Thursday, 20 March 2014

Guest Game 1: Circuit's Edge - Final Rating

Trickster's Note: The below post (and indeed all posts for Circuit's Edge) was written by guest blogger Zenic Reverie.

First and foremost, sorry for the negativity. I did not hate the game so much as dread playing it. A fine distinction I'm not sure I'm describing well in words. It's not bad. I just did not have fun. I'm not sure how clear that is, but I'll try to expound on it through a system developed by Trickster to evaluate graphical adventure games (a genre this dips into ever so slightly). Any parts of the game I don't touch upon were adequate.

Puzzles and Solvability
Puzzles... puzzles... yeah, I guess you could call them that. In reality, most puzzles are presented in such a way that you either have the item or skill necessary in which case the solution will be obvious, or you don't have the item or skill and you'll have to stumble across it without any idea of what you're looking for. Now, there were times that required me to pick up on certain keywords and use them in questioning others. It came down to either a trivially easy solution, up to clever investigative work, to "I hope you bought the necessary item there's no clue about buying." Once I generated enough funds to buy everything up, the game grew on me. It was then that I needed to rely on finding the correct person to ask about a subject, and the game once again became a pain. Searching for the one location to ask a specific keyword with little indication isn't my idea of a good time. Even when I was doing things right it felt like it was wrong, but that's due to the fault of the interface (although partially my own).
Rating: 5


 

Most of the puzzles are solved through dialogue, which would be fine if the characters could carry a conversation.

Interface and Inventory
The inventory, both items and chip implants, are limited. I understand having a limited inventory, even if I don't like it. However, implementing one forces the player to become creative with their items, like having a pile in their apartment and a separate pile down the alley. Chips aren't such a big deal as you can carry 10 even when only 4 are equippable at any one time. Inventory on the other hand is limited to 11, but that's already taken up by a space for kiam, the chip rack, the belt phone, and a banking disk; none of them felt optional, although I suppose I didn't always need the banking disk. The interface on the other hand left much to be desired. Beyond the fact that I was able to break the game just by using an item in the wrong location, I ran into many issues where I used the wrong keyword yet had no indication what were the alternatives. All but a single keyphrase (odd woman) were single words, words that the parser picked up on very well. In fact, a little too well, as when I asked about "ice pick" characters thought I was asking about a "lock pick." The limited responses to key items in the game (ice pick was the murder weapon in the beginning) didn't allow me the freedom to explore the world, to get lost in it. Instead I was playing the game the way the developers wanted. The game does have mouse support as well as a much more responsive single key menu. It does have it's quirks though, such as trying to pick up item 'E' which is also the key to exit buildings (guess which one the game always assumes you want to use). One of the best features is the ability to recall up to fifty events. These are the exact descriptions for situations of note that have passed. This may be one of the first games with an in-game journal.
Rating: 4


Hoarders 2: Using the Streets

Story and Setting
One of the most unique settings I've seen constructed in a coherent manner, wrapped in a story of taboo and intrigue. The Budayeen is said to offer up any opportunity for debauchery. It's said to be a lot of things that really don't come through in the experience of the game. Even with the in-depth back story, learning about all the characters close to Marid, I found myself lost trying to understand the connection between what I was told and what I needed to find out. I'll cover dialogue below, but I want to touch on how many of the characters are one time use and act as generic NPCs the majority of the time. The story unfolds bit by bit with many false starts (and false false starts). The small bits of information gathered at each location, with each interaction, are just enough to pull more information. The feeling of ignorance didn't lift until the final moments where the story decided to wrap itself up in a long exposition followed by an anti-climactic scene. I appreciate that it's a game that tried something different.
Rating: 5


Seems we'll have to wait a couple hundred years to confirm this game's lore.

Sound and Graphics
The music and graphics are well done. I'm easily amused when it comes to both though, so don't take me on my word. Still, I'm fairly sure it looks better than most games released at the same time. It's a bit Spartan with the number of unique locations, but given the size and scope of the Budayeen I won't knock it for reusing its graphics. Sound effects are missing altogether (save some beeps and boops when saving and loading). The main theme was quiet enough to break the silence every once in a while and leave me able to explore without distraction. Fight music was upbeat and intense, even if the fighting was not.
Rating: 6


Because I promised Trickster and everyone on this blog that I would.

