Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Street Skater



There was a time, right around the release of the very first Tony Hawk game, when skateboarding experienced something of a renaissance. For a few years it wasn't solely the preferred means of transport for disaffected teens who couldn't drive yet; everybody got into skater culture, myself included.

Unfortunately, I never did get to grips with skateboarding, partly because I lived in an area with no flat land and partly because I have the balance of a Wibble Wobble. Still, I got a kick out of the games and living vicariously through the biggest names in the sport.

Still, as much as I continue to enjoy those skating games, my passion for all things skateboard-related has slowly slipped away and returned to a state of mild interest. I'd like to think maybe that's why I didn't enjoy Street Skater - but I think it has more to do with it sucking ass.

Street Skater is a remarkably simple Flash skating sim that nevertheless proves quite frustrating and ultimately not worth your time.



You begin by choosing your skater. I decided to go with the first option, Jessy, who's either the most feminine man or the most masculine woman you'll ever meet in a Flash game. Surely such gender confusion is hardly going to help my chances of beating this game?



This doesn't help. Can you really get away with a name like that?



The levels on Street Skater are, as one would expect, very long, straight streets (or more accurately, footpaths.) You skate down the street until you reach the finish line, using the arrow keys to move and the A - H keys to perform grinds, kickflips and methods. The game is 2D, though it likes to pretend it's 3D because you can move your skater in and out of the background. Because you're moving from left to right this makes gauging jumps a little difficult, which inevitably leads to copious bailing from your unfortunate skater.



Trying to do anything other than a kickflip becomes a real chore. If you're not in the right place at the start of a rail you won't be able to skate on it, nor can you just jump onto it as you skate past (you know, like you could in real life.) You're supposed to jump onto steps and walls in order to gain enough height to pull off the really impressive aerial tricks, but that's no easier.



Bail five times and an ambulance will come to finally put you out of your misery. Somehow I doubt my score of -490 is going to be good enough for the high score table.



I decided to try again, this time with Scott, the most cheerful punk in the world. I was starting to get the hang of it at this point and finally managed to land a few grinds. Every time you load a level in Street Skater the obstacles are randomly generated, so you never get the same level twice. This certainly increases replay value, but it also means players can't learn from their mistakes. Instead of knowing where a rail or hole is and being able to prepare for it, you're always going into a level blind. It's like a brain surgeon trying to do a double bypass - you might have a good idea how to do it, but you can't be totally sure. Unless you're a brain surgeon who also performs heart operations, in which case you're probably too busy to play this game anyway.

What was I writing about?



Right, Street Skater. Personally, I doubt even skaters would get much enjoyment out of this game, especially as there are far superior titles on the Web such as Street Sesh, as well as the aforementioned Tony Hawk series. Unless you have the patience to get to grips with this game, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Hell, maybe you could even try going outside, grabbing a skateboard... then falling on your ass and coming back inside, because really, you should know better.

Friday, May 22, 2009

HardCourt

All right, yes, I know - twenty-four hours late. I'd like to report that this week's game was worth the wait, but let's be honest with ourselves here.



You know, it can't be easy to make a good sports game. After all, most hardcore gamers shy away from any and all physical activity whenever possible. Before the Wii came along and ruined everything, people were content to live vicariously through their favourite athletes by simply mashing buttons. But for such a game to be successful, it had to have that special something, that secret formula that would entice gamers to pull it off the shelf with their chubby little fingers and waddle off home for several hours of strenuous hand exercises.

So, does HardCourt have that je ne sais quoi that entertains and excites?

What are you, dense? Are you retarded, or something? This is Big Mean Flash Gamer.



So anyway, HardCourt features a series of one-on-one basketball contests, with the winner being whoever scores the most points within a certain time period. The player is given quite an impressive level of customisation, choosing the hair style and uniform of your character.



What makes HardCourt different from other basketball games on the Net is the ability to punch your opponent and leave him stunned while you throw high balls from the three point line. What this really means is that your character will be left doing his best Rodney King impression for much of the game, while Dennis Rodman here skips around the court and dunks baskets to his heart's content.



Even when you do get a chance to shoot for the hoop, it's hard to tell whether or not you actually scored. The angle from which we watch the action, and the poor movement of the characters, makes it very awkward to tell what's going on half the time. I didn't even realise I was in the lead for half the game until I caught a glimpse of the scoreboard. There is a "swoosh" sound effect that indicates a basket, but are you really going to be focusing on the sound when your opponent is shunting you to the floor?



The most annoying thing about HardCourt is the ridiculous Stamina bar. As your character runs around, he inevitably gets tired. That's OK, but this guy seems to have less athletic ability than a World of Warcraft addict. The stamina bar runs down after only a few seconds, giving your opponent ample opportunity to score points, or just to whack you to the floor before ambling up and putting the ball away.



Looser? Looser what? This typo is just the cherry on a crap cake, served steaming to the gaming masses. Basketball seems to be the toughest sport to turn into a game, but that's no excuse for this piss poor attempt. HardCourt is the Minnesota Timberwolves of online basketball - largely irrelevant.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Flash Manhunt



Oh man. I came across a few games this week that, for whatever reason, left me feeling pretty pissed off. But every time I come across a poor Flash version of a well-known title I have a certain amount of bile reserved just for it.

