Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goo Slasher



Since Halloween is on Friday, and since everyone from Livejournal to Photobucket is spraying their home pages with pumpkins, bats and more black than a goth kid's bedroom, I felt I should review something that was at least slightly related to the upcoming holiday. In truth, Halloween doesn't mean all that much to me these days. There isn't a TV station in the country showing a single solitary horror movie on Friday, and since I'm now an adult it's no longer socially acceptable for me to throw a sheet over myself, run around to other people's houses and demand chocolate. But hey, I can buy my own chocolate now, so don't cry for me.

Anyway, with the wave of Halloween themed games flooding the Internet this past week, it wasn't hard to find a crappy one. OK, so Goo Slasher isn't the most frightening of games, but it's got autonomous blobs of walking goo in it, and that's got to be a little spooky, right?



The first thing to keep in mind when playing Goo Slasher is that the controls are incorrectly labelled. I admire the developer's eagerness to get this game out there for the masses, but maybe it wouldn't have been a bad idea to double check the controls, only so the player will know which button is jump and which one is attack.



Anyway, when you do figure out which button does what, you can start slashing at goo as you march around in your knight's helmet, wifebeater vest and tartan kilt (now there's a terrifying combination.) There's definitely something satisfying about cleaving through the goo monsters and watching them explode with a nice splodgy sound. This is all good for about ten seconds, before you realise that this is it. This is all you do.



For ninety seconds you stand in the same area. The goo monsters come from each side, one at a time, at the same pace for the duration of the game. Basically all you have to do is walk a few paces to the left and right, swing your sword, then repeat the process. Hardly an exhilarating experience, unless you consider risking repetitive strain injury in your ring finger exciting.



You can always spice things up by trying the jumping attack, but that gets old quickly when you realise it leaves you open for completely avoidable death, and it really doesn't do anything that a regular attack can't.



YAY! Wow. I guess after a minute and a half of total monotony it would have been asking too much for a satisfactory ending. If I wanted a boring game with which to waste my time, it would have been a lot faster for me to just load Minesweeper. But then I wouldn't have had anything to review this week. So thank you, Goo Slasher - your lameness means this blog survives til November.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Car-Line



So it really should come as no surprise, but that extra review I said I might get written didn't materialise. You'll have to forgive me, but I had quite the weekend, and when you're getting cursed out by a drunk lesbian, game reviews are the last thing on your mind.

Anyway, Car-Line. Dear God, how I hate parking games. Indeed, long-time readers will know just how much I despise these games, so you might think reviewing one, knowing that I already have bad feelings toward it, is something of a cop-out. It's not like I played it for a while and grew to hate it; I already disliked Car-Line before I even began.



I wanted to give it a shot, however, because unlike other parking games, which just have you driving very slowly through a packed car park, Car-Line instead has you draw your vehicle's path to its intended spot. It's not often you find originality of any kind in games such as this, so it was nice to find someone trying something different. It works pretty well, though obviously it requires a fairly steady hand, because you still have to avoid crashing into walls and other cars.



There's also the issue of parking in just the right spot in order to reach the next level. And I mean the right spot exactly; one millimetre off and you'll have to reset the level.



That's parked better than some real cars that I've seen, but despite most of the vehicle being inside the yellow rectangle, it's just not good enough. If I wanted to be told that, I'd talk to my dad.

This demand for perfectionism hurts the fun factor of Car-Line, while the bad techno beat that the developers insist on looping throughout the game simply gives the player a migraine. You know what doesn't make me hate a parking game any less? Music that makes me want to drill a hole through my temple.



There's an interesting addition to the parking puzzle later on, where you have to collect a number of tires before successfully parking the car. All the while, other drivers are merrily making their way down the highway, oblivious to your vehicle. It all comes down to timing and economical use of your blue ink, which does have a limit (so no showboating.)



While you want to avoid crashing at all costs, the fact that everything moves at three miles per hour means you never have to worry about your insurance premiums going up. Car-Line can be a very slow game, and even slower if your computer is busy doing other things (which mine always seems to be.) Also, while the animation is perfectly acceptable, it's nothing to write home about, and at times the paucity of work that was put into them shows.



Take this moment, where another car smashes into mine, complete with impressive crashing sound effect. But I doubt the old jalopy is going to need too much work, seeing as how the two cars aren't even touching.

Car-Line, despite a few nifty features, is another disappointing parking game. It's a shame, really, because I would have expected more from Dede Games. I've checked out their website and found plenty of titles that are a lot more fun than Car-Line could ever be - though it must be said, most of these titles don't have the Dede name on them. Clearly, that says more than anything I could write.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bailout



OK, yeah, I know, another two weeks between reviews. "I just didn't have time" probably doesn't cut it as an excuse, but whatever. I'll make it up to you all by posting a special extra review this weekend. Maybe.

Anyway, onto the review, and you know, sometimes this job is hard as hell, and other times the Internet does all the work for me. Bailout was definitely easier to find than usual, as our good friends at Addicting Games were happy to wax lyrical about how awful it is.

Personally, I give the developers credit for being so quick on the draw. It's been, what, a month since anyone first suggested the big bailout to save the US economy? Well done to No Can Win on beating everybody else to the punch, but I think it doesn't take long to see just why this title has been faring so poorly among gamers.



As the tutorial screen so helpfully informs us, the objective is to guide your flying piggy bank around with the mouse, collecting money and cutting the parachutes of wealthy business fat cats. Should any escape, it's game over.

