Reviewed: Metal Dead (2011)

Game Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

 

Metal DeadAs a casual gamer, I’m always a little behind the curve when it comes to something new. For example, it was only four years ago that I truly immersed myself in the experience that is the point-and-click adventure (about 20 years after they peaked). Equipped with my (relatively) recently solid knowledge of such things, I feel it is my privilege and duty to review this modern take on a well-trodden genre.

Speaking of well-trodden genres, a zombie apocalypse is nothing new but that’s the backdrop for this story, and it’s your job to keep plucky protagonist Malcolm Campbell alive, as well as get to the bottom of who or what is responsible for all the horror.

Screenshot03The game begins with two metalheads, Malcolm and his best friend Ronnie, driving into the heart of the zombie outbreak. Why? Because Ronnie says it’s “the most metal thing that’s ever happened” to them. Unfortunately, the car crashes and you must help Malcolm escape the zombie hordes. To do this you must get Malcolm off the streets and inside the MediGeniTech building (a science research centre) and it is here that he meets the mysterious Dr. Fechenheim who charges Malcolm with helping him continue with his bizarre experiments.

From here, the story leads Malcolm through the building where he will meet a host of characters who either help or hinder him in his efforts to reach the helicopter at the top of the building. Can you help Malcolm save everyone and discover the cause of the outbreak? What does Dr. Fechenheim have to do with all of this?

Screenshot06This comedy/horror game from Walk Thru Walls Studios is your standard 2D point-and-click adventure affair, and even for that, it’s pretty lo-fi. The dialogue is delivered through text, the art and animation is scratchy, and the music is presented in glorious MIDI, which gives the overall experience a DIY edge that makes you think, “hell, I could make one of these!”

And maybe you could, but what this game lacks in flashiness, it more than makes up for with a fun little story and snappy dialogue just like the classic games it pays homage to. The humour is played to full effect with just enough self-awareness and pop culture references to help you forgive its shortcomings.

The art is somewhat reminiscent of that goth comic style (Johnny the Homicidal ManiacLenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl) that became popular in the late ’90s, almost cute in its simplicity but obviously drawn by someone with a psychological disorder. It works for this game and has plenty of charm to keep you playing.

Screenshot09On the subject of effective simplicity, the same can be said for the music. Using standard MIDI sounds, Josh Birch delivers a soundtrack that makes you feel like you’re in a John Carpenter movie. There is a surprising degree of versatility in the noise coming out of those speakers using the most primitive of digital sounds.

The puzzles are logical and satisfyingly challenging too. I must admit that I did have to consult a walk-through guide with one puzzle because I missed an element in the narrative.

Basically, if you haven’t played this game and are a fan of Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry, metal, and zombies, then perhaps you’re missing out. Metal Dead is a great way to kill a few hours if you still have the patience for the point-and-click adventure.

\m/

Buy it on Steam for $4.99 USD.

 

Reviewed: Portal 2 (2011)

Game Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Portal-2_US_ESRB-fin_PS3I’m what I like to call a casual gamer. I have not played a large selection of games nor do I claim to be an authority on the subject. I’m just some guy who bought a PS3 back in the day when I needed a Blu-Ray player. I don’t need to play a bunch of disappointing titles just to find that hidden gem as I have friends who do this for me. When I’m looking for something new, someone else can tell me what’s good.

Now, one game I didn’t ask for was Portal 2, the sequel to the Valve Corporation game that brought us companion cubes and “The cake is a lie”. I didn’t ask for it but it did come highly recommended.

So, roughly two years later, I guess it was 2013, I got around to playing this thing.

Portal 2 picks up some time after the first instalment (like me, you don’t need to play it first but if you hate spoilers, I suggest you do) resuming the character of Chell. In the first game, Chell was a human test-subject trapped by an insane AI named GLaDOS inside the Aperture Science facility. GLaDOS put Chell through a number of ridiculous life-threatening tests with plans to keep her there until her demise because, over the years, it came to resent her for being human.

The gameplay for Portal 2 is FPS-style, but instead of killing everything in sight, you use your problem-solving skills on level after level of puzzles. You get to carry around a big-ass gun but it’s non-lethal. The portal gun enables you to create doors on solid surfaces that create entry and exit points for you to travel through in a space-bending mind-fuck kind of way. The execution of this idea is brilliantly simple despite the complexity of what is actually happening.

