In Defence of Dungeon Keeper Mobile

Written on February 20, 2014 – 9:30 am by Ding

Dungeon Keeper Mobile upset a lot of fans of the original series. Once the dust had settled a little, I wrote a piece defending it for Den of Geek.

Some will tell you this heralds the end of gaming as we know it.

Some will tell you this heralds the end of gaming as we know it.

really wanted to write a piece actually defending it as a game outright as opposed to what I went with in the end. Tempting as it is to play devil’s advocate and fight for a position you don’t really hold, I just couldn’t produce anything approximating a positive review of this thing.

My distaste for the non-game pay-and-wait model is overwhelming and my suspicion of micro-transactional features runs deep enough that it actually threatens to stop me enjoying perfectly excellent games like Hearthstone which carry similar strands in its DNA.

At the same time, I do like change and I do welcome companies trying new ways to make money out of an industry that seems to lose far more of it than anyone expects. With yesterday’s news that Irrational was being wound up, it shows that even large well established studios can be hit with the financial failure stick, so if a few shoddy games can provide the data points needed to explore new revenue avenues, then it’s realistically a small price to pay.

Yeti Hunter Review

Written on January 28, 2014 – 12:55 pm by Ding

This review for Yeti Hunter, a free PC game from Vlambeer, first appeared on X, a site I now pretend never existed.

The first time I saw a yeti, the hairs on the back of my neck rose and prodded the nerves that coiled round to my temples and then proceeded to stop me breathing for the next three seconds. It was the first indication that I was not in fact alone in the blazing white snow-scape I had found myself in and that there were in fact yetis out there, or at least one, for me to hunt.

Always a pleasant sight to welcome you to a game's world.

Always a pleasant sight to welcome you to a game’s world.

Having come away from the game for a few minutes it occurs to me that I’m only assuming that I was the hunter because I was the one holding the gun and because on this particular occasion, the yeti was running away from me. There was no guarantee that this would always be the case or that the Yeti was even aware of my existence. Perhaps it was just frolicking, blissfully unaware of the terrified and quivering wreck currently cowering behind a cross-hair.

Yeti Hunter from Vlambeer is something I wouldn’t be surprised to find in an art gallery. In terms of atmosphere, it should be played by anyone who is in any doubt of the potential evocative nature of gaming as a medium, even through a retro aesthetic. The landscape is a crude, pixelated affair, outwardly resembling something that would be spat out by an ancient Atari, but the flickering snow and blinding white haze reveals a graphical sophistication that older machines would have been incapable of.

Not shown by picture: my fear-bulged eyes.

Not shown by picture: my fear-bulged eyes.

As for the atmosphere, the first time the scene snapped from day to night, and I do mean to use the word snapped, my heart decided it wanted to occupy a space that was half its size, contracting down with the shift in music. Said music, from Kozilek, does an incredible job of further pushing the tone and feeling of extreme solitude in a hostile or at best bleak environment.

The scratchy, shaky appearance of the snow and pixel-trees, accompanied by the haunting music played through my headphones in combination with the fact that I rather foolishly played this in the dark with the flickers of torrential snow lightly strobing against my walls, meant that the one thing it put me in mind of the most was the horror film The Ring. Upon exiting the game, I half expected to find an email from the yeti reading ‘seven days’.

I scare easily in games. I put the controller down very early on in Silent Hill 2 because unlike in a horror film, actually walking away is of course an option. That said, the atmosphere and tension that Yeti Hunter manages to build on such few resources is astounding. It is in no doubt a short form game, and not exactly something you can play for very long, nor I doubt very often, but it is an example of a supreme piece of game design and highly compelling, even if the lack of instruction or definitive objective can be a little unsettling.

It is really rather difficult to convey just how much atmosphere this game has in these screens.

It is really rather difficult to convey just how much atmosphere this game has in these screens.

I have yet to actually kill the/one of the yetis. I’m not even certain it’s possible and to be perfectly honest, I’m a little concerned of the potential consequences of doing so. If I find myself actually face to face with one, it will be interesting to see if I can pull the trigger and I appear to have taken to hiding up trees instead.

Verdict: Yeti Hunter didn’t feel the need to give me a score, so I won’t do the same to it. This should be looked at by any budding designer, anyone who needs convincing that games can be artistic, or anyone who wants a good atmospheric scare.

Yeti hunter was developed by Vlambeer with music from Kozilek. It is available as a free downloaded on the Yeti Hunter site.

Update: I wrote this long ago before I knew who Vlambeer were and and before the studio had done a huge amount. They have become one of the most interesting indie developers currently on the scene, and as a bonus recommendation, its mobile game Ridiculous Fishing is one of the few mobile titles that can be whole-heartedly recommended.

Check out this page for a selection of more video game reviews. They may not be the latest games or the most regularly updated, but they are definitely reviews.

The Candy Banner Saga

Written on January 27, 2014 – 2:15 pm by Ding

King, purveyors of the saccharine free-to-play money-generating pit that is Candy Crush Saga had a busy time in the headlines last week thanks to its legal shenanigans. The company has attempted to trademark the word Candy and has also tried to assert its ownership of the word Saga, which has put them at odds with indie developer Stoic, the studio behind Viking legend-themed RPG, The Banner Saga.

The Banner Saga

A typical shot of The Banner Saga. Beautiful art style and a ton of polish.

Back in 2011, I wrote something about a lawsuit between Bethesda Softworks and Mojang with the former claiming that the latter’s upcoming game “Scrolls” would confuse players into thinking it was somehow associated with its “The Elder Scrolls” series (more commonly known amongst gamers as Skyrim, Oblivion, and maybe the odd older title such as the far superior Morrowind). The King vs Stoic incident is similar, even down to the size of the companies involved.

