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Jun 13, 2014 - 01:13 PM
I'm playing Ace Combat 3 finally
it's not as good as 2 though


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[public entry #10]

Jan 30, 2011 - 02:09 PM
Portal maps to play while you wait for Portal 2
Contrary to popular belief, "Portal" refers not only to a widespread series of Internet memes, but to a well-liked and critically-acclaimed video game released in the year 2007. The misconception is understandable, as the game was so easy that no one remembers anything about it other than the music and voice acting.

(Seriously though, I'm looking forward to Portal 2 like everyone else, despite Valve's aversion to their playtesters getting stuck for more than five minutes.)

Anyway, I just finished Portal Pro, a mod which has apparently been out since mid-2010. It was surprisingly great! I've tried several fan-made mods before, including Portal: Prelude, but most of them were firmly "okay," with one or two memorable moments at best. Now, Portal Pro wasn't mind-blowing or anything, but it does more with the portal concept than any of the others I've seen. It shies away from finicky trickjumps and flinging, and instead offers puzzles that require you to plan ahead and use thoughtful portal placement. Basically, it's clever in all the ways I wanted Portal to be. And, although some of the maps stumped me for 20, 30, or 45 minutes, the pieces were always fairly laid out in front of me, resulting in a lot of forehead-slapping "Aha!" moments when I realized the step I was missing. Very satisfying, if you persevere--much more so than in other mods where I was quicksaving mid-jump to get my shots and angles just right. Portal Pro does require mid-air portaling in a few places, and there are timed buttons to work around, but if you're dextrous enough to handle Portal you should be fine here.

I only have a few bad things to say about this mod: 1) it uses a wannabe GLaDOS voice, with wannabe GLaDOS humor. There are a couple funny lines, but it's a pale imitation. 2) I encountered some bugs, including a platform that repeatedly pushed me off and occasional freezes when I tried to quickload in certain areas. Also, on some maps, I got lucky with my jumps and accidentally skipped some steps of the "proper" solution. 3) The ending is lackluster. The puzzles are good right up to the end, but there's a particular section that should really be more dangerous and tense than it is.

Download Portal Pro here: http://www.moddb.com/mods/portal-pro...portal-pro-v11

**********

For bite-sized chunks of portal puzzling, these maps are great too:

BoxyTrixy (http://mekweb.eu/portalmaps/?dir=&do...=BoxyTrixy.zip)
Three small areas, each with a cube to collect and clever bits throughout.

Manic Mechanic (http://myaperturelabs.com/file.php?id=284)
After a few mini-puzzles, you get to work with a big machine that uses physics objects and rolling balls. Unique and awesome.

Ren_Test2 (http://www.twhl.co.za/vault.php?map=4842)
A room with a twist! Not too challenging, but like Manic Mechanic, it's unique enough to get a mention.


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May 22, 2009 - 02:43 PM
Realms of the Haunting review (GFF Gamers Month alternate)
This was what I wrote for my May 24th spot in the GFF Gamers Month before I handed it off to Rockgamer (since I was the only one who had claimed two spots). Because I'd hate for it to completely go to waste, I'm sticking it here for posterity. I won't be around for most of the weekend, so I'm posting it today.

Realms of the Haunting [PC] (1997)
Box art:
Developer: Gremlin Interactive
Publisher: Interplay
Genre: FPS/Adventure

So you're this guy and your father died and you come to poke around a spooky mansion and solve puzzles and shoot stuff. The theme is heavy on the occult: demons, summoning, alternate planes of existence, physical manifestations of good and evil, etc. Most of the game is spent exploring the house or mystical worlds. Interspersed throughout the shooting and puzzling are live-action, bluescreened cutscenes that are predictably hokey but do a decent enough job of setting the mood.
FMV:
Inside the house:
...and elsewhere:

The readables in this game are excellent. Lots of detail was put into the art assets:
Sketch:

Unfortunately, despite the high production values, Realms's mechanics are a bit of a hodgepodge and don't excel in any particular area. Platforming sections, for example, make awkward appearances:
Can't touch the floor; hot lava:
They're not terribly challenging, but movement is restricted to the arrow keys and is accordingly stiff. There's no mouselook; the mouse is reserved for activating and examining objects in point-and-click adventure fashion.

On the adventure elements: while there are a few puzzles that require logic and environmental clues, most are simply key hunt variations, though the game does provide some red herring items to increase the challenge. However, on "Easy" puzzle mode, the correct item is automatically selected whenever you try to activate something, removing the need for considered thought. There are also some dissonant Soup Can moments in the late game, particularly after you take the plunge into the realm of Sheol (Hell). This is what awaits you instead of brimstone (and here I borrow from another review, which is sadly no longer online):

"One hub. Eight rooms. Eight entirely random games. Jumping over floor tiles. A mirror maze. Moving blocks to cross a floor. A coconut shy! A bloody coconut shy in the devil’s back yard, put in your way by the minions of evil to prevent you stopping the apocalypse! A coconut shy! A coconut shy! But like the level design team, I digress..."

Combat is poor when compared to a dedicated shooter like Blood (this was 1997, remember). Enemy AI is mostly braindead, and they either mill about aimlessly or make a beeline straight for you. A few are fast and tough enough to require tactical consideration, since your ammo is usually in short supply and you won't be doing any fancy circle-strafes with these controls. There's not much variety in weapons: you end up with a sword, a couple firearms, and no less than five artifacts that all operate as fire-and-recharge energy cannons. There's an separate difficulty level you can set for the action, but all it does is adjust how much damage the enemies can absorb and dish out.

So what else is in the game? Mostly exploration and gathering occult trinkets. Unsurprising, then, that there are several mazes, though you're always provided a map if you've been searching carefully. Since the maps are presented as realistic documents (no automap here), you can usually "see" areas that you can't access yet. A good portion of the game is spent deciphering the map symbols and determining what you've recently unlocked.
Map of the house:
No CD-quality music, unfortunately, but the MIDI soundtrack isn't bad, with a recurring theme that's vaguely reminiscent of the one from John Carpenter's Halloween. Sound effects are excellent (love those creaky door noises), and the voice acting is competent, albeit lacking emotion. A word about this, actually: a girl named Rebecca joins you early in the adventure and presumably walks by your side throughout the game. However, she only has a physical presence in the cutscenes; outside of them, she appears only as a disembodied voice in your head that offers a comment or suggestion for nearly every object you examine. I can't think of any other game that treats a companion in this way, but it works perfectly--you don't have to babysit her in combat or perform any cheesy "team lift" moments, but she's still around as support.

Idiosyncrasies aside, my criticisms make it sound like Realms of the Haunting isn't that great of a game. And frankly, it's not. It's ambitious, it's unique, and it's practically leaking atmosphere, but there are a lot of rough edges. Still, if you can get past the grainy visuals and oft-goofy plot, there's genuine dread to be found here, and few games have a better "sense of place."


****************

Okay, review's over. Forget everything negative you just read, because I love this game. I played it at my friend's house when it first came out, and he was so excitable that he would shout and hit the power button whenever a scary noise came out of the speakers. It wasn't until I played through it on my own that I realized just how large the game is--the feeling of exploration is just immense. And of course I loved all the occult stuff. I don't like to praise games on atmosphere alone, but this is one of my guilty pleasures. "Immersion" has become something of a meaningless buzzword these days, but this game gets it right. It's the first game I remember playing where I felt like I was moving around a persistent location that could exist in real life, instead of a series of disjointed "levels."

Someday I hope for a worthy successor. Clive Barker's Undying brushed up against the theme, though it was a straightforward FPS, and the Penumbra series has some similarities in terms of adventure elements, but nothing's really come close. If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Oh, and it needs VDMSound, but otherwise runs fine in Windows XP. I Haven't tried it on my Vista PC.



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May 20, 2009 - 01:05 PM
"To Spring" (1936 cartoon short)
aka "Gnomes Use SCIENCE to Defeat Old Man Winter"

YouTube Video

I saw this short a few times back when Saturday cartoons included stuff like Wile E. Coyote and the Pink Panther. I don't know why it popped into my head this morning, but it did, and I spent a while punching keywords into Google until I found out its name. Funfact: this was the directorial debut of William Hanna (of Hanna-Barbera fame). Too bad his later work was aimed at making cartoon sitcoms instead of interesting stuff like this.

Now, if I could just find the name of that short with the giant egg crushing the man's house...


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May 13, 2009 - 11:54 PM
Nakar's Let's Play Ultima VI and VII
Shin's game of choice reminded me of something. Something awesome, but something that's also really long and probably boring if you've never played Ultima VI or VII:

http://lparchive.org/LetsPlay/Ultima...034/index.html
http://lparchive.org/LetsPlay/Ultima...201/index.html

On the other hand, I barely played VI and still thought it was the more amusing of the two. VII also builds on several of the jokes in VI, so if you skip the latter, you'll be missing out.

