A collection of reviews that can be written by anypony! Generally it's done and overseen by Tyro The Fox but anypony is welcome to write up an article reviewing anything they like. Games, movies, Youtube videos, poetry, Fan Fiction, almost anything.

You could do an article on a brick, I suppose, but I can't vouch for anyone being fascinated by it.

Would you like to write in the Leather Bound Book?

I'm still figuring everything out but I will happily add you to the Blogs permission list or post the article under your name if you drop me a PM or at leatherboundbookreviews@gmail.com.
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  1. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]Star Command[/size]

    FTL is a good game. It's got a little bit of micro-management, a little bit of roleplaying, a little bit of exploration and a whole load of blasting the hell out of ships. It's a detailed and complex space-sim that tries to emulate just what it's like to crew and fly your own ship while being chased across a galaxy by cruel rebels. Maybe someone was tired of Rebels always being good guys? Anyway, it was intricate but well detailed, if rather basic looking on its surface. What it lacks in visual panache, it makes up for in pure, RPG chops.

    In short, it's a favourite of mine.

    Star Command, a game for Android systems and recently making a debut in the Android Humble Bundle, is also a Space-Sim where you take control of a star ship. You also roam a galaxy and shoot up some bad guys in ship to ship battles where your micromanaging can mean the difference between defeat and success. So, on the face of it, it's easy to mix these two up.

    Well, when you get down to it, FTL is more like the space-faring version of Oregon Trail, as you wrestle your way across each sector, forced forwards by the encroaching rebels. No, Star Command let's you do what you like, mostly. In fact, it's closer to what you might have gotten if Mass Effect had been made in 1994. It's a space faring RPG; complete with dialogue choices, side quests, star battles, shootouts and even a half-decent storyline to play though. It's a pretty decent little package.

    It's also really, really strange structurally.

    But let's get down to brass tacks and discuss plot. You are a hopeful new captain aboard some new ship that's eventually roped into a conspiracy to take over Star Command after a traitorous ship blows up an allied vessel and your fingered for it by the General that just happens to show up at the right time. You flee and seek to make your ship more powerful, your crew better at their jobs and save two galaxies from the Antonians that want to eat you and kill everyone.

    It's actually kinda compelling. I really wasn't expecting to be framed for firing on a Star Command ship and running for my life. What's also rather sweet of the game and it's writing is it's sense of humour. There's an endearing level of self-awareness to everything which, I have to admit, is starting to grind a little. At first it's a little zaney but I, and this is my tastes, was actually more engaged with all the serious plot details. Even so, being able to shout that you are all out of bubblegum despite chewing it being first on your to-do list - kicking ass being the second - is kinda fun. The sense of humour doesn't seem as punchy, just very silly. Either way, I'm more interested in making sure I'm alive and still firing guns than stopping to realise that they're trying to make a little joke about Star Trek uniforms.

    It's actually the aesthetics that make this game such a joy to behold. I know, I know; retro graphics, smetro grayfix! Who cares? Every Indie title is doing this nowadays. Even though these look pretty well polished and clean, they're not that interesting because their 'old school'. Nope! They're endearing and pleasant because they're looking to evoke the look of Star Trek. Not so much 'Next Gen' wholesale as the Original Series with a few additions from 'Next Gen'.

    Heh! Other kids pick up a second language or shared skill from their parents. I picked up a grounding in Sci-fi knowledge, purely from osmosis. Comes in handy. Way more than being able to say 'Me llamo tortuga', that's for sure.

    By what I mean is that each character will wear the classic shirts; Red, Yellow and Blue. And they do roughly the same as they do on TNG (stands for 'The Next Generation', the second iteration of Star Trek). Now, the ships are well designed and look imposing while also pretty interesting. They're all complex shapes and weird add-ons like a rash of metal. Rather than the sleek curves of the Enterprise, they went with something similar to FTL which are interesting in their clunkiness. Which, in turn, feels like the ships from Red Dwarf to me.

    Not a bad thing at all, I might add.

    However, the ships and gameplay is more like a U-Boat that's in space. Your ship is basically a series of rooms that your crew can roam around in like it's The Sims. Your first port of call is to start building weapons, a dodge generator and something for your science guys to do. I went with a Shield Booster and it's basically the only, truly, even vaguely useful function a blue crew room can do at this stage in the game.

    OK, let's break this down!

    Of these three colours of being - Red, Blue and Yellow - your crew can only become one. They can be assigned to any room and change into a shirt of that particular room's colour before they begin that particular room's task. Each room is clearly designated with which colour and what kind of action takes place inside. However, they can perform extraneous tasks that are tied into their assigned profession and level up through it. The XP gained will give them levels to boost their effectiveness at whatever they're assigned to. Any crew member can be assigned anywhere at any time and can be trained in all three colours, up to level 30.

    Red Shirts are now the most powerful and useful characters in the game, contrary to the old adage. They are the 'Tactical Crew' and they operate your weapons, man the bridge and are the only guys able to fight off invaders for a long time into the game. Even more bizarre to a Trekkie is that they're also the only guys that will get any substantial levelling while you play through the game. The guys manning your weapons are the only guys who will be levelled up every time you win a space battle. Everyone else will get diddly-squat.

    Even more awkwardly is that they're the only guys who can fight off invading parties of hostiles. Sometimes, baddies will spawn onto your ship. The Red Shirts are the only guys with guns, so you can either pull them away from fighting the enemy ship to fight off the invaders or let them smash stuff while you try to destroy all their mates faster than they kill yours. This is also the only opportunity you have to level up your Bridge Crew as they do very little otherwise. The Bridge only seems to be good for boosting other rooms and choosing new destinations. Might as well let them do it and leave the gunners be.

    Blue Shirts are both handy and kinda crap, as far as I know. Due to a weird game structure I will get to in a bit, I can't seem to find anyway of getting them XP reliably. These guys are the 'Science Crew', they handle healing wounded crew members and maintaining the shields, both are things you want to happen very much. However, unlike the Gunners, they only get experience from healing. And it's a pitifully small amount. My gunners hit level 20 by the end of my first run-through! The only high level Blue Shirts I got were given to me by the plot with a decent score in science already. They were operating my shields, boosting it when I needed it, surely there must have been something to it? I don't imagine firing a gun to be particularly taxing but there's XP there, why would creating a bubble of solid, strong energy be any different or less complex so that you'd gain no on-the-job training from it? It's nonsensical!

    Yellow Shirts, once the shirt of the Captain, are now the shirts of the Engineers. These guys are kinda self-explanatory; they fix stuff and make sure the ship doesn't break when the shields can't cut it. While they reside in the engine which appears to do absolutely nothing but provide a place to create more engineers, they also run the Dodge Generator. This thing is what allows you to avoid damage entirely by charging up a button for you to press at the right moment. Hit it and all the targeting symbols on your ship are gone! Again, the Engineer's get nothing for doing this. They mainly level up with fixing stuff. And it's rare in your first go that you'll be expected to do this.

    Again, complex aerial maneuver to avoid deadly lasers, saving the entire ship from possible destruction and buying a little more time to fight back?

    Meh. You yellow guys got nothing on Trigger Boy over here! Watch as he stands around and pushes a button every now and again! Poetry in motion!

    Weird RPG elements aside, there's a lot to like in the combat. It has just enough to keep you on your toes. Some fights will be straight up battles between two opposing ships. Some will be timed bouts against an opponent you must get through as quickly as you can. Some will see your crew pull out their guns and have their own little shoot out against hoards of alien monsters. The story and set up does a neat job of easing you into things. A decision to say one thing could either screw over your chances or give you a little edge so the interaction with the world is decent.

    Although, it's here that the game has this one big moment of real connection with the player. Why? Because almost all exposition is given like your getting a message on a viewscreen. Oh, it's not only charming but gives you a little depth to the world that FTL just couldn't. Text can't give you the feeling of actually conversing with the people of this universe. The sprites might be a little blocky but their well animated and well designed. It's that moment when the developer grabs the Star Trek ideas and give them a little spotlight. It's a good, good idea that's incredibly enriching.

    Anyway, combat! Weirdly, think On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness 1 and 2. Having a crew member assigned and standing in that assigned room will start to charge a small button in the corner of the screen that controls that room. The number of crew and their levels in that room's colour will make the button charge faster. Once it has charged, you push it to start that rooms action. For weapons, you push it to fire but you have to do a reaction-based minigame to determine how many shots you land on the ship. Usually, you just touch the screen at the right time and you'll land a hit. It's basic and slows the pace a little so you can gain some bearings. The game pauses while you fire, otherwise it would be awful!

    Now, these little reaction tests made OtRPoD 1 and 2 a standout title because the tests where there to engage your mind and create some investment in the battle by making you actually do something in it. You weren't just choosing commands and telling your guys to do stuff from a menu, you had a hand in your own success.

    However, OtRPoD applied the tests to the special attacks. Normal attacks you could do without any trouble. Star Command requires this of every, single shot you fire. The effect is somewhat diminished when you have to do your gunners work for you and line up every single shot yourself. Adding an extra layer of complexity to boosting the power of a special move was rewarding if you got it right in OtRPoD, but not detrimental if you failed because you could still deal damage. It feels like you're winding up your character to perform something devastating.

