Friday 28 February 2014

Review - Nuclear Throne (PC)

Hail to the King!

It's great to be king. At least that's what the mutated denizens of the irradiated wasteland - the setting for Vlambeer's latest shoot-em-up roguelike - believe. To lay claim to the royal seating apparatus they must navigate a set of arena-like stages, filled with a plethora of other radioactive beasties who will stop at nothing to see the heroes fail. The ever-familiar roguelike genre is unleashed again, only this time with the hyperactive, balls-to-the-wall action of a twin stick shooter attached. This is not a new concept, Teknopants' excellent game Shoot First dished up a winning combination of randomly generated stages, levelling up and Robotron 2048 style blasting back in 2010. But this is the first time the genre mashup has met the boombastic style of Vlambeer and the wonderful pixel art of Paul Veer, who also created the visuals for popular platformer, Super Crate Box.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Review - Life Of Pixel (PS Vita)

8-bit Gaming History - One Pixel At A Time

Hot on the heels of MURI, a new PC indie title that perfectly encapsulates the look, sound and feel of late 80's and early 90's PC gaming, I bring you another game that aims to recreate the style of old systems. This time, not one, but eight different gaming platforms. Life of Pixel tells the tale of a tiny computer pixel who wishes to see the sights and broaden his horizons. So he takes a trip across a wide range of 8-bit home computers and consoles, on a platforming adventure that will see him navigate the black and white worlds of the ZX81 and the colour-bleeding, flick-screen world of the ZX Spectrum, to the more vibrant, smooth scrolling environments of the Nintendo NES. And if he gets rich along the way by grabbing the diamonds littering each stage, then all the better.

Monday 24 February 2014

Review - MURI (PC)


For PC gamers of a certain age, the command lines above will instantly bring back memories of a wonderful era of gaming - that of the PC's DOS operating system. Completely command line driven - there were no Windows style icons to click - DOS involved manually typing everything in order to setup or run the game. The DOS period evokes memories of CGA, EGA, and VGA graphics, of Adlib or SoundBlaster audio cards or, if you go back even further, of the hideous bleeps and bloops that would vomit forth from the PC's internal speaker. Some people look back on it as a huge chore, yet back in 1993, when I got my very first desktop system (a 486 DX2/66), it was like opening up a whole new world of possibilities, one that involved more than just inserting a cartridge and pressing the 'on' button.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Retro Review - Captain Dynamo (Amiga)

Budget Platform Action

Featuring possibly one of the least appealing protagonists I have seen (ranking up there with Lester The Unlikely), Captain Dynamo is another platform game offering from budget supremos, Codemasters - responsible for popular titles such as CJ Elephant Antics, Bignose The Caveman, and the Dizzy series. Released on a range of home micros in 1992, Captain Dynamo was a late starter for the 8-bit systems, who were now reaching the end of their long lifespans (sob). While the ZX Spectrum & CPC versions look very similar, aside from changes to the colour palette, the C64 appears significantly different, with a surprisingly drab and washed out look. It also features vastly tweaked level layouts, including one of the most irritating first screens ever to grace a videogame. One to avoid then, but how does Commodore's 16-bit machine fare?

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Videogame Soundtrack Special - WipEout Series (PlayStation)

The music of WipEout

The impact the original Sony PlayStation had back in 1995 is simply astounding. Not only were the 3D visuals absolutely mind blowing, but the games had a darker, grittier edge that separated them from their 16-bit forbears. These were games aimed at adults (well, twenty-somethings and up anyway). Gone were the charming and twee chiptune tracks from previous console generations, replaced with CD quality audio featuring well known rave and dance acts. Suddenly, games were extremely cool, even making appearances in nightclubs at the time. I remember seeing WipEout being demonstrated on a large screen in a GAME store back in the day. There were large crowds standing around gazing up in awe at the visual spectacle on-screen. It was like nothing we had seen before and the air was electric with excitement. For me, it was love at first sight, and I knew then and there that I simply had to own a PlayStation as soon a humanly possible. Since that fateful day, I have had a long term relationship with the WipEout games. To me, they are the PlayStation brand and, along with Ridge Racer and Tekken, are the games that keep the spirit of the original 32-bit machine alive and kicking with each new machine released.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Review - Excavatorrr 2 : CWOUN (PC)

Dig your way to a thousand deaths

It would appear that videogames have a long term obsession with underground digging. From the early days of Dig Dug, The Pit and Boulderdash, to more recent offerings like Mr Driller, Spelunky, SteamWorld Dig and Minecraft, it's clear that gamers have a penchant for dirt shifting shenanigans. Now lone indie developer Hempuli is adding to the (dirt) pile, with a sequel to his 2009 mine-em-up, Excavatorrr. That title may have possessed crude visuals that aped the style of the Atari 2600, but it was more addictive than nicotine and sex combined. It slipped under the radar of many gamers - which is a shame as it was (is) absolutely excellent - but hopefully this new sequel will get the attention it deserves. 

