Monday, 26 March 2018

Thrown into a rather tricky type of Dungeon ...

An adventure game with sword fighting that was also a brilliantly-designed platform puzzle game? A 2D version of Tomb Raider long before Tomb Raider was created?

Just as much caution is advised if you are ever to play this artfully-designed classic that has influenced so many games since. In fact, many kids still learn how swiftly - and realistically - death can arrive in Prince of Persia.

screenshot of Prince of Persia 1

To be honest, the level-hopping colour-madness of Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog on Nintendo always used to stress me out. Having said that, the world I was about to find myself in was not the cosiest of places, just the most cunningly-designed dungeon ever. In fact, there is genius lurking here.

Welcome to... 'Prince of Persia' on IBM PC. The disk finally came through the mail and the box was opened eagerly.

After churning away in the disk drive (as it loaded from one or more five-and-a-quarter inch floppy disks) its pixelated title screen would appear. But it was (unlike many games back then)... worth the wait.

In fact it was... brilliant.

Your character was perfectly animated. Torches flamed on the walls. Doors were activated when you stood on them, spikes appeared out of the floor scaring the bejeezus out of you and magic potions allowed you to restore health at vital, soul-relieving moments. And there were even well-balanced 2D sword fights against skeletons that couldn't be stabbed, but only tricked. Finding your lost sword within such a realm was... exhilarating. Flashes of pure genius in level design.

Finding your sword in the dungeon

You can still play the game over sites like this one. Watch out, you have 60 minutes to complete the game, as your time is running out to save the princess.

No, the full completion of this many-levelled game was far from easy, but when you had passed through the final doorway and rescued the princess even a kid realised that computer games were just beginning. Because you were left wanting more. A lot more inside the new, magical realm of computer games.

Now I'm sat playing RIME on the PS4 with my 5 year old son. It came as a free game in the PSN subscription last month or something. It's his first game, and I'm doing most of the tricky jumping and hanging off walls. It's nothing violent, too loud or noisy. It's a beautiful game, if a little spooky, and the difficulty level is just right for exploration and adventure. It also happens to be about the nature of grief, a theme mercifully lost on my son. But it shows him another world, of magic, light and darkness. There is a magic fox creature helping us through this deserted underworld. It reminds me a hell of a lot of Prince of Persia crossed with the more recent influence of Journey.

But it's everything I knew games could become, without being encased inside VR just yet.

We should all give thanks to Jordan Mechner for Prince of Persia and its sequels for paving the way for these 'better' games. He's done pretty well out of it though!

You can read more about 'RIME' on my blog for latest games and VR content here.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Zen Pinball : Worlds Within Worlds

Beyond 'Zen Pinball 2' (from Zen Studios)... what is there? Is there life? Only because you can load up and tap out so quickly from this essential game for anyone's worthy smartphone or tablet. But it's still distracting, addictive and pretty endless... I just keep tapping back.

This is because Zen's collection of pinball tables provide a fast, second home for former 'big game' addicts like me, with its range of tables that celebrate everything from scientific figures to top movies and big games likes Skyrim. And there's nothing like seeing a new table open up and fill the corners of a top tablet screen with flashing lanes, retro detail and nostalgic colours. [Star Wars fans currently have at least 13 tables to choose from.]

You see, this could be where former gamers come to die - or else wrestle free, somehow, from their former cravings. [In fact, will there be another post after this one here at Notes from Super Worlds? You'd have to sign up to the blog find out!] Indeed, for those poor folk who have simply run out of time for immersive, virtual worlds, well... there is Zen Pinball and the like, where we can safely re-live, and unlock, former glories and top scenes from cult movies.

But it's also for people who may discover these great movies, and enjoy playing a range of very different tables, all united by the same, reliable, instant form of game-play. They can range from the tricky to the pointless and bland to the varied, well-paced and inventive. Forget the level-based interruptions of Angry Birds. Welcome to the truly immersive, flipper-based art of Pinball.

My recommended tables from Zen Studios:

- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back / Return of the Jedi
- Aliens
- Back to the Future

What are your favourite tables? What tables don't exist yet? Ghostbusters (original)? Indiana Jones? If you've found this humble entry of mine, then please leave me a comment underneath. Because as mentioned, I just keep coming back. I find - as a kid from the 80s - that the rise, or return, of pinball via devices and consoles pays the highest form of tribute to the glorious past of well-loved movie and game-worlds. They are worlds within worlds. And the future looks bright... PS4 versions from Zen have split-screen, as well as Tournaments filled with time-based and high-score challenges to compete in. Let's hope the revolution continues expanding which, in turn, begs the question: what makes the ultimate table? I think it must simply be about the balancing of everything correctly, from the array of challenges, intriguing layout and effects to the multi-ball modes and overall tribute the table manages to pay to its theme and setting. And I have a good feeling about it. I feel that if Zen Studios keeps shaping its tables right, they might return to some of their creations and introduce even more improvements and surprises, new modes or enhancements, and maybe even better cut-scenes, mini-games etc.