Environment and Atmosphere
Dark. Violent. Lawless. These all describe the atmosphere of the Budayeen. The main street offers a wide area to explore, map, and discover; however, the rewards for doing so are small. The game is just large enough to get lost looking for a particular person who you may or may not know the identity of. The combat, and generally most of the RPG-elements seem ill-fitting with the framework of the rest of the game. Take the stats, useless outside of combat, and hidden unless a certain chip occupies one of the precious slots. Requiring rest, food, and a careful watch on the passing of time adds a sense of anxiety to leisurely exploration. Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll are all muted in this game, a game that takes place where anything goes. Talking about sex with anyone but a hooker results in a "not with you buddy." Hookers ask to meet up later, but never tell you where. Taking any drugs results in thugs beating you to near-death. Alcohol only serves to reduce stats. Combat is a serious affair, until you get your first weapon or combat moddie. Also, outside set fights (I count three) I ran into maybe four random encounters. I even tried looking for trouble on occasion to build up some cash, ducking through alleys, and couldn't drum up any action. The option to fight random people is there, but if you attack first a cop will find out and attack you afterwards. Characters aren't even mad after you fight them. I beat down Chiri until she ran away, then called her up to have her say she was at the medical clinic where she happily chatted with me. I'd like some realism in my realistic game. The descriptions and general writing (outside of dialogue, which comes next) is enough to bump this up from the 3 I thought about giving it.
Rating: 4


If you didn't want to wait for me, then you should have told me where you were going.

Dialogue and Acting
What I felt most lacking in the game was the ability to interact with the characters in interesting ways. Instead, all characters gave stock answers for certain things, even when plot related events were happening to those characters. Abdul-Hassan was kidnapped, yet asking anyone about him while that was happening just pointed me to Hassan's store. Asking about something unimportant to the plot results in an "I don't know" while something important although unrelated to the character I ask results in "Sounds familiar..." Something that's absolutely unhelpful. Instead of offering hints like, "wasn't so-and-so friends with insert store owner" or "I think I've seen them often around 15th street," I'm left to crisscross the main street searching for the lone character that knows what I'm talking about. The back story did so well at describing these characters. It feels wrong that they've turned into interchangeable set pieces. Ask Chiri about Fuad or Saied, and you get another stock, "everyone knows <INSERT CHARACTER NAME>." Thanks game for drawing me in. Lastly, before I forget again, each moddie imparts skills that belonged to someone. In addition to the skills the personality quirks spill through and at times take over. While walking down the street while Super Spy is jacked in Marid will comment on how he could really use some imported cigarettes (which I can't buy) or how he'd feel better with his Walter PPK (which I can't buy either). In addition to the random innocuous musings (Kung Fu Master say: "Dog with bone in mouth does not bite."), the personality will interrupt a conversation and replace what you wanted to say with a random positive or negative comment related to the personality. (I found Super Spy complimented women more than any other, but that may just have been my experience.) Enough of these negative comments can cause the conversation to end, and did a couple of times, before you can gather all the information you need. It was already aggravating enough trying to guess keywords, but being interrupted mid-sentence doesn't feel... bored now.
Rating: 3


He should, you were just talking about him but forgot to tell me where I could find him.

Alright, so that's 5 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 4 + 3, which equals 27, divided by 60 equals 0.45, which is exactly 45 when multiplied by 100. (Trickster's words, my numbers.) Maybe I'm jaded in my words, but it's not a bad game. I think this is a fair score.


I'm glad I played it here as opposed to on my own, as I don't think I'd have finished it otherwise. I'm looking forward to what Chet thinks of the game when he gets to it some time this gaming year. So, did anyone guess that? Well, look at that. Ilmari guessed 45 on the dot, and with that happenstance I turn the duty of guest blogger over to him.

100 CAPs for Zenic Reverie
Guest Blogger Award – 100 CAPs – For blogging his way through the game for our enjoyment

30 CAPs for Ilmari
Companion Assist Award – 20 CAPs – For helping Zenic out throughout the course of play through
Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – For correctly predicting the score Zenic would give the game

25 CAPs for TBD
Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam

20 CAPs for Lars-Erik
Companion Assist Award – 10 CAPs – For helping Zenic out throughout the course of play through
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG

20 CAPs for Canageek
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on Steam

5 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
Confidence Boosting Award – 5 CAPs – “Don’t hate the game, hate the player! Muahahaha!”

39 comments:

  1. A huge thank you to Zenic for these write-ups. This was clearly a tough game to get through! I hope it doesn't put other people off volunteering to guest blog in future.

    If I'm not mistaken, Ilmari has just won himself a copy of King's Quest Collection (as donated by Lars-Erik and regifted by Canageek) and The Secret of Monkey Island (as donated by TBD). I'm certain he will own both of those games, so I'll leave it up to him to decide what he does with them.

