Tagged: PC

Cute Dodos, liquid physics and more from Neko Entertainment

Don’t even ask me how I wound up on the homepage of a DSiWare game, just look at this explosion of cuteness! Happy dodo wearing glasses, giddy stack of eggs, a Red Cross stylus (ahh! It’s not real), a Crash Test Dummy egg, and a whole slew of animals yearning to eat a clueless dodo egg. How do the eggs even get faces? Seems like they’re happy enough just being eggs to even bother hatching. The game itself is a cute but familiar 2D physics puzzler but it led me down a hole to developer, Neko Entertainment‘s site.

Their main page has a little animation of a puddle flying across the frame and that kind of physics puzzler I’m still not burnt out on. Simply titled Puddle, it’s labeled as a Work in Progress for Xbox Live Arcade but is available as a free download for PC which I just grabbed. A handful of levels see you simply rotating left and right to move some impressively generated liquids through puzzles. Of particular note is the stage that looks like mercury moving through the human body, complete with black and white X-ray view and beating organs. Very slick, I hope it gets expanded upon and brought to XBLA as a full-fledged game soon!

Neko’s also got a new Wii game out now in Europe called Western Heroes that tweaks all the right memories of Wild Guns from the SNES and Sunset Riders. A cel shaded-esque steampunk western, it has two things going for it. One, the art style is kinda neat; colorful and bright. Two, it comes with a plastic repeater rifle you shove your Wii Remote and Nunchuk into and manually cock to reload. The downside? It’s an on-rails lightgun shooter. Not the most promising but I like how they’ve run with it!

Sure, they’ve done a lot of Wii and DSiWare games I’ve glanced past but there’s some serious spunk at Neko Entertainment. I like their style and am looking forward to seeing what this mysterious “AAA” 3DS title they’re working on turns out to be.

Done Playing: Trine (PC)

Continue reading or just watch the game’s intro level. Sums it all up!

With Trine 2 having just been announced at E3 it seems the time has come to finally write something about my hours spent with the original. After playing the PC demo on my friend’s super rig, wishing I could play it on my own, waiting impatiently for the PlayStation 3 version, slightly upgrading my computer’s video card and stumbling into a sale on Steam, I finally had the game all to myself. But for all the anticipation it wound up being a game I’d play for an hour here and there and then put down for weeks. Maybe I didn’t want the magic to end or maybe I’m just not so keen on sitting in front of my PC monitor and mouse/keyboarding my way through a game anymore.

Don’t let my lack of firey commitment fool you, though. Trine is a gorgeous game, one that pushes beyond my meager GeForce 9500 GT and one that pulls off the same kind of fantastical whimsy of an adventure like Fable. It’s something in the audio to be sure. That narrator makes me wish I were English and that he were my grandfather so he could read me bedtime stories the way he does Trine’s poetic prose. Long after the next level has finished loading he’ll be going on about how your characters are in for a surprise or how the magical world used to be a serene wonderland. The characters play off of each other pretty well, too, but there’s some definite Eastern European voice talent at work here. Above all, though, it’s the music that makes Trine special. Despite the endless stream of skeletons and the detailed worlds the music almost always stays playful with horns and strings setting the tone more than accompanying the action.

Trine isn’t just mood setting music and glorious visuals, it’s a physics puzzle/platformer — the kind of stuff that’s right up my alley. The setup is that there’s a magical crystal that three very different people with very different abilities lay their grubby hands on at the exact same time. The Wizard, Thief and Knight are sucked into the crystal and only one at a time can come out to play. The Wizard can levitate objects and conjure up simple boxes and planks, the thief has the ranged bow and can grapple onto wooden surfaces to swing around, and the Knight is the muscle to push objects and deal with firey traps.

And that’s all there is to it. The triptych trio set out to put an end to a dark force bringing skeletons back from the grave and filling the world with booby traps and physics puzzles. You’ll typically encounter a new area, see what you can interact with or where you can climb to, conjure some objects or push some stuff around, fight a dozen skeletons on your way out and repeat. That’s quite the boiled down description but I assure you it’s fun and, just like Portal, you’ll soon be scratching your head for a solution and then laughing at how you managed to conquer the last impasse.

If simply passing through each stage isn’t challenging enough there are a ton of hidden Experience potions that are usually easy to spot but fiendishly hard to reach. You don’t need them to progress as skeletons are literally bursting with Experience but to find all the hidden treasures (which are ability augmenting trinkets) you’ll need the bonus powers and beefed up magic reserves that they unlock. Plus, they’re just as head-scratchingly fun to collect as puzzling through the story so stop moving forward and start screwing around!

Mischief! That’s the defining characteristic of Trine. From that playful music to the numbskull skeletons that you mess with by dropping objects onto, to the bouncy, springy physics that invite you to play around. Trine is medieval mischief, a fun little game that does its thing in a splendid looking fantasy world that I can’t wait to get back to either by playing the new DLC or the sequel.

Now Playing: OnLive

Let’s just cut straight to the nitty gritty. Does OnLive work as promised? Yes. It actually does exactly what the company claimed. It runs on virtually any computer. It allows you to jump right in to any game without installing, patching, or configuring. It gives you a perfect image that’s comparable to an HDTV running at 720p. It runs without any lag or noticeable delay.

That is… as long as you have sufficient bandwidth.

Yes, OnLive works as advertised, with the one conceit that both your bandwidth is high, and the servers aren’t over burdened. If the connection isn’t perfect, the illusion isn’t quite perfect. At best, it’s like you’re playing a game on a high-end computer. At worst, it’s like playing an interactive YouTube video running at full screen with a dying controller. The graphics can look very pixelated, the controls can have a very noticeable delay, and the sound can even lag behind the video. Fortunately, this has mostly been the exception in my experience.

There are a handful of games currently available to choose from. There’s not much consistency in their prices or purchase methods. Some can be bought outright, some can be bought or rented, while some can only be rented but not purchased. Rentals give you the game for a few days, while purchases give you access to the game until at least the year 2013. And that’s one of the big issues with OnLive. Games you buy aren’t permanently yours. You’re either renting or leasing, essentially. The prices of these games are also an issue. You might expect that these non-permanent games would be cheaper than what they would be at retail. You should think again. The prices are exactly in line with what the same games go for at retail, or Steam for that matter.

Questionable value aside, OnLive works incredibly well on a technical level. It’s difficult not to totally geek out when it’s running. You can select any game on the service and just jump right in. Many of the games have 30 minute timed demos that you can initiate at any time. Besides playing the games, you can access the Arena. The Arena is a big, endless wall of videos. Each video is a game being played by someone else right at that very moment. You can make any of these videos go fullscreen and just watch other people’s games. Of course, other people can do the same to you, but you can easily disable them from doing so if it bothers you.

My OnLive account came with one free game. I chose Borderlands, because it seemed like it would last me quite a while, and because it was one of the few games that I didn’t already have on a console. Playing it with the mouse and keyboard, especially when the connection isn’t 100%, is less than ideal. The precision of a mouse combined with just a little bit of lag makes for an experience that could make you nauseous. Playing with a controller, on the other hand, it’s barely noticeable that you’re actually playing a game on a server hundreds of miles away. I’ve played Borderlands on OnLive for the last two nights straight, and both times I eventually forgot I wasn’t playing a game running on my own computer. That is impressive.

Does OnLive have a future? I can’t say. I’m not really sure the business model can support itself. They need a lot more games, and a much better pricing scheme (see: Netflix). On the other hand, the technology delivers and makes you realize that, hey guess what, we’re living in the future now! Hopefully OnLive will stick around, I’d like to see it take off.

Now Playing: Asterix & Obelix XXL 2 Mission: Las Vegum (PC)

I did it guys! I found Asterix & Obelix XXL 2 Mission: Las Vegum for PC… I just, didn’t come about it in the most honest way. I couldn’t track down a physical copy anywhere (for PC or PlayStation 2) which is to be expected for a game from 2005 that was only ever produced for Europe.  Let’s just assume I’ll go out and buy two copies of developer, Etranges Libellules, other games that did manage to make it to the U.S. Those include the latest Spyro the Dragon, Arthur and the Invisibles, and that upcoming Alice in Wonderland. Hmm, I think I’ll go pre-order a couple copies of Alice.

Gray areas aside, I have it! It runs great on my PC (as you’d expect for an ’05 release running on ’09 hardware) and it even natively supports my new Xbox PC controller! I was ready to do some GlovePIE scripting but it supports everything except the right analog stick and the triggers. Camera control is a little tricky with Left/Right rotation mapped to the Bumper Buttons and Up/Down on the D-pad but all of the game’s commands are accounted for and within finger reach. So, the game itself.

I’ve always been interested in Asterix & Obelix. Growing up I’d always catch a glimpse of their games in random EGM sidebars or in the mysterious Euro gaming mag but I never bothered to figure out what they were all about. Some inspiration for The Lost Vikings, I assumed, and went back to thumbing through the latest issue of GameFan. Like I said before, I first saw XXL2 in a PLAY magazine preview where a single screenshot of Roman soldiers dressed up as Sonic  the Hedgehog fighting Asterix blew me away. But just like ‘Young Shawn’ I turned the page and continued reading about games that were actually coming out over here, keeping XXL2 in the back of my mind for years. Just what was going on there!?

In traditional Asterix & Obelix fashion, Julius Caesar is up to his old tricks, trying to conquer the last indomitable clan of Gauls who are holding out against Roman rule. This time he’s gone to great lengths, building the Las Vegas-inspired theme park/casino world of Las Vegum. From the intro it even looks like Asterix’s trusted friend, the druid Getafix, has sold out the other Gaulish elders and has gone over to Caesar’s side. Determined to rescue Getafix and find out what’s going on, Asterix and Obelix make their way to Las Vegum thanks to the help of Sam Shieffer.

Sam Shieffer. Why does that sound familiar? Sam… Fisher? Yup! The narrator and guide for the game is the fellow from this image who sports the glowing three-eyed night vision headset and drops into frame on an elaborate series of ropes. He’s the first character you meet but the video game homage starts before you even turn on the game. I didn’t realize it myself but the box for the game looks an awful lot like a Grand Theft Auto cover and the title screen music sounds just a tiny, tiny bit like something from Goldeneye on N64. But I’ve written quite enough for one post and there’s still so much more to see. I installed Lightbox gallery on the site so please visit the actual GameLuv page for the proper experience and start clicking below; be sure to read the comments on these sizable images and if you spot something I missed, do add a comment!

Asterix, Obelix, and a whole lot of copyright gray area

M A D N E S S !

So here’s a quick look at Asterix & Obelix XXL2: Mission Las Vegum. But first, an even quicker primer. The pair of ancient Gaulish heroes were originally created and serialized in the French magazine, Pilote, in 1959. Their escapades revolved around their small band of Gauls holding out against the invading Roman Empire. Sort of like Hogan’s Heroes only all the good guys are French and the bad guys are Romans. It’s apparently really popular throughout Europe and has spawned 34 comic book collections, 14 films — both animated and live action — and over 20 games going back as far as the Atari 2600. Asterix & Obelix even had their own Euro-specific “At the Olympics” title in 2008 that hit every major platform.

But none of those other 20 games are XXL2: Mission Las Vegum which is what this post is about. In traditional A&O fashion, the game sees the pair once again up in arms against the Romans only this time the historical and social parodies of the comics are transposed onto our gaming culture. I don’t know a lot more about the game; I originally saw a small preview in PLAY magazine back in 2004 and was just completely intrigued. Having no way to play an imported PlayStation 2 game (and unaware of the PC version until more recently) I kinda forgot about it until my last post here.

I’ve got a line on the PC version but if that doesn’t work out it looks like a PSP port may still be available. In the meantime check out some imagery below of green warp pipes, Splinter Cell goggles, F.L.U.D.D. ripoffs, and Tetris walls. And check out the developer video over at Etranges Bibellules to see this madness in motion!