    Star Command will declare the whole thing a fail if you miss and won't let you attack until the gun recharges. And weapons are deathly slow in this game. It's a nice try but it will wear down its welcome after a long while. I mean, making a dodge or replenishing your shield doesn't require any hoop-jumping but their buttons are also charged in the same way. Why not apply the mechanic there? Or maybe critical hits are made with the reaction games. It's a nice idea repeated to the point of disconnect. It's a shame.

    And lastly, personnel combat is very basic. Which is good as it lowers the possible about of stuff you have to keep track of. Your Red Shirts can be moved round the ship and they fire on any baddies in range. The Engineers are defenceless and the Blue Shirts heal anyone in their range. Just plonk some guns and a couple of blue shirts and turtle the bad guys, they'll go down easy because they never employ the same tactic. To spice things up, your crew members gain little power ups you can use anytime that are gained from levelling up. They're useful, like range extensions or invincibility for a set time. Each profession colour has their own, unique power up and give an edge to close combat.

    Apart from adding upgrades to rooms to give an edge to that room, usually, there's not much to talk about.

    Except...Except that it's a friggin' easy, easy game!

    On my first run through, nothing could break through my shields! The final boss of the game, a mammoth machine of modified power and awe could only chip away tiny, manageable amounts of my shields. My Engineers did bugger all for most of the game. My Blue Shirts just sat around, deciding whether to give the enemy a chance out of boredom and pity. I trounced more or less everything else in my path because I could outlast them. Nothing else replenished their shields at all. I was getting really awkward when the game's difficulty curve continued to stay rather flat when my ship was at maximum everything and my crew was as good as it was likely to get. Heck! I actually had a surplus of people on my ship at that point. I didn't have enough jobs for them to do!

    This, I soon found out long after, was Beginner mode.

    So, the story came and went. I had enjoyed this game too much to believe it was shallow enough to just offer the limpest challenge I've ever faced to then just give up.

    It didn't. It didn't give any new plot, nope! Just loops, over and over.

    However, I got a larger class of ship, got to keep my crew and then was told that the game would take things up a notch. Right, so...Shouldn't the training wheels be off by the end of the tutorial rather than the second go to see what you might have missed? Ah, whatever. Maybe if I keep going, I'll unlock everything! Should be easy, right?

    I've never played a game where it felt like the tutorial was the first run-through of the game. But, after that marker is done, it starts getting mean! Really mean! As in it'll actually put up a fight! Enemies can actually penetrate your shields, damage your ship and give your Engineers and Blue Shirts something to do with all the death and fire. Even worse, when your shields are lowered, it'll beam an invading party to your ship to start wrecking stuff. It's far more intense. To the point where I wonder where this was in my first playthrough...

    Thankfully, the game actually improves itself once you switch up from Baby's First Tablet Game to Men. Or Women, I know some pretty tough women...Anyway, the new ship not only gives you more room to build new stuff but it will also let you have access to the 'Large Rooms'. The three at my current command are Medical Room, Turret Room and Armoury. The Armoury is meant to give your Red Shirts grenades to do more damage with. The Medical Room allows you to make medical tokens to bring dead crew members back to life.

    However, the Turret Room is a damn godsend for your Yellow Shirts. That lets them deploy rapidly diminishing turrets that will disappear over time. However, you can keep them in place if you surround your Engineers around them and let them fix it up. This is the only, reliable way I've found that you can protect your Engineers and level them up because they get XP from maintaining the turrets. So, I make them deploy a turret in the middle of all my yellow rooms and let them go to town. That's all you need and they'll be level 30 in no time.

    That's rather stupid and needs to be fixed. If the only way to make my crew level up is to exploit something that feels like a glitch or an oversight of the designers, then there's something seriously wrong with how the game is rewarding your progress. I should be seeing my guys get XP for doing their assigned job, not busying themselves with something unrelated to what I put them there to do, i.e. run and maintain my ship. Because it shatters the illusion that you need the people in the room at all when they're repairing something that will constantly decay and their room's action carries on without them doing anything about it.

    I need to keep playing to see whether the Blue Shirts get anything this weirdly broken feeling but for now, let's wrap this up.

    I know I sound against this game but I'm not. I really love it! It's atmosphere and experience is top-notch. It's way more gratifying than it's closest cousin FTL. But, FTL is still tops in it's gameplay and design. Star Command has some serious issues and tweaks it needs to iron out in coming updates. This is only version 1.1, so I'm hoping that the developers get on the ball with this and tighten it up into something you don't have to play over and over just to get it to feel like a finished product.
  2. [​IMG]
    Tyro the Fox after tonight's stream

    [size=+1]Want to see what happened? Watch part one, two and three here on our Livestream.[/size]
  3. [​IMG]

    [size=+1]Spiral Knights and the Unexpected Update[/size]​

    How the hell have I not reviewed this? Seriously! I am really surprised I've never written about this! I went back and checked my old review thread in the bowels of the General Board and it's not there! The dust was vast! Cobwebs were huge!

    Anyway, that's irrelevant because Spiral Knights was something I definitely played, liked and then never reviewed. I could have sworn I did review it somewhere...

    By Celestia's G-String, I have not seen this in a while...This what I was doing before Everypony and MLP:FIM

    Ah! I knew I had one somewhere. Like unleashing my Year Six Schoolwork on my University Lecturers, I'm gonna let you read this because this is what Spiral Knights used to be like. That's for people who either want to know about the old game in a greater detail than I will go into here or want more of my stuff that they haven't seen yet. Or want to contrast my work here with my work back then. Oh boy...that joke about Monty Python lines slipping into the text does not work at all...I might as well have shouted 'I like Monty Python too' every so often.

    This of course assuming that I even have fans that would do that...Tyro! Stay on target or this whole article will be redundant text that doesn't move us forwards! Like it usually is!

    The Too Long/Didn't Read Version (Because I don't like Abbreviations Much)

    Spiral Knights was developed by Three Rings, a small studio owned by Sega. Think Sonic Team but they make MMO's instead of endlessly figure out how to make that pesky third dimension behave in between writing awful dialogue. And secretly planning on how to get Big's Fishing Levels into the next game. I have millions of these!

    The story goes that technologically advanced and heavily armed minors known as 'The Spiral Order' have discovered a planet called Cradle and set up a base of operations there. Why? Because the inside of the planet happens to be a series of mazes and dungeons of labyrinthine proportions that even alter their position as time goes on. This place has been named 'The Clockworks' and it's here that the bulk of the game will be spent; descending into the Clockworks towards the Core of the planet, fighting every nasty looking thing on your way. Your goal is to reap the bountiful minerals of The Clockworks to earn money to pay for more and explore The Clockworks to fully understand this strange place.

    That's it! Just your sword, gun or bombs against thousands of monsters and it is awesome! Seriously, I really like this game and the evolution it has taken over the years from when I first wrote about it. Back then, it was a good game held back by an irritating need to pay to play when it was advertised as Free to Play. Nowadays, it's a bargain! I compared it to The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past when it's closer to Alien Swarm with more weapon diversity and swords. However, the game can now genuinely call itself 'Free To Play' without a smirk and it makes the game 1000% times better on it's own. But it's update just keeps on rolling to touch pretty much everything about the game to the point that it's almost unrecognisable.

    The biggest change is the overhaul of the Energy System. Originally, you needed Energy for everything; travelling between levels, forging things, opening certain doors, reviving yourself when dead. All of that! I wouldn't be surprised if you needed energy for breathing or logging on. It was horrendous that you only got 100 energy free everyday. That was a pitiful amount for your day to day travels. Pitiful! To play this at any real level, you have to spend money to get a greater amount of 'Crystal' energy to get a decent playthrough because the difficulty level for the game could get pretty high. Especially when a boss rolled past you. It might have started at around £1.50 but that could stack up fast.

    Now, you get around for free! Lifts will no longer charge you which is wonderful! You have to pay Crowns (the in-game currency) for making new equipment rather than your energy as well. Furthermore, it's a massive boost to the overall appeal of the game to make sure it's not charging you for using the lifts that carry you around The Clockworks. It's no longer bleeding you so badly. Or unnecessarily. Instead, you spend Energy on very expensive or rare items that you can get from drops or the auction house anyway. Basically, it's a new currency that pays for everything from weapons to equipment components to Sparks of Life.

    For Spark of Life, read Extra Life. Originally, you had to pay to bring yourself back with Energy in steadily increasing amounts. This got horribly expensive, forcing you to retreat if you're running out. The frustration was in having to resign to just letting all the stuff melt away into the darkness because you couldn't stump up for the next revive. Either you paid a stupidly high amount of Crowns or you paid in cash for more Crystal Energy. If you don't keep your equipment as good as you can, you'll be robbed and killed and milked of your money. It's evil and annoying.

    The new system is actually better but it's not perfect. Now, you get a free revival every new level you enter into. As long as your equipment isn't too out matched and your paying attention, you'll muddle through it with just that free recovery, most likely. However, once that's done with you have the Spark of Life system to fall back on. This is an extra life that you have to pay for. While some missions will give you them for free but you can buy them individually for 50 energy. Which is...actually quite reasonable. And you can get ten of them for the cost of 4 of the emergency Sparks (which is 200 Energy for 10 starks). Furthermore, Sparks can be found as drops. Also, you can get special prize boxes that give you a small bundle of them too from various places. So, it's not that bad because Sparks are abundant but it's still limiting if you run out of energy.

