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Hero Siege (Windows)

By jlebel on March 6th, 2014

Hero Siege (Android)

By jlebel on March 6th, 2014

Hammerwatch (Windows)

By jlebel on February 23rd, 2014

Valdis Story: Abyssal City (Windows)

By jlebel on February 17th, 2014

Dungeon Hearts (Windows)

By jlebel on February 17th, 2014

Geneforge 4: Rebellion (Windows)

By jlebel on February 13th, 2014

Geneforge 5: Overthrow (Windows)

By jlebel on February 12th, 2014

Zombie Shooter (Windows)

By jlebel on April 15th, 2009

Super Monster Painter Extreme (Windows)

By jlebel on March 29th, 2009

Zombiepox (Windows)

By jlebel on March 28th, 2009

Links LS Classic (Windows)

By jlebel on March 28th, 2009

Icy Tower (Windows)

By jlebel on March 28th, 2009

Harold's Hills (Windows)

By jlebel on March 28th, 2009

Alex the Allegator 2 (Windows)

By jlebel on March 28th, 2009

Nahlakh (DOS)

By jlebel on March 27th, 2009

Operation Spacehog (Windows)

By jlebel on March 21st, 2009

HappyLand Adventures (Windows)

By jlebel on March 20th, 2009

Animal Quest (DOS)

By jlebel on March 19th, 2009

Avalon (DOS)

Freeware console-style RPG that is worth a look.

The Good
Avalon is an old-school RPG released as freeware. You play the role of Mace, the hero who must aid his struggling village, a people stranded on an alien world after the destruction of Earth. Like in Dragon Warrior, you must fight alone, no party management concerns exist in this game.

The game has simple, clean graphics that appear to be original. This project is the author's first game and it's a fairly decent effort considering it was written from scratch (using Pascal). The game is simple and easy enough to get into; controls are basic, arrows to move, enter for action, everything else happens automatically when you walk into an object.

Like any other RPG there are plenty of random encounters which in this game are represented by moving sprites that can be avoided like in Dark Sun. The fights are balanced and fair, you can escape easily, and I also appreciate that the monster statistics are displayed (Power, Defense, and HP).

Many of the standard RPG features you expect are present; towns to explore, NPC's to gather information from, stores to purchase items, save/restore system, inventory items, and quests to solve. Much of this is simplified, but implemented with clean, intuitive menus -- so there is no need to be concerned about a lack of documentation.

The MiG team also composed their own music for Avalon using a MIDI composer called MiG Tracker Pro, also their own creation.

The Bad
While playing the game I encountered a few design quirks that weren't really surprising, but still a bit annoying. When I started a new game my first thought was to explore the town a bit then immediately head out and get into some fights to check out the battle system. After walking around in some forest area I encountered a chest, but I couldn't open it. Fine, maybe a key is needed. Two minutes later I found a necklace on the ground but couldn't pick it up. As it turns out the object couldn't be picked up until the quest was activated by speaking to an NPC who is requesting it to be found. I don't think I've been unable to pick up items in any other game unless there was an encumbrance or item count limitation.

This game plays something like Dragon Warrior; to lengthen the game, many battles are required to get enough money in order to upgrade your equipment, so that you can venture safely into the next area. If you're familiar with a variety of Nintendo RPG's you know this formula, and even though it's somewhat expected the approach still seems tedious.

The Bottom Line
For a freeware RPG written in 1998, Avalon is a fine game with very few problems. What I like is that everything was written from scratch with original graphics, and has a clean look and feel to it. Recommended if you're searching for a free RPG that won't take long to complete.

By jlebel on March 18th, 2009

Death Gate (DOS)

A wonderful literature-inspired game that translated well.

The Good
We hear it all the time: "The book was better than the movie." Some works of fiction don't cross mediums very well, as in the case of video game inspired movies, or novelizations of video games. Not so with Death Gate which has a great story featuring vivid, likable characters. Considering the source material spans 7 full length novels, the developers of Legend Entertainment did a good job of presenting it on the PC platform.

