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gog and lucasarts – what we do and don’t have so far

January 28th, 2015

Written by: Stoo

More Lucasarts on GOG. They’re delving further into the archives of Star Wars games, including Jedi Knight, the Quake-era sequel to Dark Forces where Lucasarts decided our hero really should have a lightsabre. There’s a bunch more I’m not greatly personally familiar with – Rebellion is Master-of-Orion style strategy. Republic Commando looks like some sort of tactical first-person shooter. Starfighter has you flying around in one of those Naboo fighters from Phantom Menace, I have absolutely no idea if it’s any good.

No sign of more adventures, except for that forthcoming Grim Fandango remake I mentioned last time. I think the titles still not available on gog or steam are:

  • Zak Mckracken
  • Maniac Mansion
  • Day of the Tentacle
  • Full Throttle
  • Curse of Monkey Island
  • Escape from Monkey Island

DotT is my personal priority, with its cartoony style, offbeat humour and lovably quirky protagonists. That said, I’d love to revisit the biker-themed Full Throttle also.

Meanwhile, there are a few we can buy on steam but not yet GOG:

  • Loom
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • The Dig

I mention this because GOG is our preferred source for oldies, due to their no-DRM policy. Also, GOG are pretty good for including extras with their games, including older versions. So with Loom they could sell the VGA remake (with digitised speech but rewritten dialogue to fit on a CD) and bundle with it the EGA original, which is lacking from the Steam Release.

If it sounds like I’m sounding like an entitled nerd here by demanding more, I should reiterate I was happy just to see Lucasarts on GOG at all. I have good faith that the GOG guys are keen to have the entire back catelogue for sale. It’s probably a just matter of persuading Disney execs and lawyers to approve the sale of these old games – and maybe they’re keener to sign off on Star Wars stuff since that ties into the forthcoming new trilogy.

Get your motor running

January 24th, 2015

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

Tonight we have the second – and probably final – instalment of our ‘games that might be a bit like 4D Sports: Driving but a lot newer’ review series [catchy! - a reader]. I’ve been meaning to cover Trackmania for a while on FFG, but when I finally came around to it, I couldn’t actually get my copy of the game to work.

So what we have instead is a review of the 2005 sequel, Trackmania Sunrise.

TMSunriseTitle

More Lucasarts on gog

January 21st, 2015

Written by: Stoo

A second wave of Lucasarts games has arrived on gog.com, this time all Star Wars related.

Amongst these are the two followers of the classic space-sims X-Wing and Tie Fighter that were released in the first wave. X-Wing vs Tie introduced multiplayer to the series, neglected any real single player content but had that flaw addressed with the Balance of Power add-on (which gog have included). Go have a read at Just Games Retro.

X-Wing alliance was mostly oriented towards fighting in rebel starfighters, just like the first game, but added in some missions with you flying in smuggler ships. Which sounds exciting, right? Some Han-Solo style action. Except I seem to recall those missions being a chore, with you stuck in a cargo ship that’s slow, lumbering and poorly armed. I guess the Millenium Falcon was an upgraded model. However, it’s been years since I played and I may not have given the game a fair chance.

Looking at the rest, Dark Forces was Star Wars Doom, because back then all first-person shooters were described in relation to Doom. When did the term FPS take over? Quake-era? Anyway, this was amongst the first of its kind to allow actions such as jumping and looking up and down. Unlike later games in the series, Kyle Katarn has yet to take up the ways of a Jedi so there are no lightsabers. This is purely about shooting stormtroopers in the face with assorted kinds of blaster. You rebel scum!

The other games I’ve not yet played because this image I project of being a retro gaming expert is in fact a total sham! But I really should try the KOTOR series sometime.

No adventures in this release, but a week or so earlier Gog did open pre-orders for the re-mastered Grim Fandango. I never played that either, sorry! It seems to be very well thought of, though. I also hear that Day of the Tentacle is getting a remaster and hopefully that will appear on gog also. That one, I can confirm, is brilliant, one of Lucasarts’ finest.

Guest item!

January 15th, 2015

Written by: Stoo

Hello everyone. This site is usually a two man effort – well, I say that, it’s more like 1.5 men given how inactive I’ve been lately. Still, we do sometimes have contributions from guests. So a big thanks today to RT, who has kindly written us a review of Serious Sam 2.

FFG in 2014

January 4th, 2015

Written by: Rik

Hello.

Just popping back in with our traditional look back at the past 12 months. (It may not be very useful to you, the reader, but it helps old fellas like us keep track of things, as the years increasingly blur into each other, weeks and months seemingly pass in the blink of an eye, and so many moments are lost in time, like…tears…in…rain.)

