Partial Review: “Enclave” (PC Version) (Retro game)

Sometimes, there are reasonably enjoyable games that get overlooked. A computer game from 2002 called “Enclave” is one of those games. I hadn’t even really heard of it before until I happened to notice it during a sale (where it had been reduced to about 99p) on GOG a couple of weeks before I prepared this partial review.

And, yes, this will be a partial review. Basically, due to getting distracted by other stuff, I’ve only got up to the final level of the game’s “light” campaign. So, this will be more than just a ‘first impressions’ article, but less than a proper full review.

So, let’s take a look at “Enclave”:

“Enclave” is a fantasy-themed “hack and slash” action game from 2002. Interestingly, the game lets you choose whether you play as the “light” or “dark” side in an epic Tolkien-esque fantasy story. However, it seems like the “dark” campaign doesn’t unlock until you complete the “light” campaign – so, this review will just focus on this one side of the story.

To sum up the story of the “light” campaign – you have to escape from prison, defend a small city from the forces of darkness and then go on an epic quest across a nightmarish wasteland in order to find and gain the support of various allies. Just imagine all of the epic parts from the “Lord Of The Rings” films and this will give you a fairly good idea of what to expect:

You. Shall. Not. Pass!!!!!!! … And, yes, you can play as a wizard in some of the later levels.

The game also occasionally includes some vaguely steampunk elements too – like this vaguely “Riven”/”Myst”-like location.

And, yes, the “Lord Of The Rings” movies are an excellent comparison to make. This is mostly because the bulk of the “light” campaign involves fighting goblins, orcs etc…

Although there are some mild puzzle-solving elements occasionally, this game is a proper action game – in that you will be spending most of the time swinging swords, shooting arrows or casting spells.

And, some parts of the game look like a heavy metal album cover too 🙂

Although the hit detection in this game is a little clunky and the combat can feel a little bit imprecise at times, it is kept reasonably fun and interesting due to the variety of enemy types, the challenging difficulty, a few boss battles, the fact that this game is almost like a heavy metal album (except for the music) in videogame form and the level of character customisation available.

Technically, you play as a group of characters… and they all actually appear in one cutscene.

Although you start the “light” campaign with just one character (the knight), more characters become available as the game continues.

Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, and you can also choose their weapons, armour etc.. too. These things are unlocked by completing levels and by finding in-game bonus items (and, unlike in greedy modern games, you can only get in-game gold by earning it via gameplay 🙂).

See that cool-looking fiery sword. You’ll actually unlock it via gameplay 🙂 Yes, this game is from the glorious age before *ugh* micro-transactions were a thing 🙂

This high level of customisation also means that, if you’re having trouble with one level, then you can try it with a different character type or with different weapons.

The character types are sort of what you’d expect, and the best character in the “light” campaign is probably either the “halfling” character – who is a badass heavy metal/punk warrior who has scary facial tattoos, can move quickly, can use the game’s best swords, who grins maniacally whilst fighting etc.. or the “knight” character – who is a badass Roman gladiator/barbarian style character, and is also pretty metal too.

Once you’ve got some decent armour (as opposed to the default crop top) and a good shield, then the halfling is probably the best character in the game.

You can also play as a cool Roman gladiator/barbarian-style character too 🙂

The worst character is probably the “druid” character, who is an elf-like character who has little to no protection against damage (probably due to wearing a swimming costume into battle) and has a few magic-based attacks that are shared with a much cooler Gandalf-like wizard character you can unlock later.

Plus, some characters only become good later in the game when more weapons become available. The “huntress” character is a good example of this. She’s a character who specialises in using longbows and crossbows. Whilst she is playable from the second level onwards, she’s only really a good choice a few levels later – when you can equip her with some of the more powerful bows and arrows, and when you’ll find yourself in situations where you’re faced with fighting long-range adversaries from a distance.

Although the huntress is playable from the second level onwards, she’s a terrible choice for levels that involve lots of close combat (like the second level).

In terms of level design, this game is reasonably good. Although most of the levels are reasonably linear, there are occasional non-linear segments, set pieces and easy puzzles that help to prevent it from becoming monotonous. Not only that, the variety of locations on offer in this game is pretty good too:

There’s even a really awesome “Ancient Rome”-style level too 🙂

Which even includes a beach area and a gladiatorial arena too 🙂

But, saying all of this, it is very clear that this game was originally designed with consoles (rather than computers) in mind. This is most notable with regard to the game’s saving system.

Whilst you can go back and play levels that you’ve completed, you can’t save mid-level. Although most levels feature mid-level checkpoints (which penalise you 10 gold whenever you use them, meaning your gold counter doubles up as a “lives” system), the only way to save your progress is to let the game auto-save at the end of each level…. and only at the end of each level.

Yes, if you leave the game after finding a mid-level checkpoint, then you’ll have to restart the entire level next time…

Since some of the levels can take 15-30 minutes to complete and since the difficulty level of some of the later levels is very much on the challenging side of things, this can cause a lot of frustration! Still, thanks to the character customisation and the relatively short length of the levels, it won’t take too long before you’ll feel like having another go at the more challenging levels.

