Flights of The Electribird

Through Games, Events and Multimedia


Deadly Hard Holidays? Drive the DeLorian to the Future!

The last couple of months has been nothing but hectic for a lot of people, especially considering all the things that had to be dealt with before the December holidays. Things needed to be shopped, presents needed to be wrapped, homes needed to be decorated and all things edible needed to be cooked, baked and prepared. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself some time for relaxation of any kind whenever possible. How you relax is irrelevant, you just need to do it before the stress kills you. Personally, I chose to spent my breaks with some movies and a game.

Elysium
Ever since I heard about the movie, Elysium, I’ve been nothing but curious. How would the world look like if all the rich people left the planet for the rest of us to live on? How would the economy work? Who would get to use and take advantage of all the things they leave behind on Earth, like homes, attractions and businesses? You’d think that it would benefit mankind to get rid of the top dogs of society and leave room for the rest to take over. Middle-class would become over-class, making lower-class become middle-class and so on. Less poverty and more jobs, homes and space on Earth. Instead, Elysium takes up another scenario entirely.

The year is 2154 and the upper-class citizens of Earth are now living their luxurious, carefree lives on the fancy space station, Elysium, which is currently in orbit around the planet. In the meantime, everyone on the planet is living in a dystopian police state, where diseases roam free, crime rate is high and the average lifespan for humans is still up to around 70-100 years at least. That’s why people do everything they can to get to Elysium, even if it’s just for the sake of healing a relative from cancer or restore a decapitated limb, but very few make it into the space station alive. This doesn’t stop Max, an ex-con who’s working at a law enforcement droid factory and ends up getting exposed to radiation. To try to save himself, he accepts an offer to help an illegal group that helps people get to Elysium to extract data from the director of the factory. What he ends up with recieving, is something that could change the hierarchy of Elysium entirely…

If you’re one of those who enjoyed watching the movie District 9, you might like this movie too. You can really tell that Neill Blomkamp, writer and director of both movies, had something to do with Elysium by the feel you get of something going wrong in the story and the long, but not completely time-wasting, wait for something to be fixed or destroyed beyond repair. But there were still some things I couldn’t understand. What does Elysium have to gain from controlling Earth? If they’re already living lives of luxury in a self-sustaining space station without the risk of dying of anything but old age (which appears to be taking them about 80-100 years longer, considering how old one of the characters appears to be), why keep Earth under such tight control? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Well, whether I’ve missed something or not, Elysium gets a fair rating of 3/5. Logically, the movie doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it’s still fascinating to see a futuristic scenario like this one come to life on the screen. The choice of actors were also a nice pick, even if Sharlto Copley (the guy who plays Kruger) stole the show.

A Good Day to Die Hard (Die Hard 5)
When you’ve seen the first 3 Die Hard-movies, your expectations get pretty high. It was like comedy and action running hand in hand on the beach in realtime in all 3 movies. Then Die Hard 4.0 came out and you began to notice how the comedy had lessened a bit, but it was still acceptable as a good movie. That’s why I was a bit concerned about this 5th movie, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway. It’s Die Hard after all, right?

This time, John McClane has taken some time off to find out how things are going with his son, Jack, who appears to have gotten himself into a big mess involving drugs and the mob in Russia. Once John gets there, he finds out that Jack is actually a CIA-agent with an even bigger mess to deal with, involving transportation of a Russian prisoner and uranium. After accidentally screwing things up for Jack, John helps out to once again save the day and hopefully patch things up with his son.

In the previous Die Hard-movies, there were 3 things you could always count on – loads of action, an acceptable story and just enough comedy to give you something to smile or chuckle at least a couple of times. If that’s what you were hoping for in this Die Hard-movie too, prepare for disappointment. While about 60 % of the movie consisted of some averagely-rated action, the rest of it were basically just some needed lines and plot-points to make the story move forward and a truckload of rubbish. It’s also very disappointing that the scriptwriters didn’t do their homework about Tjernobyl or radiation properly, because some actions and solutions were nowhere near realistic. If there was anything good about this movie, it was Bruce Willis’s return as John McClane…

The thought of giving a Die Hard-movie a 1/5 makes me want to cry. I can’t even begin to tell how poor the quality of this sequel is. Not only did this movie fail by Die Hard-standard, it was too dry and empty to be seen as a good action movie at all. What happened to the comedy? Where was the excitement? How dumb did the moviemakers believe their audience to be? This entire movie was nothing but a bad attempt to bring nostalgia back to the present. Nostalgia is one thing, but a poorly executed project like this is unforgivable.

