue worth addressing. This, several months later, is my contribution to the argument.
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Review: SpaceChem

I bloody well hate SpaceChem. A game of about synthesising chemicals, it may not require that the player have a working knowledge of chemistry to play it, but it will force them to focus all of their energies working out how in the sodding hell they’re going to go about splitting and fusing the necessary elements to successfully complete each level.
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July 2011
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