I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sketch Nation Studio (iOS)

Do you have dreams of being a game developer but have absolutely no programming skills? Have a great idea for an iOS game?

Well, apparently Sketch Nation Studio can help!

Sketch Nation Studio is a free app that promises to let you make games on your iPhone or iPad without any programming knowledge or experience. Obviously there are certain limits, but it's encouraging to see that there is a free app that allows you to have a go at game design with only your creativity as a limit.

I haven't tried it out yet, but it's certainly something I'll be giving a try over the next few weeks.

I found this over at IndieGames.com if you want to keep a look out for other awesome games, apps and pretty much all things indie...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The World of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Monstrum, or a Portrayal of Witchers
"Indeed, there is nothing more repulsive than these monsters that defy nature and are known by the name of witcher, as they are the offspring of foul sorcery and witchcraft. They are unscrupulous scoundrels without conscience and virtue, veritable creatures from hell capable only of taking lives. They have no place amongst decent and honest folk.
And this Kaer Morhen where these villains nest and practice foul rituals must be wiped off the face of the earth, and all evil traces of it need be treated with salt and saltpeter to complete the deed."

Have you watched the video? Yes? Good. Because The Witcher series is probably one of my favourite fantasy RPG's. And this is a beautiful intro sequence.

A friend once said to me, "Once you've finished the game then you can read the books."
To which my response was, "What do you mean WHEN I've finished the game? I read the books before I played the game in preparation."
He replied, "Really? You've read some obscure, Polish author?"
There's no real response here that didn't make me sound incredibly geeky, so I said, "Well, not in Polish. I read the translations..."
It doesn't really make it better does it?

Either way, I will admit that I read the (English translations) of Andrzej Sapkowski's books before I played the first game by CD Projekt RED. One of the best things about the correlation between the books and the games is that whilst they are set in the same universe and share some of the elements and most obviously, characters, the games do not specifically follow the narrative of any book in the series. They certainly draw from major events within however, and so reading the books beforehand gives you a real sense of the characters. Returning to many of them in the games thus becomes like greeting old friends, and hearing about their adventures since you saw them last.

The Witcher as a series is filled with violence, sex, racism, bigotry, war - all the things that immediately flag it as "mature" content.

It investigates many of these issues subtly, and in the games you are forced to make a choice - side with the rebels who kill innocents because they are being oppressed, or side with the oppressors whose hatred of the rebels is based purely on the fact that they form a part of the non-human races.

In the first game you are also given the option of collecting "cards" for each woman in the series that you seduce. Unsurprisingly this met with a bit of controversy, not only because of the overly sexualised objectification of the women in the cards, but also the collector factor implies that these are trophies in the same way that monsters can be collected as trophies. The parallels drawn between the "monsters" and the women, become glaringly obvious.

And interestingly, even though on a fundamental level I recognised that this was wrong, I still wanted to collect the cards. I even had a long involved discussion with another female gamer friend of mine (complete with sideways glances from passersby overhearing our conversation) about which cards we'd collected. Or more accurately, which girls we'd "shagged".

I'm not going to speculate here as to what that means - it requires a great deal more thought than I'm willing to give it at the moment, however it certainly deserves time and contemplation and this is likely something for a later post when I've had a chance to get my thoughts in order.

Is it true and fitting to Geralt's character in The Witcher series? I would say yes. Geralt is, to put it bluntly, somewhat of a slut. He experiences love, but he also appears to have no problem giving in to temptation when it presents itself to him on a silver platter.

What is also rather telling is that this promiscuity on Geralt's part, and the collection of the trophies was cut from The Witcher 2. Whether this was public pressure, or just as a part of Geralt exploring his closer relationship with Triss I'm not sure, but they no longer make their appearance in the second game.

Either way, I'm looking forward to immersing myself in the next English translation of Sapkowski's series. In the meantime I'll amuse myself by further pondering this question of book to game translation, and whether the objectification of the women is on the part of the author or the game developers.

