Mini Review: “Interloper” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

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Well, I hadn’t planned to review another “Doom II” WAD quite so soon. But, due to a combination of being in a stressed mood and realising that the indie game I’d planned to review soon (“Shadowrun: Dragonfall”) might take a lot longer to complete than I thought, I was in the mood for some “Doom II”. So, I ended up playing a WAD called “Interloper“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although it’ll probably run on any modern source port.

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

screenshot_doom_20161203_185054

“Interloper” is a five-level WAD that has apparently been inspired by the new “Doom” game that came out last year. Since I haven’t played that game, I can’t comment on any similarities. So, I’ll be looking at this WAD on it’s own merits.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it (mostly) seems to be a “vanilla” WAD, with no new textures, weapons, monsters etc… However, during one or two parts of the game, I noticed that it contained better lighting effects than “standard” “Doom II” has. These might be the result of subtle sprite alterations (eg: adding orange highlights to the sprites), or it could be to do with the source port I’m using – but it looks really cool.

Of course, it WOULD look cooler if the surrounding environment was even gloomier. But, still, the added highlights are just about noticeable on the imp standing on the platform.

Of course, it WOULD look cooler if the surrounding environment was even gloomier. But, still, the added highlights are just about noticeable on the imp standing on the platform.

In terms of the gameplay, this WAD is reasonably good. Although this WAD probably won’t take you more than an hour or so to complete, you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. The difficulty level is high enough to be mildly challenging, but low enough to allow this WAD to function as an effective form of stress relief. In addition to this, the WAD actually includes a slight difficulty curve, with each level being slightly more challenging than the last.

As for the actual level design, it’s fairly good. The levels are non-linear enough to require exploration, but they’re also designed in such a way that you are unlikely to get “stuck” for any significant length of time. The only possible exception to this is the very beginning of level two, which features a large pit near the start of the level. This pit seems to have no “idiot proofing” whatsoever and, if you fall into it, you’ll have to re-load a saved game in order to get out of it.

 If there's a lift or a teleport here, I certainly couldn't find it!

If there’s a lift or a teleport here, I certainly couldn’t find it!

But, this aside, the level design here is really good. Some stand-out moments include a large multi-tiered room in level three which obviously required some rather creative programming and/or source port knowledge to create, since it places something like three or four platforms on top of each other in the same room.

 If this level had come out in 1994, it would be put on trial for sorcery!

If this level had come out in 1994, it would be put on trial for sorcery!

Likewise, although this WAD only really uses the “standard” textures, they are used in a way that prevents them from becoming visually monotonous. As well as using a good variety of sci-fi textures and “hell” textures, this WAD also features a few interesting-looking areas too:

Like this creepy red room...

Like this creepy red room…

...Or this ominously damaged corridor.

… Or this ominously damaged corridor.

The most enjoyable levels in this WAD are probably the final two levels. Although an arch-vile appears in level three, the difficulty level only starts to really get fun from the fourth level onwards. Yes, these levels aren’t extremely challenging, but they’re challenging enough to really be fun.

Whilst the fourth level is a fairly well-designed “standard” level, the fifth level is like a very mild version of a “slaughtermap” level, where you’ll be running along a long corridor and fighting a slightly larger number of monsters. This level also features a climactic battle against a weakened spider demon (it took a mere two BFG shots to defeat, although this could be due to prior monster infighting) and two cyberdemons.

Surprisingly, the cyberdemon battle was fairly easy, due to the abundent ammo hidden nearby, the arena-like area and the fact that there are a few low-mid level monsters nearby who will also start fighting the cyberdemons too.

Yes, this final boss battle is a little bit on the easy side, but it'll make you feel like a badass.

Yes, this final boss battle is a little bit on the easy side, but it’ll make you feel like a badass.

All in all, this is a rather fun WAD. Sure, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything like that but it’s a solid, well-designed set of levels that will provide you with about an hour or so of amusement.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Review: “Technobabylon” (Computer Game)

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The cyberpunk genre is one of those genres that really should appear more often in computer games. After all, it’s an entire genre of sci-fi that revolves around computers.

