I Miss MAG

29 07 2015

MAG (Zipper Interactive - 2010)

MAG is a game I have mentioned on this blog on numerous occasions. It was a game produced by Zipper Interactive for the PS3 that was entirely multiplayer, meaning that there was no real single player mode……….apart from a little tutorial. The idea behind MAG (Massive Action Game) was to have one giant multiplayer battleground where up to 256 players, split into two teams and fight each other. At the time of release it was both revolutionary, but also risky as no-one could see a game with so many players working. Well, when it did work, it was a really enjoyable game.

MAG1

Out of all the games I have had on my PS3, I think it was the one I was most committed towards. From the first day I got it, to almost every day since then, I was playing on it. I was fighting in giant battles with players in my chosen faction against another faction. I was shooting enemy players, healing my teammates and securing objectives. While I wasn’t the best player in the game, I was doing well at it enough to enjoy it. If my PS3 had a time calculation thing on it (like games on Steam where it shows how many hours you have played games for), MAG, even to this day might still be my most played game on the console.

MAG Factions

The Faction I originally chose was Raven. I liked the futuristic, technological look of them, and I played the game right through to I think level 60, where players could then change the faction as Veteran, to which I did to become a fighter for Valor. As the game progressed I levelled up through several varying ranks and even got promoted to Team Commander, where I could lead a squad of 8 men including myself. As the game went on I also upgraded my character and received new weapons and skills. It was a game I liked as it gave me reason to continue, plus I enjoyed it so much, despite the fact that I probably died more times than killed people, but I don’t think I was too bad. The levels were good too, while most of the time it was restricted to just a few maps and objectives, some of these were large and varied enough to keep me interested. When new expansions came out I purchased them too, even if the demand for those levels eventually just dried up. On top of that, it had vehicles, paratroopers, guns galore, and a terrific soundtrack, plus an opening video. It’s E3 trailer from 2008 was pretty sweet too, and was the reason why I wanted to play it.

But eventually, it just began to die out. Levels began to get harder to get into, it was hard to fight on missions you wanted to as it relied on other people wanting to play them too. Then eventually, it’s time came, as the servers were announced to be shut down. I quickly traded in my copy somewhere, just so I didn’t have a dead useless weight in my collection that couldn’t be played again.

MAG4

It’s true; I really do miss this game. I could only play it downstairs as that was where the best internet connection was to play it. I enjoyed it more than multiplayer on Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2, as MAG had things to strive for, while CODMW2 just didn’t for me. It has left me with some terrific memories, but sadly is not the same as playing it. I will just have to find something else to play instead, and wait until another game like it, maybe, one day (hopefully) comes along.

MAG

GENEPOOL (maybe if a new Frontlines game is made, it could be the multiplayer for that?)





Wasting Away On Creeper 3

15 07 2015

CW3 Logo

For the past few weeks, I have been doing little projects here and there; from writing a series of film reviews (3 down, 4 to go), writing short stories to try and cure writers block (see previous post) as well as for entry into the Preston Short Story Slam, while also trying to develop ideas for bigger stories. All the while doing this I am trying to find work, decide on a direction of career, volunteering and awaiting the dark cloud of Graduation to arrive (tomorrow). One thing though that I have found in my way is something I do for light fun but also to help distract me when I need distracting. I play small little games on Steam every now and ten and have recently been playing such games as Mini Metro among others. One though I have come to realise, while is a useful distraction, is also wasting my time, and it’s becoming a real problem; Creeper World 3.

CW31

Creeper World 3 is the third game in the Creeper World series by KnuckleCracker.com. Over the years I have played Demos and versions of its previous incarnations on Kongregate; Creeper 3 though is the first time I have been able to play one of the actual games to the full. Basically, Creeper is a game where you have to defend/runaway/destroy a moving entity called the Creeper, which aims to destroy all the worlds of humanity. It is a real-time strategy game where you need to build defences to kill the Creeper while also either trying to destroy it completely, or survive long enough to kill it. I have found previous versions of the game really fun and very easy to get into. Creeper 3 itself plays a lot like the first one where you are on a map looking down over it, whereas Creeper World 2 was more a side scrolling view of the level.