Plus, this saving system encourages you to play the game in shorter bursts, which means that the combat won’t feel as repetitive as it might do if you played for longer periods of time.

In terms of music, voice-acting and general presentation, this game is fairly good. Whilst it would have been cool if there had been heavy metal music on the game’s soundtrack, the game’s more traditional “epic fantasy” music is pretty cool.

Likewise, the game’s animated menus and pre-rendered cutscenes still look pretty impressive to this day (less so with the in-game cutscenes though). The voice-acting is a little bit more variable, but there isn’t that much of it and even the cornier examples of it are “so bad that it’s good”.

One thing that helps with the pre-rendered cutscenes is that they mostly involve looking at a book, which is probably easier to render realistically with early-mid 2000s computer graphics.

In terms of length, this game is fairly reasonable. Although the “light” campaign contains 14 levels (some of which are fairly challenging) and probably at least 10-20 hours of gameplay, the fact that there is another campaign (the “dark” campaign) that can be unlocked when you complete this means that this is anything but a “short” game.

All in all, this is a fun (if occasionally frustrating) epic fantasy action game. If you like heavy metal album covers, gleefully mindless action games, the epic battle scenes in the “Lord Of The Rings” movies and things that are “so bad that they’re good”, then you’ll absolutely love this game 🙂 Yes, it certainly isn’t a perfect game, but it is something of an overlooked gem and it’s worth picking up when it goes on sale…

If I had to give what I’ve played of this game a rating out of five, it would just about maybe get a four.

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First Impressions: “Clive Barker’s Undying” (Retro Computer Game)

Well, with Halloween approaching, I thought that I’d take a look at an old horror game called “Clive Barker’s Undying” (which I bought for £1.19 during a sale on GOG last year).

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that this is more of a “first impressions” article than a full review. I’d planned to finish this game before I posted this review but, after getting somewhere between one-third and halfway through the game, I realised that I’d never finish it before Halloween without falling massively behind on my article schedule. Plus, I also found myself abandoning the game for other reasons that I’ll explain later.

I should probably also warn you that this review may contain a couple of (unrealistic) GRUESOME IMAGES. Likewise, the game itself contains FLICKERING lightning effects at the beginning.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Clive Barker’s Undying”:

“Clive Barker’s Undying” is a first-person shooter game from 2001. Set in the 1920s, you play as an occultist and ex- soldier called Patrick Galloway who has been living in exile from his native Ireland until he is summoned back by a letter from his old friend Jeremiah Covenant.

When he arrives at Jeremiah’s remote mansion, he finds that Jeremiah has been taken ill. Not only that, there seems to be some kind of family curse that has filled the creepy old mansion with ghosts and monsters…..

Well, it would be a very boring game if there weren’t ghosts and monsters….

My very first impressions of this game were extremely good. Even the main menu not only looked really cool, but also had ominously dramatic background music and some amazing flame animations for the mouse cursor.

Plus, for the elitists amongst you, there’s actually a framerate slider in the options menu. A framerate slider!

Not only was this a game that Clive Barker helped to make but it was also an EA game from the early 2000s. As much as EA deserve all of the criticism they get these days, there’s no denying that for a very brief period during the early 2000s they seemed to be the best for gothic horror games. I mean, they published the amazing “American McGee’s Alice” a year before this game! So, my expectations were sky-high.

And, for the early parts of the game, they were more than met. You begin the game by exploring a gloriously gloomy old mansion and it is still creepy to this day. Although there are a few scripted moments, a lot of the horror here comes from the frantic, claustrophobic combat and the general atmosphere of the place. Seriously, the early segments set in the mansion are how to make a horror game properly.

I LOVE the lighting here too 🙂

Seriously, I got a real “Silent Hill 3“/ “Realms Of The Haunting” vibe in this area!

Seriously, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that this location is still creepy to this day

Everything here is designed to ramp up the suspense. Whether it’s the fact that the lighting is dark enough to be creepy, but not dark enough that you get totally lost (eg: usually there is at least one lit area visible at any one time) or the constant sense of ominous suspense that gradually builds as you creep around the gloomy corridors in fear of your next monster encounter, this part of the game is scary.

This constant fear is amplified by the fact that you are occasionally attacked by powerful fast-moving monsters who will leap at you furiously.

Usually, your best bet is to get a headshot with your revolver in the few seconds you have whilst they are scampering towards you. But, of course, there’s usually more than one of them around at any one moment and you only have six bullets in your gun (and not enough time to reload if you miss too often..). This is how to add tension to an action-horror game!

Of course, once you see THIS, it’s almost too late…

In addition to this, Patrick also has several magical abilities that he can use (which use a recharging “mana” counter). The one you will be using most often is the “Scrye” ability – not only does this highlight enemies and allow you to see in the dark for a short time (with cool purple-tinted night vision no less 🙂 ), but it will also allow you to see things that you can’t ordinarily see.

