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H.E.R.O. (Atari 2600)

Another Activision classic

The Good
H.E.R.O. is one of the most remarkable games on the Atari 2600. You are basically an anonymous hero with a propeller-driven backpack that allows you to fly through mines where you have to save the workers trapped down there. On the way you have to avoid dangers like snakes, bats, spiders and even light switches. But you have the ability to shoot laser out of your helmet and you're equipped with TNT explosives to clear blocking walls. Just remember not to get too close to the dynamite. The graphics in this game are impressive to say the least. Everything is detailed nicely and the game has a unique atmosphere and feeling to it. If you hit one of the aforementioned light switches, everything goes dark, only lit by you dynamite, giving the game a sense of dread as well. H.E.R.O. is a gorgeous game for the good old VCS.

The Bad
The only things I can complain about are the controls, which really take time to master. They aren't very responsive and often I find myself losing because of the slow controls. I guess they are supposed to be realistic, as it gives your propeller time to start up before you fly but overall, I wish the controls were more responsive. The game also has very sparse sound. There is no music, not even a theme song, and there are only a few sound effects, making it one of the most silent games I've played.

The Bottom Line
H.E.R.O. has some eye-watering graphics for its time and considering the system it was made for and a great concept. Though poor unresponsive controls makes it hard to master in the beginning, and the lack of sound and music makes it way too silent.

By x0n1c64 on May 23rd, 2009

SiN (Windows)

An underrated shooter

The Good
In 1998, FPS games had to go into another phase. Quake and its sequel Quake 2(which Sin is built on) ensured non-stop action for multiplayer death matches and Half-Life brought players into a stunningly realistic virtual world. But where could FPS games go? Ritual Entertainment made a game that not only brought the FPS genre into a new dimension, but also is one of the finest FPS games to date, despite its lack of success.

The story: You're the bad-ass cop Blade, John Blade, working for an independent law-enforcement organization called HardCorps in the city of Freeport. When a new drug called U4 gets on the streets and the bums starts reporting in sights of mutants, you immediately begin to inspect. But suddenly a bank robbery catches your attention and with your hacker sidekick JC in your ear, you get into the bank via helicopter and while rescuing hostages, chase one of Freeport's biggest mob bosses, Mancini. As you proceed, you soon realize that the U4 is the product of SinTek, an organization previously known for the Vanity drug, lead by the voluptuous, and megalomaniac Elexis Sinclaire. It is up to you to stop the drug from infecting the whole city and prevent a global disaster.

So, what makes this game unique apart from other FPS's? Well, you might not know it, but Sin pioneered many elements that since have become staples in FPS games. 1.You can use computer terminals to hack the security system, even use a DOS-like prompt and type in standard commands. If you thought Deus Ex was the first game where you could use computers, think again. Also, this was a way to hide several easter eggs. For example, I never expected scientists to be playing Gloom II: Heck On Earth on their spare time, let alone on a terminal without a mouse. =P 2.Certain levels in Sin require you to sneak instead of going in with guns blazing. Hell, if you're detected the mission is practically over since invincible bots soon pop up from the floor and starts giving you a bad case of lead-poisoning. I can't remember any games prior to Sin that incorporated a sneaking aspect. 3.Some levels end differently based on what you do. For example, if you don't find the destination for the missile base in one of the levels, the next level will not take place on the missile base and you will not stop the missile from launching. Sin was probably one of the earliest games to have action-based outcomes.

These elements, coupled with a beautiful techno soundtrack, glorious macho voice acting, and guns to die for, Sin is a rather unique game in the FPS genre.

The Bad
Sin used an, already then, outdated game engine, and the way Half-Life incorporated the story into the gameplay couldn't be matched either, so Sin was sadly overshadowed by the enormous popularity of HL. Also, the initial version suffered from a serious case of bugs since the game was rushed to the shelves in an incomplete version, so be prepared to install some patches.

The Bottom Line
But either way, I think the original elements in Sin really makes it an outstanding game, and compared to Gordon Freeman, I'd say Blade has a lot more character since he speaks. You're not just a silent guy running around with guns, you have an attitude and a mission, and that is what makes Sin such an enjoyable experience. If you like shooters in general, pick this game up. You won't regret it.

By x0n1c64 on June 18th, 2008

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (Windows)

A sequel that shows the adventure genre is dying.

The Good
The graphics of Dreamfall are the strongest part of the game obviously. The locations remain exact replicates of the locations in the first game(except those who are new of course) and everything looks absolutely stunning(taken you have the machine to run this game on optimal performance that is). The models look realistic(my biggest grief with the first game were the models which always looked too polygonized for me), but sadly, that's where the game stops impressing me.