CW21

I have been playing Creeper 3 since the Steam Summer Sale in June where I got it quite cheap, and to date, have played for over 31 hours (at time of writing). Yet I have discovered one little flaw in constant playing. Creeper 3 is not exactly a quick game, and levels (at least for me) can take close to an hour to complete. By the time I have finished, too much time has gone by for me to do anything in the way of productive, and it’s starting to become a real drag. It’s becoming such a problem I am considering uninstalling it to put on something that is much quicker to play. I actually feel rather bad as I have yet to play Grim Fandango Remastered which my brother got me for my birthday, and I really want to play it too, it’s just I get into Creeper, and then time has gone.

Grim Fandango (LucasArts - 1998)

It’s not the only game trouble I am struggling with at the moment, I am wondering about restarting Pokémon White on my 3DS as my Pokémon Team, is terrible, and I am also trying to have a second go at Beyond: Two Souls on the PS3, but I find it hard to play the game at night. And then there are my reading problems as I am finding it hard to get ‘into’ The Young Elites. It’s a hard time for me at the moment, all these struggles to do stuff and I am finding it hard to actually do them, and I don’t think playing Creeper 3 is really helping, as I would rather only play it as a 30 minute game to take during a break, not to take up an entire afternoon, as I would rather use the afternoon to do something a bit more productive, like write a book, which I really want to do.

The Young Elites (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers - 2014)

I will say however, that Creeper World 3 is a really fun game and one that I do recommend (I have played it for 30+ hours).

CW32

GENEPOOL (Does that title rhyme)?





In An Attempt To Cure Writer’s Block

8 07 2015

Pen and Paper

Since finishing University a few weeks ago (and while waiting for Graduation in just over a week’s time), I have been trying to do a number of things to keep myself productive and busy. I have been looking for work, trying to come up with a career plan, writing weekly blog posts, coming up with ideas for stories and board games, reading when I can, playing games, baking cakes, volunteering at Barnardo’s and at The Dukes play in the park again. One thing though that I have wanted to continue since finishing, I have found rather hard, and that is writing stories. I like writing stories, I like all kinds of writing, and when I am in the zone, I just can’t stop. Starting is an entirely different matter however.

Darkmouth (Harper Collins - 2015)

I have kept up with my blog writing, and right now am writing a series of film reviews to be shown in a few weeks’ time, but writing large pieces of work is proving to be rather difficult. Writing big projects at University (in hindsight) was easier, as I was motivated to get the work done as best as I could, but now I need to find new motivation and am finding it hard. I am constantly coming up with ideas for projects, either it be stories, blog posts or board games, but getting round to actually doing them is what I am struggling with. Writing short stories shouldn’t necessarily be too much of a problem as they are small, quick stories to write, however, starting them is as difficult as any other project. Ideas for them are hard as they need to be concise, small, and not necessarily involve big incidents, or big things happening……….which is kind of what I like. Back in May I even came up with a plan to write at least one short story a month, but in June I (technically) did not write one.

A Cake and some Cake Pops I made recently.

I say technically; basically, last month I entered Preston’s first Short Story Slam. A writing/performing contest where writers write short stories to then read out. Writer’s need to write 3 stories of no more than 200 words that can be read in 4 minutes or less. It’s a head to head sort of thing (as far as I understand it) and I need to write 3 short stories for it. A week ago I wrote one story for it, I still have another 2 to write (at time of writing) but coming up with ideas for such a small word count I am finding tough, and even when I do have an idea, simply sitting down behind my laptop to write it is proving tricky. It was only when I had a voice going through my head telling me to write the first story that I finally did it (The Slam is at the end of July, so I still have some time). Even when it isn’t that though, writing in general (when it is not for my blog) I am finding tough. I can develop ideas quite nicely, (I prefer to do it in my head where I can visualise it, while find that writing it down can usually mean I end up leaving and forgetting about it), but that’s still not writing it.