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Hearthstone Beta Review

Written on December 31, 2013 – 5:36 pm by Ding

The Hearthstone Beta review

Initially Hearthstone comes across as a shameless copy of Magic: The Gathering. Of course, Magic: The Gathering is an excellent game marred only by the fact that your friends are smarter than you, know which cards go together perfectly, and don’t keep getting distracted and filling their decks with low-health creatures. I may only be speaking for myself there of course.

hearthstone_main

I was ready to write off Hearthstone as Magic: The Copying and call it a day but there’s just something about Blizzard’s level of polish that makes that quite hard to do. Four hours later I had fully filed my nails down with my teeth and had both feet tucked up onto my chair as the last few points hung in the balance between my confused Paladin (he didn’t know why his cards were all low-health creatures) and a suicidal Warlock constantly hurting himself to get better cards whilst I ineffectually poked him with a town guard.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a Blizzard Entertainment project that looks to be lining its cross-hairs on the lucrative (I initially typed ludicrous and I’m not sure I was right to correct it) free-to-play market. It is a digital collectible card game whereby players collect cards, build decks out of those cards, and then battle each other with those decks. You unlock cards by levelling up or earning gold through the game, or by putting your credit card details down to buy more of them directly.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

Written on July 4, 2012 – 9:21 pm by Ding

Why yes, I did just post a review for a game that’s three years old. That’s either post-modern games journalism or post-relevant games journalism.

This review originally appeared on X, a site I now pretend I never created. You can read my full review below the fold.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Dark Knight in almost all his forms. That Batman has seen so many variations baffles and intrigues me.

Although my taste may indeed have been tempered by the fact that I was a teenager and didn’t know any better at the time, I would highly recommend the No Man’s Land series of graphic novels. They have an interesting if not far fetched setup with Gotham City cut off from the rest of the states and being carved up by the wide variety of Batman villains, it puts well known characters under unusual stresses, and the ending…well, it’s disappointing. The point is there were some great moments there, some extraordinary artwork, a few gems of good story telling and the first two volumes were probably what pushed me off into the deep end of trying to draw my own comics, be that for good or ill.

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iOS Game Review: Niko

Written on February 7, 2012 – 10:00 am by Ding

iOS Game Review:  Niko

Niko is a platformer from Habbo Hotel creators, Sulake.  It is worthy of comment for two reasons:  Firstly, it has some level of integration with Habbo Hotel, a hugely successful and popular virtual world that has been one of the innovators of micro transactions and secondly, it resolves a lot of problems that platform games have on a touch screen device.

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The Chaotic Tortoise Top 5 Games of 2011

Written on January 22, 2012 – 6:20 pm by Ding

Happy new year.  I know it’s nearly February, but that still makes it new and happy.  The Chaotic Tortoise has had a nice hibernation period and is back and ready to clatter away at its keyboard now.

 

The end of the year for many journalists is a time of making lists be they best ofs, worst ofs, most anticipateds or sometimes a combination of the three.  Other journalists complain about how it’s the time of the year for making lists.
Anyone that has known me for any length of time might know that I can get to the party a little late so I feel no shame in posting my top five games from last year, followed by a few honourable mentions, now rather than sooner.

This is composed of games I have been able to play this year and despite doing quite a bit of work in the gaming press itself, that has been less than I would have liked due to 2011 being a really busy year for me.  I’m sure there are many other games worthy of inclusion, but I just haven’t played them and won’t pretend that I have.  That’s integrity for you.

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Saints Row: The Third Review

Written on November 28, 2011 – 11:38 am by Ding

I very nearly wrote off Saints Row: The Third after about an hour.  Had I not been reviewing the game and possessing the professionalism to play through to the end, it might have been consigned to the shelf of ‘things I might come back to.’

 

Short version:  I’m glad I kept on playing.

 

Long version:  Hit the ‘read the rest of this entry’ button to read on.

 

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An Introduction to Video Games – A Different Side to Gaming

Written on November 22, 2011 – 4:23 pm by Ding

In this episode, I have a look at a different side to gaming.

 I know the plan was to look at some more genres, but a good plan is a plan that can change and something more interesting came up!

 Apologies for the sound and lighting.  I’m very much learning by doing, or at least learning by making mistakes and seeing what I can get away with.

Review Scores in Gaming

Written on November 16, 2011 – 12:48 pm by Ding

In quiet moments over the last few weeks where I have been reading through parts of the gaming press, my brow has become furrowed over the furore concerning complaints about the review score system.

 As a brief background to anyone who has missed the mess, Eurogamer gave Uncharted 3 an 8/10 score and were internet-crucified by a series of commenters claiming that Eurogamer were attention seeking, trying to get extra hits, and generally saying that they were wrong and irresponsible to give it any less than a 9/10.  Incidentally, most of these often incredibly harsh and unrepeatable-before-the-watershed comments will have come from people who hadn’t played the game yet.

 

That doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me, but then I could chalk that up to the fact that I barely understand the desire to leave comments in general. I do however think it’s fair to say however that it’s insane and sadly not existing in a vacuum.  The issue has been discussed and dissected in other places, most recently by Jim Sterling at the Escapist and by Checkpoint on PATV a while back, both worth a look if you are equally perplexed about the issue.

Game journalists complaining about game journalism is actually becoming a bit of a cliché now and is nothing new.  The complaining about review scores has been bubbling away for ages.  One of the main issues is the conflict of interest that can arise in the course of the symbiotic relationship between PR and journalist with the PRs under no obligation to send review copies of games and journalists needing copies of games in order to review them and maintain a readership. I’m sure most establishments could afford to arrange a game-buying budget to circumvent this but regardless, it can make it a little awkward when it comes to reviewing an absolute stinker.

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