But, it is a genre has been relatively neglected by modern mainstream developers. Thankfully, indie developers have proved themselves to be more than up to the task of filling this void in gaming culture.

“Technobabylon” is one of those games that I’d been meaning to play for ages, ever since I first read about it (although the price seemed a bit too high for the limited gaming budget I had then), but only got round to buying during a sale on GOG a few days before I originally wrote this review.

I should probably warn you that this review may contain some mild SPOILERS. Likewise, I messed up the chapter numbers in the file names for the screenshots in this review. The chapter numbers seem to be in binary and I mistook “10” for ten and counted the chapter numbers accordingly.

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

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“Technobabylon” is a 1990s-style “point and click” game by Wadjet Eye Games and James Dearden that was released in 2015.

As regular readers of this blog will probably know, I’m a fan of Wadjet Eye’s “Blackwell” series (you can read my reviews of those games here, here, here, here and here). Likewise, Wadjet Eye Games also has a bit of history with the cyberpunk genre when they released Joshua Nuernburger’s excellent “Gemini Rue” a few years earlier. So, naturally, my expectations about “Technobabylon” were fairly high. And this game surpassed them!

The premise and storyline of “Technobabylon” would take quite a while to describe here but, in summary, this is a game where you play as three people living in an AI-controlled mega-city who find themselves in the midst of a strange conspiracy.

Yes, my summary of the game’s plot sounds hopelessly generic and it really doesn’t do the game’s story justice – but if you like deep, intelligent cyberpunk storytelling in the tradition of “Neuromancer“, “Blade Runner“, “Ghost In The Shell” and “Deus Ex“, then you’ll find it in abundance here.

 Well, and ...specialist... robots too. Ok, there's only one of these.

And …specialist… robots too. Ok, there’s only one of these.

One of the most striking things about this game is how unique it is. Although the game makes no secret of it’s influences, it also contains a very unique, fully-formed and distinctive cyberpunk “world”. Every tiny background detail in this game (and there are lots of them) feels like an organic and “realistic” part of the game’s world.

For example, the futuristic equivalent of the word “f**k” is the word “nuke”. This sounds hilariously silly when you first hear it. But, later in the game, you learn that the world has experienced something like seven nuclear conflicts before the events of the game. However, in a stroke of genius, this information isn’t relayed through a sombre monologue or anything like that. You only really learn about it from watching another character play a virtual reality computer game:

... And you'll probably be laughing throughout this entire scene too! Now THAT is good writing!

… And you’ll probably be laughing throughout this entire scene too! Now THAT is good writing!

“Technobabylon” is also different in tone to anything else in the cyberpunk genre and, yet, is pretty much the definition of “cyberpunk” at the same time. It’s a game about “high technology and low lives”, to use the famous quote.

Needless to say, this place looks a lot less grim in virtual reality...

Needless to say, this place looks a lot less grim in virtual reality…

And, like in Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan" comics, there are amusing background characters too.

And, like in Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan” comics, there are amusing background characters too.

Seriously, I cannot praise the emotional tone of the game highly enough. Even though “Technobabylon” includes some fairly heavy subject matter ( grisly murders, scientific ethics, terrorism, bereavement, poverty, blackmail, cannibalism etc…), it is never depressing or bleak in tone. The game contains just the right amount of sarcasm and dark humour to balance out these grim parts of the story without robbing them of their dramatic significance.

Oh government computer, you loveable rogue!

Oh government computer, you loveable rogue!

Likewise, the game’s futuristic world isn’t completely dystopian too. Cyberspace is shown to be a meritocratic place where both rich and poor are pretty much equal to each other (albeit with the side effect that poorer people are more likely to become addicted to it as a result). Not only that, since it’s set something like 70 years into the future, being LGBT is pretty much a total and utter non-issue too.

Seriously, this game is a liberal game in the best way possible – it doesn’t preach or anything like that, it just subtly shows how good some parts of the future could be.