There are many reasons that Death Gate succeeds as a classic piece of interactive fiction; competent voice acting, beautiful music, and hand-painted scenery are just a few. I really miss the days of lovingly handcrafted graphics like that which can be found during the early to middle 1990's. Maybe it's just a perception of increased effort that's impressing me, but I am impressed by the painted scenes found in Death Gate. It reminds of the same kind of effort that went into the Indie game King of Dragon Pass.

One thing I really appreciated about Death Gate was to discover that reading the novels is not required to enjoy or understand the game. I've resisted playing other titles such as Companions of Xanth, and Shannara for this reason.

What a great story this game tells. You play Haplo, an apprentice called by your master Xar to investigate four worlds (realms of air, fire, earth, and water), and retrieve their respective world seal piece. You are given a magical ship that transports you between the Nexus and the other four worlds. As things progress you learn about the history of the worlds, and why they're in the state they are. One thing that was clear to me as I journeyed was a definite sense of tension about my role as a Patryn envoy in relation to the many people encountered. Between the races of Sartan, Patryn, Elf and Dwarf there is a social order and you must make unusual friends in order to progress. This allows the story to become real and nearly personal in a way I've not experienced with adventures like Space Quest, even if they're equally fun.

You'll acquire plenty of objects as you explore the four worlds. You'll learn magic and casts spells to survive. The characters, objects, and magic spells all work together to make coherent and sensible puzzles. The puzzles are not overly difficult and you probably won't need a walkthrough. In fact I recommend against using a walkthrough; if I can complete the game without one, so can most everyone else. Games like this are always worth that extra effort because when you figure out the tougher spots it makes you smile.

The game developers didn't take cheap shots; you never walk onto a screen and just die suddenly. Every death was anticipated because I knew I was trying a stupid, dangerous move. "Of course I can't pick up that snake". Reload. When a game has a save/restore system as perfect as Death Gate's one tends to feel free to experiment more.

The Bad
How fortunate it is that there is almost nothing to complain about in Death Gate. Not surprising since the game mechanics are simple enough with it's point and click interface, but a few things did occur to me while playing.

A screen resolution of 640x480 is used through out most of the game, but switches to a VGA resolution of 320x200 for the spell creation screen and some animations. I found that very strange. The game looks nice in SVGA, but the switch to a lower resolution made the blockiness of its graphics stand out. Presumably this was to ease the code developed for animation. Not really a big deal, I was able to get used it.

Also, but only occasionally, it was possible to trigger a GUI glitch by clicking too soon near the bottom of the screen while waiting for a book to flip open. In this state the game seems unresponsive, but was easily escaped by right-clicking the mouse. The obvious work around being, don't click anywhere until the mouse cursor is showing, and preferably in the correct context.

The Bottom Line
Overall the game had a nice pace to it, one that allowed me to play as I felt without having a ridiculously gripping addictiveness to it, but being far from boring at any point. Even if you don't care much for interactive fiction, don't miss this game, it's worth playing just for the story.

By jlebel on March 15th, 2009

SimuSex (DOS)

The software equivalent of the naked lady pen

The Good
In my first year of college I was exploring the wonderful world of public FTP servers when I stumbled across this odd program. It was surprising to find it in a DOS games directory along with other things like Doom, Paganitzu, and ZZT. Our species seems to have a need to extend sexuality to every conquest imaginable, be it film, print, airplanes, or the Internet. Maybe it wasn't that surprising. Naturally I downloaded this, without telling anyone, and brought it home on floppy to investigate.

Despite the obviousness of the name Simusex, I was still half expecting a Civilization type game or a crude Maxis inspired game with some adult themes, not an actual environment to simulate sexual intercourse. The title screen, which was the best part, cleared that up. That's exactly what this is supposed to be. What I discovered wasn't very good, it certainly wasn't sexy, but it was hilarious. That's what is good about Simusex, it is childishly amusing. Something that you'll look at for exactly two minutes, chuckle and then forget. I guess the other good aspect is not having to worry about STD's.

