Monday, January 29, 2007

Retro game of the week: Beneath a Steel Sky (PC)

To save time and effort, this is also Download of the week. Beneath a Steel Sky (released in 1994 by Revolution Software) is a true adventure game classic. I have lots of fond memories of this game. Although I only finished it once, back in 1994, some scenes from the game somehow managed to leave permanent images in my game-obsessed brain. One of them is from the opening scene (above left).

Beneath a Steel Sky
is set in an huge futuristic industrial city where its inhabitants endures a totalitarian government, which draws obvious comparisons to the bleak, dystopian nightmare once envisioned by George Orwells. It's an accomplished and detailed world, superbly illustrated by artist Dave Gibbons. The game fuses logical (if sometimes vexing) puzzles, a thought-provoking storyline and warm-hearted humor (much the courtesy of robotic sidekick Joey) into an experience that surpasses most games in its genre. And, since Beneath a Steel Sky is classed as freeware since 2003, everyone can enjoy it for free.

Click here to download the full version (65 MB) of the game (Windows).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Review: Yoshi's Island 2 (DS)

We need to talk. I'll go first, okay?
It's like, we're spending all this time together, but, you know, it just feels... wasted. I know you really tried hard to make this work, and you
do look better than ever, but I don't know... It's still not the same as when we first met. You know, you're gorgeous, really, but you're just no fun. Not fun like you used to be, anyway.

No, I'm not seeing someone else! I mean, I have been spending time with
Portrait of Ruin, but we're just friends. Yeah, I promise. No, I don't hate your music! Why do you keep saying that? I'm not crazy about it, but it doesn't bother me, alright? Jesus.

Look, you just annoy the hell out of me sometimes. And there's literally no touching either. What's up with that? And the balance is all wrong. It's like, all easy at first, and suddenly there's shit coming at me from all directions, and I'm thinking,
What the hell just happened? What's going on?

And it's like that all the time with you. I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing this for anymore... We had some good times, but that's not enough, that's all I'm saying. Sorry, I need to move on. I need to play other games. It's not you. It's me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Internet game of the week: Samorost 2 (Flash)

Samorost 2 was created by Amanita Design (based in the Czech Republic) and released back in 2006, so it's neither shiny nor new, but if you haven't played this charming piece of work yet, here's your chance.

The game is essentially a point-and-click adventure with puzzle-solving at its core. Entirely simplistic in its design, there is no inventory or dialogue - the problems presented are solved by interacting with the environments and manipulating objects.
The characters and level design really makes the Samorost series stand out from other flash games.
It's beautiful in both visual design and animation, reminding me of paintings by Swedish artist John Bauer, although with a sci-fi twist.

Follow this link and enjoy Samorost 2.

Review: Age of Empires (DS)

Age of Empires - Age of Kings for the DS is handheld strategy at its best: time-consuming, detailed, well balanced and turn-based. The dual screens allows immediate map overview and statistic information is easy to access without having to leave the battlefield. The stylus, however, feels clumsy and inaccurate; you'll soon discover that using the d-pad is a much more effective way of handling units. As in most other strategy games, real-time or not, resource management is key. Age of Empires is no exception. In short, that means the tried and tested gold, gold, gold, upgrade, attack formula is applicable in this case as well.

Still, Age of Empires is indeed a very joyful experience. However, some minor issues might suggest otherwise. Graphics and animations are crude, and although the isometric view is clean and easy to navigate, units have the tendency to clutter the screen. The game also suffers from poor AI at times, and tends only to challenge when playing pre-set scenarios with fixed resources and armies. Even on a higher difficulty setting enemies either slumber, attacking only when spotting player units, or (most noticeably in multiplayer) wage two-front wars without the means or resources to back it up. Also, the one-turn research output diminishes the scope of the scenarios, but since some battles take several hours to finish, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Retro game of the week: SimCity (SNES)

I remember wasting one of those perfect, once-in-a-decade Swedish summers on this game, sitting inside, waiting for new funds, trying to merge my blocks into those elusive Top-buildings. I guess that was back in 1993. While I never really cared for any of the sequels of the series, this release remains one of my favourite simulation games ever. Developing new strategies for growing Residential and Commercial zones still keeps me busy planning and writing down possible concepts of placing blocks (near water, 3x3, police station within block boundaries, grass or gifts in the middle, railroads instead of asphalt) to maximize population growth, offering hours and hours of SimCity bliss.

SimCity is available for the Wii through Virtual Console.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Download of the week: Trespasser demo (PC)

One of my first true next-gen experiences, Trespasser (released in 1998 by Dreamworks) featured abysmal gameplay and was almost unplayable thanks to something resembling an interactive, virtual hand. This original take on controls made everything extremely difficult; picking up an object was hard enough, let alone aiming a gun. Now, add some dinosaurs and a pre-historic physics engine and you get a FPS that is impossible to forget, although not in a good way. However, in its attempt to immerse the player it somehow manages to intrigue and frustrate at the same time.

Get the
demo (30 MB) and see for yourself. If anyone makes it off the platform, feel free to share your experiences with us.