Posts Tagged ‘ XBLA ’

Sam and Max Beyond Time and Space Review

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the point and click adventure was king of the game genres. They revolutionised the way in which interactive stories could be told at a time when graphical and processing capabilities were limited by modern day standards. Rather than focusing on physical challenges, the point and click adventure focused on exploration and puzzle solving tasks. While games such as Myst and the Zork series were distinctly sombre affairs, other games like the Monkey Island series and Sam and Max Hit the Road were much more humorous. Sam and Max was my particular favourite, what’s not to love about a detective duo made up of a sensible, stoic dog and a hyperactive, psychotic rabbit? Fans hoped for more from the duo but for various reasons, this wasn’t to be until Telltale Games picked up the license and ran with it ably demonstrated by Sam and Max Season One and now Season Two: Beyond Time and Space.

As the season term suggests, rather than simply being one big adventure, Beyond Time and Space comprises of five episodic segments. With each episode taking a few hours to complete, it’s a nice way of making the game feel like value for money. It also makes the Season feel like a more rounded product than if the games had been sold separately as some episodes are better than others. The stories range from Sam and Max saving Christmas in Ice Station Santa to rescuing Bosco the shopkeeper’s soul in What’s New Beelzebub. Each story is fairly self contained albeit with the odd overlap and many settings and characters being re-used.

samandmax1

Telltale Games have done a great job with each of the episodes being very enjoyable experiences. My particular favourite storyline was Ice Station Santa’s where Santa becomes possessed and it’s down to Sam and Max to save Christmas. Any game where you have to collect up action figures based on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has to be given some credit. Throughout the episodes, Sam and Max’s one liners continually made me crack a smile and the barrage of pop culture references were extremely welcome. Max may be a completely insane rabbit who would kill everyone just for the hell of it, but he manages to still be immensely likeable. The same can be said of the ever deadpan but darkly sarcastic Sam. The supporting cast also provides some laughs, such as Sybil the, ever desperate for love, office worker and my favourite: the garage computers. These computers comprise of an abandoned arcade machine, some form of 1980s home computer and a punch hole machine, all with their own, unique (and odd personalities).

samandmax2

The only real let down for the stories was the third instalment Night of the Raving Dead. The story felt much weaker than others and less enjoyable. Some of the puzzles also felt quite illogical at times which was a tad disappointing. Despite these shortcomings the other episodes were very enjoyable with the majority of puzzles making plenty of sense. Be warned though: some puzzles do provoke a feeling of ‘Doh!’ when you finally figure out just how simple it really is after spending 30 minutes or more pondering what to do next!

Besides the puzzles and typical point and click action, a few minigames make an appearance to break things up a bit. I have to admit that I did find some of them a little gimmicky. Brief games that involve driving over bagpipes or shooting zombies just felt a little bit like they were padding out the length of the game. That’s not to say that they weren’t quite fun for a few minutes but they did feel a little pointless when more puzzles could have been added in their place. Purists of the point and click genre may be particularly peeved by their inclusion.

samandmax3

It’s great to see a much loved franchise such as Sam and Max succeed so well on a different system, and a new audience. A lot of gaming feels so serious and glum that to play a game which genuinely made me laugh out loud was a great surprise. At 1600 points it may seem like a slightly expensive choice to make on the Xbox Live Marketplace, especially when bearing in mind it is single player only. However I’d say it’s worth every penny if you enjoy witty dialogue and using the old grey matter from time to time. Personally I’m crossing my fingers tightly for a Season Three!

Hi-Score – Consistently funny dialogue and storylines, Sam and Max exude charm

Lo-Score – Minigames can begin to grate after a while, no replayability

Score – 8 out of 10

Warriors: Street Brawl Review

logo

Warriors, where are you? A question that I sadly had to ask myself multiple times while playing this game.

The Warriors is a cult classic from 1979, a film that was passed down to me by my father, that I now pass down to the younger generations. My experience with this game has left a stain on one of my favourite films, a stain thats going to take some time and possibly therapy to remove.

