user avatar

Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe


Beyond Good & Evil (PlayStation 2)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on February 3rd, 2006

Radiata Stories (PlayStation 2)

Some original elements, but not truly innovative.

The Good
Radiata Stories manages to be fun and engaging without taking itself too seriously. Think Disgaea and La Pucelle Tactics rather than Final Fantasy. The dialogue has plenty of humor, with the characters making fun of each other, and bad-boy Jack slamming his foot into everything and everyone he comes across. Some players might find it immature but I got a kick (that's a pun, that is) out of it. The characters are easily the best feature of the game. It's so refreshing to play an RPG where the NPCs actually do things other than wander aimlessly around waiting to give a cryptic sentence or two to a player who bothers to acknowledge them.

Graphics are gorgeous even on my crappy 21" non-widescreen, non-HD TV, with vibrant backgrounds, and bright coloring and crisp lines to the cel-shaded anime characters. Music is good but unspectacular, and a bit strange... there are a variety of styles, and some of them don't always match the tone of what's going on in the game. The voice-acting is surprisingly good for the most part.

One thing that really appealed to me was the combat system. Typically I'm not very good at fighting games, so when playing an RPG with real-time combat I tend to stick to one character and use just the simplest moves, very hack-and-slash. Radiata actually encourages this, since you only control Jack, and repeated use of the basic attacks charges up a "volty" gauge that lets you unleash more powerful attacks when you need them.

Aside from one plot branch that starts the story in one of two possible directions -- and it's very clear when you're making that choice -- the game's story always feels very open-ended. No sense of impending doom overshadowing the freedom to explore on your own. Many other RPGs try to create this urgency but then don't enforce it with any actual timed events.

Speaking of the multiple paths, I have to say (without spoiling anything) that when the time came it was a very difficult decision. There's something to be said for any game that can make me seriously think about something like that. I will admit I liked one ending much better than the other, but would highly recommend experiencing both to get the most out of the game (even if you don't try for the 177 characters).

The Bad
Aside from the NPC innovations, Radiata Stories doesn't really break through the RPG and anime clichés. You've got the hero who starts out a total slacker but then grows up. The female lead who hates the hero at first but then they become closer. All of the overused Tolkien races (elves, dwarves, orcs) are present and accounted for. While there are a few fun menial tasks, such as escorting the oxen cart, a lot of it was still FedEx quests and monster-slaying.

While searching for other party members is fun, I didn't have the patience to track them all down and figure out how to recruit them. It's a pain sometimes, waiting around to talk to people, and learning everyone's day/night cycle. It feels a bit like stalking, except nobody ever complains. The ability to fast-forward up to a certain time of day would have been nice. In other cases I would have liked more time to figure out how to get a character on board, but the main story advanced on me before I was able to do so.

Also, sorry to say, but a lot of the 100+ party members aren't terribly interesting or useful. You can't re-equip them with new weapons / armor / accessories (though admittedly this does save you money), and you can't always rely on them in battle. Granted, they rarely get killed, so I never felt like I had to babysit them. And they do block attacks and distract enemies' attention from Jack. But a lot of times when I needed a healing I ended up just doing it myself because I didn't trust my healer to come through for me. Worst of all, if Jack is knocked out it's time to restore, because the other party members won't revive him. This is frustrating compared to other RPGs where all you need is one conscious party member to escape the battle and save the others.

I don't really have a problem with save points so long as they're plentiful. But at times the game will limit where you can save, or even worse, has save points disappear after certain events in the story. That should never, ever happen. EVER.

The Bottom Line
Radiata Stories is fun and different enough from your typical RPG to be really interesting, though it falls short of truly bringing innovation to the genre. For the newcomer or casual RPG fan, it's light enough that you can finish it within a reasonable amount of time. If you're a hardcore gamer, you could easily spend the next year immersed in its rich, detailed world... if you have the patience to put up with the lighter elements and a few annoying sticking points.