The Bad
Simusex is not a game since there doesn't seem to be any objective. Do the characters on screen climax? Who would stick around long enough to find out? The gameplay mechanics consist of picking one of 10 activities, the screen switching to a marginally appropriate, but static depiction of your "partner", and then using the mouse to do whatever. The mouse cursor will transform into the body part needed for each scenario, and some minimal animation will be the alleged payoff. Even viewed in the context of this program's time frame, there really isn't much to this.

From looking at the screen captures one can see how cartoony the virtual participants are; even the sound effects printed on the screen are cartoonish. Shloop. Slish. Squeek. If the user doesn't have a Sound Blaster this is the default behavior. Even with a Sound Blaster the audio samples used are 8-bit VOC format and poorly recorded.

The Bottom Line
From a college humor point of view Simusex is the sort of thing you'd email to a friend as a joke. This is the software equivalent of those pens that undress the lady when turned upside down.

By jlebel on March 15th, 2009

SubTerra (Windows)

A fun game system that shares the spirit of ancestors like ZZT

The Good
Subterra shares something in common with Neverwinter Nights, Unreal, and ZZT; they've been kept alive with additional content by fans. An important factor that ensures these games are not quickly forgotten is the inclusion of level editors. Small communities tend to gather around these games because of the chance to create a new set of challenges that can be freely shared with others. Pieter Simoons has taken this further with yearly level design contests and subsequently including the best levels. His final release, version 2.5, has the yearly best from 2002 through 2007. Different people contribute their unique creations making the overall package diverse and interesting; this isn't one person's idea of fun, it's that of a community.

At it's heart Subterra is a graphically simplistic game system with solid gameplay mechanics that make for hours of enjoyment. A collection of puzzle challenges that require both quick thinking and fast reflexes. Some levels have tendencies towards slow paced logical solutions with the inclusion of levels that emulate Soko-Ban. Other levels have quick action; one such level cleverly borrows from snake games such as Nibbles. Some puzzles require the player to coordinate their efforts with objects in motion. Still other levels pay homage to The Incredible Machine and require the player to plan out solutions by counting on the chain reaction of various game objects. Many of the levels require multiple attempts and will test one's patience.

Subterra does what many other puzzle games like Soko-Ban, Boulder Dash and ZZT do, but adds more -- a lot more. The basic goal of each level is to collect enough gems and then find your way to the exit. As it turns out there are a plethora of ways to make the player fulfill the gem quota. Over 140 objects exist for this game system, each with it's own set of rules and interaction possibilities. Some of these objects include falling boulders, bombs, duplicators, conveyor belts, locked doors, switchable barricades, floating balloons, lasers, one-way pipes, object transmuters and many more. The player may be blocked by various terrain types such ice, water, and fire. Holding the corresponding "tools" such as skates, life preservers, and fire extinguishers grant passage. Several autonomous enemy types add additional complexity. One such example is the Munchkin which will revoke all possessed tools if you're forced to step on it. A handful of objects have been mentioned here but the possible combinations and rules guiding them are enormous.

Another good quality is the collection of MIDI songs included; some of the music is very pleasant and fits well with a puzzle-solving frame of mind.

The Bad
Even though Subterra is a enchanting package of gaming magic there are two personal annoyances. The first, though minor complaint, is that occasionally the game doesn't exit properly and must be killed with the Windows Task Manager. The other annoyance is rapid, repetitive sound effects when a level has many automated objects. An example is found in the first level pack Subterra Prime; the level called Laser Maze has a continuous stream of falling bombs and I found that rhythmic string of explosions irritating. Fortunately you can hit pause and scroll around the level with the arrow keys to study the layout of the level (this is encouraged), which has the added benefit of stopping the automation and the sound effects.

The Bottom Line
Subterra has something for all manner of puzzle-loving gamers. The level difficulties range from easy to ridiculously challenging, plus the game has two modes of difficulty: easy and hard. Boasting 500 levels in the final release, this is a game that can be played for many hours.

By jlebel on March 15th, 2009

Surf Ninjas (DOS)

By jlebel on February 24th, 2009

Surf Ninjas (Amiga)

By jlebel on February 24th, 2009

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