Ahem. Anyway, the year began with a discussion of Ys: The Oath in Felghana, which we both kind of liked, although I was a bit confused about what was actually happening.

Stoo’s FPS adventures continued with the very old Catacomb 3D and the somewhat-more-recent Quake IV. Meanwhile the RPG section received another boost with a write-up of Westwood’s Nox.

My own focus was again on a mixture of old racers and sports games. I was pleasantly surprised by Driver: Parallel Lines (and its use of Suffragette City sent me scrabbling to dig out my old Bowie CDs) and – to a lesser extent – Juiced (for which I still have a soft spot despite some really fundamental flaws).

2014 was a World Cup year, of course, which meant that I once again decided to rummage through the scrapheap of old football titles to try and provide some topical content. I can confirm that I still hate Actua Soccer; ISS 3 was a little more fun to revisit.

I also play adventure games, although in truth I am not very good at them, especially less-forgiving oldies like A Cruise for a Corpse. I later took a look at the fourth instalment of the Broken Sword series, The Angel of Death.

Somehow, we also found ourselves agreeing to discuss a Leisure Suit Larry game and we sat down to have a chat about his cruise ship adventures in Love for Sail! Well, I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And, that was pretty much it, except for my late-year obsession with trivia games, which inevitably led to me revisiting 2001′s football quiz head-to-head, and an honourable mention for the 2004 version of Sid Meier’s Pirates!

As for 2015, well, that year seems significant for some reason. Oh yes, I remember, it’s the far-off date I used to give when making an empty promise to cover something. Well, I’m a man of my word, so I guess I’ll be reviewing another strategy game at some point. (But it will definitely not be Operation Flashpoint!)

We’ll also – finally – be fulfilling at least one, and maybe as many as three, old requests for reviews. So stay tuned!

Currently playing: Christmas edition

January 3rd, 2015

Written by: Rik

Currently playing: My Steam Backlog

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good Christmas break.

Due to a combination of factors (for my own part, a miscalculation when choosing which games to cover) we weren’t able to bring you any new content over the past couple of weeks.

While work on that continues, I’ve also made use of the significant downtime to get some other gaming done, and start working on the considerable backlog of unplayed games in my Steam list. (Of course, the appeal of Valve’s seasonal reductions, allied to the Steam mobile app, as well as the odd drop of Christmas booze, has rendered overall progress negligible.)

Here’s what I’ve been spending my time with:

   Isaacpic

The Binding of Isaac

I’m really not up to date on indie games; I largely follow the hype via gaming websites and Twitter chat, and occasionally make the odd impulse purchase. I’d heard lots of good things about this, although even after some moderate internet research, I wasn’t really any clearer on what kind of game it was, or what on earth was going on.

In other words: it looked weird, and, having bought and played it, I can confirm that it is. Escaping into the basement, away from the murderous advances of his Christian fundamentalist mother, baby Isaac is plunged into a world of zombies, monsters, flies, poo and blood, and armed – initially at least – only with the water from his tears as a weapon.

Levels are procedurally generated, and there are no saves, which means you have to complete the game in one sitting. When you enter a room that contains monsters, you have to defeat all of them before you can continue. Each level also contains items that bestow extra powers or weapons upon Isaac, whose avatar is often disfigured in a slightly unsettling way as a result. Before you can exit each level, you have to defeat a boss character, which is always a genuinely hideous beast of some kind.

The rather twisted nature of the content, as well as the win-or-die structure, make for a tense and rather frenetic arcade challenge. At the moment, I haven’t really invested enough time to know for sure, but I rather suspect that completing it might be beyond me. Still, it’s the kind of thing you can find yourself sitting down to have a quick go of, and then find that you want another. In fact, I might go and have another go now.
 
BTTF

Back to the Future: The Game

I don’t tend to buy a lot of new games, but I was sufficiently excited by the pre-release propaganda to shell out for this a couple of years ago. For some reason, I stopped playing after completing the first episode, with a feeling of vague and generalised disappointment, although I can’t recall any specific criticisms.

I’m either misremembering, or was wrong, or Episode 2 (Get Tannen!) represents a significant improvement. While I have a few quibbles about graphical, camera and interface issues, Get Tannen! is a thoroughly enjoyable BTTF romp, which features pretty much all the elements you would want from a spin-off adventure.

The first episode ends with Doc and Marty thinking they’ve managed to fix the problems from their past, only to find that they’ve caused different ones by tinkering with the timeline. A frantic rush to save a relative from a Tannen (this time, it’s your Grandpa, Artie McFly, and Biff’s father, Irving “Kid” Tannen, in 1930s Hill Valley) seems to have done the trick, but then you return to a nightmarish 80s which indicates that – yep – some more complications have been caused by your meddling. So, back again you go (I have a feeling this could be a recurring theme).

