RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Dec 14th 2008 at 02:54:30 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Magic, The Gathering, TCG, Trading Card, Game, Free, Shards, Alara, Tenth, Naya, Blue

After getting the White, Green and Red Tenth Edition theme decks for free I decided to buy the Blue and Black decks. Although I'm not really getting back into Magic, I thought it would be neat to have the whole set.

I went back to the card shop where I got all the free cards a month ago, because I had some questions about some game mechanics that I'm sure that guy would be able to answer.

Continue reading Gathering The Magic: Part 2

Posted on Nov 21st 2008 at 05:09:28 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Magic, The Gathering, TCG, Trading, Card, Game, Free

Maybe you've read how I went to the gaming event called Next two weeks ago. I was somewhat dissapointed with the (small) amount of goodies given out. However I did get two Magic: The Gathering Theme Decks (The Green & White one) for free, which was pretty cool.

A couple of days later I took the time of going through the many flyers and product booklets that I had put in my plastic bag without even looking at them. Many of them had nothing interesting on them, however three of them caught my eye.

Continue reading Gathering The Magic: A Luck Story

Posted on Nov 9th 2008 at 06:55:46 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Event, Gaming, Next, 08, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Brussels

Yesterday I went to Belgium's biggest gaming event called "Next". It was quite a big event with all the biggest publishers/developers present, as well as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. There were also some non-gaming brands present such as Samsung, Nikon, Apple, Bose, Philips, etc.... I had to go alone because none of my friends were willing to pay the 12 Euros admission. That obviously made things less fun but then I came up with the idea of shooting some photos of the event and sharing them with you guys.

Continue reading Next 08: Gaming Event

Posted on Oct 19th 2008 at 04:29:00 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Insomniac, Platform, Ratchet, Clank

Just like fellow Playstation platform developer Naughty Dog did with Crash Bandicoot, Insomniac Games decided to sell their PSone franchise Spyro and start with a fresh game on the PS2. Furthermore, Ratchet & Clank (2002), too, features a main character and a side companion that stay together during most of the games. Coincidence? Not really, because both studios used to be located in the same building on a Universal Studios backlot and continue to have a close relationship.

In Ratchet & Clank, you play as Ratchet, a creature that doesn't really fall under a specific animal-category, but can be best described as a sort of cross between a lynx and a human. Ratchet lives on the planet Veldin, where he spends most of his time working on his spaceship, dreaming of leaving Veldin in search of galactic adventures. One day, a little robot named Clank crashes near Ratchet's home. Clank comes form a robot factory on the planet Quartu, where he discovered an infobot that revealed that Chairman Drek, leader of the Blarg race has decided to start building a new planet for his race, made up from pieces of other planets. When Ratchet finds Clank, Clank shows him the infobot and says he fears that Drek is going to destroy the universe. After some compromises, the odd duo sets of to rescue the galaxy from Drek's madness.

The rest of the story is brought to the player in a similar fashion: after reaching a certain point in each level, a new infobot plays another cutscene and gives the coordinates for a next planet. The game makes handful use of this concept to make each planet/level completely different in terms of environment, backgrounds and "feel", thus making the game varied from start to finish. Along the way you'll find yourself on space stations, polluted planets, tropical planets, urban-themed planets and more. As you can expect, the story is very light-hearted and the well written cutscenes are often hilarious, making the game enjoyable for both young and old.

When arriving at a new planet there's usually several directions you can go in, each leading to a different objective. Pressing start will reveal a map of the planet you're on, along with the objectives you've found so far. You can also watch the corresponding infobot again in case you missed out on anything.
To keep frustrations on a low, backtracking is kept to a minimum with the ability to teleport back to your ship after reaching the end of a certain path. There's also plenty of invisible checkpoints on each planet so gamers won't have to replay most of a level because they died right before the end.

Compared to other platform games, Ratchet & Clank's focus mainly lies on the many different weapons and gadgets in the game than on jumping about from platform to platform. At the start of the game, Ratchet is equiped with his Omniwrench 3000, your main melee weapon that you can smash or throw at enemies or boxes. Still on Veldin, Ratchet receives the free Bomb Glove, a glove that, you've guessed it, throws out bombs at unsuspecting enemies. The more progress you make, the bigger your weapons assortment will become. Some weapons have to be bought at the Gadgetron vendor, which can be found at each planet, others are prizes for completing objectives. Besides the first two, you'll be able to have fun with the Blaster, Pyrociter, Devastator or the more exotic Glove of Doom, Suck Cannon and Morph-o-Ray.
All weapons are fun to use, although you'll find yourself using two/three of them most of the time. To change weapons, you can display a quick-select menu on screen by pressing the triangle button. Sadly enough, the game doesn't pause when you're changing weapons, something that was only added in Ratchet & Clank 2 (= Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando in North America) Not all weapons can fit in the quick-select menu at once, but you can select which ones you want it to contain in the main menu. The Gadgetron vendors also serve as ammunition shops for the weapons you've aquired.

Despite being more combat-orientated than most games in the genre, there's still a fair bit of platforming and puzzle-solving to be done. For these puzzles you'll need to use certain Gadgets, similar in use to the weapons. Gadgets are devided into 4 subcategories: hand items include things like a Trespasser (to open sealed doors in a mini game), Hydrodisplacer (a device that can store highly compressed water) and Swingshot (a hook shot that latches on special floating balls, which you can swing from).
Then there's backpacks: modifications for Clank that let you glide through the air or swim faster under water. Third are head items for Ratchet like an O2-mask or Pilot Helmet. Lastly there's foot items which include the awesome Grindboots. With these boots you can grind on rails which is something you'll have to do on several ocassions.

The gameplay itself is a lot of fun. After defeating an enemy with your weapon of choice, he'll burst out into Bolts, the game's main currency. You can also collect Bolts by smashing crates that are placed on all levels. For those who can't get enough of the game there's also a select number of Golden Bolts to be found on each planet, usually in hidden areas. These are then tradable for rare goodies.
To keep the game exciting at all times, there's also mini games in which you'll have to fly in your spaceship in a 3D-style shooter or stages that you play with Clank. Those are particulary fun because you'll get to control tiny robots than will follow Clank's instructions such as "Follow", "Wait" or "Attack".
The controls are good and even the camera adjustment has been done right (a rare thing in 3D Platform games) with a camera that stays where the player wants it. I do have to admit that I missed the possibility to strafe as seen in the game's sequels but then again, this never bothered me when I first played the game in 2002.