Find out more about the (English) books: The Last Wish and Blood of Elves unless you can read Polish, but you can also find out the outlines etc over here

You can also catch my review of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition for XBox in the May edition of Gamecca Magazine

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Max Payne Mobile (Rockstar Games, iOS)

Max Payne on mobile.


Actually... yes. And it's pretty darn good too! Max Payne for iOS is a direct port of the original 2001 game by Remedy Entertainment (who later produced the rather phenomenal Alan Wake after selling all their rights to Max Payne to Take-Two Interactive).

This time around the port is at the hands of Rockstar Games, developers of Max Payne 3 and the infamous Grand Theft Auto series.

If for some reason you didn't play this film noir detective shooter first time around, with it's rather exceptional use of slow-mo bullet time, now is your chance! If you own an iOS device that is... Luckily it's a universal app so you only shell out your cash the once.

To be honest the iPhone screen is rather small and it looks and plays much better on the bigger screen of the iPad.  Regardless of platform however, this doesn't stop it being a great deal of fun.

The touch screen controls are easy and intuitive, with the exception of bullet time which can on occasion be buggy and difficult to manipulate. The story and nostalgia of this title greatly compensate for it however.

From the beginning, the graphic novel art style of Max Payne set it apart, and this port is no exception. The comic book panels that narrate the story throughout look beautifully rendered, and the writing, which could in any other setting sound incredibly cheesy, is a fitting tribute to the classic film noir detective genre.

Control wise, the dual analogues are invisible, but if you've ever played a touchscreen game before you have an immediate sense of how they work. You move through the environments with your left thumb and look around with your right. It can be somewhat difficult to interact with objects however as you need to negotiate Max to within an acceptable distance of an object and wait for the interaction button to appear. The analogues aren't particularly useful in this regards and you find yourself maneuvering back and forth to try and interact with a locker for example.

The shoot icon is on the top right hand side of the screen and if you're playing on normal difficulty, it pretty much auto-aims for you. The auto-aim really is essential however as the analogue sticks aren't nearly as accurate as they could be - or as a keyboard and mouse to be frank. If you're trying to get used to the touchscreen controls this is rather handy. You still need to be quick off the mark to retaliate to gunfire however, because enemies are incredibly accurate and you can rack up damage quickly if you're not vigilant.

The bullet time button is situated just below the shoot icon, with the jump button situated towards the lower half of the screen. On the iPhone in particular, the close proximity of these buttons makes for a rather cramped interface, that works much better on the larger iPad screen.

One thing I cannot emphasise enough as you play through Max Payne is SAVE! SAVE! SAVE! You must save continuously! Because this is a port of an older game, today's luxury of auto-save is simply not available, so you'll need to save often if you want to avoid repeating sections over and over again. To be honest I would have thought Rockstar would build this functionality into the port as it's not as simple as pressing good old F5 any more, but maybe they were trying to maintain authenticity. That said, like so many things, you get used to it after a while.

Max Payne Mobile will take you a good 10 hours or so to play through, and although the graphics look blocky and haven't really aged very well, in this small format they look a great deal crisper than playing it on a big screen.

Max Payne is still one game you'll keep coming back to... because I just need to get past this stage... It's addictive as ever, has an amazing sense of style and atmosphere, and for a full game it's incredibly cheap!

For those with limited bandwidth, be aware that this is a massive 1.1GB download! Even on my high speed connection it took a while, so if your connection is slower, be prepared to leave it overnight.

Max Payne Mobile might not be the best port ever, but if you loved the original game you will undoubtedly love this mobile stroll down memory lane.

Fantastic art style
Engrossing storyline
Full PC game for a mere R23.00

Blocky graphics
Analogue sticks aren't always accurate

Should I buy this game?
Hell yes! What are you waiting for?

Check out Max Payne on the US iTunes store for $2.99. If you need further convincing, get yourself all hot and bothered by watching the original E3 trailer below.

