Strange, non-Euclidean

7 March, 2016

I got myself a cheap Android tablet last year and I’ve been using it to catch-up with all the

Screenshot_2016-03-07-15-52-46 [151798]

Dat ice diamond, tho’

touchscreeny “mobile” games yer actual young people have been playing. A few of them have stuck out as being both highly enjoyable and annoyingly obscure, hidden away under a tidal wave of pay-to-win tripe, Angry Birds rip-offs and in-app-purchase-saturated strategy games with “Clans” in the title.

Anyway, the first of these is HyperRogue. This brilliant little indie title is based on the classic roguelike set-up but at the same time manages to be unqiue and original. Basically, the player character is thrown into a strange world based around a hexagonal grid which appears to be viewed through a fisheye lens. Gameplay consists of hunting for treasure and killing monsters but, unlike most roguelikes, there’s a chess-like strategy element to the fighting based entirely around who can enter a hex first. For this reason, where you move is important and, because the more treasure you collect in any one world the more enemies start to appear, it gets more and more important to avoid being cornered or surrounded.

The gameplay changes subtly as the player progresses, so collecting ten treasures in any one world will unlock the appearance of orbs which provide special powers; and the player can escape an overly-dangerous world into a new, safer, one with new treasures, monsters and dangers.

Presentation is simple: the graphics are deliberately generic with desert, ice and jungle worlds displayed using the same basic graphics with a few palette changes. This is surprisingly effective, however, and gives the game a similar feel to the early roguelikes it takes as its inspiration. There’s also some atmospheric tunes to accompany the whole thing.

I’ve only sketched the basic outline of all the things you can find in this game and, as with all great games, it’s better you discover them yourself. HyperRogue is available on Android, Linux, OSX and Windows.

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Making Willy Harder

27 January, 2016
JSWNightmareEd

Fuck your “walk through both kitchen rooms without any of the monsters hitting you”

Everyone who has ever played Matthew Smith’s classic 1984 platform game Jet Set Willy has surely had the same thought –

“What this game really needs is to be less easy. In fact it could really do with being much, much more difficult.”

Well, 32 years after the game was originally published it looks like someone has taken heed because a new ZX Spectrum remix of the original game has been released called Jet Set Willy: The Nightmare Edition.

The goal and map is much the same as the original game but pretty-much every room has been subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, altered to make an already challenging game carpet-chewingly frustrating. In addition to this, there are some other tweaks such as a new “nightmarish” in-game font, extra tunes and a few wee new touches here and there.

Hopefully, these will make up for your pulling all your fucking hair out.

More details and download links at this page here.

Umlauts

29 December, 2015
Motorhead2

“After I enjoy this *root beer*, I’ll have some *talcum powder*”

Like everyone with a tiny bit of rock and roll in their soul (and in my case that is a bit tiny, unfortunately), I was sad to hear about the death of Lemmy out of Hawkwind and Motörhead who I think most of us had assumed was, like Keith Richards, indestructable.

Keeping things on-topic for this blog, the Facebook post that announced his death said that he died playing his favourite videogame and someone noted that Lemmy appeared in “at least one game” – Brütal Legend. But there was another…

Incredibly, in 1992, Virgin Games published a licensed Motörhead videogame for the Amiga. The player controls Lemmy himself who has to beat the shit out of rave and country music fans whilst drinking neat whisky and gaining powers. I am not making this up. Seek it out, dig UAE out and play it, the man himself would approve.

My Issyos, your Issyos, a’body’s Issyos

15 December, 2015

Never mind The Star Wars, or Elite: What Should Have Been In The First Version,

Issyos

“Try my Christmas roasted scarab beetle!”

the release you should all be getting excited about is The Curse of Issyos. Creators Locomalito have an incredibly high hit rate when it comes to retro-style games that actually play as well as the best stuff of yesteryear as opposed to just look a bit like them (#names). This latest game is a scrolling platformer with vaguely Sega Master System/NES-era graphics and the usual great score from Gryzor87. It’s set in the age of Greek myth and is heavily influenced by the likes of the 1960s great SFX/bad acting film Jason and the Argonauts. What the flippety flop are you waiting for? Download it now for free from its website, you silly.

Sab95 – important update

15 December, 2015

It’s a bit mince.

Sab95

2 December, 2015

There’s been a bit of a buzz around the fact that Clive Townsend is

Sab95

Ninja kicks the shit out of, erm, some kind of troll thing (it’s the ’90s!)

working on an update to his classic 1980s platform-and-stealth ninja games Saboteur and Saboteur 2 (the latter featuring a female protagonist long before it made neckbeards and that Tory blogger with ice-cream coloured hair all angry on Twitter). Doing a spot of online googling about this lead to me discover that there was an unofficial Saboteur game released for DOS-based PCs in the 1990s. No really, it has a site and everything.

I’m intrigued, I’m going to play it and then, in a few days, I’m going to report back. It’ll probably be shite. The knocked-off Mortal Kombat stuff is already making me roll my eyes. But it also might be brilliant because, hey, you never know.