1722041-20501_1200x675crop0Now, if you’re not a fan of puzzle games generally, I suggest you give this one a go just to experience the characters, dialogue and story that have been developed to enhance what might otherwise be a fairly dull game.

With voice acting by Stephen Merchant (the awkward bespectacled guy that occasionally hangs out with Ricky Gervais) and J.K. Simmons (who is to Spider-Man’s J. Jonah Jameson, what Mark Hammill is to Batman’s The Joker), no matter how challenging the puzzles, you’ll want to solve them to push the story forward to learn more about the characters and hear these fantastic performances.

Having played this and then going back to the original to see where it all started, I can confidently say that this is a great sequel. It takes all the elements of a damned fine first effort and brings them back for a second helping of cake with additional frosting and little crunchy bits that, although you don’t quite know what they are, make the cake better and you eat them anyway without further hesitation.

This is how a game should be; a near-perfect symbiosis of story and concepts developed around solid game mechanics to create a unique player experience. There’s also a co-op mode, which I’ve not had the pleasure of playing, that adds even more to this package. It doesn’t hurt that it looks pretty great too.

There’s enough thinky brain stuff mixed with some pretty silly humour, so if you’re a fan of games that combine these elements in equal doses, certainly check this one out.

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Reviewed: Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Zombie Ninja Pro-Am (2007)

Game Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

214683-aqua-teen-hunger-force-zombie-ninja-pro-am-playstation-2-front-coverI was pretty excited to learn that this game existed. I was also pretty sure that this exclusive-to-PS2 game would never find its way to Australian stores and would therefore never get to play it. So, when I picked it up for a mere $5 at a store called the Reject Shop, I was over the moon. It’s not unusual to get stuff this cheap at a Reject Shop, the place is pretty much a great big bargain bin. This particular fact might might lead you to think that maybe this game is one of two things, unpopular or rubbish. Well, let me tell you.

Overview:

As an Adult Swim game based on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force TV show, it’s no surprise that its premise makes very little sense. Frylock, a sentient box of French Fries, has gained membership to the local public(?) golf course. Upon learning this, a talking milkshake named Master Shake takes up golf. As he plays, various characters such as their neighbour Carl, space-dwellers the Mooninites, and the Frat aliens turn up to give the team a hard time.

aquateen_sc007Gameplay:

The game features twelve levels (nine holes and three racing levels). Each hole plays out like a standard golf game with the familiar controls.

Unlike most golf games, this one has you hacking and slashing your way across the course between shots and each hole culminates in a boss battle at the green.

During fighting mode, you can alternate between Frylock, who can shoot, and Master Shake, whose skill is close combat. Along the way you’ll find interesting power-ups for the different weapons Master Shake can use, which you may recognise from the show, and are lots of fun.

The racing levels have you driving across the terrain of a previous hole and don’t feel all that different from any standard kart game. The racing, however, is limited to one-on-one and honestly, not that challenging. To keep you engaged, the tracks are littered with pick-ups that allow you to unlock some cool extras.

aquateen_sc002Look:

All things considered, this game looks pretty good. This might be one of those rare cases where, as a game based on an existing property, it looks better than the original source material. That may not be too much of a stretch though, considering what they have to work with.

As a fan of the show, most of the locations and supporting characters will be familiar to you, and they’re all lovingly recreated in full PS2-quality 3D.

Sound:

The core cast are all present to deliver wonderful new dialogue, and it’s this element that really makes the sound stand out.

The soundtrack features original songs from “favourites” such as Andrew W.K., 9lb Hammer, and Brass Castle (don’t worry, I have no idea who they are either). To begin with, these tracks aren’t so bad, but I can pretty much guarantee that you will want to throw your console through your TV after hearing the same song on loop for the thousandth time with each level.

Unfortunately, like many games of this calibre, what may be a humorous quip on the first time around becomes not so much a mild irritation after you’ve heard it for the thousandth time, but a source of murderous rage (which, on the plus side, comes in handy when relentlessly hacking through clone after clone of the same enemy).

aquateen_sc004Overall:

For what it is and what it’s worth (or at least, what I paid for it), this game does what a property-based game should do. It takes the much-loved elements from the original show and expands upon them in a new platform. As an extension of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force world, it’s a fun and new experience.

I have to say, however, that once all the extras have been unlocked, there’s not too much in the way of longevity for this game. But for $5, who’s arguing?

Score:

7/10 (not reflective of comparison to other games)