    If you lose, that's it. Your made to pack up or pay up just like the old system. The difference here is that you can usually come back and try again. If you come back, you still have that one revive for nothing to let you play through it, despite having no remaining Sparks. The Sparks of Life are useful but not completely necessary. Which is much, much better than what felt like an extortion racket because you can continue to play still. It's harder, sure, but you're not being barred from playing entirely any more. It forces you to come back stronger or get help if you're struggling with something, which makes some sense to me. It makes you seriously size up your own skill at the game and the actual power of your equipment. Usually, a second blade is all you need. I still wouldn't call it 100% fair when it's competing with things like Mabinogi or Elsword or even Maple Story. It wants to hold onto the Arcade-y feel of it's gameplay badly by making you pay for extra lives but it is profoundly better than before. Energy is still absurdly expensive but it's not impossible to gather enough Crowns for 100 energy. Plus, Energy isn't as vital as it once was, meaning you can get around the necessity.

    Where it get's awkward is the new Crafting system. To make new weapons or upgrade current ones, you have to do the whole RPG thing of building them according to recipes. While recipies being something you have to find and buy is annoying busy work, you then have to put the recipe together. Pretty standard.

    Now, Spiral Knights will actually bar you from playing sections of the game until you upgrade your equipment. And you have to upgrade all of it! Weapon, Shield, Helmet and Armour. The central ingredients of these require an Orb of some level of Alchemy. And they can be frustratingly hard to get enough off when you look for more valuable items. Infact, 5 and 4 star items become like holy grails! Ingredients at that level became a hell of a chore to get hold off. Which they should be when they're the most powerful in the game. You grind cash and either try the markets for tones of money or a wad of energy at the Supply Depot. Both are expensive and that cap gets raised, possibly doubled, every grade you go up by. It get's steep fast. You can pay actual money to get there fast but for those on a budget, man is that a frustratingly long amount of time spent grinding. Especially if you're just doing it to pass an Equipment Upgrade checkpoint. Irritatingly, passing one of these will yield you an Orb of Alchemy at the level you needed. The last checkpoint I passed had me trying to scramble for as many of these Orbs as I could find. It's frustrating to be given one at that point.

    "Where the hell was this when I needed it, yeh Tin-Headed, Pint-Sized Prat!?" And then a violent but largely impotent shaking of the fist at the screen.

    You're running over the same three or four places where you saw lots of loot once over and over. I'm sure I would have better productivity trying to be the PR man for One Direction, trying to convince people that punching them wasn't worth it.

    With that out of the way, you can actually start to enjoy the game. And thank Celestia, you can properly now without having to stump up cash somewhere because it's demanded of you. You still might if you're in that 'This crap will not beat me, so help me mighty Zeus!" mood but that's down to your own spending habits.

    The weapon system has had some welcome additions. You have a choice of three weapon types: sword, gun, bomb. Simple, except that they all break down further into what kind of damage they inflict. Some are faster than others, some will set things on fire, blah, blah, blah. You now have to think about how you want to inflict damage. Do you want just straight up, uncomplicated power? Do you want to exploit enemy weaknesses? Do you want to be able to deal with mobs of enemies quickly or safely? Do you want to be close and personal or be able to pick of targets from the sidelines? You like bananas? It's all up to you! Seriously, there's a healthy amount of depth to this battle system while maintaining it's simplicity. You can have a gun and a sword to handle anything. You can have to guns and switch between the two to exploit more weaknesses. You can even have two swords to do the same thing. But you have to hold onto the shield so no akimbo Autoguns or dual wielding Big Beast Bashers.

    Even so, your shield isn't as limited to just making sure your not instantly dead. One thing that appears to never be hinted or mentioned is a Shield Bash attack that makes you dash forwards and stun anything you hit. This is a handy move if you want to charge into an attacking cluster of enemies and gain the upper hand as the stun will slow their movements and attacking speed. Handy to have.

    The other move that's been slipped in there quietly is a sort of dodge. Your character just dashes for a short moment very quickly to where your cursor is pointed. This has a cool-down to make sure you don't spam it however it is handy for avoiding traps or slow attacks. Some of the faster ones could still catch me. But again handy.

    To further help your travels, you now have something called a Battle Sprite. For Battle Sprite, read Pokemon.

    In essence, this is a little pet that will perform a special move on cue. You feed the sprite ingredients from your inventory to increase its heat level then feed it a special item made from a specific colour of mineral called a 'Mote'. Your sprite has a prefered type of this mote that you need to feed it every time you reach the threshold of a new level. Every so often, your Sprite will ask for an Evo-whatsit so that it can transform into a higher level version of itself. Yeah, these things will evolve but level up through gluttony. Seriously, Sprites eat your ingredients and Motes. The logic is that they eat springs, dust, crystal shards and Mugs of Misery. I'm pretty sure that'll kill a Squirtle before you get anywhere near an evolution. Thankfully, the Sprites are able to pull their own weight. The one I got - the white, pudgy, flying kitten one - shoots a weak laser attack, raises the likelihood of an enemy dropping health and can allow me to slightly boost the damage against a certain type of enemy. Very handy in missions. The other ones are more about power and inflicting poison. Me being a clutz, I went with the health one.

    One last thing on weapons is the new system for leveling your weapons. Originally, it was all automatic XP grinding like the weapons in Ratchet and Clank. You are only as powerful as your equipment and they'd grow slightly more powerful over time from a starting point then gain a full suite of perks as they approach their full power at level 10. The full potential of a weapon is always shown along with how it would perform immediately.

    Now, it's no longer an automatic process. And I have no idea why it had to be changed. The new system is largely needless busywork when the last system was easy and fast. That might be it actually...I might mean that a player could level up quicker or something...Anyway, the way it works is that a weapon gains heat just as before. However, it will now need to be forged before it is allowed to increase in level.

    Forging needs special heat crystals that match the weapon's star rating. Once you collect a large number of them, you have the choice of attempting to forge the weapon with three levels of certainty of success:

    - 'I Like to Live Dangerously' which has the highest chance of failure but is the cheapest of the three.

    - 'The Middle Way' which has better odds of success and has the chance of yielding a greater number of added bonuses like an extra level or a heat bonus. It does require a greater number of heat crystals.

    - 'Dead Cert' which as a 100% success rate and can net you a level boost, a heat bonus and even a 'Forge Prize Box' which is a goodie bag of nice things you definitely want. I got one once and it contained 12 Sparks of Life. They're worth picking up if you can but they're rare. This is the most expensive, making it the difficult to perform regularly, of course.

    This is the part where the changes are bafflingly needless. I don't mind this as I'm always picking up more crystals but all it serves to do is force me to play at a certain Clockwork depth in order to level up a certain piece of equipment. Seeing as the game makes a leap in difficulty with every five or ten levels towards the core, things can get very frustrating if you just looking to grind equipment because you get nothing for dying. Which you're likely to do because your equipment isn't good enough yet. A frustrating cycle, huh? This is one change I'm not entirely pleased with.

    How about the level design? It's stepped up a lot since I last tried to pass through this. It may be because I've reached further down to the core and so it's pulling out more stops to be evil but I now hold the level where rocket launchers are firing in all directions to be one of the best because it becomes very creative at certain parts. Even the boss they have was a big challenge for me whilst also being very inventive. Otherwise, it's not changed much. It's still a long stretch of dungeons that have a small mix of things to toss you way depending on which type of level you're on. Basically just usually linear gauntlets for you and friends to battle through. Nothing wrong with them but I'm starting to get tired of them at my more advanced stage of the game.

    A curious addition I approve of is that there's now two ways of playing the game. You can poodle around in the Clockworks normally by just entering a gate and charging headlong for the core or you can do the large number of missions on offer. Frankly, the Missions are what you ought to be doing if you want to play this game on a regular basis. They provide a tutorial and regular information dumps as you work through them, operating at lower levels of the Clockworks. They can be a slog sometimes.

    Some will be just an exposition dump between some NPC that nets you free stuff and some will be a few stages of the Clockworks you fight through. They say it's a mission but they're always just battle through everything to the end. The story is there to give some flavour but you can ignore it and miss very little. The only mission that has asked me to actually achieve an objective has been one where I placed a sword on a pedestal. And even then, the linear nature of each level meant I had to or I'd never progress. Maybe some freedom from the linear path and engagement with the writing might be nice but it's not a game-breaker and a minor point.

    Why will you bother? Because you get tons of useful stuff if you do. Everything from Sparks of Life to new recipes to handy Alchemy ingredients. The rewards for completing the missions are worth it to gain more powerful gear. It's a bit of a chore but the simple gameplay can make up for that.

    Lastly, there's the aesthetic of this game too. Along with everything else, they've added extra textures in all different directions. Icons look better, the menus look better. Even some of the newer weapons look cool. They keep with the chunky, metal machine look that get's somewhat more pronounced as the game goes on. I think it looks quite fetching, especially for the guns. The various pistols in this game seem to take their key elements from Nerf guns usually. And I think Nerf guns are pretty well designed toys. Yes, they looks slightly like toys but not enough to look weak or useless. In fact, some can look pretty sweet. How about the Umbra Driver for example?

