Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I got it for the articles, I swear! - Drunken Robot Pornography

This game is silly. Very, very, silly. It's also thankfully a lot cleaner than the name implies, though it certainly makes it hard to talk to people about it without getting awkward looks.

Drunken Robot Pornography is an FPS Bullet Hell game by Dejobaan games, it tells the story of one Ruben Matsumoto, who's bar was burned down by his robotic bartender, who also took his 12 robotic exotic dancers and an army of robots which are now rampaging around the floating city of Sky Boston. and that little story is likely the most reasonable part of the game.
The title screen includes a lengthy, and suprisingly catchy, musical sequence.
At it's core Drunken Robot Pornography is a very fast paced, frantic game. You're equipped with a jet pack that allows you to jump around the games many stages and you will need it not only because of the stages being suspended in the air, but also because the enemies normally come at you in huge swarms, or if not hordes, then you have titans throwing lasers and projectiles everywhere. mobility is a big part of survival.

You also have a single gun. Unlike other FPS games though, where you can find and use multiple different weapons, Instead the game uses a system of power-ups, power-ups give your shots a new effect for the next few hundred shots, such as rapid fire or shooting multiple projectiles per shot. They can also stack however, allowing you to grab multiple power-ups and use their abilities at once. Get splinter fire, heavy fire, and rapid fire? your gun will let out a rapid spray of projectiles that do extra damage. It's a fun system that keeps combat rolling at a fast pace. There's also a couple useable power-ups, like decoys to draw enemy fire or smart bombs to give yourself some much needed breathing room.
Being surrounded by swarms of enemies is not an uncommon event.
Then there's the Titans. While there's plenty of small cannon-fodder enemies to go around, the real draw in this game is the titans. While there's a few smaller ones, most of them are massive, filling up a huge chunk of the stage and have to be blown apart piece by piece. This is where the combat really shines. There's nothing quite like bouncing off a jump pad, using your jets to curve in the air around a 30-stories tall titan as you let out a spray of fire that blows off another of it's many limbs.

Unfortunately, while the game is a lot of fun it's also fairly hard. Death can come in an instant if your not careful, and many levels have somewhat strict time limits. I had to turn down the difficulty as I got near the end of the game, which you can do at any time from the main menu. Stages are also fairly short meaning you lose little progress when you fail. That said with no ability to skip stages it's possible to become stuck at various parts of the game at least for a little while.
Titans come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, all of them want you dead.
The game also suffers from being somewhat short. There's 52 stages, and I beat them in about 5 hours. There is however, leaderboards for each stage and a handful of extra modes, including survival, weekly challenges, and user made titans. The game actually has a decent user-base producing titans for you to fight, and many of them are available in the steam workshop.

Finally, I should mention the game's soundtrack, it actually covers a large range of musical styles from classical to rock and never feels to out of place even at some of it's odder moments, such as the track for the stage that involves a lounge singer. The title them really stands out, it's alarmingly catchy and you may find yourself stuck sitting at the title screen just to listen to it.
paying attention to the loading screens shows concept art, ads for other indie games, and some quirky humor.
In conclusion, I think Drunken Robot pornography is worth looking at on uniqueness alone, you'd be hard pressed to find anything like it and the game overall is pretty solid. However, it can also be pretty hard at times and while what content the game offers is good, there's not a lot of it. This game likely won't last you for very long unless you really get into making and fighting user made Titans.

Drunken robot pornography was developed by Dejobaan Games, LLC. It is available on Steam and it's homepage is available here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shmup Hero - Retro/Grade

Retro/Grade, made by 24 Caret Games is a very deceptive game. Looking at screenshots for the game, you couldn't be blamed for thinking it looks like a fairly typical scrolling space shooter. Pilot your ship, gun down waves enemies while avoiding their attacks, fight giant bosses, typical shooter stuff. This couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, Retro/Grade is a pure rhythm game that only looks like a shooter.

