Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Serious Sam: The First Encounter (PC)

Serious Sam the first encounter title screen logo
Developer:Croteam|Release Date:2001|Systems:PC, Xbox

This week on Super Adventures I'm taking a quick look at a classic first person shooter from the dawn of the 21st century: Serious Sam: The First Encounter! I always assumed that 'The First Encounter' was something they slapped on after The Second Encounter came out, but I just checked and nope it was there on my box cover all along. So I've learned something today.

I've also learned that it was the game's 15th anniversary on March 21st... last year. So I was just a little late on that one.

Serious Sam started life in the mid 90s as a game called In the Flesh, which would've had you fighting through nightmares and Hell and suchlike, but a couple of years into development they decided to switch to bright sunny open levels instead and rename it Serious Sam, after its protagonist. It worked for Duke Nukem after all, and it's possibly not a coincidence that two heroes shame the same dress sense. Sam's more of an affectionate clone than a parody, seeing as Duke's already a parody, but it's not like 3D Realms held the patent on smart-assed muscle-bound 80s action movie heroes in jeans, so whatever. They get to complain just as soon as they give Bruce Campbell his lines back.

The game was given a shiny Serious Engine 3 makeover back in 2009 and released for PC and Xbox 360 as Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, but I'm playing the original right off the CD (with all appropriate patches). There's also an Xbox port which has smaller levels and lives, and even a version for PDAs running Palm OS. Except not really, as the PDA version is more like Wolfenstein 3D and looks like a 3DO game.

(Click the screenshots to view the original sized images).

Monday, 20 March 2017

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PSX)

Castlevania Symphony of the Night title screen
Developer:Konami|Release Date:1997|Systems:PSX, PSP, PSN, Saturn, Xbox 360

Today on Super Adventures I'm celebrating the 20th anniversary of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night! It was the 20th anniversary of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series a few days back and it'll be the movie Blade's 20th birthday next year too, so in retrospect the late 90s was a terrible time to be a vampire.

Speaking of things that happened in ages past, man it's been while since my epic marathon of all the traditional Castlevania platformers. "This is going to be the final Castlevania game I'll be playing for a long long time," I wrote at the end of my Castlevania Legends article, but I had no idea it'd take me 6 years to get around to the next one! You could make a third of a Duke Nukem game in that time.  Though in my defence I used to avoid writing about games I'd played before and I've actually beaten this one on the Xbox 360.

If playing all those classic Castlevanias taught me anything, it's that Konami were determined to get those Belmonts onto every system they could, and that each console had to get its own exclusive game. Seriously, to play the whole series up to this point you would've needed access to a NES, an MSX2, a Game Boy, a PC Engine with a CD drive, an X68000, a Mega Drive, a SNES and an arcade with the Haunted Castle cabinet. In this case though they skipped the Sega 32X due to it being dead and put their new 2D Castlevania on two consoles, the PlayStation and Saturn (with the Game Boy getting Legends instead and the N64 getting both Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness two years later).

It was a bit strange though that Konami released this for the PlayStation, at least in the West, partly because Sony of America had a real hate on for 2D and partly because it's the direct sequel to a game that didn't get an English release until a decade later! In Japan the game’s called Akumajō Dracula X: Gekka no Yasōkyoku (Nocturne in the Moonlight), because it follows on from PC Engine game Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (Rondo of Blood). This 'music term of the vampire-related thing' theme carried on through a couple of the GBA games until they started throwing in words like 'Dawn' and 'Portrait' and ruined the pattern.

Anyway I've waited long enough to give this a replay so I should get on with it. I hope I don't hate it now!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Broken Age (PC)

Developer:Double Fine|Release Date:2015|Systems:Win, OS X, Linux, Ouya, iOS, Android, PS4, PSVita

This month on Super Adventures I'm playing Broken Age, formerly known as Double Fine Adventure back in its Kickstarter days.

Though this isn't one of them Kickstarter success stories like Giana Sisters, FTL, Pillars of Eternity and the rest, this is THE Kickstarter success story, the one that kickstarted all the others by proving that game developers could actually crowd-fund niche video game projects that publishers would never touch. In this case Tim Schafer wanted to make an old school point-and-click adventure game like the ones he worked on at LucasArts during the 90s.

They asked for $400,000 ($300,000 for the game, $100,000 for a documentary), which seemed like they were pushing their luck a little, but soon people were lining up to take a risk in the hopes of getting another Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle or Grim Fandango. They ended up raising a massive $3,336,371 in the end, which is clearly $3,038 too much. Except not really, as even after getting over 8 times the amount they wanted they still ran out of cash and had to split the game up into two parts, with their plan being to fund the second half with their earnings from the first half.

Broken Age: Act 1 came out in 2014 (just 2 years later than planned), but I've written 2015 up there as the release date because I'm playing the complete product here, with both acts welded together into one seamless whole. I remember that its second act wasn't all that well received, on account of it being bastard hard due to overcompensation after criticism of Act 1, but that's about where my knowledge of the game ends, so I'm not really sure what to expect from this. Though I'm hoping it's like a cross between Broken Sword and Dragon Age, or maybe Brain Age and... damn I can't think of another game with 'Broken' in the title.

By the way, the game supports widescreen just fine, but it's making me rescale the window manually by dragging the edges around and every time I start it up it resets to defaults, so I'm leaving the title screen how I found it to teach Double Fine a lesson. Also I think I like it better in 4:3 anyway, as there's more clouds.

(Click the screenshots to view them slightly bigger than they are here but not as big as they'd be for most players.)

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Super Adventures Update, March 2017

Today on Super Adventures, I'm still playing nothing. Sorry, I've been busy.

But there'll be new content soon, I promise! Two new games before the end of the month with any luck, and it's possible that they both donated letters to that picture above. In fact it's likely that quite a few games coming up have donated letters, but seeing I haven't managed to get the site updated in a month I wouldn't put too much faith in my ability to stick to a plan.

Further update: check below if you want to know where the letters all came from. Just... try not to be too disappointed when you find out that I've been in an adventure game mood lately. This isn't an exhaustive list of what's coming up this year.

Semi-Random Game Box