Tag Archives: retro games

Armiga Project

Armiga

Videogames are fickle beasts that constantly forge forwards in technological bounds leaving all but the most savvy of gamers behind. Unfortunately in this race for technical pixel perfection it isn’t just gamers that are left behind but sadly thousands of classic titles as well.

Unlike Cinema where technological improvements see re-releases in high definition, or books appearing on tablets and phones as opposed to just print, there are a glut of old games that unless you have a copy of the original as well as the antiquated hardware to run it, there isn’t really a way to enjoy it.

Now many older games are finally being re-released via emulation with tonnes of classic titles being re-released via Steam, Virtual Console, PSN and many others but still not enough is being done in order to preserve our gaming heritage.

Many players will simply choose to use emulators, unfortunately these don’t always provide a precise experience with many roms and emu’s providing bugs and glitches or even require tweaking to get working properly. To us geriatric old farts emulators also don’t provide the authentic experience of playing on the original console. If you emulate a Panasonic 3DO you can’t easily unplug player 2’s controller when you are losing. If you emulate other systems you don’t have to blow dust out of cartridges to make anything work, you don’t get to hear the whirr of the disk drive as the machine slowly spins to life.

Armiga

We were hugely impressed when we discovered the Armiga project. The aim of the base system is to emulate an Amiga 500 using modern day components and old. Yes, the system features a disk drive just like the older Amiga 500 and will allow you to create ADF images of all of your favourite games to play in the future. A useful feature considering how badly floppy disks are known to deteriorate.

The Armiga also has a HDMI output allowing you to plug the Armiga into a new LCD tv without having to mess around with flicker switches. There are also two USB ports and an SD card reader that will allow gamers to boot games from, and there is even an Ethernet connection.

Now, having an Armiga isn’t exactly the same as owning a classic Amiga 500. There is a fair amount of custom software making life easier for gamers wanting a classic fix to navigate around their disk images. The Armiga also has the ability to boot into Android 4.2.2 and thanks to it’s powerful dual core ARM CPU it can also be used to playback HD content without any problems.

Armiga

The Armiga is currently only guaranteed to work with roughly 90 per cent of Amiga games as well, which is a fair few and the team are commited to improving this figure. They also have stretch goals that include emulation for other classic systems as well.

You might be forgiven then that this is just a way of selling a cheap Raspberry Pi computer on the back of gaming nostalgia. However with the extensive amount of work that the team are putting in to re-create an authentic retro gaming experience that a traditional piece of emulation software alone can’t provide we would argue that the Armiga project is actually looking pretty good. If the system is capable of running Android smoothly and fluidly, then the Armiga also has the potential to serve as a basic home computer as well.

If you are interested in picking one of these systems up you can go and pledge on their indiegogo site here. The retro gaming time machine will cost just $139, but we would probably recommend picking up the Deluxe Edition for $199 as this model comes with a compatible 8gb SD card with all of the software pre-installed saving you precious time in setting the system up so you can spend longer playing it. Oh, and you get a t-shirt as well giving you an extra day to put off doing the laundry.

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Review: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is a title I have wanted to play since its initial release as an Xbox exclusive in 2005. Unfortunately, it came out in the same year as FEAR, Call of Duty 2 and Quake 4, so my first person shooter thirsts were more than adequately quenched by a sea of future classics.

I then meant to download it on Steam for PC, but it always seemed to be 
in the sales at the wrong time, lost amidst a digital dump of downloadable 
treasures. Then I noticed it on the Playstation Store. “Wow”, I thought. “I could play it on my PS3 and enjoy it as it was originally intended on a console”. But, getting off of the sofa, locating my credit card and engaging in a long
drawn out purchasing process without a keyboard and mouse seemed to be precisely the kind of hassle I intend to avoid when vegging out on the sofa 
like a rotting corpse.

Then I saw that it was available for PSVita, so when I was given 
some Playstation Store vouchers as a gift It seemed like the fates had aligned and I went ahead and purchased Stranger’s Wrath. Frustratingly, I wish I had bought it 9 years ago.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath on the PSVita feels like a vintage wine that has aged past it’s best, and instead of enjoying it at it’s flavourful peak, it must be used as a vinegary dressing for a salad. Time and the porting process have not been kind. Graphically it is OK, although the Vita’s incredible OLED screen does highlight a few jagged areas and muddy textures.

