Monday, August 29, 2011

Backlog Assault: 'Splosion Man

In the last few years I've built up a pretty crazy gaming backlog. This year, I've decided it's high time I do something about it. Join me as I begin to regret more than ever all those impulse Steam buys and 99 cent PS2 bargains:

Title: 'Splosion Man
Platform: XBLA

Bought: 26 November 2010
From: Xbox Live Arcade
Price: 160 points
Beaten: 14 July 2010

Backloggery Dump:
  • 20/06/11 - I'm up to level 3-10 now. Really enjoying it so far.
  • 21/06/11 - Beat the last nine levels tonight. Cool game, bosses were a bit annoying though.

A really solid, lengthy platformer, so much so that I feel slightly guilty for having paid so little for it. :D In it, you play as the titular 'Splosion Man, a mass of burning embers, whose only ability is to explode, which allows him to jump, bounce off walls and kill enemies. You can only explode three times in a row before needing to recharge though.This limitation, along with the rather excellent level design calls for some satisfyingly high-level platforming skill and ingenuity  to get through the game's fifty or so levels. The game does get quite difficult as you get further into it, but the levels are pretty well-checkpointed and deaths rarely feel unfair, which both help to keep frustration to a minimum.

On the other end of the rage-o-meter though are the handful of boss battles you run into at the end of each set of levels. The zoomed-out camera and the dark surroundings during these stages make it pretty hard to keep track of where you are, making it harder to avoid getting hit boss patterns you've yet to learn.Get hit once and you die, forcing you to replay the boss fight from the start - not fun, especially when you're doing it for the tenth or twelfth time.

Boss battles aside, the only other thing that really didn't do it for me here, despite how much it's been talked up, was the game's humour. Maybe I didn't give it a fair chance, but the bibble coming from both Splosion Man and the bosses immediately turned me off and It wasn't long until I headed to the options menu and issued gagging orders all round. The ending FMV and the credits songs are the parts that seem to draw the most praise though and frankly, all that stuff had me staring blankly at the screen and thinking "that's it?"; Tastes differ I guess. None of that stopped me from enjoying the game itself though, which I did quite a lot.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Site Updates

deviantArt isn't the only thing I've been beavering away at for the last couple of months; I've also found the time to add a few new bits and pieces to my web site, and by "new" I mean old crap I dug out of a zip file somewhere. (I do spoil you people.)

Mario 64 Wallpaper

First up is a revamped version of a Mario 64 WP I first put together in the Summer of 2000. Working only with images scanned in from the game's box and manual, the original ended up a bit on the rough side, despite the hours I must have poured into cleaning up that fucking logo. :D

I always liked the basic design though and a few weeks ago, thanks to Paint Shop Pro and two official renders I uh, borrowed from Boo Mansion and Super Mario Wiki, I was finally able to make the wallpaper I wanted to eleven years ago. Go, me!

Video Game History Slides

In 2003, I had to do a presentation for a communications class in college. Being a bit hazy on the pre-NES era of gaming, I decided to take that as my subject in an effort to broaden my gaming knowledge. I don't think the class were exactly enthralled by tales of the Odyssey and the awfulness of E.T., but I still managed to pass and I did actually learn a bit of video game history in the process.

The script I used on the day has been up on the archives page of the site for a few years, but I only got around to putting the slides up (in PDF form) a few days ago. They're nothing too extravagant (I wasn't exactly taking the class I made them for too seriously :D), but they do feature a damn sexy picture of Nolan Bushnell; surely worth a passing grade all on its own.