The Bad
Because underneath the layer of impressive state-of-the-art graphics, lie a confusing story with thousands of continuity issues, horrendous voice acting, and music that fails to live up to the awesome jazzy tracks of the first game. The decision to not have the Jukebox in the Fringe Cafe in the sequel just baffles me, it was one of the coolest elements of the first game and I missed it. A lot.

As mentioned, the story is very confusing and a lot of it makes no sense if you keep the first game in mind. 1. Charlie is still working on the Fringe Cafe, 10 years after the first game, where he mentioned that the job on the cafe was only to pay for his education(he was studying to be a dancer). Therefore, he either failed miserably on his biggest dream, or the writers just didn't keep in mind he studied to be a dancer. He never mentions in the script of Dreamfall that he wanted to be a dancer, only that he took over the cafe after the previous owner, Stan. 2. Emma(who looks nothing like she did in the first game) mentions that when April told that she had gone to another dimension, she believed April and Charlie was the one in doubt. In fact, April never tells Emma and Charlie about Arcadia in the first game, and Charlie was the one who wanted to listen while Emma claimed April had gone mad. 3. Despite this being a game developed by Norwegians, the Norwegian version of Dreamfall sounds terrible. It's more like a badly translated version of the English script. While in the first game, the script was all Norwegian, the Norwegian script in Dreamfall contains a lot of English words for places and names(which makes no sense since they were Norwegian words in the first game). Also, a lot of the voice actors have been replaced. I have nothing against Petronella Barker, but I think a lot of the fans were disappointed that Synnøve Svabo didn't return to her role as April Ryan.

I have one thing to say about the voice acting: It sucks! The actors don't sound like they know what they are saying, they also sound completely uninterested, like they were paid to say the lines, but never instructed on what they are talking about. The music sounds incredibly stock, but this is perhaps done on purpose to make you pay more attention to the lackluster voice acting...

The Bottom Line
Compared to The Longest Journey, Dreamfall is a sequel that could have been an awesome game with awesome graphics, but because of the issues I had with the story and the voice acting, which should be the essences in the game, it fails to impress me. Not to mention it has been simplified and the action elements makes it feel more like an action game than an adventure game.

The adventure genre is clearly decaying, which this game really shows. Stick to the first game, it may not have impressive graphics, but the original story remains the best.

Why this became the Game Of The Year is beyond my comprehension.

By x0n1c64 on June 12th, 2008

Duke Nukem (DOS)

It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum... where's my gum?

The Good
In 1991 it would seem like there would be an abundance of platformers. What Apogee did that was so special was that they took everything that was great about scrolling shooters and just packed it all into one game. The story isn't much to brag about. It's there but basically as an excuse to blow up a thousand Tech-Bots before you can kick Dr Proton's ass, again and again. This game is just pure fun. You can blow up a lot of the stuff on screen, including a massive dose of power-ups, and the levels aren't really that frustrating. I rarely got lost. Good graphics for the time as well. Despite being EGA, the graphics still look great today in my opinion. Everything looks like what it's supposed to be.

The Bad
The PC speaker sound effects can be a real pain after a while. Although I'm a fan of PC speaker effects, they are obviously a relic of the past when there wasn't anything more sophisticated available for IBM computers. I think most modern gamers will be put off by it. I think sound-wise, Duke Nukem would have been better on a Sega MegaDrive or a Commodore 64. The controls are a little annoying as the character moves in 8x8 blocks instead of pixel-wise like in most platformers.

The Bottom Line
A fun platformer with a lot of replay value. I highly recommend it.

By x0n1c64 on May 13th, 2008

Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance)

Samus' last adventure is certainly not a silent one

The Good
Metroid Fusion is chronologically the last Metroid game(the Metroid Prime franchise takes place between Metroid 1/Zero Mission and Metroid II: The Return of Samus), and it's Samus' first 32bit adventure on the Advance.

Personally, I really enjoyed the game throughout. There were some things I disliked about it but generally the whole experience is very enjoyable. Samus' new abilities, such as climbing ladders and the Power Grip which allows her to grip ledges come in handy for sure. I also like that they made the missiles upgradeable, that really simplified a lot of things for sure. Overall, Metroid Fusion feels simple, easy to play, and something you can just pick up and play, which is how handheld games should be like. The sound effects are very well done in comparison to older games.

The Bad
I didn't quite like the fact I couldn't skip the cutscenes. Having to watch the long intro every time I start a new game is a real pain in the butt. Also, I didn't like how much the game relied on story and mission objectives. I felt that the freedom and non-linear experience I had in Super Metroid was completely absent. Also, the music isn't nearly as memorable as the Super Metroid soundtrack, but it fits the atmosphere well.

The Bottom Line
Metroid Fusion is a game that some will find very entertaining and exciting, with huge replay value as you will try to find more and more items and do it with less playtime, while others might find the increased linear story-driven gameplay boring and uncharacteristic for the series in general. But all in all, Metroid Fusion is not a bad game. It's maybe not the best in the series(I give Super Metroid that title), but it's playable, and it gives room for another prequel.