Often, you will hear an ominous whisper telling you to use the ability and then, for example, a nearby painting will be transformed into a grotesque vision of hell:

Well, the game does have the words “Clive Barker” in the title. What did you expect? Unicorns and puppies?

However, as utterly awesome as the earlier parts of the game are – it doesn’t stay this way for too long. Even though there are some really cool locations after you initially explore the mansion, don’t get too used to them…

Seriously, this ominous floating building reminded me a bit of “American McGee’s Alice” 🙂

And just take a look at this gloriously gothic mausoleum 🙂

After a while, you will find yourself beneath an old monastery, and this is where I started to lose interest in the game. Not only do you have to trudge through endless dark underground catacombs (using the scrye ability every twenty seconds or so is practically mandatory…), but the game’s difficulty level goes from “enjoyably challenging” to “keyboard-smashingly cheap“. On “normal” difficulty, no less!

I’ve got six health points and skeletons have started spawning from this pile of bones. Skeletons that require expert marksmanship to defeat…

Not only does the game get more and more stingy with health packs and ammunition, but it also has a habit of spawning in lots of powerful monsters too. Many of these monsters require lightning-fast reflexes and/or precision aiming. Now, this would be ok if the game had a fast iteration time. But it doesn’t.

Every time you are killed, and it will happen a lot, you often have to sit through an unskippable 10-15 second death animation. Needless to say, this gets very old very fast. Other retro games like “Blood” can get away with being ultra-challenging because you can be back in the action about 1-5 seconds after you’ve died. Not so with this game…

This is a death animation from earlier in the game. Yes, these unskippable animations are creepy when you see them for the first time. Less so when you see them for the thirtieth time…

Eventually, this cheap difficulty and the sheer boredom of dingy catacomb after dingy catacomb just got the better of me and, whilst I’d planned to play more of this game before writing this article, I found myself skiving off and re-playing part of “Doom: The Golden Souls” instead. It seemed fifty times more fun than spending another hour of frustration in the catacombs….

What can I say? Fun wins every time…

Anyway, one strange feature of “Clive Barker’s Undying” is that it was designed for a future console port that was never actually made.

What this means is that there are short “loading” screens between some areas, and there’s also a spell/weapon wheel feature, which is actually quicker than cycling through your weapons and spells using the keyboard. Although these things are a little bit annoying, they’re hardly game-breaking problems. However, I noticed a fair amount of screen tearing whilst playing some parts of the game, but this might just be my computer.

From what I’ve seen, the game’s weapons are actually fairly good. In addition to a revolver and double-barelled shotgun (both of which require frequent reloading, which ramps up the tension), you can also find a “Tibetan War Cannon” which serves as an infinite-ammo freeze gun. Plus, I found sticks of dynamite and molotov cocktails too.

Of course, having played “Left4Dead2” quite a bit during my early twenties, I kept expecting Patrick to shout “throwing a molotov!“.

The “Tibetan War Cannon” is a golden dragon that spits chunks of ice! Seriously, I love how creative FPS game weapons used to be 🙂

In addition to this, you can find alternate ammo types for the pistol and shotgun (eg: silver bullets and incendiary shells) which can be very useful. Plus, one of the game’s spells allows you to shoot energy from your palms, and there’s a green stone you can use to repeal monsters. Seriously, I love how creative FPS game weapon design used to be.

The game’s monster designs are surprisingly good, with many of the monsters presenting a formidable threat to the player.

There are fast-moving “Howlers”, teleporting Lovecraftian horrors, invisible guards, powerful skeletons etc… Many of these monsters are vulnerable to different tactics and/or weapons. If they were used more sparingly, these monsters would be brilliant! However, the game will occasionally just spam these monsters at you sometimes. And, given how challenging they are, this quickly borders on unfair.

Seriously, if there were one or two Howlers here, it would be really fun! But, there are at least four….

In terms of voice-acting and sound design, this game is variable. Whilst the game’s music is brilliantly suspensful, the voice-acting can vary in quality somewhat – although this just adds to the vintage charm of the game. Likewise, the sound effects are all reasonably ok too.

All in all, wait until this game is on sale and then play the earlier parts of it. This game has a timelessly brilliant beginning, which is still utterly creepy to this day. The earlier parts of this game are atmospheric, suspenseful and a perfect example of a horror game. However, as soon as you start finding yourself in dingy underground catacombs, then save yourself the frustration and play something else instead….

If I had to give what I’ve played so far a rating out of five, it would probably get a three.

Partial Review: “Quantum Strike (V2)” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ ZDoom etc..)

Well, although I’m playing a game called “Under A Killing Moon” (Edit: Unfortunately, I probably won’t review it) at the time of writing, I thought that I should try to make sure that there is at least one “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD review posted here this month.

So, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a WAD called “Quantum Strike (V2)“. However, at the time of writing, I’m about halfway through level three (of four). So, this article will be more than just a first impressions article, but less than a full review.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port (version 2.7.9999.0) whilst playing this WAD. However, according to the text file that accompanies the WAD, it will also run with more modern versions of several other source ports such as GZDoom, Zandronum, PR/GLBoom+ and QZDoom.