    Now there's something you don't want to be on the business end of

    This is a shadow weapon. I like how that's 'generated' by the rows of canisters like cylinders in a V8 engine and how the handle ends in that slightly redundant lump. It's not there for any other reason than a little style. Classy.

    So, I'm overwhelmingly for this game. Would I recommend this to you? For what it is, yeah. You'll have to get over the fact that you'll be playing for the gameplay over the story of the world. You can try and get into it but it's rarely all that important. You'll have to brave some repetition in environment and a lot of repetition in enemies. And learn to take defeat in your stride.

    But, you'll find a lot of simple hack and slash action with a reasonable amount of specialisation that can even be co-ordinated between a group of friends. It'll give a hearty challenge while letting you come back as many times as you think you can manage. Plus, laser-firing Angel-kitty that eats rusty springs. What's not to like?

    Apart from forging.
  4. A young man stands on a Manchester street. He is outside the convention venue, the lamplight lighting the way as well as the bright glow of the Hall's many, many windows like a lamp made by a mad mathematician. It was all angles and boxes arranged and crushed in many strange and odd angles, these lantern-like windows as bright as can be in the night air. There is someone he's heard of as being called 'Sketchy' bouncing on the spot with a guitar, singing of loyalty or generosity. It not too cold or too warm and so the others have spilled from the front doors, spreading out and slowly trickling back to their beds after one long, lasting goodbye.

    But not without spreading a little more cheer first.

    They were talking, a group hug could break out at any moment. These friendly scums were all about swamping each one of the people involved. You could be hugged or bro-hoofed at any moment.

    And this was it. This was that last moment to be here. This place that was so busy, lively and welcoming and comfortable and happy and bright. He'd grown a new determination, made new friends and come across people he'd talked to but never seen. This was a...the time for cliche is now. This was a magic place and it always should be. Sentimentality isn't a crime, after all.

    He fights a little puffiness around his eyes. He's tall, a little chubby around the middle in his Pac-Man T-shirt and jacket. One hand is holding the handle of the pokadot suitcase containing the reason he was expected here. The other was anticipating sudden moisture around his eyes. His hair was long, greasy from the excersions of the day and curling at the ends, curiously. He looks up and out over everyone, slowly filtering away.

    He turns but finds he can't take a step away yet. There's a dull twang. A mermur that rumbles through his chest as the vaguest possible sentation within his chest. He can feel the pendulm to his clockworks fall with every thought about taking another step. The elation wouldn't be here for a year. The excitement, the people, that chance to let loose until he can't carry on any more.

    He sighs, smiling and turns, joining in with the small group singing with the man and the guitar.



    I really feel like a little of my heart is here now. Cheesy? Fine, but I'm settling from the massive high I got from today. A little cheesy is expected.

    The Tournament went well. Firstly, it was packed! Around 60 possible applicants turned up to come test their metal. As we started moving people into the room, I found staff members going ape about this. Bridgewater Hall wasn't happy with letting too many people into one room and were trying to make sure we would stick to the maximum limit. Why was there a maximum limit? I don't know. Maybe it was to stop people combusting. Either way, it meant we had to change tact from the relaxing day of watching Smash Brother's I was expecting.

    So, we took applicants then ran through the tournament as quickly as possible with as few mistakes as possible. As long as people were happy, I was happy. The competition was fierce but it was more as fierce as I thought it would have been because a guy called Trottingsky decided to borrow my Mega Drive (Genesis) and host his own little tourney with it. Which was pretty awesome. I thought he had better prises than the three Steam games I had to offer but still, a little more prep next year with him and we'll have something really special, I am sure.

    The quality of fights was good. I was surprised I could comentate as well as I could, pulling out various possible tactics and things. I was getting into it as I tried to keep things up at a steady pace. I ended up giving prizes to someone called Jamie I think and the guy that runs the Ask Pinkimina Tumblr blog. I even got thrashed at Brawl, despite putting up a decent fight. Clearly, I had found a powerful team of players. Or, more likely, my lack of practice is staggering.

    I'm not looking forward to dragging that suitcase full of game's consoles around tomorrow, let me tell ya!

    Everything else was pretty neat. The panels were interesting and the Artist's panel was one joke after another. I laughed hard at that one. Also, those MLP writing staff can get pretty crafty when they don't have much of an answer.

    The closing ceremony was great fun. A final send off I'll never forget. It seemed strangely evangelical towards the end as I got swept up in all the commotion and noise and excitement. I mean, stacking ponies a few chairs away from me was getting some intense attention. Singing 'Winter Wrap Up' was something I'd put as much energy as I could into. Trying to belt it out as best as I can. It was great to go with the crowd at that point. You were part of the fun and silliness, it was happening right in front of you! It's you and over a thousand people that are tuned to the same station as you. I wouldn't trade that moment.

    Man, I've got some work to do for next year...I settle in places quickly and start to find my barings rather quickly. It's going to make my bedroom a stangely forign place to be. Especially when I'm the only one in it.

    I'll get right on a compalation of my experiences here when I can, Everypony. I hope you've enjoyed reading these.


    He turns and starts walking, the murmur dying slowly as he reassures himself that he'd come back when he can. In silence, he dreams of the comming months and the blog post he was dying to write. He had to share this. He'd never do it justice but you either write it or let it fester. Broadcasting joy trumps anything.
  5. The first day of BUCK went well.

    So, hurrying out of Hatters Hostel on Newton Street with equipment in hand and after five hours sleep trying to use the bloody ridiculous internet there to try and upload the CP I hurriedly tried to make. That's why it's gone, I have no reliable internet here. I'm trying to get it to someone that can help but it'll take a while. A long while....

    Anyway, I turn up and find that my stuff has been locked away somewhere and I will have to wait until a certain point until I can get in there and set up for my little 'Free Play' session. Apparently, I was taking the spot of some developers that couldn't make it to BUCK for whatever reason. Some of these guys were disappointed and turned around but the majority stayed put and tried to get in some practice before the tourney tomorrow. I'm considering it a success nonetheless as we all knock several colours of snot out of each other. I'd have prefered to be out in the open and visible so that more people know what's going on and I don't have to run around and advertising the event. However, it makes it a little oasis in the middle of the noise and movement. There it's a mixed bag but I'm just happy to have been given the time.

    You know whatelse happened? I met some peeps! I finally got to meet Dodo and Chocolate Chip in the flesh. I had no conception of Dodo but I expected Chip to be a little bigger somehow...Eh! Never mind. He thought I'd be smaller so there's that, I guess. With me, Poetic and Yeti, the little group of us wandering around, watching panels and the auction, it was just great to catch up and learn about these people I've talked to but never had a face for.

    The Auctions weren't as spectacular as last years but they were pretty massive regardless. One guy spent just shy of £1000 on a Twilight fursuit and a full collection of Pony Trading Cards. So, hats off to them for donating so much. I hope they find a decent use for that suit, considering it's cost.

    I did mean to drop by and watch Pipsqueak's stand up routine but I am exhausted right now. I need a decent night's sleep, me.

    So, now I'm a greatly broken shell of a man as I sit on a hard wooden bench in the Hostel, hoping the internet will hold up long enough to finish what I want it for. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the possible buzz about the tourney but I also can't wait for Monday where I head back to some comfort and quiet. I haven't quite had my fill but a nice, soft bed would be wonderful right now...

    Night night Everypony. I'm not too annoied about missing the Luna...thing but I'm just happy to rest my feet andnasojdsijjjjjjjiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
  6. Hey guys!

    Friday has been rather quiet. Seeing as the Con is only Saturday and Sunday, the Bronies have had to keep themselves busy in Manchester until the Summer Sun Celibration later on today at 7pm.

    The first thing happening? Well, a few of us wondered into a Fobbiden....Something to pick up to early merc. I now have some decent reading material thanks to my new MLP comic.

    And then there was a nice big meet up where we flooded a Starbucks for a while. There were doodles, plushies and far too much noise to be heard. I was even asked to take a request for the first time. Not knowing who the guy was talking about cost me the job...Ah well.

    So far, the group I'm travelling with has proven to be an excellent move. After having my rump handed to me by BUCK: Legacy quite handily, we're just hanging around until the SSC later.

    I am starting to see the errors of turning up on Thursday. The bit I'm looking forward to - the con and meeting you lovely lot that are coming over - isn't till tomorrow. For now, I can wait for the Celebration, debating a drink now or a drink later.

    Don't worry! I've been taking photos and stuff!

    Talk at you later!

    - Tyro
  7. So I sit here in the Hatters Hostel, being offered a few drinks and looking up where I'm going to be going tomorrow before bed.

    The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

    Wow! This is exactly the same place as before! Is this a bad thing? Nope!

    This place was lovely and reasonably roomy from what I remember. It was all windows and bright light. It was basically meltingly hot but it was a lovely space to walk around.

    At least, I think so...Ah well! Photos ahoy!
  8. Howdy!

