Magic Moments Part 1

I, like many other gamers I imagine, have memories of pivotal events in their gaming ‘history’, those key moments etched into our brains often alongside more mainstream recollections like your first pet or day at school.

Those that know me will already be aware that my memory is shockingly bad, I can barely remember last month, let alone last year. So it always comes as a surprise to me that I have many vivid recollections of seemingly common events from my past.

I’ll try and starting at my first gamer related memory:

  • Waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning to sneak downstairs and set-up the new ZX Spectrum+, only to find that my mum had the same idea. I remember going through the manual, entering in the commands, switching the background colours and drawing circles all over the shop. To a 7 year old, it was a fantastic form of magic.
  • Magic was also needed to calibrate the cassette player.
  • The first big game I remember getting stuck into was Combat Zone, which was a wireframe 3d Tank game, the bigger bosses were rather tough and I remember the day I was able to take down and progress passed those diamond shaped menaces.
  • Another major time sink was the turn based Chaos:Battle of the Wizards, this game had so many set-ups,options and outcomes it was a different game each match.
    If someone was to turn it into a Facebook game I would be doomed and loose all my free time.
  • Chase H.Q. – need I say more?
  • We upgraded to a ZX Spectrum +2 a number of years later, it came with a light-gun and remember getting cramp from spending too long playing Rookie and Operation Wolf with the lightgun that came in bundle.
  • I recall we also played the Bullseye game to death, although I never knew the answers to the questions but it was a real family game. Who needs a Wii?
  • I remember rushing home once a month to find what games were on the cover of the monthly Crash magazine. You HAD to load each in turn and try them all out, plus try out any pokes for games I owned.
  • I recall playing Gauntlet (not sure of the platform) for what felt like 8 hours straight on one rainy day at a friends house. I was epic and I was told the following day that I was sleep talking shouting about have to get the gold.
  • There were a number of arcade machines that I really played to death in my early teens, they were each located in different shops & cafes in my town, so once you got a turn you aimed to play until you ran out of coins. I have many memories of spending afternoons hogging the titles:
    • Double Dragon
    • Altered Beast
    • WWF Superstars
  • Finishing R-Type on the SEGA master system, ok not all that great but the the plastic DPad on the controller had broken off and I had to use the pressure pads for movement.
  • I bought my cousins NES with a bundle of games a few months before we moved to France, I have to say that other than learning all the secrets to Super Mario Bros . 3, The Battle of Olympus & Rygar.
  • Next was the MegaDrive, it’s look was futuristic when compared to the Master System and definitely the NES.
  • I had the triple game cartridge that was shipped with the console and I happily completed Streets of Rage 2, in what felt like a mammoth sitting, but I may have left the console on overnight.
  • There were a number of fantastic games on the Mega Drive, but I remember each of them with a fondness reserved for those games that frustrated & delighted you simultaneously, the list includes but isn’t limited to Earthworm Jim, Duck Tales,Corporation, Aladdin, Dizzy, Jungle & Desert Strike, the fantastic Flashback.

Well that’s it for part one, I have most likely missed too many to mention, but I had a great time wading through all those old titles.

As I was finishing writing this up, I spotted a post over at the Ancient Gaming Noob, which I thought was in a similar nostalgic theme, so please give it a read.

Blu-ray riddle

While adding items to wish-lists on Amazon for Christmas it became very apparent that many of the Triple-Play/DVD-Bluray options for more recent releases are only £4 more than the DVD only option.

Is it wrong to add Triple play versions to my wishlist despite not owning a Blu-ray player and with no clear plans to get one in the immediate future?

As it appears that Blu-ray only options are be coming scarce, it seems like an extra £4 is the cheapest option to future-proof a film collection.

Anyone else had this same dilemma?

Fallen London calling

London has gone, well not gone exactly, it’s been taken elsewhere.

Echo Bazaar is a web-based game that uses social networks (Twitter and Facebook) for sign-in authentication. Of the countless games on my radar that grapple for my free time this one only asks for 10 minutes at a time, but I have a tough time deciding what to do with those minutes.

Setting

The game is set in Victorian London that has been pulled into the earth and now resides in what is commonly known as the ‘Neath. For what purpose? Well I’ll leave that for you to discover but I can tell you that this isn’t the first city to have been ‘acquired’.
The are many common elements that appear familiar but often have an unusual twist in this game.

Gameplay

You are limited to a maximum of 10 actions at any one time, these gradually refresh 1 every 6 minutes, you are also limited to a total of 60 actions in one day.

The type of actions you can perform are defined by your location and by your progress in one of four skills. These shape your character and the path they follow, new tasks are unlocked and old ones vanish as you gain experience in each skill.
Additionally there are also opportunity cards that can be played at any location.

Interactions

Although it uses social media for sign in, thankfully it doesn’t demand that you pressure your friends into playing to increase your enjoyment or bombard your social feeds with information.

The only messages are sent with your full knowledge/permission, messages to friends on twitter are sent via Direct message rather than appearing in your timeline.

Summary

The tales found in the game are entertaining and each new thing you discovers gives a little more insight and knowledge about Fallen London and it’s inhabitants.
There are many avenues to travel in order to progress the stories, whether it’s joining a lynch mob, lecturing at the University or spending time in the local pub, each is unique and unlocks more clues or mysteries.

The game isn’t without niggling issues that frustrate players, sometimes there is a lack of options and you need to grind the same content for a level, there is much that can be done without purchasing any in game premium currency (Fate), but without it some areas are locked from you.

That said  I still find the game really enjoyable, I’ve been playing on and off since early 2010.  You can ask friends to help you out, normally at the expense of their sanity, but that’s all part of life here in what remains of London.

Sanctum

Have you ever play a tower defence game, only to become frustrated when one enemy defies all odd and survives everything you throw at them?
Yes of course you have, wouldn’t it be nice to help out rather than feeling like an omnipotent ruler up on high who can’t stop a single lone enemy?
Well you can!

Sanctum is a Tower Defence game blended with elements of a FPS, set in the futuristic landscape of Elysion One, your goal is to defend a (power) core from hordes of aliens.
You achieve this by controlling the path of the enemies and building towers to inflict as much damage as possible on said enemies.

It follows a standard defence game format:

  • Setup time (build)
  • one wave of enemies(fight!)
  • Repeat

The first person perspective allows you to blast away alongside your turrets, tackle those troublesome enemies before they become a bigger problem.
This certainly gives the game a fun and different slate on the defence genre, but sometimes the maps are awkward to traverse, this is overcome by instant teleporters.

The Unreal engine works nicely and the soundtrack is well designed to match the games tempo.

I’ve not really had much chance to try out the co-op/multiplayer mode so this write-up is purely from a single player perspective.

Playability 3 | Graphics 3 | Audio 3 | Longevity 2 | Originality 4
Total 15 out of 25

The orignal game isn’t huge and you can burn through it rather fast, there are some alternative game modes that extend this briefly but the core gameplay won’t take more than 5 to 10 hours depending on the
difficultly.
However the game has some DLC including a few new maps available for purchase, however I believe that a newly released gold version of the game includes this DLC.

Kindling

What with the announcements of new Kindles galore, I suddenly realised that I have never really mentioned my Kindle on here. It arrived as an unexpected birthday present, secretly plotted by my wife, a gift that one that I now consider one of the most useful and entertaining ever.

I take it most places and generally fit in some reading each day, whether it is on the bus journey to work or during
my lunch break.

I have to admit I was nervous of adopting the Kindle in favour of paper-based products, but I really do enjoy the flexibility it offers.
Whatever my mood I can find a book to suit and it’s certainly easier than carting a number of books around in your bag.

I think that samples functionality is great, allowing you to browse the Amazon site for books & send samples of those that interest you to your Kindle.
Samples allow you to expand your reading landscape without having to spend anything, they are a great way to find new authors, genres or forgotten favourites.

Owning a Kindle causes a number of odd things to happen:

  1. Random people will just start talking to you about books, not
    always a bad thing.
  2. People who are interest in Kindles expect you to try and sell the product too them, very odd lines of questioning.
  3. Other Kindle owners seem to only read free books, you feel like the only one purchasing books.
  4. I read things that I’ve not bothered to pick-up before now
  5. Visiting WH Smiths & Waterstones become an exercise of picking out title you may like for later.
  6. People expect it to be a touch screen and I laugh.

Many people still seem uncertain about buying Kindle, they seem to see it as a question of Kindle or new [Insert Pad Device Here], with the new Kindle (without keyboard) is bringing the device closer to peoples price range, I hope to see more family and friends with one.

In my experience it?s changed my reading habits for the better, even if it?s a little pricier due to the VAT being charged for online books (except when you notice how they compare to hardback prices on new
releases).