Archive for April, 2010

Aquanox 2

9,99€ = $13,37

$7,38 less, no DRM, Goodies (manual, hi-res wallpapers, in-game soundtrack, artworks, avatars)

A tough decision.

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Trine

Trine is one of these rare gems, a sudden smash hit, that I’d never expected, like the magnificence of BAA took me by surprise. A game that you do have certain expectations for, but that’s nothing like it when you first see it. It makes your jaw drop and binds you to the machine for the next hours, like this probe did with Picard in “The Inner Light“. :P
I bought it last year, amongst many other titles (during the Steam holiday sales) and I thought I was only working my way through the bottled-up backlog, business as usual.
Trine is nothing like this simple plattformer, or superficial casual game that I expected. It (out-) shines those in most of its areas: graphics, presentation, handling, creativity, idea, animation, physics…
The game is a perfect combination of well animated characters in a stunning environment, moving through a nice fantasy backstory. Trine evolves around 3 heroes (Thief/Knight/Wizard), who are magically (and accidentally) joined through an artifact and seek for a way to go back to normal. The protagonists (only one of them is visible and switching between them is possible at all times) offer different abilities, whilst all of their powers are necessary, to win the game (and every level in it). 3 is key here, and the 3 protagonists can have 3 abilities, that can become mightier in 3 stages, through collecting green experience bottles (and some enemies drop XP). Every party member also has an inventory and (except for the first and last) all levels feature 2 secrets (okay the new* level is another exception and has TEN secrets [which are flasks now]!) in form of chests, that will contain items which can enhance abilities of all, or only certain characters. This is another stab at enhancing replayability, because more powerful PCs might be able to do something now, they couldn’t at first. There’s also a menu, allowing to start already unlocked levels instantly.
The levels start with a nice loading screen, that also features a narrator, who often talks long after the loading has finished. I liked the style so much, I gladly listened to it. Once the levels start, the voice work is quite sparse, but since the focus is the usually physics based challenges, this is no letdown (only the thief never showing her full face is :P). It’s still frequent enough, so that the story seems to develop constantly.
A typical level is full of chasms, spikes, time based obstacles or those, that require the right distribution of weight and places that are difficult to reach.
The wizard can levitate objects and conjure crates, planks and a floating triangle. So his services will be in very high demand. I love how they implemented the conjuring, to create an object, it’s only necessary to draw it’s shape with the mouse and it will appear in that spot. So with these skills, the wizard can circumvent almost every problem. That leaves fighting and fast evasion to the other 2.
The thief can shoot normal arrows with her bow (up to 3 with respective upgrades), or flaming ones. The latter can also lit torches or destroy some fragile obstacles. The coolest move however, must be the grappling hook (yes! I said grappling hook! Just like Batman! :D). Said grappling hook can attach itself to all wooden surfaces or the Wizard’s floating triangle (when it’s upgraded accordingly). Try the flying kick!
That leaves only the knight, this dude (as expected) is mainly for fighting monsters. In default he has a sword and shield (where the shield can also protect against e.g. falling rocks). The sword can be enhanced to be flaming and a two-handed hammer (can smash crumbling walls) will become the secondary weapon.
Last but not least, the game has achievements, that actually make some sense! While I got ~60 achievements in Dragon Age, simply by having a regular, unspectacular playthrough and not trying anything “special”, those in Trine require the player to actually achieve them!
Now I’m gonna go play the new level!

*Today (2010/04/19), it even got something I wouldn’t have dared to wait for: a FREE/new level (Path to New Dawn)! Steam rolled it out automatically (duh).