As a rhythm game, Retro/Grade takes a lot if inspiration from Guitar Hero: The play field is divided in up to 5 color-coded lanes that you can move between to hit beats, you're overdrive power-up works a lot like Guitar Hero's Star Power, you gain a score multiplier by performing well, etc. However, Retro/grade is more than a simple clone, and throws in a lot of it's own ideas.
Despite appearances, this is not a shooter
The first and most obvious, is that the entire game is backwards: Your ship and any enemies on screen all fly backwards through the game's levels, The notes your playing are actually you Un-shooting shots that your ship fired, causing enemies to  un-explode onto the screen before flying away moments later. It even spreads into the games mechanics: You start on stage 10 and work your way backwards to stage 1. Instead of earning points, you start with a high score and every successful attack dodged or shot un-shot looses you points, and you want your score as close to 0 as possible so you can get a good placement on the low scores board. It's a very odd game to watch in action.

On top of un-shooting shots, which works like a typical game of guitar hero, you also have to dodge attacks that are being un-shot by your enemies. There's actually a few different attacks and some stages have their own special gimmicks, such as large walls of bullets that leave only a single hole to slip through. Finally, you have a limited ability to (un?)rewind time, moving the game backwards (forwards?) a few seconds to undo mistakes.
Overdrive acts like Star power, giving you a score bonus for several seconds.
Since it's a rhythm game, music obviously plays an important part in Retro/Grade, And fortunately the game comes with about an hour of original music. The soundtrack is all electronic music, with a little chiptune mixed in for good measure and sound quality is very nice. The music is still clean and clear even when it's being distorted by the game, such as when it plays backwards due to you traveling backwards(forwards?) in time.

Unfortunately, having only an hour of music does put a limit on the games content. There's only 10 stages to play through and obviously, you'll be beating them in about an hour. Those used to the massive 50+ song set lists of big budget rhythm games will be disappointed. Fortunately, while there's not many stages 24 Caret has done a good job of making the most of what it has. Each stage has multiple difficulty levels to encourage multiple playthroughs, and with end of song stats and leaderboards for each song, those seeking to master the game will get plenty of playtime as they aim for that perfect run.
A view of Retro/Grade's Challenge Map.
Aside from campaign, there's also a challenge mode. Challenge mode contains over 100 challenges to play through, spread out over a large map, complete with branching paths and shortcuts. Challenges can be anything from perfect runs of a certain stage, to making combos, to playing with the stage layout inverted so the top lane is the bottom and vice-versa. Each challenge has a ranking system, along with a leaderboard and several unlockables, such as new ships and artwork are spread through out the map. There might not be a lot of stages, but the game finds a lot to do with them.

Finally, the game can be played with a guitar hero controller and has a "rhythm" control style for doing just that. Unfortunately I was't able to test this personally as I do not have a guitar controller that will work on my PC. For those who don't have a guitar controller, there's a "shooter" control style that I used with a gamepad, and the game plays just fine with it, you do not need a guitar to enjoy this game.
Each level ends with a list of stats and a raking.
With tight controls, a good soundtrack, and a surprising amount of content for it's size, Retro/Grade is an excellent rhythm game that's well worth playing a look, especially if you're a fan of guitar Hero and are looking for an excuse to finally dig that guitar controller out of the closet.

Retro/grade was developed by 24 Caret Games. It is available on steam or a steam copy, along with a DRM-free download is available directly form the developers here. Retro/Grade's homepage is available here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Invaders Must Die! - Incoming and Incoming Forces

NOTICE!: I have encountered a problem with these games refusing to run on newer AMD drivers, a simple workaround is to download this file here and unzip it into the main directory for both games.

As these games can only be brought bundled together and are both very similar, I am covering them both in a single review.