This game is also a “mature” game in the truest sense of the word. In other words, it’s a complex, intelligent game. Like in “Deus Ex”, there are moments where you will have to make moral decisions that have no clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. There are times when things are left unsaid. The game’s story also contains actual philosophical depth and will actually make you think. The game’s characters come across as being genuine (and realistic) people, the game shows the existence of multiple political systems etc…

Both amusingly and depressingly, the EU is shown to be ludicrously restrictive and over-protective. Pre-Brexit this was probably kind of funny but, post-Brexit, it already seemed a bit out of date.

Both amusingly and depressingly, the EU is shown to be ludicrously restrictive and over-protective. Pre-Brexit this was probably kind of funny but, post-Brexit, it already seemed a bit out of date.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned the gameplay yet. This is because it is, for the most part, pretty standard “point and click” gameplay. You talk to people, pick up items, walk around, combine items occasionally and solve puzzles.

Although most of these puzzles involve futuristic technology, there's relatively little "moon logic" here.

Although most of these puzzles involve futuristic technology, there’s relatively little “moon logic” here.

But, even if – like me – you’re absolutely terrible at adventure game puzzles (and have to read walkthroughs constantly), then this game is still a lot of fun because of it’s story, it’s characters, the level of interactivity on offer and the brilliantly designed “world” of the game. Seriously, even with heavy walkthrough use, this game still has at least 5-7 hours of gameplay.

Even if you cheat in virtually all of the puzzles, you probably won’t feel like you’ve been cheated by this game. The only possible exception to this is the final ‘chapter’ of the game, where there’s a lot of pointless wandering back and forth before you finally reach the game’s dramatic conclusion. Likewise, one of the puzzles involving finding plant specimens seems to involve a certain degree of randomisation too.

Yes, the puzzle a while before this part of the game seems to be slightly randomised. Still, it isn't that difficult to solve - since you just have to find a plant that matches a particular description.

Yes, the puzzle a while before this part of the game seems to be slightly randomised. Still, it isn’t that difficult to solve – since you just have to find a plant that matches a particular description.

My favourite puzzle in the game is probably the very first “chapter” of the game, which is a self-contained “escape the room”/ game tutorial puzzle.

Although it can take a while to learn how the game’s technology works (eg: you have to use a gelatinous substance called “wetware” to connect to devices, you have to connect to cyberspace to do certain things etc..), all of the elements of the puzzle are easily found and there’s some truly hilarious comedy too.

This isn't even the funniest line in chapter one. Just try to get the food machine to make a metal fork and you'll be treated to one of the funniest (and most "Futurama"-like) lines from the game.

This isn’t even the funniest line in chapter one. Just try to get the food machine to make a metal fork and you’ll be treated to one of the funniest (and most “Futurama”-like) lines from the game.

Visually, the game is spectacular. Like in the later “Blackwell” games, Ben Chandler’s pixel art is truly superb.

As you would expect from a cyberpunk game, the entire game takes place at night – which allows for some truly beautiful lighting. Likewise, the location design takes heavy influence from both “Ghost In The Shell” (especially the ‘Stand Alone Complex” TV series) and “Blade Runner”. Naturally, it looks extremely cool as a result:

Yay! MORE games need to include "Blade Runner"-like streets like THIS :)

Yay! MORE games need to include “Blade Runner”-like streets like THIS 🙂

And more "Ghost In The Shell"-style stuff like THIS :)

And more “Ghost In The Shell”-style stuff like THIS 🙂

Plus, there's also a little bit of Lovecraftian gothic horror too. Seriously, I LOVE how this game looks :)

Plus, there’s also a little bit of Lovecraftian gothic horror too. Seriously, I LOVE how this game looks 🙂

Even though the download for this game is something like 900mb-1gb in size (seriously, it’s a 1990s-style 2D game! Still, the file size isn’t as bloated as some other modern games in this genre like “Deponia“!), the game runs reasonably well even on old computers – although the walking speed during the cyberspace segments can be a little slow.

Likewise, if you’ve got an older PC, then switch the graphics from 32-bit to 16-bit before you start playing. It doesn’t seem to make an obvious visual difference, and it helps the game to run faster. However, if you save your game with one graphics setting, you can’t access those saves if you’re using another graphics setting. So, change the settings before you start playing!