Penal Zone

They are back! Even after 2 seasons (combining 11 episodes) I didn’t have enough, so I jumped right back in 3. My enthusiasm in these situations is usually high enough to successfully bypass any rational thought, so I didn’t consider any possible drawbacks. Season 3 is really more a follow up to the latest Telltale games rather than the last Sam & Max game itself. Tales of Monkey Island definitely led the way. What I mean by that, is that S&M 3 has WASD keyboard control instead of the AWESOME point+click from 1+2. If it ain’t broke, think long if you need to change it anyway! I don’t intend to go into it at an epic length, how much I dislike keyboard control for something, that basically is still nothing but a classic adventure game (which can be great as it was)… Moving a character around with WASD doesn’t add anything to gameplay, it doesn’t make things easier to control and that’s already everything I could think of that could be a reason for choosing this kind of interface! A simple mouse click is always faster and easier, it also only requires the use of a single hand, whilst the WASD keeps both hands busy and breaks game control, when the player tries to drink something (or whatever). The cursor itself was changed into a huge hand, which is IMHO again no improvement over the accustomed default. Furthermore, keyboard control in such adventures always ends up in running into every object on the screen. Did anyone ever play for a longer period of time, without bumping against something? Bumping against all sides is even necessary, to determine if the screen scrolls further, potentially revealing more of the current location…

After I was able to move on from this first shock, the next details started to sift in. Noticing the film grain effect, the dialog wheel for conversations, or even the aquarium in Stinky’s Diner, I felt much better, because at least they seemed to have the same taste in games I do. Really.

Although you’ll still don’t have to use your brain to solve any of the puzzles, it’s a little more complex than the previous seasons, mostly because of Max’ new abilities. Oh and Max… I’ll admit I play these games because of Max. Who doesn’t wanna see a psychotic rabbit wreak havoc? So, having a game rely to no small part on one character, means at least this MUST be perfect. Considering this, what have they done with his face?!?

This, this… THING that happens above his eyes, makes me believe there’s an alien parasite moving under his skin! It freaks me out every time it happens!

I’ll admit the effect succeeds sometimes,

to give him more range to express SOMETHING, but usually, this

is the way we (=me) want to see him. Please…

The rest of the game feels somewhat bigger & better (the episode has 436 MB, a lot of the old ones were under 100 – so this couldn’t be any more obvious right away), because there are more locations now and although it’s the familiar engine again, it feels like they almost maxed out their options.

As someone who had played all parts of the previous seasons, I felt the locations of 3×01 belonged to the best kind they did so far.
Concerning the story, I can’t say anything yet, since it’s quite unclear in which direction they intend to go. Having finished 1/5 of the game doesn’t really unveil a big enough chunk.
Oh, and if you can’t shoot ANYTHING with the gun, please just remove it! It’s annoying, when fully armed Sam & Max can be pushed around by anybody, without being able to do anything about it. A psychotic bunny with lots of ammo should be able to take an unarmed opponent. At least he’d TRY! He’s CrAzY! I’m not talking about a bloodbath here (I swear!), SOME cartoon violence, as it is perfectly fitting into this setting, would do fine…
Since the Telltale customer support is so awesome to do stuff like that, I’m already looking forward to my email announcing 3×02. :)

Goto…

I would really be more motivated to buy the Kasumi DLC, if her model wouldn’t simply consist of Miranda’s body and Tali’s head/hood. And oh yes, no conversations like “the real characters” offer either. The exact same letdown as Zaeed.

6.9 Complete (167 MB) / 6.8 => 6.9 (79 MB) / Changes

(+) denotes changes for Plus Edition players

v6.9 31.03.2010
—-

  • +Made Tourette give ammo and repaired mugger and bum humanity issues.
  • Fixed wrong Luckee Star keycard model and Chunk’s sitting position.
  • Added new warehouse quest log and animation to new DJ at Confession.
  • Improved minor text issues of quest logs, tutorial popups and info.
  • Fixed dialogues of Jack, Mercurio, Regent, Knox, Bertram and Imalia.
  • Stopped Dane cop from looping and removed one unvoiced line of his.
  • Forced dialogues of Hannah, video courier and Skelter at Last Round.
  • Prevented random missing hands bug and restored unused Venus lines.
  • Fixed refresh-rate problem in shaderapidx9.dll, thanks to Frank7777.
  • Removed push blockade at Fu Syndicate and bad decals at the museum.