Category Archives: Gaming

PS Vita Gets Hacked, Runs Hello World Code

Of course gets hackedis a broad term and generally this means that the handheld can play homebrew games, but considering that the device was released just a couple of days ago, I think this is a brilliant development. Yes, Sony’s new handheld gaming console, the PlayStation Vita has made to run custom code within two days of its release. The handheld features a 5 inch OLED touchscreen display, along with a touchpad behind at the back of the device, to analog stick and a motion sensor along with more-than-capable innards making this a brilliant little gadget. However this hack was performed using the PSP emulation feature of the Vita, with a homebrew jailbreak called the Half-Byte Loader (HBL) being used to run the custom code. helloworldvita Japanese PSP hacker mamosuke put up this post on his blog. The post explains how he used the HBL for firmware 6.31 to run the hello worldscript on his brand new PS Vita. His blog, though, is mostly in Japanese and Google’s translate feature leaves one wanting for something far better. Taken up from his site:-

PSN version save game exploit with other titles, so there are some that may be realized in the start of the PSP Homebrew PS Vita Once you have established how to start the HBL, the saved data is Sony ” Administrative Assistant for PlayStation content “must be transferred to the PS Vita, and further to transfer the state must now transfer the save data folder into the Hello World binaries that only the saved data . Will be transferred into the data folder in the save if the body can then be started with Vita HBL.

This new development also has the ominous effect of Sony noticing and crushing this exploit pathway sooner or later. For a company that has been dealing with leaks for so long, I guess it becomes second nature. So, will you be buying the new Sony PS Vita? Tell us in the comments!

Gaikai Puts Up a Huge List of Streaming Demos On Its Website

Remember Gaikai? That tiny startup that wished to enable folks with not-so-good computers but definitely good internet speeds to play games on the web browser itself? This service was a bit like OnLive, the streaming gaming console, minus the actual buying of another dedicated piece of hardware. Gaikai allows you to do the same thing while lazing around on your bed, with your personal room heater laptop.

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However, unlike OnLive, Gaikai will only be showcasing demos for games on their website. It is like a quick advertising service; instead of people waiting for downloads of demos to finish (and demos these days are huge), they can go to the Gaikai website and launch the demo of whatever game they wish to play and see if they like the game. Gaikai uses its own software to compress the images and send it to your browser screen, while your keyboard and mouse movements are translated into its input in the server far away. All this is accomplished with the magic of Java.

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Currently, the selection of game demos is quite interesting, with The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Dead Space 2, Dead Rising 2, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age II, and Crysis 2 adorning its halls (and we suspect they really like the number 2). All you need to do is point your browser to the website, allow Java to always run on that site and start playing.gaikaideadrising2

Sadly, however, the service is only supported in some regions, and mine was not one of those supported regions. I suspect this is due to control-lag issues and will not be solved in a while. So if you do try it out, let us know how it went eh?

The Humble Indie Bundle 4 Becomes the Fastest Selling Bundle

With great fanfare and much adulation, the Humble Indie Bundle 4 (not exactly the fourth, technically speaking) has been released. It contained the exact games (plus an addition) that we had talked about in our earlier post. Great happiness, since I was looking forward to playing many of the games in that list, beginning with Gratuitous Space Battles and Shank. (The other games in the bundle are Super Meat Boy, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Jamestown, NightSky HD and Cave Story+)

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The bundle is also the first to break the one million dollar mark in a mere twenty four hours. A feat that few mainstream games manage to do. For this, Jeffrey Rosen and his Humble team need to be applauded.

However, it must be known that the average purchase of Windows users, by far the biggest share of the Bundle buyers is abysmally low at $4.70, meaning most of us (yes, you and I both) did not think that these five games are worth even a dollar apiece. Maybe some people buy the bundle at the average rate once, and buy it for pennies to gift to others, or maybe they do not think indie games are worth more than that. Either way, it is rather disheartening to see the abysmal rates from Windows users.