At the time of its release, Ratchet & Clank gained much praise for its fantastic graphics. Although not as good as later games for the PS2, Ratchet & Clank's graphics are still very much enjoyable. The levels are big, there's no load times (except when moving from one planet to another) and textures are detailed and colorful. There's very little glitches and the frame rate is constant at all times. Animations are very well done, especially in cutscenes. Speaking of the cutscenes, despite them being funny, some of the jokes between Ratchet and Clank are a bit lame compared to those in Jak and Daxter.
The game's sound is on par with its graphics with a funky up-tempo beat on each planet, good voice acting and solid sound effects. Nothing felt out of place to me, usually a good sign that the audio is good.

With its light-hearted story and humor, wide range of weapons and gadgets and beautiful graphics and sound, I think Ratchet & Clank is what you could call a "perfect" game that'll interest a broad range of gamers, not just platform fans. Recommended to all. 9.0/10

Posted on Oct 8th 2008 at 01:28:04 AM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PC, Codemasters, Rally, Racing, Colin Mcrae

Colin Mcrae Rally 04 (2003) is the fourth installment in the succesful Colin McRae Rally series. Whether the title alludes to the fact the game was released in 2004 in North America or simply to the fact it's the fourth game in the series, I'm not really sure. Looking at the titles of the series there certainly has been a lack of continuity on the developer front: 2.0, 3, 04, 2005 and DiRT; it's almost as if they couldn't make up there mind how to label their games. No matter though, because I'm here to pay homage to the great Colin Mcrae by reviewing this game, not complain about at the series' titles.

I'll start of with the main menu which is kept simply, easy to navigate and straightforward. There's the championship, quick-race, single race and single rally modes. In the option menu you can make graphics and sound adjustments aswell as select what controller you'd like to use. Next to the keyboard, you can use an analog controller or a driving wheel. The last obviously being the best choice for a realistic experience but since I don't own one nor a PC controller, I have to limit myself to my keyboard.

In the championship mode there are actually six championships that can be completed. One for each of the game's difficulties (normal and advanced) and each of the different vehicle categories (three). There's the standard 4WD category with cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer or the Subaru Impreza WRX, a 2WD category with smaller cars like the Citroen Saxo or Ford RallyeSport Puma and the "B-group" category which consists of high-powered older vehicles such as a Lancia 037 or Peugeot 205 T16.
B Group cars are forbidden in current-day rally because these faster, harder to control machines too often led to accidents. Luckily for us gamers, Codemasters has included these fun cars in Colin Mcrae Rally 04 for us to ride with as much as we want!

Every of these categories feel thoroughly different to drive with and even specific cars within a category handle differently. My favorite car is the 2WD Ford Puma because it is a nimble, lightweight car that can take consecutive corners rather fast. But no matter what car you choose to drive, it doesn't take long to get used to its handling and you'll be driving like a pro in no time. That's probably the most fun aspect of this game: the fact that it feels like realistic driving yet isn't too realistic so it doesn't become extremely difficult to control your car without smashing into the scenery.

The championship mode will take you to all of the game's locations which range from snowy Sweden to wet Brittain, or tropical Australia. All countries have a different dominant surface that you'll be faced with: tarmac in Spain, wet gravel in the UK, snow in Sweden, rough gravel in Greece, wet tarmac in Japan, fine gravel in the US, pea gravel in Australia and gravel in Finland. Plenty of variation in other words and just like with the cars, driving on different surfaces really feels differently.

The key to success in Colin Mcrae Rally 04 is: A. Carefully listening to your co-pilot and B. Selecting the right settings between stages. Although this might sound logical, paying attention to your co-driver's instructions really makes all the difference. Unless you'll play the game a lot, you won't be able to memorize what the different stages are like, so you're really up to his instructions. Especially in narrow sections, it's important not to get of track, because once you're between trees, it can easily cost you 10 seconds to get out again.
Once every two stages you can set up your car in the service station for the next two stages. You get a little map which shows you the course layout and gives you a stats table that shows how much of a type of surface you may expect. It's important to check what surface type appears most in the next two stages combined and choose tires accordingly. Besides tire types you can also adjust your brake bias, steering speed, gear ratio, ride height, spring tension and anti-roll.

Second function of the service station is to repair damage done to your car in previous stages. Depending on how big the damage on, say, your turbo might be, it'll take anywhere from only a few minutes to almost half an hour of repair time. You get a maximum of 60 minutes at every service station so it's best not to trash your car on the way there. Besides visual damage there's also alot of internal damage that can seriously affect your car's performance. You have the option to set the car damage on "normal" or "hard" depending on your skill level. At the normal setting the occasional jump in the scenary doesn't mean catastrophy but at the hard setting it's vital to avoid crashes at all costs.

In the championship mode you'll have to drive a series of normal stages in each country and end with a special "face-off" stage where you have to drive faster than another driver in an arena-track. Between rallies, you'll be able to attempt to win new/upgraded car parts in constructor challenge mini-games. This can range from sliding enough to wear down tires on a selected course to staying within a small RPM-range while switching gears.
Goal of the championship mode is to win each individual rally (obviously) aswell as having your manufacturer win the overal championship. After finishing one of the championships, you unlock a few cars.

The PC version of the game features online or LAN multiplayer for 2-8 players. Despite all players driving at the same time, you can only see ghosts of your opponents' cars instead of the actual cars. I haven't had the chance to check the multiplayer out just yet, so I can't really say anything about it.

Visually, Colin Mcrae Rally 04 is great. The PC version has improved graphics over the original Xbox version, with more detailed and sharper looking cars, roads and foliage, aswell as improved weather conditions. The game was always smooth to play, with a minimum of framedrops and glitches. Textures are generally good but some foliage and trees are rather low-res; this is especially apparent when you go of-course. the damage model looks pretty realistic with broken windows, loose bumpers and parts that completely fall of your vehicle. Colin Mcrae Rally 04 doesn't have the DX10 graphics of DiRT, but that's only natural considering the game's age.

There is no music in the game except for the random techno tune of the menus, but that doesn't mean Colin Mcrae Rally 04 sounds bad. In fact, this game sounds as realistic as I can imagine rally sounding like. Engines roar, gearboxes rattle, exhausts scream, windows shatter, ... it's all there. Derek Ringer does an excellent job as co-pilot and never bored or annoyed me at any time. Every sound gets a extra dimension when switching to the cockpit view where everything looks and sounds just a bit more dramatic. I never made much use of this view though, because it limits your view greatly.

If you happen to see Colin Mcrae Rally 04 somewhere and it isn't too expensive, get it. It's pretty much everything a good rally game should be and I had a great time playing this game. 8.0/10

Posted on Sep 30th 2008 at 03:15:08 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Square, Disney, RPG, Kingdom Hearts

What would happen if we put many of Disney's famous characters, some random evil guys, a couple of Final Fantasy's greatest heroes and some new spike-haired kids all in one game? That must've been the question Squaresoft and Disney were asking themselves when they were creating the concept of Kingdom Hearts. What made them came up with such a crazy question? I have no idea. Does it make for an enjoyable RPG? It sure does.

