poniedziałek, 23 sierpnia 2010

Short Review #7: Gabriel Knight 2 - The Beast Within

Gabriel Knight 2 is one of these older (but not yet old) adventure games. There was this trend in the early-mid '90 to make games which use a lot of cutscenes starring real-life actors, or even, as with Phantasmagoria or Gabriel Knight 2, using pre-recorded movie sequences on photographic background.

The story here is one of a werewolf, and it is nicely connected to the figure of Ludwig II, the german king responsible for building the well known Neuschwanstein Castle, among other things, and Richard Wagner's lost opera. The premise sounds interesting in theory, but in practice the plot is a little weak at times. There are situations in which the game's writers arbitrarily take away options from the player. One such situation is when, playing one of the two characters, Grace, the player receives some very important info which basically allows you to guess the whole plot, but when Gabriel has the chance to get the same info, he just says that he "doesn't have time for this ancient history stuff".

There are some obviously silly riddles in the game, which would be impossible for me to solve without a walkthrough - I simply wouldn't have guessed what is expected of me. The game's finale is completely screwed up, as it requires you to play a very irritating minigame, after which you have to endure one of those 'click at the right moment or die' moments - something that the game did not have before hand.

In terms of narrative, probably the most important thing about an adventure game, the theme the author's tried to achieve is light horror / mystery. The first part didn't work out very well. At no point in the game do you feel like there's any threat, even when there actually is (Gabriel may die at several points in the game). The cinematic sequences do not help much in this regard. The actors do a fairly ok job usually, though some scenes are just done very over the top and plain silly. The worst thing about those sequences is probably the fact that the dialogue and acting make them look at times like a low-budget brazilian soap opera, and at others like gay soft-porn (or at least the foreplay bit of such a movie). When you get into that mindset, it's really hard to stop seeing the dialogues in this light, and it kind of ruins the game. This one scene is particularly WRONG:


There are some older titles which do not show their age too much - Warcraft 2 comes to mind, as do some old platformers. However, Gabriel Knight 2 looks very, very dated. It's not even the gameplay, which is pretty standard for an adventure game with little highlights, but the game in general feels very 'mid 90's'. The plot and cinematics do not help much in this regard. Generally, 'The Beast Within' is ok to play, but it's nothing you should go out of your way to get. I got it at GOG.com as a reward for my purchases in a Polish loyalty programme, but to be honest, I think I could have spend the 150 points on something more entertaining, and less boring.

GB2 gets a 5.5/10 on my scale. Not particularly worth playing in today's day and age, but you can get some fun out of it, so for you adventure fanatics this is probably more a 6/10 or even a 6.5/10. For the regular player, however, there is really not much here to look for.

środa, 18 sierpnia 2010


Hey, just to let you know I'm alive.
I'm at Rochester now, looking for a job and learning some game development skills. Reading a lot about the theory of game design, and looking into an engine called Unity. It's going to be pretty hard for me to get any good results, but I really have to do this now.

I've been playing GTA3 recently, which is a real pain in the ass at times, but overall pretty fun, and it has this good sandbox / living city feel to it. The music got boring, unfortunately (the same tracks over and over), and I have to run it on lowest details to get a passable performance... But hey, I knew that already, so nothing too bad.

I finished Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. I'm not writing a review of it, just because it's one of my favourites and it wasn't my first playthrough, so no point in that. Generally speaking, you should play it if you enjoy the FPS genre, but I guess that if you do, you already know this title, so no point in me recommending it to you!

I'm planning on finishing Total Annihilation soon. And both campaigns at that. Will probably take some time, but I've played a lot of RTS games back home (with still more waiting for me here), so I don't mind playing TA seldomly, but consequently.

The main game I'm finishing now is Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. A pretty old adventure game, it deserves it's own review, so as soon as I finish it, I'll tell you what I think. Generally - good adventure game with some irritating (and somewhat nonsense) moments, but it's age sure does show.

That's it for now, I don't when the next update will be, so stay put.

wtorek, 3 sierpnia 2010

Short Review #6 - Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

I like the character of Riddick. If you've seen Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick, and perhaps Dark Fury, you probably know why. Riddick's a cold-blooded killer with no specified code of honour or any of that jazz. He's hell-bent on his own survival, very proficient with weapons and while unarmed, and he's got a special ability - he can see in the dark. In the movies, he's played by Vin Diesel, which makes him an instant badass. I don't know what it is about Diesel, but I think it's his voice. He's not a very ambitious nor a very talented actor, but he pulls off the "Riddick" ideally, and there could be no other to fit that role.

At any rate, there's a game based on the Riddick franchise called Escape from Butcher Bay, which tells about the events from before the Pitch Black movie. We witness in what circumstances Riddick got his special sight, there's a tie-in to the second movie in both the Intro and Outro and the whole thing is set in the mythology as much as any of the movies. This gives a unique character to the game, as it's a rare example of a game where the design had a purpose of building something from the blocks given by the franchise, and it worked perfectly.

This is a Riddick game in the same way that Arkham Asylum is a Batman game. Everything just sticks and works, there are no hickups, nothing that doesn't belong in the game, and yet was added there. There's a host of characters which just fit the ambience of Riddick's universe perfectly, and even the collectables in the game come in the form of cigarette packs, which is incredibly thematic, even though Riddick's not a smoker or anything like that in the movies.

It's obvious that a lot of love went into the design. That said, I have to note that the graphics are not what they used to be. Sure, it's been 6 years, so that's not surprising. For me they were ok, but some people would probably complain. The sounds are done very well, the enemy taunts as well as gun and general fight sounds are also excellent. There's really not many bad things you can say about this game, but if I was to point out some of the more mediocre stuff, I would note the following:

- the saving system. I know I tend to place a lot of focus on that, but it just works on my nerves. Not a big problem in this game, since you get quicksaves and the checkpoints are reached quite often.
- you end up with a lot of money that you don't really use very much. You only use it in one area, after that it's pretty much pointless.
- due to the game's character, you mostly use a Shotgun in the fights. Not a bit flaw, but a bigger variety would have been nice. I personally think there wasn't enough fist-fighting (which I simply LOVED), but there's a pretty lenghty section of the game where you do fight with your bare fists a lot, so I guess that's only me.
- some more freedom in approach would have nice, instead you get either shooting areas or sneaking areas. Didn't bother me much anyway.
- The game's too short. It only took me about seven or eight hours to finish (so I think), while I wouldn't mind another two or three, provided they were well done.
- The ending left me unfulfilled. It was good and all, but I was expecting something different, perhaps with a bigger bang.

So there you go. The game's not perfect, but it's very close, and it deserves all the praise that you may have heard. If you liked Batman: Arkham Asylum or if you like Riddick, try to get this game somewhere. It's not that hard to find, and it is well worth it. My final score for this is a firm 8+/10, nearly a 9/10. This was probably one of my best gaming experiences in recent years, and in this regard Escape from Butcher Bay is way up there with Arkham Asylum. Given that the two games have about 5 years between them, go figure about how good Riddick actually is.