The side scrolling beat ’em up is one of the oldest genres in the book, made famous by such classics as Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, both of which ate up a hell of a lot of gaming time in my youth. The fundamentals are simple, move your character from left to right smashing up any and every thing in your way but somewhere down the line Warriors Street Brawl got it wrong. The controls are very simple, one button to kick, punch, throw, block, run and jump; combing these will result in different combos and specialist tricks. Using any of these moves will dispatch a foe with relative ease but when your attacked by multiple enemies the cracks begin to show.

gp1

You hold block, waiting for your chance to swing back but it never comes. It’s almost like the enemies have planned their attack pattern; just as the first enemy finishes his 3 hit combo you release block and start your swing then BAM, the enemy behind you starts his attack. I spent more time hiding behind my fists than throwing them. The one sure fire way to get out of this is to use your special attack which sends your enemies spinning away to the floor. Even this has its drawbacks as it depletes your health which is not usually a bad thing but I struggled to find any in this game. You smash-up bins and lamp posts to find roast chickens and the likes (seriously) but more often than not I found money, diamonds or rage.

Rage is something you’re going to need in this game even though it does not work. You build up your meter by stacking up chains of attacks or finding the afore mentioned rage boosters that take the form of a glowing skull. When you activate your rage you glow red and inflict more damage, which is great but you can still be hit and knocked over with ease. So if you find yourself surrounded (again) then it’s not going to help you out. I know I’m complaining about being surrounded a lot but it really does happen that much. At certain crux points of the levels you have a small selection of enemies to defeat in an alloted time. If you dont defeat them then reinforcements come, if you dont defeat the reinforced foes then another wave come. Why? In theory it may be a good idea but in practice it makes you want to quit out and go play a real game like Streets of Rage.

gp2

The one thing the game does right is the graphics, the levels and enemies look splendid in their shiny HD glory. It certainly brought a smile to my face seeing the locations and characters from the film brought to life so well. The one problem that occurred was finding the objects to smash. Everything looked so smooth and sharp unlike the really obvious out-of-place trash can in the old Megadrive games. It’s a strange complaint, I know, but it is valid (honestly!). The cut-scenes look equally nice as an animated comic book. I have no idea why the sexy red lipped DJ was not featured in the game, what a missed opportunity.

Sadly the sound was not up to the scratch of the graphics. Music from the film was kind of there but not really. The game would have benefited from some of the original music just to keep us fan boys happy. My biggest gripe with the sound was the awful noises the enemies made, not just their noises but their animations as well. After slapping you around they shake their fist in the air and make a noise which is akin to Inspector Cyril ‘Blakey’ Blake from On The Buses. I mean come on, this is supposed to be a seedy gangland, I’m supposed to be fearing for my life.

I sadly never got to test the multiplayer aspect out as no one I know had the game or wanted to play it. It does boast 4 player online and offline co-op which may address some of the game play issues but should the single player suffer? I think not.

“Can You Dig it?” Sadly, I cant. A very well presented game spoiled by frustrating gameplay that will leave you with a hoarse throat and a bruised knee.

Hi-Score – Impressive Graphics, Nostalgia, Multiplayer Options, eh…thats about it

Lo-Score – Horribly Frustrating Gameplay, High difficulty, Bad sound

Score – 4 out of 10

My Brother And Me

Outside games journalism itself, the press often gives video games a hard time.  While this is a sweeping statement, you only have to look to figures like Mary Whitehouse, Jack Thompson and even other vocal opponents such as Julia Boseman or Hillary Clinton for proof.

Now, most gamers I know wouldn’t try arguing games are without issues or faults – far from it.  Most would implore very particular treatment of young gamers, for example, and few would dispute the fact that, like all things, games are a hobby best suited for moderate consumption.  However, this is a long and complex discussion that has been raised before, and I am not about to wade into the quagmire today, especially without considerably more research.

The point of this article is simple: to underline my belief that there are very valid and very personal reasons why games can be a good thing.  In my case, it’s my brother.

Although similar in age (we’re just 18 months apart), my brother and I are very different people with very different interests.  Fortunately for us, being brothers and all, we have the same parents.  This means we shared the same upbringing, and have – over time – come to share many values.  Growing up, despite all the tomfoolery, squabbling and enthusiastically destructive play in which we indulged, we remained quite close.  Sure, there were some wobbly moments in the teenage years when I didn’t like my brother (or anyone else) very much, but time has mellowed us both.

