Monday, July 14, 2014

Game Review: Type:Rider

Want to play a fun platform game which is as enlightening as it is enjoyable? Pick up Type:Rider.

As I mentioned earlier, mainstream gaming is rehashing the same tired concepts. We don't need fifteen different World War 2 shooters made every year.  I don't have any numbers to prove it but I suspect that compared to the early days of gaming, there is less diversity in games. There are some gems, but if you look through the top titles of the past year, they are all familiar concepts.

So here is a platform game, which is a concept that has been done to death. But the main character is a set of two dots. And you move though a land of fonts, collecting alphabets and stars. For the stars that you collect, you get some information about the font that you  are currently exploring. It sounds very strange when written down like this, but it is really fun. The environments capture the mood of the time, and include the historical moment when that font was being developed. The atmosphere is brilliantly done, and the music beautifully matches the mood.

And the game mechanics change subtly. Different levels introduce new challenges. I'm past the half-way point but I haven't grown tired of anything yet. It is superb.

 Type:Rider is available for all the main platforms, including mobile. I purchased this as part of the Humble Bundle so I have tried this both on Android and PC, and I highly recommend the PC version. Games such as these require a good gamepad and touchscreen controls are not yet to the point where they are enjoyable. But that's just me, my friends have tried this on tablets and found it works great for them.

The one downside is that the game is devlishly hard towards the end, so I gave up half-way in the Pixel level. But I enjoyed the majority of the program and it was fun.

Image courtesy: The two dots.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Game Review: Need for Speed III Hot Pursuit

If you want to play a fun car racing and chasing game, get a copy of Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit.  If you can find a 32-bit Windows XP machine, that is.

I've blogged earlier about being a patient consumer. You gain a lot when you play games that are old. By then the hype has died down, and the only games that survive are good games. So feast your eyes on the stellar reviews that Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit gets on Amazon. Many of the reviews were written in the last few years. And used copies of this old game still sell for a good price.

I picked up this game as a bargain priced CD in 2003 with my room-mate, and we ended up racing in our college room. My room-mate had a game controller and was much better than me at games, so I usually lost. But the game was fun so I played it on and off since. I have tried other "Need For Speed" titles since, but they have all been sore disappointments compared to Need For Speed 3 (NFS3).

The game is just plain fun to play! You can race your car against the computer AI, or split-screen with a friend, or duel them on a TCP network. And you can be a cop and pull over racing cars and get points for that.  The graphics are pretty basic, so they load up super quick on most modern computers.  Since it is an old game, you never see annoying "Loading..." screens.  And if you know how to create an ISO image from a physical CD, you can store the entire disk on your hard-disk and load it up as virtual CD ROM drive, further speeding up access.  You get North American locations that look average: good enough while you are racing at breakneck speed and don't have time to smell the roses. You get to drive fun cars: Lamborghini, Corvette, ...

There are lots of things this game does right. The game starts with fun cars. There is no stupid career mode to artificially limit your options. In newer Need For Speed games, I am disappointed by the starter cars. They are worse than the decade-old car that I commute in. And if I put in the hours of mindless driving, then I'll be rewarded with a half-decent car. In NFS3, you start out with fast and exotic cars, and they all handle very well. There are a few bonus cars. I might have unlocked them in the past, but I don't any more. If memory serves well, the police Diablo was crazy good to drive. Oh wait a minute, let me unlock that. There, done.

In newer games, the night-time atmosphere feels nauseating and the depiction of women is demeaning. This game isn't about night-racing or crime. This game is about honest people racing in the daytime.

As a cop, you get points for apprehending racers.  This pursuit mode is great fun.  You turn your police siren on and drive like a madman to pull over the racers.  The non-racing traffic dutifully pulls over when your siren is on. Your goal is to pull over all the racers though it is tempting to race alongside them in your spiffy police vehicle.

This game is more fun than many Nintendo Wii and PC games I have played since. I haven't tried NFS3 in a virtual machine yet, but that is something I intend to do when my Windows XP machine finally dies.

I feel the game industry is chasing the wrong goals. Instead of making the games fun, we now have a focus on in-app purchases (which make the game mind-numbing) or spectacular graphics (which increase loading time). The only recent games I enjoyed have all been indie games. Mainstream gaming seems to be on a slow death-spiral, blissfully unaware. Luckily, we can continue playing old games till the industry gets back to its senses and starts making fun games again.

(Image courtesy: The fake cop)