No matter which way you look at it, Kingdom Hearts (2002) is a pretty unique game. It shares some common points with the Final Fantasy series, but it's profoundly different otherwise.
At the start of the game we meet Sora, Riku and Kairi. These three friends are simply enjoying the little tropical world they live in and spend their days playing, talking or staring at the ocean. One day changes everything when the Heartless, a purple army of toy-like bad guys, attack the island. Both Kari and Riku disappear and Sora decides to go and look for his friends, with the help of his magical Keyblade.

Before the main story takes off, you're placed in a church-like darkness, with only glass windows displaying sleeping princesses to walk on. This area serves as a tutorial for basic combat action as well as facing you with a choice that'll decide your "destiny". Destiny may be a big word, but it comes down to you having to choose a strength and weakness with "attack", "defense" and "magic" as your options. This will later influence the way your character (Sora) levels up, what abilities he'll get first and even how fast he'll level.

Soon after embarking on his quest, Sora will meet up with Donald and Goofy, who will accompany you throughout the rest of the game. You stumbled upon the hilarious duo because they are on a quest of themselves: to find King Mickey, who has given them instructions to assist the Keyblade wearer, which just happens to be Sora.
Although the plot may seem quite heavy, it is treated pretty lightly during most of the game, mainly because you'll be working to get all the sub-plots in the different Disney worlds settled out. There's more to say about the main plot but revealing any more story feels like spoiling to me, so I won't. I'll just say that even though the story has its depth, it's clear to see that Square wanted to make this a lighter digestible plot than the average Final Fantasy; a decision that's also reflected in Kingdom Heart's gameplay - but more about that in a minute.

You'll meet many famous Disney characters on your quest to find Riku and Kairi, all living in their specific world based upon their movie counterparts. Funny is how these Disney characters (except Donald and Goofy) don't know anything about the major story, but are preoccupied with their own little problems. Along the way you'll find yourself playing alongside characters like Alladin and Jack Skellington in worlds such as Wonderland, Agrabah, the Hundred Acre Wood, Halloween Town, etc... Next to that there are some new worlds designed specifically for this game such as Traverse Town and Hollow Bastion.

Now for one of the most irritating aspects of the game: travelling between all these worlds. Rather than just having your party "teleport" to a world, you'll have to play a minigame each time you'll travel to a new world. Your ship, called a Gummi ship, travels along a determined path until you reach the next world. While flying around you'll have to shoot (often unidentifiable) enemies. This is clearly a Star Fox rip-off, and a bad one at that. By defeating enemies you'll receive "Gummi blocks" which you can use to upgrade your ship. Instead of making this easy, Square decided to put in an awkward ship editor in the game that allows you to make your ship stronger by adding parts or even create a new one. This sounds better than it actually is because there isn't any point in doing so. The Gummi levels are so easy, you'll just want to get them over with quickly to advance to the next world; so what's the point of upgrading the basic ship? The whole feature could have been left out of the game for me, but I guess Square found it necessary to let players "experience" how the party travels between worlds.

Luckily, the game is a whole lot better when inside one of the worlds. Unlike the (until then) Final Fantasy series, Kingdom hearts is an Action RPG. This means all combat happens directly in the main environments, without "going" into a turn-based combat area. Your main weapon is Sora's Keyblade, with which you can use to hit the enemies one time or in combo's (depending on the abilities you have). You can also cast traditional FF-style magic such as fire, blizzard, thunder, slow, etc... These can be selected in the "Command menu" in the lower left corner of the screen with either the D-pad or the right analog stick. You can also assign up to three magics to the cross, triangle and square buttons that allow for easy-casting in combination with L1. Lastly, you can summon Disney characters that'll temporarily help Sora out, giving Donald and Goofy a break. The camera can be moved only to the left and right by holding down either L2 or R2, which feels quite restricted. In fact, it's the main thing that bothered me while playing Kingdom Hearts; I find the camera much too close to Sora's back to give a overall perspective of your environment. Oftentimes you won't even see the enemies you're fighting, with the camera struggling to get them into view. If it wasn't for the lock-on function (activated with R1), Kingdom Hearts would be almost unplayable.

Combat happens frequently, with enemies spawning almost everywhere on the map. Sadly enough the limited tactical options will make fighting the hordes of Heartless a rather boring venture, and feels like "something you have to do" instead of being a source of fun. It isn't so irritating that it'll make you stop playing, but it could've been done a lot better. As I said earlier, Donald and Goofy will accompany you on your quest, so they're also with you during combat; helping out by attacking enemies, using magic or throwing a potion your way when your health is low. You can also opt to temporarily exchange one of the two by an optional character, depending on the world you're in. On a positive note I can say that the boss fights are much more fun than the random battles and can be quite challenging, too. (if you haven't leveled up your characters too much, that is)

Besides the fighting, there's the traditional RPG action to be done such as talking to characters, buying items and weapons in stores and saving your game at save points. There's also a bit of platforming included, which is a nice distraction from the combat but suffers from the same camera problems as well as the not-so-fluid jumping animation. Kingdom Hearts clearly is an RPG with some platform elements rather than a platform game with RPG elements.

In the main menu there are the traditional "item", "equipment", "status" and "abilities" menus as well as a "customize" and "journal" menu. In the customize menu you can set the quick-access magics for Sora and determine Donald and Goofy's combat behavior by selecting if they have to do certain things "constantly", "frequently" or "occasionally". The journal menu serves as a log in which a summary of the story is kept, next to character and world descriptions.

Graphically, Kingdom Hearts is a feast for the eyes, especially if you're a Disney fan. Both the worlds and characters accurately resemble their traditional animation counterparts, something Square can be proud of. You can also enjoy the colorful scenery in first-person view when pressing the select button. Once again, the restricted camera is the only thing that keeps this game from being a sightseers' dream.

Vocally, Square has done their best with much of the dialog being voiced over by an excellent cast of voice actors. Most of the actual Disney voice actors have lent their voices to their respective characters and Haley Joel "I see dead people" Osment gave his voice to Sora. Sound effects are average but just like in most of Square's RPG's, music is excellent. Each world is accompanied by its own theme (often a variation or adaptation of the famous Disney themes) that either sets a happy tone (in the Disney worlds) or a more serious tone (in the non-Disney worlds).