The voice acting is of a variable standard – Christopher Lloyd as Doc sounds 30 years older than in the films (which, of course, he is) – but the guy they’ve drafted in to be Marty does a pretty decent impression of a young Michael J. Fox.

I suppose you might say the difficulty level is pitched pretty low, but I’ve come to realise that I’m pretty bad at adventure games so I actually don’t mind not wandering around for hours without a clue what to do next. I’d say there’s an enjoyable, low-level challenge here.

The setup for the third episode looks intriguing so I’m not going to repeat the mistakes of my own past and get straight on with it.
 

Race2006

RACE: The Official WTCC Game

Speaking of mistakes, a recurring one of mine on this site is to throw out a quick mention to a game I haven’t played, in order to demonstrate I’m not horribly out of touch with everything (which, obviously, I am). Back when they were the cool new thing for racing sim fans, and I was finally – belatedly – getting around to looking at the second TOCA game, I casually mentioned, with implied authority, SimBin’s GTR and RACE as the genre leaders.

In truth, this was based entirely upon some favourable reviews in PC Zone, and not at all upon my own experience. I probably should have made that clearer at the time. But, even though I’m never going to be an expert on the kind of racing sim that needs a steering wheel and analogue throttle, I figured I should probably get around to trying them for myself (especially after there was a Steam deal on a SimBin megapack a little while ago).

With the difficulty turned down and the driving aids up, RACE feels a little like TOCA used to be before it became GRID. There’s something about a combination of the in-car view and the unforgiving and precarious nature of the handling which makes getting round a lap without any mishaps all the more satisfying. Plus overtaking under such conditions is is actually rather exhilarating.

(Getting slightly carried away, I took a look at steering wheels on Amazon, but stopped myself before I did anything rash. It might be worth a few more hours on the joypad to see if my interest extends beyond vague curiosity first).

——

And finally, no marks for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, the PC version of which (I found out after purchasing) apparently has some unresolvable glitches with some graphics cards – including mine. Even if they don’t exactly make the game unplayable, they do make it damn ugly to look at.

It’s only us

December 24th, 2014

Written by: Rik

I’ve written before about how I came to associate FIFA with Christmas, and following a recent clearout my parents reunited me with my old copy of FIFA 2000, which I think was maybe the last version I received as a present (the following year, I’d discover Pro Evolution Soccer).

While browsing the excellent (but completely non game-related) blog Popular, I was reminded that former/current/former Take That star Robbie Williams wrote a song specifically for the game, It’s Only Us (later plonked on a double-A side single so that people who didn’t play FIFA could buy and enjoy it too). I also recall that he performed some motion-capture for the game itself too – not football moves, but the goal celebrations (presumably, as a professional show-off, this was considered a suitable area of expertise, although he was apparently a handy enough player in his youth).

I’m so delighted to have found a source to verify my hazy memories of this particular fact, I’m going to put it here, but – obviously – non-fans of Williams’ particular brand of knobby antics will find this deliciously irritating.

 

The intro to the game, featuring the song, is pretty bizarre, with Williams and former England defender Sol Campbell (who appeared on the game box and provided the motion-capture for the actual football-y bits) sharing the spotlight. I don’t really follow the narrative involving the sepia-toned team from the past, who appear either amazed or frightened at the appearance of Campbell, and then greet Robbie’s arrival with a kind of ‘let’s break his legs’ sort of look. (It’s likely to be some kind of reference to the ‘Classic’ mode in the game, which allows you to play in great matches from the past, kind of like Viva Football – but, you know, not quite as bad.)

I doubt we’ll ever get around to covering the game itself: my main recollections involve the rather quirky and stylized player graphics and the beginnings of some rather unusual ball physics which would become an unpleasant characteristic of the series in subsequent editions. Fortunately, our friends over at Just Games Retro have a write-up.

While I’m here, I might as well recommend Popular: it’s basically a look back at all of the UK #1 hit singles – ever – and, as someone with particular nostalgia for the 90s, I’ve enjoyed the blog’s recent coverage of this era. I’m no music expert or a fan of music criticism, particularly, but it’s something I enjoy reading. The comments seem to be a place for reasoned and informed discussion, too – who knew such a thing was possible?

A Trivial Pursuit

December 19th, 2014

Written by: Rik

I was being slightly facetious last time I mentioned this, but Christmas is a time for board games and quizzes.

