Pinball HD: Flipping good fun!

Pinball HD is a perfect game for quick 10 minute blasts of gaming. The controls work really well with the touch screen whereby you can tap anywhere on the left for the left paddle and on the right for the right paddle. You slide the pin to launch the ball at various powers and the way you hold the screen in portrait orientation feels just right for a pinball table.

There are three tables to choose from, with their own unique feel, and online highscores to compete against. There are already some shockingly highscores to beat, so there must be some seriously good players out there!

The graphics are really smooth, colourful and sharp – really showing off the vivid colours of the iPad screen beautifully.

Theres scope for in game DLC for extra tables, and judging by the popularity of the game in ‘top grossing apps’ I reckon this won’t be too far away… here’s hoping anyway! It would be amazing if some of the classic real life tables were recreated for the game.

All-in-all this is an essential game to keep on the iPad which really will last for ever because there is inherently no end to the game – you can always try to improve your scores, as unlikely as it is that you will get into the world top ten at least there is something to aim for!

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Flight Control HD

It must be a sign of a cracking game when one that you didn’t expect to get absorbed in becomes the main game you end up playing, especially on a brand-new gadget!

In my previous post about games I was going to “probably” buy when my iPad arrived, Flight Control HD was one I thought I’d have seen it all before having played quite a bit in the past on the iPhone… but boy was I wrong! It’s a genuinely addictive SOB of a game is this! Firemint have pulled off a modern classic here I have no doubt. The extra screen space makes a massive difference to gameplay. More room to breathe, to assess the situation and a bit more time to keep on top of things. The difficulty pacing is spot on, urging you to come back and beat your score as soon as you’ve crashed (again). The clone games that have cropped up just don’t have the same feel to this. The original is truly head and shoulders above the pretenders. Slick graphics, animation, sound and the overall atmosphere are nigh-on perfect. There’s just something about the simplicity and satisfying sound effects that make Flight Control really addictive.

There are 3 iPad specific HD maps (and all the original are in too but not worth playing as they are just x2 zoomed) with one of them also in 3D. Tried 3D once with some glasses I had from a Shrek 3D DVD, and it certainly has depth with the planes really floating above the background, but because of the red/blue filters it’s hard to see the colours of the aircraft which makes it a notch too stressful to play properly. You have to recognise the shapes of the various planes and spot the slight brightening of the relevant runway… not easy when it gets busy!

I am really surprised that it feels THIS much nicer to play on the big screen… it bodes well for future iPad games IMO.

I wonder how long it’s going to be until we see the ridiculous world record scores appearing all over again for iPad players!

What’s your top score?

iPad in my hands!!

After one of the most painful gadget waits ever I finally have Apple’s iPad in my greasy mits!

I LOVE IT!!!

This is just a brief “first impressions” post because I will be writing separate posts on various aspects and Mini Reviews of the games.

It’s a beautiful device for web browsing… I haven’t used my desktop for surfing since the iPad arrived. Also typing, which I feared might be awkward, is at least 1000% better than I thought it would be.

I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time in the app store already, spent around ยฃ80 on various games and apps! So watch this space for my Mini Reviews on the following games:-

Flight Control HD (Mini Review here)
Sam & Max episode 1
Civilization Revolution HD
Broken Sword HD
Real Racing HD
Pinball HD
Pad Racer

Frozen Synapse: Tactical perfection

There’s a great new game on the horizon in Frozen Synapse!!

You can pre-order the game now and get instant access to the BETA from here:
http://www.frozensynapse.com

It’s a ‘true’ PC game developed by a group of just 3 clever bods.I’ve only played for about an hour so far so will post a more detailed review once I get some more experience under my belt and venture online, but the basic premise is that you control a squad of soldiers in randomly generated maps that are representations of the layout of a single floor of a building.

It’s a turn based affair, but moves are played out simultaneously. Each ‘move’ has a planning phase and an outcome. In planning you can set waypoints and actions for each of your units, and you can do the same for your enemies and test and tweak the orders for that move as much as you want by running ‘simulations’ of the move to see what happens. The process relies heavily on being able to try to predict what your enemy will do next, knowing what you want to do and the most efficient way of using your units abilities and limited moving ability each turn – and then adapting to the situation when the enemy actually does something completely different!