Pick-Ups 2008

Finally, I've bulked out the rather barebones features page with links to several amazing pieces of blog content from the last couple of years, as well as links to a trio of long, rambling Listal lists detailing my music, DVD and game purchases from 2008 - Lists that were meant to be a quick look back at the year in December, but ended up stretching out all the way until February....2011.:D

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

deviantArt Updates 23/08/11

Things have taken a decidedly strange turn this week with two trippy, holiday-themed deviations dropping into my gallery before we've even hit September. Trippin' on the Moon is a modified, negative version of Santa, a photo of a window-mounted Christmas decoration I took in 2008; After reducing it down into a wallpaper-sized image for my own use, I started screwing around with it and this is what I ended up with. Slightly more timely is Jack-o'-lantern Funtime, a set of four images derived from the same crappy jack-'o-lantern snaps as Evil Glow, available in both single and collage form.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

deviantArt Updates 19/08/11

I'm a few days late posting about these, but better late than never I guess. First up this week we have Softly, another wallpaper, this time featuring some airbrush experimentation I did earlier in the year. There isn't much to it really, but I quite like the colours. Bloom is one of several cool images I made with the kaleidoscope effect in Paint Shop Pro in a continuing effort to find something to do with one of this week's scraps: Spooky Guy. Much like Spray Guy a few years ago, I finally conceded defeat in this endeavour and uploaded this little doodle as as it was on Friday. The second scrap I put up this week is 8-bit, an early version of the right side of Retro, which I uploaded a few weeks ago. While it didn't have the 8-bit computer game look I was going for at the time, I really liked the character I'd drawn for it and later incorporated it into Paint Doodles 2.

World Rally Fever Save File - Pro Cup Unlocked

Given that it's ten years since I bought it, I decided to dig out World Rally Fever again a few weeks ago and have a go at finally beating it. I managed to clear the rookie cup back in 2001, but never got any further. Playing it now, I can see that that's mainly because it's bloody hard.

I've got a bunch of videos recorded and a little bit of a write-up planned for later, but  having finally unlocked the pro cup within the last hour, I thought I'd upload a copy of my save file so anyone who wants to check out the final cup can do so without enduring the keyboard-flinging frustration this would otherwise involve.

Get your copy here, you filthy cheater (full instructions included).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Free Stuff: Freeware DOS Games Part 2

We covered ten of the freeware DOS games languishing on my hard drive last week, how about we cover another ten now?

The Adventures of Maddog Williams in the Dungeons of Duridian

A text adventure with graphics and a movable character on screen. Seems pretty promising from what I've played and it's definitely got a decent sense of humour. I guess sticky keys weren't around when they decided to map attack to the shift key though. :D

Electro Man

Another platformer starring a guy with a gun, a gun you can only fire while it has enough juice from the batteries you pick up. The graphics look really nice, but this doesn't look like the easiest of games to get through.

God of Thunder

A really enjoyable action/puzzle game from what I've played of it. As you might have guessed from the title, you play as Thor as he attempts to thwart Loki's naughty schemes by er, collecting gems and tossing hammers at small animals. Seems to be influenced quite a bit by the overhead Zelda games.

Heartlight PC

A puzzle platformer with some similarities to Dig Dug. Here you need to burrow through levels, collecting all the hearts while clearing spaces in such a way that you don't get crushed by falling rocks or block your own path with them. I love the sort of dark electronic soundtrack, even though it seems completely out of place here. :D

Heros I: The Sanguine Seven

A pretty rough-looking platformer with quite a grating soundtrack. The ability to choose from a set of seven different playable characters seems kind of neat, though I've never spent any serious time playing this and I don't think I really want to either.


A fun single-screen platformer that has you navigating ladders and flying around with a jetpack as you attempt to collect every gem in each level while avoiding being eviscerated by nasty robots.

Major Stryker

A vertically scrolling shooter from Apogee. Some pretty nice graphics, especially in the intro and I quite like the framing device they have going, even though it seems to be disguising the game's inability to run in fullscreen. I'm not terribly good at shooters, but the short distance you can see ahead of you here makes this extra hard, despite the fairly slow pace.

One Must Fall 2097

The game that alerted me to the existence of freeware DOS games in the first place. I've hardly even played this, but it seems like a fairly decent fighter. The music's certainly good though and I really like the anime-influenced presentation.


Another vertically scrolling shooter, this time from Epic. Looks promising and it's certainly more playable than Major Stryker thanks to it's longer play field.

And that wraps it up for this instalment. More to come soon.