In terms of the voice acting, it’s really good. All of the voice actors fit the characters really well, and their lines are delivered with a movie-like level of quality. Not only that, the voice acting can sometimes be an essential part of the game’s comedy too – especially with robotic characters like Cheffie and Stepford, who have been designed to sound annoying in a hilarious way.

Yes, the food machine's voice sounds JUST as annoying as you would expect. But, she's hilariously funny at the same time.

Yes, the food machine’s voice sounds JUST as annoying as you would expect. But, she’s hilariously funny at the same time.

In terms of music, most of it just seems to be the kind of ambient futuristic music that you would expect. One stand-out tune is a slightly understated rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, which really helps to add some atmosphere to a couple of parts of the game.

However, since this is a relatively new game, the soundtrack isn’t included in the “standard” game download you can buy from GOG. In fact, you have to shell out another few quid in order to “upgrade” to a version of the game that includes MP3 copies of the soundtrack, and other bonus stuff. Still, at least it isn’t modern-style “DLC”, I guess.

All in all, “Technobabylon” is a perfect sci-fi game. Seriously, it’s up there with games like the original “Deus Ex”. Yes, there are a few annoying puzzles – but these are more than made up for by the complex storytelling, the immersive world of the game and the fact that this is a serious, intelligent sci-fi game that still has a sense of humour. The art looks stunning and the characters are really interesting too. As I said, it’s pretty much perfect! Just be sure to keep a walkthrough handy!

If I had to give this game a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Mini Review: “Urban 2” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”)

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Well, although I plan to review an indie game called “Technobabylon” at some point in the near future, I realised that I’d been neglecting “Doom II”. After all, it’s been over a month since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD. So, in light of this sad situation, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a very short WAD called “Urban 2“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, the WAD may possibly work with the original DOS versions of “Doom II” and “Final Doom”, since it also contains an installer of some kind (although you can just use the “URBAN2” and “URBANGFX” files with ZDoom without using the installer).

So, let’s take a look at “Urban 2”:

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As you may have guessed from the screenshot, “Urban 2” is primarily a deathmatch level. However, it does contain a certain amount of single-player content. This includes a defined exit and several monsters to fight. This WAD also contains quite a few new textures and a couple of new item sprites too.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it looks cool. The thing that drew me to it initially was the fact that it’s meant to look a little bit like “Blade Runner”:

Seriously, WHY are there so few cyberpunk WADs? The only other vaguely cyberpunk WADs I can think of are "Dead.Wire", "Valhalla", "Hacx", "Nerves Of Steel", "Winter's Fury" and a few levels from "Ancient Aliens".

Seriously, WHY are there so few cyberpunk WADs? The only other vaguely cyberpunk WADs I can think of are “Dead.Wire”, “Valhalla”, “Hacx”, “Nerves Of Steel”, “Winter’s Fury” and a few levels from “Ancient Aliens”.

Since it’s primarily intended for deathmatch, this WAD is very short too. You can complete the whole thing in less than ten minutes even if, like me, your “Doom II” skills have atrophied somewhat from lack of practice.

Yes, I have one health point. Since I've mostly been playing "point and click" games, platform games and isometric shooters for the month before writing this review, I even actually had to get used to using FPS controls again!

Yes, I have one health point. Since I’ve mostly been playing “point and click” games, platform games and isometric shooters for the month before writing this review, I even actually had to get used to using FPS controls again!

As a deathmatch level, I imagine that “Urban II” probably works really well. The level is divided into a small “street” arena and a subway station. The street area is a fairly simple square arena, with quite a few cool secret areas, lots of explosive barrels, a few alleyways and several low-level monsters.

The subway area consists of a platform, a track, some low-level monsters and the level exist. However the use of a slime texture for the train tracks is somewhat misleading, since it doesn’t actually damage you when you step on it.

 Yes, it's completely harmless! But, unfortunately, it doesn't also give you a healthy green glow.

