Thursday 27 September 2012

Probability 0 (PC/Mac)

There is a bit of a death fetish going on in certain gaming circles these days. Back in the day, games were just considered 'hard', or 'solid' to use a Northern colloquialism, but dying a lot was never really a selling point. Nowadays games positively boast about the amount of times you'll die, take this extract from the blurb for Probability 0 for example, the latest game from Toronto-based designer, Droqen:

You will experience triumph, growth, and death. But mostly death.

Part of this comes with the changing nature of gaming. Gone (mostly) are the days of limited lives and continues, which made death more than a mere nuisance, nowadays games tend to have infinite lives so death is a cheaper commodity. To balance out the difficultly quota near-infinite deaths seems like the logical answer. Even the Dizzy remake on iOS has infinite lives instead of the original three. I'd scorn such a move excepting (or should that be eggcepting?) the fact that I never came close to completing the original on the ZX Spectrum.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Retro News Update

Ok, so you like indie games, yes? And you don't like spending loads of cash either? Well, in that case you'd be a fool to miss out on the indie game bundles-bonanza that's going on at the moment - with a total of 37(!) games available for less than £15.50 (at the time of writing) across four different packages from Bundle in a Box, Indie Royale, Indie Gala and Humble Bundle.

Now I've got your attention you're probably wondering what each of these are offering, so to save you from jumping from site to site yourself, I'll briefly discuss the highlights of each one below.

Bundle-In-A-Box: Deep Space Bundle (PC)

First up, if like me you are bonkers about robots, spaceships and giant blammo-guns I heartily recommend you check out the Deep Space Bundle from the thematic Bundle in a Box collective, headed by our friend and ex-RGCD writer Gnome. Also, without meaning to sound patriotic, this one has a certain eccentric British quality about it with the games on offer being the critically acclaimed and eye-popping Space Giraffe from Llamasoft, an exclusive copy of Rob 'Oddbob' Fearon's equally mental arena shooter DRM (pictured below), a cute looking Elite-like space-combat simulator called The Wreckless from Duct Tape Games, Psydra Games' popular and quirky space adventure Dark Scavenger, the PC remake of the C64 classic Armalyte courtesy of our partners at Psytronik and the recently added Bagfull of Wrong collection of 10(!) games making up the rest of Rob Fearon's catalogue of releases.

Paying over the $4.63 average also scores you copies of Sol: Exodus, Miner Wars Arena and the ace little shooter RobotRiot from Retromite, as reviewed recently here on this very site.

All payments are split between the developers, charity and the indie dev grant, a system buy which the most voted in-development game will receive a grant from Bundle in a Box to help them complete their project. However, the sales on this particular bundle are a bit on the low side at the moment, so give them a hand and throw some virtual PayPal pounds their way!

Indie Royale: The Back To School Bundle

Nothing is more certain to help the kids knuckle down with their studies than a bundle of new games at a pocket money price, eh? Or perhaps this one is aimed at those work-at-home parents who'll have those extra hours of the day free now the kids are gone? Whatever the reason for this cheekily titled bundle, this time Indie Royale is offering a collection of games from Rockin' Android as the main attraction, with Bunny Must Die! (pictured below) as the exclusive title, in addition to Flying Red Barrel and Qlione.

Also included in the package for your £3.44 are the rampaging Swords and Soldiers from Ronimo Games, the moon hopping simulator Lunar Flight by sh0v0r, Iridium Studios' Sequence and the aptly named Cute Things Dying Violently from ApathyWorks - all of which are 100% educational titles, for sure.

Indie Gala: The Indie Gala 9

Next up is the 9th(!) bundle from Indie Gala - and this one is particularly generous, offering seven PC games (plus two yet to be announced) and two Android titles for $5.87. There's no exclusives here, but it does offer the chance to pick up the Broken Sword trilogy and Team 17's Worms, Worms Blast, Worms Crazy Golf and the excellent Alien Breed 2: Assault - all of which are redeemable on Steam.

The two android games are the modern pirate bashing Battlegroup and Red Wasp Design's acclaimed Call of Cthulhu: Wasted Land, but really the main attraction here is the collection of Steam games above, with Alien Breed 2 still being a favourite at RGCD.

Humble Bundle: The Humble Indie Bundle 6

Finally, the last bundle on offer (and undoubtedly the best) comes from the long-standing favourites Humble Bundle. Paying above the average price of $5.78 will bag you a copy of Hitbox Team's hardcore sweep 'em up Dustforce (well worth that price alone), with sci-fi platform action from Recoil Games (Rochard), brick-busting mayhem in the form of Sidhe's Shatter and insanely addictive 2D space rogue chaos from MinMax Games (Space Pirates And Zombies). To top that, the bundle also includes the hugely popular dungeon romp Torchlight, a game that has devoured many hours of my life, as well as the puzzle platforming Vessel from Strange Loop Games.

In all, there are some incredible games here at a insane price. Dig deep and show your support for the indie scene (and chosen charities) while the offers are still online!

qrth-phyl (PC/XBLIG)

qrth-phyl is a game that is equally brilliant and mysterious, familiar and alien, and 100% enthralling no matter which way (or from which axis) you look at it. Inspired by the classic 'Snake', a mainstay on the ancient, ubiquitous Nokia mobiles of yore, qrth-phyl was borne from a "prototype created in the deep south west of Cornwall in 2004." The creation of hermitgames, a one-man operation founded by Matt James, this title successfully transforms the classic time-waster into an immersive, otherworldly arcade experience that's nothing like the original.

Revolgear II (PC)

Nothing beats a good old-school horizontal shooter to get the adrenaline pumping. The classic and relentless left-to-right scrolling, the promise of sweaty-palm joystick bashing, a cacophony of explosions and riotous chip music. Oh yes, that's exactly what the doctor ordered!

