Saturday, 15 October 2016

Grand Theft Auto IV (PC)

Grand Theft Auto 4 title screen
Developer:Rockstar North|Release Date:2008|Systems:Windows, Xbox 360, PS3

This week on Super Adventures I'm having a quick go of acclaimed crime 'em up Grand Theft Auto IV. Though knowing what these games are like, I'll have to put 20 hours in before I really get how it works, maybe more! So I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for your entertainment.

Actually I've got a vague memory of playing this once before and not liking it much. I've beaten Vice City and San Andreas (and I came so damn close to finishing GTA 3) but I didn't get on with this one for whatever reason. Probably something to do with the combat; I've got another vague memory of arguing with someone about the shooting being the worst thing ever, while they tried to convince me that the driving physics were worse.

The game came out the same year as sandbox rival Saints Row 2 (which I really liked) and one difference between the games I've already noticed is that Volition know how numbers work. Rockstar on the other hand have given their sixth game the Roman numeral for 'four'. Well really it's the eleventh game on the Grand Theft Auto series, if you include the two GTA: London mission packs, the Stories games on PSP and Grand Theft Auto Advance, but I'm happy enough to consider them outside the main series.

Unlike its predecessors GTA IV has multiplayer, which I'm not going to even try. I'm not going to use iCEnhancer to prettify it either; this is pure, straight out of the box, vanilla single player GTA.

(Screenshots can be clicked to view them in their original resolution, but I'm warning you now it's not great.)

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery (MS-DOS)

Gabriel Knight 2 Beast Within title screen
Developer:Sierra|Release Date:1995|Systems:PC

This week on Super Adventures I’m playing a game that was requested in March this very year! It only took me six months to get around to a request for once; I'm very proud of myself.

The Beast Within is second game in the Gabriel Knight trilogy, following on from Sins of the Fathers, so I'm just going to call it Gabriel Knight 2 from now on. The Gabriel Knight trilogy is interesting as each game represents one of the four eras of 90s adventure games:
  • Gabriel Knight 1 is a classic 2D style point and click adventure from 1993, enhanced with early 90s advances like voice acting and 256 colour scanned backgrounds.
  • Gabriel Knight 2 was released two years later in 1995 and jumped right in to the short lived multimedia FMV fad, where game developers discovered that good actors and real sets are really expensive and video looks like ass when you compress it to fit on CDs.
  • Gabriel Knight 3 came out right at the end of the 90s in 1999, during a time where you either made your game with polygons or you picked up your coat and got out. Turns out that the relatively expensive 3D environments and game pad controls weren't a good match for the increasingly niche genre though.
  • Finally there’s Gabriel Knight 4, which doesn’t exist... because Gabriel Knight 3 killed adventure games. Actually the truth is that the genre was already on the way out, so at worst its famous cat fur moustache puzzle merely helped hammer a nail or two into the coffin. And the genre eventually rose from the dead so it didn't even do a good job of that.
Due to its high video content Gabriel Knight 2 originally came on a ridiculous 6 CDs, which isn't actually so bad when you had Amiga adventure games coming on a dozen floppy disks. It's definitely not an issue for me as the version I bought online has zero disc swapping! I just had to download it as 7 separate files because I was too dumb to get it from GOG or Steam. The game's not supported by ScummVM by the way, but I'm sure DOSBox can handle it.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Parasol Stars (TurboGrafx-16)

parasol stars title screen
Developer:Taito|Release Date:1991|Systems:PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, Game Boy, NES

This week on Super Adventures I've chosen the wrong game to play, because what can I say about Parasol Stars? You play a dude with an umbrella who keeps on beating up enemies and taking their lunch until you run out of credits, stages or patience. Unless you have a friend playing too, then there's two dudes with umbrellas, and matching dungarees.

I suppose I could mention that it's actually Bubble Bobble III, except it says that on the title screen above, so you already know that. Also this TurboGrafx version was published by rogue game localizers Working Designs, but I don't think there's much scope for them to inject their idiosyncratic humour into this one, seeing as there's probably like six words in the game and they're already in English.

There's a good reason why I'm playing the TurboGrafx version instead of the original arcade game, and that's because there isn't one. Unlike the first two games, this was for home systems from the start. I always used to play the Amiga version and I always used to suck at it, so I'm curious to see if I do any better on a two button controller instead of a one button joystick.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Dungeon Siege II (PC)

Dungeon Siege 2 title menu screen
Developer:Gas Powered Games|Release Date:2005|Systems:Windows

This week on Super Adventures, I'm playing the second Dungeon Siege! In the grand tradition of RPG sequels, and indeed sequels in general, they've taken the name and put a number after it to form the title Dungeon Siege II.