Back to the Future: The Game
My favorite movie trilogy of all time has always been Back to the Future. When I read that Telltale Games were making a game out of it, I nearly jumped out of joy! It took a long wait, but I found the Wii-version of it eventually and speeded to the console the moment I got a chance to play it.

After the events that occurred in the last movie, Dr. Emmet Brown has been gone for 6 months. Because of this, the bank are reclaiming his house and holding a garage sale to sell his stuff. While Marty is trying to do what he can to stop this from happening, Dr. Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean appears outside the house with Einstein, Dr. Brown’s dog, inside along with a tape recorder and a ladies’ shoe. Dr. Brown has once again gotten himself into trouble in the past and it’s upto Marty McFly to once again travel back in time to save him.

In this point-and-click adventure, the player controls Marty McFly in a story that’s been divided into 5 separate episodes. With the Wii-remote, the player can point in the direction they want Marty to go and click on a button to get him to move towards it. With the nunchuck plugged into the Wii-remote, it gets even easier to more around, because the buttons on the nunchuck make it easier to make Marty move around and run in the area he’s in. Apart from moving around, Marty can also interact with people to talk to them and interact with objects to activate them or pick them up to use someplace else and this is done by clicking on whatever it is that the player want Marty to interact with. There’s also an icon in the corner to click on to get to the stuff Marty is carrying with him. From there, the player can pick an object to either take a closer look at or use in Marty’s current surroundings. To make things even easier, there’s also a hint system in the game that lets the player view current tasks for Marty to do and drop a hint on what needs to be solved. This feature can of course be turned off, if the player desires, just like the player can choose to make speech in the game audio-only or subtitled…

To those who loved the movies, I can tell you right now that you won’t be disappointed. Telltale Games did a good job of getting the nostalgia into the game by adding familiar objects, lines and other minor details that will take the player back in time. Just the voices alone are impressive for a very good reason! Just like in the movies, you can hear Christopher Lloyd do the voice for Dr. Brown, and you can hardly tell that a voice actor named A.J. Locascio is doing the voice for Marty instead of Michael J. Fox, who’s voice was still put to good use. If there’s something that’s going to bug the pickiest of gamers, it’s the graphic-errors in some of the episodes, where some details are missing…

Great Scott, this game should have recieved a higher rating than 4/5, but unfortunately, I can’t look past the graphic-errors in some of the episodes. This is a common error in Telltale Games’ Wii-games and they are as annoying as the graphics style used for the game, which is making the characters look a bit too childish and cubic. This style may have been suited for the Sam & Max games Telltale Games made, but not for Back to the Future. Still, Telltale Games get top grade for all the nostalgia they added into the game without ruining the story! The game felt like Back to the Future all the way from start to finish, without losing touch of what made the fans of the movies love Back to the Future in the first place. There was just one detail in the story that wasn’t well thought of, but mentioning that would be spoiling…

My goodness, those reviews took forever to type! That’s how it goes when you don’t have much time to spare anymore. At least that won’t stop me from updating this blog with more tests and hopefully some news in the near future, no matter which part of space the rich are hiding or what kind of situation a cop has to put himself in to help his kid out.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

3 Lethal Beginnings and a Fun Sequel

When there’s work and no play, you do what you can with the little time you’ve got to spare. Since I missed most of E3, I thought I’d use the time to try to finish a game I’ve never been able to finish before – Maniac Mansion. This pain in the neck of a game has been a challenge for me for many years and now I can finally tell the world that I completed the game!

The game is about a guy named Dave, who’s girlfriend, Sandy, has been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Fred Edison and taken to his mansion. To save Sandy, Dave decides to sneak into the mansion with two of his friends, a very difficult task to pull off when Dr. Fred, his family and other residents are still at home…

Apart from Dave, you also get to control his two friends. Who these friends are depends on what characters you pick before you start the game. Your choice of characters decide how you’re going to finish the game, because each character has something special about them, like music skills, photography skills or technical skills, which you must take advantage of to do specific tasks. The only character you’re stuck with is Dave, who unfortunately is the only character who doesn’t have anything special about him. As for the rest, it doesn’t matter which two friends you want to bring to the rescue party. If you play their parts right, you can save Sandy and win the game.