Yes, it’s completely harmless! But, unfortunately, it doesn’t also give you a healthy green glow.

As a single-player level, it’s short and fairly easy (even if, as I said, you’re slightly out of practice). Even novice “Doom II” players won’t find much in the way of a challenge here. But, to be honest, there’s more to this level than than combat. Even though it might only take you a few minutes to complete it, it’s worth spending those few minutes just for all of the cool visuals on offer here.

It would have been nice to see a full-length single player level in this style, but even a short deathmatch-based level that looks like "Blade Runner" is worth playing.

It would have been nice to see a full-length single player level in this style, but even a short deathmatch-based level that looks like “Blade Runner” is worth playing.

This graffiti art looks really cool, although the lack of imps in this level is somewhat strange (seriously, there are just zombies here).

In addition to all of the enviromental textures, the level also includes a few improved item sprites too. The rocket, bullet box and super-shotgun pickup sprites all contain changes. These changes are fairly subtle, but they all help to make this WAD look a bit more distinctive. I haven’t seen these textures in any other WADs, so they also have a certain uniqueness to them too.

 This new item texture for the Super Shotgun is probably my favourite. However, the actual weapon sprite is completely unchanged.

This new item texture for the Super Shotgun is probably my favourite. However, the actual weapon sprite is completely unchanged.

All in all, this is an entertaining way to spend five minutes. It looks really cool and the new textures work fairly well too. Yes, it’s probably ten times more fun if you’re playing it multiplayer but it’s still cool to see a deathmatch level that acknowledges the existence of single-player gamers too. For what it is, “Urban II” is a pretty cool little level.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it might get a four.

Review: “Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded” (Computer Game)

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Well, after playing quite a bit of the first “Alien Shooter” game (and completing “Zombie Shooter”), I was curious about what the second “Alien Shooter” game would be like.

Thankfully, there was still a sale running on GOG a few days before I originally prepared this review (in late 2016), so I was able to pick up a copy of “Alien Shooter 2” for 79p. I think that it costs about a fiver at full price though.

And, since I completed “Alien Shooter 2” a few minutes before I started writing this review, this will actually be a full review, rather than a partial review or a first impressions article.

Plus, like with the other games in this series, I should probably warn you that this review contains unrealistic/cartoonish GRUESOME IMAGES and BLOODY IMAGES.

So, let’s take a look at “Alien Shooter 2”:

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“Alien Shooter 2” is an isometric third-person perspective action game from 2009. One of the very first things that I will say about this game is that, unlike the first “Alien Shooter” game, this one actually has something of a story to it. In other words, there’s actual voice-acting, NPCs and even the occasional set piece.

Of course, some of the voice acting is kind of funny, such as the voice acting for this character. I literally laughed out loud when he said “deep in the bowels of this place” in a serious voice.

And, yes, there are set pieces like this one too.

And, yes, there are set pieces like this one too.

In other words, this is more like a “mainstream” game in some subtle ways. A few of the levels are somewhat more linear than usual and all of the levels are vaguely story-based. Whilst this detracts from the timelessly thrilling gameplay slightly, it’s something that you can get used to after a while. Even so, most parts of this game are just as thrillingly fast-paced as the first “Alien Shooter” was. And, thankfully, this game isn’t as easy as your typical mainstream game is 🙂

However, before I go any further, I should probably point out that the controls/perspective can take a bit of getting used to. Whilst I’d had a lot of practice with the previous games, one annoying feature in this game is the inclusion of vehicle-based segments (including at least one vehicle-only level).

The vehicles use a totally different control scheme to that used for normal character movements (eg: directions are from the perspective of the vehicle itself, rather than from the perspective of the overhead viewpoint) which can confuse the hell out of you and cause you to swerve around wildly until you finally get used to another set of controls…. only to then have to get used to the “normal” controls again once you leave the vehicle.

Seriously, why couldn’t the vehicles have used the same movement controls as the rest of the game?