Despite its flaws, Kingdom Hearts is a unique game that successfully merges the worlds of Disney and Square into a unique experience. Whether you're an RPG fan, Square fan, Disney fan or action fan; there's a little for everybody in Kingdom Hearts. 8.4/10

Posted on Sep 22nd 2008 at 02:56:29 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Square, Enix, Level 5, RPG, Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King (in the US: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King) is Level-5's third RPG for the Playstation 2, and also the third game ever by the developer. After the good Dark Cloud (2000) and the great Dark Chronicle (2002), Level-5 decided to take on the massive task of making the next instalment of the long lasting Dragon Quest franchise. Not only that, Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King (from now on called Dragon Quest 8 ) would become the first game of the series for the Playstation 2, as well as being the first Dragon Quest game with 3D graphics. Not an easy task, but Level-5 fulfilled all expectations.

The game starts when the evil mage Dhoulmagus tries to steal a legendary sceptre, locked away in a local castle. To reach his goal, Dhoulmagus cursed the castle and petrified everyone inside into plant-like beings except for three individuals. The King, Throde, gets transformed into a Yoda-like toad, while his daughter, princess Medea, gets turned into a horse. The last survivor of the curse is you, the hero of this tale, and the only one not affected by the curse in any way.

Despite the shallowness and classic feel of the story, there are some interesting plot twists that'll keep you entertained until the end. Along the way you'll meet three more characters that'll join you on your adventure: Yangus, Jessica and Angelo. Yangus is rough fellow that got his life saved by the hero and calls him "guv" out of respect. Another recurring line of Yangus is "Cor' Blimey!" whenever King Throde appears out of nowhere. Jessica is a hard headed aristocratic girl that wants to avenge the death of her brother, Alister, who got killed by Dhoulmagus some time before his attack on the castle. Angelo is a Templar Knight, devoted to Abbot Francisco, but lacking the will to follow the Templars' strict moral code.

This lively bunch sets out to find Dhoulmagus, and while doing so encounter countless other characters that need assitance of some sort to advance the main plot. The game offers alot of content and a whole world to discover. Rushing through the story without doing any sidequests will almost take up 50 hours. You can almost double that number when playing at a normal pace and getting involved in most of the sidequests.

Gameplay-wise, Dragon Quest 8 is an as classic RPG as it gets. Combat is turn-based and gets triggered by random encouters. Because there are only 4 playable characters, switching characters isn't an option, meaning all characters will level up at the same speed. When faced against a number of monsters, you'll have to assign tasks to all 4 of your characters first and then watch them get executed together with enemy attacks. Besides melee and ranged attacks, characters can cast offensive or healing spells, aswell as use weapon-specific abilities. Lastly, players can opt to raise the tension of a character to build up energy that can be released in a single, devastating blow; especially useful when doing a boss fight.

Characters differ concerning the spells they can cast, aswell as the attributes they can raise. When a characters levels up, you can assign points to any of 5 attributes of that character. 4 of those attributes are to increase damage done with specific weapons, 1 attribute is different for each character. Some tactics lie in the fact that not all characters can use all types of weapons. For example, Angelo is the only one that can wield bows. The maximum amount of points that can be assigned to an attribute is 100, which can be obtained at around level 40. This gives players some time to experiment with different weapon types first before having to stick to one type to get it as strong as possible. The different weapon types are swords, boomerangs, axes, clubs, knives, scythes, whips, staves, bows and fisticuffs (no weapon equiped).

Besides weapons, characters can also equip a piece of body armor, a helmet, a shield and an accessory. These aren't as many categories as in some other RPGs, but you'll still spend a great deal of time finding, buying or making better weapons and armour. That last option is available once aquiring an Alchemy Pot. You can throw in multiple items and see what new item pops out. This mini-game is similar to the "invention" system in Dark Chronicle or the weapon system in Rogue Galaxy. It's quite important to try out as much combinations as you can, because it's the best way to get a hold of some strong weapons/armour/items before being able to purchase them. That's needed, because the game can be pretty challenging, especially early on when it doesn't take much hits to get your party wiped out. After the game's ending you can load your saved game again to just before defeating the final boss and enter a complete new dungeon after which some of the hardest boss battles can be found. Sometimes you'll have to go through large stretches of land without really knowing what to look for. Although this might set off the less experienced RPGer, old-school gamers will love the classic approach to this RPG.

If I could say only one thing about Dragon Quest 8, it would be that it's a very polished, rich and complete games. Alot of thought went into the menu, which looks particulary nice. All your items can easily be sorted with an auto-sort option in the menu, where they are displayed with beautiful icons. Also nice is that, when pressing select, you get a "battle records" menu in which you can watch a full list of of monsters, collected items and Alchemy Pot recepies.

Coupled to the great gameplay are stunning visuals and sound. Graphics are some of the best on the PS2 and the best ever in the Dragon Quest series. The cel-shading suits the game perfectly, with characters and monsters looking like they've just escaped from an anime, yet staying faithful to the Dragon Quest franchise. Akira Toriyama did the character design of this game and is the man responsible for the Dragon Ball Z series.

Sound is just as nice with convincing voice acting (despite the sometimes over-the-top voice of King Throde), great sound effects and fantastic music. The songs are all classic orchestral tracks that really set the mood for the many areas that the game is rich. From the regal intro tune to the upbeat battle song or the creepy dungeon track; they all maintain the same high level and are never out of place.

I'll wrap it up by saying that Dragon Quest 8 is one of the best games in the series aswell as one of the best RPGs on the PS2. If you're looking for a good RPG, a game that will last a long time or just a good game in general, this is a must-buy. 9.3/10

Posted on Sep 16th 2008 at 01:01:40 AM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Classic Gaming, PC, RTS, Real Time Strategy, Blizzard, Warcraft

Except for maybe Wolfenstein 3D, no other game can bring back memories of my childhood like Warcraft II. This 1995 game is sequel to Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and has helped made Blizzard the company that it is today. Because I never played this game in multiplayer when I was young and it somehow feels wrong to do so now, I'll focus on the singleplayer aspect of the game.

The game's story is being told by a narrator with text running over a still image. You can imagine a 7 year old not patient enough to listen to this so I can recall little to none of it, however I'll try to give a brief impression of what is going on:

The game takes place six years after the events in Orcs & Humans, which ended with the fall of Azeroth. After this the Orcs conquer Lordaeron and attempt a second assault at the human race. The Humans form the Alliance with the Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes to whitstand the Orcs' attack, however, the Orcs form the Horde with the Ogres, Goblins and Trolls. Some more detailed events take place but as I see the story of little importance for this game, I'll leave it at that.