EDIT: Max Payne will be out on Android on 26th April 2012.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Max Payne Mobile

I'm busy downloading this game at the moment, so a review will be forthcoming as soon as I've managed to have a sit down with it...

As an intro however, I loved the original Max Payne game, moreso than Max Payne 2 and so to see it pop up on iOS was a pleasant surprise since it wasn't on my radar at all! This film noir game really set new standards in the gaming industry, particularly when it came to bullet time...

Well you can wait for my review, which I suspect (and hope) will be glowing, but if you don't want to wait for a review, head on over to the US iTunes store and download it - it's $2,99 which really is rather reasonable.

Prototype 2: The Power of Revenge

Yes, you might have already seen this somewhere, but it actually gave me goosebumps... So I had to share it again. Plus I love Johnny Cash so it's a double win in my books...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

News Flash

So since mid-April is a bit of a dry month when it comes to big game releases, I figured it was worthwhile  linking to some of the top news stories that have exploded on to our networks over the Easter weekend and which, to be honest, many of us are only checking on now...

Fallout Fan Movie
Apparently an Australian theatre director Wade K Savage who is a big fan of the Fallout series is creating a fan movie. Original story is on Kotaku but you can find some concept art on Savage's site that looks decidedly interesting.

What? Another scary acronym threatening to limit our civil liberties? Sadly yes. Opponents of SOPA and PIPA may not be paying attention to this just yet, but I'm sure it will manage to work it's way into the news some time soon. The goal of the bill is supposedly about "cybersecurity" but it essentially allows companies to collect third party data all in the name of protecting against cybersecurity threats. CISPA currently has support from tech giants such as Facebook and Microsoft, so this is something you should definitely find out more about. Speaking of which - find the full story over on Gamepolitics.com

Todays Trailer: Resident Evil 6
And what would a news flash be without a bit of eye candy? Check out the latest Resident Evil 6 trailer. Wonder if there will be any controversy surrounding this one set in China...?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gravimaze (hart[dev], iOS)

Those people who have followed me on Twitter and The Verge over the years, might have noticed that I'm somewhat of an iOS app and game junkie.

I'm constantly on the lookout for new games and apps for my iPhone and iPad that will entertain me for longer than a mere 5 minutes.

And so it was with great pleasure that I discovered Gravimaze. It was with even greater pleasure that I managed to get it for free (limited special, but everyone loves free stuff!) and that a friend of mine Balta Auger, a French Argentinian game designer, was involved in it.

Now although we all tell our friends little white lies from time to time about how awesome their work is, luckily for me I have absolutely no need to lie about Gravimaze!

It is, quite simply, awesome. And here's some quick thoughts on why.

Gravimaze is a puzzle game by hart[dev] that starts out with some simple levels introducing you to the game, but quickly evolves into a mind-bendingly frustrating little game that leaves you scratching your head and at the same time wanting more.

The goal of the game, in much the same manner as many other puzzle games, is to collect all 3 coins in the level before making your way (you being the Mayan inspired decorative block with a face called Gravi) to the silvery disk that I think of as teleporting you to the next level.

Not only is gravity in constant effect as you rotate the maze to move Gravi into position, but your score is calculated by the coins collected, as well as by the number of rotations you have to make to collect them all, plus the time it takes you to complete the level.

As you get a bit further on there are also a number of traps to negotiate, lock and key combinations, moving blocks that obstruct your way as you're trying to collect coins, as well as other fiendishly clever tricks to keep you confuzzled. No, that's not a real word.

Gravimaze is challenging in all the best ways, and it not only plays well but looks and sounds pretty too. The soundtrack doesn't intrude in the manner of some other games and instead helps you focus on figuring out how the hell you're going to beat this level, and the handpainted visuals are gorgeous.

I'm not sure how long this game is free for, but grab it here if you can! If you've missed out on the special, well nevermind - it's well worth the cash either way!