The difficulty curve in this game is kind of strange too. Ironically, some of the earlier levels and one level in the middle of the game are more difficult than the later levels. This is mostly because, by the end of the game, you have such powerful weapons and such impressive stats that you may as well be playing with “god mode” enabled.

Yes, as soon as you get one of the better rocket launchers, the difficulty drops from "hard" to "easy" LOL!

Yes, as soon as you get one of the better rocket launchers, the difficulty drops from “hard” to “easy” LOL!

 Yes, even though the last two levels contain five bosses [well, sort of...], it only took me two attempts to beat both levels. Whereas, one level in the middle of the game took me at least six tries to get through!

Yes, even though the last two levels contain five bosses [well, sort of…], it only took me two attempts to beat both levels. Whereas, one level in the middle of the game took me at least six tries to get through!

Another reason why some levels are almost unreasonably difficult is because of the game’s saving system. Whilst this game now allows you to replay previous levels, it still uses the dreaded checkpoint saving system (only saving when you’ve completed a level). Given that one difficult level in the middle of the game is literally half an hour long, having to replay the whole thing every time you fail will probably cause you to ragequit more than a few times.

Yes, getting to this part of the level isn't too difficult after a couple of attempts. But, unless you picked up the hidden rocket launcher (or found enough in-game bonuses to buy it) earlier, then you won't stand a chance in the last part of the level.

Yes, getting to this part of the level isn’t too difficult after a couple of attempts. But, unless you picked up the hidden rocket launcher (or found enough in-game bonuses to buy it) earlier, then you won’t stand a chance in the last part of the level.

On the plus side, this game has received some fairly cool upgrades. Not only are there more characters, weapons and stats available, but you also get to choose an upgradeable ‘perk’ at the beginning of the game. The best one to go for is probably the “vampirism” one (which gives you health every time you destroy a monster) since it complements the aggressive playing style that you’ll need to use. Not to mention that it makes the final boss battle a lot easier too.

Plus, the perk selection screen actually has a sense of humour. Seriously? Humour? In an action game from 2009? Maybe there's hope for games after all....

Plus, the perk selection screen actually has a sense of humour. Seriously? Humour? In an action game from 2009? Maybe there’s hope for games after all….

But, unlike other games in this series, you can’t use bonus items you find whilst playing to buy extra lives. You only get extra lives on the rare occasions that a monster drops a “+1” power-up. I don’t know why they left this feature out, since it makes a couple of the levels more difficult than they should have been. But, for the most part, it doesn’t affect the game too much.

Graphically, the game has been given a huge upgrade compared to the previous game. The lighting in this game looks beautiful, and most of the locations, animations and monsters are more detailed too. Whilst this gives the game a lot more atmosphere and allows some parts of it to be even more ludicrously gruesome than the first “Alien Shooter” game, it does come at a cost. If you’re using an older computer, then expect some fairly long loading times both between missions and when you load up the game itself. Still, if you set the graphics to minimum, then the actual gameplay itself will still run at a decent speed.

Fun fact: This game came out at least a year BEFORE “Brutal Doom” did, and yet this one monster death animation somehow manages to be more splatterific than all of “Brutal Doom” combined.

And just check out this awesome lighting! Yes, there are some parts of the game that are set during boring daylight, but the gloomy corridors are the best parts of the game.

And just check out this awesome lighting! Yes, there are some parts of the game that are set during boring daylight, but the gloomy corridors are the best parts of the game.

The game also contains the usual survival modes etc… too. I didn’t really have much of a chance to check these out but from, what I saw, they seemed to be pretty much what you would expect.

All in all, this is still an absolutely brilliant action game. Whilst it lacks some of the pure thrilling simplicity of the first “Alien Shooter” game, it’s still a fairly solid action game.

Yes, some of the changes in the sequel don’t work that well (vehicles especially!) and the difficulty curve is a bit strange, but it’s still the kind of thrilling action game that could probably put most modern mega-budget games to shame. It may look a little bit more like a “mainstream” game, but it’s still pretty much the same thrilling action-fest that the first “Alien Shooter” was.

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

Partial Review: “Eradicator” (Retro Computer Game)

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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.