However, my brother likes the UFC and MMA, boxing, cars, and Formula 1, none of which hold much interest for me.  I respect what he likes, except when I don’t, or see an opportunity to take the piss, but his interests are not my interests.  The exception is gaming.

Keith Jardine knocks Rampage Jacksons Mouthpiece flying

Keith Jardine knocks Rampage Jacksons Mouthpiece flying

We grew up playing games together – both video and “real” ones.  Everything from Roland in Time on the Amstrad CPC 464 to Goldeneye on the N64, we played it.  Perhaps nostalgia has helped cement the bond (we both remember going to look at the £1.99 Amstrad tapes under the glass counter in our local toy shop), but we still love games now.  It’s a common interest for us, and we will chat for hours about the upcoming releases, the good times on Gears of War or Skate 2, and even what idiots we encountered in the latest round of online gaming.  He knows the same people I do online, we like the same games (shooters, mainly), and he is of a similar standard.

My brother, Tommy, is good company anyway, and we’ve shared many a magical moment online.  I will never forget the time Tommy pulled up next to me in a Warthog and yelled at me to “get in the van.”  You’d never guess he was involved in the building trade at the time…  Okay, so he’s not quite as devoted to gaming as I am – he tends to wander in and out of remembering to pay his broadband bill – but that makes no difference to either of us.

"Get in the van" - Tommy

"Get in the van" - Tommy

In short, gaming has brought us closer – we always got on well, but over the last few years my brother has fast become one of my best friends.   I have faith that many other such stories exist out there – perhaps a couple who met through gaming, or a father and son playing together; maybe a family where video games have provided an outlet for other problems.

This is all a far cry from the thoroughly negative press that gaming often gets, and proves that video games can be a positive influence. As someone else once said, “virtual spaces, real relationships.”

Some come on, what do games mean to you and yours?

A life in games

Who am I?

 

No, I’m not referring to a Jackie Chan film, nor am I suffering an existential crisis.  My name is Sam, and I’m a games addict.  I’m also a new writer here on the wonderful site you know and love as Hi Score – so you can expect to see plenty more from me over the coming months, you lucky people.  So, without further ado, let me explain a little bit more to you about my experiences in gaming.

 

Halcyon days

 

I have often thought of myself as a casually obsessive gamer – games are something I come back to after spending years away from them.  While this might be true-ish, I recently looked back down the years and found surprising evidence to the contrary: I am probably not a casual gamer at all.  As young as four years old, I remember being transfixed by the very idea that machines could transport me to another world, create entire fictions for me to explore and inhabit.  When I got my first home computer – an Amstrad CPC 464 – on Christmas Day, I was left shocked, amazed, ecstatic and goggle-eyed.  Roland in Time was, quite frankly, a masterpiece, as was the amazing Jet Set Willy.  Computers seemed to open up a world of endless possibilities, doorways to fantastical realms.   A bit like interactive books, perhaps.  Many were like books, in a way – playing Granny’s Garden on the BBC Micro was even part of school lessons.

 
Granny's Garden: every scoolboy's dream

During my life, computers and consoles have always been there in the background: I’ve owned an Amiga 500 (I was convinced graphics would never get any better!), a Megadrive, a Playstation, a Nintendo 64, a Playstation 2, and now an Xbox 360.  I have played even more than that, and owned several PCs.  Despite this, there is still something even now that makes me smile like a schoolboy when I fire up a disc and enter an entirely new world for the very first time.

 

Perhaps one of the reasons I like gaming because it is truly nostalgic, a direct link straight into my past.  I also like it for many other reasons now – unlocking a difficult achievement or trophy, chatting to my friends online, besting my virtual opponents in an FPS; the list goes on.

 

The long and winding road

 

I have loved so many games for so many reasons over the years, that perhaps it is unwise to list them all here – each such game is like a classic album to me, transporting me back to a simpler, happier time, where rose-tinted glasses aren’t optional.  It conjures up associative memories and makes me think of other things, not just the game itself.  An example of one such game is Super Metroid.  Perhaps it is as much down to the heady nostalgia of the warm summer I spent dedicated to it with my friend Tony, but it will always have a special place in my heart.  It’s also why I’ve been so excited about the prospect of Shadow Complex this week on XBLA.  And without further ado, I shall take my leave of you to go and get stuck into Shadow Complex.

