Saturday 20 February 2010

Gaming Reviews

Undead Knights
Tecmo Koei
Available From 26th February - £29.99 (PSP)
Review by Blake Harmer

Undead Knights is fun, there is no denying it. What other game makes you a shambling undead abomination with the ability turn your enemies into your own undead minions and have them feast upon the rest of the bad guys who happen to be still breathing?

The game has a similar graphical look and feel to the Dynasty Warriors franchise, except that rather than being able to fire arrows and unleash super attacks, you give orders to your zombie horde such as "eat these people", "smash those buildings up" etc, and turn bad guys into the undead when you have softened them up a bit. You can also pick up your minions and perform different attacks such as a powerful area based attack all around you, although this does turn the zombie into mush.

This leads to a fun satisfying experience where you can order your minions to do your evil bidding, but you can also do some serious damage yourself in a punch up, so you don’t have to rely on them. Also, it’s immensely satisfying when you defeat some of the larger enemies and convert them to a zombie as well so they run clobbering everything left right and centre.

However, as the game progresses, the main flaws of the game quickly become apparent. It’s too easy to get stuck in a corner and clobbered to death by some of the larger minions, as dodging blows can be quite tricky to time it right. Also, with the larger monsters, it is always the same two ways of killing them, it is either by picking up zombies and throwing enough of them at them until they are so overwhelmed you can do critical hits on them. Or using a zombie smash when you are near them repeatedly until they die. Despite these flaws, and the irritating fact that you can’t issue orders when you are being attacked, and you must stand still to have the zombies complete a task, Undead Knights is still fun as it’s quick "pick up and play" havoc, with enjoyable bite sized levels for those trips to and from work.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Similar graphics to the Dynasty Warrior games, where the emphasis is more on the number of enemies on screen, rather than looking pretty.
Sound/Music: Enjoyable groans and munching noises from your zombies, voice acting could be a lot better.
Gameplay: Simple hack-and-slash gameplay with some light tactical elements. It’s fun but not as deep as I would have liked it to be.
Lasting Appeal: If the online mode gets fixed and you have lots of mates to beat up, then potentially endless, however you will soon quickly tire of the single player experience.
Summary: An enjoyable game let down by some frustrating flaws that stop it jsut short of brilliant. There aren’t many games on PSP that will give you this experience so I recommend this for people who want to try something different whilst waiting for the next big release. Just don’t scare people on the bus with your evil laugh as you play. 7/10

Democracy Falls
Judge Dredd
Mongoose Publishing

Available Now - £15.00 (Paperback) and £11.66 (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer

Democracy Falls – a hub of opportunity for those in the Cursed Earth with the skills, gear and guts to try and survive within its gang-patrolled wall. Located a few hundred miles west of Mega City One on the ruins of one of America’s ancient heartland capitals, ‘D-Falls’ is a dream for Cursed Earthers…and a nightmare to the Justice Department. It has always loomed in the distance, standing as a reminder that the Mega Cities are not the only civilisations to thrive in this day and age.

The Justice Department has always turned a blind eye to the existence of Democracy Falls, choosing to use its resources more efficiently than laying siege to it. The appearance of a new criminal game in the lower blocks has changed the status quo, forcing the Chief Judges to take action. This new game, called Bloodrace, is well-known to have started in Democracy Falls – and it just claimed its first Judge’s life.

Now the Justice Department needs a small team of Judges willing to leave the safety of Mega City One to bring justice to the Bloodrace organisers – those who brought the game to MC-1’s streets. Everyone is allowed to enter Democracy Falls, even Judges…the only problem is getting back out again.

In many ways it’s a shame that Democracy Falls is so heavily embedded in the Judge Dredd universe, because a crime scenario like this would be a great one for many different crime/investigation RPGs. The plot of the mystery is very linear (don’t investigations have to be?), but the potential for exploration and subplots is virtually endless.

The pacing of the adventure will be spot on for most groups, providing a pretty even 50/50 split of role-play and investigation, and shoot-outs and high-octane chases. Even if that won’t keep all of your PCs happy all of the time, it’ll at least keep some of them happy some of the time.

