Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Destroy The World

Though I will admit the phrase "Destroy the world" does appeal from time to time, when used in conjunction with such a piss poor game as this one, some of the allure of worldwide annihilation wears off. Destroy The World is a sci-fi action game that allows you to control an alien spaceship as an interplanetary federation seeks to prevent the planet Earth from attacking them. They have about as much proof that Earth is about to do this as the Bush administration had when they said Saddam had WMDs, but they're gonna blow up the planet anyway. However, any attempt at satire or social commentary in Destroy The World is entirely coincidental.

The first mission requires you to attack the farmers of Canada, which tells you just how important you are in this whole war. I would have thought, considering the aliens are smart enough to perfect travel between worlds and develop diplomatic links with other species, that they'd know Canada has bugger all weapons of mass destruction, but as per usual a game developer has proven me wrong.

I must admit that everything does look pretty nice, and the bright colours add to the cartoonish graphics. Destroy The World has succeeded in making mass genocide look fun, which is an achievement in itself. The controls are simple, with the cursor keys moving your ship around the screen and the space bar firing your lasers. Unfortunately, the laser only fires straight down, and since almost everything you meet is shooting at you, hovering directly above isn't a great idea.

The result is that you'll end up flying from side to side, so you can fire off at an angle, and hoping for the best. Which I must say isn't the nicest experience in the world when farmers are firing heat seeking missiles at you. It's almost impossible to avoid the missiles, as they home in on you instantly, so if you weren't fast or lucky enough to shoot it with your laser you can kiss a nice chunk of your shield energy goodbye.

This, however, becomes a bit of a problem once we get to Mission Two. Here you pretty much act as a shield for the mother ship, which is charging up its laser and preparing to blow up the White House. From picking off crazed farmers to protecting the mother ship - I must say, that's a hell of a promotion!

As well as only being able to shoot directly below you, the laser requires time to recharge, or the rate of fire slows considerably. So let's recap: you have only one weapon, which is useless if the target is beside or above you, and it needs to recharge after five shots. Oh, and every army on earth is still firing at you while this happens.

Yeah, I'm getting the feeling that the alien boss didn't put a lot of thought into this attack...

With the destruction of the White House, everyone gets pretty pissed off with you, which explains the sudden increase in helicopters, fighter jets and cruise missiles. I guess someone realised you can't shoot up. A lot of damage was taken during this mission, which involves flying our spaceship to the Arctic, where the WMDs are being kept. If that makes no sense, you may be too smart to play this game.

I wanted to share this mission briefing with you because I can't believe anyone thought this bullshit was funny. It's the sort of stupid-clever "humour" that only works if the clever part is slightly greater than the stupid. In Destroy The World, I don't think this is the case.

But hell, where else are you going to see penguins riding mammoths with missile launchers on their backs? That's +1 for originality, I'll say that much.

OK, so it's not like Destroy The World is the very worst game ever; there's some wheat here among the chaff, but it takes some searching for. I would expect vast improvements should there ever be a sequel, but as it stands Destroy The World is something of a muddled mess that tries too hard to be cool and funny, and leaves you feeling like you're with your dad at a rave - frustrated, bored and ever so slightly embarrassed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mo'Bike 2

The tragedy of Mo'Bike 2 is that the title implies the existence of a Mo'Bike 1, and if we assume that the sequel is an improvement over the original, then the original must have been very fucking bad indeed. (I'd like to apologise for swearing in the very first sentence of this review. I'd like to, but I won't.)

The curiously-named Mo'Bike 2 allows you to don the helmet and leathers of a stunt bike driver, achieving spectacular feats of two-wheeled heroics without ever having to get anywhere near a line of twenty flaming buses. One nice thing I can say about the game is that it allows you a healthy degree of customisation, as you can pick from three types of motorcycle, determine your rider's colours and name your character. Naturally, I did what I always do when given this option, because I have the mentality of a twelve-year-old.

To hell with what anyone says - real men wear pink. And the toughest guys in the world are drag queens. Think about - he's out in public wearing a dress. He has nothing to lose by kicking your ass.

Anyway, our intrepid hero, Randy Hardlove, begins his career in motorcycle stunts by jumping over a pit of spikes. Jesus, he ain't fuckin' around, is he? Before you begin each level, you're required to choose the height of your ramp and the distance between brake markers (basically, you need to stop in this area after successfully landing to complete the level.) Considering the medium setting for this area is only slightly bigger than my bike, you'll forgive me for acting like a pussy and changing it to the easier setting. Of course, you wouldn't think anyone would care where I stopped, as long as I got over the twenty feet of steel spikes that were sticking six feet out of the ground. Apparently, someone does.