 
The grand old days of yore

Auf Weidersehen, Monty

 

That’s all from me for now, but I’ll catch you guys and gals around.

 

Billy Goodgun

AKA Sam.

Trials HD Review

I had planned to get this review up on Thursday or at latest Friday but here I am on Sunday night typing up my thoughts on this amazing little game. I have struggled to put the pad down long enough to type this thing. I’m horribly addicted to Trials HD, more so than I have been to any other arcade game. I should have anticipated this after being addicted to the old flash game versions. I’m sure at some point in your gaming life you have came across a Trials game. If not you basically have to ride your motocross bike across a series of obstacles and jumps and stay on until the end. Sounds easy enough but its surprisingly not.

Trials HD is the perfect example of a simple idea executed well. You use the right trigger for ignition, the harder you press the harder you accelerate. The much neglected brake is the left trigger which is only really used on the obstacles. For control you use the right analogue stick, pulling back will raise your front end and pushing forward lowers it. Sounds simple enough and it really is but these controls will help you conquer some of the most soul destroying challenges you will ever face.

Trials

After each one of these obstacles there is a checkpoint that you can respawn at by pressing B. This makes some of the harder challenges possible…just. If your going for a top notch time then you can press the back key which will restart the level. Just don’t do what I have done numerous times and press it instead of B. Nothing worse than losing all your progress on an Expert level.

The game starts out on beginner level then rather steeply shoots up to expert. The game leaves you stumped at quite a few points with no help. You have to learn what to do by just repeating it over and over again which may be too much for some people to take. You get 30 minutes and 500 respawns to complete a level. It may seem like a lot but I managed to max out both trying to complete one of the extreme challenges. If you need help you can jump over to the leaderboards and watch the replays of the best players. This sometimes helps but can just leave you feeling dumbfounded.

Trials2

The leaderboards are where the addiction lies in this game. Every time you complete a level it shows your score in relation to your friends. You could put a time down that your really happy with to see your rival a few tenths of a second faster than you. I have spent hours trying to chase down a friends score. Studying every jump to find the perfect transition to give me the speed for the next. No matter how good you do you know you can always go faster.

If you’re getting too annoyed at a particular track you can always go and play some of the mini games. These range from jumping your ski bike as far as you can to trying to break as many bones as possible by launching your poor rider down some steps. Hill climb is my favourite mini game by far. The further you drive your bike up the near vertical wall the harder it gets to keep it under control. Seeing your friends name just above you on the hill makes you want to find that last shred of energy to push past their score. There is also a tournament mode that involves you completing a series of tracks in a row. I have dabbled a little with the level editor and it seems really good. I’ve never been great at level editors but I do enjoy playing user created content and I think were going to see some devilish creations.

trials 3

The game looks and sounds as good you would expect it to do with a 1200 MP price tag and HD in the title. The music is pretty much non existent as I turned it down and just listen to the bike. Brandon Dicamillo and Rake Yon of CKY and Jackass do the voice over work which was surprisingly annoying. It made me chuckle the first time I heard it but after awhile I just turned it off.

Trials HD is one of the best arcade games I have ever purchased and I can see myself playing this well into the future. I seriously recommend that you pick up this title. Its a great game with tons of replay value.

Hi-Score – Simple controls, Leaderboards, Addictive gameplay, Great graphics

Lo-Score – Hard later levels, Annoying voice overs, Life endingly addictive

Final score – 9 out of 10

Trials HD competition

The most addictive game ever has landed on XBLA and as more and more people download Trials HD we (read, Crying Scotsman a community member) have decided to run a competition. With 1600 MS points up for grabs, 800 from CSM and 800 from Hi-Score all you have to do is head over to our forums and sign up with your gamertag.

Trials_boxart

Here are the rules;

Sign up at the forums no later than Sunday 16th August if you are interested in taking part in a little Trials HD Comp.

The comp will run until 9pm Sunday 23rd August.

The competition will be played over the following:

Smooth Jumps (easy track)
Wheres the Ground (medium track)
Background Cup (tournament)
National Bike Cup (tournament)

These tracks have been selected purely for the reason that most should have them within a very short period of time and can therefore enter the comp.