Rory's Story Cubes: Prehistoria

In an attempt to cure what I think is writer’s block; I have started doing little exercises to get me writing again. While my mind wanders onto other ideas of approaching it, for now, this one is working. I have had Rory’s Story Cubes for over a year now. First I got a small expansion in the form of Rory’s Story Cubes: Prehistoria, but discovered using them rather hard, so I bought a copy of the base set, and was able to get going with them. To begin with I just used them as a little game to play with friends and at the Writer’s Society at University. Basically, the base set is a box of 9 dice, with each side on all the dice being a different image (54 images in total). You roll them, and then use the 9 images to make a story. It has to start with “Once Upon A Time” and can either be done as one continuous story as a group, or several stories. There are other versions of the base set and several expansions, all of which can be mixed and matched to create a diverse range of stories. Recently, I decided to use them to help me write some short stories. I use them in the same way as you normally would play with them; roll them and look at the pictures rolled (sometimes re-rolling if I can’t think of anything). Instead of telling the story to someone though, I would instead write my story in a Word Document.

Story Dice 1

I have been taking the pictures of the images I have rolled, considering possibly putting my stories online at a later date (with a photo of the dice to show what images I have to work with). I actually rather enjoy coming up with stories this way; they can be about anything and there are no restrictions as to the length of the story, nor the genre it is in. It really does help me to get back into writing short stories. While I have not done one for about a week (due to being busy with my current weekly schedule), I look forward to writing another one, and hopefully with time, be able to write some without assistance, possibly even bigger ones. Right now though, I have a Short Story Slam to enter.

Story Dice 2

GENEPOOL





King Boom Boo

1 07 2015

King Boom Boo

Back in 2002 when I first received my GameCube, for the first couple of months I only had one game (Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee). For the first few months to a year of ownership of the console I spent a lot of time in GAME and Gamestation looking at games to possibly purchase. One of the games I kept an eye on was a game I had played before on the Dreamcast which belonged to one of my brothers and was one of the first games he had for it. The game was Sonic Adventure 2 and was originally a game made exclusively for the Dreamcast. Sometime after the Dreamcast had stopped being produced however, Sonic Adventure 2 was re-released onto the GameCube as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.

Sonic Adventure 2 (Sega - 2001)

When I first got Battle, I instantly began to play it and could easily recognise the levels I sometimes played on the Dreamcast, as well as later levels I remembered seeing my brother play. My progress on the game was slow, but I was a younger gamer at the time, (not as lightning fast like when I play now). While playing the hero side of the story, I knew about an upcoming boss level for Sonic where he goes up against this big Egyptian style statue called the Egg Golem. I remembered seeing my brother play that level, the one thing I did not see, was the boss level directly before it.

Hourglass

After completing one of Knuckles‘s treasure finding levels (one where I had to find keys to unlock a door in Eggman’s base), I expected to go up against the Egg Golem. Instead I was surprised to come to a sudden boss level involving a Giant Ghost. The boss was called King Boom Boo: The King of Ghosts and he was a hard one. The level involved a round room with a pillar in the middle. The ghost himself had big eyes and a large multi-coloured mouth and tongue. Behind him there was a smaller ghost with an egg timer/sand timer/hourglass. Taking on the boss and defeating him was easy in theory. You basically had to attack the little ghost with the hourglass behind King Boom Boo, which would cause a timed door to open. This would then cause King Boom Boo to disappear into the ground, where you dig him up, hit him as many times as you could before the door closes and the sun goes, causing King Boom Boo to grow back to normal size again. Defeating him though was a hard one. It was similar to chasing someone round a room, and when you turn another way, so does he. In fighting King Boom Boo, the first thing you needed to do was to get away from him and his blue hand fire-ball attack (and later his tongue attack), before getting behind him to strike at the smaller ghost, the only thing is though that he quickly turns around to come at you again. For several attempts which I remembered span over several weeks, I was unlucky, but there was a clue as to how to strike at the little ghost.