It’s hard to describe in text quite honestly, as it sounds pretty dull when I’m typing it, but it really isn’t! The games CAN BE fast paced, but as it is turn based, and the system is technically a Play-By-Email system, in theory each move could span days, but I get the feeling most players online will be committed to a game and see it through to the end in one session.

The few games I have had have been a steep learning curve so far… but I understand the principles as it is a very compellingly easy to understand game with insane depth. “Easy to learn, hard to master” are the best sort of games in my opinion and this fits that bill perfectly. I haven;t seen anything quite like it before and I’m really looking forward to see how it develops.

To get a better idea of gameplay check the videos on the website: http://www.frozensynapse.com

And join up to the BETA – these developers are my kind of studio. Customer and gameplay focussed, and they deserve your cash. Each pre-order comes with 2 keys so you can give a game to a friend and play online immediately ๐Ÿ˜€

The game modes in the BETA so far are:-

  • Extermination
    – First to eliminate all other players wins
  • Hostage rescue
    ~ Escort the hostage safely off the map
  • Disputed
    – Collect and safely carry boxes off the edge of the map
  • Secure
    – Bid on how much of the map, split into grid squares, you think you can control, whilst your opponent secretly bids for the same. The highest bidder plays as ‘defender’ and if you manage to hold what you said you would, you win.
  • Charge
    – Bidding on vertical strips of the map – how far towards the centre (or past it!) do you think you can safely get one of your squad?

…and each of these can be played either in “Light” or “Dark” mode. Light allows you to see all enemy positions at all times, Dark only allows you to see enemies in your units line-of-sight.

The unit/weapon classes so far are:-

  • Machine guns
  • Shotguns
  • Sniper rifles
  • Rocket launchers
  • Grenade launchers

This has got some serious deep tactical gameplay going on and I love the concept… it’s a bit like the planning phases of the older Tom Clancy games that have all but vanished since all shooters have been simplified and turned into pure action shooters. I wish them all the best of luck.

The target release date is late 2010 to early 2011, so get in early and get practicing! I know I’m going to need it! ๐Ÿ˜€ This is going to be HARDCORE!

iPad games I’m looking at getting

So I got my iPad ordered for delivery on the 28th May!

Plenty of time to start deciding what games to get for it then ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Civilization Revolution
    Definately has to be done – can’t wait to try out touch controls on a decent screen size!
  2. Flight Control HD
    Not 100% sure about this one – I think I may have had my fix of Flight Control, but it does look rather nice.
  3. Castle Craft
    Looks like quite an interesting MMO City Builder – but not sure I need an ‘epic’ game like that on the Pad!
  4. Red Alert 3
    Didn’t get on with this on the iPhone due to the fiddly controls but it may just work on a 1024 x 768 screen! Need an RTS so this might have to be the one!?
  5. Sam & Max
    Didn’t even think for a second we would get anything like this! Depending on the price per episode of this adventure, I think it would play really nicely! I wonder if Monkey Island will be re-released in high-resolution!?
  6. Real Racing HD
    I had a real thing for Real Racing on iPhone (was 3rd fastest in the world for a good while until I stopped playing online leagues!) so might have to give this a bash as well!
  7. Pinball HD
    Looks awesome!
  8. Mirrors Edge
    Not really my sort of game any more but looks very slick. I just know I would get bored of it so this one can wait until it’s discounted.

Watch out for reviews as and when I get these (maybe) and others (for sure!)…

My Top 10 (or so) Gaming moments: Best games of all time, on all platforms

In this list I will try to identify the 10 best games from all my years of gaming. This isn’t the same criteria as my “Desert Island Discs” list – rather these are the BEST games that stick in my memory and may not really be ones I would go back to now or ever again… but defining games in the history of games development and my interest in the evolving genres.

Let’s start at the top!