3 points will be awarded for the person with the fastest time on each track, 2 points for the second fastest and 1 point for the third fastest.

The person with the highest total score at the close of the comp will win 800 MS Points.

General Rules

– Any bike can be used on any track (well, any that the track will allow)
– You can try for the fastest time as often as you like
– Only the fastest times at 9pm Sunday 23rd August will be used for the scores
– In the event of a tie, the person with the lowest cumulative time will be declared the winner

How to sign up

Post your gamertag in the forum thread, no later than Sunday 16th August. I will then add you to my friends list and be able to monitor the leaderboard (it may also be useful for people to add each other and then you can check the leaderboard throughout!)
At the close of the comp, I will log the scores from the leaderboard (and take photographic evidence, in the case of cries of shenanigans!)

EDIT- YOU CAN ALSO ENTER HERE BY PUTTING YOUR GT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!!!! 😀

Problems and Promise

Where to start……Dear me, what happened EA?
I’m assuming by that first line you know what I’m referring to, but for those who need some enlightening let me shed the light. Wednesday 8th July saw the release of Battlefield 1943 on XBLA, an event that has been widely hyped in preview sections and on many podcasts. Falling onto our dashboards priced at 1200 points, people across Europe and the world were ensuring that they had enough points in their balance and getting ready for war.

As a big fan of the Battlefield series I was armed with the points and ready to download it as soon as it was up. Then it appeared, kind of. The first problem of the endless list was that the game would only download from XBOX.com or the spotlight section on the dashboard, not a huge problem, I grabbed it XBOX.com and it started downloading. With my new game settling in it’s new home I hit the A button and launched it for the first time. I was greeted by a fantastic menu system with triumphant music, this was before I entered my first match and experienced horrendous lag.

Bullet lag, characters that seemed animated by Aardman (stop motion style) and walking forward five steps only to lag backwards four steps, the game was unplayable. It was broken, for an online only game to not work online is a big problem and I wasn’t happy. After a few measly attempts at getting a few games on my new purchase I gave up for a while. After posting my thoughts on Twitter I gave it one more go and, Success! There I was standing on Wake island, no lag, no issues, time to fight.

And what a great fight it is, with stunning graphics for an arcade title and epic gameplay usually reserved for retail games, Battlefield 1943 is a fantastic edition to XBLA. A capture the flag mixed with territories style game is the only mode to play at the moment, but there’s no issue there. It’s a great game mode that always seems to keep the scores close and the games finish with only a small margin between teams. Choosing one of three classes to fight as, scout (sniper) infantry (gunner) and rifleman (name says it all) you will rank up your profile as you capture flags, kill the other team and blow up planes and tanks. With destructible scenery too, everything is here for a great game.

However, the problems came back, the lag struck again. According to the Twitter account of the developers it was an issue with packet data and would be finished within a few hours…..and it was. Then the servers failed. It seems, despite what EA and DICE say, the interest in Battlefield 1943 was underestimated and there weren’t enough servers to cope with demand. Games couldn’t be found in the search function, friends couldn’t play together and if you managed to get into a game you were kicked from it swiftly. This continued for some time and the Twitter feed of the Devs kept spitting out excuse after excuse.

We are now some five days after the launch of the game and despite most problems being fixed, there are still a few left behind.

Arthur Gies from Eat.Sleep.Game and Rebel FM said this on Twitter just yesterday; Battlefield 1943 is completely fucked. we couldn’t even do a private game without a hitch.

After trying to arrange a community game yesterday, former 1up writer Nick Suttner said this; Wow, that was a massive failure. Sorry everyone. We had a full room, too! Back to the fully-functioning PS3 version…alone…

This really isn’t good enough on EA’s part, releasing a game on XBLA that is quite obviously broken and in need of removal. But what really gets my goat is how we, the gamer, have received no apology on the situation. Surely under consumer law EA should at least part refund these games as people have paid for them in in worst cases have lost five days of their purchase. I’m utterly speechless that a game that was so hyped can have been so underestimated by it’s own developers and publishers. When Battlefield 1943 works, it’s a beautiful combination of gunplay and teamwork that plays amazingly, But it doesn’t work and that’s just sad.