Incoming and Incoming Forces are a pair of games by Rage Software that ask a very simple question: Do you like explosions? These games are both vehicle-based action games that see you traveling from battlefield to battlefield, blowing up hostiles in search of the highest score possible. There is a story, told in text scrolls in the first game and some cutscenes and audio snippets in the second, about how you're fighting off an alien (or human, in Forces) invasion, but it's nothing of any real interest and mostly just exists as an excuse for the action.

There's plenty of enemies to gun down in each mission
The two games are mostly similar, but there are a few difference worth taking note of. The first game had some control issues: the mouse felt slow and unresponsive even at max sensitivity, but worked wonderfully with my gamepad. Also, the first game had a weird auto aim feature: some of the vehicles you'll be piloting have a lot of auto aim, some only a little, a few have none. This doesn't ruin the game but it can feel a little weird going from a helicopter with full auto aim to a jet that has none. The first game is also the harder of the two: you have limited lives and no continues to complete the campaign with, though you can (and should) save your game whenever you want.

The first game, on top of the standard action campaign also has a tactical one. The tactical campaign is like the action campaign, but with a few real time strategy segments added to each mission. The RTS segments are unfortunately horrible. Your units can get stuck on the terrain and show little to no interest in attacking enemies units unless specifically commanded to do so. There's also no advanced orders or any sort of base building or economy management, you fight using the two or three units you have been given for that part of the mission. Compared to a typical real time strategy game, even from around the time this game initially came out, it's very primitive.

The RTS segments are also jarring, suddenly appearing in the middle of a mission for no readily explained reason, then disappearing just as quickly when it's over. If you ever play Incoming, I'd suggest ignoring the tactical campaign and sticking with the action campaign.
Watching enemy aircraft go down in a fiery blaze is always fun.
The sequel, Incoming Forces fixes a lot of the first games problems. It plays just fine with a mouse and keyboard and there's no Tactical campaign. Auto aim has also been normalized across all vehicles, there's a crosshair in the screen, if an enemy is inside it and close enough to you, you'll automatically aim at it with a fair degree of accuracy. Incoming forces is also the easier of the two games, you have unlimited lives and you can access any mission you've already unlocked from the main menu, although both games are still fairly hard being a pair of action games from the late 90s.

Both games do action very well. Enemies come thick and fast, and the action is constant with little time to catch your breath. Aircraft crash to the ground trailing smoke and flame and tanks go out in a nice, big ball of flame. Weapons are fairly standard: various lasers and homing missiles, but they do the job nicely, and the game is more about skill and fast reflexes than about finding cool weapons.
You'll be fighting over several different environments
Overall, the biggest strength of both games is also their biggest weakness: They're very quick and dirty, no nonsense action games. No complex objectives, no big elaborate plot, no dialogue choices or long, unskippable cutscenes. Just you, your vehicle for the current mission, and a lot of targets to blow up.

Unfortunately this also means what you see is what you get, you're not going to unlock new ships or weapons to play with, you're not going to encounter any major new gameplay mechanics, what you do in the later missions is pretty much what you did in the earlier missions, it's just harder to complete them.
What story exists in the game is told through briefings like this.
If you want an action game with some depth to it, I'd unfortunately have to recommend looking elsewhere. but if you want a quick, old-school adrenalin rush to kill a few hours with on the cheap, Incoming and Incoming Forces will fit the bill nicely.

Incoming and Incoming forces were developed by Rage Software and published by KISS ltd. It is available on Steam and GoG, though note that as of this writing, it's slightly cheaper on GoG.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Taking Names and Kicking Astral Lords - Eador: Masters of the Broken World

Two things clearly come to mind when I play this game. The first is that this game is huge, scary huge. I've put a decent chunk of time into Eador and while I've made it a good distance into the campaign, it feels like I've barely scratched the surface. I've been told a full campaign can take around 100 hours to complete and I see no reason to doubt that claim.

The second thing I've noticed and this is important, is that this game is very obviously a labor of love.