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on February 1st, 2006

Ikaruga (GameCube)

Zen and the Art of the 2-D Shooter

The Good
Treasure has a reputation for making good games, but they really outdid themselves with this one. Gameplay is pure simplicity: You control a spaceship. You can move, and you can shoot. There are no fancy-ass power-ups. Ikaruga doesn't need them. The only weapon enhancements are your homing lasers, which you charge up by absorbing enemy shots... but only with the right color bullets. That's right, in Ikaruga you TRY to get shot, which is counterintuitive to every other shooter out there. You can change your ship from black to white at the press of a button, and then you can safely absorb enemy fire of the same color, plus you do double damage to enemies of the opposite color. It definitely takes a little practice to get used to, especially when you've got enemies and bullets of both colors raining down on you.

But Ikaruga moves even further beyond the ordinary shooter with its chain strategy: Shooting 3 enemies of the same color in a row gives you a chain bonus. The more groups of 3 you can destroy without breaking the chain, the faster your score increases. This is really challenging and requires loads of practice. But what's great about Ikaruga is you can play it any way you want. You don't have to try for high-scoring chain combos. If you want to just hold down the fire button and blast away, you can. Or if you're really up for a challenge, you can try the "Dot-Eater" technique, where you asorb enemy shots but don't fire any of your own. Think about that: You're playing a shooter, but you're not shooting!

The waves in Ikaruga unfold at a very tight pace. If you don't shoot all the enemies down fast enough, the survivors will flee and the next batch will arrive. If you destroy everything so fast that there would normally be a delay before the next group of enemies, you get bonus enemies to fill the time. Everything is flawlessly choreographed, and enemies are carefully dispatched in creative groups of 3 so that anybody can get decent chain combos with a little practice, but only the very best players will get them all and achieve the highest "S++" rank.

**The Bad**
If you're easily frustrated by dying, you probably won't like Ikaruga. Even on the easiest difficulty setting this is one insanely hard game. You will die more times than you can count before you start getting good at it. It's quite short, with only 5 stages (though they remain challenging for a very long time). It was designed for a vertical monitor, the exact opposite of every gamer's TV set, so there's a lot of black on either side of the playfield. Also it's semi-rare. The Dreamcast release was confined to Japan, and the U.S. GameCube release is out of print now, and getting difficult to find.

**The Bottom Line**
If you can appreciate the sheer beauty of a fast-paced, exquisitely designed game, and enjoy when a game defies every established convention of its genre, you owe it to yourself to play this one. Ikaruga is worth the time and patience it takes to master it. For shooter fans, nothing finer exists.

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on November 29th, 2005

Lifeline (PlayStation 2)

Not as interactive as I'd hoped.

The Good
I found LifeLine in an EB bargain bin for $7.95, minus my discount, so I picked it up along with a microphone headset (required). The idea of a voice-controlled adventure game intrigued me as a long-time fan of text-based interactive fiction (heh, there's a term that dates me as a gamer). In short it was cheap and the concept was fresh.

The Bad
I wanted to like LifeLine so much more than I ended up doing. The sad truth is that Sony's voice-recognition software needs a lot of tweaking. Despite the boast of thousands of words on the game case, nearly all of them are directly related to gameplay. That is, there aren't many things you can say to Rio that generate the kind of responses that made typed-command adventures so much fun. I never once was struck thinking, "Wow, I can't believe the programmers actually thought to code a response to a statement like that!" LifeLine is by the book, follow the numbers, connect the dots. There are basically no side avenues to explore.

