Archive for May, 2008

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One

May 21, 2008

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness: Episode One is a hybrid RPG/point-and-click adventure game that follows the characters from the Penny Arcade webcomic as they take on a Lovecraftian quest. The demo is limited to the tutorial section of the game, and consists of a handful of fights against repetitive enemies, plus a few cutscenes and some dialog “trees” (actually, all the branches arrive at the same place). This is coupled with the standard adventure game pursuit of clicking on every available object, which rewards the player with funny dialog or descriptions, occasional bonuses like concept art, and items like heals and potions. These latter objects are useless in the demo, as the enemies are too weak to be a challenge, particularly since the real-time combat system allows blocking their attacks. Not only that, but the demo refuses to let any of the characters die, healing them if they take any significant damge. Only the final fight is at all interesting, managing a party of three against a full gang of opponents can be enjoyably hectic. The presentation is great; fans of Penny Arcade will get some laughs and appreciate seeing the characters and style in another format. Non-fans won’t get anything from the demo.

1/3 – For fans only

Tech details:

Size: 210 MB (preloads the game)

System Requirements: 1 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, 64 MB GeForce 5200/Radeon 9500/GMA 950, Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Linux, OS X 10.4/10.5

Kane and Lynch: Dead Men

May 11, 2008

Do you like clich├ęs? If so, then we have the demo for you. Kane and Lynch ticks the standard third-person shooter boxes; it has a standard loadout of guns and grenades, a cover system, AI team mates, regenerating health, and waves of generic enemies to gun down. The four combat scenes are based on a Heat-esque assassination mission, and are scattered with pillars that fly apart Matrix-style under fire. However, the game shows some sophistication between the swear words, even if the demo doesn’t allow time for it to develop: rappelling down a skyscraper neatly foreshadows the gun battle in the street below, and the characters at least have a hint of originality – putting a bald spot on the player character in a third-person shooter is a brave idea, and getting mortally wounded brings your character’s subconscious to the surface for a few seconds and lets you hear their inner turmoil. If you do get brought down, your teammates will revive you with a shot of adrenaline, and only dying repeatedly will overdose you and end the level. However, those team mates will gun you down if you’re not careful, and the enemies will also often behave oddly – failing to react to being flanked or set on fire. There were even several full-on animation glitches, overly re-used character models, and the controls and cover system are flaky. Despite all this there’s some fun to be had here, getting your team together and charging through gets the adrenaline going, and leaving them behind and beating the level solo using only your pistol gives the game some challenge (needed, as there’s no selectable difficulty, and it’s pretty easy). The demo also offers split-screen co-op, but it requires an Xbox 360 controller – my Dualshock 2 with a USB adaptor doesn’t work – so I wasn’t able to test it.

This demo is basically nothing special, and has some problems with the controls. If you have the kit and the companion required for co-op it’s probably worth a go, otherwise only fans of third-person shooters or cinematic pretension should bother.

1/3 – For fans only

Tech details:

Size: 600 MB

System Requirements: 2 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 128 MB GeForce 6600/ATi X1300, Windows XP/Vista, Xbox 360 controller for co-op

Coming up

May 10, 2008

In the proud GDR tradition of teasing reviews and never getting around to most of them, you can now begin looking forward to pieces on:

  • Trackmania Nations Forever
  • Crysis
  • Kane and Lynch: Dead Men

in decreasing order of likelihood. Also: a demo scoring over 1/3 that isn’t for a 4X game.

New site for demo downloads

May 10, 2008

Demo fans! There’s a new site for downloads allowing fast, free, no sign-up direct http downloads of demos (so you can easily use a download accelerator). A trial 600 MB download averaged at 700 kB/s for me. This probably won’t last past them getting their first monthly bandwidth bill, but for now bigdownload.com is worth a look next time you want to grab a new demo.

Audiosurf

May 9, 2008

Audiosurf is closer to an interactive music visualiser than a game. You load up a track from your MP3 collection, the game converts it into an undulating pattern of slow rises and downhill rushes, and you pilot a spaceship along a Rez-inspired abstract path populated by blocks to dodge or collect; it’s rather like playing F-zero along a Guitar Hero fret. Collected blocks accumulate at the bottom of the screen in a simple colour-matching puzzle game, with a few variations depending on which of the 4 ships you picked. This all fits together to create a basic music game. The controls are too floaty to suit most high score chasers, but there are online per-track leaderboards if it grabs you that way. The trouble with the Audiosurf demo is that as soon as you’re getting a sense of all this and beginning to enjoy it, the demo’s ridiculously low 4-song limit kicks in. To top it off, the limit is poorly communicated, it’s not generally mentioned on download pages (Steam or otherwise) and in-game the song countdown is not as noticeable as it should be. Based on the very limited experience it’s hard to even tell if the game is fun, certainly the demo is so short that there’s no entertainment here.

Score: 0/3 – Waste of pixels

Tech details:

Size: 64 MB plus ~60 MB post-install update, or 375 MB via Steam, which preloads the full game

System Requirements: 1.6 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, 32 MB GeForce 2 or higher, Windows XP/Vista