Important to Warcraft II's gameplay is that almost all units and all buildings are identical at both sides. For example, an Elven Archer has the same statistics as a Troll Axethrower; they only vary in name and appearance. This also goes for the different buildings on both sides. The only real difference lies within the spells some higher characters can use. This may sound a bit boring but makes both sides very balanced with no particular advantages over the other.

The main building in the game is the Town Hall, where peasants (or peons) can drop off timber and gold. Wood can also be brought to a Lumber Mill when built. A third resource, oil, can be drilled up once an Oil Platform has been built by an Oil Tanker on a designated location. The Shipyard or Refinary act as drop off points for oil. Besides these there are other typical RTS buildings such as Barracks, Blacksmiths, Farms and Towers. Gathering resources or building buildings takes quite a long time at the start of a game, giving you time to explore some of the map while your army gets ready for action.

Enemy AI is predictable yet challenging enough to keep the game from becoming too easy. The game's expanion, "Beyond the Dark Portal", features better AI and has some pretty difficult missions that'll please even the best RTS players.

Despite being fairly simple (in terms of gameplay mechanics) and not having a gigantic technology tree like some modern games in the genre, Warcraft II's gameplay is still fun to play today, although some features now taken for granted in RTS games aren't present. For example there's no production queues so you have to go back to your unit producing building for each individual unit. You can also select only 9 units at a time, which results in alot of clicking when trying to move a large army around. But when you compare Warcraft II to some RTS games of its time, it's easy to see why this was one of the most important (it not the most important) RTS game of its generation.

Warcraft II's graphics are colorful and cartoony giving the game a rather light undertone. The characters and buildings are all 2D sprites with their own specific look, making it easy to tell them apart. Animations are fluid yet primitive but get the job done. During the different campaigns you'll play on different terrains like grasslands, snowlands, swamps, etc... giving the game enough visual variaty.

More impressive than its visuals were the sound effects and soundtrack or Warcraft II. Sound effects are convincing with arrows being fired or axes being swayed. The soundtrack consists of lots of orchestral-type bombastic tunes that suit the game nicely. I often found myself humming some of these after playing the game for a couple of hours.
When clicking on units they happily confirm your orders but what's even more fun is that they start to throw out hilarious comments when repeatedly clicked on. For example, a Footman will say "Don't you have a kingdom to run?" after a couple of clicks.

On the multiplayer department I can say that it's possible to play with up to 8 players. Until the Battle.net edition was released, gamers used IPX Emulators such as Kali to play online. Another nice feature about Warcraft II is that you can use a single disc of the game to play with 8 players in a network. Compare that to the DRM in Spore and you can only frown upon the way gaming has become restricted.

I could go on about what I like about Warcraft II and what makes this such a memorable game for me, but I think I've covered the basics. If you're an RTS fan there's no excuse for not playing this game and if you're not but see the game for cheap, I'd still recommend getting it. 9.0/10

Posted on Sep 8th 2008 at 11:51:56 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Adventure, Story, Fahrenheit, Quantic Dream

Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US) is a 2005 game released by Quantic Dream. With the studio's second release they wanted to create a truly cinematic game and let me tell you: they succeeded.

The game starts in a cold, snow-covered New York City where we find protagonist of the game, Lucas Kane, sitting on a toilet of a diner with a knife in his hands. Something's not right with Lucas because he used the knive to kill an innocent man and carved strange markings in his forearms. Seconds later, he regains control over himself and is stunned to find the man on the bathroom floor, realising he's a murderer.

From there on the player gets to control Lucas and has to make quick decisions in his place to get him away from the crimescene in one piece. I won't go into further detail about the story because that would spoil too much of the experience. All I'll add is that you also get to play as Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, two detectives working the case of Lucas' murder. This makes for some interesting moments because you're playing as two sides who are literally working against each other.
I'd like to stress how important the story in this game is, which is of a far superior level and suspense normally found in games. While advancing through the game you'll really start to care about alot of characters, which aren't stereotypical good or bad guys but rather undergo an evolution as the game progresses.

What makes Fahrenheit different from most games is not only its deep story but also the way you can influence that story. Depending on what decisions you make, the story changes. When talking to another character, different dialog options are shown. (Like in Mass Effect) A timer runs out so you have to make quick decisions as to what you want your character to say. Although the story isn't completely changeable (some decisions simply end up with Lucas in prison, forcing you to do things differently) there are entire scenes that can be unlocked when making the right decisions. (including two sex scenes cut from the US version)

All actions in the game are performed via the analog sticks. The left one controls Lucas' movement while the right one is context-sensitive. Depending where you are or what object you're facing, a small icon on the screen shows what movement you should make with the stick. (Much like Skate's way of performing tricks)
During the more intense action sequences you'll have to perform a sort of rhythm mini game with the analog sticks. Two 4-button icons will show up in the middle of the screen (like the memory game Simon) and depending on which color lights up, you'll have to press the corresponding analog stick in that direction. Although this seems stupid on paper it works rather well in this game and I never got the feeling I'm simply pressing random buttons because the rhythm game is made so it matches the actions on screen.

Another fun feature of Fahrenheit is you'll also do some everyday life actions like drink some water, play some guitar or take a shower. This supports the bond you have with the characters and shows they're no superheroes but regular people like you and me. They also have a mental health bar that goes up or down depending on your actions in the game. At maximum this shows as "Neutral" but will say things like "Stressed" or "Depressed" when worse.

What's most irritating about Fahrenheit are character and camera movement. Character movement is slow and feels stiff. Maybe this has been done to add to the realistic feel of the game, I'm not really sure. Although the camera does a decent job, it tends to get stuck behind objects in small rooms making it hard to regain a good perspective. Graphics aren't fantastic either (comparable to those of GTA: Vice City and San Andreas) with some animations looking a bit unnatural, despite the use of motion capture. This never bothered me though, because it's easy to forgive a game for its lesser graphics when it has such an intense storyline.

Much better than the visuals is the audio and a place where Fahrenheit really shines. Luckily for its storyline, voice acting is performed excellent for all characters. The way you can hear them think in their heads is especially convincing, together with the voice of main character Lucas. Musically, Fahrenheit uses both licensed songs and an original score. Licensed songs are usually found when a radio is playing in-game while the original score accompanies alot of dialog and action scenes. I think both are used very well and give Fahrenheit that memorable feel that you'll remember even after finishing the game.

Although only an 8-hour game, Fahrenheit is the kind of of game you'll still think about weeks after completing it. It gets under your skin like few other games do and has a story even fewer can compare with. Definately worth your attention despite the flaws I've mentioned. 8.3/10

Posted on Sep 3rd 2008 at 02:59:42 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Modern Gaming, Games, Lenght, Content, Value, Warren Spector, Games Education Summit, PS3, Xbox 360

After reading a very interesting article in a Dutch games magazine I would like to know what you guys think that should be done in the future concerning the lenght of videogames.