Getting the FMV to Play in Tomb Raider II

A few days ago I snagged the Sold-Out version of Tomb Raider II on eBay for the paltry sum of €3.68. Despite the seller randomly deciding to add "Antrim" to my address, today it dropped through my letterbox. Being an older Windows game I was expecting some problems running it on (the admittedly outdated itself) Windows XP SP3. The game itself I managed to get going easily enough by running it in compatibility mode for Windows 98. The problem was the FMVs, which all froze after playing for about a second.

As all members of the PC gaming master race know, getting the game running is half the fun, so pulling up Google, I proceeded to trawl through long abandoned forum topics and Tomb Raider fan sites looking for some solutions to my problem. After a while I came across and old freeware program Eidos apparently released called ESCAPEplay, a video player for their FMV file format at the time.

One forum poster had managed to get the FMVs playing after copying all the DLL files from ESCAPEplay's folder and pasting them into the Tomb Raider II folder. This sounded like it might be worth a try, though I suspected that only a few of the DLL files installed would actually be needed. Sure enough, Tomb Raider II's intro movie finally played after I copied the files to its directory and after a quick bit of experimentation I found that the only DLL file the game actually needed to play FMVs was winplay.dll

This isn't however a perfect solution to the problem; The intro still froze on me once and about half the time a Windows XP window appears around the video. Still, it's definitely better than nothing.

Lara's butt in all its low res glory. You know, to show that the FMV works.

So, to sum up here's what you need to do:
  1. Download ESCAPEplay.You can find it on Tomb Raider Hub here.
  2. Open the ESCAPEplay zip file and unzip winplay.dll to the directory Tomb Raider II is installed in.
Remember, I'm running the Sold-Out version of the game on Windows XP Service Pack 3 . Depending on which version of the game you have and your hardware and software setup, your milage may vary with this method. Good luck!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Free Stuff: Freeware DOS Games Part 1

One day back in 2007, when I should have been doing something far more important, I made the discovery that there were a bunch of DOS games legally available on the internet, games that had been officially declared as freeware by their owners. Not one to turn down the chance of some gaming on the cheap, I spent several hours tracking down and downloading many of them. Throughout 2007 and 2008 I continued to stay on the lookout for more freebies and by May 2008, goodness knows how many hours I'd put into finding, installing and troubleshooting these games. I'd even gone to the trouble of capturing each game's title screen so I could set it as the preview image for the game's folder.

The problem was, of course, that I barley put any time into actually playing these games. I can't have spent more than an hour playing most of them; Some of them I never even touched and I'm not likely to at this stage.

Having wasted all that time and effort though, I might as well put it to some positive use. The other day I was thinking that I should put the screencaps I took up here, give a little synopsis of each game (or at least what I've played of it) and point everyone in the direction of some pretty interesting games of yore. Well, I've got nothing better to do right now, so let's get started.

(Click on the screenshots to go to the full-sized ones on Picasa.)

Adventures of Robbo

I haven't even taken the time to figure out how to get past the first level of this one. It's seems to be a puzzle game in a similar vein to Adventures of Lolo, where you control a robot who must "collect all bolts" as the charmingly amateurish voice work tells you at the start of the level.

Alien Carnage

A 2D platformer/shooter from Apogee where you start off equipped with a jetpack and a flamethrower. How can you go wrong there? Some really nice looking graphics for the time, though the controls feel a bit sluggish.


A Qix-type game developed by Dmitry Pavlovsky, one of the original tetris developers. Simple, but fun.

Loading it up now, I see that the hight scores are dominated by one A2M. Stay classy, JiliK.

Bio Menace

I actually played this a decent amount in 2007. It's a fun, but tough shooter/platformer from Apogee. Gotta love those EGA graphics.

Caves of Thor

A top down ASCII game where you collect treasure and shoot guys or at least it seems to be from the thirty seconds I've played of it. :D

Chex Quest

A Doom mod for kids that came free with Chex breakfast cereal at one point. From what I played of Chex Quest 1, this is a really solid, fun shooter with an impressive amount of work put into it. The link above is for Chex Quest 3, a 2008 continuation of the series by one of the original devs. It includes both Chex Quest 1 & 2 and runs independently of DOSBox.