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However the makers of the Bundle have made an effort to increase the spending by allowing two bonus games to be unlocked only if the purchase is above the average. The bonus games are Gratuitous Space Battles and Cave Story +. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best Bundles in a long while, and those two bonus games seal this brilliant game. I urge you all to spend more than the average to get your Bundles!

Hide your Phone from your Kids; Disney Introduces Four New Mobile Games

Disney Interactive Media Group, India has unveiled a brand new and exciting menu of four mobile games. The four multi-genre Disney games – Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides, The Legend of G-Sword, Brain Gain, and Typhoon Riders – will be available across all the leading mobile phone carriers and can also be downloaded via the Disney WAP site: m.disney.in

Priced at INR 50 each, these games have been developed in India. For each game downloaded, player will get an additional Disney game at no extra cost. Disney Interactive Media Group (DIMG), a segment of The Walt Disney Company, is responsible for the global creation and delivery of interactive entertainment, multi-platform video games, and lifestyle content across all current and emerging digital media platforms.

Brain GainPirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger TidesThe Legend of G-SwordTyphoon Riders

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

This official 2D mobile game embarks you as Capt. Jack Sparrow on a quest to find the mystical fountain of youth and come across Blackbeard, the deadliest pirate of the sea. This action adventure game spans you across the plot of the official movie which introduces you to key characters and different locations.

The Legend of G-Sword

This action packed game takes the players into the real Ninja World. The players get to fight against the Dragon Snake, powerful and evil Ninja Gijanosho Eji’ who has only one motive in mind to conquer the Ninjutsu World, his Dark Disciple, and flying creatures.

Brain Gain

Brain Gain is   a complete package of brain games with cute characters and environments. It allows you to test focus and memory power while playing with jumping frogs, puzzles, zooming cars, and counting bees. Brain Gain is an exciting way to sharpen the brain and be smarter than your friends. This game also gives an opportunity to achieve a high score and be a Disney Certified Brain Gain Champ!

Typhoon Riders

The ultimate motorbike racing game, Typhoon Riders, requires the player to race against a motorcycle gang to get to the top and take the ring leader’s place. The players get to earn money, buy new bikes, and use the Typhoon feature to take out any opponents on the road.

PS3 Firmware Update 4.00 Removes Support for the PSP. Oh Dear.

I have this theory that in the Tokyo headquarters of Sony Entertainment Corporation, a Gríma Wormtongue-like figure ominously whispers and fills in the ears of Kaz Hirai, who is reclining like King Theoden. (If you do not understand what I am talking about, then you really must read The Lord of the Rings. Please do so immediately!) Otherwise there is no explanation as to why some of the best features of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) console have been serially diluted over the years. The original PS3 was a brilliant console with backwards compatibility and hardware emulation for PS2 and older consoles, along with the ability to install a custom OS (Linux, to be precise) and connect a PlayStation Portable (PSP) and transfer compatible games to it. In the next sub-iteration of the PS3, called the PS3 Slim, the hardware emulation was replaced by software, and eventually a firmware update permanently removed the ability to install Linux on the system.

PS3

Now, it seems that firmware update 4.00 adds support for the PS Vita (due to be released on December 17th in Japan and parts of Asia) and, surprisingly, removes support for the legacy PSP.

Shacknews reports that the glitch(we are giving Sony the benefit of doubt here) removes the Copy function of every compatible game from the Xross Media Bar (XMB, the UI of the PS3 and the PSP) on the PS3’s screen, effectively disallowing the copying of a legally downloaded game on to a legally allowed secondary platform.

We await more news on this, but I really hope for Sony’s sake that it’s a glitch and not a feature.

CD Projekt RED Demands Hefty Payment from Pirates of The Witcher 2

Wow, a piece of not-so-good-actually news about CD Projekt RED (CDPR). That is something you usually do not get to read around the internet, much less from Techie Buzz (and indeed from me, the self-confessed Witcher fanboy). But apparently, CDPR has been showing an angelic we really care for that small group of legitimate gamers more than pirates or piracyside to the world, while pursuing shakedown procedures against those who had allegedly pirated the game.