Check out the 'Jaws' table:

Or the 'Back to the Future' table:

Tips to Play Longer at Pinball:

- It's all in the flipper. Timing is everything.

- Learn to keep an eye on the Info (dot-screen) at the top, and also an eye on the pathways where you need to aim the ball (usually highlighted).

- Try and balance the ball on one flipper in order to take a pause and aim better.

- Read the Table Guides.

- Some of the tables will ask you to 'Select a Scene' from a movie. Use a flipper to select a scene.

- You can also 'nudge' the table to prevent the ball from falling down: by swiping up your screen (or left or right). Be careful, however, as too many times will cause a Tilt lock.

- Keep camera on overhead or top-down view, so you can see everything. (i do)

- Keep calm and carry on, your accuracy will improve!

Note: You can buy the multi-pack Zen versions (eg. Aliens Pinball), but it's more recommended to use the Zen Pinball 2 app and buy them individually - from within this app. That way, it's much easier to import them across other devices as you 'collect' more tables over time.


See also my guide at Bananatic Games Portal, on the Bananapedia section:
Zen Pinball 2 : Join the Revolution!

See also: Wikipedia Information

Friday, 20 October 2017

10 things we NEED for Red Dead Redemption 2, sandbox games...and beyond...

The Wild West: just one of the many perfect locations for sandbox, story-led and multiplayer gaming. Saddle up! We ride out again soon… However, let's hope for the following:

Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer image
Watch trailer on our YT...

1. No interfering, overblown cut-scenes!

The single-player campaign needs to be slicker and more involving than last time.

What’s the point of single-player campaigns? To open up the map, develop characters, unlock new possibilities, inject a sense of wonder - surprise - about the game’s potential. It should Introduce and reveal the scope of the game, before letting us rip into the multiplayer PvP and cooperative game modes….

In fact, why is this game not going to be an MMO right from the outset? ? It would be a dangerous place… But the answer is we don’t want to miss out on the above potential of a well-crafted single-player campaign. Maybe it will end up that way, like Skyrim.

But….if there’s going to be a western-set story then we need less long-winded dialogue between characters. Some from the first game would just ramble on for ages. Most of GTA V seemed pretty unnecessary and the characters were not greatly loveable. There were moments of surprise and humour, but please remember Rockstar: we’re here for the quality of the tasks and not for the next cut-scene and ‘story’. They could take a leaf out of Far Cry or Uncharted, where the missions and story lead into each other, keeping the pace. It was difficult to feel much for John Marston at the end of Red Dead Redemption, but it was well done overall (great music too). I do remember the ending of the barn sequence. And... there were some cool characters we cared about - like the old cowboy survivor. Let’s hope to see some moving deaths or characters like that again.

Image from Red Dead Redemption 2

2. No restrictions to player freedom

Isn’t it always annoying when you find you can’t do something or go everywhere in a game? The map is closed or something. Well, let’s hope there are as few restrictions as possible. Let’s hope that lots of choices are simply left open. Examples? Multiple endings? The use of the world for planning and setting up defences or strategic use in mini-quests, like learning the train time-tables on station notice-boards to overhearing talk about events as we wait on the station. I loved how the map changed over the course of the story, with newspapers revealing these changes. Progression is important. However, the changes should be undetectable and not restrictive. There was a little too much riding in the last game, so faster rides in carriages might be an option (although stealing a horse might be necessary). Maybe the game could have realism settings.

3. The sheriff is coming!

A hallmark of Rockstar and GTA titles is being chased by the AI cops. Let’s hope the AI is just as capable, but what might be cool is if you get rewarded for helping others escape and get a request to join up with fellow outlaw players.

It was unrealistic - and unfair - when unrelenting scores of lawmen come along and rain on the parade, if memory serves me. There should always be a way to escape or give up. It should just feel more...realistic. The idea that the sheriff is on your trail is a great aspect in cowboy games. But when they all miraculously show up it basically sucks. Make sure there’s enough time to feel a bit worried or prepare for a big shoot-out.

4. Sieges and town shoot-outs

On that note, let’s hope to see more of this kind of setup. Preparation for attacks and defences were a bit lacking in the first game. From turning tables over to shooting chandeliers. It will make for some fine western set-pieces and emergence.

5. Ready for Streaming and Captures

Why are so few games exploiting the potential of video captures and spectator modes?
On some modes, you could even have a western movie setting, which allows you to set up characters, cameras and things, and ‘film’ a capture of an entire attack. Then edit the results. It could be an extra DLC or extension for Youtube creators to have to get their teeth into….

IDEA: Wouldn't it be cool to walk into a movie theater in Red Dead 2 (as you could in the first one) and have an option to 'project' your best captures to other players around.