At the Games Education Summit (Dallas) in July, Warren Spector (known for games like Wing Commander, Thief and Deux Ex; see picture) stated that 100-hours singleplayer games are a thing of the past. He also said that only 2% of the people who have played GTA4 actually finished it. If he means by "finished it" getting 100% complete, I'm sure it's even less.
RPGs are probably the "worst" kind of games when it comes to being overly lengthy. Recent games like The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion or Final Fantasy 12 come to mind. They often take up 60 hours to finish the main storyline alone and go well over 100 hours if you want to finish all sidequests, defeat all monsters and get that strongest weapon. (Don't get me wrong, I love RPGs)

As you all know, making videogames is no longer cheap. Especially with the next generation consoles and their fabulous physics and visuals, production times get longer and the costs are getting higher. Spending $40.000.000 to develop a videogame isn't anything spectacular anymore and companies are strugling to make a profit like they used to do 5-10 years ago. Especially when your game stands in the shadow of a Triple A title, sales can't always make up for the costs.

If most gamers stop playing GTA4 at 40%; that basically means 60% of the game's content is money down the drain.

Would you like to see shorter games, knowing that most (read: the not-so-hardcore) gamers don't finish these games? Wouldn't it be great if companies could make games for less money and therefor take some more risks? It would mean more diverse games for us for sure.

Do you really want the Full HD graphics and 7.1 surround? Maybe some gamers do, but the rest of us are forced to walk the same path. I wonder why nobody seems to have the guts to make an HD 16-bit style 2D RPG for Xbox360 or PS3. If the story was good and the gameplay rock-solid, wouldn't that make for an amazing game?

Note: I've reposted this on the forums because I wanted to make a poll about it. You can find the poll here.

Posted on Aug 31st 2008 at 09:24:37 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Capcom, Platform, Maximo, Ghosts N Goblins

Maximo: Ghosts To Glory (2002) is Capcom's effort in trying to create a modern platform game with the classic Ghosts 'N Goblins feel to it. The game was originally planned for release on the Nintendo 64, but after being delayed a couple of years it found itself on the PS2 instead.

When starting a new game you'll see Maximo returning home after war in a nice CGI cutscene. Things aren't exactly as he had hoped because Achille has taken over his kingdom and opened the door to the underworld. To make matters worse, Achille has captured four princesses aswell as Maximo's wife, Sophia. With a devastation spell, Achille sends Maximo to the underworld where he's given a chance by the Grim Reaper to resque the princesses and regain control over his kingdom.

Despite being a difficult game, the gameplay of Maximo isn't complicated at all. Maximo is restricted to four moves: a basic swing of his sword, a power strike, a downward strike after double-jumping and throwing his shield. When venturing through the five worlds of the game you'll encounter different enemies that each require a unique combination of moves to defeat.

Knowing how to defeat each enemy is critical for your success, because just like in games of the past, Maximo dies after only a couple of hits. Furthermore, you need 100 coins each time you want to save; which is only possible in the central hub-level of each world. If Maximo happens to loose all his lives he'll return to the underworld where the Grim Reaper will ask for a Death Coin to revive the fallen hero. A Death Coins is obtained by collecting 50 Blue Spirits. If you die without any Death Coins, it's game over for good. All of this results in a game that's far more difficult than other platform games on the PS2, or even modern games in general.

Needless to say, Maximo will require a lot of trial & error, figuring out how to defeat certain enemies or remembering where the next armor chest is located.
To make things less repetitive, Maximo will find abilities along the way aswell as power-ups for his sword and shield. Some abilities are almost vital to survive (like the double swing or throw shield abilities) while others aren't of much use throughout most of the game (like Thunderbolt) The sword power-ups however always come in handy, as they make Maximo's sword stronger and are needed for certain abilities. To get the most out of these abilities it's best not to die, because Maximo looses all but a few "locked" ones when faced with death.

Each world features five levels that are to be completed to gain access to the world's boss and the next world eventually. Each level has its own difficult moments but luckily a couple of checkpoints can be activated, so death doesn't necessarily mean starting all the way from the beginning of the level. After clearing a level you'll get a great feeling of success that is hardly present anymore in most modern games.

Maximo's graphics match its old-school gameplay in a sense that everything (except the character models) looks a bit blocked and flat. Often, walls or floors aren't more than a single huge polygon with a texture slapped onto it, clearly showing Maximo's history on the N64. This never bothers me because Maximo is intended to feel like a 16-bit era game. On the other hand, character models are detailed and animations are fast and smooth.

The sound of the game does the job well, with nice sound effects and good voice-acting for the (scarce) CGI cutscenes. I especially like the the game's music that enhances its classic mood aswell as each world at the same time. A couple more songs would have been nice though.

Overall, Maximo is a double-edged sword. Novice gamers will be frustrated with the game's trial & error gameplay and cumbersome save system while old-school gamers will love the game's nostalgic feel. If you're up for a challenge, like platform games or like 16-bit games, be sure to check out Maximo: Ghosts To Glory. 8.6/10

Posted on Aug 24th 2008 at 12:38:37 AM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PC, ArenaNet, NCSoft, MMO, RPG, Guild Wars

Guild Wars: Prophecies, released in 2005, was the first game ArenaNet ever developed. It's an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that shares many traits with other games in the genre, but also introduced some interesting things; most importantly maybe that there's no monthly fee for playing this MMO.

If Guild Wars (GW) would've been an offline RPG, its story could've been considered a bit shallow. It is however an online RPG, where story is somewhat less important than the actual online interaction with other players.
You start out as a new recruit of Ascalon, which has been at war with the Charr for years. The Charr are a bunch of savage creatures from the North, who look like upright walking tigers with horns. Suddenly disaster strikes as the Charr launch a massive, magic-fed attack and almost completely overrun Ascalon; an event later called "The Searing". You regain control over your character two years later in the now post-apocalyptic Ascalon where the story further unfolds...

This story is what it should be and drives the main missions well. However, you already get to play with your character before the Searing, all of which serves as a big tutorial. In this tutorial (which can easily take up 10 hours) you learn the basics of combat for all professions and have to choose your secondary profession before you'll get thrown into the actual game.

As with most MMO's, you first get to create your character: male or female, tall or short, brown or blond hair. Also, you immediately have to decide which profession you want to be: ranger, warrior, monk, elementalist, necromancer or mesmer. This is a choice that'll profondly effect your further gameplay, so it's wise to try a few professions first before investing too much time in one that doesn't suit your style of play.