Like most of the early point-and-click games, Maniac Mansion has a menu of several options at the bottom of the screen, like “Open”, “Push” and “Pick up” to name a few. Since you’re only able to control one character at the time, there’s of course an option to let you switch between them. Each character also has an inventory to store stuff they pick up, which can either be used on something in the environment, used on another item in the inventory or be given to another character if they’re nearby. So far, so simple, right? Here’s the hard part. Unlike most of the point-and-click games LucasArts were famous for, you can make some really annoying mistakes in Maniac Mansion. It could be anything from an object being used the wrong way to your characters dying, making it impossible to finish the game without restoring your last save point or restarting the game. Either way, you’ll be saving the game quite often and hope to everything good and holy that the next task you do won’t make you reload anything.

All in all, I can understand why this game has such a cult-status. For being the very first game LucasArts released, it’s not bad. The little humour you see is worth noticing (especially if you picked Bernard as a character) and the in-game advertising for other LucasArts projects is cleverly placed when spotted. It’s also the first game to use the game engine SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), which has been used for every point-and-click adventure game that LucasArts has released before year 2000, if I’m not mistaken. I do find it annoying to be forced to reload the game every single time I do something wrong, especially when my last save was hours or days ago.

My verdict is therefore 3/5. If I’m going to reload the game constantly, it’s going to be because my characters died, not because I reach a dead-end and can’t go any further in the game without reloading an old save or restart the whole game because I may have forgotten something or used an object the wrong way. Realism is one thing, but there should always be a way to fix a mistake without going back in time. I would also have enjoyed more in-game jokes, because there weren’t so many of them…

While doing some research, I came across another game that I wanted to try. According to what I read about it, the world in this game is the same as the one in Maniac Mansion. This “spin-off” got me curious, so I decided to give it a shot. It’s called Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders.

If this truly is a spin-off of Maniac Mansion, it must me several years into the future, when airports tickets can be bought from consoles instead of salespeople and cash has been replaced by “CashCards”. Zak McKracken is an ambitious reporter, who’s sick of writing lousy stories for the magazine he works for. After receiving an assignment about a two-headed squirrel, Zak goes home disappointed and goes to bed before his journey. That’s when he has this really weird dream and after Zak wakes up, he discovers how his dream is related to something much bigger…

Just like Maniac Mansion, the controls consist of a menu at the bottom of the screen with actions to click on before clicking on something else, like “Pick up”, “Turn on”, “Use” or “Read” to name a few, and after playing about a third or a quarter of the game as Zak, you’ll be able to switch between other characters as well. Other than that, you’ll get to travel to different places, both around, above and outside the globe. There are also some tricky puzzles and currency to keep the player’s brain occupied throughout the game. If that’s not hard enough for you, I might be able to mention that, just like in Maniac Mansion, you can make some nasty mistakes that can make you unable to complete the game, like objects used the wrong way or characters dying…

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders deserves the score of 3/5. There’s more humour here than in Maniac Mansion, but my issues with it is the same. The constant restoring of saves and/or restart the game for making silly mistakes can really get on your nerves. The mazes are also a pain in the neck to go through when you don’t know your way around them and if you’re not careful with the currency, the CashCard will be empty in no time. But I still recommend this game for those who’d like a challenge and I do find it to be a shame that LucasArts never made a sequel for it (all sequels for this game are fan-made).

After surviving these two games, I needed to have fun with something simpler. In my cupboard, I have a game that’s been collecting dust for years, because I never got it to work. This year, with a little help from ScummVM, I got it to work just fine. The game’s called Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle.