6. Game-Changing DLC

The Undead Redemption DLC was a great success. It reinvented the entire game map we’d been playing and gave it a huge new level of involvement. Will they do something similar here? Turn the game into an Undead masterpiece… If you’re going to update everything, it’d be a big shame not to let some kind of apocalypse or extra dimension strike again. Indians?

7. Multiplayer modes and Mini-Games

Co-operative play. I remember well the zombie mode where all players had to fight together until the end. These game modes had been prepared with love and attention to maximise co-operation and fun. Some more brilliantly-crafted scenarios with this kind of engagement would be essential, and make for some top Twitch entertainment.

Mini-games… there should be so many that this could form a huge feature.

Basically, if Red Dead Redemption 2 wants to be a classic, massively successful game, it needs to present a full sandbox world - that is the game itself. The single-player should simply make the most of that sandbox. But in the end, the sandbox needs to pull gamers back with the prospect of fine, guided - and shared - experiences.

8. Something new...

Most of these suggestions are inspired by the foundation of what Red Dead and GTA have already brought to the gaming table as a whole. Let’s hope there’s something more to push things forward, no-one has thought about…

You have to come back to the root of why people put a game disc into their console for in the first place, or why they click on the game to load up…. It’s about seeing how your character and gameplay unfolds. It’s about playing alongside other people and sharing the madness and mini-scenarios. My suggestion: let’s try and cut-down on endless mass shooting that is multiplayer. Sometimes I enter multiplayer and I just die continually. Or I don't want to play alongside a load of unknowns. How about if you help other players in the wilderness you see an option to add them to Friends, or Ride in their Posse? Or Challenge to a Duel?! What about something new in multiplayer mode that encourages bonds in the game?

IDEA: A character who MUST meet an end? ‘Blaze of Glory’ setting…?

Gamers want to ride into the game, with friends or without, or with cameras rolling and develop a veteran character that goes somewhere. Beyond the single-player story, where can this go? What about a continuation? Maybe there should be a time-limit on your multiplayer character, before he dies of heavy drinking or something and you have to bury him and make a new one. This could add a fascinating edge to the game beyond the game. How will he or she end up? Perhaps you’ve escaped from that single-player past to become a man of the law, a bounty-hunter always adventuring or have chosen to go back to being an outlaw, within a band of outlaws who may be taken off one by one. If you’ve chosen to go it alone, the game would be more of a survival adventure. You’ll need to make careful choices about companions, even if it’s just your horse you need to look after or use effectively. In every case, maybe it will just be a matter of time before you’re hung - literally - out to dry, or cornered and go out guns blazing. The trick will be in seeing just how your doomed, customised character will end up. How glorious will be that end?

What are your ideas? One thing is clear, judging by the Youtube and Twitch community: games are now entertainment with players acting out the role of hero or sensational victim.

9. Skill-up! A ‘Chilled-out’ Game Mode

Let's have an option to slow down the game a little. What other skills will a character emerge with from Red Dead Redemption 2? Wouldn’t it be good if - besides poker and mini-games - there were other skills you could pick up? River fishing? A knowledge of steam train sabotage? As game-worlds get more and more detailed, why not give the players an experience of the world they can use and take away. Horse training? It’s the fine balance of what is fun and what is boring, but if a player profits from spending time building a fire that doesn’t blow out in the wind, or digging a hole in which to trap an animal or opponent player - it’s not only an experience, an effort - but rewarding fun.

10. Capturing freedom...and weird events.

Or ‘emergent gameplay’ - where strange, unpredictable events can happen in a game….
Let’s see tons of stuff like this again. From horses bolting when snakes are present to horses falling on trains and generally just great re-play amusement. The would probably involve wildlife and NPCs. Greater interaction and depth with NPCs in Rockstar games - where they’re so heavily populated by villagers and townsfolk - is long overdue.

The Virtual Wild West...

So Rockstar. A lot to live up to. Don’t rush it. I’m not sure whether to pity or envy the game-developers or - especially - the testers. But... what do you get if you really ‘go to town’ with this project, or even, ‘the extra mile’. Not just a sequel with a lot of shiny, upgraded elements. Maybe not another Skyrim, with a massive load of depth and longevity that breaks records for awhile. But possibly... some new winning formulae inside that will push the sandbox game further down the line; push the sharing, streaming and multiplayer longevity….and which you can then apply to your next title, or expand on. Until you realise: you don’t need to keep making new titles. You could just keep on feeding and expanding one 'ultimate' map or setting. Maybe bring portions of it into the virtual…

The point is, before the virtual 'happens', have we really pushed the sandbox genre as far as it can go yet?

We’ll see….

