Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Legend of Grimrock - update

Back in September, I blogged about Almost Human Ltd's spectacular looking dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock. The small team have been beavering away over the last few months and have just announced the game has now entered its beta phase.

Everything is now in place and the team will spend the next few months polishing Grimrock and a release is pencilled in for early next year.

They have also released a new video of the beta build and it's looking quite special.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Muramasa: The Demon Blade - a look back

With its bold colours and gorgeous art style, Muramasa was a breath of fresh air when it was released in Europe two years ago today.

A 2D hack and slasher, developer Vanillaware expanded on ideas set out in their previous game, Odin Sphere on PS2 and delivered a wonderful game which remains one of my favourites on Wii.

Taking control of either Momohime - a princess possessed by a malevolent spirit - or Kisuke - a young ninja - the player embarks on a supernatural quest through the heart of feudal Japan.

The gameplay centers on the use of blades - which can be found or forged - and using them to slice your way through groups of enemies and visually splendid bosses.

While the fighting is entertaining, it's not the most refined system in the world. Button mashing can be relied upon during some battles, although diligent use of blocking is vital as the difficulty ramps up.

Muramasa is far from perfect, though and feels a little rushed in places. Bosses can turn into laborious wars of attrition, while the player is forced to backtrack through dozens of empty screens to unlock new areas.

However, despite its shortcomings, the magical art style and sumptuous soundtrack pull you through the 15-hour experience.

While games such as Uncharted 3 and Skyrim have had us gawping at our TVs recently thanks to their incredible level of detail, the hand-painted artwork on display here still manages to delight.

Corn fields gently ripple in the wind, cherry blossom falls from trees, waves crash upon the shore and shadows of clouds drift over sun-drenched fields. It really is a spectacular looking game.

So while Muramasa is rough in places and could have benefited with a little more finesse in the way it plays, it's still well worth a closer look if you haven't played it before.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Valley Without Wind - Windows/Mac OS

Over the last few days, I've been getting to grips with A Valley Without Wind by the team at Arcen Games and even though it's still in beta, this side-scrolling adventure is shaping up nicely.

The world is procedurally-generated and allows the player to explore the dangerous land of Environ at their leisure, while resource gathering, crafting, spell-slinging, city building and turn-based strategy elements also feature in this ambitious project.

A tutorial guides you through the basics before the game proper starts, but everything is neatly laid out and is streamlined to avoid a slog through long-winded menus.

Once these basics are out of the way, A Valley Without Wind throws the covers back to reveal a huge game with almost endless possibilities.

New regions open up for you to explore as your colony expands, bosses must be vanquished in order to grab valuable supplies and the rising threat of enemy forces must be quelled as you attempt to keep your civilisation safe - and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

It's a huge undertaking by the small team at Arcen but with a bustling community, regular patches adding new content and the promise of multiplayer and co-op play, A Valley Without Wind is definitely one to watch.

You can download the base game or purchase a license key - with 50 per cent off - from the Arcen Games website.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

SilverQuest - PC

Although Dark Souls and Skyrim have devoured huge chunks of my life over the last few months, I've also given some of my time over to exploring online multiplayer Roguelike SilverQuest on PC.

Created by Wolfgang Wozniak, this open world romp allows players to team-up with friends, undertake epic quests, explore dungeons for shiny loot, creep through haunted valleys and skewer rats with sharp, pointy sticks.

New armour and weapons can be acquired as you progress and there's a decent selection of characters to interact with as you tramp through the land of Melandor. Unfortunately, as entertaining as SilverQuest is, it desperately needs more players.

Much of my time has been spent adventuring alone which doesn't throw up too many problems, but the game has been designed with an online community in mind. It really would be wonderful to see more people populate the server and give SilverQuest a welcome boost.

Two versions of the game are available via Desura - free and premium. The latter costs £4.49 and includes mod tools, a new graphics pack, development art and unused music. But even if you don't want to throw money at SilverQuest, it's still well worth exploring the brilliant free version to experience a cracking slice of old school action.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

8-Bit Halloween - PC

Although dooking for apples, stuffing your cheeks with monkey nuts, carving videogame characters' fizzogs into pumpkins and dressing up in ill-fitting costumes are now a fading memory, there's a spooky little game out which encapsulates Halloween perfectly.

It might not be as terrifying as watching Strictly Come Dancing's cast of hideous characters shuffle about on the night, but a quick dash through Lionsoft's 8-Bit Halloween is a lot more entertaining.

Presented in the style of an old monochrome GameBoy title, this neat little platformer borrows ideas from Mario and Ghosts and Goblins, while throwing a little Green Beret into the mix for good measure.

It's free and you can grab it from Lionsoft's site HERE

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Road Rash - PS1/3DO

Since finding an old shoe box full of PS1 games in the back of a cupboard a few weeks ago, much of my recent gaming time has been spent revisiting forgotten classics.

While games such as Lemmings 3D, Tomb Raider, Jumping Flash, Croc 2, Crash Bandicoot and Kula World have been dusted off, I've spent most of my time with Road Rash.

This mid-Nineties port of the wonderful 3DO version has always been one of my favourite games and it's still entertaining 17 years after it was released.

The madcap dashes through The City, Pacific Coast, Napa Valley, Peninsula and Sierra Nevada might be a bit blockier than you remember but the presentation and racing action still holds up.

Sure, the menus are clunky and unresponsive but what makes Road Rash great is the fact that no two races are ever the same.

Other bikers crash into traffic and pedestrians, a swift truncheon to an opponent's head changes the nature of the race, bumps and corners on the road send the player skidding into the unknown, while the appearance of police at unpredictable times leads to tense moments, as one small mistake will see your hapless biker busted by the boys in blue.

The racing action is wonderfully entertaining, but it's the inclusion of acts such as Monster Magnet, Swervedriver and Paw on the soundtrack which adds a huge amount to the experience. Even now, when I hear Rusty Cage by Soundgarden, I immediately think of the game's opening scene - something I doubt will ever go away.

Road Rash also features a hefty chunk of FMV which, although a little cheesy, still raises a smile, while the art style which punctuates the racing action is quite brilliant with an off-beat sense of humour used in every slide.

Since this release, other Road Rash games have taken to the streets but none have come close to matching the brilliance of this great version, with the sloppy Road Rash: Jail Break being a particular low point in the series.

So while I patiently wait for Skyrim to arrive on Friday, I'll be causing chaos on the roads with my fellow bikers on my battered old PlayStation.