Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sword of Fargoal For The iPhone!

Sword of Fargoal for the iPhone! Sword of Fargoal for the iPhone! What more do you need to know?

Okay, fine.

Sword of Fargoal is a classic Commodore Vic 20 and Commodore 64 game by Jeff McCord, a dungeon crawler of intensely hard difficulty but addictive gameplay. I've mentioned it before on this blog.

The iPhone version, with updated graphics and a save feature, is a masterpiece, recreated by McCord and a few others with deft craftsmanship. The gameplay is the same classic top-down dungeon exploration and combat, but enhancements like the epic music and lighting effects really add to the experience.

But all that I really should need to say is that SWORD OF FARGOAL IS ON THE IPHONE! If you are a middle-aged gamer like me, or a younger pup who has any appreciation for the classics, this is THE game to get for your iPhone. Sword of Fargoal remains a fantastic and challenging game that has stood the test of time far better than most.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Beaten : Alien Invaders - Plus

Every Christmas, I sit down for a few minutes with the Odyssey 2 game Alien Invaders Plus, the first game I got (other than the console's pack-in game Speedway/Spinout/Crypto-Logic) for the system, twenty eight years ago today. I play the game each year until I beat back the alien horde, which isn't too hard.

Alien Invaders Plus is the Odyssey 2's answer to Space Invaders, and it's nowhere near as good. Each wave of invaders the player faces count as a round. Beat ten rounds or lose ten lives and the game is over. The three rows of aliens consist of a small barracade row, which is indestructable, a gun, and an alien soldier. Shooting either the gun or the soldier stops them from shooting you, but the round only ends when all the soldiers are dead and the mother ship is destroyed.

The only other unique aspect of Alien Invaders Plus is the fact that once your gun, depicted at the bottom of the screen as a pyramid, gets hit, you flee as little soldier yourself, vulnerble to alien fire. If you get to one of your three barracades unhurt, you can transform it into another gun and keep fighting.

The firing patterns and movements of the invaders all came back to me after a few minutes, no doubt stored in my brain all these decades, and I again beat back the aliens. I'm sure they'll be back next year, though.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Borderlands - Polished, Playable, Perfect

Borderlands is a real gem in the bustling Fall 2009 videogame release schedule. It's a first-person shooter with some light role-playing elements, gorgeous cell-shaded graphics, and character and style in droves.

Players pick from one of four character classes, each with different skills and abilities to develop. Cast onto the desolate and largely abandoned world of Pandora, a long quest unfolds amid the carnage, character development, and showers of loot that the player experiences. The rocky, barren landscape is dotted with human settlements and scrapyards, inhabited with strange critters, bands of hostile rogues, and really cool robots called Claptraps.

The world is divided into many zones, most of them fairly large, but easily accessable vehicles and teleporters make travel a snap. There are plenty of side missions that take the player into these areas, and a crude map feature makes finding your quest's destination also hassle - free. Everything that is done floods the player with loot, loot, and more loot, and a lot of time has to be spent in sub-screens comparing weapons and other items. All of these screens are well designed and accessable, and in no time the player will be zipping in and out of them with deft navigation.

Graphically gorgeous and stylistic, Borderlands looks good and moves fast. The story is light, but the missions are varied and numerous, and the characters you meet along the way are wacky and good, clean fun. There are some great pop-culture references in there, too.

Polished and playable, Borderlands is a top-notch FPS with just the right amount of RPG tossed into the mix. There's lots of loot and exploration to complement the endless action. And the first downloadable expansion, The Island of Dr. Ned, offers even more fun. It's one of those games where the player is compelled to do every side quest just to keep it from ending. Yes, Borderlands is that damn good, and I suspect that a lot of us who enjoyed it are hoping it gets a sequel.

Brutal Legend - A Strange Mix With A Great Story

I haven't updated in awhile - great new games are coming out fast, I went to Dallas for a few weeks for know, screw the excuses, let's just start catching up.

Brutal Legend is a heavy metal hybrid action/real time strategy game that tells the story of roadie Eddie Riggs, who finds himself cast into some bygone age where everything looks like an epic metal album cover. He starts out with an axe and a guitar, one for slashing enemies in melée, the other for rocking a few riffs from a distance, bringing bolts of lightning down on his target. The guitar also can play a few speciality riffs in a sort of sideways Guitar Hero-esque button sequence, with varying effects such as summoning Eddie's heavy metal hot rod.

The countryside opens up in stages, with plenty of side missions to explore, either on foot, by hot rod, or by riding around on the back of some of the wildlife. Most side missions are the same, but there are a few exceptions. The hack and slash action is a blast, as is the story that unfolds as you play. After awhile, the band of rebels you're traveling with goes on tour, and the gameplay changes to large real time strategy stage battles. Eddie, as a roadie should, manages these battles like a concert, creating and deploying units and managing things around the battlefield.

It's quite a shift in the gameplay tempo that works surprisingly well. It's frantic and challenging, and accessable even to someone like me who does not play those sort of games. Brutal Legend pulls this risky gameplay mishmash off seamlessly, and the player from this point out moves between the two genres as the genuinely brilliant heavy metal story unfolds.

The open world remains accessable as the main story plays out, and after the game is won. This allows the player to finish side missions and collection quests, including those that upgrade weapons and the hot rod, and most importantly add songs to the awesome metal soundtrack. The hot rod had a radio tuned into this soundtrack and I found myself taking the long way to my destination just so a classic song would finish.

Brutal Legend is a bold and refreshingly unique game that succeeds on a lot of levels. It's not perfect, but the fantastic story and the surprisingly fun gameplay brought a smile to this former headbanger's face.