By x0n1c64 on February 8th, 2008

Wolfenstein 3D (DOS)

By x0n1c64 on February 5th, 2008

MDK (Windows)

A cult-classic from the mid 90's.

The Good
MDK is one of my all time favorite games. I just keep coming back to it because I just love everything about it. It's universe, and just the fun of blasting my enemies' heads off with a sniper rifle.

A little about the story: In MDK you are Kurt Hectic, a skinny janitor that is "chosen" to save the earth from evil aliens called Stream Riders. They have come to earth just to crush us, and now Kurt is being sent to the 5 giant trucks that's doing the crushin'. He must battle each commander of these giant trucks and put an end to the final boss, Gunter Glut, the leader of the aliens. A very simple plot, but I like it.

The graphics are just stunning for a game of its age. This was the time of Quake where you would run around in small corridors, and here MDK just launches with an arsenal of huge arenas! This game has some of the most memorable game scenes of the 90's, especially the glass world. Everything is reflected in the surfaces and you really get the feeling of being in a really huge world, giving the game a very epic feel. And it never lags! Promise! I can run this on my brother's stone age Windows 98 computer and it never lags! And not to mention in the first level where you fly over a huge arena bombing aliens and buildings, that just feels incredible. Although the worlds seem polygonal today, the textures and the small details in this game makes it very varied. I still prefer the Windows version over the PlayStation version because the PS1 version had to cut down most of the graphics and using weird scaling methods to make them appeal bigger.

The controls are great. It kind of feels like playing Doom in 3rd perspective, which should give you some idea on how it feels. Very smooth controls that never feel overcomplicated.

The gameplay is really varied too. There are small minigames hidden inside MDK, but they blend with the main gameplay nicely. The level design is also so linear that getting lost is almost impossible. This is what want games to have. I never were so fond of non-linear worlds, because you easily get confused and don't know what to do next. MDK is like old railshooters. Just go straight forward on the path. But there are secrets too of course. Plenty of them, but you can never get confused in MDK, which I think makes it even much more of a classic. Even though the levels are linear, as mentioned before, they feel really big. Each level is composed of several stages, serving as levels within the levels, and the design and gameplay of these levels can vary pretty much, making MDK a very short game that feels like it's huge. Also, the guys at Shiny bring in tons of mad humor, greatly toning down the seriousness of it all. And that's what I like about this game, it never gets to serious! It feels like a breath of fresh air compared to Quake and other action games. It's epic and dark, but there's always some quirky reference or hilarious twist in there to keep you laughing while being blasted by thousands of evil aliens. One of the things to mention is the powerups. Who would've thought the world's smallest nuclear bomb would be used merely to open locks? And how can the aliens take over earth if they are too stupid to notice the difference between the real Kurt and his sidekick, the inflatable dummy decoy? It's just those little details that make MDK a serious action game with humor.

The music is just awesome. Shiny did a right thing in hiring Tommy Tallarico because he gives so much atmosphere to the experience. And the music reflects the level design in variety. Everything from epic rock anthems(Stranger Things, Vengeful Alien), to tribal jungle rythms and big epic themes(title music). The music is pretty much the reason I continue returning to MDK. It feels like being in a really cool movie. The sound effects sound pretty stock, but they never really bring down the experience. Hell, Doom even used stock sounds, but I don't think people mind as long as they fit and don't sound out of place. The voices of the aliens are sometimes incredibly comedic and I can promise you you'll sometimes just laugh your ass off at their speech. And I just love that metallic scream from Kurt Hectic when he dive into the giant cities. "WOAAAAAAAH!!!" I sometimes scream with him.

Also, in the end you get to see a music video. I've NEVER seen that before. A music video!

The Bad
It's a huge game that just feels short when you've finished it. You kinda long for something more. Also, I would love to be able to play this game multiplayer with someone. Either deathmatches or co-operative sessions. But I figure MDK is still great without that, because it focuses on the single player experience, which is just great. But I'd wish they just use more of the world they had created. Also I'd wish they'd include the FMV they had in the PS1 version, because it's so cool to watch, even today. Another thing I hated was the censored version where the blood was colored blue instead of green, and many of the sound effects were replaced to tone down the violence.

Something I also don't like about MDK in general, is that I'm confused about what MDK stands for. But I guess for me it'll always stand for Massive Dose of Kickass!!!

PS: I've heard people complain about the save feature in the initial release but in the version I played I was still able to save anywhere in the game with F2... so what's the big deal?

The Bottom Line
How to describe a work of art? MDK must be played to be believed. Even today with all the realistic and serious games, MDK feels fresh. It has humor without being too silly or cheesy. It still has that epic feel to it. I recommend MDK to anyone who hasn't played it because you are really missing out on a great game.

By x0n1c64 on August 5th, 2007