    So, I'm writing to you from the Pre-Meet for the Second Ever BUCK! I am in Manchester in my snazzy Pikachu t-shirt and getting in a cider and a good chin wag before bed.

    I rode the bus with Yeti from London, chatting and watching cartoons all the way before rolling into our home for the next few days. The Hatter Hostel is old but nice and will do for me. It has internet so I can't complain.

    I'm crashing with some of the Czech Bronies (I think that's correct) and they're a cheery lot. One named Creepy mentioned Pikachu pronounced in a certain way was "I'll stab you" or something. It might have livened up the show if Pikachu had a flick knife. Garry Oak won't last a season.

    Any, I'm debating another drink. Neither me or Yeti can wait to see you in person!

    Talk to you later! I'll try recording as much as I can!

    - Tyro
  9. So...Let me show you what I got out of the Steam Summer Sale.


    [size=+1]Sonic CD[/size]​

    Ah! Sonic! My childhood is in sitting with a Mega Drive controller in my hands racing my friends to the finishing line. Nothing has more nostalgia for me than when I switch on my modest little Mega Drive Mark 1 and play a little Sonic 2. Ah! Sonic 2, when things were simple...

    Sonic CD on the other hand...Yeah, you've likely heard of it but not played it. And it's not that surprising considering it's history in the grand scheme of gaming. Why? Well, I'd need to actually delve into that history a bit but that stuff has been done over and over by other reviewers. So, I won't just spout it. I'll do so in limerick form!

    This game was on the Sega CD
    Released here in 1993
    It was largely pointless
    And needed to cost less
    And ended up as a rest for your coffee

    You see the thing was a joke
    The Saturn was your bloke
    With more instore
    This was a bore
    So Sega's plan for life was broke

    But Sega seem hellbent on getting in on the PC market too. Even their older stuff. Hence, this Steam version.

    Anyway, of the 220 odd titles in the library, Sonic CD is probably one of the most basic from what I've seen of them. In that the Full Motion Video technology touted then as the future. What is Full Motion Video? It's just a video that get's played during game play. Well, it was impressive at the time considering cutscenes were done with sprites instead of video and pretty much all of the Sega CD games have some video in them somewhere and Sonic is no exception.

    And you know what? It makes sense here. Your first thing you get to see is a little animated thing of Sonic running around and some music. Those expecting 'Sonic Boom' or something like it will be sorely disappointed because the game is automatically set to the original Japanese music for some reason. Well, that can be set to USA stuff and it looks really good. It's fast paced, pretty if showing it's age a little and actually serves the purpose of showing you Robotnik's latest mechanical monstrosity. It's a neat little extra before you go back to the world of sprites. There are a lot of Sega CD games that use the whole FMV thing too much but these guys seem rather reserved with it.

    So! How about game play? Well, take the classic engine and formula of Sonic 3 and add a couple of bits. Seriously, if you've played a 16-bit Sonic game in your life, you'll know what this game feels like. However, there's two bits they've added.

    Number One is that Sonic can now perform a Super Peel-Out. While that is one of the weirdest names for a move I've ever heard, it's basically a faster alternative to your Spin Dash. While your Spin Dash will let you roll away at speed, the Super Peel-Out is much, much faster. The only problem is that you're not in your ball and are therefore vulnerable. It's an interesting trade off between speed and security. Usually, I'll curl up into a ball when at speed to avoid being damaged by anything. However, rushing forwards while upright just for the speed is handy but needs a little care.

    Number Two is Time Travel. Seriously, Sonic CD is about time travel. There's some gobbledygook about these Time Stone thingies which are basically the Chaos Emeralds but they cause time anomalies. Also, it makes it really easy to jump around in time. Robotnik has taken advantage of this little world using these time travel abilities. How it all works is that all Sonic has to do is pick a time destination from the Past or Future signposts all over the level and then maintain a constant high speed. He'll start sparkling and then suddenly flash back or forwards in time if you can keep that speed up.

    So, yeah. Sonic travels through time in the same way the Delorean Time Machine from Back to the Future manages it. Slow down and you kill your chance to travel at all.

    And, you know what? It's as confusing as all hell! The time travel stuff makes things way more complicated. Not only do you know have to get through the level in one piece but you now have to time travel back to the past to destroy the machines making badniks in the present but also robotizing the future. Without a manual, visual clue or even a little tutorial.

    Umm...Sega! I'm not Uri Geller! Bending spoons and reading your mind are pretty different things anyway. Tell me what you want me to do with your new mechanic before you let me loose with it because otherwise, I'm likely going to ignore it. You can't assume time travel will fit neatly into the Sonic formula. As it turns out, it's as intuitive as trying to eat peas with a slinky! Add the manual to the Steam version! They do let you do it!

    Anyhoo, you have to destroy two machines that are hidden in every stage and then get to the end. And I mean every single one without a boss in it somewhere or you don't get the Good Ending where Robotnik has been truly boxed back. What's even worse is that finding a Past signpost, travelling back and then managing to find the end is such a pain! Especially if you accidentally hit a Future post too.

    And while I'm talking about the Future in this game, you'll never want to go there. If you're looking to complete this game, there is no point to going there. There's more enemies and little worth finding, as far as I can tell. Remember; this game doesn't come with any manuals or anything like that, for some reason. At least, not on the Steam version.

    Travelling back only works if you maintain your speed. Maintaining your speed needs a large stretch of land without anything in it. While plenty of levels have parts designed to bounce you around in order to gain enough speed to zip back but I've still found it a great pain in later levels. Especially the compulsory water level. Trying to get some speed down there is impossible. Then you have to find the machines and smash them both. Then you get to the goal.

    It's exhausting. If you're going to play this now in 2013, use a level map. Your sanity demands it.

    Oh! And remember the Time Stones? You have to collect all of those. All seven of them!

    To collect the stones, you have to find 50 rings then get to the end. Just like in the original game, you then jump in the magic ring. Then, you have to jump around a 3D environment to destroy UFO's.

    Well, it makes as much sense as running through a half-pipe or around a giant ball. Anyway, destroy all of them and you get the stone.

    The issue I have with it is it's difficulty. I really can't seem to get the hang of it. It's not that easy to judge the UFO's distance and that time limit is tight. I appreciate the challenge as it rarely feels particularly unfair. However, it's a tough thing to do.

    But, the game expects you to find a Past signpost, find a stretch large enough to get the speed, smash the machines then get to the end while protecting 50 rings. Once you're there, you then kill the UFO's until there's no more Stones. It's demanding and ridiculously difficult to do.

    However, I really like it? It's charming, the gameplay is solid and the challenge is welcome. The designs and colours of this place is amazing, if very, very busy. Otherwise, it's really fun. I really like it. Sure, the game is demanding a lot but once you figure it out, it's doable. Especially in 2013 where the internet lets you find all the information you need, should you want it.

    You know what else? It's rather creative. The levels do keep you guessing, especially ones with a floor that will launch you into the air over and over. Or the one with the wheels you have to jump into. Things go look pretty spectacular and it is satisfying to complete all the extra bits with time travel and the stones stuff. Even just one part of it has a satisfying little burst of accomplishment.

    Even the bosses get creative in this game. Robotnik will fight you entirely underwater in one stage, surrounding himself in a bubble ring you have to burst to get to him. Another is a sort of boxing bot that will repel your attacks with it's attached bumper fists. They're pretty unique ideas. They largely seem as though Robotnik is just finding stuff in the world he's already taken over to try and kill you with sometimes too. Like this one boss where you have to run along a treadmill below you to grind away at Robotnik's armoured purch that you've knocked to the floor.

    While it's rather clever, I'd still suggest looking up where everything is. It doesn't make it easier, just...possible. If you have a little bit of money around, go for it. It's a decent little title from a console add-on that died fast.
  10. Well, I haven't done this for a while....errm...OK. OK, how about this?



    Oh my word is this tripe idiotic and soulless! I may be only a student of Computer Game Development and Design but I swear, I could make a better game, even if I had my hands removed and could only use my nose, pressing keys by slamming my face at the keyboard like a confused woodpecker. Heck! I could use my rear end and it would still be better than this! It's such a soulless, loveless, thoughtless, lazy, futile, miserable, colourless, tasteless, boring, irritatingly long, frustratingly pointless, fruitless, witless gas bubble from the sewer run-off leading away from Square Enix.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was the prototype for the excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The sci-fi setting, the cover-based shooting, the designs for the interface, the RPG addons. All that stuff that worked well in Human Revolution but not here for oh so many reasons!

    Firstly! It's ugly! It has no charm or personality to anything on screen. The primary colour is grey, I feel like I'm walking through a disused car-park most of the time. But wait! There's light blue strips embedded in everything they could put them in! Oh! Well it must be the future then if they're there. No one in their right mind or with any emotion whatsoever would make any of these locations like this but fine! Whatever.

    You see, Human Revolution was smarter than this. There was repetition to some of the interior designs, sure! But they looked like somewhere you would be comfortable in. The primary colour seemed to be orange but at least it was mixed up with other things. The game attempted these complex designs for the augments and the various machines and facilities you roamed through. When you were in a slum, it looked run down and dirty. When you were in an upmarket building, it was clean, warm and inviting. While still looking like the future without just adding some neon lights everywhere!

