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    Dec 14th, 2009 at 22:07:24     -    Spelunky (PC)

    Spelunky is a platformer game where the player is an explorer who delves deep into caves searching for treasure. You face many dangers, including long falls, spikes, snakes, bats, spiders, ghosts, crazy trigger happy shop owners, and even your own bombs. However, should you survive, you will amass tons of treasures, including gold, jewels, and of course, kisses from the ladies you save. It is a game that any fan of Pitfall should appreciate, but with many cool unique elements. One word to sum up the game would be “addicting.”

    The first impression that I get from the game is that there is one big bug to work out. The controls are pretty hard if you’re used to playing any modern computer game. This would be fine, but when you change the controls to something easier to use like WASD, there’s a bug that makes the character always look up! This makes the game almost unplayable, so I’m stuck with the clunky feeling retro style controls. However, the game itself seems pretty much bug free.

    One of the most noticeable, unique gameplay elements that Spelunky has is its extreme diversity through randomized level layout. I have been a big fan of randomized dungeons since the late 90s when I first played Diablo. Every time you splay Spelunky, everything from the level layout, enemies, ladies, shops, and even the game’s intro will be a new experience. This is definitely what makes the game so addictive. Also, although the levels are randomly generated, the design usually feels somewhat intelligently designed. There is usually always a way to reach the end of the level, although it is possible to trap yourself without any bombs or ropes to escape.

    The aesthetics of the game keep very true to an 8-bit look. The first four levels have a somewhat bland, brown gold mine sort of look. The fifth level has water, and is much greener. I never made it past the sixth level. The sounds are also very simple 8-bit style sounds.

    There are a few NPCs in Spelunky. The most common is the lady, who appears in most levels. If you can carry her to the end of the level, she will kiss you, giving you one extra hit point. The second most common NPC are shop keepers, who appear randomly with various shop inventories of four items. I’ve encountered bomb shops, weapon shops (with cool weapons like knives, pistols, shotguns, etc), tool shops (with pickaxes, ropes, bombs), but the most unusual was a sort of kiss-shop prostitution ring. Here, there is a shop keeper and a lady, and for $10000 you can buy a kiss from the lady for extra health. If you try to attack the lady, the shop keeper will shoot you dead saying “only I can do that.” Some would get pretty offended… The shop keepers are indestructible, by the way. If you try to steal from them, or if you try to attack them, they will shoot you and will die instantly. Sometimes while trying to figure out the prices of their items you might accidentally hit them with one, causing them to shoot you in a very untimely manner. The last NPC I encountered was in between levels. Apparently if you pay him enough over time (he asked me for $100000), he will dig a shortcut somewhere.

    This is a very difficult and sometimes frustrating game. There are no extra lives, but there are hit points, which are very rarely increased (you need a kiss). Some enemies and things like booby traps take away multiple hit points per hit, and falling on spikes will kill you instantly. If you die, you go back to level 1, although it will be completely randomized and new. This is definitely not a game for casual gamers, who will probably get frustrated and give up fairly quickly. But for determined, classic gamers, it is a very fun, addicting game that will make time fly by faster than one would like.

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    Dec 14th, 2009 at 13:45:18     -    Left 4 Dead 2 (PC)

    Left 4 Dead has been largely described as the “demo” for Left 4 Dead 2. As an owner of both games, it is hard to say at the moment. L4D has a DLC campaign with supposedly more on the way plus tons of user created content, while L4D2 is still waiting for DLC, and user content is still almost nonexistent. That said, the new content of the sequel, from the new infected types, to the new items/pickups, new guns, and the addition of melee weapons really makes me wonder if I’ll ever play another game of versus on the original game.

    Left 4 Dead 2 takes place during the same zombie apocalypse as its predecessor, but several hundred miles to the south and about two weeks later. As four new immune survivors, Coach, Rochelle, Ellis, and Nick, you must battle your way through hordes of infected very soon after a mostly failed military evacuation. You can use a wide variety of new weapons to do this, including the new addition of melee weapons. My Steam account stats tell me that my favorite melee weapon is the katana – and I must agree.

    Versus mode is relatively similar to the original, with the two teams alternating between infected and survivors. The scoring, however, has changed to reflect the survivor progress throughout the levels. The best new feature of Left 4 Dead 2 is definitely the new types of special infected zombies. In addition to the old playable zombies (boomers, smokers, hunters) there are now three more (chargers, spitters, jockeys). This has greatly amplified the emergent complexity, especially in versus mode. Now there are some new strategies that can devastate the survivor team. For example, if the infected team spawns as a boomer, smoker, spitter, and hunter, or some other combinations, it is entirely possible to take out the survivor team in one wave. The way to do this would be to have boomer immediately try to boom all the survivors, drawing in a large horde of common infected. The hunter and smoker would then incapacitate two survivors while the others are distracted by the horde. Finally the spitter can spit a puddle of acid on the incapacitated survivors, racking up the damage.