GW features pretty standard gameplay. Each profession can wield any type of weapon, but can only wear its own specific armor. The attributes of each profession are different though, which is why it's best sticking with weaponry suited for you. A ranger, for example, has an attribute called "Marksmanship" which improves damage done with a bow.
You gain attribute points every time you level up, until level 20, the maximum level. Different than in most MMO's, getting your character to the maximum level doesn't take hundreds of hours, but can be completed within 50-60 hours on your first playthrough. (Incredibly fast for a game of this type) Also armor and weapons which feature maximum stats aren't that rare, giving GW quite a unique perspective on achievements compared to most MMO's.

In GW, the real goals are titles which you can display under your name. These can range from obvious ones as "Champion", "Hero" or "Explorer" to "Drunkard", "Party Animal" or "Unlucky". Some of these are relatively easy to complete but most take tens or hundreds of hours, some almost a thousand hours to complete. Craziest title of all is "Legendary Defender of Ascalon". To achieve this title you need to get to level 20 in the tutorial area (before The Searing) which requires you to make enemies level up by letting yourself die over and over again. A perfect example of playing the game without actually playing it, something that can be said of alot of the titles in this game.

To advance through the world you'll have to explore Explorable Areas (what's in a name) by yourself or in a party, making your way from outpost to outpost. Some of these areas are linked to specific missions, which also push the main story along. Don't worry though, because the other areas are filled with NPC's giving you lots of FedEx quests to gain some more experience. GW's world map is huge; exploring it alone takes hundreds of hours.

In these explorable areas, you'll come across the unavoidable monsters, which drop some gold or items for you to pick up. Every profession has different abilities, which you collect along the way. Only 8 abilities can be used at the same time, making for some strategic tactics when putting together the ultimate set of abilities.

Graphically, GW is great, with nice characters and monsters and interesting and diverse scenery. I think the water is particulary nice, even maybe by today's standards.
Music and sound are pretty standard, same goes for the voice work; although there are some catchy musical themes. It's not mind-blowing, but never gets on your nerves aswell. (Very important for a game that never ends)

Now to discuss my theory on MMORPG's as a genre, and something that GW suffers from too. The problem with an MMO is you're either addicted or you're not. There's no middle way. (Atleast not for me)

When you're addicted, the game you're playing is the greatest game ever and you don't want to play anything but that game. With objectives (in GW's case: titles) taking hundreds or thousands of hours to complete, you can easily spend a whole year on an MMO, completely submurged in the game and everything about it.

However, once that addiction fades it's hard to stay interested, because games like GW or WoW are specifically made so they're only fun when played alot. Finding the motivation to perform these long, tedious tasks becomes much harder without that obsessive drive aswell.

As a conclusion I can say that Guild Wars is a great game in its genre, but it's still an MMORPG, so beware! Once you're hooked, you might not play another game anymore for months. Don't say I didn't warn you... 8.5/10

Posted on Aug 18th 2008 at 12:40:41 AM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Racing, Simulator, Polyphony Digital, Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo. One of the names most associated with the Playstation-brand whose popularity is met by only a couple other franchises out there. In 1998, with the release of the original Gran Turismo came the DualShock, probably the most recognizable modern-day game pad there is and something that shows how big an impact this series has had.
Gran Turismo 3: A-spec (2001) was the first racer Polyphony Digital released to the world to show what the Playstation 2 was capable of. With Gran Turismo 4 (2005), Polyphony Digital tried to realise what they couldn't with part 3.

Let's start out with what is new. Immediate eyecatcher is the highly needed, slick new menu layout. Every screen in the game feels like it's part of a bigger whole and the same fonts, colors and icons are used throughout. This gives GT4 a much more streamlined feel, aswell as provide easier mobility while navigating through the game's massive options.

As usual, there's an Arcade Mode where you can do single races, time trials or go up against others in a 2-player splitscreen or LAN. The not-so-interesting Replay Theatre is back aswell, but most important still is the Gran Turismo mode, the place where you'll spend 98% of your time.

Here, you'll immediately notice the difference in layout, with much more icons than in the past. In the classic home screen, the garage has become much more flexible for searching through your collection of cars with listing categories like country, power-to-weight ratio and so on. You'll also notice your "diary" which is nothing more than a log of your purchases and race results.

In GT4, races are devided into much more categories than before. The beginner, professional and expert races make a return, but new are the country- and manufacturer-specific races. There are, for example, Japanese, American and European events, while you have to go to the manufacturers to see if there are model-specific races available.

One thing in which GT4 excels is content: There's over 700 cars and 50 tracks in the game, making it a much bigger game than GT3. The same however was true for GT2 compared to GT1, probably because the developer has more time for their second release on each console. New this time are all the classic cars from the 50ies and beyond, aswell as some crazy concept cars and some of the first cars ever made. To make things easier in the beginning of the game, you can buy used cars of all ages. However, there's so many races to do and cars to collect in this game, it'll take you weeks (or even months) to finish it.

Also new are the B-spec and Photo mode. In B-spec mode you don't drive yourself but assist an AI driver by giving him/her directions (accelerate, break, etc...) for what to do next. Photo mode is (as the name indicates) a mode in which you can take pictures of your favorite cars, put them on a USB stick and print them out if you want.

Now for the actual driving. (This is where opinions will clash the most concerning GT4) Depending from what you, the gamer, expect from a racing-game, you'll either love GT4 or you won't. If you're looking for adrenaline-pumping, faster-than-lightning races with brutal competition, chances are big you won't like GT4. If, however, you're looking for a realistic (and therefor sometimes a bit boring) driving simulator, you'll find GT4 (almost) everything you're longing for.

When it comes to simply simulating driving, GT4 is fan-tas-tic. Especially when turning off electronic aids you'll be able to really show what you're made of. Couple this with the rich content and you can already justify buying GT4. However, there's some bad sides to the game aswell, quite a few actually...

For starters, there's no online play. This'll surely dissapoint alot of people wanting to test their skills against others online, who don't have a racing friend nearby.
Secondly, the AI is as dumb as ever. The other cars (still only 5) always drive in the perfect racing line, almost never miss a turn and stay together as a group unless there are major differences in the cars' performances. A third complaint is the fact that you can still use cars ahead of you as airbags for taking sharp corners aswell as ride off-track on several courses. (Apricot Hill, anyone?)
A penalty system has been introduced in the Dirt & Snow events, making you drive 50km/h for 5 seconds if you hit the other car, however, sometimes you get a penalty for the other car hitting you! These Dirt & Snow events are another thing that bothers me in GT4. Instead of them being realistic (like, say: Colin Mcrae) you feel like you're trying to manoeuvre a bar of soap on a wet plastic surface, constantly sliding towards the sides unless you break like mad. Although the B-spec mode sounds like a nice new feature at first, it's boring as hell and I really don't see the fun of not driving yourself.
Lastly, there's still no damage model, but it depends on what you expect from a driving simulator if that's a bad thing or not.