    Secondly, there's no variation in what I'm doing and by Celestia's G-String, is it boring! I have never been so frustrated and so underwhelmed by the fact that I have succeeded. It's all cover based shooting and you continue like this over and over and over. It feels like a shooting range and get this! Every enemy has to move to a predetermined position before they attempt to find cover! So they'll all waddle over to this arbitrary spot before their AI will kick in. Exhilarating to know that I'm fighting the intellectually sub-normal. I half expect to be able to avoid fights by simply throwing down brightly coloured toys.

    The one time throwing blind bag Ponies would be a good idea and I can't! Just hypnotise them with a Rarity doll in a train and walk through them unharmed. Still, that would be a mechanic that would be entertaining, even if I'm just laughing at it.

    Instead, we have the mindhack feature. Why it's called MindJack when you spend your time performing something called a mindhack is the least of your worries because the feature doesn't feel all that rewarding. You have two levels of this power you're given. Mindslaving is a process where you weaken enemies by shooting them first. Once that happens, you walk up to them and hit square (because PS3) and you'll make them your ally until you win the firefight.

    Ok, a few things I find annoying with it.

    It has a really sucky range. I know that's something that could utterly break the game if you can control people from afar but it is really irritating to not be able to Mindslave someone because you're pinned down by fire. You have to run out, enslave, then run back to cover as quickly as possible. It's frustrating.

    Also, there's not much benefit to doing so. The AI is a moron that will wander out of cover and straight into fire whether it's with you or against you. So, they die fast and only manage to become a short reprieve from the Protagonist Response Unit's constant fire. They're supposed to be the police but further than that, they don't do much or explain why they want to kill you so bad.

    Another thing is that you can't have too many of them. It would be cool if you could have loads of enslaved soldiers like Pikmin. About ten or fifteen, all swarming and shooting for you with thoughts of playing with the Twilight Sparkle you promised them or whatever. That would be cool but all Mind Powers drain an energy bar that you drain to enslave things. You only seem to get that back when a slave has been killed. It tends to run out after three guys. It's hardly an army but I am fighting tall toddlers in full body armour and gasmasks so it could be worse.

    The only rewarding thing about Mindslaving? Well, the effect of an extra gun appears minimal so your only bothering for something else for the enemy to fire at. Otherwise, I got a vague kick from pretending to be Littlekuriboh's version of Marik as I took peoples minds. Otherwise, I was just doing shooty-shooty at the nasty men.

    Yes! Carry out my bidding, Mind Slave, or Fluttershy will mysteriously disappear! Ah-ha-ha-haaa!

    The other level to this is Mindjacking! This is when you leap out of your body and wander around the battlefield to look for another to possess. That is also a cool idea, like the Mindslaving. And like the Mindslaving, it has some major issues with it.

    Your old body is then AI controlled when you leave it. And we all know what means by now! The difference is that you have two main characters called...Gun-Man and Plot-Girl that the game relies on being alive to continue because the story needs them specifically. I suddenly can't change things to the Amazing Adventures of A Random Robot because it will also return you to Gun-Man every single time you win a firefight.

    But get this! You lose and return to the last checkpoint if you let Gun-Man and Plot-Girl die. They can be revived, somehow, with your mind powers but it's extremely difficult to revive them in time if both of them have been killed as the time you have is very short. Otherwise, they tend to be able to heal each other well enough. And only if they're not under attack too much because one will rush straight to the other's need regardless of the danger. And they die rather often and always because the AI tried to take cover behind the wrong thing. A giant robot attacked us and Gun-Man tried taking cover behind a wall, right in the robots line of fire. And he didn't move an inch out of the way!

    So, getting out of your skin is annoying but there's got to be some benefit right? Well, the other things you can control offer an alternative direction of attack, at least. Seeing as you can try and outflank the enemy by possessing a robot or a civilian huddling behind them, it does offer some tactical advantage. The robots can fire their weapons and explode as a sort of disposable gun which is handy. The civilians are a little different as they control exactly as Gun-Man and Plot-Girl do to, with cover based stuff and two weapons and everything.

    It's just that they pull a weapon out from nowhere and start fighting. I'm serious, they pull a gun out from their underpants or something and start firing off rounds. It makes no sense at all. I wasn't aware I was fighting in the futuristic version of Sanford!

    Basically this but in neon blue and gray

    It's possible to make thin, business like women take on these armed personnel. It's even possible to control children later on. It's funny but because the AI is trying out it's new tactic of soaking up the bad guy's bullets so they have none left but is using one of the guys you need alive to progress as the sponge, it's rather dampens the experience. It becomes a frustrating chore to make sure your advantage pays off rather than an organic, if bizarre way of introducing some sense of tactics.

    And, let's talk about the story and characters. Because just growling "Assuming Control!" every time I switched bodies wasn't going to cut it for ten hours of shooting galleries and tempting people to your side with ponies. After all, there might be a nice context to all this.

    What they give you is as bare as possible in a plot that should be good and interesting, but has no soul to it at all. I call the protagonists Gun-man and Plot-Girl because I don't care about their names. They might as well be called that because all Gun-Man does is fail at witty banter and shoot things while Plot-Girl give you a new excuse to move onwards to the next linear, enclosed, boring location to shoot more of the same guys. That's it. Nothing much else is revealed, other than Plot-Girl being a scientist or something.

    And this game has a twist and I'm pretty sure it's horribly obvious what it is. It's also an idiotic one at that as I'm pretty sure the game will end with me finding out that I've been playing as an outside force that has been hacking these people and driving them towards some goal like an outside puppeteer. Which is weird, as I appear to leave my puppets with no knowledge of that happening, even though they can clearly see people being enslaved and fighting for me. It's laughably pointless. It seems to be around technology where people have chips in their brains that are supposed to control their homes' but can be used to control you instead. If one of the cinematics is to be believed there's two factions in this too and they fight each other. Whoop-di-doo...I just keep hoping this game was more awful.

    You see, if it was even worse, I could find some humour in how badly it's attempting to engage me. Like The Room or Troll 2, it could be trying to be good but coming off as too corny or idiotic or something that I could at least enjoy as a spectacle, whether it's a good or bad design decision. Mindjack is not a good bad game. It's too frustrating to really be noteworthy or worth looking for the things to laugh at. It's grey, lifeless and colourless sludge. The shooting mechanics are acceptable, I suppose but it has no heart to it and little reason for me to care as a result.

    Still, there are good bad games that are worth seeing. I might show you one I found sometime soon...Watch this space.
  11. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]Nerf Guns[/size]​

    These things are cool. They're powerful, built to be very sturdy, brightly coloured, powerful and surprisingly accurate. They can be anything from cheapy, tiny pistol to massive beasts of dart death. There's so many varieties to choose from and each can be customised just for you. Whether Nerf supplied that modification or not, these guns are probably one of the most interestingly versatile toys you'll see. Some will mod them to be more powerful or fix flaws in the original design. Others will make them look all pretty. Or pretty badass, one or the other.

    But above all, Nerf Guns tend to make you feel like this:

    [size=-1]Sunglasses, suits, kick-ass soundtrack and disappointing sequels sold separately.[/size]​

    So, I'm going to try and take a look at as many as I can get my grubby paws on.

    The Jolt EX-1

    This is the very cheapest dart blaster you can buy and it's a bargain! It's frankly amazing how powerful this tiny little thing can deliver so much power and range in one tiny device. The range is long, it's accurate and it fires pretty much anything you like to boot. Whistler darts, Elite Darts, normal ones. It's all brought down by the fact that it's very basic. It only has one barrel to shoot from and it's got nowhere to store more ammo. Although, it being so small and easy to fire, it's frankly worth having as a back-up or a surprise weapon. It's a damn handy starter for anyone.

    The Scout IX-3

    This one is...well, meh. Nowadays, a single shot Blaster has to be pretty spectacular to be able to compete with the multi-shot boys that today's guns are able to be. This doesn't quite cut it. The accuracy is fine, the range is decent enough and it's a reliable device but it's still one barrel and one shot at a time. Even if you pick up the duel-wielding pack with two of these things in it, The Scout doesn't hold up all that well against other, more advanced guns. It's a decent weapon if you're low on cash but you're not going to be all that formidable.

    Plus, mine broke after a while. The only blaster I own to do so.

    The Nite Finder EX-3

    Like I said, to be a decent choice in this multi-barrelled world we live in today, Blasters with only one barrel are overwhelmed by the more advanced stuff.

    Except for the Nite Finder. You can love or leave the targeting whatsimagigger (technical term, I'll have you know) on the front because this thing is for range and accuracy. It's a long range gun for picking off peeps at a distance. Sort of like a mini-cross bow, you just pull back, load and fire. It's even got two slots for extra darts to go, which is handy. The guns also rather light and squat for easy aiming. All in all, rather handy, if you ask me.

    Havok Fire EBF-25/Vulcan EBF-25

    Have you ever wanted to be The Heavy from Team Fortress 2? Well, sounding like Cthullu passing gas when you speak, being built like a potato with legs and an unhealthy relationship with weaponry is something you'll have to work on your own with but I can help with the minigun.