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The developers of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, one of the most highly anticipated role playing game sequels to be released this year, claimed that the number of torrent downloads of The Witcher 2 had exceeded 4.5 million, but their concern was with the removal of draconian DRM schemes that hindered their legitimate customers from having a good experience of the game. In the words of CDPR CEO Marcin Iwinski:-

In any case, I am not saying that we have eliminated piracy or there is not piracy in the case of TW2. There is, and TW2 was [illegally] downloaded by tens of thousands of people during the first two weeks after release. Still, DRM does not work and however you would protect it, it will be cracked in no time. Plus, the DRM itself is a pain for your legal gamers this group of honest people, who decided that your game was worth the 50 USD or Euro and went and bought it. Why would you want to make their lives more difficult?

The game was also released on GOG.com, CD Projekt’s classic game digital distribution service, with much fanfare and the promise of no DRM. All this seemed to indicate that the company was genuinely concerned with its small set of legit customers. However, it seems that CDPR had a sinister plan of making some pirates cough up exorbitant amounts, or threatening to sue them to infinity and beyond.

The CEO told TorrentFreak earlier that the company will be using torrent sneaking companies and legal firms to track down pirates of the game and make them pay the unbelievably high sum of €911.80 (about $1187). Apparently this has already begun in many parts of Germany and also comes with the collateral of people whose IPs had torrented the game, but the owner of the IP had never heard of such a game mostly because of the concept of WiFi piggybacking, which is something these law firms have never heard of, apparently.

While we all condone piracy, we must remember that these are not the kind of measures that would stop piracy. Indeed, there is nothing in the world that can stop piracy; if a consumer software costs money, someone somewhere is already pirating it for the masses.

These vile measures from a company whose policies I have come to respect are definitely not in keeping with their reputation. CD Projekt RED must stop this nonsense at once and at least demand the price of the game during release, if not anything else.

Probable List of Humble Indie Bundle 4 Games Leaked!

The extremely popular pay-what-you-want Humble Indie Bundle series of indie game sales has been a joyride for many who wish to play the cream of the cool when it comes to indie gaming. Over the past few bundles, great games such as Braid, Machinarium, Defcon, and Frozen Synapse have been part of this excellent platform. It’s so good that many folks anticipate the next bundle with keen interest, looking to know the lineup days or months ahead of time. Whether this is to hold off on purchases of these indie games for their full price or   for the mere sating of curiosity is debatable.

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Nevertheless, many enterprising gamers on /r/IndieGaming found out the probable lineup of the next Humble Indie Bundle through the Steam Registry keys. The original source of the information is very probably NeoGAF, since the community there has done this sort of thing before with the bundles, with great success.

So what is the probable lineup of the next HIB?

  • Shank: Klei Entertainment’s beat em up sports a lovely comic-bookish art style of a man out for revenge. The story is written by God of War co-creator Marianne Krawczyk who really likes revenge stories, apparently. I am personally not sure about this one since the game was published by the behemoth of a non-indie publisher called Electronic Arts, but let’s see.
  • BIT.TRIP RUNNER: If you have never played a BIT.TRIP game yet, I sincerely suggest that you start with this. The games are designed to work with the background music in such a way that the obstacles and enemies in your way follow the beats and rhythm in the background. BIT.TRIP RUNNER is a solid game in the series. Mucho fun!
  • Jamestown: Mix a top-down shooter, steampunk, Mars colonization and the 17th century with pixelated graphics and you get Jamestown. It’s better than it sounds (and it sounds good!)
  • Gratuitous Space Battles: This is one game I personally am looking forward to playing, regardless of the Humble Bundle’s sale. It’s a space battle simulator in which you plan the battles before they happen (predicting the AI’s moves ahead of time) and let the entire thing unfold in front of you.
  • Cave Story +: Cave Story is the original indie runaway hit, with ports being developed on every system possible. The innocuous platformer has made thousands of fans and has now been rewritten and upgraded for the PC.

This gorgeous lineup practically makes me scream TAKE MY MONEY!, but we have to wait and see how it turns out!