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    1. Another hit in the same week - perhaps I should try my hand on casino. I'll donate the games forward in a quiz, which shall have a cowboy theme, just like the next guest game.

      All right, which Western movie I am thinking of? First hint: It begins and ends in a barber shop. If you know the movie, just say it and you'll own two classic adventure games! (Further hints will follow if necessary)

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    2. Note: If I'm right and win this prize I'll host my own quiz to get rid of Secret of Monkey Island, 'cos donating to myself just seems weird.

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    3. Donating to oneself is weird? I do that all the time. Donation to a sperm bank, that is. I don't OWN a sperm bank, obviously. I just like donating.

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    4. Yep, TBD got it with first guess (my favourite Western - don't know what that says about my taste). I guess it's then time for a new quiz.

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    5. Woohoo. I was never a fan of westerns with a few exceptions (Young Guns movies for some reason) but my dad loved them.

      I'll take the King's Quest if that's okay, then play along with this one.

      As for Monkey Island, I'll come up with a quiz soon (when my brain is working properly) and the winner gets a Monkey Island on Steam.

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    6. Okay, for a Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition:

      It starts with a man in a tower
      Writing notes in his very last hour
      And then comes a fall
      From that tower quite tall
      The return of malevolent power

      What adventure game am I?

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    7. No. But I can see how that fits most of the clues. I'll give another clue if no one gets it before I have another look.

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    8. On the trail of a killer who's one step ahead
      In both England and Wales I will search
      Every night while I sleep a new person is dead
      An old mine travels under the church

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  2. "What I felt most lacking in the game was the ability to interact with the characters in interesting ways. Instead, all characters gave stock answers for certain things, even when plot related events were happening to those characters. Abdul-Hassan was kidnapped, yet asking anyone about him while that was happening just pointed me to Hassan's store."

    I didn't know you were blogging about Skyrim!

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    1. Precisely! Even modern million-dollar RPGs can't address this thing correctly!

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  3. The Void: 90% off: When one gives up living and using his soul, he can’t only lose the soul but can also devote it to death… Before souls completely die they stick in The Void – an odd space between life and death. There is an outside chance to survive in The Void and even to come back from it.

    Came out in 2009.
    Popular tags for it on Steam: Surreal Adventure Nudity First-Person
    So yeah. Don't get fired playing it at work, OK? Also: Trickster: I'm looking forward to reading your blog post on this one in 2020.
    http://store.steampowered.com/app/37000

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    1. Oh, sorry, I forgot: "All in-game actions are realized through drawing. You literally
      need to draw your way with your own blood."

      Delete
    2. Oh! Another new sale: Montague's Mount. "Montague's Mount is disturbing psychological thriller set in the bleakness of an abandoned Irish island, featuring exploration and challenging puzzle solving." Alright! That is it! I'm banning bleak horror adventure games! Stop it already! Everyone has done it! *Points* YOU! Go make a Hard SF Adventure game. *Points* You! Near future transhumanism with an uplifting tone. *Points* You, cross Journey to the West with a post-apoc setting....wait, that one has been done. Um, Victorian adventure game staring two main characters, an uperclass man and a young guttersnipe, who alternate between being friends and foes.

      SEE? Creating ideas isn't that hard! Writing good puzzles and dialogue is the hard part! So why must you all use the same freaking base setting? GRAHHHHHHHHHHH

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    3. OH um, http://store.steampowered.com/app/258950/ though with a metacritic rating of 39/100....

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    4. ON THE OTHER HAND, this was a Greenlight title, so SOMEONE likes it. Sorry for so many posts.

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    5. Hey, I have that game! Haven't played it yet. There's nudity, you say? Alright. Installing it tonight for my donation purposes.

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  4. A belated congratulations, Zenic! I had a difficult time following this game, similar to when Trickster did Neuromancer. It gets to a point where the sheer amount of info and characters in these thrillers makes me dizzy. They have to be harder to blog about as well. And we have Maupiti Island on the horizon, ooff...

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's some good news and some bad news.

    The good news is that I'm heading off with the boys for our annual trip this weekend. Seven guys playing drinking games and eating numerous forms of meat and cheese for three days straight with very little sleep. Can't wait!

    The bad news is that I haven't managed to complete the first KQ gameplay post prior to departing, so there will be no new posts until at least Monday.

    I hope everyone has a great weekend!

    Tricky.

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    1. Fine! Be that way! Go enjoy yourself while we languish and wait for the next posting about old and almost-forgotten adventure games!

      Hahaha! Just joking! Have fun, mate! Gold Coast, I presume?

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    2. I'd say that good news so far outweighs the bad that it's almost not worth mentioning.

      Have fun!

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    3. You had me at "numerous forms of meat and cheese". Have a great weekend!

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    4. I survived the trip! I must admit that I struggle to keep up these days, being very out of experience when it comes to copious amounts of alcohol and staying up until stupid o'clock.

      Hey Canageek, we played Cards Against Humanity for much of the weekend. I seem to recall you mentioned it at one point. Damn that's funny shit! Highly inappropriate, but hilarious nonetheless!

      @Kenny: Not quite. We got a three story house overlooking the beach at Killcare on the Central Coast. Beautiful view and the weather was amazing.

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    5. I've spent more then a few hours playing it, yes. I've actually made up a PDF with all the official sets and a few unofficial ones in it if you'd like.

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    7. *Censored!*

      Oh, and another f*ck-thy-friend-over party game which I highly recommend, would be Vampire: Prince of the City.

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  6. New adventure game!
    Dominique Pamplemousse: Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!” is a unique and offbeat stop motion animated detective adventure game about gender and the economy. Also, all the characters frequently burst into song.

    I don't know what to say about this one. Black and white claymation style? Looks VERY odd to say the least. Also on sale. http://store.steampowered.com/app/270310

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  7. Also, I found the most wonderfully specific review of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey ever. http://trainsingames.com/articles/dreamfall That is right, an entire article reviewing just the trains of Dreamfall. Ok, so not a whole article, it is in his unfinished work section, but still.

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  8. New point and click adventure game: Tales From The Dragon Mountain 2: The Lair. Graphics are bog-standard and boring. "It has been years since brave Mina Lockheart defeated Lord Strix. But dark shadows are rising once again! Spirits are restless! For he has awaken! Evil Lord Strix is breeding a new army to enslave all creatures from the Dragon Mountains! " http://store.steampowered.com/app/276460/

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    1. New Adventure game, out today: Betrayer: Betrayer is a first person action adventure game that takes you to the New World at the turn of the 17th century. The year is 1604. You sailed from England expecting to join a struggling colony on the coast of Virginia. Instead, you find only ghosts and mysteries. What catastrophe blighted the land and drained it of color and life?

      It looks boarderline, but both it and steam users say adventure game, and only two of the screenshots show you holding a weapon (Once a flintlock, once a bow. Oh and once a cross, but it isn't clear if that is a weapon). The use of black and white and red is nice in theory, but it looks like a skyrim knock off even with that. *Sigh* Why did Sadness have to be canceled?

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    2. This one looks much more adventure game: Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok. Which is, quite oddly, free to play. How on earth do you do a free to play adventure game? Adventure/RPG hybrid, but man, does it look like a classic adventure game, but with a better palette.

      A Heroine must stand against the forces of frost and put an end to the lasting winter. Her might, sorcery, and cunning may be humanity’s last resort. Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok is a retro styled adventure/RPG hybrid with atmosphere and spirit reminiscent of the classics. Are you up to the task, or will you die trying?

      http://store.steampowered.com/app/283880/

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    3. Oh shoot, Betrayer is at http://store.steampowered.com/app/243120/ and is on sale for 10% off until the end of the month. If anyone plays it let me know if it is an adventure game, watching the movie sure makes it look like a skyrim knock off, so I'm fine not getting CAPs for that one.

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    4. Getting a bit eager there Canageek, http://advgamer.blogspot.com/2014/03/game-41-les-manley-1-final-rating.html?showComment=1395122258088#c2572353001068218087

      ;)

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    5. Oh, damn. It is hard to keep track of them. I wonder if I should just make a spreadsheet or something?

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    6. Good news: Betrayer looks like it doesn't totally suck. Bad news; My instincts were right, it isn't an adventure game, it looks like Skyrim plus more stealth and really cool sound mechanics, sans the RPG mechancis, at least from an early playthrough by Jim Sterling. Here is his playthrough, where he starts the game blind and just plays, spouting random nonsense as he does. It looks fun, but doesn't really strike me as an adventure game. Has anyone tried it out?

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  9. OH BOY, OH BOY! Another adventure game we can all force Trickster to play! http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/11/02/saturday-crapshoot-tender-loving-care/

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    1. One day you'll have to explain why you hate me so much! ;)

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