Friday, May 22, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep18: 404Sight

404Sight is a parkour platform runner made by graduate students at the University of Utah to show support of net neutrality.

It's a short game, but it does what it sets out to do very well. The game is mostly fast-paced, but there are some points (particularly towards the end) where you have to stop and make sure you're going the right way. Many levels feature alternate routes and shortcuts, allowing you to replay the game in hopes of a faster time. In addition, the levels load seamlessly so you can just keep going!

You can play with keyboard & mouse or a controller - I found KBM to be easier to handle, but that might just be personal preference. Either way, the controls were responsive and easy to understand.

The game has several cool mechanics that I found interesting. You have "ping" which you can toggle that allows you to see and use/avoid important features (like fast lanes, slow lanes, and the purple jump things). You can often leave ping on, but crossing slow lanes or inhibitors (red areas) while active slows you down and can kill you because your speed and health are essentially the same thing. If you have enough speed, you can also use a dash-type move (like something from Sonic the Hedgehog) to destroy inhibitors.

The visual style of 404Sight is quite cool with lots of bright neon lines everywhere contrasting over an otherwise monocolor cityscape. It reminded me heavily of Tron, and that's a plus in my book.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep17: Yet, I despise him

Yet, I despise him is an action platformer with a story! 

I was pleasantly surprised by this game. Platformers live or die based on level design and responsive controls, and this title does both quite well. 

The levels are short but challenging, which I prefer over easier but repetitive layouts. Like all good platformers, the obstacles look impossible at first but get easier as you keep trying and learn what your character can do. Checkpoints are placed fairly throughout the zones - just enough that you're happy to see that chicken!

I had issues getting the guy to shoot the direction I intended sometimes, but that may have been due to me using a controller keymapper (opensource software antimicro). It was a minor issue though, as the bosses were still beatable despite the somewhat awkward shooting. Speaking of which, the boss fights were pretty enjoyable. Each one presented new challenges and used the classic "boss patterns" to look out for during the fights.

The story isn't amazing, but it's more than you get in many platforming titles. I haven't finished the game yet to see if there's a payoff to the build-up between the main character and his feelings for his father.

In all, Yet, I despise him is a decent action platformer with great level/boss design and good controls, making it a perfect way to spend an afternoon!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pathfinder - Create Your Own Worlds!

It's been quite a while since I've mentioned anything about Minecraft, and due to various reasons I took a decent break from the game. It looks like 1.7.10 is the current standard for the majority of mods and I felt it would be nice to see what's going on.

I went looking for some modpacks using Hardcore Questing Mode as a guide to get players into learning the mods. The success of Agrarian Skies really put HQM at the forefront, and the mod is now a popular addition to dozens of packs. I'm really happy to see this because HQM can help motivate players who may be unsure or even uninspired to continue with a particular world/pack.

Over the last two weeks I downloaded roughly 10 different packs that were using HQM. Some were focused on magic, others on tech, and many were a mixture of both. Focus aside, most of the packs were so similar that it was hard to really see much difference between them. There was one that stood out for me though, called Pathfinder (found on the FTB launcher).

What Makes Pathfinder Different?

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep16: Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is a brain-teasing puzzle game about placing gates, teleporters and other tiles so you can get marbles to their proper destinations.

You have to place tiles so that things happen in a specific order, otherwise the marbles will run into an obstacle and be destroyed. It features a tile pool to the right with a "video-playback" menu to solve each puzzle, similar to games like Contraption Maker. I really like the use of tiles here as opposed to more free-form placement, as it ensures the puzzles aren't about pixel-perfect precision. The gameplay is easy to grasp at the start, and there's a definite learning curve as you go through the levels.

Unfortunately, Zeitgeist seems to lack any audio components which is unusual and makes it feel unfinished. It would've been nice to have included a couple of sound effects at least. I haven't toyed with the editor, but it looks like you can load up puzzles. That means the possibility of sharing levels with others exists, which extends the amount of time you could play this game (at least in theory).

Zeigeist is the perfect example of a title that has great mechanics and some nice features, but could use a little more polish. The addition of sounds and a way to access player-created levels in-game would really help make Zeitgeist more than an afternoon of brain-teasers.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep15: Echoes+

Take the classic "Asteroids" style game, crank it up to 11 and you have Echoes+!

This shooter features six game modes, four difficulty settings, a handful of powerups and an achievement/challenge system for extended play. The controls handle perfectly and for the most part the game is simple but effective - shoot stuff, grab goodies, repeat.

Echoes+ is a feast for the eyes with neon-colors and explosions everywhere. The sounds and music are lively but not distracting, which is important because you need to stay focused. Thankfully everything is easy to see, so you're not going to be cheapshot by 1-pixel bullets. The UI is classic and clean, but Echoes+ adds a few visual cues to inform you of important info (such as your energy and number of bombs), which really helps when things are getting fierce.

Echoes+ is available on a fair range of platforms (Steam for Win or Mac, OUYA, fireTV, Xbox) and is just plain fun, so go play it already!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep14: Unnamed

An abstract, experimental game about playing games.

I found a couple of bits kind of funny, but it felt like Unnamed really didn't go far enough to drive home the points it was trying to make. One could argue that the game's length accentuates part of what it was getting at, but it seemed more to me like the developer was either rushed for time or ran out of ideas.

While I agree that there are a lot of boring and unoriginal games out there, pointing it out in yet another boring, unoriginal game only makes the pile larger. Yes, this game is unoriginal - it's pretty much a knockoff of The Stanley Parable, only much shorter and not as well thought out. Perhaps it's intentionally mocking TSP, but that's probably giving Unnamed too much credit. It would've been better written if that were the case.

I guess the best thing I have to say about Unnamed is that it's short, which is at least preferable when it comes to enduring a disappointing experience.