Next-Gen Xbox Might Come in Two Flavors

XboxThe Xbox 360 is still selling like hot cakes, but rumors surrounding the next-gen Xbox console are coming in thick and fast. The media has even come up with a tacky name for the Xbox 360 successor – “Xbox 720″! With conflicting rumors and absolutely no concrete information, it’s nigh impossible to figure out exactly what Microsoft has in store for us. However, one thing that is almost certain is that the next-gen Xbox won’t show up before 2013. The 360, along with its Kinect peripherals, are simply selling too well for Microsoft to consider a successor. As Digital Foundry rightly argues, Microsoft will essentially be cutting its profits if it releases a new console in 2012. A next-gen console demands state of the art production facilities and often has to be subsidized during the initial years.

Nevertheless, whenever the Xbox successor shows up, it will probably come in two flavors. Digital Foundry believes that Microsoft will release a stripped down version of the next-gen Xbox that will essentially act as a set-top box and support casual arcade and Kinect games. The lower-end device will help Microsoft in tackling the challenge posed by WiiU. The second full-powered system will be targeted at hardcore gamers and compete with Sony’s PlayStation 4. It will feature an optical drive, a hard disk and backward compatibility with 360 games to entice the audience that doesn’t mind paying a premium.

FIFA 12 PC Review

FIFA by EA Sports is one of the most played sports game in the world. Earlier, it faced heavy competition from PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) in terms of game play, but since FIFA 11 was released, it has improved in leaps and bound. FIFA 12 is the best from EA Sports so far. The brilliant individual player control and intelligent CPU game play along with numerous new features in various modes has made it the best football game in the market.

FIFA 12 Arena

FIFA 12 Arena

Let’s start with the game play; the player control has been massively improved. Unlike earlier versions of FIFA, FIFA 12 has slowed down the game speed which gives the gamer a fraction more time to swiftly control their player by just jogging or jogging while pressing the Pace control button, it also makes skill moves easier to perform during matches.

FIFA 12 Starting a match

FIFA 12 Side Selection

FIFA 12 Game

FIFA 12 On going Game Screen

You can make the game play more realistic by turning off numerous Auto assist options like pass power, and direction  from settings. Some players have specialties. For example Wayne Rooney has engine, distance shooter and clinical finisher specialties; this makes his distance shooting more effective in scoring goals and also has high scoring percentage inside the box. This brings the skills of individual players in the games closer to what they are in real life. If a player has a clear view of goal then he will score 8 out of 10 times.

FIFA 12 Rooney Scoring

FIFA 12 Rooney Scoring

FIFA 12 Real life impact

FIFA 12 Real Life Collision Impact

EA Sports has also introduced levels in FIFA 12 which helps to find suitable opponents  during online play and ranking yourself with your friends. Penalties have also changed in FIFA 12, which now has a meter. You have to shoot when the pointer is on the green patch. When shot at either end of the bar, the player usually slips, which is fun to watch. The intelligence of the CPU can be described by the fact that if a player like Peter Crouch is in the penalty box, the winger of his team will cross the ball immediately (note: Peter Crouch is 6 feet 7 inches tall), but if a shorter striker is present it will try to cut in with the ball. Midfielders like Fabregas are quick in picking out passes because of his high vision compared to Michael Carrick or Ji Sung Park.

FIFA 12 Real life movement

FIFA 12 Detailed Player Movement

FIFA 12 Scoring Goal

FIFA 12 Scoring by head

EA Sports also added a new style of defending called Tactical defending. Generally, people who have played an earlier version of FIFA used the sprint plus standing tackle button to win the ball. But the Tactical defending takes it to a new level and is extremely challenging for players. In Tactical defending, you have to control the direction and speed of the defender plus jockey and contain the opponent, then tackle only at the right time to win the ball, just as in real life. Tackle early, the player will go past you and tackle late, you will foul them. Tactical defending is very difficult to get used to, and frankly speaking, I couldn’t get used to it and switched back to old style of defending. However, many people will surely like this new style.

The most played mode in FIFA is the manager mode. I love this mode as it gives me a chance to do whatever I want to do with my team. In FIFA 12, the interface has been completely changed with most of the default screen occupied with News from around the football world. The news of your club and your players’ performance are highlighted here.

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Default Screen

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Default Screen

Rotating your squad is also a big challenge, as Form and Morale affect the attitude of the players. If you don’t play a certain player for a long time he’ll wish to leave the club. His form and morale will also dip as a consequence. Giving a chance to new players frequently will give their form and morale a boost, and you will be notified when that happens by a pop up message from that player after matches. The scouting network has changed a bit. Now you can simultaneously send three scouts to different locations. Sending and calling back a scout takes a few days, unlike earlier, where they could be called up immediately and sent to another location. As a manager, you can now get involved more deeply in the game because of the newly introduced option to comment on your team or opponent team before certain matches. You can use this opportunity to praise or motivate your team or any individual player which will increase the morale. At the same time, you can comment on the opponent team or players. Some people love to buy and sell players in manager mode, but the club budget can hinder the fun. In FIFA 12 you can choose your budget allocation between transfer budget and wage. You can decrease the wage bank to increase the transfer budget.

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Budget Allocation

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Budget Allocation

Apart from Manager Mode, one other mode which I like is Virtual Pro. You can create your own professional player and then complete the various accomplishments to increase his ratings. This is very addicting because of the fun of the accomplishment. The online playing option has been improved, and now you can play with players of your level, who will be automatically searched for. Various options, like online tournaments, increase the fun. But you need to have a fast and unlimited internet connection to play online. My 512kbps internet connection is slow to react to my controller action, hence it is difficult to play. An internet connection of 1Mbps should be good enough for a smooth experience. There is also a FIFA 12 Store where you can buy various additional features from EA, like Live Season, in which the player form in game is updated every week based on their real life performance. There are many other additional features which you can buy.

FIFA 12 post match

FIFA 12 Post Match

Overall the game is the best that EA Sports have produced so far. Excellent and intelligent game play makes it the best football game currently in the market. The real life impact of collision between players brings the experience closer to real life. If you are a football lover then don’t think even once before buying FIFA 12, and if you haven’t played football, FIFA 12 will surely bring your interest to the game. I rate FIFA 12 a solid 9 out of 10. You can’t afford to miss this one.

Indie Royale Opens Up Preorder Model

Fans of the Humble Indie Bundle as well as indie digital distribution platform Desura will know of the Indie Royale Bundle the set minimum price pay-what-you-want bundle that set the indie world on fire akin to the first Humble Indie Bundle. Selling about 70,000 bundles (350,000 games with 5 games in each bundle), the developers pushed some fairly known and other little known games both recent and old back into the limelight. This obviously had its own brand of little technical hiccups such as Steam keys not being generated for most of the bundles initially as well as the servers being swamped with connection requests that resulted in many people missing that key minimum price at the start of the bundle (it starts with a price of $2.99).

indieroyale

In lieu of this smoldering server scrape, the makers of the Bundle have come up with a preorder model for those who are impatient and really want to get their paws on the great deal (It also works well for those of us who will not be near an internet device when the bundle launches to get the minimum price). You can preorder the next bundle here for $3.99, but you will not know the contents of the bundle until the minute of release.

While this sounds like a pretty decent deal (being just $1 dearer than the launch minimum), the fact that you will not know the what games are part of the bundle is rather silly. Sure, it seems like a sweet gift that you gave yourself a few days ago when it contains 5 hitherto unknown games (to you, at least), but if it contains 5 games which you have purchased on other platforms, it does seem rather silly. On top of that, the only guaranteed OS that these games will run is Windows, with some games having Mac/Linux support and some without.

Nevertheless, I am always up for indie games so I did put in that preorder. Tell us what you think in the comments!

Happy 10th Birthday Xbox!

When Sony announced the PS 2 In March, 1999, Microsoft had no presence in consoles, and only a small piece in the game business with niche titles for PCs like Microsoft Flight Simulator. The long standing vision of Bill Gates: a PC on every desk’ was near, but Microsoft had no presence in the living rooms. Sony had 47 percent of the game console market with PlayStation and had left erstwhile leaders, Sega and Nintendo, behind.