In fact, many of my earliest memories of the Yuletide season involve the family all getting together to play Trivial Pursuit – not the actual board game, mind you, but the computer version. Much of the credit/blame must go to my Dad and his (at the time) enthusiasm for new technology, without which I’m sure my grandparents would never have been persuaded to huddle around an Amstrad CPC for their Christmas trivia action.

Rik 2 is winning

Rik 2 is winning.

Revisiting it now, one of the things this adaptation really got right was to keep the essentials of the board game largely intact, and uncomplicated by fussy innovation, while also adding a dash of unobtrusive charm here and there to elevate the experience beyond a dry rehashing of the cardboard format. The fundamentals of rolling and moving (rightly) remain extremely straightforward; the light touch comes in the form of the quizmaster, TP, who retires from the main board into a cosy-looking sitting room to deliver (after some pacing back and forth) each question with a charming, if rather comical, approximation of speech reminiscent of R2D2 on helium.

It turns out he doesn't mean the first time, in Diamonds are Forever? He means Never Say Never Again. I gave myself the point anyway.

It turns out he doesn’t mean the first time, in Diamonds are Forever. He means Never Say Never Again. I gave myself the point anyway.

Occasionally, TP dims the lights to show a slide, or steps over to the stereo to play some music. He’ll also change his hat according to the question category – for art and literature, TP will wear a beret; for sport and leisure, it’ll be a baseball cap. I also rather like his deadpan responses when you own up to getting an answer wrong.

We'll never beat Rik 2.

We’ll never beat Rik 2.

It must have had some charm to get the whole family involved, however enthusiastic my father, and however much alcohol had been taken. From what I remember, a good time was generally had by all.

Once we upgraded to an Atari ST, we immediately sought out the 16-bit version, expecting significant technological improvements and for the annual family Trivial Pursuit sessions to move seamlessly over to the ST. But even though it was the same basic game, something had been lost in translation.

For one thing, the anticipated visual improvement failed to materialise: while the graphics are unquestionably crisper, the palette is rather muddy when compared with the bright chunkiness of the 8-bit version. Moreover, TP himself has gone from being a cheerful cartoon character to an overweight, balding, clown-without-his-makeup type, and his upbeat bleeps have been replaced by a nightmarish Twin Peaks-style gibberish. Needless to say, this version was soon abandoned and the family made the trek to my bedroom to fire up the old CPC.

Kids, never get into 16-bit TP's car. Not even if he's got sweets.

Kids, never get into 16-bit TP’s car. Not even if he’s got sweets.

(I also have dim memories of a collective fondness for a game called Powerplay, which – and I’m not making this up – blended trivia elements with Greek mythology and chess. But that’s a story for another time, I think.)

Anyway, this might be the last you hear from me before the big day, so let me wish you all a very happy Christmas!

Digitiser is back!

December 4th, 2014

Written by: Stoo

British gaming fans may remember the magazine Digitiser, published on teletext from 1993 to 2003.

digi02

I don’t know if other countries had anything like teletext? It was an information service broadcast over the television signal. It was also known for artwork made from very basic graphics, that looked lot like what you might see on an BBC Micro computer. As internet access became widespread, teletext faded into irrelevance over the 2000s, and I don’t think any channels broadcast it anymore (the BBC stopped in 2012) but anyone over 30 will have memories of using it.

Anyway, back to Digitiser. It was a great mix of gaming news and surreal humour, and a refreshing alternative to overtly serious and earnest gaming journos. (Or pretentious stuff like Edge). Articles were written under the guise of several colourful characters such as The Man with a Long Chin (who kept getting fired from various jobs), Gossi the Dog (gossip column) and Insincere Dave (far too enthusiastic).

So here’s the good news: Digitiser has returned, now on the web. How active it will be, and for how long, is still uncertain. Writer Mr Biffo is treating it as something of an experiment, depending on how what sort of reception he gets. Resurrecting a gaming magazine that was last published 11 years ago is quite an ambitious project. So I encourage you all to add it to your daily reading list, and follow via RSS or facebooks or whatever you may use.

You’ll need to know your Magpies from your Canaries

November 30th, 2014

Written by: Rik

Hi there!

It’s nearly Christmas [no it isn't - FFG Reader], and everyone enjoys a good quiz at Christmas [maybe - FFG Reader], particularly if it’s a football quiz [nope, lost it again - FFG Reader], right?

So in a topical, seasonal, and totally relevant update, with nothing at all to do with my bizarre retro-gaming interests, here’s a double-whammy of football trivia for you: Sky Sports Football Quiz and Championship Manager Quiz.

SSFQTitleSmallCMQTitleSmall

 

Next time: Zork.