5 years after the rescue party to Maniac Mansion, the purple tentacle drinks some toxic waste Dr. Fred dumped into the stream outside the mansion. This makes him develop a sharper mind and a pair of arms, which makes him powerful enough to want to take over the world. Because of this, Dr. Fred plans to kill the tentacles before the purple tentacle can put his plan into action. To save them, Bernard must once again sneak his way into the mansion and this time the Edison family are the least of his problems…

Remember that I mentioned a character named Bernard when I reviewed the prequel? He’s back and, believe it or not, he’s the one calling the shots now. Apart from him, the player also get to play two more characters later in the game, but those are not optional. It’s Bernard’s roommates, Hoagie, a relaxed roadie with the love for sandwiches, and Laverne, a mentally-challenged student with the love for dissections. As for the game controls, they’re similar to the prequel, apart from an option or two being removed and replaced for simplicity’s sake. Another change that caught my attention, is the more cartoonish graphics and the fact that you can’t make any mistakes or die in this game, which is a nice change. This does however not make the game that much easier. The tasks in this game are still very hard to figure out and when you think you know what to do, you later end up discovering that you had the wrong idea all along and must find another solution to move forward with the game. Luckily, no matter what you do in Day of the Tentacle, you will be able to finish the game without wasting time with saves and restarts.

It’s a close call, but I still give this game a 5/5. This game has more humour than the sequel and the cartoonish graphics worked very well with the theme of the game. It’s also much more relaxing to play the game without having to worry about saves and restarts all the time, which is a major plus. I do however wish that I knew a bit earlier that I could send stuff between characters by dragging and dropping things to their avatars instead of just having them stand by the Chrom-a-John every time I switch between them…

After playing these games, I still couldn’t help asking myself if LucasArts made more games where you had to save the game constantly, because death and mistakes made it difficult to finish them. My research led to one more game – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. If I’ve missed one, feel free to post a comment about it, so I can track it down and test it later.

If you’ve seen the movie with the same name, you already know that the story is about the archaeologist and “tomb raider”, Indiana Jones. When he finds out that his father, Dr. Henry Jones, has gone missing while searching for the Holy Grail, he accepts the mission of taking over where his father left off in hope to find him.

Just like Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has the same old action’s menu at the bottom of the screen that you can click on to interact with stuff in the inventory and the environment, but that’s not the only controls you have available. You’ll also be able to box enemies by using the numeral keys on your keyboard.

The movie and the game do have their differences when it comes to details, but they also complement each other by answering certain questions, like why the game starts with a soaking wet Indiana Jones in the intro. Still, those who saw the movie will still have an edge with some of the puzzles, but some still require intelligence and guesswork and, just to make it even harder, the enemies are hard to whack down and not always unavoidable.

My rating for this game is 3/5. The possibility of dying and making mistakes may be a nice detail for the sake of realism in this game, but the difficulty level is ridiculously high. Sure, some puzzles have more than one solution or can be ignored to finish the game, in case you’ve screwed up the first time, but it’s still hard to be able to get by when violence is the only option left. Just the first few enemies can take you down easily and, even if it is possible to avoid some fights, it’s not an easy thing to pull off.

Well, that’s the end of my “marathon”. As difficult as it was to play most of these games, I can still say that all of these games are fun to play and worth a shot. I also learned a lot of things while testing these games out. Realism in games is like adding cinnamon to hot chocolate. A little cinnamon can make a difference in the flavour, but if you add a quarter of a pinch too much, the hot chocolate will taste terrible. But in this case, I’d still finish my cupful and simply just take a break when my stress-levels hit the roof. Too bad this happens every time it’s a matter of life and death…


Leave a comment

Got the Ears for the Loom?

To honour the late game development company, LucasArts, I thought it would be a good idea to play one of their old games. You’d think that a fan like me would have a problem to choose a game among so many good ones, especially since there are so many of them that I haven’t tried out yet, but the choice wasn’t that hard to make. Due to the several jokes I’ve seen about someone called Bobbin and how he asks people if they’re his mother, I couldn’t resist the temptation to finally play Loom and finally, after years of waiting, I finally got the chance to play it last weekend. I knew this game would be a bit different from what I was used to, but not too different from how the jokes make it out to be.

So who’s Bobbin? That would be the game’s playable character, Bobbin Threadbare. He’s a 17-year-old orphan in a grey cloak, who lives in a village among people called Weavers, who basically all look like druids to me (Bobbin included). Everyone in the village, apart from the woman who raised Bobbin, an old woman named Hetchel, fears him and wants to get rid of him, but end up being transformed into swans by the village’s magical loom instead. When they all fly away, Bobbin is told by Hetchel that dark times are coming and that there’s nothing else to do but to either wait for it to come or run. Bobbin therefore decides to follow his people to safety and goes on a quest to find the swans with the aid of the distaff (which looks more like an average wizard staff to me) he picked up from the floor.