    The Havok (UK Name, known as a Vulcan elsewhere) is the most intimidating thing you'll ever point at anypony your not getting along with. With a large capacity and a reasonably quick firing rate, this monster will spew hot foam all over the place. It's not accurate and its not light but its a minigun, its not what its for.

    There's a stand to attach to the gun for when you're standing still and there's a manual fire too if you're ample batteries fail on you. It's just that reloading takes an age and a half and a day. The gun is fed a belt of darts that has to be refilled individually by hand, one by one. It's slow and irritating in a firefight, forcing you to buy another few belts to fill and then replace to reload everything. If you can get over the glacial reload speed, you'll be spraying everything in front of you while crying for the tiny baby-men to run.


    Think of the Nite Finder. Got that in your mind? Well, this is from a slightly later series of these guns called N-Strike Elite while the others so far have all been regular old N-Strike. Assumingly, this is just an upgrade of all these guns because the Firestrike is an improvement in every way on the older model.

    It's unflappable when it comes to jamming and an even greater range than before. It's just as accurate and, well...It looks like something from Mass Effect. In blue, mind but definitely Mass Effect. That's a bonus to me. The targeting light thing is controlled by a secondary trigger this time rather than a constant switch for easier access. Although, everything else is the same, such as single barrel and two ammo slots. The last one was a decent Blaster but this is an even better weapon.

    The Maverick

    This is the Classic Nerf gun. That one design everyone seem to recognised and then point to instantly when they think of these things. The exaggerated barrel, the yellow paint job and how it all feels to hold in the hand. It's Blasters like the Maverick that make Nerf guns so handy to designers, movie prop makers and cosplayers all over the place. They just look cool, even when repainted.

    Luckily, The Maverick is actually a pretty sweet Blaster. That revolver design isn't just to be showy, apparently. This thing has six darts that can be made to fire cowboy style in rapid succession. It'll fire most micro darts and has a simple little pullback reloader. While it might take a moment to get used to rearming this thing, what's nice is that it can be modified very easily too. It's range is decent and so is it's accuracy. It's a reliable pistol, as long as you can get used to being a little forward heavy.

    The Furyfire

    This thing is rather strange. OK, imagine the Maverick but now with a larger barrel of darts. On top of that, they added a pump under the longer barrel like a shotgun. So, you get more shots between each reload and a faster fire rate at the cost of range. Of course, you'll be reloading for longer too. Oh! And if you find it new, you'll only find it in a 2-player double pack. So, that's two of these things in one pack with some dart targets and a shed load of ammo. That's a pretty decent deal, I think. Despite the range loss, it's still a really good, comfortable gun.

    The Strongarm

    And now we've got the very best of the bunch so far. While it wouldn't look out of place in Garrus Vakarian's hand either as it's part of the N-Strike Elite series. They all look like Mass Effect weapons. N-Strike looks like Borderlands though so make of that what you will.

    Also, a lot of pistols on this list. Maybe there's some gunslinger appeal there. Anyway...

    The Strongarm is basically the Maverick V2.0. The new design goes from Ratchet and Clank to something less cartoony. Then it bumps up the power of the thing, allowing for a better range and accuracy. Reliability is roughly the same but the rate of fire is as fast as you possibly can. Plus, in keeping with the Yosemite Sam School of Marksmanship, you can perform slam-firing to get that rate up to 3 or 4 darts a second.

    Oh, err...Slam-firing is when you hold down the trigger and then pull back the arming hammer back until it clicks then letting go. The Strongarm fires on that click because the trigger is down. The Maverick can't do this because the mechanism is different and rotating the barrel is done by pulling the trigger while the click on the Strongarm is rotating the barrel and firing the dart. The Strongarm can be made to fire in a quick succession if you just keep pulling back the hammer with the trigger down like hip firing a revolver.

    The capacity is still the same and will fire pretty much anything. It's an improvement in every respect over the Maverick.

    Will I get rid of my Maverick for a Strongarm? Nope! This is what my two hands are for!

    If you're looking for decent advice, reviews and even suggestions about mods with Nerf Guns, try the Nerf Wiki. Yes, they have a wiki and it's pretty decently detailed too. They're probably more help than I am.
  12. Well, I've been busier than a Parasprite in a Masterchef final: Admin stuff, university coursework, trimming my tails.

    By Celestia's g-string, I've practically frazzled my bo-shazzle. Or...something coherent and in English. Now, do I blow of some steam by abusing my power here or do I just go play something? Hmm...Armies of slaves to storm and conquer Equestria Daily or go play that new Poker Night Game? Hmm...

    Seth might be better with a dog comb than he looks and I'd finally get to have a showdown with that Xyro guy...

    [size=-1]Pictured: Statistical Improbability[/size]​

    Nah! Let's review stuff. Get some normality back for a bit.

    [size=+1]Poker Night 2[/size]​

    Good Great Gravity Gravy, is this game good.

    Poker Night at the Inventory is something I could have sworn I've written about but apparently I haven't so here's the quick version: very funny and surprisingly entertaining in both it's gameplay and comedy. The characters talking to one another connects you to them and makes things all the sweeter when you kick their behinds with a flush from nowhere. Plus, you can win little things to then use in TF2, such as the Pacman Watch and one of The Heavy's miniguns. It's a really well made, well-polished and entertaining little jaunts into what game characters do in their down time.

    Poker Night 2 is an upgrade in almost every single aspect of the orignal game. The graphics look even better and slicker, the writing is funnier while also expanding on the idea of characters interacting with each other outside of their respective universes and the gameplay has been subjectected to a tune-up then given a few well thought out additions. Over all, it's an excellent package.

    Oh! And the rewards are better two. You still get TF2 doodads but now you get stuff for Boarderlands 2 as well. Although, what I'm going to do with my character skin, gold and XP boost I'm not sure without the game.

    So, the first thing that has to be addressed is the cast. In the first game, it's what sold it as one of my favourite games because Strong Bad, Max, Tycho and The Heavy were just great to listen to.

    So, I saw the cast for his game and...Well, I wasn't overly impressed with all of them. One got me stupendously excited but the others just had me scratching my head in confusion.

    I mean, Sam from the Sam and Max series? After Max was in the last one? All right. Claptrap? I'm not sure. I need to play Boarderlands but I've heard that Claptrap doesn't have much of a presence outside of being a glorified PA. Hmm...And I've no idea how the other two got in here. Ash Williams of Army of Darkness and the Evil Dead films? I know he was awesome in them but I've never heard of the game made from them. Bruce Campbell or not, him and his chin aren't what I'd have thought of when I think of for 'Gaming Icons playing Poker'. Telltale must be raiding their player model bins again, like they did with Strong Bad and Max. There it was understandable because the game was an experiment. Why here though? Poker Night at the Inventory as a success right? And who the hell is Brock Samson? What's Venture Bros.? I don't watch Cartoon Network anymore, much less Adult Swim! Oh boy...This could suck...

    GlaDos is the dealer? OK, I'm willing to give this a go.

    Well, all that whining was for nothing because the characters are fantastic. They work off each other fantastically well and get their personalities across in a clear manner while even showcasing each character's appeal very well.

    GlaDos, of course, is forever undermining your self-esteem with backhanded jokes at someone elses expense while dealing cards. She'll comment on the character's and your play styles while chipping into the banter whenever she feels like it by dropping from the ceiling from out of shot. Her transferal into this game is seamless and impeccably done with some scene stealing lines.

    Claptrap is probably the loudest and one of the more prevalent characters. He will make most of the jokes, mainly along the same lines of Strong Bad's egotism from the first game or around being a robot. He'll even hit on GlaDos, who puts him down quickly like a lit bomb. What's also rather fun about him is how self-aware some of his jokes can get. I think the level of how much they try to do with him is worth keeping quiet about but it's some of the most laugh out loud moments I've enjoyed for a while. Considering I reckon that Boarderlands 2's working title was "Referenceland 2: Revenge of the In-Jokes", it makes a lot of sense for Claptrap to be the centre of most of the referential and even fourth-wall humour on offer.

    Then there's Brock, who's voice you'll recognise from somewhere. Those deep tones always sound fantastic. While acting more as a straight man to the others, Brock is surprisingly likable and suave character in this. Don't get me wrong, the psychotic maniac bubbling beneath and the hyper-masculinity shine through as well but he's so cool, he's hard not to like. He might not have the lines, but he makes me want to check out his cartoon.

    Now, Sam is definitely the other character that's actively telling jokes. His conversations with Claptrap about being in a Boarderlands 2 expansion pack are entertaining as well as his alternative swear words. I'm thinking of shouting "Asterisks!" more often, just to see the faces around me. What makes his lines even better is that Max is present too. Sitting in the background and just as capable of chipping in, the pair function as a double act. This works greatly in their favour as they can now have, say, Sam set up a joke and Max pay it off as he skips around in the background, clearly bored.

    And finally, the least interesting character; Ash. It's not to say that I don't like him though. He's friendly enough, has a few neat lines and even takes part in a few good jokes but he's very overshadowed in this compared to the other four, especially Claptrap. Although, a foghorn could be overshadowed by the robot. He's welcome but not hugely memorable sitting amongst AI, Dogs and Brock, somehow. Still, I was praying for one of the VG cats and I never thought I'd ever see him in a game like this. Makes me wonder if they want Martie McFly in the next one.