I mean, is it really that hard to produce a decent cut down version of these games? Why is it that out of all the Flash versions I've ever played, only Portal and Mirror's Edge have come out looking good? I suppose it goes without saying that I wasn't impressed with this really bad stick man version of Manhunt.



The whole thing is laughable from the very beginning. It starts off with our hero screeching to a halt and jumping out of his car before declaring that he's planning on killing his boss, and will we help him? It even gives you the option to say "No" and takes you back to the main menu. Who the hell is going to say "No"?

"No thanks, I just loaded the game for shits and giggles. I'm gonna go do something else now." It just seems so pointless!



Before can kill your boss, you need to get past the guards. The easiest way to do this seems to be by shanking them in the back. If you run around they'll hear you, so you need to move slowly by pressing the Shift key. You'll pick up several weapons over the course of the game, but from a distance they all look like a big stick.



All the guards have this mask on them, cribbed from the original game to add an air of authenticity, or something. I'm not sure whether it looks cool or silly, which most likely means it's the latter.



It's all insultingly easy in the early goings before hitting a certain amount of difficulty. Sometimes guards will be in a position where you can't get around them or easily attack them, so you need to make them move by catching their attention. The method of doing this can most politely be described as retarded; you basically run up to the guard, then run away before they can catch you. You really don't want them to catch you - they'll deplete your life points so quickly that you won't even realise you're in trouble until you see the "Game Over" screen.

There are trash cans all over every level, but these don't seem to do anything. The noise they make when you knock one over doesn't attract the guards - indeed, the health plan for hired goons these days isn't what it used to be, as these guys seem both short-sighted and hard of hearing. Unfortunately their knees are still perfectly fine.



These middle levels are a real pain in the ass, because if you die you have to start from the beginning each time, and you really don't want to spend that much time on a game this bad. Then, for no discernible reason, things get piss easy again. The guards are sitting ducks, for the most part, so you can take out whoever you want, whenever you want.



You also get to see the worst rendering of a chainsaw in gaming since the glory days of the Odyssey. Anyway, after about a dozen mercifully short levels, you finally reach the boss himself.



Oh, well... I guess that's that, then. Yeah, our hero pretty much abandons all thoughts of stealth and goes right in for a bloody kill. But if you had a gun all this time, what was up with sneaking around, garrotting hoodlums with copper wire?

The one thing you can say for Flash Manhunt is that it's in no way as graphic as the original. It's also in no way as good. Truth be told, I found the original Manhunt to be a pain the ass, as the focus seemed to be on graphic kills and not on excellent gameplay. This doesn't even have enough to please gorehounds, and there's nothing to appeal to the casual gamer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Celebrity Pedigree



This is something of a departure for me. Christmas aside, I spend just about every week tearing into a game I think sucks, and I've never seen much reason to change that. This week, however, I will not be focusing on a crappy game. Having extensively played Celebrity Pedigree I am happy to report that it isn't bad at all. No, this game is simply terrifying.

Just when I think I've seen it all, the Internet spits something new in my face. Celebrity Pedigree might just be the most twisted thing I've yet to come across, and when you've seen some of the other titles it's been my misfortune to play, that's really saying something.



All right, I'll try to explain. You have some kennels, and these kennel contains some dogs. But these aren't just any old dogs; these dogs all have the faces of celebrities. Each of these celebrity dogs has their own strengths and weaknesses, and by carefully breeding different types you can theoretically make more advanced celebrity dogs.

...Jesus.



OK, so let's give this a try. I decided to breed Paris Hilton dog (who looks way more attractive than her human counterpart - oh my God...) with Jeremy Clarkson dog. I figured if she was willing to screw that plain-looking semi-retarded guy in that sex tape, she'd be willing to screw a Top Gear presenter.



The result is... well, as you would expect. Part of the fun in playing Celebrity Pedigree is seeing what traits the new puppies' faces will take. This puppy just looks homely. Others can leave scars on your mind that will never truly heal.



You can keep up to ten dogs in your kennels, but be warned - each new pooch adds to your running costs. You have to make sure you have a good selection of breeds while keeping your costs under budget.



Naturally, breeding the same dogs with each other again and again will dilute the pedigree, and you'll end up with runts like Chris Moyles dog here. I think that's a little unfair to Moyles; I always found his radio show entertaining (when I was fourteen.)



By selling some of your dogs, you can raise the funds to buy new breeds. Here in the marketplace you'll find every B- and C-List celebrity that you could imagine. Everyone from Peaches Geldof to Russell Brand are included. Even Barack Obama has been turned into a dog - though not, if I remember correctly, a Portuguese water dog, which i thought would have been obvious.



I was eventually able to work my way up to the heights of rock 'n' roll royalty by buying Bono dog. While talented, this particular breed has a habit of considering itself the overbearing leader of the pack and has a nasty tendency to yap incessantly out of its arse. I tried putting Bono dog with one of my cross breeds, and the results were far from pretty.



GET THAT FUCKING THING AWAY FROM ME.

Celebrity Pedigree is like some terrible combination of erotic fan fiction and animal husbandry. If you've ever asked yourself, "I wonder what it would look like if Snoop Dogg and Lily Allen had a baby, and they were both dogs?" here's your chance to finally find out. The only thing scarier than that mental image is the knowledge that Nigella Lawson still looks hot even when her head is grafted onto the body of a dalmatian.

I need help.