Gaming

Boxer

Time to go retro

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Things have been a little dry on the gaming front. If you’re currently a little bored, waiting for a few releases later this year and are starting to show a little grey hair – I may just have a solution for you.

Boxer

Haul out your old original games (yes, I realise some of them may be on 5 1/4″ or 3 1/2″ disks) pop them into your CD-ROM drive, drag them onto the Boxer import screen and you’re good to go.

If you’ve lost your original disks, you can always head over to abandonware and download a copy. They’ve been good enough to keep a backup for you, for just such an eventuality.

There is just so much to choose from. Over the past few weeks I started and completed classics like: Space Quest 1, Monkey Island 1, Monkey Island 2, Police Quest 1, Prince of Persia, Rogue, Montezuma’s Revenge, The Lost Vikings, Dune 2, the list goes on. If I’m totally honest, I haven’t really finished them all yet. Games were hard back then !

The cherry on top for me was finding an original Roland MT-32 sound module on Gumtree.

Roland MT-32

I’d heard about these when I was playing these games on my old 286/386/486 back in the day, but no-one that I knew owned one. In fact in the USA they were selling for $550. I vaguely recall what the games sounded like on the PC speaker and later on my Creative Labs Sound Blaster Pro, but the first time I fired up Monkey Island 2 on the Roland, I was blown away. This is what the games were supposed to sound like back then. It’s almost worth playing all these games just to listen to the soundtracks you were missing out on.

I realise that finding one of these babies is easier said than done, so our good friend Alun Bestor (the developer of Boxer) has included MT-32 emulation into the app. All you need to do is download the MT-32 ROM’s (which some kind folks out on the Intertubes have made available) and you’re like 90% there. I have told myself that there is no way that emulation can be as good as the well aged black box on my desk.

As the ARS review says, “the only ugly thing about Boxer is not using it.”

Batman Arkham City

You want to visit Arkham City

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(10/10)

“The batcomputer is none too frisky today, Batman.” – Robin

Batman Arkham City

I remember how I felt before I started playing Batman Arkham Asylym. I wasn’t excited. In fact, I was ready for another poor job at trying to recreate a part of the DC super-hero world. Ready to cringe as happy childhood memories of reading comics were destroyed with every click of the “A” button.

But it didn’t happen. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The game was brilliant and brought a bunch of new concepts and gameplay tactics to the fore. It made me smile.

I was moderately excited about Arkham City, but I was pretty confident that it would just be more of the same. I didn’t pre-order it. Then some of my mates got it. Then the Metacritic reviews started coming out and I knew I was missing out.

I rushed out and bought a copy. I haven’t looked back.

It’s dark and it’s fantastic. In every way. The level of detail in the world that has been created is mind boggling. Inclusion of almost every villain that Batman has every faced in a single game wrapped up in a single coherent story is a feat in itself.

The gameplay and control dynamics are also extremely polished. I haven’t wanted to throw my controller at my TV once yet. Some of my friends apparently have, but they have co-ordination issues.

I haven’t finished the game yet, but it looks set to keep me busy for quite some time. Especially if you decide to tackle all the side missions and to finish the Catwoman part of the game as well.

Bravo lads. I’ll pre-order the next one.

Monday-Night-Combat

Too much of rad: Monday Night Combat

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I don’t really have much to say about this game, except that you absolutely have to play it. I haven’t had this much fun since I tried to get the game to zoom in as close as possible into Lara Croft’s boobs in Tomb Raider 1 on the Playstation.

Monday-Night-Combat

It’s all about fast paced death and destruction. Kill your opponent and then gesticulate rudely for added pleasure.

There are a number of classes to choose from and they are all awesome. It takes a while to get used to each classes special skills, but the button mashing remains pretty much the same across all of them, so the learning curve isn’t too steep. Depending on whether you’re a point-and-shoot or sneaky-sneaky kind of guy you’ll probably start off with the Gunner or Assassin class.

Although there is some single player action, the real fun only starts when you get a 16 player ( 8 vs 8 ) Crossfire game going. It’s complete and utter mayhem. Be ready for much swearing and virtual high fiving as you try to take out the other teams moneyball.