Review: “Zombie Shooter” (Computer Game)

2017-artwork-zombie-shooter-review-sketch

Well, it’s been way too long since I last played a zombie game! So, when I saw that a game called “Zombie Shooter” was on special offer on GOG (it had been reduced from £4.99 to 79p) a few days before I originally wrote this review, I just had to check it out.

Plus, since this is a review of a zombie game, it almost goes without saying but I should probably warn you that this review will contain (unrealistic) GRUESOME IMAGES / BLOODY IMAGES.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Zombie Shooter”:

zombie-shooter-logo

“Zombie Shooter” is a low budget third-person perspective shooting game from 2007. It takes a fairly old-school approach to both the graphics and the gameplay, and is the kind of timeless 2D game that could easily have been released any time from the mid-late 1990s onwards.

Seriously, the minimum processor you need for this game is a Pentium III (unlike some modern 2D games that can require a dual-core!) and the download is only a slender 56mb in size (again, why are modern 2D games sometimes over 1gb in size?). Modern indie developers take note, this is how “retro-style” games should be made!

In many ways, the gameplay in “Zombie Shooter” is a little bit like a cross between “Serious Sam” and modern-style “Doom II” WADs. In other words, it’s the kind of game where you will be faced with ludicrously large hordes of monsters on a regular basis. Yes, there are also some mild RPG-like elements, but these never get in the way of the gameplay.

These RPG elements take the form of a limited character selection option at the beginning of the game, and the ability to use bonus items you find in the game (there’s none of this modern “pay to win” rubbish here 🙂 ) to buy new weapons , buy more ammo, upgrade your weapons, buy extra lives and/or upgrade your character’s stats between levels.

Yes, this screen matters a LOT more than you might think. And, unlike in modern games, it ISN'T trying to swindle you out of real life cash either :)

Yes, this screen matters a LOT more than you might think. And, unlike in some modern games, it ISN’T trying to swindle you out of real life cash either 🙂

Often, the best option isn’t to buy a shiny new gun, but to upgrade a few key weapons (pistols, rocket launcher and flamethrower) repeatedly. Likewise, max out your health stats first- you’ll need all the extra health points you can get!

For example, there’s a disc gun that can slice through lines of zombies. But, you’re still better off focusing on a few weapons rather than trying out novelty weapons like this one.

Since this game uses the dreaded checkpoint saving (albeit with a lives system), this also means that if you fail a level then you can try again using a different combination of weapons and/or upgrades. This helps to introduce an extra level of strategy to what would otherwise be a fairly standard action game.

And, yes, you'll be failing levels quite a bit. This isn't one of those ultra-easy modern games!

And, yes, you’ll be failing levels quite a bit. This isn’t one of those ultra-easy modern games!

This, of course, brings me on to the gameplay. One of the first things that I will say is that the controls take a bit of getting used to. Although the game uses modern-style keyboard/mouse controls, the character movement isn’t always as predictable as it might initially seem – due to the isometric perspective that the game uses. Plus, the mouse aiming can take a while to get used to too.

This isometric perspective can also mean that your view is occasionally blocked by walls too. So, expect a bit of frustration during about the first hour or so of gameplay whilst you get used to the perspective. It would have been better if this game had used a top-down perspective, but I can see why they went with the isometric perspective, since it allows the graphics to contain a lot more detail.

Not only can your character be obscured by walls, so can the zombies!

Not only can your character be obscured by walls, so can the zombies!

Likewise, due to the high number of monsters and the game’s zoomed-out perspective, it’s possible to lose track of where your character is during gameplay. Some kind of glowing outline would have really helped to make certain parts of the game a lot less confusing. Still, like with the controls, this is something that you’ll probably get used to after a while.

Problems aside, this game is fun! It’s fast, action-packed and thrilling. It’s kind of like a third-person version of all the great classic FPS games. You can find secret areas, you have to explore levels that are at least slightly non-linear (though much more linear than old FPS games) and you’ll need to use strategy sometimes.