Launch

This was to change as announced on September 20, 2000. J. Allard, then general manager of Xbox, and John O’Rourke, director of Xbox marketing, unveiled the logo for the upcoming game console at a news conference in San Francisco.

November 14, 2001 was a special night. Bill Gates and his men were at the New York’s Times Square waiting for the midnight for the official launch. The excitement was mixed with fear. It wasn’t a software program this time. Shortly after midnight, Bill Gates handed over the first Xbox video game system ever to Edward Glucksman at the Toys “R” Us store.

Bill Gates with Xbox NYC 2001

Microsoft sold 1.5 million Xbox units in the US between the launch and the end of calendar year 2001, making Xbox the best-selling video game console launch. On March 14, 2002, several midnight events throughout Europe marked the launch of Xbox in 16 European countries and Australia. Microsoft’s second console, the Xbox 360, and the associated game business rake in more than $1 billion in profits every year now.

Xbox LIVE

Xbox Live Poster 2002

Microsoft introduced Xbox LIVE in November 2002 and sold 150,000 Xbox LIVE Starter Kits in the service’s first week. Xbox LIVE currently has 35 million members worldwide who spend 2.1 billion hours a month on the service. It is one of the earliest successes in the social market, and also made online console gaming a reality.

Kinect

June 14, 2010 marked the Microsoft’s next bet in the gaming and entertainment business. However, this time it wasn’t a business diversification, but a technological progression. Microsoft demonstrated a controller-free experience that allows players to jump, dodge and kick their way through exciting adventures, at E3 2010 in Los Angeles. It was called Project Natal.

Times Square

The night of November 3, 2010 was different than the one 9 years ago. Bill Gates wasn’t there at the Times Square. The square, however, was draped in purple and Microsoft hosted a dance party with thousands to celebrate the launch of Project Natal, now branded as Kinect for Xbox 360. The crowd lined up to be among the first to buy Kinect at midnight at the Toys “R” Us store in Times Square. Kinect for Xbox 360 set a Guinness World Record as the fastest-selling consumer electronic device, selling 8 million units in 60 days.

To The Moon: A Review

While it does seem like I go gaga over every video game I have ever played (there are notable exceptions such as Prototype; that was a lousy game) To The Moon evokes this strange warm feeling reserved for a wonderfully narrated book, and on occasion, a lovely artsy movie in which Jim Carrey plays a serious role. Yes, To The Moon reminds me strongly of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind more than, say, Memento (whose influence is also reminiscent in this video game) and I will tell you why.

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To The Moon is an example of how a video game does not necessarily need to be graphically impressive, or stylish, or violent or anything of that sort. It’s an essay on why video games must be considered an art form. It’s a story of a dying man, John, and his last wish. In the future technology to alter memories and experiences exists and two doctors, Dr. Neil Watts and Dr. Eva Rosaline who are alternatingly the player controlled characters work for a firm that grants dying men and women their last wishes. The two doctors traverse through the memory of every patient and at a particular moment initiate a key driving thought that changes their life (in their memories). Of course, none of this is real, but for a dying man it does not matter, for he is very happy to have lived through his dream.

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The problem with John is that he really does not know why he wishes to go to the moon. As Drs. Watts and Rosaline traverse through his memories in reverse (from an old man to a teenager), they find that there are no impulses to go to the moon except towards the end, and that too quite randomly. Interconnected through his entire memory is his wife, River, who suffers from a mental condition that is hinted-at but never quite explained throughout the game. This came off as letting the player fill details in as he or she sees fit, and not spoonfeeding the entire story.

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The gameplay itself is quite simple, with the player characters walking around and collecting small pieces of memories (visualized as colored orbs) that unlock a very strong memento that links to an earlier memory to which they can jump.   The memento needs to be prepared’, which is a simple tile-switching mini-game that is no more than a minor annoyance to further the story. Some small mini-games pop up here and there (with a tongue-in-cheek reference to both Plants vs. Zombies, because the musician involved in PvZ was also involved in the making of this game, as well as traditional Japanese RPGs) but for the main part, this is pretty much what the gameplay is like. In effect it allows you to immerse yourself into this game without any complicated schemes to optimizeyour gameplay.

villageidiot

The characters of the story itself are marvelously written up, with the constant bickering between the geeky, unsentimental and boyish Dr. Neil Watts and the officious-yet-warm and forward thinking Dr. Eva Rosaline forming a hilarious and lovely backdrop to what is essentially a tragic story that will drive you to tears in many parts. The extremely strong narrative pace repeatedly made me laugh at the innocuous and geeky humor of Dr. Watts while Dr. Rosaline looks on with emotions ranging from severe disapproval to abject dismay at his actions.

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The story of John, however, was very well presented with some parts of his life akin to many things that we, normal people, might have felt.

To The Moon is a game of regret, love and dreams that is both unconditionally beautiful with its low-res graphics and at once heart-wrenching with its excellently crafted story. I implore you to play this, for this is the greatest video game I have played this year.

Gemini Rue: A Review

For me, any game that deals with memory and personality always has echoes of Planescape: Torment washing over it like a cool summer’s wave on a calm beach. It’s funny how a piece of art from 1999 keeps casting its shadow (visible or not) in many games of today, especially when it casts an invisible shadow over a game of a different genre set far in the future. Yet the lo-fi graphics on both the games form shimmering tendrils that are *known* to me.

operatio

Gemini Rue is a lovingly crafted point n’ click adventure game from Wadjet Eye Studios that combines the brilliance of Blade Runner to the anxious urgency of Beneath a Steel Sky. It’s a throwback to the days of adventure games that one played for cleverly constructed puzzles as well as an immersive story that is both atmospheric and surreal at the same time.
And boy does Gemini Rue have atmosphere. Even with its pixelated stylized lo-fi graphics, the game oozes atmosphere right from the start. Baraccus’ dimly lit streets with flickering lights seem even more subdued under the constant rain that envelops the city, and the faintly heard refrain of a saxophone in the background only serves to enrich the fertile atmosphere and remind one of Blade Runner which no doubt served as an inspiration for this game. While I cannot say much about the story for even the most minor telling might spoilt the adventure, I can wax lyrical about the noir atmosphere that has been so effectively designed in the game.

azriel

You play alternatively as Azriel Odin, an assassin-turned-policeman searching for his brother on the planet of Baraccus, and a patient designated Delta-Six on a mysterious testing facility where memory wipes and betrayals run amok. For most of the game you can switch between these two characters and complete their puzzles individually. As Azriel, you will engage against the semi-legitimate crime syndicate of the Boryokudan, (a reference no doubt to the Yakuza crime syndicate of Japan that is designated as boryokudan(violence group) by the Japanese police) who have the information on his brother, while Delta-Six trains with weapons and hatches plots for his escape from the facility. Later on you get to play other characters as well. The puzzles, for the most part, are quite simple; yet some of them are either rather mundane or something you would not think about until you replay it several times. Combat, as with many games of its kind, is rather silly and sometimes non-responsive. Thankfully combat is not very frequent in the game and the handy auto-save feature helps immensely in these cases. At some places the story does get a little oratorical and high-handed with its philosophical questions that relate memory, experience and consciousness. It’s a precarious perch, no doubt, from where the game sermons on you on these matters and at times does feel a little overdone. Nevertheless the story otherwise is magnificent and the voice acting is excellent for an indie game.

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The game is spectacular, and has brilliant references to other SciFi noir culture gems such as Blade Runner (with the give me a hard copyachievement) as well as cameos from Cowboy Bebop. This is a must-play for any adventure game fan as well as those who would like to sit back and relax on a rainy Saturday evening with a cup of hot coffee by their side. Buy it.

First Batch of Dota 2 Beta Invites to Be Sent Soon

A while back fellow techie-buzzer Kaushik had written about how to apply to be a beta tester for DoTA 2. Now if you had signed up for the beta, you might want to check your email – Valve has just sent an email confirming that the beta testers’ pool is about to be expanded.

Dota 2

The email reads as below:

You recently indicated you want to play Dota2. Before we send the first batch of invites we need to collect a little more information from you about your level of gaming experience and your gaming rig.

To begin the survey go to the machine on which you intend to play Dota2, start Steam and click this link: steam://takesurvey/1/ (if you haven’t restarted your Steam client for a few days, you might need to do that before clicking that link).

The Dota 2 blog has a new post where they mention that they’ve expanded the server capacity – keeping the upcoming beta pool expansion in mind. And to keep things interesting, they’ve released a comic, Tales from the Secret Shop.

We’ve just finished our first significant expansion of Dota 2 server capacity around the world, and that means it’s time to kick this thing up a notch. Starting this week, we’ll be handing out Dota 2 in increasing volumes. To celebrate, we’re releasing the first part of the official Dota 2 comic, Tales from the Secret Shop

Once you’ve read today’s part, make sure you fill out the Dota 2 Survey in Steam to secure your place in the upcoming invitations (if you haven’t restarted your Steam client for a few days, you might need to do that before clicking that link). The extra data the survey provides will allow us to ensure we invite a wide spread of players and hardware.

And if that hasn’t gotten you excited yet, Valve mentions that everyone who gets an invite to the beta will get two extra copies that they can handout.  Good news all around! So head over to this link and take the survey, if you’ve signed up for the beta. And if you’re facing problems with the link – make sure you’ve Steam installed and have updated to the latest version.

Bastion Review

I honestly did not know what I was getting into with Bastion, an indie game that came with a bucketload of recommendations and a folder full of evocative screenshots. I knew it was a highly recommended game, it was an Xbox Live Arcade downloadable title and that it was a hack-n-slash role playing game (RPG).

Nobody warned me about the haunting storyline and the beautiful soundtrack. Even if they did, I was too busy staring at the gorgeous screenshots to notice.

Bastion is, as mentioned before, an action RPG in which you play as the Kid a young silver-haired fellow who is as silent throughout the game as Gordon Freeman is in Half Life. The Kid wakes up at the end of a world-ending Calamity and seeks out the Bastion where he was told to go in times like these. There he finds out much and more about the Calamity and what he must do to repair the damage. However, the subtext of memory, remembrance and nostalgia is at times so subtle that it is invisible and at others, too jarring to be of any use. It is thus a good idea to re-play the game to understand a good chunk of the plot properly.

The Bastion

The Kid’s story is told by a kindly old narrator as you plod through the game. Each and every action of the kid is narrated dynamically by the narrator and the story itself is furthered by the narrator’s words. The world literally falls into place as the Kid progresses through the story, so much so that if you play this game without turning up the sound you are missing out.

The World of Caelondia

The music of the game complements the storyline and its redolently striking art style. In a world that has been shaken by an unknown Calamity every level is a shadow of its former self, yet as the Kid plods through the worlds, Bastion‘s music touches upon that level’s former beauty and shakes poignant chords in the player’s heart. In one level, I was completely mesmerized by a melancholy song to the extent that I stopped playing for a few minutes just to listen to that song. The tune lingered throughout my playthrough from that point onwards and I am sure it will stay in my mind much longer.

The gameplay is quite similar to other hack-n-slash games, with a variety of weapons to unlock. You can select your loadout (the weapon that you will use with the left click, the right click and a special weapon as well) before starting a mission, or sometimes during the mission itself. The levels themselves vary in difficulty and it is essential that you get used to a set of weapons and upgrade them as you play the game.

Getting hit!

The game is a treasure-trove for the 100%-ers (gamers who wish to do everything and find everything in a game) since there is way too much to do. You can finish a level in your own time, or go to a training level to earn trinkets and upgrade materials. There are achievements to unlock and level-hardening idols to worship. There is a lot to do in this game and it does not get boring too fast (however it does since after a point, it’s just mindless clicking. I still maintain that Diablo II mastered the art of keeping one entertained through hours of mouseclicks).

Weapons

I heartily recommend Bastion to any fan of action RPGs or indie games. It’s a surprisingly well-made game that will keep you entertained enough for at least two playthroughs, while the soundtrack will haunt your ears for a longer time.

New Adventure