  1. Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge: (Graphic Adventure by Lucasarts – released 1991 – PC)
    As eluded to in my post about Point & Click Adventures, Monkey Island 2 has all of my heart and my most vivid and undoubtedly some of the best gaming memories! At the time the graphics were beautiful, the sounds so full of soul, the story so wonderfully written, the puzzles so fun and ingenious and the jokes so laugh out loud funny – I can remember it clearly to this day! Number 1 spot with no hesitation!!
  2. AV-8B Harrier Assault: (Flight Simulator by Simis – released 1992 – PC)
    I remember getting my first analogue joystick for this game and revelling in the fluid flight simulation that is AV8B Harrier Assault. You have to take control of a huge island using your aircraft and battleships. There were 2 parts to the game – the 1st person flying/mission running/tactics – and the top-view commander strategic side of planning the missions and assigning AI aircraft to various roles and missions. You could play the game exclusively as one or the other role or do a bit of both. The frame rate of the graphics was unbelievable (only recently matched with the latest hardware, what with all the emphasis on glossy graphics and lighting effect these days) which made flying the Harrier a real joy! And the depth of the mission planning and overall “big picture” of a dynamic war effort to take control of the island (based on a real location) gave it some serious ‘stickyness’! I was hooked, lined and sinkered!!
  3. Grand Prix 2: (Racing Simulator by Microprose & Geoff Crammond – released 1996 – PC)
    This sequel to the groundbreaking “Grand Prix” by Geoff Crammond was the first racing game that suceeded in my mind at actually being a realistic simulator of F1 racing. Accurate lap times, subtle effects that car setups had, tyre degradation,ย  real circuits, real teams and drivers – the whole atmosphere was totally convincing. I felt like a racing driver at home at last!! Because of this game I absolutely love racing sims now – my favourite genre by far – and I couldn’t wait to get back from school to play GP1. I learned the Monaco track inside out to the point where I could do a competitive lap literally with my eyes shut for the whole lap… Dad was impressed anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ย ย  – funilly years later I watched an F1 build up show that showed Jenson Button (I think) doing just that i.e. imagining his way around the track (like bobsleigh dirivers) and being observed by his trainer… he can imagine a lap down to something like 0.2 seconds off what he would really be doing in the race, and it’s what all the best current F1 drivers can do!!! Maybe I could have made it!! :p
  4. GT Legends: (Racing Simulator by SimBin/10tacle Studios – released 2005 – PC)
    I just adored the cars chosen to be a part of this wonderful game – classic road cars from the 60’s an 70’s (The Alfa GTA was my out andf out favourite) – with all their lack of power, or lack of chassis sophistication to deal with too much power that they had (AC Cobraย  ๐Ÿ˜ฎย  ), made each one feel and drive completely differently and made it a real challenge and ever so satisfying to learn the intricacies of each car enough to master them and start winning with them. It’s the first racing simulator that I had taken seriously online, getting in so many hours practice it scares me to think about it too long ;P
  5. Midi Maze: (First Person Shooter Multiplayer by Xanth Software F/X – released 1987 – Atari ST)
    Very early multiplayer game, linked 2 (or more) Atari ST’s together with a Midi cable, and introduced the concept of shooting your friends without hurting them!! The 3D graphics were simple, but the feeling was amazing – the knot in your stomach when you know you are being chased and just need to get round the next corner to be safe for a second, then quickly double back around a column or corridor and sneak up on his behind was incredible!
  6. Battlefield 2: (First Person Shooter Multiplayer by Dice – released 2005 – PC)
    Taking Midi Maze a few hundred steps further in every way – the feeling of being part of a bigger team at work, and relying on your team mates as much as they rely on you, was again a defining moment in my gaming history. What would we have done without the Internet!!??
  7. Half Life: (First Person Shooter by Valve – released 1998 – PC)
    They all do it now, but the first time you PLAYED THE INTRO(!) of a game, then suddenly found yourself with control was a jaw dropping moment! The rest of the game just flowed on seamlessly and it was just such a well scripted, paced and superbly written experience that really did change the face of gaming for good… for everyone!
  8. Starglider: (Arcade Space Flying by Argonaut Software – released 1986 – Atari ST)
    I still clearly remember this game purely because it was the first time I heard a computer talk to me with a realistic synthesised voice!! It was quite surreal – both my Dad and I were looking around the room to see where this voice could be coming from then realised it was the game LOL!! The intro music has a girl singing “Staaaarrrr Gliiiddeeerrr” repeatedly. I don’t think the game was all that great but it still sticks in my memory ๐Ÿ˜€
  9. Turbo Esprit: (Driving game by Durell – released 1986 – ZX Spectrum)
    Basically a Grand Theft Auto style game in a huge 3D city. You had to stop the bad guys from getting out of the city by cutting them off and dealing enough damage to stop them. The sense of freedom and the fact you had to stop for petrol and repairs was interesting – I played this for soooo long!!
  10. Test Drive III: The Passion: (Driving simulator by Accolade – released 1990 – PC)
    The first game release I was excited about (or even bothered to know anything about before I saw it on the shelves) was Test Drive 3. My friend had a PC that could play it becuase at the time I only had an Atari ST and this was “next-gen” gaming, so was never to be released on Atari, but I bought it anyway so I could take it round to his house to play together. It was truly epic at the time. Full 3D free roaming world. A choice of real sports cars with 3D shapes (woohooo!) and just a sandbox approach to driving. No races, or missions, or anything really to do as far as I remember. Just driving around slowly then caning it for the fun of it!! I treated each second like a real test drive and didn’t want ot damage the cars… stopping at all the junctions, not overtaking madly – then when you let it rip you really felt the power of those supercars ๐Ÿ˜€
  11. Spy vs. Spy: (Action game by First Star Software – released 1984 – ZX Specturm)
    Absolutely desparately needs a remake! This would be amazing as a modern day multiplayer game. I suppose the nearest thing we have currently is “The Ship” (a quality mod on the valve engine) – but it’s not really the same concept at all. The sneaky sneaky, frantic split-screen action was a breath of fresh air even then. Great visual style and attractive main characters… more like this please!
  12. Syndicate: (Real Time Strategy / RPG by Bullfrog Productions – released 1993 – PC)
    One of those games that was so ahead of it’s time in its scope, features, gameplay mechanics, depth, adult themes and graphics. But what would you expect from Peter Molyneux, one of a handful of truly genial game programmers. A re-imagining of Syndicate was on the cards but seems to have been shelved – which is a massive shame as I think the theme and setting would still get all generations of gamers interested all over again.
  13. Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle: (Graphic Adventure by Lucasarts – released 1993 – PC)
    It’s hard to compare DoTT to Monkey Island for me, as I have such a soft spot for MI in my heart – bu objectively I think it’s the most fun Graphic Adventure game ever made! If you are a youngster reading this… please, do yourself a favour and play it!! Dont scoff at the graphics – they are cartoony anyway so have aged very well – but you will see how games are MEANT to be done when you are sucked in to the whacky world of Bernard, Laverne and Hoagie. The underlying concept of time travel is handled so superbly it just makes me weep that with all the money and creative power we should be able to summon up these days, we seem to be going backwards in almost all areas apart from graphics and audio ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Please send your replies in the form below and tell us your ultimate gaming moments! I would love to reminisce and hear your stories ๐Ÿ™‚

Apple iPad for gaming

I must admit I am seriously tempted to get myself one of these!

I think I have the will power to wait until maybe the 2nd generation of hardware, or at least until some bigger and better games are released as iPad versions before I take the plunge!! But at the same token I might just succumb to it’s charms and get one anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

The only games specifically for it at the time of writing this, that I would be interested in, are Flight Control HD and Real Racing HD (both by Firemint) but I don’t think it’s worth it for those!

If they made a Civilization Revolution to fit the native screen resolution and full 3D, I think that would just about swing the deal for me! … uh oh! Ummm… it is available already! 2D but, damn!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

So, how much are they again?!