Still, once I identified the game's limitations, I was able to work within them, most of the time. The worst part is when you see an object that you can have Rio interact with (the game lets you know this by flashing a little gold circle above it), but you have to GUESS what to CALL it. There aren't very many synonyms recognized so this quickly becomes very irritating. Also due to the poor quality of the voice recognition software, a lot of times Rio will misinterpret your instructions and wander off to do something else entirely. When this happens there's a brief period during which the game doesn't allow player input, so you have to wait for that to pass, tell her to stop, direct her back to where she was before, and try again. This is endlessly and indescribably frustrating. I tend to be pretty patient with games, but I suspect a lot of other players will be ripping their hair out, throwing controllers, or screaming profanity into the microphone.

As if to highlight the limitations of the primary game, the disc also includes a number of bonus games you can unlock by finding codes scattered throughout the space station. I think I had more fun playing these than the main adventure.

The Bottom Line
LifeLine is the sort of game that could, and should, have been great. But it desperately needs a better voice-recognition program and a slightly less cumbersome interface. I wouldn't actually advise against trying it, if you think you have the patience. But do keep a walkthrough handy, and don't hesitate to refer to it.

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on June 12th, 2005

Postal (Windows)

One of my guilty little pleasures.

The Good
Everybody gets to have one game that they absolutely love despite the fact that it's puerile, mindless, technically unimpressive, and overall just not very good. Postal is mine.

The premise is very simple: You have a gun. You run around shooting people with it. Along the way you acquire better guns to shoot more people and cause greater mayhem. Oh, sometimes there's a voice in your head, too, that talks to you. ("He never liked you." "Let's blow something up!" "Only my weapon understands me.") Postal is an equal-opportunity employer: You murder both men and women (never children); whites and blacks; cops, military personnel, and civilians; and even the flightless, non-human residents of an ostrich farm.

The game is so ridiculously violent it's funny. Launch an incendiary weapon into the ranks of a marching band or a group of protestors, and watch them all scatter, waving their instruments and picket signs, screaming while on fire, until they collapse as charred corpses. Twisted, depraved fun. If your bathrobe-clad postal dude catches on fire himself he'll run around screaming too, unable to shoot, but you can attempt to run him into other people and engulf them in flames as well. The game also seems to have an uncanny sense of comic timing. At one point I was in the middle of a huge shootout, gunfire ringing all over, explosions, people screaming and dying... then it all goes silent, and after a perfect one-second pause, you hear this total redneck voice call out: "Whut'n the hell's goin' on here?" I almost asphyxiated from laughing so hard.

The Bad
Well, like I said above... It's puerile, mindless, technically unimpressive, and overall just not very good. The graphics are dated (even for the time) and the gameplay behaves like what you might expect from a typical shareware title. The AI is particularly lame at times. Sometimes a guy will just stand still and not even react while you pound him with bullets. Aside from a few standouts (truck stop, parade, protestors, ostrich farm, military base), there's a bland sameness to most of the levels.

I didn't care for the expansion pack at all. The additional levels were entertaining, but the new screams of anguish from your victims come across as too forced, trying too hard to be funny. And what's worse, it overwrites the original sounds, so you have to reinstall the game to get them back.

The Bottom Line
While not a particularlly well-made game by any standard, Postal is an excellent stress reliever. How many times have you wanted to do something like this, but your conscience got in the way? Postal is a unique simulation of the experience of being a mass-murderer. And isn't that the whole point of computer gaming, to be able to experience something you never could in real life?

P.S. I understand there's a 3D-based sequel in the works.

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on April 16th, 2003

The Demon's Forge (PC Booter)

Not bad, just misunderstood.

The Good
I've gotta say, I'm tired of continually seeing this game listed in Moby's bottom ten.

In order to appreciate Demon's Forge, you have to understand it. This game was first written for the Apple II back in 1981 and published by a little-known company called Saber Software. Somewhere along the way, Mastertronic acquired the rights to it, and released the PC conversion in 1987 as a budget game. By which time it was thoroughly dated. But taken by early- rather than late-80s standards it's a decent two-word text/graphic adventure, one I had a lot of fun with when it first came out. There are a number of clever riddles and puzzles, and some humorous bits thrown in. And it's an interesting historical title, being Brian Fargo's first released game. Oh, and the box art is classic.