Early game on a random Shard
Eador: Masters of the Broken World is a turn based fantasy strategy game made by Snowbird Games, and they clearly love turn based fantasy strategy games. From the first few turns of game play, it's obvious the devs have played all the greats: Heroes of Might and Magic, Master of Magic, Age of Wonders, etc. and both love them to death and have taken notes off them in designing their game. The end result is a strategy game that feels like a mashup of the best bits of several of those classics I mentioned.

In Eador you play as an astral lord who is tasked with restoring the broken world of Eador, bit by bit. You do this by attacking shards, building and upgrading a main town as your base of operations, hiring troops for your armies along with heroes to lead them, casting spells and so on. Mostly standard stuff, but where Eador shines is in execution.

This is Beleth, one of the Astral Lords you'll be dealing with. He's kinda grumpy.
At any point in the game there are a ton of options at your disposal, you can attack provinces or try to negotiate with the natives living there for control of them. Areas you control can have random events that need your attention, or can have locations for your heroes to visit, ranging from simple monster dens to stores or quest locations. Heroes have branching classes to pick from as they level up. Your main town has a large variety of buildings but can only have so many buildings of any given type, forcing you to choose what you really need: a plate shop would be nice for arming your warriors, but building it might mean having to go without a chain-mail shop for your commander. The list goes on.

On their own, playing one shard would be a game in itself, and the game does have an option to do just that. But Eador's campaign goes a good ways beyond that. Between your attempts to take over shards, you spend time in the Astral. The Astral acts as a macro game to tie all the shards you're conquering together. as you take over shards you unlock new abilities, some of them are new buildings you can build on future shards that unlock new units or spells. Other things you unlock are abilities you use in the astral, allowing you to spend Astral energy, gained by conquering shards or spending turns in the Astral, to do things like start with more gold or gems at the start of a shard, or have items placed in the town's treasury for your heroes. This means every time you take over a shard, there's even MORE options to think about going into the next one.

A view of the Astral. From here, you can spend astral energy, or choose a shard to attack
All this complexity however does come with some drawbacks. Namely, this game is hard, VERY hard. even at the easiest setting, which I was playing at, the AI is quite aggressive and the game as a whole is very unforgiving to new players, add in the wealth of options I just mentioned and Your first few games will likely end in disaster until you start to get the hang of things. Also, the game can be something of a grind. While each shard you win unlocks new things for the next, the unlocks are fairly incremental rather than something large and game changing, making a lot of the shards you attack little more then just another shard. The later parts of a shard can also drag, as you must wipe out all the other lords on each shard to win, no surrendering, no diplomacy, forcing you to spend time marching around the map to mop up enemies long after your victory has been made obvious.

Finally, the game was originally made in Russian, and while the translation isn't as bad as you might expect, it still occasional has it's moments, an odd phrase here, a strange choice of words there. It's not very hard to understand what the game is trying to tell you however, if you can understand my crappy writing, you should be fine.

The shop looks empty now, but more items become available as you build up your town.

That said, if you're a fan of turn based strategy and want a game you can readily sink a LOT of time into? I'd highly recommend you try this.

Eador: Masters of the broken World was developed by Snowbird Games. It is available on Steam and GOG. It's homepage can be found here.

A Few More Notes

OK, a little bit more before we get into the action.

So, like the last post said I'm going to be looking mostly at old and/or semi-obscure PC games. I'm choosing PC games because it's something I'm familiar with, I can readily get screen shots and the like for the blog by myself, and most importantly there's digital distribution.

Digital distribution is the important part, because not only can I tell you about a game, I can link to where you can readily get a copy of it for yourself, likely for very cheap in most instances.

Also, I'll be talking about old and obscure stuff because there's Already PLENTY of people talking about the big stuff. You don't need me to tell you about the latest Dark Souls or Assassin's Creed. Plenty of people do that already, you've likely got a favorite source to read about that. No need for me to add to the noise.

