Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sonic Generations Review

First off, I'm reviewing the PC version, available off Steam.  The PC version is cheaper then it's console counterparts, but you also miss out on one minor thing, the inclusion of the original Sonic the Hedgehog.  It's worth noting that you're only paying 30 instead of 50-60 USD.  It's also worth noting that the PC requirements are pretty steep, this is an otherwise direct port of the Xbox version with the capabilities to crank the settings up well past the PS3's lighting settings.  It even has a 3D display support(I'm guessing the PS3 version probably does as well, given the trend in 3d vision that console has been doing), but alas I do not have a display to test that feature on.

The gameplay itself is brilliant.  Each of the 9 stages is a throwback to one stage out of Sonic's massive video game carrier, excluding spinoffs.  Some of the highlights include Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary, and surprisingly even the more modern sonic stages are done well.

Each "stage" is actually two separate stages, one for Classic Sonic, and one for the Modern Sonic.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trackmania 2: Canyon Review

For those not familar with how TM works, I'd like to explain the concept of "Environments", because it's going to come up quite a bit in this review, and I want to make sure you don't misinterpret it as levels or tracks like other games.  In the TrackMania universe, an "Environment" is like an area of the TM universe that the track is built in.  Each one comes with a full set of track blocks, which forms what other games call the "level style". These often come with unique parts only that environment will let you place.  The Environment also contains a specific car to match with the parts in that set.  It's better to think of the Environments in TM as "Car Handling Styles and Track Themes".

For example, the free TM:Nations has 1 "Environment", Stadium.  This comes with a stadium level, stadium themed track pieces, and a modified handling F1 Race Car(modified in that it grips loops and stunts much better then a real one would).

First, a bit of backstory.  When Nadeo planned out TM2, they planned 3 environments, to be released over the next few years as part of the bigger picture "Maniaplanet", along with Shootmania and Questmania.  Both the others are under development still.

The result is that TM2:Canyon is a lot smaller then TM:United Forever, at least as far as content is concerned.  However, it's important to keep in mind that TM:United's 7 environments are actually:

-3 new ones from TM:United(before the Forever series), each released over a years delay
-3 old classic ones from back in TM:Sunrise, which were released at once but with a 2 year development time
-Stadium, which was designed to be a free environment for TM:Nations Forever.

So while it looks like we are getting a lot less stuff with Canyon's single level style, when you compare the two you are actually comparing a "collectors edition with all expansions" with the "first released game" of a new series.  Furthermore, TM:Canyon is the first part of a much bigger idea that Nadeo has called ManiaPlanet, where all three games(TrackMainia, ShootMania, and QuestMania) are interconnected into one massive community program/project.  Of course, none of that has been fully launched yet since it's going to be a pretty big multi-year project.

Now that you've got it in perspective, let's review what Canyon has to offer:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A couple of new tabs for the blog

I've made a few changes to this blog.  Some people have been eagerly following my reviews of games(thanks so much for letting me know you've been reading them, it means a lot to me!)

The new page tabs are a master list of reviews, and a suggestions page with my contact info on it.

The master list contains all the reviews or mentions of games I think would be worth reading over if you are researching a potential game.  Since they are all in 1 list, it saves you from having to dig through my old posts to find the game mention you are looking up.

The suggestions page lets you know what gaming systems I can review stuff on, and provides a way to contact me suggesting games you want me to check out.

I hope this will make the information much easier to find, and help both you and me in keeping track of it.  If something is wonky or you have suggestions how else I can make this better, I'm open to hear them.


Gawain Doell

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the Wii review

Note: This post was supposed to be my Halloween post, to review the game I was playing during that time. In my silly stupidity I left it as a Draft Post, meaning it was never actually published to the blog. Everything still stands in it, and so I'm publishing it as my proper "review" of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Enjoy.

Ah, Silent Hill, it's good to be back, even if I am stuck being dragged into frozen hallucination worlds every now and then. Which actually helps to break up the problem the old games had of "Should I be solving this puzzle or running like hell" by separating the game into two very different "modes" as you play.

And thank you for doing motion controls right, for once. It makes the escape sequences and exploring, and even talking to people(due to the ability to look around during dialog) very immersive and actually good to play. That is, if "unnervingly creepy and real feeling" can be called good to play, which I say it can.

Every time I step away from the Wii Silent Hill game, I keep asking myself "why haven't other motion games done it this way instead of just replacing button presses with motion gestures?" And I keep coming short of an answer. It just...works.

Gotta say one negative thing about it though. It's really hard to read the cell phone text messages on a smaller TV. It's very clear this game is meant to be played on a widescreen TV, but unfortunetly our only TV that fits the bill is right in the middle of the living room...which is not where Silent Hill should be played when there are younger siblings about for obvious reasons. So I'll just have to put up with barely being able to read them. (So far, everything important to playing the game has been in audio tapes or had subtitles that are big enough to read even on small screens. I have no idea why they didn't think to include the text messages on the cell phone in this treatment.)

Edit from later: I've now since finished the game, and I can safely say that it's conclusion is well worth the effort of finishing it. It also helps to explain what is fully going on in the end if you're paying attention, which sadly makes the game suddenly less scary and more tragic on a replay.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Video Game Camera Movement Design Theory

This post is more like a note to myself then anything else, but I thought someone might get some benifit out of the information here.  If nothing else, it will get you thinking on your own games you play about how the camera interacts with the world, and appreciative of those games where someone really sat down and thought about it.

I programmed an orbiting camera today.  I also got it to raytrace when something is in the way to move closer to the player, which in everyday terms is a fancy way of saying "If something is in the way, the camera will move to look behind that something."  Right now it moves behind everything(collectables, any polygon really).

This creates a problem.  The camera goes insane if the player hides behind something too close to them, such as running around a corner, with very little space between them and the wall, without moving the camera.

Hmm...various games have various solutions to this, all of which are pretty complicated to do.  A few examples of fixes used in games I've played, and quick opinions:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Some recently played games and quick opinions

These arn't going to be proper reviews, so much as quick summaries.  I'm feeling really under the weather today and don't have time to properly review anything.  Nonetheless, here is a quick reference list of some games I've played recently and my quick 2 cents.


Simple concept, fun puzzles, nice challenging action sequences.  Goes from easy to bloody annoying difficulty very quickly.  Some of the levels, even on easy, are rather lacking in checkpoints.  If you can't stand having to get three keys again to attempt that final shot/glide for the goal, this game isn't for you.  If you are the type who loves that sort of punishing game design and twitch/skill/speed based gameplay, give Nimbus a shot.  I don't regret buying it, but some more casual players probably will.


It's been called a 2d minecraft.  I'd like to point out that is a severe misconception, as the game plays out more like metroid.  It's got a few questionable design decisions that make multiplayer only good with trusted friends.  It also has a bit of item grinding to build some of the later armors, and suffers from not having a true end game goal.  (There are several epic boss fights, but they are repeatable and don't do anything to the world once you beat them).  Unfortunetly, without the unlimited building space of Minecraft(Terraria maps are not infinite, and have edges of the world to them), and thanks to the fact characters can take items from one world to another, the whole flow of the game kind of falls apart.  Worth visiting, barely, but because of the random generator and lack of any real goal, I can't fully be as excited about it as I wish I could be.  If anything, it will make you wish they had done something more solid and less "randomly generated adventures lol" with the game engine.

That will have to do for now.  More quick summaries to come probably, as I have been playing a lot of games but haven't been finishing them to be able to review them properly.