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Write Game Reviews to Earn Bananas (and Free CS:GO skins) BANANATIC

So I'm wondering around the house wondering what to do to fill a restless 'gap' in a day. Problem? I don't feel like playing any of the games in my collection. What new game to play now? ... and... how to get some extra beer money to buy maybe a full-price top game title...?

Well, there's no need to feel guilty about playing games anymore....

The Answer: try out some titles over at Bananatic, a games portal and overall fun site that allows members to garner 'bananas' for doing different game-related well as feel part of a games community that swap stories or tips via nicely integrated forums. It's a well thought-out site with regional versions across the globe....


It's all in the name of collecting - gradually - more and more 'bananas'... until, one day, for all round good behavior, you can 'cash in' or swap them all for Amazon or Steam codes (etc.)...until... there you are, with your full price game title for free (or for a lot less than you'd have thought) in your trigger-happy hands...

What about these 'activities' on the site?....The main one is that you can actually try out new games by launching them through the site, and have a go at guided 'game quests'. This is a great feature. If you complete one then you get - you guessed it - a certain load of sweet bananas... It's no scam site, it's just affiliate marketing i.e. supporting games publishers.

And Bananatic is actually a great motivator to give types of games - from casual, mini, shooter to major MMOs - a shot, which you otherwise wouldn't bother to...and it might also lead you into a bigger title, in a similar vein....and you'll be grateful to Bananatic.

Later on that day, maybe you want to share your thoughts about this game you tried?....Ok, head over to the Bananapedia and, for a fairly short review submitted you can get more bananas. That's right: write games reviews, collect bananas, and swap for vouchers. As long as it's original content and reads well it should get included in the site. If it's a good one, you may get extra as the review is ranked. And it doesn't have to be a review. It could be a Guide, Tutorial etc...

Write a game review and get some bananas to spend...

Still feeling helpful? Or perhaps a little less so now....Why not check the forums to see what's popular and help out with a question or start a new thread. You still get a banana or two.

click to enlarge activities...

Beyond this, it's just a great-looking site that's still evolving and enhancing its features as a 'games portal'. There's a mini-games section or 'Fun Zone'. I hope they enhance the 'banana mod' section, as connecting them to well-known gaming characters is an amusing touch.

It's not just about clicks, it seems to actually care about its gaming community, enhance its 'game quest' feature and delight in being able to offer what it can to struggling gamers looking to save up for a bigger title on Steam or whatever... Currently (2017) they have a great offer where you can get a Free Random Steam game just by clicking on a treasure box (on the map view in the shop) and then trying and completing the first Game Quest...simple!

So...'bananas' are the Steam keys, CS:GO skins and more....

It's real easy to sign up via Google, give it a go! Remember's more about fun and filling gaps, than desperately working the site to harvest bananas. You might find yourself spoiling the fun, and getting monitored for abuse.

You can also discuss BANANATIC and see latest updates on my STEEMIT...

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Note after being 'INSIDE'

An updated, twisted, more artistic version of the classic 'Prince of Persia' 2D platformer games set in a dark, mysterious and menacing world would conjure up what...? Something like 'INSIDE' (wikipedia). The 'experience' gets progressively more interesting, puzzling and twisted. At the same time it remains atmospherically impressive and consistent in its combination of these key ingredients. Don't worry it's not overly frustrating and the sections when it does get hard finally betray their secrets. They should keep you playing.

Need I say more? This clip of gameplay should serve as a taster but also a reminder of how effective games can be when they simply focus on key elements such as atmosphere, intrigue, surprise, level design...unfolding with very little explanation or delay...

Friday, 14 October 2016

An Underwater Journey

I've had a long day and I'm in no mood for intense, concentrated console fighting or game progression. But don't think there aren't any developers out there who aren't tapping right into this frame of mind.

So now I'm slip-streaming with the fishes, diving down and exploring great caverns, hanging onto dolphins and even onto the mighty whales of the deep.

Ok so, ABZU is made by the same guy who did Journey and Flower, only this is the underwater version, so you can expect - and welcome - the same sort of format and magic. Any tiresome difficulty level or story aspects are sort of side-lined for a more direct, accessible experience. There's something to do with a lost underwater civilisation, a re-connection with the sea-life and a whole lot of dangerous triangles.

What's great though is the way the strengths of those former titles have been elevated or continued here: the sense of space, the quantity of avatar control and the slip-streaming scenes are back, longer and just as thrilling.

A superb family game. Includes an interesting Meditation setting (hidden in the levels) for re-visiting the undersea settings, learning about the correctly-modeled aquatic life and admiring the details. A nice feature now that these games are getting so pretty. It would all make for a great Virtual Reality experience too.

Desert and walking experience (tick)
Magical Seeds and wind experience (tick)
Underwater experience (tick)
What's next... Jungle? Save the Rainforest?

And might I suggest... bring back the multiplayer elements again, or as an additional feature.

Read about the game on Wikipedia

Streaming time: