vvvvvv (PC)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

I like to keep something of an eye on the indie games scene, because that's where a lot of the original ideas are, or you can get some cool little games for a bit less than full retail releases. Either way, they make for some good blog opportunities, and I've used them to good effect so far.

The next one I fancied a crack at was vvvvvv. Or is it VVVVVV? I'm not sure. And no, I don't know how to pronounce that. It doesn't matter... it's not called vvvvvv because of any of the characters' names, or anything like that. It's called vvvvvv because the game is filled with spikes.

Yep, and you have to collect it. Without the ability to jump. Good luck!

Yes, vvvvvv is a platform game. And, indeed, spikes are the order of the day. The game's setup is simple... you're on a spaceship, something weird happens, and the crew are teleported randomly about a space station. You, as captain, take it upon yourself to go and retrieve your crew, little realising that every single room is a treacherous nightmare to navigate. Mostly because of spikes.

Yes, I said spikes. And here are some. Oh, and a ghost. You should avoid that, too.

The game's controls are simple. You can move left. You can move right. You can't jump... what you can do is a gravity flip. So to get past some obstacles, you'll have to flip upside down and walk along the ceilings, or the undersides of platforms. It takes a fair bit of getting used to, but soon becomes an important and fun part of the game.

Now, this sounds a little bit simplistic in this day and age... so to help out in that respect, the game is unashamedly old-school and retro in every way. It's not an exaggeration to say that this could be a Commodore 64 game. From the way it loads, to the character set, to the graphics, to the SID-meets-NES music, it's presented perfectly in the style of a game from 1988.

You should look happy, seeing as I've just teleported here to rescue you.

The gameplay, too, is similarly old-fashioned... it's evil! It's flick-screen, rather than scrolling, and each screen is named in a time-honoured fashion, and some screens are very devious indeed, while others give you a little bit of a breather. And although some will have you tearing your hair out, eventually you'll suss them and wonder how you ever got stuck.

vvvvvv is a throwback in the most delightful way. Even the price is a throwback... it's about a tenner, which is what you would have paid for it in 1988. That might seem a bit much for what it is, but if you ever got any joy from vicious games like Monty On The Run, you should at least download the demo of vvvvvv... I reckon you'll get quite a kick out of it.

Super Laser Racer (PC)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

I'm always buying games on a whim, especially when they're cheap. I know there are thousands of games available for this blog through emulators, but buying new ones can never hurt (well, unless they turn out to be shit). The digital distribution networks are particularly good for adding cheap titles to a collection, as they always have sales on. Super Laser Racer was two quid when I bought it, although it's only £2.99 at its regular price. A proper budget game, then!

Super Laser Racer is a futuristic racing game, but it's more in the vein of Super Sprint than F-Zero. And that's not a bad thing! The top-down racer can be a great game, if it's done well. I reckon Super Laser Racer is done well.

These corners can be tricky, especially when you're being rammed and shot at!

Looks-wise, I think it's really attractive. It's very much the Geometry Wars of the racing game genre in that respect, with glowing neon geometric shapes being the order of the day. There are loads of particles flying about too, as you'd probably expect, and I think it works really well with this kind of game.

As for the game, it works in a time-honoured tradition. There are four leagues to race, but only the first is unlocked from the beginning. Likewise, you get quite a choice of vehicle, each with different attributes, but only three are available from the start... the rest are unlockable. That may be a touch predictable, but it works and it keeps the interest level up a bit longer than it otherwise might.

A missile hit helps me to streak through into sixth place.

There are weapons, too... drive over a weapons box to pick up something random and helpful. These range from lasers, bombs and mines for the detriment of enemy racers, to shields and turbo, which are obviously helpful to you. You have to watch yourself, as you can run out of energy and if you do, you blow up, and you score no points for the race. Fortunately each track has a "pit" area by the side of the start straight, and if you drive through that your shields are recharged.

There's nothing particularly revolutionary about Super Laser Racer... it's just a classic genre with a bit of a twist, and done very well. Oh, and it has Achievements too, if that sort of thing floats your boat. If I'd bought this for as a Mastertronic game for £2.99 on my Commodore 64, I'd have been chuffed. For £2.99 on Steam... I'm perfectly happy with it.

Darwinia (PC, Xbox 360 (XBLA))

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , , ,

I've read a lot about Darwinia over time, and it's always been highly recommended. I've never been sure that it was for me, though, but with it being on special offer on Steam a while back, I figured I'd pick it up for the purposes of this blog, and if I liked it, so much the better.

It gets off to a good start, with lots of lovely retro touches appealing to the old-school gamer in me. There are distinct throwbacks to the Spectrum and the Amiga, providing an instant pull, although they're purely presentational. Still, they got me in, which was a good start.

Trouble is, the rest of the game had me baffled.

He's telling me I need to create an engineer to fix that building. The place to do that is quite far away...

I lay part of the blame with the game itself... it doesn't really signpost you at the beginning. Seasoned strategists will no doubt not view this as a problem, but for me, I spent ages scrolling around the landscape, looking at the nice things but wondering what on Earth to do with them.

Eventually, I accidentally discovered how to create some units. That was good. Then I put them on the map, and they were all wiped out by the virus that was spreading across the landscape. That was bad.

And there he goes, on his way to repair the building. Sadly, he will be obliterated before he gets there. Every time.

After an hour or so, I stumbled across a set of goals for the level. So I was making progress of a sort, although after another twenty minutes I still didn't have a clue how to achieve the first of the goals.

I swear that as I get older I'm becoming stupid. Also, impatient. I was already aware of the second one... I used to spend hours figuring things out in games, and now I just can't be bothered. It looks like I'm falling victim to today's world of instant gratification. These are two things I'm quite determined to shake... I need my brain to be of a certain standard for one thing, and for another, there's a lot of reward to be found for just a little patience. Darwinia deserves my patience, and the use of my brain. I may be down with this one, but I'm not out just yet...

Irukandji (PC)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

An irukandji, if you didn't know, is a jellyfish. I didn't know that, but now that I do, it makes sense. That's because Irukandji (the game) is an underwater shoot-'em-up.

Beyond that, it makes as much sense as any bullet-hell shooter does. You manoeuvre up the screen as an assortment of underwater critters make their way towards you. You can fire sraightforward, or bank your ship to aim left or right. Along the way you can pick up powerups or score multipliers.

Irukandji looks lovely. Glowing, neon critters wriggle and undulate as they filter downwards. They almost look as though they've got tiny light bulbs in them. Very pretty indeed.

See? Lovely.

As for the game... I reckon it's probably a good shmup, but as yet, I'm not good enough at it to be able to judge it properly. I can sail through to the end of the level without taking a hit, whereupon a GIANT ENEMY CRAB!!! causes MASSIVE DAMAGE!!! In other words, I can't get past the end-level boss. It just spews out too many bullets for me to cope with, for now. I'm getting better at it, though, and I reckon I'll have it cracked before long.

Ooh, that's a pretty GIANT ENEMY CRAB!!!

Going by the website, that's the end of the game, which makes it quite short. But, it's a score attack game, meaning you need to go back to it repeatedly to try and maximise your scoring. The game also has achievements, and a number of different ships to unlock. I'm looking forward to seeing how these affect my scoring... if I ever get any.

Best of all, Irukandji is available from Charlie's Games on a "Pay What You Want" basis, with a minimum price of one dollar. I paid six... if you don't want to stump up, try the demo first.