    The aesthetics of the game is probably the largest change from the original. While the original campaigns took place exclusively in nighttime, Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns take place throughout various times of day, with noticeable but natural feeling weather and time shifts throughout chapters. With the exception of the end of the hard rain chapter, most campaigns have a lot of daylight. Unfortunately the game has therefore lost some of its creepiness in exchange for a more panicked feeling. But now there is a great destructive body aspect of the game. Zombies can have limbs/their head shot or chopped off, which is really satisfying compared to older first person shooters where after sustaining tons of damage the enemies look entirely unharmed. Also, there is a ribcage revealing effect when you spray common infected with shotgun fire. This effect looks very similar to the destructive body effects of Wolverine, and in both games I wish my computer could play at a higher resolution so that I could better appreciate the flying flesh.

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    Sep 14th, 2009 at 14:51:30     -    WiiSPACE (Wii)

    WiiSPACE is a homebrew retro style space shooter for the Wii. Its style and gameplay are similar to Geometry Wars for the Xbox 360, which is a much more polished game because it is not homebrew. However, I find that the controls are much better suited for the Wii, and the enemy AI is significantly more interesting in WiiSPACE. The player is a red triangle that looks very much like the triforce from Zelda. You move by using the thumbstick on the nunchuck, aim using the light gun on the wiimote, and shoot by pressing and holding B on the wiimote. You have unlimited ammo, and the firing type is a fast continuous machinegun type fire. The enemies consist of various colored shapes, each with their own unique AI and formations. There are also a few bosses, but I have only gotten to one so far. There are four powerups (extra life, shield, shooting powerup, bomb), which are all some form of yellow/white pentagon. The goal of the game is a typical high score system, with the ability to upload high scores to a server using the Wii’s wi-fi.
    WiiSPACE is actually a pretty fun space shooter, especially on multiplayer. Multiplayer is harder than single player because all players share an extra life pool. Honestly, the creators of WiiSPACE have handled the wiimote controls better than even most commercial games for the Wii. The light gun is very smooth and the character is quite easy to control even though it moves pretty fast (about 2-3 times as fast as the player in Geometry Wars). After only a couple deaths it became relatively easy to swerve in and out of the 20-30 enemies that may appear on screen at any given time.
    The coolest part of the game is the many random enemy formations that appear. Even after an hour or so of gameplay I do not think I’ve seen all of the enemies or patterns that the game has to offer (this is unusual for a space game). Some enemies, like the green rectangles, form in two rows that cross the entire screen horizontally at the top and bottom, then move toward the players in a converging walls type of situation. Others, like the blue squares, will quickly move toward the player then stop for a few seconds. With some practice, you can move out of the way at the last second so that the pack of 10-20 blue squares all converge on generally the same spot, the kill them all with only a few shots. One rare type of enemy is basically two pink circles connected by a pink line. This type of enemy will shoot a line out to you, which grabs onto the player, and then the circles rotate around, reeling you in. Each type of enemy has at least 3 patterns that they appear in, and can quickly fill the screen with enemies.
    The first boss has a simple pattern but a lot of health. He is basically a green wiremesh sphere surrounded by a circular shield of white lines. He takes up about a fifth of the screen‘s area. It has two attacks. He can shoot a long stream of white polygons, which all shoot towards the player’s location but will not follow the player after they have been shot. The other attack is simply a radial burst of about 15 white polygons. In order to defeat the boss, you have to wait for it to emit a bomb powerup, which you can use to temporarily disable its shield.
    For a homebrew space shoot-em-up, WiiSPACE pleasantly surprised me. The controls are very well handled, and I was drawn into the game much more than many of the crappy commercial games that have been spewed out for the Wii. Nintendo should really take a lesson from these independent game developers, instead of finding ways to inhibit people from softmodding their console in order to take advantage of homebrew games like these. Finally, I really just don't understand how a little homebrew game like this one has better light gun controls than 80% of the commercial games out there, and even the wii's own menu controls.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Sep 14th, 2009 at 17:19:08.

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    sbking42 has been with GameLog for 13 years, 3 months, and 15 days
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    1Left 4 Dead 2 (PC)Playing
    2Spelunky (PC)Playing
    3WiiSPACE (Wii)Playing

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