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Chronological Challenge Reviews – Zelda: Ocarina of Time / Sonic Adventure

March 31, 2016 1 comment

It’s taken far too long to get here, but we’re finally here. The last two games of 1998. The games of 1999 are coming soon (hopefully tomorrow for the first two?) but for now, enjoy my reviews of the last that 1998 had to offer!

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo | Year: 1998
Original System: Nintendo 64
Played on: Wii Virtual Console

Goal: Save Hyrule from Ganondorf while collecting all Heart Pieces and other hidden items

Actual Outcome: Explored every nook and cranny of Hyrule then stabbed Ganon in the face

The N64 has been an incredibly mixed bag for me during this challenge. While I loved the system back in the day, it’s clear that many of the games haven’t aged as well as I had hoped. This has included ‘classics’ such as Super Mario 64, which I continue to insist is Not Very Good.

So now it’s time to pick on another N64 classic. A sacred cow for many, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often heralded as The Greatest Game Ever Made, until of course the objective taste-makers of the Internet, GameFAQs, determined that Undertale was superior. So now it’s time to reveal Ocarina as a hollow shell, something remembered better than it actually holds up, and a complete waste of time to anyone trying to get into it now. Read more…

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Chronological Game Challenge – Half Life / Tomb Raider 3

March 30, 2016 1 comment

Hi! It’s been a long time since I posted any Chronological Challenge reviews, which is especially bad because of just how far behind I am. For context, I’ve got four reviews left for 1998, while in terms of actually playing games, I’m at my last two games of 1999.

So let’s address that by clearing out two more reviews for 1998. Today it’s a beloved FPS and another entry in my favourite franchise. How do they hold up?

Half-Life
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment | Developer: Valve Corp | Year: 1998 (PC release)
Original System: Windows
Played on: PS2 (2001 port)

Goal: Escape from Black Mesa

Actual Outcome: Gave up when a large thing appeared and I realised I wasn’t enjoying myself

Half-Life is well-known for being one of the most influential first-person shooters in the history of video games. After Doom and Quake, this game was the next game to really revolutionise where the genre was heading. It introduced in-game storylines and chatty NPCs, and was pretty much the start of Valve’s journey towards the owners and operators of the dominant PC gaming marketplace.

It’s also dated really badly.

Now, some might take a peek at the stats up there and go “well, I see your problem, you played the PS2 version” and I get you. I see what you’re getting at. PC Master Race yada, yada, yada. I hear you, and as always, I ignore you. Especially as the PS2 version was also critically acclaimed and is generally considered an excellent port. Plus I actually enjoyed the PS3 port of its sequel (more on that in 2004), so this is all the game.

Now, the game starts strong. We get a load of good atmosphere as we take an ominous train journey that sets up just how secretive and deep underground the game is, and what weird, mysterious things are likely to be going on. Then you have some pleasant chat with your colleagues as you walk about the place, heading to your job for the day. It’s a little shaky and looks a bit crap now, but I can live with that. Tomb Raider is my favourite series. I’m used to this.

And then we get into the meat of the gameplay and…I’m sorry. I really can’t get into this.

First of all, the game gets incredibly repetitive. You spend a lot of your time wandering through maze-like hallways, hoping to find something notable or interesting to interact with. Enemy variety isn’t great, and quite a few times when a new enemy has been introduced, it’s killed me before I can figure out what’s going on.

Half-Life spends a lot of time also expecting you to look in certain places at certain times, and more often than not, I found myself looking elsewhere as a headcrab decided to spawn and attack me immediately. I lost track of how many times the game expected me to do something quickly without giving me any indication of what I actually had to do. I’m not saying the game needs to hold my hand and signpost everything, but try and give me some space to figure things out, please, rather than throw everything at me at once and then punish me for not knowing everything I had to do immediately.

For instance, I spent an alarming amount of time getting murdered by a helicopter that fired missiles at a courtyard area. The layout of the area, with enemy soldiers attacking you from many sides, feels like it’s set up as a battle arena, and that you need to take out the helicopter. But the issue is that the game doesn’t want you to do this, it wants you to enter the tiniest hatch in one corner and escape before the missiles arrive, because they’re an instant kill. Nothing indicates that you need to head that way yet, as the door is concealed and seems almost like something that opens when you’re done. It was frustrating.

The section after that didn’t improve things. I took a wrong turn in a vent and ended up backtracking through most of the previous level to find a dead end. The actual route was hidden behind a fan that looked completely impassible, and I was tearing my hair out trying to second-guess the developers’ intentions.

Even when I did know what I was doing, there were far too many moments of frustration with combat and basic mechanics. Half-Life’s combat mechanics feel too stiff and awkward to be particularly fun, most likely due to age, and don’t get me started on every single time I have to jump. The bit with the open elevator, where you have to jump to a ladder? Don’t talk to me about it. Just don’t.

Thing is, I can recognise that back in 1998 when FPSes mostly revolved around shooting space monsters in hallways draped in blood and little else, I can see how this was an amazing leap that changed the way things were done, but Christ it has AGED. It’s too stiff, too fiddly and too obtuse for me to recommend playing it now if you never played it before. In other words, exactly like me.

Tomb Raider III
Publisher: Eidos Interactive | Developer: Core Design | Year: 1998
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Collect the meteorite artifacts and find all the secrets in the process

Actual Outcome: All secrets found, end credits viewed and all recorded for the Internet to watch

When I reached this game on the challenge, I was actually still recording my Let’s Play of it over on my channel. So technically, that LP is my playthrough for the challenge too, just because they aligned so nicely.

So in other words, if you’ve watched that, you already know how I feel about Tomb Raider 3. If you haven’t watched it, you should probably go watch it because it’s pretty neat.

Tomb Raider 3 is an interesting addition to the series. While certainly not one of the worst in the series, it’s far from being the best the series has to offer. Most of this seems to boil down to the fact that Core Design seemed to be aware that one of the things people loved about the series at the time was its puzzle design. This is true, of course, but Core’s answer to this was to increase the difficulty of everything, and leave the player to it. It’s like saying that hiking’s fun, but it could be a more enjoyable experience if you get chased by a bear.

Tomb Raider 3’s problem is that for much of its length, it’s not the most enjoyable experience in the world. If you’ve watched my LP, you’ll probably get a sense for this. Levels such as Madubu Gorge and Lud’s Gate are often riddled with issues that make them a chore to navigate – dodging flames while monkey swinging! A kayak that barely responds to you! A UPV that likes to attach itself to walls or sometimes get stuck in mid-air! Clumsy stealth sections!

This is exacerbated by the fact that the PS1 version of the game has an almost Resident-Evil-style save system, where you save using items that are limited in supply. This means you end up being conservative with saving, stumbling into danger and then having to repeat most of the level again. Oh, and THAT gets exacerbated further by the fact that many of the save crystals are hidden as secrets rather than just scattered around in the main level areas, and often getting those secrets involves putting yourself in excessive danger leading to more deaths. Have fun!

The difficulty is a real shame, because Tomb Raider 3 does have a lot going for it. It once again builds on the formula set from the previous game and builds on it and improves it in many ways. Graphics are smoother, and the level design is improved from the game moving away from square polygons and into triangular polygons (the game’s made from triangles! It’s important!). And the variety of place visited is wonderful and I love it.

Yes, the environments are a lot more varied this time around. From the balmy not-really paradise of the South Pacific to the sci-fi bleakness of Area 51, Lara’s adventures leap around all over the place, and it makes exploring even more fun. London is a particular favourite, with the Aldwych level providing great atmosphere and some really interesting puzzles and challenges. The final levels get a bit bonkers, with a lost Polynesian culture infested with giant mutant yeti things and (shudder) giant wasps, but then again, the previous games were equally crazy at the end so it’s par for the course.

But man, it’s hard to get past the difficulty issues. It’s hard to be wowed by the presence of a spaceship when the gun turret outside keeps murdering because you can barely see the lasers that activate it. It’s hard to take in the atmosphere of rushing rapids when your kayak flails around into rocks all the time. It’s hard to get invested in the London lore when you’re steadily drowning due to your UPV glitching out and getting stuck in mid-air. And it’s hard to be horrified by the mutations found in Antarctica when you keep bonking your head on barriers you can barely see from your mine cart.

Tomb Raider 3 has some great ideas, and a lot of great design, but the levels get too long, the difficulty spikes way too high, and the game ends up being an irritation more often than a challenge. There are worse games in the series, but this one ends up somewhere in the middle, just because of those issues.

YouTube Recap: Busy Busy Busy

March 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Hello everyone! I didn’t do an update last week because I got sick again. Fortunately, this seemed to actually clear by the end of the week, but I’ve also had a busy week in non-channel, non-writing ways, so I’ve not been as active as I’d like to be. Read more…

Categories: BTPF YouTube Roundup

YouTube Recap: Headset Blues

March 7, 2016 Leave a comment

Hi there. Sorry this didn’t go up yesterday, as the issues I’m about to describe contributed greatly to why that didn’t happen.

So last week was pretty bad for me. It took forever for my new headset to show up, so there have been no new Ferret’s Firsts for a while, and there was no Chatty Corner this week either. To add insult to injury, when the headset did show up, I came down with a cold for two days so recording was still very much off the table. Then when I was finally able to record, I discovered that my new headset was faulty and making noises that sounded like I was in a wind tunnel with a car alarm going off in the far distance while I hit the microphone repeatedly. Then I ordered a replacement for pick-up, but I then suffered from severe insomnia that meant I was a complete zombie all of yesterday. Hence the lack of a post too.

So last week there were only the pre-uploaded Let’s Play parts. Which is good, because it means something still went up, and highlights exactly why I record and edit in advance! Read more…

Categories: BTPF YouTube Roundup