    In fact, the humour here is one of the biggest upgrades. You see, it was entertaining to listen to the last game because they were playing with the concept of worlds meeting. There were in-jokes but characters would make fun of each other too. Poker Night 2 kicks everything up to 11. The characters still make jokes about their worlds and comment on each other but they're written with so much less restriction here. They're slicker, funnier and allow the character's to compliment and put each other down brutally well.

    While the characters are all well and good, there's another place where this game is better: the gameplay. So, what can I say? Well, it's Texas Hold 'em. It's reasonably quick to pick up and learn, I've found it surprisingly fun and the dialogue has only enhanced the experience. Extra features is where the game get's interesting.

    For starters, they've added a small shed-load of new booty to claim from the four of them. Each character has a bounty that can be won by winning a tournament when one is revealed. You can unlock the chance for a bounty to appear by completing three, randomly chosen objectives while you play tournaments. They're rather simple things like go all in, or steal two pots and won't push you too hard in terms of their difficulty to pull off. Once complete, you'll be told that a bounty will be put on the table. If you loose in the tournament, the item is taken back but your given another chance for another bounty in the next tournament until you have one a bounty. Then you get three more objectives and start again. For a way of adding some purpose to your games, this really does add to the desire to win and continue to play for more unlocks. Afterall, you get those sweet extras for other games with every bounty.

    Then, there's the added strategy here. The last game was not big on poker faces. Character's could get very transparent about their hands and give away how badly or well they were doing in a moment of weakness sometimes. Although, their actions still reflected that too. In Poker Night 2, these little outbursts aren't as prevalent which makes the game that much more difficult to play well. You can read their actions and small movements but they won't telegraph quite as much.

    But you can make them do so by buying them drinks. Playing respectively in tournaments gives you Inventory Tokens that you can use to pay for drinks. These drinks then let down a little of the player's poker face so that they'll be a little more honest about their cards. Now, each costs 5 tokens and you can only buy one for each of your other players. This is rather interesting if you can't afford to buy a whole round. You'll then have to choose who's the biggest threat to you.

    And that's not all! The last game rewarded wins with extra decks and various alternative tables. Some would alter something about the appearance of the game as well, like giving The Heavy a dealers hat or something. Poker Night 2 is the same but your tokens buy these alterations. Each one costs a certain amount and when you buy a set of chips, table felt and cards, the whole Inventory's appearence is altered to match the theme. Each set is based on what each character hales from, so there's Portal, Boarderlands and the like. When each set is complete and activated, it will even alter certain events. I activated the Boarderlands set and Steve popped up and fired a rocket-launcher at Brock. I activated the Venture Bros. one and his head ended up sticking out of the wall. They're well worth picking up to spice up the game when it's getting stale.

    What I found rather neat is that the Drink system means that your tokens continues to have a use when you've brought everything. Clever design, that.

    So...I think I've gushed for long enough. What will ultimately tarnish this is hearing the lines over and over with extended play. While the game seems to inject new lines every so often to keep itself sounding fresh sometimes, the game will soon get a little tiresome. For me, this didn't really happen, I just tuned out most of what they were saying. Most of the lines are good enough not to get too grating, for me anyway, someone else could start to feel the deja-vu getting to them.

    For a game this entertaining for something so small, I am very pleased that my...what? £4 went towards this. It's creative, bright, colourful and tons of fun. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think Sam is bluffing.
  13. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]Wreck-It Ralph[/size]​

    Tyro the Fox is British. That's why this review is several months late. The European release of this film has had a major delay between the American release and this one. Over here, it came out only recently for seemingly no reason. So, Tyro has to wait till right about now to finally see this thing. But Tyro can persuade you to go see Wreck-It Ralph because it is a good film, regardless of the delay, right? Tyro rarely on-time with reviews anyway.

    Tyro starting to think third-person is not very funny. For cavemen and Elmo only.

    So, what do you get if you cross Toy Story with Super Smash Bros.? Yes, lots of fan fiction but you also sum up this film in a nice little nutshell. Granted, it's far more complex than you'd initially think but it's otherwise quite similar. Ralph is a arcade game bad guy that's finding that his life doesn't satisfy him any more. The 30th anniversary of his game 'Fix-It Felix Jr' comes along and he attempts to join in the festivities, only to be ignored and told to leave. Infuriated with getting hated for his job, Ralph sets off to attempt to gain some recognition from other games to prove his worth.

    The first thing you'll notice is that the film isn't all that patronising. It's a little quick towards the beginning to set everything up but it's certainly not rushed. Other films about computer games tend to be worth very little of your time. The example I can think of is The Wizard that was largely advertising, 80's cheesiness and a constant need to get to California. The only reason it was watched by children was because it was the only way you got to see Super Mario Bros. 3 early. The reason you'll want to see this is to get cameo after cameo after cameo of computer game characters. The story is sort of secondary when Dr Eggman and Zangief are on the big screen together.

    And then you realise that the story is what's actually going to not only steal the show but eclipse the reason your here in the first place because it's really good. There's a few beats from Toy Story where jealousy and greed override the rational thought of the main character but it's not a retread. There's the idea of things being alive that you wish would be and the idea of being in service to children while being entirely at the mercy of oblivious humans. But the central conflict of finding a superficial sense of worth and then finding a deeper, more fulfilling sense of achievement is actually very touching. It's able to provide a lot of laughs and even jerk a few tears as Ralph makes a few hard choices. The writing is clever like that and has elements that make perfect sense but I never saw coming.

    What even more fun is how the character's interact. There's the Bad-Anon scene everyone would have seen with Zangief, Eggman, Bowser, Clyde and other villains which show off their little quirks but there's other details too. Some of the eight bit characters are animated to jerk around like a game sprite would and some have odd abilities like Felix's hammer that can fix anything. Strangely enough, it's pretty good for a few nice laughs. Heck! There's a bit where Sonic is damaged, looses rings and then collects a few again so it's unlikely you'll be screaming at the screen that somethings wrong with the characters you know.

    What actually steals the show are the characters you don't know. The main characters are actually richly detailed and well-written. I believed that these guys could be computer game characters if they weren't in this. They all have great little quirks such as Ralph is overly aggressive and somewhat clumsy as his name would suggest. Vanellope is just as cute as she looks like an adorable, slightly irritating munchkin that rolled in some pic-n-mix. Interestingly, they both share a startlingly pleasing chemistry over the course of the film that's not entirely obvious and certainly not silly. It's sweet and even a little tragic at times.

    However, my favourite quirk is Sergeant Calhoun's programmed back-story that's such a daft send-up of Master Chief it's almost blown out of proportion. Also, Fix-it Felix is actually kinda passive under Calhoun's dominance which is a neat twist considering that the hero isn't normally shown to be quite so out of his depth. And boy does Felix show it. Although, even this film isn't above the cliché of the hero getting the girl at the end. It's just odd that it's off to the side while Ralph and Vanellope have their arc that takes the main show.

    Now, here's some thing cool: The film's design is spectacular even without 3D. Seriously, everything looks bright and colourful, even when it's trying to be dark and gritty. 'Hero's Duty' has dashes of green, blue and purple to it's black to stop it look grey and plain. 'Sugar Rush' looks like the Easter Bunny through up on it. Everything's stupidly bright and colourful while also made entirely of sweets. Even Game Central Station is an impressively realised place.

    In short, the film is just awesome. I would just bore you if I carried on going on and on. If you like games, you need to see this. If you have kids that are likely to be board this week, go see this. It's a good movie. Go and you won't be disappointed. Seriously! Go!

    Hmm...Short review for once...Meh. It's a good movie, they'll do that.
  14. Hmm...Well, I've been rather quiet. Well, that's down to course work. Yes, real-life, less-fluffy but infinitely more huggable me (that only because he's more tangible) has been busy with coursework. Unfortunately, being a 20-year old student has moments where you have to get off your lazy rump and do some actual work.

    Speaking of 20-year olds that ought to put some actual work in for once...

    [size=+1]Sonic Generations[/size]​

    I appear to have gone over the limit again. Here's a link to the full article. It's this or overwhelm the Recent Blog Post's page and that seems unfair. Enjoy.
  15. [size=+1]Read this please.[/size]​

    This is an interesting thing. Most internet fandoms, and I'm generalising here, sometimes feel entitled enough to complain about things to get a desired result. Think of the Mass Effect fiasco about the ending. The outrage eventually forced EA and Bioware's hand to attempt a fix. Sometimes this is for good, sometimes it's seen as the loud obsessives complaining.

    The interesting point about Bronies, however is that we've been spoiled but we shouldn't have the right to control this show. We have what we've built from this world of ponies: this site, our fictions, the music and the connections between the people you've met through this interest in that show.

    As for the show itself; can we not leave that as is? We have everything else to enjoy without demanding that something that's not inherently ours bends to our concerns.

    I don't make observational soap-box speeches here all that often, if at all so I hope that you can gather I feel strongly on this point that we need a certain amount of restraint and respect and maturity that no-other fandom on the web is expected or required to show in-order to repel the typical image of creepy maniacs. This isn't a competition or a full time job. It's people with one common interest coming together to talk and celebrate.

    Thank you for reading.