You control the speed of your rider with the use of a slide bar. OK, so this is where I have a problem. What was an intriguing game has now become a study of how often one is willing to screw up a simple jump for the hollow satisfaction of declaring oneself a winner. The slide determines the rate of acceleration, and the margin for error is so small that more often than not you'll either overshoot the landing ramp...

...or come up sadly short.

And he's OK!

Even if you do land perfectly, there's always the chance that you'll brake too early or too late and not stop perfectly in the designated zone. All of a sudden it becomes abundantly clear why you get plenty of lives.

Assuming you ever make it through level one, your next challenge is the ring of fire. But hey, why go for one ring of fire when you can have two?

Probably because it more than doubles the risk and makes fiery death an even greater possibility.

I was shocked to discover that I had arranged the height of the ramp and gauged the rate of acceleration correctly, and made a perfect landing on the other side...

But stopped slightly before I was entirely between the brake markers.

Right, that's it. I've wasted an entire evening to this game, and I refuse to waste any more. With a lot of practice you'll no doubt complete all of the levels in Mo'Bike 2, but would anyone really want to spend that much time on an infuriating online game like this when there are thousands of others that don't require hours of dedication? The answer, as far as I can see, is an emphatic "No."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Apprentice

My apologies for not informing you all that there was not going to be a Big Mean Flash Gamer review last week. I was in Michigan visiting my girlfriend. I am now back in Ireland. I am tired, sad and alone. That combination did not bode well for this week's game.

But then I found THIS!!

That's right - it's a platform game based on "The Apprentice." I repeat: a platform game. Based on the hit TV show "The Apprentice." At first, I didn't believe my eyes.

I mean, come on - this is "The Apprentice." Nothing about a bunch of overeducated, self-important, narcissistic children trying to impress an ageing, balding billionaire screams ladders and jumping to me. Perhaps if there were some pitfalls in the game, that could be seen as a metaphor for the emotional and professional pitfalls that beset the contestants on the show. But there aren't any pitfalls, so I'm left feeling confused, and I can't just blame it on the jet lag.

The goal of The Apprentice is to climb the "corporate ladders" (oh, now I get it!) and reach the top floor office, where money, cocaine and a dumb but hot secretary all await you. But your rivals are all trying to reach the top, too, and they'll stop at nothing to keep you from getting ahead. They hope to achieve this by walking around the building a lot and bumping into you.

It may sound stupid, but it's effective. Look as our little CEO-in-waiting struggles on the floor like an epileptic turtle. However, after a little fit, you jump back up and are as right as rain again, and you have more than enough lives to get to the top. No level is more then seven floors high, and since there are only three levels to play, "challenging" is one adjective you won't be using when describing this game to your buddies at the water cooler.

Speaking of water coolers (and that, children, is how we do a segue): knocking them over will not only make you unpopular with the janitor, but give you temporary invincibility. You then have the chance to fight back against your colleagues. Make those underlings squirm! Pretty soon you'll be raking in so much money that you'll be able to buy their lives! They'll be sorry they broke your mug in the staff canteen then!

Anyway, on the top floor is the big office, with fine leather chairs and all the trimmings. Take the time to make yourself comfortable and wonder why, with only three levels in the game, no one took the time to fix this frame, so that you couldn't see the sky through the roof.

And so it goes on, with little discernible difference between the levels, save perhaps for a few more enemies.

Here I am trapped between a rock and a hard place (or rather a sweaty accountant and the office bicycle.) Alas, sometimes you have no choice but to take a hit in order to move further along. As I mentioned before, you have a lot of lives, so it's not like you can't afford to do that, but it is kind of counter-intuitive to what one would normally do in a platform game - try to stay as healthy as possible, you know?

But then, it doesn't matter how many lives you've lost by the time to get to the end. There aren't any bosses to fight, not even in the final level. You're trying to tell me I'm the only one who thinks a ten foot tall fire breathing Donald Trump wouldn't be a sweet boss? I'd take great pleasure in kicking his ass, that's for damn sure!

To be honest, I'm pretty sure Donald Trump would be easy to beat. If I was making a game based on "The Apprentice" I'd use his UK counterpart Alan Sugar. He doesn't take shit from anyone, and he founded Amstrad, which produced the CPC in the 1980's. Those computers kicked ass.

As well as adding Sugar to the mix, I'd... oh, I don't know, maybe I'd make a game that had a little more to do with the actual TV show instead of a lame platformer that just rips off Techno Raiders from Dilbert's Desktop Games. I remember playing that almost ten years ago. This game is actually a step back from that. How is that even possible? If The Apprentice game was a contestant on the TV show, it would be the idiot who gets fired five minutes into the first episode, and who ends up selling his story to any tabloid that gives a rat's ass, before trying unsuccessfully to convince the corporate world that it was just a case of "bad editing." Donald Trump sent ya home with your balls in a sling, kid - your days in this business are over!