As you would expect from a 1990s-style zombie game, this game is gruesome! In fact, this is probably one of the goriest games that I’ve ever played – with the levels literally being awash with blood at various points in the game. Seriously, it’s up there with “Brutal Doom” and “Left 4 Dead 2”! But, if you’re squeamish, then you can apparently change the blood colour in the options menu.

Although the gameplay can get slightly repetitive sometimes, the game helps to keep things interesting by introducing multiple monster types. The most inventive of these is probably a type of enemy who looks like a soldier at first glance but, when killed, will transform into a fast-moving mutant creature that resembles the “Tyrant” bosses from the old “Resident Evil” games. Although this game isn’t particularly scary, this certainly caught me by surprise the first time I saw it…

Yes, there's actual CREATIVITY with some of the monster designs!

Yes, there’s actual CREATIVITY with some of the monster designs!

The game’s difficulty curve is a little bit inconsistent too. The early levels will be surprisingly challenging, due to your character’s weak weapons. However, when you’ve upgraded the pistols to the point where they’re basically dual uzis, the game gets easier for a while….

Yes, the upgraded pistols are actually BETTER than the shotgun! Heresy!!!

Yes, the upgraded pistols are actually BETTER than the shotgun! Heresy!!!

And, just when you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, you’ll find yourself playing a level which would be considered “excessive”, even by the standards of the modern “Doom II” modding community. But, like a challenging “Doom II” WAD, the game isn’t quite “unfair” though (eg: the levels are hard, but winnable).

Despite it’s relatively short length (it took me about 4-6 hours, spread over two days, to beat the main campaign), “Zombie Shooter” makes up for this by giving you an enjoyable, but occasionally frustrating, challenge on a regular basis. This also means that it never really feels like a “short” game either.

Yes, even THIS level can be beaten with enough perseverence.

Yes, even THIS level can be beaten with enough perseverence.

In addition to this, the game also includes a few cool set-pieces, like allowing you to control an automated gun turret in a nearby room.

Although this might seem a little bit boring at first, this segment is made more interesting by the fact that – if you don’t protect two doors near the turret’s controls, the monsters can actually attack you. If you stop using the turret to fight them, then the number of monsters surging towards the doors will began to increase…

Yes, this part is a bit more complex than it initially seems.

Yes, this part is a bit more complex than it initially seems.

The game’s final boss battle is worth a mention too. It’s as punishingly difficult as you might think (a fully-upgraded flamethrower is a must!) but, like in old-school FPS games, the boss can also be damaged by parts of the environment too.

In other words, if you turn on two generators and then lure the boss between two large tesla coils, then you can demolish about a fifth of his health bar in a few seconds.

Yes! This is gloriously retro :)

Yes! This is gloriously retro 🙂

However, every time you do this, the game spawns in another horde of low-mid level monsters. So, as I said, make sure that your flamethrower is fully upgraded before you start playing this level.

From what I gather from the menus, this game also includes a couple of other gameplay modes (“Survive” and “Gun Stand”). I haven’t really checked these out at the time of writing – but, given the game’s short length, I guess that they add some replay value to the game.

In terms of stability, this game can be a little bit unstable. Basically, if you hit the “Windows” key whilst playing, then (on older PCs like mine at least) there’s a chance that you’ll need to restart your computer. But, apart from this (and a couple of temporary sound problems when I started the game for the very first time), it seems to be fairly stable and reliable. Even on my computer, which is a little over a decade old, the game only ever slowed down very briefly during the most intense sections.

In terms of music, the best track in the game is probably the main menu theme (which is suitably dramatic). However, the rest of the music isn’t really that memorable.

All in all, this game isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a low-budget action game which is resolutely old-school, and it is a joy to play. Yes, the controls and perspective can be awkward. Yes, it’s a little bit short (but it never really feels “short” when you’re playing). And, yes, you’re likely to ragequit a few times whilst playing. But, if you can get this game when it is on special offer, then you’ll get more than your money’s worth. Plus, it’s one of those games that “does what it says on the tin” too.

If I had to give this game a rating out of five, it would probably get somewhere between three and four. It’s really fun, if somewhat imperfect.