The Bad
Well, it does have it share of guesswork puzzles and unfair foresight required. And the game does tend to be broken down into several somewhat linear segments. But considering its age that's forgivable.

The Bottom Line
Lay off this one, okay? Demon's Forge looks primitive because it was written more than 20 years ago, not because it's a lousy game. Think of all the big expensive modern projects, with huge teams and budgets involved, that have turned out as complete messes, and I think you'll find that this one is dwarfed in comparison.

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on April 16th, 2003

Alex Kidd in Miracle World (SEGA Master System)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on April 15th, 2003

Moses: Old Testament Adventure #1 (DOS)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on January 12th, 2003

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on December 31st, 2002

Wasteland (DOS)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on December 23rd, 2002

The Space Bar (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on October 20th, 2002

Oni (Windows)

Two distinct genres that work well as a hybrid.

The Good
"Gun-toting Japanese cartoon chick." How can you not like a game with that premise?

While it's a fairly typical action game, Oni scored big with me on intangibles: The little things that differentiate it from your typical 3rd-person run/jump/shoot contest and add up to a great gaming experience. The unique circular status indicators. The other characters giving you new mission objectives as you move about. The ability to whack people with your gun when you run out of ammo. The little comments you can make Konoko say by hitting "ctrl" when fighting the bad guys. The characters, dialogue and plot really feel like they were lifted from a Japanese anime, or at least a good American imitation of one.

I'm also going to venture a bold and different opinion and say that "save points" aren't all bad. For me it's horribly frustrating to really be getting into a game, to the point that a save completely slips your mind (that's an immersive game world, that can make you do that), only to get yourself killed off and have to go back to the start of the level. Oni is well-paced and the difficulty balance is quite fair, so it rarely takes more than a couple of minutes to get back where you were. This also prevents you from overwriting a good save right at the worst possible time, when you're trapped and out of ammo and your life is low. With save points, you're at least reassured that you'll have a couple of seconds to react to nearby enemies after you restore. And it does prevent me from abusing the save-anywhere feature: I've been known to cheat my way through a difficult section by saving every few steps and brute-forcing my way ahead. I will concede, however, that it's not a perfect system. The ideal solution might be for the game to save regularly but also give a couple of quick-save slots to the player for the heat of battle or for a particularly difficult section.

The Bad
Graphics are adequate, but the engine gets a bit sluggish in open areas if there are three or four enemies coming after you at once. The scenery is pretty stark, though some of the character animation is nifty.

The learning curve for the control system is quite steep. There's a lot to take in at once, and it's different from any other control scheme I've experienced. (Thank goodness for the practice level.) I ended up sticking to flips and basic punch/kick combos and I did okay. Fighting was more fun than using the weapons, some of which -- the machine gun in particular -- were practically impossible to aim because of the recoil effect. Instead of making the game's action feel more realistic, it only made it frustrating. And the gameplay gets a little repetitive toward the end, with wave after wave of the same enemies.

The Bottom Line
I like Oni. I like it for the simple reason that it's a little bit different than anything else I've ever played. While I've never enjoyed 3D run-and-shoots, or pure fighting games with all the complex moves, the two work well together here, with the anime theme rounding out the experience nicely. Oni is definitely worth checking out. (My advice: Sift through the bargain bins at your local mall or Menards. I got my copy for $5.00!)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on June 21st, 2002

Majestic (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on June 10th, 2002

The Longest Journey (Windows)

Spread your legs!... AND DO THE MONKEYYYYY!!

The Good
(In order to illustrate critical points, this review contains some spoilers for portions of The Longest Journey. You have been warned.)

The Longest Journey is an innovative approach to a genre that desperately needs a breath of fresh air. It's a story about storytelling itself, and more specifically about the very genre of adventure, with a clever device (April's diary) that allows the game to get away with using most of the old adventure cliches (saving the world, collecting a set of jewels, always running errands for everyone), while simultaneously poking good-natured fun at them.