So, let’s take a look at “Quantum Strike (V.2):

“Quantum Strike (V2)” is a four-level “slaughtermap” WAD that includes new textures, music, fully implemented difficulty settings (I used “Hurt Me Plenty”) and a new monster.

If you’ve never heard of “slaughtermap” levels before, they are challenging levels (like “XXXI Cybersky“, “VeryHard“, “Stardate 20X6” etc..) that contain a linear series of arena-like segments which are filled with more monsters than you can actually fight.

This shifts the emphasis of the gameplay towards survival, fast-paced puzzle solving, dogged determination, knowing when to fight (or when not to) and knowing how to use the “rules” of “Doom II” to your advantage. Personally, I really like this style of level, but it is something of an acquired taste.

Seriously, when it is done well – like in this part of level two- these types of level can be brilliant 🙂

However, whilst this WAD certainly contains some good slaughtermap segments, it isn’t a perfect example of something in this genre. The main problem is that many of the monster-filled areas can feel a little bit too claustrophobic. One of the most important parts of any “slaughtermap” is that the player has enough room to run, dodge and take cover. This can make the difference between a fun level and a frustrating one.

This is especially the case with the early parts of the first level, which mostly take place within narrow corridors where there’s very little room for dodging and relatively little ammo, health, weaponry or cover on offer. At it’s best, this makes the level suspenseful. But it can also make the difficulty feel somewhat cheap, especially when the level occasionally leaves you sandwiched between two groups of monsters within a relatively narrow corridor.

The most jarring example of cheap difficulty in the first level is when the WAD’s new monster, the Afrit, is introduced during a corridor segment. This is a flying baron-type monster who has a powerful attack that spews lots of mancubus/revenant projectiles across a wide area. Although it’s always cool to see new monsters, this is a type of monster that shouldn’t be used in areas where there’s relatively little cover or room for the player to dodge.

Pictured: Not a monster that you want to meet in a corridor!

Although the first level is a rather fun level, the claustrophobic design doesn’t do it any favours. Even the “arena” area later in the level is a medium-size room that feels slightly claustrophobic when compared to the number of monsters you have to fight. This is compounded by the fact that there’s relatively little cover in this area, which can mean that the player barely has time to think or to formulate any kind of strategy.

And, if you try to hide in one of the alcoves here, expect to get walled in by ferocious monsters very quickly!

The second level has some really good arena segments that are suitably sized for this style of gameplay. However, there’s still something of a slight emphasis on claustrophobic walkways in some parts of the level.

And I also forgot to mention that you need to move along the walkways quickly, since there’s a cyberdemon in the middle of this area.

But, although this level is probably my favourite, I couldn’t actually find a way to end it. Even after all of the monsters in the final arena had died, I still couldn’t find a way of ending the level. So, I had to resort to using the “level skip” cheat.

The final battle at the end of the level is pretty epic though (and, like another cool segment earlier in the level, there’s actually enough room too!)

The third level is much more like a classic-style “slaughtermap” level, with arena-like areas, some cool-looking design and lots of monsters.

The coolest part of level three (that I’ve seen so far) is probably this bit, where you can see the level from above.

Although I haven’t finished this level at the time of writing, it is a reasonably fun example of a slaughtermap level. However, one slight criticism I have of it is that some parts can feel a little bit claustrophobic and/or not have enough cover.

Such as this part when it starts filling up with monsters (including a three-layered wall of chaingun zombies on the other side of the room!)

This WAD also takes a very traditionalist attitude towards jumping, but the levels are designed with this limitation in mind. So, I didn’t even notice that I couldn’t jump until about half an hour after I’d started playing. However, the fact that the WAD seems to force you to play the second level (and presumably the third too) from a pistol start is slightly annoying though.

Seriously, why?!?!?

Visually speaking, this WAD has a rather cool sci-fi/horror theme to it, which is vaguely reminiscent of both the original “Quake” and some of Skillsaw’s excellent “Doom II” WADs (eg: “Ancient Aliens“, “Lunatic” etc..) whilst also being it’s own thing too. Seriously, I really love the look of this WAD 🙂

I also love how this WAD sometimes has different colour schemes for different areas.

Plus, I love the “Quake”-like textures on this inventively-designed crusher too.

Likewise, the new music here is really cool too, and it mostly consists of 1980s/90s style MIDI music which has a wonderfully retro-futuristic sound to it. This goes really well with the visual style of the WAD and really helps to add some atmosphere to the levels.

All in all, from what I’ve played, this WAD is a mixed bag. Yes, it looks (and sounds) really cool. Yes, there are some really fun moments to be found here (especially in the second level). However, the emphasis on claustrophobic settings and pistol starts really doesn’t do this WAD any favours.

If I had to give what I’ve played a rating out of five, it would get three and a half.

Partial Review: “Whitemare” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ GZDoom)

Before I begin, I should probably point out that I’ve only played about four -fifths of this WAD (for reasons I’ll explain later). So, whilst this is more than just a “first impressions” article, it isn’t quite a full review either.

Anyway, a few days before I wrote this article, I was determined that there would be more than one “Doom II” WAD review posted here this month. Since I was in the mood for something wintery, I decided to search online for Christmas-themed WADs. But, after a while, I ended up discovering an interesting winter-themed WAD called “Whitemare” instead.

Unusually, I ended up using a slightly older version of the “GZDoom” source port (rather than “ZDoom”) whilst playing this WAD, mostly because GZDoom was one of the recommended source ports in the text file that accompanies the WAD.

So, let’s take a look at “Whitemare”:

“Whitemare” is a 19-level WAD from 2011 which contains new textures, new music and (according to the readme) a new sound effect too. As you may have guessed from the name, this WAD mostly contains icy, snow-covered levels of various types.

Yay! Cold weather 🙂

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it is one of those WADs that is fairly enjoyable overall but which, when actually playing it, can vary between brilliantly fun and incredibly frustrating. In other words, this WAD is something of a mixed bag.

This variety is both one of the WADs greatest strengths and one of the WADs greatest weaknesses.

On the plus side, the variety between location types (eg: vast open areas, claustrophobic tunnels, sci-themed areas, gothic areas long levels, shorter levels etc..) helps to keep things fresh and interesting. Likewise, the variety in gameplay styles (eg: everything from frenetic “slaughtermap”-style arena battles to slow-paced puzzle solving) also helps to keep this WAD interestingly unpredictable.

Seriously, there’s a lot of variety in the level design etc..

There’s also a small “Blood“-style hedge maze too 🙂

However, this also means that some elements of the WAD are better than others. Basically, the good parts of this WAD feel especially good because they are contrasted with annoying, frustrating and/or dull stuff.

Like this annoying area! It contains both a mild example of first-person platforming and one of the more annoying puzzles…

The combat design in this WAD is a brilliant example of this. This WAD not only contains some brilliantly epic set pieces which include everything from thrillingly dramatic large-scale outdoor battles to claustrophobic cyberdemon encounters, but it also contains some enjoyable “classic-style” challenging combat segments featuring reasonable quantities of low-mid level monsters.

The highlights include things like an area where you lay siege to a ruined castle, a rather fast-paced combat encounter on a large boat, a frenetic scene set in an ice-pit, and an epic scene where you discover a Christmas tree that is surrounded by lots of weapons and health items (needless to say, there’s a reason why all that stuff is there…).

Seriously, I’d be freaked out if lots of monsters DIDN’T appear here…

This segment set in a ruined castle is pretty awesome too 🙂

However, one annoying theme (especially in the earlier levels) is setting combat encounters within dark, claustrophobic tunnels. Although this adds some suspense to the gameplay, it can get annoying after a while. Not only that, the use of spectres in these segments is especially annoying. Likewise, this WAD sometimes tends to be slightly generous in it’s use of chaingun zombies too.

Still, given the cramped nature of many of these segments, the chainsaw is actually useful for once!

Plus, as awesome as some of the game’s large-scale battles are – if you’re using an older computer – then they can sometimes cause issues.

Basically, I stopped playing during an early part of level sixteen – and almost stopped playing during a later part of level fifteen- because the game crashed whenever I tried to save, presumably due to the number of monsters or something like that (or possibly the ridiculous number of save files I have in GZDoom).

Yes, it seems like this is too awesome for my computer!

In terms of the level design, it’s fairly good. All of the levels are the kind of complex, non-linear levels that you would expect to find in “Doom II”. They also occasionally include some rather cool things like a destructible wall, a pyramid of glowing skulls, a level where you “chase” a key etc.. too.

Yay! I want one!

However, some areas can sometimes be a little bit too large – whilst this can sometimes make the levels feel epic and dramatic, it can also occasionally make them seem a little bit “empty”, even when there are lots of monsters.

Ok, this is the first level. But, still, it’s way too easy to dodge these monsters.

This WAD takes a rather traditionalist attitude towards the subject of jumping, with the ability to jump being disabled by default. However, the WAD is designed with this limitation in mind – so, the lack of jumping rarely feels like a problem. Still, there are some non-jumping platforming segments – which can be a little bit annoying.

One unusual thing about this WAD is that it includes puzzles. Most of the time, these are reasonably fun.

Some good examples include a large outdoor area where you have to find lots of hidden switches, a part where you have to find two keys in a giant tree-filled area and a rather inventive maze-based pressure pad puzzle that requires you to use the in-game map. Likewise, the very beginning of level sixteen contains a rather clever puzzle that is fiendishly evil but won’t take you that long to solve.

Yes, the in-game map is very useful here!

However, one annoying puzzle -involving 16 switches- near the end of level fourteen was so confusing and frustrating that I eventually had to resort to using the “level skip” cheat! Plus, there’s an annoying area in level twelve where I ended up completely and utterly stuck for at least half an hour until I eventually worked out the “obvious in retrospect” solution to it.

Hmmm… It turns out that the solution to this puzzle is “IDCLEV15”.

The new textures on offer in this WAD are pretty cool and, although they mostly consist of various snow/ice textures, there’s also a really cool sci-fi style skybox that appears occasionally too.

Yay! It reminds me of the old “Apogee” logo 🙂

In terms of the new music, it’s also a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst it includes cool stuff like an epic heavy metal-style MIDI and a surprisingly dramatic version of a classical Christmas tune (either “The Nutcracker” or “The Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy”), some of the in-game music is either a bit too understated, random or generic.

All in all, what I’ve played of this WAD has been somewhat varied. Yes, it is a good WAD overall. But, although there are some amazingly epic moments, some wonderfully wintery locations, some really solid levels, some dramatic music and some enjoyable puzzles – there are also some dull, annoying and/or frustrating moments. Plus, if you’re playing this on an older computer, you may possibly have some problems in later levels.

If I had to give what I’ve played a rating out of five, it might just about get a four.

Partial Review: “Eradicator” (Retro Computer Game)

2017-artwork-eradicator-review-sketch

One of the problems with being a fan of sprite-based FPS games from the 1990s is that there aren’t that many of them out there.

Sure, there are more fan-made “Doom”/”Doom II” levels than you could ever play – but there aren’t that many different games. So, imagine my delight when, during a sale on GOG I found a mid-90s FPS game that I’d barely heard of called “Eradicator” for £1.99 (I think that it’s about a fiver at full price).

Since I bought a few games during this sale and don’t have time to complete them all, this is another partial review. In other words, at the time of writing this review, I’ve only played a little under half of the game. So, whilst this is more than just a “first impressions” article, it isn’t quite a full review either.

So, let’s take a look at “Eradicator”:

And, as you would expect, heavy metal/ hard rock music plays during this screen. \m/

And, as you would expect, heavy metal/ hard rock music plays during this screen. \m/

“Eradicator” is a sci-fi FPS game from 1996 that uses wonderfully retro sprite-based graphics.

Although “Eradicator” uses it’s own unique game engine, it is remarkably similar to the Build engine used in “Duke Nukem 3D”, “Shadow Warrior”, “Blood” and “Redneck Rampage“. Seriously, you can barely tell the game engines apart!

 I can't believe it's not "Build"!

I can’t believe it’s not “Build”!

However, unlike some Build engine games, there’s no source port for this game. The edition on GOG comes with a pre-made DOSBox launcher. What this means is that you can’t really use modern controls with this game (due to the lack of vertical mouse look). So, if you miss “Duke Nukem 3D”/”Blood”-style keyboard only controls, then you’re in luck here 🙂 However, you can also use the mouse for movement and/or shooting if you really want to.

Unusually for a mid-1990s FPS game, you actually have a choice of characters. There are two alien characters (Eleena and Kamchak) and one human character (Dan Blaze).

Although your choice of character mostly just affects which voice actor you’ll hear throughout the game, each character also has a different first level and two unique weapons too. Plus, if you want to, you can also switch to a third-person perspective whilst playing- although the game is a lot more playable in the traditional first-person perspective.

Kamchak looks quite cool in third-person perspective, but I imagine that the combat probably gets confusing if you use this perspective.

Kamchak looks quite cool in third-person perspective, but I imagine that the combat probably gets confusing if you use this perspective.

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that, in terms of gameplay and aesthetic design, it’s a bit more like a late 1990s FPS.

In other words, the game’s locations mostly seem to be gloomy, industrial, understated and -sometimes- boring. Likewise, most levels require you to complete one or more mission objectives before you finish the level.

Fun fact: This game came out the same year that "Quake" did. Although, interestingly, the location design is slightly more reminiscent of "Quake II".

Fun fact: This game came out the same year that “Quake” did.

However, some of the worst elements of mid-1990s FPS games are present here in abundance. As well as the dreaded first-person platforming segments, there are puzzles! Some of these aren’t that bad, but there are at least two timed puzzles within the first half of the game which will frustrate the hell out of you.

One requires you to navigate a maze-like base and shoot out three generators within a limited time frame (otherwise you have to do it again). Likewise, another puzzle requires you to press four switches within a limited time (and you pretty much have to memorise the level layout to do this). Plus, there’s also one part of level three where you can get totally stuck if you do things in the wrong order.

Yes, after sprinting around it and pressing switches more times than you remember, you will come to absolutely loathe and despise this particular level!

Yes, after sprinting around it and pressing switches more times than you remember, you will come to absolutely loathe and despise this particular level!

On the plus side, some parts of this game includes the kind of challenging, intense combat that classic FPS games are famous for.

Not only do you get a ridiculous number of imaginative sci-fi weapons (I think that there are something like 15 different weapons available – one of which is like a primitive version of the Redeemer from “Unreal Tournament”), but there is also a reasonable variety of different cyborg/ alien monsters to fight and even at least one boss fight too.

I almost got stuck on this, until I remembered that -whilst the flamethrower looks cool - the rocket launcher is a MUCH better weapon to use!

I almost got stuck on this, until I remembered that -whilst the flamethrower looks cool – the rocket launcher is a MUCH better weapon to use!

Another cool, imaginative thing in this game is that you can actually remotely control things like robots, security cameras and guided rockets.

Learning how to do this can be a bit annoying (through trial and error, I learnt that you have to press the “action” key twice) but it’s really cool when you know how to do it. Needless to say, this imaginative feature is an integral part of the game and you’ll have to use it in a few areas in order to progress.

Yes, controlling enemy robots is cool - but it can take a while to work out how to do it.

Yes, controlling enemy robots is cool – but it can take a while to work out how to do it.

In terms of the level design, it’s ok. It’s fairly standard mid-1990s level design. Compared to more linear modern level design, it’s brilliant. But, compared to other games from the time, it’s nothing spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still have a lot of fun exploring the non-linear levels (even if some look a bit dull and/or are a bit confusing) but it’s nothing special.

Like many classic 90s FPS games, “Eradicator” also comes with a level editor. Although this apparently also includes a feature that allows you to convert “Doom” WADs into “Eradicator” levels, there seems to be little to no documentation about how to use the editor.

Not only that, it’s a proper old-school DOS program too. For example, in order to convert “Doom” levels, you apparently have to manually type out the file path for the level in question:

This looks cool, but unless you've memorised the exact location of your "Doom" WADs, then you're going to have problems.

This looks cool, but unless you’ve memorised the exact location of your “Doom” WADs, then you’re going to have problems.

In terms of music, the best music in the game is probably the title screen music. The rest is either forgettable or nonexistent. But, like in many classic 90s FPS games, your character will occasionally make comments during gameplay. Most of the time, these are just “realistic” functional comments about the mission, rather than humourous comments though.

In terms of the voice acting, it’s kind of meh. The voice-actors for Eleena and Dan Blaze both sound at least mildly bored and unenthusiastic. The voice-actor for Kamchak seems to be trying to impersonate a Klingon from “Star Trek”, which is kind of amusing. Still, it’s cool to play an old-school FPS game where your character isn’t ominously silent throughout the game.

 If you play as Eleena, then she will quite literally say "This must be a factory" in this area. Thank you, captain obvious!

If you play as Eleena, then she will quite literally say “This must be a factory” in this area. Thank you, captain obvious!

All in all, from what I’ve played, “Eradicator” is an ok game. Although it’s absolutely great to play a sprite-based FPS game from the 1990s that I haven’t played before, “Eradicator” doesn’t quite reach the high standard of “Doom II”, “Rise Of The Triad” “Blood” or “Duke Nukem 3D”.

Yes, it’s miles better than “Star Wars: Dark Forces“. But, it’s still just sort of average. The visual design is a bit dull, the game’s more innovative features can be a bit clunky at times, and the puzzles can be annoying too. But, it’s still fun nonetheless. It’s a game from a time when FPS games were about exploration and imagination, rather than just online multiplayer and mindless corridor-like levels.

If I had to give what I’ve played so far a rating out of five, it would get three and a half.

Partial Review: “Alien Shooter: Complete Pack” (Computer Game)

2017-artwork-alien-shooter-review-sketch

A while ago, I reviewed a game called “Zombie Shooter“. This game made me curious about a similar game called “Alien Shooter” – so, I decided to check that out too.

Like with “Zombie Shooter” (and a few other games I may review in the future), this game was on sale on GOG at the time of originally writing this review. So, it only cost me 99p. I think that it’s about five quid at full price.

As the title suggests, this is only a partial review. Basically, I’ve played this game for a couple of days and am completely stuck still grappling with a particularly challenging level.

Yes, this really ISN’T one of those easy modern games…

So, this is more than just a “first impressions” article and less than a full review, if that makes sense.

Like with my “Zombie Shooter” review, I should probably warn you that this review contains (unrealistic) GRUESOME IMAGES/ BLOODY IMAGES. But, if you think that the game looks too gory, then it apparently also contains a “green blood” option too.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Alien Shooter”:
alien-shooter-logo

“Alien Shooter” is a 1990s-style third-person action game from 2003. The story behind the game is pretty simple, a facility has been overrun with alien creatures and it is up to you to shoot them all. Like all great retro action games, the gameplay matters a lot more than the story.

Before I shower effusive praise on the gameplay, I should probably preface this with the caveat that I started playing this game shortly after completing “Zombie Shooter”. In other words, I’d already had a lot of practice with the controls and was totally used to the slightly strange isometric perspective that the game uses. Because of this previous practice, playing “Alien Shooter” was almost intuitive to me.

However, if you’re new to this game, then the controls and the perspective can take a bit of getting used to. It’s worth getting used to them, but it can be a little annoying at first.

That said, this game is the perfect example of how to make an action game! After the eerily empty first level, the aliens come at you thick and fast, the weapons pack a mighty punch and – once you get the minigun – you’ll feel like you’re Ripley from “Aliens”!

Seriously, a game hasn't made me feel THIS badass in ages!

Seriously, a game hasn’t made me feel THIS badass in ages!

If you want to feel like a badass, play this game! Seriously, despite being older than “Zombie Shooter”, it surpasses that game in so many ways.

For example, it also includes a turret section. However, instead of just remotely controlling the turret from a distance, you actually get to sit inside it. Plus, if I remember rightly, the screen actually judders dramatically whenever you fire the turret.

YES!! Why wasn't this in "Zombie Shooter"? It would have been even MORE epic!

YES!! Why wasn’t this in “Zombie Shooter”? It would have been even MORE epic!

Since it is a slightly older game, “Alien Shooter” contains fewer RPG elements than “Zombie Shooter” does. Whilst you can still choose from two characters at the start of the game, there’s no weapon upgrade system and your character’s stats can’t be upgraded as many times. However, this actually works really well. Because the weapons can’t be upgraded, they have to be more powerful from the moment you get them.

Plus, the novelty weapon in this game is a Duke 3D-style freeze gun. It looks cool, but it isn't worth wasting credits on.

Plus, the novelty weapon in this game is a “Duke 3D”-style freeze gun. It looks cool, but it isn’t worth wasting credits on.

Yes, there’s still resource management between missions, which adds some strategy to the game. But, unfortunately, this game still uses the dreaded checkpoint saving (and lives system). However, since there are fewer options available between missions, you have to be a lot more careful with your choice of weapons and items. This is both good and bad.

Yes, like in "Zombie Shooter", what you do on this screen can make the difference between success and failure.

Yes, like in “Zombie Shooter”, what you do on this screen can make the difference between success and failure.

For example, at the time of writing, I’m stuck on a level because I only found about 30,000 credits during the previous level (and, thanks to the saving system, there’s no quick way to go back and replay it).

This means that, every time I start the level, I have to choose between giving my character the most powerful weapon in the game (but less armour, running speed, accuracy and lives), or giving my character a lot more armour and better stats, albeit with weaker weapons.

Since this level is crammed with powerful monsters, it’s the kind of level where having any kind of weakness will doom you to almost certain failure.

Yes, this level may actually cross the line from "enjoyably challenging" to "borderline unfair"!

Yes, this level may actually cross the line from “enjoyably challenging” to “borderline unfair”!

This brings me on to the difficulty – this game is even more challenging than “Zombie Shooter”. But, it contains a better difficulty curve. Even so, the better variety of monster types means that the combat in “Alien Shooter” is a lot less repetitive and monotonous than it was in “Zombie Shooter”.

For example, in one of the earlier levels, you run into various types of palette-swapped alien insects. The green ones are just generic cannon fodder monsters. However, the yellow ones will quickly cover the ground in pools of radioactive acid. They’re kind of like the “Spitter” monsters from a game that came out six years after this one called “Left 4 Dead 2“.

This might not seem like a powerful attack but, since you’ll be fighting large numbers of these monsters, it’s often easy to forget that you’re standing in an acid pool if you try to fight them in the same way as you would fight the green ones. So, you actually have to use different tactics (eg: running backwards whilst firing the grenade launcher, rather than just standing in the middle of a group of monsters and using the minigun).

In terms of length, this game seems to be better than “Zombie Shooter”. Since at least one level is ultra-difficult, even by the standards of an experienced gamer like myself, you’re likely to be spending a lot more time with this game. Plus, the version available on GOG also features two expansion packs too (“Fight For Life” and “Experiment”).

I’ve only had a brief chance to check these out but, although they have cool-looking text-based introductory cutscenes, they both seem to be slightly flawed.

Yes, the intro to "Experiment" might look cool, but...

Yes, the intro to “Experiment” might look cool, but…

I got stuck on the second level of “Fight For Life” because there seemed to be nowhere to place the dynamite you find in an early part of the level. Likewise, the first level of “Experiment” throws too many monsters at you when you are armed with nothing more than a pistol and a shotgun.

 I got stuck on this level in "Fight For Life" because of a possibly missing dynamite point, rather than because of the combat. I'm not sure if this was just a glitch or not though.

I got stuck on this level in “Fight For Life” because of a possibly missing dynamite point, rather than because of the combat. I’m not sure if this was just a glitch or not though.

In terms of music, this game has a fairly good soundtrack, mostly consisting of the kind of heavy and fast-paced metal and/or synth music you would expect in a sci-fi action game. Plus, if you get the game on GOG, you’ll also get a MP3 copy of the soundtrack (which also includes the menu theme to “Zombie Shooter” as a bonus).

However, and this might just be my old computer, but the MP3 tracks refused to play on my old version of Windows Media Player (although they played perfectly in VLC Media Player). This could just be a technical issue, or it could be a DRM issue of some kind.

This game’s code also seems to be more stable than “Zombie Shooter” too. In other words, I was able to minimise the game (whilst it was running/paused) quite a few times, without my computer freezing up.

All in all, this game is almost a perfect action game. Yet, even experienced gamers are likely to get stuck on the more difficult later levels. Plus, the controls/perspective can take a bit of getting used to too.

But, these problems aside, this is what an action game should be. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel like a badass when you’re playing it. It’s the kind of game that forces you to play strategically. It’s an almost perfect action game, which comes close to the high standard set by the classic “Doom” games.

If I had to give this game a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.