As you progress you earn money which you can use to unlock custom classes and badges like “Don’t forget the bacon”. Does it get any better than this ?

There are plenty of local people playing (pretty much everyone on my friends list), so you’ll have no trouble finding a game with a low ping/latency.

It’s on Xbox Live Arcade and will set you back a measly 1200 MS points.

Monday nights will never be the same again.

Plants vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies

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(9/10)
Everyone knows that everything is better with zombies. Plants vs. Zombies is no exception.

Plants vs. Zombies

This 28MB download from Popcap games will ensure that from now on, you won’t have a minute of boredom while sitting in from of your computer.

Essentially, instead of shotguns and chainsaws repelling hordes of the brain eating undead, you make clever use of your green fingers and some rather obviously genetically mutated plants to build a line of defense between them and your back door (and sometimes your chimney).

As you progress you build up an arsenal of flora that each have their own special abilities. I’m particularly fond of the cherry bomb that leaves the undead charred and with a look of bewilderment on their faces. The levels also get progressively more challenging requiring you to choose your green army carefully. Once you’ve found your groove for a particular level you shouldn’t have too much difficulty keeping the zombies at bay.

Plants vs. Zombies comes with a number of additional game modes (like survival, puzzle, zen garden, etc) that provide many hours of additional play if you are still craving for more once you have completed the adventure mode.

My only comment to improve the game would be to make adventure mode longer, or to unlock some kind of uber adventure mode once you’ve completed it the first time. Well, maybe survival is kinda like that. Anyway, I digress.

@simondingle chose it as his pick of the week on last weeks zatechshow as well. Surely two people can’t be wrong…

Stop reading and just go and get it !

It’s available on Windows, Mac, iPhone and in your browser and will only cost you R185.

Download Plants vs Zombies here – or they will eat your brains !

GTA: Chinatown Wars

GTA for the iPhone

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It was inevitable. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was released earlier this week for the iPhone. The was ported from the Nintendo DS and PSP version by the Rockstar Games folk on Leeds. Although I haven’t played the other two versions, the game is apparently almost identical. It is available from the iTunes store for £5.99 and carries a mature/17 rating for the swearing, sex and violence that is necessary in any GTA game.

GTA: Chinatown Wars

My only notable experience with GTA in the past was with GTA IV on the Xbox 360, so I was sure I knew what I was in for. The story centers around a young Triad on his way to Liberty City to deliver a sword to his uncle Kenny after the death of his father. Of course things go horribly wrong from the minute that Huang sets foot on Liberty City soil.

Gameplay consists of missions and minigames that progress you through the story and build up stockpile of cash. For the most part you’ll be chasing after thugs and gang members that are invading your families turf and letting them have a one on one chat with the biggest gun you have in your arsenal. You’ll also be running from the fuzz and running over unsuspecting pedestrians. If you’re not fast enough you’ll end up in the slammer.

So far the game has been pretty engrossing and the story moves at a decent pace. My only complaint is around the control system, not so much when you’re on foot, but when you’re driving around. Maybe I’m trying a little to hard not run over the old ladies, or maybe my fingers are just to big but I not getting the hang of it.

The sound and graphics are also very impressive. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the graphics push the iPhone 3GS’ CPU to the max.

It’s one the first games available on the iPhone platform that has real substance as far as a story goes and is welcome addition to the App Store. Hopefully also a sign of things to come from Rockstar. The more mainstream developers that work on the platform the better for all of us.

It’s definitely worth the £5.99 and will provide you weeks of entertainment. My only warning is that it definitely chews your battery, so make sure that you some juice nearby.

Just what WoW needed: Dungeon Finder

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I am by no stretch of the imagination the worlds most avvid World of Warcraft player, but I’ve dabbled a little and when I have nothing exciting to play on my Xbox 360 it’s a great filler. A monthly subscription will also only cost you just over R100, which is great if you’re a little strapped for cash and can’t fork out R700 for a new 360 game.

