Jericho

I just finished up watching the CBS TV show Jericho and all I have to say is that, yet again the TV executives made a bad choice on cancelling this show back in 2008. Jericho first season was in 2006 and was cancelled after the first season because of low ratings. But a out cry of public support brought the show back in 2008 which was a short season two, but the 8 episodes wrapped up the show for the most part. But it did leave it open for more in my opinion. Only bad thing is that it has been almost four years since Jericho was cancelled and the odds of getting a full cast back together would be difficult. But there is some home, writers and producers are kicking around a movie sequel to Jericho based on the comic book ‘season three’ if the comic sells well they will know there is some interest and we just might see it some day.

So what is Jericho about? I will try not to give too much away but the United States is hit by several nuclear terrorist attacks and the story unfolds on how the town of Jericho copes with this as food shortages, no power, rival towns and inner turmoil takes hold. The story is a good one because it tries to show how decent people would probably slowly evolve or act in this type of stressful environment and I think they did a decent job in bringing it to the screen. There is a nice underlying conspiracy story to Jericho and I will not go into that because that is the good stuff.

Currently if you have Netflix streaming you can watch all of the episodes and I highly recommend that you do. I didn’t know about Jericho until someone mentioned it in the forums so I gave it a watch and was glad I did. Only bad thing is that I want more and I hope one day we will see Jericho again.

Now I have to go find this Season 3 – Civil War Comic series and read it. If you have seen Jericho and or just started watching would like to know what you thought of the show?

Darkstar: The Interactive Movie Review

First off I want to thank Jeff Williams of Parallax Studios for sending me a copy of Darkstar for review. I have been delayed in getting this out because of my move to a new town and home, and I also wanted to play the game all the way through. In my opinion Darkstar is a little hard to review for me just because I don’t want to give away to much of the storyline, but here it goes. In Darkstar you start the game by being awoke from a deep cryo-statis sleep. You find out that you have been a sleep so long that you have a little amnesia, you even have forgotten your name, why your on this ship (The Westwick), your crew members and your mission. You find out you are Cpt. O’Neil and you are on the Westwick, which is on mission to Darkstar. The year is now 2499 and you and your crew have been asleep for 312yrs! This is really where the game begins and you now have to find out things about the crew, why the ship is currently in lock down and what happened to Earth and why are you going to Darkstar. As you progress through the game you will find these ‘bio-locks’ that you will need to unlock to access video clips of the back story as to why you are on the mission (these are like memories coming back slowly to Cpt. O’Neil), the bio-locks also used to unlock areas and ship functionality. You need to disable all of the bio-locks on the ship to get it out of lock down mode.

Checkout this trailer for Darkstar: (You can also see more in-depth developer and behind the scenes videos on Parallax’s youtube page)

If you are an older gamer (like me) you will definitely recognize the style of game play to be like these classics; 7th Guest, 11th Hour, Zork and Myst. That’s right all you need to play this game is a mouse to do point-n-click actions. What is Darkstar’s strength? The story in my opinion, Parallax Studios did a great job on the ship interiors and the video clips in the game to keep you going into the wee hours of the morning. The story is very well told and all of the video clips are in HD, did I mention there is over 20hrs worth of video in the game. One thing I liked about the game was the music score and some of the interesting puzzles and mini-games. Just make sure that you pay attention to what you have done in the game, read about and interacted with to progress through the game. The choices that you make in the game move the story along, just don’t make the wrong choice and you won’t find a interesting way to kill yourself.

Darkstar definitely keeps you enthralled with the game content and keeps you playing for some long sessions to see what happens next. And in playing Darkstar I remembered how much I enjoyed playing these FMV story/movie games from the past. And best of all this is a sci-fi game that actually has a good plot.

Pros:

  • No disc switching, everything installs to the hard-drive
  • HD video clips and audio was good.
  • The acting is decent and not too cheesy like some of the older FMV games
  • I personally liked the ship interiors

Cons:

  • You may run into some issues playing this on Win7 64bit OS, run in WinXp or Vista emulation mode and you might need a newer version of quicktime than what is supplied on the disk. You can also go here for more assistance if you run into problems with the game (http://www.darkstar.gs/support-home/)
  • Save game tool could have been more informative as to time/date or a screenshot of the save progress.
  • I would have liked to pilot something in the game instead of it being a video clip.
  • Not really a con but I found out about this game via Amazon doing a search, it is still only purchasable from their website or Amazon.com

For those that have never tried an interactive movie here is your chance, because Darkstar is actually one of the best of the FMV games I have played yet. here is a little tidbit I didn’t know about Darkstar development until I watched a few videos is that this movie/game had a development cycle of around 10yrs! For the dedication alone it deserves a look at. Just remember when playing to really look around and examine all areas of the ship and environment because I missed a few crucial small things that had me stumped for a little while in what to do next. Give us your feedback on Darkstar either here or in the forums.