But yeah. A lot of text and pictures, so I expect this will be a tl;dr for most people. Even if you've got time to kill, you might not like his style. Still, I think quality text/picture Let's Plays are rare, so I want to give this guy a little more exposure. I wouldn't bother with the ones for IV, V, or Martian Dreams, though.


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Apr 12, 2009 - 10:40 PM
Wipeout 2097 + print ads
Playing the Wipeout HD demo made me order Wipeout 2097 (aka Wipeout XL in the US). It arrived on Friday, so I played the hell out of it this weekend. I was surprised at how easy it is compared to Wipeout 3. I didn't have to retry any races more than a couple times to unlock phantom class, though those tracks still kick my butt.

I'll have to spend more time with it to tell which one has the better courses, but I definitely prefer 3's music and aesthetic. 2097 strained my eyes a bit; the lower resolution might be to blame.

BONUS: I dug through some old game magazines until I found this hilariously surreal ad:
Spoiler:

Here's an ad for the original Wipeout:
Spoiler:

I kinda miss those PS1 days and the constant (ridiculous) attempts to be "edgy."




F-Zero GX I love you too but your ships don't float; I'm sorry


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Apr 5, 2009 - 09:47 PM
Sir Wyrme the Stepped-On (OR: A Certain Kind of Victory)
I am generally a Grinch when it comes to April Fools', but GFF was a font of awesome.
Spoiler:

40 is a nice round number. I'm glad it worked out that way. I was slightly worried that someone would overtake me in the last couple days, maybe with the help of a mod. I know Lyth was trying for a bit.

Spoiler:

There are a few things I can't figure out:
1) Why isn't my death streak the same as my total deaths?
2) How did I gain alignment? +1 for every Simply Majestic encounter, maybe? I assume the initial -14 was randomly assigned.
3) Why isn't Total HP loss the same as Total Damage Taken?

Incidentally, I was playing Linley's Dungeon Crawl for most of the time I waiting to reincarnate. I probably died close to 40 times in that, too.


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Mar 24, 2009 - 03:00 PM
Another Monster at the End of this Book
http://smollin.com/michael/amonstr/amon001.html

This is a curiosity to me. The first one is a classic children's book, but I wasn't aware that this second book existed.

It's a bit disappointing, really. The illustrations are flatter with less emotion in the expressions, and the gag is kind of a one-time thing. Not exactly a subject for deep literary criticism, though, and I'm sure kids love it anyway.

I like how Elmo has this oppositional-defiant thing going on and asks children to assist him:


Kind of a miserable little cuss, from Grover's perspective.


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Mar 13, 2009 - 05:22 PM
Audiogalaxy, circa 2002
Some of you might remember Audiogalaxy, that long-defunct P2P network with a searchable database of mp3s. Well, they also ran columns and reviews back in the day, and the recent thread about old, shameful music took me back to a more positive memory from that time. A distinct counterpoint, if you will, to what was popular among the youth.

It's a review for The Crown's 2002 death/thrash album, Crowned in Terror.
Spoiler:
Crowned in Terror will rule your ass. I bet if you put this record on your CD rack between Limp Bizkit's Significant Other and whatever that fucking lame Godsmack CD is, they'd both BURST INTO FLAMES. If you want to be rocked, maybe rocked until you're DEAD, buy Crowned in Terror. And if you don't, you're a pussy.

http://www.audiogalaxy.com/pages/rev...?band_id=89131

I laughed. I also bought the album the next day.

Of course it absolutely destroys; why lie. It still remains in my top ten. And yeah, it introduced me to an entire ridiculous and embarrassing subgenre that all my friends hate, but its prominent role in my exposure means I can hardly listen to anything "extreme" without expecting--demanding--that perfect combination of technicality, brutality, and groove.

It's interesting, though, how Audiogalaxy's pages are still lying around like a rusting ship hulk. Maybe I can find something else worth reading on there.


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Aug 16, 2006 - 11:42 PM
<3 Ace Combat 2
Apparently someone out there is a huge idiot, because I finally managed to pick up a cheap used copy of it, and only an idiot would get rid of this game.

Actually, AC2 is why I stopped posting here for so long. Because I was playing it. NON-STOP. FOR MONTHS.

Currently Playing: Ace Combat 2 OST - Warning Line

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