From an audiovisual standpoint, TLJ is a beautiful piece of software. The story is rich, detailed, and LONG, with many conversations spanning as much twenty or thirty minutes. Opinions on this vary, and it will definitely bore players who hate conversation-driven games (not to mention looking at the same screen for any length of time), but I personally felt the extra time and attention to detail in April's world, and the people she knows, created emotional involvement that paid off big-time in the game's second half. The fantasy landscapes are gorgeous to look at, and give something to take in as you're listening to the characters talking. Also, all the conversation delivers a long play time, without forcing players to spend it all solving puzzles and constantly getting stuck.

As an adventure protagonist, April shines. She's extremely easy to like, funny and friendly, and pleasant to listen to (a absolute must since she carries the bulk of the game's dialogue). Not to mention she's a lot more... how I say?... realistically proportioned than, for instance, Lara Croft.

The game is easy to get running, even on older machines. There are no big system-limitation problems, no 64MB AGP accelerators required, and you have the ability to turn off the fancier features and still be able to enjoy the game. (I definitely recommend doing the full 1GB install, though, if you can afford the space.)

The Bad
(LAST CHANCE to avoid the spoilers!)

The rest of the voice acting is good overall, never stiff, but sometimes the game's situations give the canned responses an awkward feel. For instance, when Emily gets shot and April escapes the clutches of the Vanguard, she doesn't know whether her best friend is dead or alive. It should be a very emotional moment, but have April examine her clothes at this point and she points out how, "ARRRRRR, matey!" she looks like a real sailor. Also you still get the "identical voice" effect from having a small cast playing a large number of characters, to the extent that some of them sound very much alike. (Toward the end, with each new character that was introduced, I was able to easily identify the other voices played by the same actor.)

Some of the puzzles and situations are thoroughly contrived, and this doesn't mesh well at all with a story that tries so hard to be original and serious. Take the police station in Stark, for instance: April manages to get into a restricted area because the electronic doors JUST HAPPEN to be broken that day. Then she's able to bypass the retinal scanner because one of the cops on the force JUST HAPPENS to have an artificial eye. Then she's able to get his password because she finds out it's based on his wife's birthday, and she's able to bring up the subject because it JUST HAPPENS to be the very next day. Yrrrrghhh...

The interface itself is occasionally inconsistent. Sometimes you get all the info you need when you examine something the first time, and sometimes it takes you two looks before you see what's really important. To give an item to a character, sometimes you click the item then click it on them, and sometimes you have to talk to the character and choose the line of dialogue that indicates you have the item. In the case of Crow, you click on HIM, then click him on the object you want to use him with. It wouldn't have been so hard to implement multiple methods of achieving the same end. There are also a couple of Myst-ish puzzles, Ancient Mysterious Objects (TM) that must be manipulated in the right way to accomplish something. I've never enjoyed this sort of puzzle, personally.

Inevitably, as with all adventure games, there are points where you run out of options, get stuck, and resort to the "click everything on everything else" method to find the one thing that works that you somehow missed. And this means not understanding the solution until after you've arrived at it. Case in point: I tied the clothesline to the clamp and attached the inflatable duck with no idea why I was doing it, except that the game was letting me. It's only after I noticed the key in the subway that I suddenly had a use for the previously purposeless contraption I'd constructed.

Worst of all, TLJ still suffers from the adventure gaming "broken record": You can talk to characters as many times as you want, and if you've exhausted all conversational possibilities you'll still continue to get the same "Hi"-"Bye" exchange. If you don't get a timing-related puzzle right on the first try, the game makes the event occur over and over until you do. The biggest offenses here are in the case of Officer Minelli dropping and picking up his synthetic eye before you can grab it, and, even worse, "escaping" the Gribbler in the forest. The Gribbler "attacks" April initially, but never chases her beyond that. She can hide behind the table as long as you let her, and the Gribbler never tries to run around and grab her. Once you realize this, any hope of tension is POOF, gone, and the game's urgent music becomes ludicrous. (On the other hand, I do realize that "dying" in an adventure is politically incorrect these days, that people hate "save-and-restore" puzzles. I have yet to see a game that walks this thin line successfully.)