The Wreckless Review

I got to sit down with The Wreckless over the Christmas holiday which was officially released a few weeks ago, and thought I would do a little write on my experiences with the game. The Wreckless is the first game release for indie developer Duct Tape Games, and have to say not a bad first start at the space combat genre. The missions are loosely tied together with some basic plot lines or least until mission 9 where I have left off at. You start off with the basic fighter (F-95) and go though two missions or so that help you grasp flying and targeting and then you are off to much harder missions. The Wreckless gets you into the action fairly quickly and soon you are trying to stop 15 torpedoes from hitting the Admiral’s ship, fighting ace pilots and keeping certain assets alive under overwhelming odds. I think some of the most difficult missions is where you have multiple objectives and certain ships need to survive. Makes you rethink your squad’s ship selections and plan of attack. I found myself a few times redoing missions until I figured out the best fighter/bomber combinations to bring with me and what to go after first.

The graphics are average but do work well with the action on the screen, the graphics has a cell shaded type art style to me. The action is challenging and Wreckless does have a bit of a Tie Fighter feel to it with the ship combat and the way combat looks on the screen. I also like the fact that you have a little bit of newton style physics in there which helps when taking on the bigger ships.

When you get killed you are automatically put into one of your squadrons drone ships. When you and all of your drone are destroyed or an objective has failed your mission is over. There is a mission briefing with a tactical screen to help you with your mission planning and the selection of the correct ship types to bring on the mission. The sound effects and music are average, I would have liked to have more battle and in-flight music options and more pilot comm chatter. The briefings and tutorial voice overs were good and not too cheesy like some previous games I have played in the past.

So down to what I liked and what needs some work, I will be using a Pros/Cons system to give possible purchasers of the game an idea of what to expect. My evaluation is going off of what I have observed and played so far (on mission 9 of 16), everyone’s opinions are different so I always tell people to play the game for yourself. This way you can be more informed and maybe even provide feedback to get the game fixed.

Pros:

  • Mission briefings are descriptive and voiced
  • The ability to research new ships as you advance through missions
  • No install, just extract and play (or least my copy was like that)
  • Fun combat, targeting was sometimes a bit off imo
  • I liked the visuals even though they were simplistic, it works. And the frame rates were really good while playing I avg. between 80-100fps
  • Your mission isn’t over until your whole squadron is dead or you fail an objective. You just move from drone to drone until you have exhausted your squadron of ships.
  • In simulator mode you can create various scenarios with ships and test your skills.

Cons/issues:

  • Would have liked to have equipment or hard point reseach as well as the ships
  • Needs better control scheme for drone control or let the player during the briefing screen set priorities for the drones.
  • No cockpit views
  • No native joystick support. But i’m sure you could program a joystick profile for the game
  • Cannot specifically target different sub-systems on larger ships like a cruiser/battleship
  • Experienced some issues with windows mode with drop-down controls on mission screen and movement issues when cursor is not in the active game window

Overall I am having a fun time playing The Wreckless and plan on playing it to the end. I am always a huge supporter of the indie scene and did I mention that this is available for Windows and Mac platforms. What I liked most about my experience with the game was the combat and how sometimes you can just get pummeled with lasers and be just floating debris in secs. The battles close up or at a distance with all of the lasers or weapon trails look nice and give a feel of desperation at times in the game to keep you on edge to complete the mission. The Wreckless is currently being sold for $9.99 on GamersGate and from their website.

So give The Wreckless a spin and if you like it support Duct Tape Games. You can discuss the game here or in the forums.

Here is one of the latest videos of The Wreckless in action.

Engress: The Test of STS-417

I came across Egress today while surfing around. Egress is a point-and-click space/sci-fi adventure game that takes about 30+ mins to finish. Krams Design did a great job with the AGS Engine in creating the story book style game. I won’t give away too much of the story but I thought it was well written and the game music and sound effects were well done. The art style and mood setting were great and Egress kept me hooked all the way to the end. There is some puzzles to solve in the game so you will have some trial and error with the game (hint: so pay attention to the solutions). And make sure you go through the credits there is some extra stuff to the story in there.

I encourage you to take a look at this great free indie game and give it a try and if you like it don’t forget to donate to the author on their website. You can chat about Egress here or in the forums.

Download: http://kramsdesign.com/egress-dl/EGRESS_v1.0.rar

Game trailer:

Blue Libra

Blue Libra is a game that has been recently released by Orator Games on all platforms (ie: Windows, Mac, Linux and Ipod/Ipad) and you can pick it up on the cheap for under $5.
So what is the game about?

In Blue Libra you are command of the last Libra carrier and you are out to avenge your lost comrades. You will go through the campaign slowly conquering sectors and difficulty increasing as you progress. As you take over planets and or stations you can allot construction priority of your various ship types (ie: fighters, bombers, frigates, etc..). At the successful completion of each level you will be able to purchase special abilities to help your fleet or give you an edge in the fight.

One thing I like about Blue Libra is the control scheme it is easy to use and it seems like it would be universal on all platforms including the mobile ones. You basically draw lines to your targets on cut the fleets in half to split them or make them meet to combine them. The controls are very simple to learn and are very fluid.Blue Libra is a classic RTS game in which you have to be quick and use strategy to take control of planets and use obstacles to your advantage. There is command points in the game so you cannot build up these huge zergs to crush your opponents.

Checkout the game in action below:

Star Ruler Review

Iceberg Interactive has sent me a copy of new indie developer Blind Mind Studio’s first game Star Ruler (shipping version v1.1.0.0). Iceberg Interactive did a nice job with Star Ruler’s packaging with some great cover art and explanation of the game features on the back. Inside it comes of course with the game, a nicely written manual and a poster. I usually don’t play 4x style games that much personally, but I have to admit I found Star Ruler’s tutorial to be very helpful in that it was well scripted and went over all the controls, ship design and construction, combat, planet mechanics, research and diplomacy. So by the end of the tutorial I thought I was capable enough to start playing the game.

One thing that I did notice, was that there was no campaign/story mode in Star Ruler which was a bit of a let down for me, but it isn’t a deal breaker. Game setup has a series of controls in which you can adjust various game play options. Setting up your race is easy and you have some racial options to set if you choose to enhance or challenge your in-game experience. When I started playing Star Ruler I selected a galaxy with a 100+ systems and just thought that would take me forever to play so I picked a 25 system galaxy against 3 AI opponents and that game seemed a bit more manageable. Star Ruler’s galaxy is procedurally generated so you shouldn’t play the same setup twice unless you want to because there is a ‘seed’ value that you can insert and I take it that if you supply the same number that you could play the same level design over.

When you start the game you get one planet and you are supposed to grow your empire from there. So my planet construction began and I created some scout and colony ships sending them off to scout systems and colonize the other planets in my local system. One thing about planets is that you can focus every planets production output (ie: food, metal, electronics, goods, science, etc..). Depending on what you construct you can start to move resources from planet to planet. While doing all of this you should also be constructing your fleet because all of these assets need protection and it always helps to have some early warning about any races snooping around. During this process you are working with Star Ruler’s interface, which I think is very informative and easy to use and understand. In this style of game the interface is very important because you have a lot of things to keep track of and a helpful and easy interface is crucial I think to your success.

One thing you have to remember when you are playing Star Ruler is that it is a real-time strategy game and unless the game is paused the AI is moving and growing stronger so the longer you take looking at the star map, informational displays, designing ships and plotting routes the more the AI is gaining on you or surpassing you. One good thing is that there is a lot of automation in the game when it comes to planet management and other tasks to help you concentrate more on strategy and fleet building.

Here is a few Pros/Cons I have come up with after my game sessions with Star Ruler:

Pros:

  • All matches are procedurally generated so there is plenty of re-playability
  • Lots of AI options
  • The tutorial (in my opinion) was well done and does help a newb grasp the concept and controls fairly easily
  • Galaxy/System graphics were decent
  • Mod support
  • Ship loadout and blueprint system, almost another game in itself
  • Music score gave the game a good feeling and felt right when you were playing

Cons:

  • No story/campaign mode
  • When your zoomed in on the combat, the visual effects were not that great
  • I thought the research page was a little confusing at times
  • Would have liked to see more ship model types

I have had a fun time playing Star Ruler the past few days in which some of my missions ended in victory and others in bitter defeat and all the while I was learning something new or trying out new tactics. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to play in any multi-player matches at all, but you can play in co-op, team and free for all matches with human players and AI players. Star Ruler is a definitely a game that can entertain you for many weeks to months because of the re-playability of the procedurally generated galaxy and the mods that are being produced by the community members.