GameCube

 

When he had enough of chasing you, King Boom Boo would then breathe fire, preventing him from turning round. You could then use this to attack the little ghost and attack King Boom Boo. Getting him out of the ground is then not so hard as sometimes he’s on the floor, and others he’s on the pillar and you just need to climb up there. Getting more than one hit on him is hard though. King Boom Boo after he is dug out of the ground is large, cumbersome and slow, therefore easy to hit. After you hit him once though, he gets smaller and quicker, meaning that if you too were slow, you probably weren’t going to hit him again. I once did try going the other way, but he saw me and turned round (which was rather funny). In the end though it came down to several more attempts getting in 1 hit at a time, luckily though the boss levels have a health bar at the top to show you how much health the opponent has left. So after several weeks and attempts, I finally beat the wretched ghost, and the game saved successfully so I did not need to do it again. Up next though was the Egg Golem (which is another story for another time).

Egg Golem

Despite how long it took and how hard it was; King Boom Boo remains one of my favourite and most memorable boss fights of any video game I have played. I still have the game to this day (and have yet to complete the third story), same copy and everything, but I now look forward to the ghost boss level as I consider it a mid to late milestone for the Hero Story. I look forward to it because I know what I am doing, and it gives me another opportunity to listen to the Fantastic soundtrack, plus; it’s a nicely designed, well thought out boss level and I was surprised by it, for only then to have it followed by yet another hard boss level. Possibly more though, I remember it fondly because it took me so long to complete it, and to this day, look forward to enjoy and remember such an experience like that again in video gaming – and for now, I know just where to get it.

GENEPOOL (I also remember seeing King Boom Boo in an episode of Sonic X).

 





Shadow The Hedgehog: The Final Word

17 06 2015

Shadow The Hedgehog (SEGA - 2005)

Several years ago, I used to collect Official Nintendo Magazine, I still have them actually. It was back when I was a big gamer and played on mostly Nintendo consoles. Eventually though, maybe two years ago, I just stopped collecting them, I don’t think I actually had a proper good read of one for a year before that. Anyway, the magazine continuously changed every few issues to keep it fresh and one of the magazine sections that stuck around for a while was a readers section. This was where anyone who wrote letters in, or (more commonly) from the online forums would get a say. When it came to the online forums, ONM used to show a pie chart of percentages of what people talked about most that month, and one of the most commonly featured topics in the pie chart was a lot of people showing their support for a spinoff game of the Sonic the Hedgehog series; Shadow The Hedgehog.

ONM Magazine

I never actually looked into those topics on the forums, my forum footprint overall was pretty low; however it always interested me to see people defend Shadow the Hedgehog. I remember first reading about the game and being a fan of the Sonic series at the time (and also my liking for the character of Shadow), I was excited about it. I remember even getting a copy of it for my GameCube when it was first released, and remembered hearing friends and other people talk about their opinions for the game, where the result was normally positive. One thing I did not understand though, was why (roughly) 25% of the readership of the magazine wrote on the forums every month just to defend a specific game. The other percentages used to talk about new stuff or current games and opinions; so why is another talking about one game in particular? I mean, what was so bad about Shadow the Hedgehog in the first place. When I originally played it, I thought it was quite fun. I played it quite a lot and really got into it. Ok, it wasn’t like it had no flaws at all but I thought it was OK. With the game being nearly 10 years old now, I thought I would reminisce a little by looking back at it and giving a more hindsight view on what I thought of the final product. While the post may say “The Final Word”, this probably, more than likely, won’t be the last time someone talks about this game, but due to the interest in people defending the game, I thought I would give and highlight my thoughts on the game, then hopefully come up with some overall rating for it (I probably won’t do this again in the future as it probably won’t work).