Wednesday 12 February 2014

REVIEW - Gun Godz (PC)

Hip-Hop Wolfenstein 3D, Y'all

We all love a bit of good old fashioned first person shooter action, don't we? Id Software's pioneering Wolfenstein 3D was not only an impressive tech-demo for the PC, but also a damn good game, thanks to the speedy pace, and no-nonsense, shoot-em-up action. It was released over 20 years ago, yet is still just as fun today as it ever was. Are we really going to say the same about the ever-tedious plethora of military shooters we are inundated with today? The fact that user made mods and levels are still being made for Wolf3D (as I always affectionately remember it thanks to the DOS commands needed to run it) shows that many gamers enjoy a back-to-basics murder-fest, that does away with all the story-heavy, Q.T.E. and linear hand-holding of modern FPS titles. 

Saturday 8 February 2014

Indie Demo - Nightmare Night - Gameboy style platformer

Nightmare Night (surely that should be 'Knight'?) stars a young squire on a quest to vanquish the evil goblins from the nearby forest. His quest may seem a simple one, but that is because this new platform game from lone developer, KG, is only in alpha stage, and thus only has the first stage complete. As you can see, the visuals are heavily inspired by Nintendo's classic Gameboy handheld, with a monochrome palette and cute, yet well drawn, sprites. Beginning with a trusty sword, you must make your way through the forest, slashing the skeletons, adorable lizard things and spiders, as you make your way to the Goblin King boss. Along the way are chests and pots that can be broken for coins or health potions, and you even get to don a Knight's helm in order to look more badass. 

Thursday 6 February 2014

Indie Demo - Tomb Robber (PC)

Raiding Tombs, 8-bit style

Currently holding the work-in-progress title of Tomb Robber, this 8-bit style platformer has been in the works for a couple for years now, with no new news for over a year. However, even in its current unfinished state, it's one of the most enjoyable retro platform adventures since Rick Dangerous or Montezuma's Revenge. As an archaeologist with an urge to explore ancient tombs and recover valuable artifacts, you make your way to an Egyptian pyramid filled with long forgotten treasures. Bringing only your old revolver for protection, you must first navigate a short stretch of desert, avoiding snakes and bats, before entering the tomb. Once inside you must traverse the single screen stages, avoiding acid spitting mummies, skeletons, scorpions and more bats as you attempt to locate the red Ankh that will open the exit door and take you to the next room.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Indie Demo - Cacto Loco! - A Twin-Stick Shooter With A Mexican Flavour!

Plant versus zombies (and other unidentifiable adversaries)

If you fancy a bit of spice in your twin-stick shooter then be sure to check out the utterly bonkers, Cacto Loco, currently in development by Tnerb. The ridiculous intro song (yes, really) tells the story of two young lovers who get tangled up with an ill tempered witch doctor, who turns the man into a cactus (why not?). Being a desert based plant covered in spikes doesn't really work for our hero, so he sets off to locate his missing beau and return to his human form. Cue a top-down, scrolling run & gun affair that sees you blasting away at hoards of beasties using the needles that come attached to your body (all part of being a cactus).

Sunday 2 February 2014

Retro Review - Jazz Jackrabbit 2 (PC)

Console gaming on your PC

In 1994, Epic MegaGames (who would later be known simply as Epic) released a cutesy, high speed platform game for DOS in an attempt to a bring console quality run & jump action to the PC. It was clear that Jazz Jackrabbit was taking its inspiration from Sega's blue hedgehog, as the game was exciting, fast paced and, above all, heaps of fun. Four years later Epic saw fit to release a sequel, this time leaving the archaic DOS format behind in favour of Windows. The plot in the original title involved, yep, you guessed it, saving your girlfriend. Eva was rescued from the nefarious clutches of your arch nemesis, Devan Shell, in a play on the classic fable The Tortoise & the Hare. Once she was safely at home she and our hero decided to get hitched, but before they get down the alter, the ring is stolen. Devan is clearly up to his old tricks again.