One of the only issues I had with WoW as a casual player was that I couldn’t really complete any of the dungeons, or instances, as I didn’t really know anyone else that played they game. At least not anyone that was playing on the same realm and from the same faction. Once you start getting to the higher levels this becomes a real problem as it becomes more and more difficult to be rewarded with decent items from questing and general slaughter.

I didn’t play WoW for a number of months and I didn’t really track the new features added with the patches, but on loading it for the first time in ages (after a few hefty patch downloads) I noticed a new icon on the toolbar – Dungeon Finder.

wow-df-1.jpeg Dungeon Finder (DF) lets you pick a specific or random dungeon, allows you to choose your role in the group (tank, healer, DPS, etc) and then drops you into a queue until it has assembled an appropriately sized group with the necessary skills and then drops you all into the start of the instance. You don’t need to spend time traveling to the entrance, which is a great time saver and means you don’t have to find them on your own. You complete the dungeon with your group and then you can choose to either run to the exit and continue from there or you can use the “Teleport out of dungeon” feature to end up where you were before you were teleported into the instance.

Another great feature of DF is that it works across realms. So the group making is done centrally across all (well, most I suspect) the realms so you will almost always find a group. The longest I’ve waited for a group is about 20 minutes, but in the evenings it generally takes less than a minute. While you are waiting for your group to be assembled you can continue questing or whatever you were busy with. Once your group is ready you will be greeted with the friendly screen letting you know that you are about to start and what your role in the group is.

wow-df-2.jpeg

For me, DF added something that completely changes my WoW experience. In fact, I can’t stop playing it. If you don’t have a large group of friends that play WoW and you were annoyed that you couldn’t tackle the instances on your own, DF is for you. Pay for another month and give it a try, you won’t regret it. Your social life will however take a noticeable plunge. Welcome back to Azeroth.

wow-df-3.jpeg

Machinarium

Challenge your grey matter

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(8/10)

There was quite a lot of noise about Machinarium when it was released and everyone started playing it. I thought I’d keep my opinion to myself until I had finished the game.

The game was developed and released by a small independent Czech studio Amanita Design and was simultaneously released for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. A great feat you may think, but actually just a clever move by developing the game in Flash. So basically any OS that has a compliant Flash player is able to play the game.

Machinarium

I know zombies that wouldn’t waste their time with most flash games out there, but Machinarium really does take it to a new level. The world the game takes place in is beautifully drawn and the level of detail is amazing. The game reminds me of the kind of gameplay we had with some of the classics like Myst. Puzzles that make you want to tear your hair out and run over the next door neighbours yapping dog. Fortunately there is a clever built in hints system that you get access to by completing a mini-game.

The game costs $20 and you get access to all three versions when you buy it. The game isn’t very long, but it is definitely worth the money.

Save the little robot.

Quick App for Xbox 360 Owners: 360 Live

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Most of the apps I’ve installed that claim to deliver a great Xbox Live experience have fallen very short. This new app by Juan Xavier Larrea finally delivers the goods.

I guess you need to be a bit of an Xbox Live freak to see the value in an app like this, but I’ve found myself in a situation before where I wanted to check on either one of my own or a friends achievements, online status or some such.

xboxlive.png

If you are a big online gamer and own a Xbox, 360 Live [$1.99 – iTunes Link] is the app for you. There are many apps within the App Store that perform many of the same functions as 360 Live but none of them are this well integrated.

  • Sign in securely using your Xbox Live credentials. 360 Live automatically retrieves your friends.
  • Complete Gamertags management. Add, remove, accept or reject pending requests.
  • An organized Friends List. Grouped by status (Online, Offline, etc.)
  • Gamer Profile and details including gamerscore, bio, location, country, gamercard, avatar, etc.
  • Check your friends complete games history.
  • Compare locked and unlocked achievements per game and gamertag.
  • Send and receive messages. You can even send messages to multiple recipients!
  • Gamercard coverflow style carrousel on landscape mode!

The only negative that I’ve seen testing this app out is that at times, it can take some time to load. Hopefully that is cleared up with an update or two and if it is, this will be hands down the best Xbox Live companion piece.

(Via The iPhone Blog.)

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