Plus, like I said in the previous post, I likely can't run most of those newer games anyway. Ihis is one of the things I like about older/indie games, They generally have very low system requirements, so no need to worry about having the latest tech installed.

For now at least, you can consider this a review blog, I'll be playing games, grabbing a few screenshots, and writing about my thoughts on them. I will do my best to take as through a look at any game I write on as I can manage. However, full disclosure: I'm doing this alone, unpaid and in my spare time. I can't guarantee I'll explore every game 100% especially the larger ones. playing a 100+ hour epic in it's entirety AND making a full blog post in a timely manner is a bit outside my capabilities. I will however, make sure I've played long enough that I feel I can give some solid thoughts on it.

I also may use of mods on a game, particularity for older games that have unofficial patches to deal with bugs or help the game work on newer operating systems, I'll make note of these in a review.

Also, while this is essentially a review blog, I will not be giving out scores. I can't even begin to quantify a game and everything in it in a single number and I personally don't think anyone care about scores much beyond "is this game any good?" Instead, I will sum up what I know of the game, weigh in on it's features and flaws and give some final thoughts on who, if anyone might want to try the game.

In truth, while this is technically a review blog, it's less about separating the good from the bad, or talking about artistic merit and more "Hey, I know of this game that's kinda cool, maybe you should take a look at it."

With that said, I hope anyone reading this enjoys the blog, and I'll try to have the first review up soon.

Hello World

Welcome to "Confessions of a Crap Gamer", yet another gaming blog in a sea of gaming blogs.

I'll be up front about this. I know there's millions of gaming blogs out there. Just about anyone who can play a video game is trying to run one.

I'm doing this for two reasons. First: as someone with, I'm embarrassed to admit, an insane number of games, I'm hoping this blog with give me a good reason to go through my collection, share my findings and maybe show people something interesting they haven't seen before.  I have way too many games, I might as well try to make something people would get use out of from it.

The second is that I'm currently between jobs and have nothing better to do.  So I might as well start a project like this to pass the time. If I do a good enough job, it might even make for some resume fodder.

With this in mind I'm not going to waste time chasing fame and fortune. Hopefully I'll get at least a couple readers who find my ramblings informative or at least entertaining. But I'm not going to go too far out of my way to try and increase the size of my audience or make myself some sort of net celebrity, deliberately trying to become famous rarely works out anyway.

As for what I'll be doing. Mostly I'll be looking at older PC games and indie titles. This is because I have an older computer, and while I'm hoping to one day upgrade it, that's not likely to happen any time soon. So that means I can't really play a lot of newer AAA stuff.

Whatever happens, I just hope someone enjoys this.

But before we get started, a bit about myself. To start, I'm not going to waste time going over a detailed list of every system I've ever owned or name dropping every major classic game I have. I'm not looking to establish myself as some sort of "True gamer". This post isn't meant to impress people, so I'm just going to say I've been playing video games for a very long time and leave the history section at that.

More important would be what interests me. I've played all sorts of games, but my interests lean more towards RPG and strategy games. Partially because I like tinkering with all the little upgrades and stats found in those kinds of games and partially because while I do enjoy some action games, I don't quite have the dexterity and lightening fast reflexes needed for them.

On the same note, I tend to have a preference for single player games. Though I do like co-op as well. Competitive multiplayer is... not my interest. The communities for most competitive multiplayer games are often worrying at best, and I lack the competitive streak that would have me excited at the idea of totally dominating the competition, or "pwning the noobs" or whatever it was the game's ads promised.

I do like a decent story where I can get one, though I don't strictly need it. As for challenge... like I said before I'm not really here to prove anything, I can enjoy a good challenge, but I don't NEED a game to be hard. I'm more interested in enjoying the ride then trying to master anything.

This is confessions of a CRAP gamer, not a master one. I'm just some random idiot, playing games and putting his thoughts on a blog. no point in trying to hide that