And lo and behold! Necobikkuri's Revolgear II certainly looks the part - especially so if you're a Thunderforce fan (which was obviously an inspiration). Add to that the authentic early 1990's arcade-quality sound and you'd think that this would be another straight 5/5 review on the way, but hang on just a minute...

Sunday 16 September 2012

Bouncing Bomb: Redux (ZX Spectrum)

I can't claim to know much about reactor cores, but rarely is one featured in a plotline without being preceded by the word "unstable," having "gone critical," or being on the verge of meltdown. Based on this limited experience, I have concluded that they are far more trouble than they're worth. This world-view has been confirmed by the latest "experimental reactor core" I have encountered, the destruction of which is the central goal in Bouncing Bomb: Redux. Yes, it has gone critical; as author Phil Ruston acknowledges in the game's instructions: haven't they always?

C64 16KB Cartridge Game Development Competition - Status Update #2

It's been a couple of months since the last competition update, so what's been happening? Well, there's good news, bad news, progress reports and new entries! With the finish line approaching fast, who'll walk away with the prize?

Competition Entry #2: Rent-A-Cop
Developer: Achim Volkers
Status: In Progress

Achim recently sent in what he describes as a final preview of his second competition entry, a re-imagining of the Atari 2600 classic 'Keystone Kapers'. Aside from lacking sound the game appears to be pretty much complete, with you playing as a little security guard chasing a thief around an animated shopping mall whilst avoiding all manner of hazards and collecting bonuses.

There's a game front-end in place with a cute logo, high score table and brief instructions, and it's clear that Achim's development skills are continuing to improve by the fact that the game uses the top and bottom borders (on both PAL and NTSC) and also the graphics are a continued improvement on his previous games. There's a loader screen up on CSDB (and I agree that it is reminiscent of the 80's video-nasty Maniac Cop). I have to admit that I did like the previous joke name 'Grand Theft Aldi' more than the official title though! :)

Saturday 8 September 2012

BROFORCE (Preview) (PC)

Those of you who've been following RGCD for the last few years will know that we very rarely feature previews or prototypes - as a general rule we prefer to wait for a final release before giving our opinion (a lesson learnt from previewing Rob Fearon's super-fun yet still super-elusive G-Force *twice* back in our old diskmag days). But hey, I'm not writing here to complain about the non-appearance of one of my favourite remakes (again) - no, today I'm going to tell you why you really need to check out Free Lives' two player cooperative/competitive run 'n' gun kill-em-up BROFORCE.

I really want to avoid the direct comparisons that a lot of other review/previews have already made to the current generation of indie games, because as far as I am concerned BROFORCE is unique in its execution and style. No other platform/shmup I've played in recent years has been as frantic, chaotic nor downright explosive - and the (currently) compulsory old-school two-players-in-front-of-a-pc design choice makes it stand out even more from its peers. Sure, a game like this would be doable in single player, but as the name suggests BROFORCE is all about working together with a friend (Bro), blowing the crap out of everything that gets in your way - and then blowing it up some more (force).

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Moustache King Adventure (PC)

Some modern games are retro-infused. Some modern games are retro-inspired. Some modern games are retro-looking. And SOME modern games are actually retro. Like Moustache King Adventure, for example. Harkening back to the 16-bit days, Moustache King Adventure (which I, like a neatly groomed lip sweater, will trim down to MKA moving forward) is a truly nostalgic side-scrolling romp with a whimsical feel and punishing level of difficulty. With art and design by Jason Boyer and music by HyperDuck SoundWorks (who have worked with a number of indie titles such as Under the Ocean), this game was originally created for the AGBIC competition.

Players are introduced to the game with a delightful chiptune track and a short, but enjoyable sequence in which our bare-faced protagonist meets the Moustache King, and vows to usurp him someday from his hairy throne. Fastforward to "Ten Years Later" and our main man is sporting a fine paintbrush 'stache, ready to take on the world and all its challenges.

Catacombs of Balachor (ZX Spectrum)

I approached this release with some trepidation – a previously unknown the two man team Lasasoft's debut release for the Spectrum – and it looked from the screenshot like something that was evidently based around typical Spectrum 8x8 character squares, with a rather bland tile set of 'generic dungeon'. My expectations were low, and the lack of loading screen and minimal front end menu did little to increase my confidence.

So, what have we got here? Catacombs of Balachor is a fairly simple flick screen arcade maze adventure that seem to take Ultimate's SabreWulf or AticAtak as inspiration. Rather than having any weapon, the hero has to avoid baddies and progress through the Catacombs collecting treasure, to finally escape. Although nominally a maze it differs from the Ultimate offerings mentioned in that progression is fairly linear – it is hard to get lost, and locked gates prevent you from backtracking too far. These are not criticisms, and some players will relish the face that navigating the dungeon is not too taxing. There are locked gates which require collected keys, and some parts later that require axes to progress etc., but most players will strip-search the rooms, so the ‘collection’ and managing the right tools to progress becomes secondary to just avoiding the baddies and collecting everything. A few hidden rooms spice things up, but they are easy enough to spot, if you search carefully.

Classic Kong (SNES)

It's a Friday night as I type this, with a bank holiday weekend on the cards, and I'm obsessively playing Bubble Zap's Classic Kong, a Donkey Kong port for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System because I'm bloody minded and stubborn, and also because it's a top notch, classy port done slickly and smartly.

I've not played much in the way of SNES homebrews apart from one that I picked up last year as possible RGCD review fodder and it was so terrible I just walked away from it. I forget its name and this is probably for the best. Coded by retro-developer Shiru (who recently gave us the excellent Zooming Secretary), Classic Kong blew away any prejudices I had about SNES homebrew games with its polished and completely professional appearance, and it backed this up with great gameplay.