Shadow

1. Setting – Shadow is a hedgehog (like sonic, but black in colour) who has something of a mysterious past that comes back to him in flashbacks he doesn’t relatively understand. For the most part he is a loner and only cares for himself and some mysterious girl called Maria. One day, an Alien Invasion by a race known as the Black Arms suddenly happens. At first he doesn’t care, but is then approached by the races master; Black Doom who says that if Shadow can bring him the Chaos Emeralds, he will reveal Shadows past. The alien invasion setting then sets the game up for the player to take shadow on a story plot that allows the player to take different routes and discover and play different levels while also discovering Shadows Past. The games’ setting is pretty interesting and as its core point of storytelling goes, it’s pretty cool; however it’s all over the place. One moment you are fighting off an alien invasion, the next, you are nowhere near the invasion, to doing something that happened 50 years previously, or fighting a completely different enemy altogether. Because you are not too sure of where you are supposed to be, it feels more like a game without story than a game that sort of promises to tell you a story while discovering it yourself at the same time. While it is interesting to discover new things and experiences other bits, for a story telling adventure, it’s a bit poor. 2/5.

S4

2. Gameplay Part 1: Storytelling – The game offers you choices of routes to take from level to level, meaning the game is not linear. In fact the game uses a story tree which allows players to pick a route to take and follow it to where it goes. To do this, they have 3 choices of mission per level (as far as I know, I didn’t get as far as the end of each story side). One route choice will take the player on the hero path, another on the dark path, and the other on the horizontal normal route. If the player goes down the normal route that just comes to the point of reaching the end of the level for the other 2 though it usually requires completing an in game goal or completing the level in a certain way. So it could be activating or finding things in level, or it could be defeating so many enemies to destroying something. Relatively simple……….in theory. It’s one of the larger issues I have with the game. The problem is, that while it sounds relatively simple; some of those side missions can turn out to be rather complex. Some are easier than others but when it comes down to either finding so many of one thing, or collecting the other, finding them in the first place can be very irritating, especially when there is only one left, and while you may get to the point of certainty knowing where it is, finding it at all again is tricky. Keeping it to those routes to get to new levels can become even more irritating if you accidently end up doing a level you may have already done once before, and when you play levels over and over again, it gets really boring. Then even if you are successful in completing the mission correctly to go onto the next stage, you may end up taking on one of the games various random bosses, which is tedious unto itself. It is a rather inventive and exciting way to play a sonic game as it is not linear and the choice of routes can be quite fun (as well as add replay value to find more levels), but in turn, is annoying. 3/5.

S1

3. Gameplay Part 2: Core Gameplay Mechanics – The games striking main feature is that the lead character gets to wield a gun. Possibly thinking; that without something extra or different, it would look just like a normal Sonic game; the developers gave an already anti-hero character his own choice of weaponry. The game bolsters a huge selection of firearms with some different per level, and while Shadow doesn’t necessarily have to use them, it does add something else to the game. Most times guns are just picked up from fallen enemies, and depending on the enemies and area will vary the choice of available firearms. I find it’s a lot like Half Life in that respect with the amount of different types, but when there is in some cases little variation it can be a bit repetitive, but not necessarily boring. The inclusion of a gun though doesn’t really seem to provide much though, as there are lots of shooting games on the market and the only thing that’s different with this one is that it’s in a Sonic game. Shadow does not necessarily need a gun however, he is powerful enough without. I think it’s more of an image thing than anything else, but I would rather him have a gun he can keep than having lots that do not last very long. After that though there isn’t much except for regular abilities that sonic can use in previous games. The only other one that stands out is in the 2 power bars that can be built up during levels. These are filled up when attacking certain enemies or doing other things of note. One is a hero bar, the other is dark and when one has been filled up it can be used. These are actually quite useful as one allows you to travel huge levels of distance in the game making the levels shorter, while the other works similarly to the Team Blast feature in Sonic Heroes where you can wipe out huge numbers of enemies that are currently on-screen. It’s a very nice feature which is also something a little bit different to other games. 4/5.