Simple, really. Simple and effective. Sure, the concept sounds silly, but no more ridiculous than many of the other games clogging up the information superhighway.



As I began to play, I couldn't really see what the big problem was. I mean, it's hardly a difficult game - getting to grips with the controls basically requires that you can use a mouse. Sure, it may not look very pretty, but some of the best online games look remarkably simple. The key to any good game isn't so much the visuals as its playability and knack for hooking a gamer in.



I'm not too sure why the business executives are all skydiving between skyscrapers, or why I want to send them plummeting to their unavoidable doom, but I went with it. The sound effects of wailing bureaucrats and the whirring blades of helicopters were a nice touch, too.

So, as I played and kept playing, I began to realise just what it might be that's caused so much dislike for Bailout. As a time waster, it's not bad, but after about thirty seconds I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something. And as the game continued, I began to feel more and more disappointed.

It didn't take me too long to see just what the problem was: Bailout is boring.



Now you're probably thinking, "Big Mean, you lovable rapscallion, you! Surely you must be mistaken! There's no way a game featuring a flying pig, businessmen hanging out of helicopters and skydiving executives could ever be boring!" But I'm afraid on this occasion I am right and you, dear reader, are wrong - dead wrong!

Bailout holds the attention for a remarkably short amount of time, and when it begins to get dull you quickly start to resent the fact that it's so easy. You start to hate it for allowing you to play for so long. Sure, you could just stop playing and let the game end, but you're not one of those people, are you? No, you're not! So you keep playing, hating both the game and yourself for your inability to just stop!



Eventually you don't catch someone in time and the game mercifully ends. And you tell yourself that you'll never play it again, because really, there's no point. This is not a game that requires repeated playing. There's no goal other than collecting as much money as possible and getting your name on a scoreboard - hardly incentive to keep coming back.

Bailout, then - not terrible, just tedious. And to be quite frank, that's almost as bad.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Haunted House Escape



Yes, I know, I didn't write a review last week, and no, I don't have an excuse. At the end of the day, I was tired and it was late.

Guess I do have an excuse. Anyway, I have returned with a point and click adventure that involves lots of random clicking but very little point, Haunted House Escape. Now, I tend to avoid these "escape" games because they rarely interest me, but for some reason Haunted House Escape caught my eye, and I figured I would give it a shot. How could I have foreseen the soul-sucking experience that was to befall me for almost twenty agonising minutes?



So we begin our adventure outside the haunted house. Oh, OK, I guess the game is over then, because as the title clearly states, the object is to escape the haunted house. It's kind of hard to escape something you're not even in. But this is explained by telling us that the front gate is locked, and the only way to escape is to go through the house.

Let's consider the logic of going into a building in order to get out of a building. And while we're at it, let's prove the existence of dark matter with a rubber band a toothpick. And why exactly was climbing over the wall not an option? There are giant trees right there; surely you could climb up one of those, shimmy along a branch and make your way down the other side with the minimum of fuss, right? But then, it's exactly that kind of thought process that means I review crappy games, not make them.



The first order of business is to find a brick in the wall that will move aside to reveal a knife and a mirror, which must be tilted in such a way as to catch the moonlight and beam it towards another mirror. Of course, finding the brick is the hard part, since it could be any one of the large grey slabs of granite that make up the front of the house. There are no clues as to which brick is the one you're looking for, and the cursor does not change when you hover over a hotspot, so that's no use either. The only option, therefore, is to click every brick until you reach the right one, a time-consuming and frankly boring endeavour.



The reason behind all this mirror moving and brick clicking is to beam the moonlight onto a cellar door, which you then cut open with the knife in order to get inside the house. You might ask why one should even bother, especially when you can cut the ropes holding the cellar door closed at any time. But the light plays an important part in the next puzzle, so the tedious work must be done.



Just so we're clear, I didn't get through this game because I'm a brilliant puzzle solver or because I always consider the possibility of hidden mirrors in brick walls. No, I won thanks to this walkthrough, provided by the developers on their website. A Flash game really shouldn't need a walkthrough. Hints and tips are always good, but a full explanation on how to beat every puzzle in the game shouldn't be necessary. These are games you play during your coffee break - they're not supposed to be fucking Myst!



So we get into the house, and the first stop is the kitchen. Somewhere in here is a shard of a mirror, hidden behind a China plate. Of course, it's behind that lone plate on the right, because you're too busy looking through all the crap in the middle, where you'd expect that sort of thing to be. Again, it's a case of clicking everywhere until the answer suddenly appears right in front of you and you feel like an idiot for having missed it for so long.



The reason you're going to all this trouble is to find four keys that will unlock a secret passageway out of the house. I should probably note at this point that at no time in my search for these keys did I come across a ghost, a monster, a poltergeist or any spiritual being of any kind. For a haunted house, this place is awfully lacking in scariness.

Anyway, you put the keys into this contraption and click each one a certain number of times, which will unlock another door. There are numbers scattered around the house to tell you how many clicks each key requires, but if you don't remember or don't know where to find these numbers you're in trouble. And what happens if you click too many times? I never found out, thanks to the walkthrough, but since the keys don't seem removable I'd hope you get a second chance.



The keys open this lever in the cellar, which in turn opens a door upstairs that leads to a secret escape tunnel. I'm not sure how an upstairs door leads to a tunnel - it may be a vortex, which would at least help the house live up to its "haunted" billing.

Once again, I've put too much thought into this. If you're looking for an infuriating, time-consuming, evil bastard of a game, play Haunted House Escape. If you're looking for something fun, then keep looking.