On the bright side, both graphics and sound are perfect in GT4, with beautiful cars and circuits aswell as realistic engine sounds. The soundtrack is elaborate although I'm not sure it'll appeal to all with mostly rock songs. Luckily, you can customize it in the "jukebox" so you only have to listen to the songs you like. Especially graphically, you can see the improvements made since GT3 with nicer cars, reflections and lighting. Especially the clouds seem to have been improved, showing much more detail than before. The addition of a new over-the-hood view of your car is very welcome, bring the best of the other 2 views together.

Scoring GT4 is difficult because it really depends on what you expect from it. I'd personally give it a 8.8 or maybe even a 9.0 out of 10 but considering the many faults this game has I'll give it a more diplomatic 8.2/10.

Posted on Aug 12th 2008 at 11:43:48 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Platform, Naughty Dog, Jak, Daxter

After their wildly succesful Crash Bandicoot series on the original Playstation, Naughty Dog decided to venture into the unknown for the PS2 and in 2001 they came out with Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy.

I'll cut right to the chase: Jak and Daxter was one of the first PS2 games I played and has since conquered a special place in my heart. Why? Because it rocks, plain and simple.

The game's story isn't anything spectacular but serves its purpose well, for a game in the Platform-genre. Jak and Daxter are two friends who adventure to Misty Island where they find a group of lurkers (bad guys of the blocked type) being addressed by two unknown individuals. When suddenly a lurker attacks the duo, Daxter falls into a pit of Dark Eco (A purple goo) and gets transformed into an ottsel. They search help from Sage Samos who sends them on their quest to find Gol, Sage of the Dark Eco and the only one who can return Daxter to his human form.

Much more important than the story is the gameplay of a platformer, which in this case feels solid and smooth. Jak is the only playable character of the game with Daxter riding along on Jak's shoulder, letting him do all the work. Jak's moves are simple: you can jump and double jump, punch and perform a spin-kick. Your moves list may be small but animations for them are smooth. (and in Daxter's case: funny) Enemies aren't exactly difficult to defeat, but this suits the game well considering the fact you die after three hits.
To make the gameplay a bit more interesting, for a limited amount of time, Jak can attain some extra abilities after running into a beam of Eco. Green Eco charges your health, blue Eco makes Jak jump higher and run faster, yellow Eco gives him the ability to shoot blasts of energy and red Eco makes Jak stronger. Using these Eco powers is one of the cornerstones of the gameplay and is often required to complete an objective.

Objectives of the game are simple tasks which get rewarded with Power Cells, the main collectible in the game. To gain access to a next part of the world, you need a certain amount of these. Precursor Orbs are much more common and can be traded in with NPCs or special statues for more Power Cells. Also, when finding all Scout Flies in an area, you are rewarded with yet another Power Cell.

Although the gameplay might sound a bit simple and dull, it certainly isn't and this is largely due to the impressive 3D engine Naughty Dog has made for this game. Instead of seperate levels, players are thrown into a large world, devided by seperate (themed) areas. Travelling between these areas can be done through portals at each Sage's home. Loading times get avoided by streaming data from the disk while playing, enhancing to the effect of a single world.
Graphics are detailed and colorful and the cartoon-look of characters and enemies help create a laid-back atmosphere throughout most of the game.

Background music for each of the areas does its job well and never gets irritating. Sound effects are great aswell as voice-acting. Especially Daxter's voice brings life to the character's slapstick humor.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a game that set the bar for future 3D Platformers and pushed the genre as a whole to a next level. Sadly enough, 3D Platform games seem to be over their peak with few games in the genre being made for the next-gen consoles, an evolution that saddens me.

This evolution makes Jak and Daxter all the more precious and a game no PS2 owner should miss. The game gets a well-earned 9.2/10 from me.

Posted on Aug 7th 2008 at 03:07:48 AM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Classic Gaming, PC, Lego, Rock Raiders, RTS, Strategy

Lego Rock Raiders is a 1999 PC game based on the popular Rock Raiders franchise. The game is aimed at children who like the actual Rock Raiders Lego but can also entertain teenagers or adults looking for a way to spend a couple of hours.

Story of the game is simple: While cruisin' in their Lego Spaceship, the Rock Raiders get trapped in a space storm and have to make an emergency stop at the nearest planet. Only way to make it back home is by digging into the planet's caves for energy crystals to repair their ship.

Each of the 33 missions starts out with Chief briefing you in about what needs to be done. This can range from gathering X amounts of energy crystals to saving a group of stranded Raiders. Although the missions seem to embody enough variaty, the actual gameplay does not.

Rock Raiders is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game where you spend most of your time looking for resources. What differentiates Rock Raiders from a typical RTS like Warcraft III is that gathering resources is all you do.

Like in any RTS game, building up your base is one of your primary concerns. Each building has its specific function like processing crystals, supplying your cave with air or for teleporting Rock Raiders and vehicles. Building one of these usually takes a number of ores and one or two (of the rarer) crystals.
To find ores and crystals, your Raiders need to drill in the walls surrounding them. This will not only reveal the resources inside but also expand your playable area further and further, when you discover more caves, underground lakes or even lava streams.
Occassionally, you'll run into a Rock monster that can destroy your base if you're not careful. However, placing some electrical fences or giving a couple of your Raiders lightguns will solve the problem easily.

Biggest problem of the game is that the Rock Raiders don't listen to your commands directly. You can, for example, click on a wall and request it to be drilled. Sure enough, some moments later a Raider will do so. This has probably been done to make the game easier for children (so they don't have to select a Raider individually and give him an action), but it can make the game very frustrating in the later levels. Especially when requesting a wall to be dynamited (this is required for stronger walls) it can take several minutes for it to actually happen. Also sad is that you can't save during a mission, so you need to finish missions in one go if you want to make progress.

Good thing is that graphics & sound for this game are good. Especially the graphics will appeal to the younger audience with sharp and colorful textures. Buildings and Raiders look exactly like you would expect and animations of buildings being build, raiders running around and monsters scaring your Raiders are generally good. Music is limited to some forgettable techno beats, but the sound effects and voices of the Rock Raiders are funny and informative.
Graphical variation is being offered in the form of three different cave types: normal, ice and lava. Walls and monsters also come in these three variaties.

All in all Lego Rock Raiders is an average game which could've been much better if the gameplay wasn't so repetitive and frustrating. Although the Lego fan might enjoy this, I can't recommend it for regular RTS players, looking for a diversion. 6.5/10

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