When you run the game, you get to choose difficulty. I always go for the hardest difficulty with point-and-click adventure games, because they provide more details to the story, but the others might make the game easier and faster to finish. After that, Loom appeared to be just like any other point-and-click game at first glance. You point at what you wish to interact with and click on it once or twice to make your playable game character (Bobbin, in this case) interact with the object in some way. In most games like this, you usually either have a menu of options, like “Pick up”, “Talk” or “Examine”, at the bottom of the screen for each interaction or simply click on the object itself to receive some options of some kind. The player would usually also have a visible inventory somewhere to store the objects you’ve picked up. With Loom, you can forget about most of that stuff. Bobbin has only 2 ways to interact with the characters and objects in his surroundings. You can either double-click on the object or character you wish to interact with to look or talk to them, or click on them once before using the distaff to cast a spell on them. Yup, no need to waste time with inventories and collectable object in this game! Instead, you click on the distaff to play it like a musical instrument. Sadly, this wonderful system has a downside…

To work the distaff, there are a set of drafts the player needs to memorize. These drafts consist of 4 music notes each and can be found by interacting with certain objects and characters in the game. Since Bobbin’s set of usable tones on the distaff is limited to 3 notes in the beginning, he’ll need to practice using each availlable draft to gain experience often enough to be able to use higher notes. Although, judging from my experience, Bobbin might end up learning the needed notes anyway as you progress in the game, but I still recommend that you test each draft at least once or twice to make them easier to memorize or (even better) get something to write down each draft on as soon as you hear them. This was a big issue for me, because I have a lousy memory and once you get closer and closer to the end, the drafts might not be able to be heard a second time. On top of that, just to make the game a bit harder to cheat on, each game (and possibly saved games too) has its own set of drafts, so you can forget about searching for the notes for each draft online. If you’re good at remembering music, this should be a breeze for you. If not, get something to type down the drafts and listen carefully when you find them.

All in all, Loom wasn’t all that bad. The game is a bit short and I hate being forced to take notes when I play games, but the story isn’t too bad and it was great to play a point-and-click adventure game where you get to use mainly magic spells for a change. With a little more work into the story and an easier way to remember all the drafts, this game would have been really awesome! It’s a shame that LucasArts never made a sequel to this game, because it could use one – preferably one where the drafts are easier to collect and store in-game.

This game gets a 3/5. Not bad.


Leave a comment

Education Takes Time – Literally!

My, my. I haven’t caught a real break until now to write anything in this blog. It’s my second week in a vocational training school and I’m already swamped in work! I’ve finished some stuff off and now awaits a few answers for my teacher tomorrow. Darn, I really wanted to ace this course. Oh well, it wouldn’t be school if it wasn’t hard…

Those who know me know that I love games. RPG’s (Role-Playing Games), computer games, console games, ARG (Alternative Reality Games), boardgames… the list goes on and on. I can’t really say that I have a favourite game, but I do have an obsession with The Sims. I’ve been collecting those games for a long time and had a lot of fun with them, but they don’t really belong to my favourite genre – P&C (Point & Click) adventure games, like Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky, Sam & Max and Runaway! I’ve always loved to solve mysteries and those kind of games bring that to the gaming experience. Another thing that I’m very fond of with most P&C games is the humour in the game. Some jokes you have to look for, while the rest are as visible as a red nose on a colourful clown. Monkey Island is a very good example, since those games has both kind of jokes. For a series of games with the 1700’s pirate theme, you can spot a lot of modern stuff in it, like rubber chickens and soda machines. Then we have the weird things you have to do, like collecting T-shirts, put on a pink dress, feed cheese to a vulcano and be vulgar to a school teacher. And last, but definetely not least, we have the signs, labels, posters and commercials you can find a little here and there with some funny text on them. Some of them were actual commercials for future games, which was a little weird, but still funny.

I’d love to write some more, but I have a teacher to try to suck up to in a few hours and need some sleep. Let’s hope he won’t chew my head off…