As with other releases from Mongoose, its only real problem is that it’s absolutely stuffed with things to do and investigate. In many ways that’s great, as there’s oodles and oodles of extra backgrounds, ideas for sequels and some really great one-shots here. However, the editing of the book seems a little odd, as the wealth of the information about Democracy Falls is dumped in the middle of the book, when the Judges arrive there, and it really interrupts the flow of the narrative. Once I’d got passed it, it took me a page of so to remember what was supposed to be going on.

Maybe Mongoose should take a leaf out of Chaosium’s books and put a narrative summary at the start, and all the campaign setting stuff in an easily referable appendix at the end.
With that said, this is a well-rounded, packed out campaign. Mongoose have done it again. 9/10

Strontium Dog
Sourcebook/Campaign Setting
Mongoose Publishing

Available Now - £25.00 (Hardback) and £18.14 (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer

Earth, the late 22nd century. Following the atomic war of 2150, Britain has been devastated by nuclear holocaust. The survivors rebuilt their lives, but many were warped by the mutating effects of Strontium 90 fallout. Unable to live or work amongst the ‘norms’, mutants were forced to grow up in ghettos and take the only job open to them – bounty hunting. These Search/Destroy Agents hunt the criminals too dangerous for the Galactic Crime Commission. One such Strontium Dog is Johnny Alpha, whose eyes emit piercing Alpha rays and enable him to see through solid objects - and into men’s minds.

Using the Traveller core rules, Strontium Dog allows players to take the part of mutant bounty hunters, combing the galaxy for their prey – dead or alive!

Personally, I think it’s a real shame that both Judge Dredd and now Strontium Dog are relegated to being campaign settings for Traveller, rather than solid RPGs in their own right. Traveller is an okay system for them, but aren’t there enough gamers out there to justify making them full RPGs?

With that little grumble done with...this is an excellent sourcebook. It’s size, scope and dedication to its setting only really underlines the point that this should have been a full blown game. The character creation system, for starters, is excellent. Containing some echoes of the Leading Edge Aliens RPG (only without the clunkiness), the wealth of possibilities for your hero’s background (generated randomly) is endless. You could be a grizzled, scarred veteran, or totally green – both are possible!

On top of this the mutations list (also rolled randomly during character creation) is excellent, and the sheer number of possibilities should keep most groups happy indefinitely.

Some of the later elements boil down to basic sci-fi, but then again, so does a lot of the Strontium Dog universe. If you have access to a Traveller rulebook, and some friends who dig the comic, then you could have a blast with this for a long time. If not, however, don’t fork out for the core rulebook just to play this. 8/10

Dark Fall: Lost Souls
Darkling Room
Iceberg Interactive

Available Now - £24.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

If any of you are wondering where the adventure games genre has been over the last ten years (aside from the odd piece of episodic brilliance in the form of Monkey Island and Sam & Max), you’ll be happy to know that they are still being made, although not in as high a budget as the big releases of today.

Lost Souls is the third instalment in the Dark Fall series, but can stand on its own perfectly fine if you haven’t played the other games. You play an inspector in search of Amy, a missing girl in an abandoned and haunted train station.

The game likes to keep things simple by keeping the game in a first person perspective and having you looking for clues and solving puzzles whilst the clever use of sound and the occasional apparition attempt to scare the pants off you.

However, the game is let down by some poor dialogue in places that hampers the storyline and even spoilt my immersion into the game a couple of times. Also, some puzzles, as they are to do with the supernatural, are annoyingly difficult, with very imaginative solutions. However, look past these flaws and this is an enjoyable budget title that is worth a look at if you like your horror and your point and click adventures.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Sub-Par considering other games out there. But for a game created by such a small team, a lot of credit has to be given for what they came up with.
Sound/Music: Excellent use of creepy sound effects to scare you whilst you play. But some poor dialogue in some scenes can spoil the experience.
Gameplay: Simple point and click adventuring with some horribly difficult puzzles made up for by lots of atmosphere and a story compelling enough to hold your interest.
Lasting Appeal: Depends how you find the puzzles, I found some very difficult but some point-and-Click lovers may breeze through the game in a few hours.
Summary: An experience filled with scares and imagination despite its obviously low budget. If you liked point-and-click adventures, this will not disappoint you. But be prepared for some incredibly difficult puzzles, and some scarily bad dialogue. 7/10

1 comment:

  1. I think I'd really enjoy the Strontium Dog campaign setting. Great reviews as usual, guys.