And, once you're completely finished, the game doesn't have much replay value. While the lengthy dialogues weren't hard to sit and listen for me, I currently have no desire to back through any of it, and probably won't for a very long time.

The Bottom Line
Hmm, reading back through the above, it seems to give the impression that I didn't like The Longest Journey. On the contrary, I found it stylish, compelling, and a definite must-play for any adventure fan, though still flawed. Though its story is a solid piece of fiction, I felt it was lacking a few things that would have made a truly great GAME. While certainly the best commercial adventure game in recent years (since Grim Fandango), The Longest Journey still doesn't do much game-wise that's truly innovative, or to revive the fading genre of pure adventure as a whole. But it should give adventure holdouts faith to keep waiting for the next great game (possibly the just-announced sequel), and maybe that one will succeed.

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on May 7th, 2002

MTV's Beavis and Butt-Head: Do U. (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on February 24th, 2002

MTV's Beavis and Butt-Head: Bunghole in One (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on February 24th, 2002

Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Lands (DOS)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on February 24th, 2002

Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Lands (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on February 24th, 2002

Majestic: Special Edition (Windows)

THE single worst gaming experience I have EVER had. Period.

The Good
The concept of Majestic, the idea of making a player's real life into a part of the game, is clever. And maybe the game itself is fun, too. It certainly sounds like it might be. Unfortunately, I never got that far.

The Bad
Majestic is anything but. I only got partway through the tutorial explaining the game interface. When I click the icon that's supposed to advance me to the next page, it does nothing. If I close the browser and try to re-enter the tutorial from the Majestic Alliance application, it brings me back to the same page, where I encounter the same problem again. Each time, I have to listen to the moron's speech before I get a chance to click the icon and not be advanced further. If this is part of the reality factor of the game, this should probably be explained, as it isn't any fun at all. If it's not part of the game, someone did one suck-ass job of programming.

EA's technical help for Majestic is the absolute worst support crew I have ever had the extreme misfortune of needing to contact. The online e-mail support promised a response within 24 hours, and I'm still waiting after 40. Calls to the support line are handled by "first-level" techs, which basically means they search the online help for answers that sound like your problem and read them back to you, even if you've told them you already searched the online help yourself. Stimulus, response -- buncha freakin' amoebas working the phones. If they can't read back an answer that satisfies you, they promise to escalate the issue to the "second-level" techs and assure you that within a few hours, you'll get a reply, which then never comes.

I made the mistake of purchasing the commercial "Special Edition" of the game, and can't return it since I've opened the box and set up the account using the CD code number. I guess now that they know they have my money, EA just doesn't care.

The Bottom Line
I have never been so disillusioned by the undelivered promise of a gaming experience as I have with Majestic. That's including John Romero's Daikatana. That's including Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2.

They say everyone's Majestic experience is a little different, so maybe you'll have better luck. Based on mine so far, though, Majestic is a total scam and a complete waste of time. Perhaps someday EA support will actually get off their asses, fix my problem, and get back to me, and I'll get some enjoyment out of the game. But I doubt that my opinion of Majestic will ever fully recover from the first impression.

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on January 4th, 2002

Prince of Persia (DOS)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on December 23rd, 2001

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on December 9th, 2001

Tomb Raider II (PlayStation)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on November 24th, 2001

Tomb Raider II (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on November 24th, 2001

Tomb Raider: The Trilogy (Limited Edition) (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on November 12th, 2001

Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft (Windows)

By Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe on November 6th, 2001

[ Page 1 ] [ Next ]