S3

4. Visuals – Visuals come down to 2 points, cinematics and in game. The cinematics look terrific and add an extra special something to the story telling side of the game. The cut scenes and in game visuals however, which use the same graphics look rather basic and can put a sour note on the games look. For the most part the visuals don’t look that bad, but when considering that the visuals for some cut scenes don’t use the cinematic look, it just looks basic as if it was done half-heartedly. The cut scenes are nicely done in what they are trying to say and set up the levels well, but compared to what is achieved in the more cinematic cut scenes, they could be better. The opening cinematic though is fantastic and really helps to set up the feel of the whole game. 3/5.

5. Bosses and other Characters – The boss levels are not exactly varied. My experience mostly ended up with me takin on mostly Dr. Eggman in boss matches that were quite hard. The only other boss levels I had were against the black bull alien thing and the heavy dog, both of which were still pretty hard. The end boss for all my attempts was the Egg Dealer which was a lot more simple (and enjoyable) but weird. It was the case that once you knew how to defeat it, all you needed to do was just keep hitting it with your homing attack. The other thing about it was its choice of when to enter the game. One of the last levels on a route of the tree was the black comet where you would expect to find some kind of alien monster to fight. No; for some reason it was Eggman. It made more sense when I was in Eggman’s base, but not on the comet. Apart from the Egg dealer, Boss levels were pretty weak, if it was not for the choice of music to go with them, which ups the score for it a little. As for the use of other characters in the game that you randomly meet on the way in some levels, I think it’s rather pointless with the only good new character being the commander of G.U.N. (and some allowance to Black Doom, but only a bit). 2/5.

Omega E-123

6. Levels and Multiplayer – The levels in the game were nice and varied if but a bit dodgy. It’s sort of all over the place with areas depending on the routes you take. However the choice of levels and the things you can do in them are a relative improvement compared to the storytelling side. The levels are designed in strange combinations with some being like classic Sonic levels (platforms and lots of running), while others are like mazes and slow routes with lots of fighting. And then you have the completely weird ones like the circus based world, and a couple inside computers. The colouring of the levels is sometimes bright and sometimes dark but with plenty of variation. While the things you can do in the levels are really up to the story direction, the levels are much better in contrast. Multiplayer I did not get to play much of except on one occasion, however it was weird and fun to experience. 4/5.

S2

7. Soundtrack – For all the game’s up and downs, there is one thing that does not disappoint: the game’s soundtrack. While the levels, characters, missions and bosses are constantly in a state of mismatch, the one thing that does work is the choice of music to the game level. While some levels are similar to one another, great care has been taken to make the soundtrack work and meet the feel and look of each level. Added to this is the soundtrack for the boss levels, cut scenes, characters, cinematics and even the credits; which altogether makes something that works at a consistent rate, and not only that is both enjoyable, and memorable at the same time. I will probably go more into certain pieces of soundtrack in a later post, but particular ones to look out for include the opening cinematic theme (I Am… All of Me), Digital Circuit, Sky Troops and the end credits theme (Waking Up). 5/5.

So, that’s the game in essence, so now to work out its score. So ‘add the numbers together and then divide by the number of categories.’ 2 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 5 = 23 ÷ 7 = 3.285714285714286. So to round it to a reasonable number, I would say it gives Shadow the Hedgehog as score of 3 making it something of an average game of highs and lows. It has great gameplay mechanics, interesting levels and a fantastic soundtrack but is somewhat hindered by everything else.  It’s not completely Pants, but it’s not really Great either. You might be able to see something else in it than I didn’t, but altogether; that’s what I think f Shadow the Hedgehog. It will more than likely still be debated for some years to come, but for now, it’s somewhere in the middle (plus I have other things to do).

Vector

GENEPOOL








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