Check out the trailer below:



Star Ruler has come a long way from the early demos I played back in 2010 and it is definitely great to see it surpass the v1.0 release. This is why indie developers like Blind Mind Studios are so great they put out roughly 25 different patches to get to the v1.0 release and you don’t see that type of support usually in the big name developers so hats off to you. On what I would grade my experiences with Star Ruler, I would give them a 79-80%. Only things that brought the ranking down for me was a lack of storyline (my preference really) and when you play the large galaxy games they seem (to me) overwhelming in scope and complexity. But the good thing for the hardcore fans of RTS 4x games is that this game is for you.

Space Chunks II

George Thornton has given us a great sequel to Space Chunks in Space Chunks II: Lair of the Chunk Lords. Space Chunk II has similar mechanics as in the first game in the series but with improved sound fx, graphics, ship upgrades, wingmen, friendly forces, new enemies and bosses and a global scoreboard. Space Chunks II has some great and challenging action. The game is still in beta (v0.99) but getting close to the final v1.0 release.
Thoughts on gameplay:

  • Overall the game is very easy to figure out and understand with the visual queues like the mission objectives and the different systems (hull, shields, missiles, rank,etc..). You will acquire power-ups when you destroy objectives and this will build the strength of your ship.
  • I like the promotion system and the ability to spend points on some passive skills that make your ship more formatible in combat.
  • The boss battles are fun and challenging.
  • Nice job on the debris, missile trails and explosions they look nice when multiple things are being destroyed.
  • In the future would be nice to have the ability to change actual ship components or actual ships.
  • Unless I missed it. It would be nice to have a little background story to the game.
  • Would be nice to be able to give wingmen orders or least set there aggression levels.
  • With the additon of the abilities/skill system, it would be nice to have a ships stats page to actually show you (for the people that like numbers/stats) when adding a skill or ability what is the actual change in value (ie: 10% increase in gun distance is equal to 550m)
  • The global scoreboard is a nice touch

Checkout some of the gameplay in this video:

Make sure you download both games (SpaceChunks and Space Chunks II) and have fun playing them and make sure you leave some feedback on the Space Chunk games here: Add Link

Star Trek Aurora

I recently came across this Star Trek themed CGI short film created by Tim Vining. I have enjoyed every minute of these videos and cannot wait for the final episode, hopefully due out this summer. I won’t give away to much of the film but you will like the story, these 4 short clips are about 10mins each and move the story along nicely without rushing it.

Here is a basic run description on what the short film is about:

Star Trek: Aurora follows the exploits of captain Kara Carpenter and her new (and only) Vulcan first mate T’Ling on their tiny merchant cargo ship Aurora. This fully CG-animated movie is set just after the original Star Trek series in a lawless sector of space, where Kara and T’Ling engage in their marginal venture while trying to both turn a profit and stay out of trouble, but even in the vastness of space, trouble is never far away…and sometimes the past is never far enough behind.

Read more about Star Trek Aurora and the production process on the website: http://www.auroratrek.com

Tim if you read this you did a great job on the story/plot and especially the character models, and then using the whole 60’s uniforms and ship styles. I had my headphones on, and the background sound effects and the occasional music tracks were well done as well. I cannot wait for the conclusion of this story and hope you continue these short films and stay in the scifi arena.

Well enough waiting check out the entire film below:

Prospector

Prospector is a rogue-like game that currently uses tilesets to show graphics instead of usual ascii graphics that most rogue-like games have. Prospector is currently on release R197 and it is only available on the windows platform.

In Prospector you explore your galaxy for unique planets and artifacts so you can earn enough credits to hopefully retire a wealthy explorer. That goal is a bit harder to achieve than you think, however I am fairly new to playing rogue-like games but I think Prospector’s difficulty is pretty hard because you have to really make the right choices when exploring and/or fighting or you might get yourself and the crew killed or your ship destroyed.

When you start a game you can choose between five different ships (Scout, Long Range Fighter, Light Transport, Troop Transport and Pirate Cruiser) all with varying stats and crew compliment. I usually play with the troop transport because it holds the most crew and I tend to like exploring the planets to fighting in space. And as you explore space and the planets you will come across various resources and lifeforms and you will map planet surfaces that you can then return to space stations and sell this info and resources/lifeforms in for credits. You can use these credits to upgrade your ship with new a new hull or addons, weapons, shields, and engines. Or you can update your crew with enhancements to weapons, armor or stats. You will also earn experience for your crew members and they will level and become stronger and more proficient with weapons. Which will make adventuring a bit easier but the hard part it is getting to this point. You can definitely spend a lot of time playing prospector because of it’s challenging game play.