For those not familiar with the game, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is the 
fourth title released in the Oddworld Universe. It follows the exploits 
of a bounty hunter called Stranger as he journeys through Oddworld trying to 
earn enough money to fund an apparently life saving operation. Now I 
must warn you that this review will contain spoilers, because it is impossible to give a reasonable critique without revealing a few plot elements. (Even then it’s impossible for me to offer a reasonable critique if we are painfully honest). So if you already have your mind made up and you are going to play this game or are already half way through maybe look away now, as I don’t want to ruin 
some of the game’s remaining impact.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

There are gameplay techniques from wide ranging genres such as stealth 
titles, platformers and first person shooters. The action elements start off as great fun and the game’s weapons are ingenious. Stranger is armed with a crossbow that he can arm with a variety of critters, all with their own
unique effects. These range from fast firing hornets, exploding bats, 
electrified bugs and gaseous skunks.

Stranger, in typical bounty hunter fashion, must capture different criminals in a bid to gain more ‘Moolah,’ (the games equivalent to cash if you hadn’t 
figured out the subtle naming.) Players receive more money for capturing outlaws alive so some of the Critters will only incapacitate targets as opposed to rendering them inert with a violent explosive death. This is a nice way of rewarding players for skillful play and will cajole a few into playing through levels in a stealth like
fashion. Unfortunately, the rewards aren’t really big enough, and 
the gameplay isn’t as addictive as titles like Hitman where it’s possible to get 
sucked into replaying the same level in five different ways in an effort to achieve the best rating. It is possible to set traps for AI enemies by luring them under cranes before dropping huge shipping containers onto their heads, however these traps soon lose their appeal. Partly because it feels so staged and partly because the Critter that is used to entice enemies over to certain areas is so annoying, it’s a lot easier and just as much fun to run in, Boombat’s blazing.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

About two thirds of the way through the game we learn that Stranger isn’t actually the species that he claimed to be and is actually a Steef. Steef have been hunted pretty much to extinction because the evil villain Sekto offers a small fortune for their heads. This means that Stranger is forced to team up with an indigenous tribe called the Grubbs who have been displaced by Sekto to bottle their water supply and sell it as expensive mineral water. At this stage in the game Stranger no longer needs to capture criminals for cash, instead any enemy that he captures is used as ‘Critter food’, essentially allowing the Critters to breed and give players more ammunition. Upgrades are also handed out at the end of each section by the Grubbs as a way of thanking the Stranger for his effort. As a result, exploration becomes completely unrewarded with little point as there is nothing to spend cash on and the Critters continuously copulate providing an endless ammunition supply.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

If Stranger’s Wrath was a film it would be a mixture of Chicken Run, 
Serenity, Avatar and The Last of the Mohicans. While this description of the plot might seem faintly damning, the plot itself is actually the best part of the game, despite the negative impact it has on the gameplay. The overall themes of Industrilisation, Anti-Capitalism and Socialism that are present in all other Oddworld titles are all present here and despite there being a lack of Abe it’s obvious what universe Stranger’s Wrath takes place within. The humour at times does wear itself a little thin, especially when the sound-bites of The Chicken’s and the Grubb’s are concerned. After hearing the same phrase bleated out in the same annoying voice for the fifteenth time, you may find yourself searching for the nearest cushioned implement to stuff your ears.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

The confused identity of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is amplified in the PSVita version through the controls. At times, the touch screen controls are well implemented. To switch from 3rd person to 1st person perspective all you need do is double tap the touch screen. This makes engaging in combat after a platforming section feel seamless. However, there are other times when it seems like the developer just forgot about the touch screen altogether. The menu screens in the stores for instance are impossible to properly navigate and it doesn’t seem like you are actually able to scroll down through all of the items on the list.

Age has not been kind to Strangers Wrath;  gameplay features that were new and daring at the time of it’s initial release seem diluted and rather than being a game with plenty of well implemented and established ideas, there is just a sense of confusion. There still isn’t really a game like it that I can think of and had I played Stranger’s Wrath back in 2005, it may have felt like a more complete package,

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Wrath is by no means a bad game and I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from playing it, but if you are going to, please do so after getting in a time machine and taking a trip back to 2005. If this isn’t possible (and I have a feeling it isn’t, I’ve probably just been watching too much Dr. Who again and not taken my medication). Then pick up a copy for the Xbox, it’s cheaper on eBay than on the Playstation Store and you will end up with a nice box to clutter your shelf with. If you are really lucky, it will have come from a smoke free environment and won’t make your lounge smell like an old video rental store.

Score: 5/10

PSVita

Bought From:  Playstation Store

Brand New Blog: Its Not Just Graphics

Hello and welcome to Its Not Just Graphics. This is a blog that is aimed at trying to highlight some of the classic games that have appeared over the years. Video games are a unique art form (yes, they are an art form, but we can have an argument about that later if you don’t believe me) in that they are evolving at a faster rate than any other sector of entertainment due to the technology that drives them.

Since the inception of the videogame new genres have sprung up in the blink of an eye due to new inventions. More powerful systems meant that text based adventure games like Zork could become fully fleshed hollywood hack and slash RPG’s like Skyrim. The arrival of the internet has not only added the Massively Multiplayer Online to the existing RPG where thousands of people can inhabit the same fantasy realm, but it has also brought forward a lot more competitive games. No longer do you have to find a smokey neon nightmare of an arcade to challenge someone, you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

We have also seen console manufacturers offering us new ways to play. Instead of the standard keyboard, mouse and joy pad, it is possible to orchestrate your characters movement on screen by flailing your limbs like a drunken Airport Traffic Conductor. These methods of controls have either brought us games that have been more immersing or ones that just simply wouldn’t have been feasible. There has also been unfortunately the vast amount of mini game cash generators which have been created simply as a way of tapping into Nintendo’s discovery of the ‘family market.’ Because apparently before Nintendo came along with the Wii, where you throw plastic at an expensive tv, games were a waste of time played by weirdos. In fact, before the Wii if you played too many video games it was common knowledge you’d either become a murdering psychopath or one of those overweight creatures you see floating down the high street in their mobility scooters.

The problem with the constant progression of technology though is that every new generation of consoles, operating systems and games, makes the previous generation of games obsolete. It was widely accepted that if you got the latest generation of console you wouldn’t be able to play your old games on it. And why would you want to play your old games anyway? They looked practically like a bunch of cave drawings when you placed them next to the brand new launch titles of the next generation which invariably involved more realistic bouncing breasts from beat em ups such as Dead or Alive, even more realistic lens flare and breasts from Ridge Racer’s Reiko Nagase, and even more realistic bouncing flesh from the latest EA (insert sport here,) titles.

It wasn’t until Sony came up with the idea of backwards compatibility with the Playstation 2 that people started to realise it might be quite nice to keep some of their older games out of the loft and charity shop. The PS3 was branded an ‘epic fail,’ by the virgin keyboard warriors of the geekdom as they vented their fury at Sony’s decision to remove backwards compatibility. Although I now understand Sony’s rather shrewd fiscally driven move, what with their classics ranges of old games given a quick HD makeover before being re-sold to gamers at a premium price. Although who can really blame Sony who are just desperately trying to claw back some of the cash lost to the second hand market. The second hand gaming market may very well be the death of games sold on physical formats. It doesn’t make any sense for developers to splurge millions of pounds on developing something when they are only going to receive payment for it from one of the five people who are going to play it. By forcing us to purchase digital downloads we only own the right to play some code, and don’t have anything tangible that we can trade on. We are being sold the idea, and not the book.

Would I be upset if the entire games industry switched to a download only model? Probably. But I like nice boxes that I can show off to people when they come to visit me because I’m a materialistic arsehole. What might be quite nice about this possible future is that we may see a universal platform, where it doesn’t matter what system you’ve got, you can play any of the games available. Cloud computing is already kickstarting this ideal off. People can buy cheap set top boxes and then pay a cheap monthly subscription to play the latest games in high definition. It doesn’t matter that the box isn’t really very powerful at all, because all of the processing is being done hundreds of miles away in a server room on a super computer. This model of gaming is a lot more inclusive and very interesting, its almost like the HBO of gaming. Video games are by their very nature quite episodic, Alan Wake excelled at mimicking the style of a stylised horror tv show where each level was a new episode. Its not even uncommon for games to be sold in episode form now, whilst the next one is being developed.

But anyway, I digress the whole reason of setting this blog up is to hopefully showcase some of my favourite classics from past and present.