Clyde's Revenge

I've barley touched this, but it seems like an okay platformer. It's certainly more playable than Clyde's Adventure, the previous entry in the series that had you loosing health every time you walked or jumped. In a platformer?! Who thought that was a good idea? :D


This would probably be a pretty enjoyable Arkanoid clone if the ball didn't move so damn slowly. Even cranking the CPU cycles way up in DOSBox doesn't entirely fix the problem. Pity.

Cybersphere Plus

The sequel to Cybersphere. Sadly, the ball's still moving in slow motion here.

The Elder Scrolls: Arena

I haven't played a whole lot of this, but I did manage to make my way out of the initial dungeon and into the first town, leaving a trail or rats in my wake. It seems playable enough, but the thought of navigating randomly generated dungeons throughout the game makes this a far more daunting prospect than Morrowind ever was.

Although it wasn't freeware when I took these screenshots, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall has also been released gratis by Bethesda. You can grab it from the official site here.

Well, that's it for today. More to come soon.

Accidental Screenshots: Half Life Lost Coast / Opposing Force

I may have missed last week, but that doesn't mean I'm out of screenshots from my wandering quicksave finger just yet. Today, we're heading back to the world of Half Life with a collection of snaps from the HL1 add-on, Opposing Force and the HL2 one level tech demo, Lost Coast.

You know, out of the Half Life games I've played so far, OP4 was the only one I didn't really enjoy. I found it pretty damn tough compared to the original, really struggling to get through most of it. I guess they made harder on the assumption that you'd have a few AI characters helping a lot of the time. I could never seem to keep any of those morons alive for more than a few minutes though, at least without tearing my hair out and quicksaving and loading like a madman. And there was quite enough of that going on as it was. :D

But enough talk, let's get going with those screenshots. First up, Lost Coast:

Is it just me, or does saving during a one level demo seem a little bit pathetic? :D

And now, for some Opposing Force:

This is pretty early on in the game, I think. Probably taken during the Steam Holiday Sale I bought this in.

Clearly, Adrian Shephard is not worthy to wield the tool of The One Free Man.

Some dead headcrabs to the left. That screech never fails to freak me out.

Holy crap, I spent so much time wandering around this area trying to figure out what to do. It turned out that one of the doors (maybe this one) that was supposed to open just wouldn't in my game. I had to pull up the console in the end and punch in a no clipping code to get past it.

More to come after the jump.

deviantArt Updates 11/08/11

The hits keep coming with another pair of wallpapers this week. Fragments is a simple, but interesting-looking wallpaper that I came up with while doodling away and watching some episodes of My Name Is Earl last week. Acid, on the other hand, is a ridiculously bright mess of colours derived from the Psychedelic wallpaper I put up a few weeks ago. It looked a lot more like acid eating through something at first, which is where the name come from. The more I fiddled with the brightness and contrast though the more it looked like the result of someone vomiting the early 90's onto my computer screen or in other words, the more awesome it got.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

deviantArt Updates 04/08/11

I'm back again this week with more, uh, deviantArt goodies. First up is another wallpaper - Throwing Shapes is something I started doodling while marathoning almost the entire series of Battlestar Galactica back in the Spring.  (And I enjoyed the last few seasons, screw the haters. :D) I came back to it more recently and turned it into a kind of cool vector people dancing wallpaper. Dispersal is a combination of two little images I whipped up with the smudge tool in Paint Shop Pro, one of which I turned into the surprisingly popular (by my low standards anyway :D) Disperse wallpaper. I'm kicking myself that I didn't do those images at a massive resolution now though, because I think this two would actually make for a pretty bad ass print. I've also added a new deviation to my scrapbook. Old Skool Butterfly is a butterfly I drew recently with the airbrush in PSP in the style of the butterflies I drew for my Junior Cert stuff many moons ago. Funnily enough, I spent a few minutes today watching a butterfly on a blackberry bush. I was kind of surprised to see it fluttering its wings to scare off an oncoming bee. I'd better stop now; I'm suddenly turning into Karl Pilkington. :D