Meanwhile, information on Townsend’s official update can be found a his website here.

 

“I will not play this game as the image only changes 30 times a second”

25 October, 2015
Let's not mention that kickstarter, tho'

Let’s not mention that kickstarter, tho’

I’m as happy as anyone else (that’s happy, you cynics!) to hear news of a new version of Crystal Kingdom Dizzy for the ZX Spectrum but I can’t help but worry a bit about this…

“will feature a 50fps engine, renewed graphics, more animated sprites”

Oh man, have the Framerate Police got to the ZX Spectrum community as well now?! How will they feel knowing it can never be in HD (“Bro”)?

“Yer PAW!”

4 August, 2015
One of many instances where Rigel's Revenge uses graphics instead of text to

One of many instances where Rigel’s Revenge uses graphics instead of text to “describe” something to the player

I’ve recently been working on a whole load of writing which has just about come to fruition so it’s got me thinkin about another creative project to get my “teeth” “into”. And I’ve decided it’s going to be an IF (Interactive Fiction, a wanky new name for what we used to call “text adventures”) game, one for the Spectrum to be specific, one written with PAW  to be even more specific.

The route that took me here basically started with me sitting on a train from England playing with Spectaculator on my tablet. One of the games that comes with the full version is Zenobi’s Jekyll and Hyde game. Playing it again (IF games work brilliantly on tablets, btw) reminded me not just that I like IF, but that I like ZX Spectrum IF in particular. There’s something about the chunky display, the likeable “click” noises so many Spectrum IF games have when you type and the weirdly attractive pixel art that appeals to me. The 8-bit era has an interesting history of IF, including the first game I can recall having been given a certificate by the BBFC (CRL’s Dracula, in what felt more like a publicity stunt than anything else, was given a 15 certificate; they later released Jack The Ripper, a game which was given an 18 certificate) and a huge and very active homebrew scene, much of it focused around the aforementioned Zenobi software.

I think my affection for ZX Spectrum IF goes beyond nostalgia, though: one of the main reasons I love Spectrum IF is a game that I got round to playing years after I sold my Spectrum – Rigel’s Revenge.

I’m not sure what it was about this game that grabbed me back when I played it via emulation (on an Amiga 1200!) back in 1996. It might have been the atmospheric setting, might have been the likeably pulpy sci-fi storyline, might have been the excellent use of graphics as description as well as illustration. Whatever it was, I played it for absolutely ages, got past lots of puzzles, reached the second load (in the ’80s, a lot of 8-bit IF needed to be loaded in separate parts to get all of the adventure in there) and promptly got stuck. Maybe I should go back to it and try and do it all again, and complete the bugger this time.

Anyway, the Matty PAWed IF game will probably be in development for months but I’ve a few ideas to build on and it’ll be interesting to see the results, especially if I actually get the damn thing finished unlike far too many of my projects…

Does the “D” stand for “Derek”?

22 July, 2015

“In the footure, we all wear red jumpsuits with grey patches”

A friend of mine recently punted me in the direction of indie cyberpunk-ish isometric game DataJack which is very nice and all that and I’ll maybe write something about it here in the next month or so.

But what I wanted to talk about was what DataJack immediately reminded me of – the largely-forgotten 1991 arcade-adventure D-Generation.

When it came out, D-Generation won plenty of praise from the press for its gameplay but was criticised for its visuals which had an outdated, even amateurish look to them. This was a couple of years after Shadow of the Beast and only two years before Doom; 16-bit software was expected to look impressive. D-Generation didn’t and for that reason largely passed an awful lot of people by.

But discovering it again, what’s notable apart from the still-brilliant gameplay (a mixture of action and puzzle-solving) and unintrusive, Bioshock-style plot development (found largely via messages and through conversations rather than cut-scenes and exposition) is how little its “primitive” looks actually matter today and, in fact, how in the modern era of deliberately retro and visually spartan indie software D-Generation weirdly now looks more modern than a lot of its contemporaries.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any digital distribution retailers selling this game, so I can only link to its Abandonia page here. Note that the PC version doesn’t seem to have any joystick support, so playing or emulating the Amiga or ST version may be the best option for most people; there’s also a CD32 version if you can be bothered hunting-down/emulating that.

Perfect tens

28 June, 2015
IK+ - consistently The Shit

IK+ – consistently The Shit

Sorry for the long delay between posts, folks. I wish I could blame something other than my sheer laziness when it comes to updating.

Anyway, I’ve been putting a few highscores forward for the excellent highscore.com site in the last few days and playing Archer MacLean’s terrific IK+ reminded me of something: it plays pretty-much equally brilliantly on every single platform its been converted to, from ZX Spectrum to GBA. I can’t think of a single bad version.

The only other game I can think of that holds that accolade is Rainbow Islands.

There must be others, though, surely. I’m not counting anything from after about 1994 as when you get to the modern era the looks and differing capabilities of home gaming platforms start to disappear and everything ends up all *adopts Comic Book Guy voice* “1080p 60FPS or GTFO, bro’!” *whoops at the announcement of a new CoD game or something*

Bubble Bobble, maybe?