I've played and beaten this before, but just like with Dungeon Siege all I've retained from the experience is a vague memory of liking it. This is why you should always write down every aspect of the games you play to an internet blog, to save you the trouble of having to ever play them again. I am curious to see how this holds up though, as dragging Dungeon Siege 1 into the harsh light of 2016 revealed that it's not quite as fun as I once thought it was.

First thing I've noticed: it doesn't have Dungeon Siege's awesome animated menu screen, and that makes me sad.

(You can get the original sized screenshots by clicking on the tiny ones.)

Friday, 16 September 2016

Dinosaur Detective Agency (Amiga)

Dinosaur Detective Agency title screen
Developer:Maximum Effect|Release Date:1993|Systems:Amiga

This week on Super Adventures I had a sudden urge to play Dinosaur Detective Agency for the Amiga, and I'm as confused as anyone about it.

I'm surprised I even remember the game, as if you add up the number of minutes I've spent playing the game they'd be less than the number of years since I last booted it up. In fact I was expecting the hero to look more like Sam Spade than Sherlock Holmes. Naughty game, encouraging kids to smoke pipes.

Hang on, does that say "1993" down there? Wow, what are the chances of this coming out the same year as 'Jurassic Park'? To be fair dinosaurs were already plenty popular before the movie, so I wouldn't say this is cynically cashing in on a fad. Because if they were he'd be riding a skateboard like Radical Rex.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity (MS-DOS)

Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity title screen
Developer:Spectrum HoloByte|Release Date:1995|Systems:DOS, Mac

This week on Super Adventures I've been celebrating Star Trek's 50th anniversary by playing games that basically have nothing to do with the franchise, but that ends here with something a whole lot more relevant.

Sure it would've made more sense for me to play the Star Trek: 25th Anniversary adventure game, but I already have so that's put a wrench into that great idea. There is an entirely different 25th Anniversary on the NES, but I've played that too. So it comes down to this, and that's probably for the best as I've had this game sitting in my attic for so long that I've forgotten what it is or where it even came from. Have I even played it? Probably, once, but who knows?

All I know is that Spectrum HoloByte is a great name for a game developer, and it's a shame that this is one of the last games released with it on the box. They'd bought up MicroProse a couple of years before and by '96 all their games were released under that brand instead (including Trek games Birth of the Federation, Generations and Klingon Honor Guard). Then a few years later Hasbro bought Spectrum HoloByte (at this point known as MicroProse) and closed the studio, but they were in turn bought by Infogrames Entertainment, who acquired their assets and the Atari brand in the deal and renamed the company to Atari Interactive, before renaming themselves to Atari, SA. This shouldn't be confused with Atari, Inc. which is the name they gave to developer Infogrames, Inc. (formerly GT Interactive). There was also arcade game producer Atari Games, which formed when Atari, Inc. (the original one) split into two after the video game crash, but Infogrames never got its hands on that. It eventually ended up as Midway Games West until it was dissolved, with its IPs acquired by Warner Bros.

Game companies, man. It's starting to make sense to me why this never made it to Steam or GOG.

A Final Unity came out in 1995, a full year after 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' ended and about six months after the movie 'Star Trek: Generations', so it wasn't the most timely TV tie-in. Still it's nice that they waited until the game was finished, as quality's always better than synergy (for the player anyway).

The game isn't supported by ScummVM so I'm going to install it to a directory called "STFU" in DOSBox and cross my fingers. I'm sure it'll be fine though. In fact DOSBox is probably more likely to run the game than your average DOS PC, and with far less messing around with memory managers.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Consortium (PC)

Developer:Interdimensional Games|Release Date:2014|Systems:Windows

This week on Super Adventures I'm celebrating Star Trek's 50th anniversary by playing games with some connection to the series. Today I'm sharing screenshots from the first few hours of CONSORTIUM, a game that likes to SHOUT its name all over its Steam page. What does this have to do with 'Star Trek'? Well... I've read a few people say it's a bit like 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', except on a plane. And that's pretty much the only link.

Consortium's one of those Kickstarter success stories, though they didn't quite bring in millions. Or even hundreds of thousands. But what they got was apparently enough to finish an ambitious first person, guns and chats, RPG type of game, which is cool because that's one of my favourite genres.

This is a heavily story based game so I'm inevitably going to be spoiling a lot of things you might not want spoiled here. Though its description claims that "the story unfolds based largely on your actions," so if that's true I'm only spoiling one possible outcome! I won't give away the answer to the game's big mystery though, assuming I even manage to solve it.

(You can make screenshots moderately more visible by clicking on them.)

Semi-Random Game Box