I hope that we will continue to see new releases and content added to Prospector because it is really a great rogue-like game. I am still new to this game and maybe I haven’t used all of the features or may not have gotten far enough in the game yet, but there is a few things I would like to see added to the game in the future:

  • Merchant trading between stations/outposts. Yes, there is some trading in Prospector but it really isn’t setup for trade routes. Or the ability to get info in the game of planets/stations needing certain resources.
  • Difficulty level selector. Or the ability to see the survivability rating for a encounter or navigating a new sector.
  • Save games that you can go back to even though you have died on that account. I had a saved game and then a hundred or so turns later I got killed and I then could no longer load my save file?
  • Banks to store credits and earn interest.
  • More games for the casio.
  • Show more info each crew member (bios and stats).
  • Would be nice to have a smaller help area to the right of the stats info (on right-side of screen) to show the games commands so you don’t have to bring up help or have files open.

And here is a nice video that shows off the gameplay of Prospector:

10 Min Space Strategy Review

The Goblin Lunatics have just released v1.0 of their game 10 Min Space Strategy (10mSS) which you can download for free from either Golbin Lunatics homepage or the SpaceSimCentral download area. I have played 10 Min Space Strategy for a few hours now and I have had different experiences where the game didn’t last 10mins, more like 4mins (and I got owned) and one that took about an hour to complete, which I eventually won.

When you start a new game, you pick between one of six races (Mechanized Menance, Silicantis, Tentacle, Insectoid, Amazon and Human) and each of these races has their own race specific abilities (Credo), six types to pick from. Then you have some trait points to use, the trait points are already distributed and you can take the defaults or customize your character even more. Once you do all that you are now ready to play a game, so just need to pick out how many opponents you want to face and the size of the hex map to play on. The game starts with a small area of the map visible to you and this changes as you explore/grow your empire. You can develop planets you own and use colony ships to colonize planets under your control or create a space station.

There is various anomalies and debris fields that you can send ships to that will give you small benefits like population growth, research improvements and production speed. Once you have plotted all your moves and chose the research path (Environment, Industry, Propulsion, Empire and Warfare) you are developing you end your turn. The computer AI moves are very quick so your game can go by really quickly if you know what you are doing. If you look closely at the ‘Empire Details’ page it will show you some special research traits that you can strive to attain to help with your conquest.

Pros/Cons of 10 Min Space Strategy:

Pros:

  • There is actually more depth to the game than what I expected with race/research traits
  • Adjustable map and planet density controls
  • Music sets the right mood
  • AI is competitive
  • Tooltips were descriptive to make understanding the games menus/items much easier

Cons:

  • Same graphic models for all of the ships. Only thing that changed was the color. Since there is different races it would have been nice to have each race have their own style of ships.
  • Would have liked to see a more animated background
  • I noticed a few times only on the larger maps and using all the race slots for the game that it can get into a endless condition. I had the game going on auto-pilot for 30+ mins and 2000+ turns later and the game was a deadlock. Think there needs to have some logic that will call a winner or make the game a draw after so many turns.
  • This is only a small issue. But the divide forces screen could have been more informative in which side to place resources to move to a given destination.

Conclusion:
Overall 10 Min Space Strategy is a nice 4x style game that can give you many hours of fun. With everything randomized you have a lot of replayability. I am hard pressed to really find any big flaws with this game. It is fast loading, AI is good, gameplay is challenging and the game never crashed once. Yeah the graphics could be a bit better and maybe add some more music tracks but overall its a job well done Goblin Lunatics. I hope the developer does decide to expand on to this game and if they do I would like to see some of the following:

  • Maybe short 1-3 mission campaign modes with short storylines
  • Team play 2vs2, 3vs3 and 4vs4
  • LAN or Multiplayer functionality
  • Ability to mod some of the game assets like graphics, backgrounds and music
  • Since this game is free on the PC, you guys need to make some money so convert this to work on mobile platforms it is almost perfect for that platform.

I would give 10 Min Space Strategy a score of 85 out out 100 just because of how easy the game is to grasp and the features you do have available to you in this quick/easy game. Make sure you give this game a try and let us know what you think and make sure you do let the developers know what you think of it as well so maybe we can see more development on 10min Space Strategy game in the future.

Checkout this in-game trailer of the game: