Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Exit Path

All right, I'm starting to get back into the rhythm now, this week reviewing a game that turns the rock all the way up and the suck all the way down. Exit Path is a fun, fast platform game that presents us a tale of a lone individual trying to achieve freedom in a cold, oppressive world.

OK, so it's hardly the most original of concepts, but let's give the game a chance. It sports a very pretty look, with a somewhat stylished, simple layout that's functional while retaining a certain sense of style. True, nothing particularly jumps out at you, but it's a good, consistent look that fits the game's plot.

What really impresses, though, is the gameplay. The animation is fluid and dynamic, with our hero racing through numerous violent death traps in an attempt to escape. What makes things more interesting is the use of the "Flow," a meter that allows you to move at supersonic speeds for a small amount of time. Used effectively, the flow can shave seconds off your time. But if you don't watch your step, you could end up meeting the business end of a flying axe, which makes the game much more frenetic.

Don't worry if you do end up tasting a laser beam or getting crushed by a spiked platform. There are checkpoints on every level to save you the trouble of going through the same obstacles again and again. Plus, like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, death in Exit Path results in time reversing to the last time you weren't being mangled by a giant circular saw. It's a nice little touch and, while we wouldn't miss it if it wasn't there, it's a good example of the effort put into making a high quality game.

Completing levels and collecting caution signs opens up a bunch of options for customising your character, including everything from paper bags to bunny ears. But if you want more, or if you're just tired of the single player game, Exit Path contains a sweet multiplayer option that lets you face off against four others in a race through a number of unique levels. I'm not really one for multiplayer games, what with my general misanthropy, but Exit Path makes it so simple that it's not surprising to lose a lot of time trying to outdo others in a series of high speed contests.

All in all, Exit Path may feature plenty of things we've already seen before, but it's a finely crafted game that offers plenty of entertainment. If you're looking for thrills and speeds through a technological wasteland that seeks only to eviscerate you, then Exit path is the game for you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oil Spill Cleaner

Here I am once again, finally slipping back into my regular schedule after starting a work placement a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, I'm ready to write a review this week. So, is it good game or bad?


Well, that's depressing. And with that in mind, I decided to subject myself to a game based on the most depressing news story of the last month, that of the unending oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yep, Oil Spill Cleaner is a light-hearted (at least, I think it is) little arcade game that I think was trying to transmit an environmentalist message but that got too caught up in upsetting people deeply. Crude oil is flowing into the Gulf at an alarming rate and, in a move that will surprise no one who watched the response to Hurricane Katrina, you and you alone have been given the job of cleaning it up.

Your little boat is equipped with a vacuum designed to scoop the oil out of the water and you work eight hour shifts, between which you can buy upgrades. Above all, you have to stop the oil from reaching the Louisiana coastline, where it will destroy the natural habitat of the animals there and result in those photos of oil-covered seagulls that make my fiancée cry. I will say that Oil Spill Cleaner plays pretty well, but it's no more complicated than having the boat follow your mouse pointer around the screen. It isn't exactly pretty, either. Maybe games that look like they belong on an Atari 2600 are in vogue right now, but in my view the retro thing should be done lightly. At the very least, upgrade your graphics to Commodore 64 level, guys!

The ship upgrades are all effective, I suppose, but what annoys me is how one can't skip an upgrade level, even if you've got the cash. You've got to buy each upgrade in its correct order, which sounds like a waste of money to me (but then, I'm not a government official or the vice-president of a multinational corporation, so what do I know?) What really grinds my gears is that, with every level, the oil spill naturally gets faster. So all you're really doing is keeping pace with the oil. You never really get an advantage over it - in fact, it's pretty depressing to clear up a section of water just to see it turn black again almost instantaneously.

In the end, sometimes you just have to approach the oil in the same manner any self-respecting D & D gamer approaches trolls and kill it with fire. This is actually a lot of fun, but it costs you 10,000 points a shot, so know when to use it - usually when you reach the point of total boredom.

Yes, that would be Oil Spill Cleaner's biggest flaw: for all of the frenetic bouncing back and forth, scooping up crude oil to help save the turtles, the game is remarkably dull. Every level is simply the same slog for 96 seconds, just a little faster. And as the game goes on, you start to understand how those dealing with the real oil spill must feel when they watch millions of gallons of black death seep into the ocean. You never, ever get ahead of the spill and you'll never, ever finish cleaning it up. It's only inevitable that oil will hit the coastline and then you'll have to focus on cleaning that mess up, too. I don't know if this game was supposed to educate or entertain, but it did neither. All it did was make me flail angrily and curse the folly of man. I'm pretty sure video games shouldn't do that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Destructo Truck

So here I am, lucky enough to have a few pretty darn good games over the last few days, and thinking about which one I should review for this week's Big Mean Flash Gamer. Tough call, really; adventure, action, puzzles - I've played a pretty wide variety this past week and been thoroughly entertained.

But only one of those games allows me to drive a lorry down a ramp and crash it into a never ending line of buildings. That game is Destructo Truck.

Destructo Truck gets points immediately because it reminds me of the always wonderful Indestructo Tank series. But while those games have you driving along, merrily smashing into enemy aircraft and vehicles, Destructo Truck eschews any meaningful narrative or in-depth character development and instead focuses on building bashing goodness. It's a bit like when Michael Bay told the screenwriters of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to remove anything that slowed down the pace or gave a hint of character development. Except Revenge of the Fallen was shite and Destructo Truck rocks your socks off.

Still, I expect Mikey boy would appreciate this game. It taps into something that I believe all men have, which is the innate desire to burn things and jump on stuff. All that Destructo Truck asks of you is that you drive as fast as possible down a long ramp, sail off the end and then sit back as your truck barrels through building after building, creating the longest "Smash Streak" possible to access power-ups and bonuses. With the salvage from destroyed buildings you can purchase upgrades for your truck, even redesiging the chassis and body of the vehicle.

That's really all there is to it. In that regard, Destructo Truck probably doesn't have a lot of replay value. But there's something deeply satisfying - even cathartic - about watching a bright yellow truck smash its way through 57 buildings and businesses before rolling slowly to a stop. It's the same reason a game like Burnout is so popular: all the thrill of a grinding car crash straight out a Bourne movie but without the annoyance of serious injury or insurance claims.

Controls are simple - the right arrow to accelerate and the Space bar for everything else. Upgrade rockets, your engine etc. and watch the truck roll trough buildings like they were made of paper. Can't get much better than that! The graphics are exceedlingly simple, but then nobody's playing this for its remarkable visuals. Everything does the job just fine, so while it doesn't win any awards for innovation, one can't fault Destructo Truck for focusing simply on getting the fundamentals right.

Destructo Truck is big, dumb and lots of fun, so it gets a thumbs up for that. It cares little for your serious Earth, revelling instead in a ridiculous concept. and can't help but entertain.