Monday, 14 November 2016

Point and click mania - Clock Tower

“Raised in the Granite Orphanage, Jennifer and her friends
were wanted as adopted daughters.
It happened in September…”

It’s hard to be objective to a game I ritualistically play every Halloween much less to a game that practically redefined the survival horror genre overnight. Clock Tower is a forgotten gem which has no right to be as good as it is. It does everything wrong. An action driven game that pits you against one enemy; offering no weapons to defend yourself against it. Check. A 90’s point and click adventure that can be finished in under an hour. Check. Small children killed in a Nintendo exclusive. Check. Yes, Clock Tower offered the emerging horror gamer an experience quite unlike any other.

Inspired by the giallo work of Dario Argento and video nasties such as The Burning, Clock Tower puts you in control of unwanted, orphan Jennifer as she attempts to navigate an isolated mansion whilst she and her young friends are routinely hunted by a serial killer. You win the game by hiding and hoping to be quick enough, and lucky enough - the killers appearance is randomized - to escape an unfortunate end. Help does not come.

While you run, Jennifer panics. If she panics too much she will begin to fall over. The killer closes in. If you reach a dead end, the game continues letting you simply wait knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do. Then you are schewered like a pig.  You will see Jennifer die a lot in Clock Tower. Surprisingly, the game never made it out of the Japanese market. 

Here’s a typical event that may happen in Clock Tower: Jennifer runs into an outhouse with the pulsating John Carpenter music revibrating down the coridors after her. I climb a ladder onto a balcony and duck down. The killer enters and I push the ladder over preventing him from reaching me. He leaves. The music ends. I suddenly realise the drop is too far for me to return to the ground floor and I am stuck up there. Suddenly, the roof caves in and the killer is up there with me. He advances.

It is this psychology of uncertainty and vulnerability that makes the atmosphere of Clock Tower work so effortlessly. You are in danger from the moment the game begins to the moment it ends. There are no powerups, cheats or saves and later games in the series wouldn’t even have canonical endings. Pick your favourite said the director [in the sequel manual] there’s the “Hollywood” ending, the “franchise” ending; he continues to list them off as if he really doesn’t care. The game over screen is termed “dead end” perhaps ironically. There are nine endings in total to Clock Tower and many of them are not pretty.

The popularity of the game continued to grow years later thanks to internet piracy and elements of the game found its way into populrar cultue, the panic system was incorporated into the original Dino Crisis and online cult legend Benjamin Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame developed a video game trilogy inspired by the game beginning with “5 Days a Stranger.” Now the series has finally been revived thanks to a kick starter campaign.

Will Jennifer and her friends escape from The Barrows Mansion? This time perhaps, and there are three ways in which she could have done so that tie to a direct seuel, but in future games - all endings are equivocal. It is this open endededness and lack of concern with an overly rewarding or punishing game experience that allows players the freedom to interpret the game as they see fit.

The game was later ported to Windows but once again failed to acquire interested publishers outside of Japan. I wonder why.

If you like this try:
5 Days a Stranger, Broken Sword (series), Silent Hill (series), Dark Seed (series).

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Wii U Production ends

After denying reports that the Wii U was ending its production "that week" Nintendo's Japanese website now has this to say.

Which we're reliably informed (by Google) means "production to end soon". The Wii U so far has sold about 13.36 million units which means it's Nintendo's worst selling home console because apparently the Virtual Boy counts as a handheld (I know right?) however it did manage to beat out another great console that fell short, the Sega's Dreamcast (9.13 million)

Obviously, this is all in order to make room for Nintendo's new system which is set to deliver the most used feature of the Wii U... off-TV play.

Abe's Take
So what now for the Wii U's left "in the system" that need to be sold? Same thing it needed 6 weeks before the Xbox One was announced a deep price cut. The last of the units need to be sliced down to £100 probably with a game. Throw in some heavy marketing, sprinkle with more of the systems hit games on Nintendo select and get rid off the last of the stock.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Rumour: Smash Switch Port/Amiibo Delayed

And we're back to Nintendo Switch rumours, it was nice writing about Metro and Mass Effect for a change. Today we seemingly have a rebuttal to another rumour intentionally/accidentally using today's source.

Today's report come from our pal (they don't know that) Laura Dale. Today she is reporting that Super Smash Bro's 4 is coming to the Nintendo Switch but will not be available at launch but will hit some point in the first 6 months after launch. Unlike the previous rumour (that other places linked to) Ms Dale sources are not saying this will be a "director's cut" or that it will feature any new content beyond the original DLC from the Wii U. They are also unable to get any confirmation on Gamecube controller support or if the 3DS exclusive levels will be ported across too.

However, this port might of coming at a cost for Amiibo fans Dale's sources say that the Bayonetta and Cloud Amiibo will be delayed so they can be launched alongside "Super Smash Bros for Switch".


Abe's Take
Something pinged in my head as I was writing that last part as both Bayonetta and Final Fantasy are rumoured to be seeing Nintendo Switch ports/sequels.

The life expectancy of my Wii U will probably be determined by how true these rumours of ports and director cuts are. The Wii U holds the crown for multiplayer get-togethers and will probably hold it until the Switch gets games to replace it.

Rumour: Metro 3 Outed

The Metro games are some of the tensest and atmospheric FPS on the market, being trapped on the toxic surface, wounded and heavily breathing into what remains of my gas mark as the last filter slowly fail. Nothing has topped that moment since.

It seems we have now seen the most iron-clad leak of all time. Dmitry Glukhovsky, the author of the Metro novels has released a Metro timeline alongside the English version and there is an curious addition for 2017: 'The next Metro video game' with the text "it all adds up to something, Where the books end their story, the game will pick it up. An era of great discoveries lie ahead."

Which is rather exciting as nothing has been announced for the 3rd Metro game. It would certainly be an interesting turn for the franchise as Metro 2035 sees the return of Artyom as the people of the Metro attempt to retake the surface world, it seems likely that Metro 3 could be a rather different experience.

Not played Metro? well get on it, the two games saw a bundle remaster release for current gen and unlike the other remasters the developers applied all the gameplay improvements.

Abe's Take
Well I'm going to through a rumour tag on this but it seems rather pointless but just in case, there it is. Well, think I know my plans for the new year now, time to reread and replay the series in order.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Mass Effect Andromeda Details

Yesterday was Bioware's annual N7 event, the celebration of the Mass Effect franchise and fanbase. Yesterday Bioware used that to reveal the first story trailer for the new entry Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Along with this trailer. details are finally starting to appear about the game.

Time and Space

We know now that Mass Effect Andromeda takes place 600 years after Mass Effect 3. During the events of Mass Effect 2, the council decides that the reapers are too much of a threat to rest the fate of one Spector (Shepard) and so builds great 4 ark ships, one for each council race. Sending them far away from the Reapers and their Mass Relays. The plan is to investigate the "golden worlds" of the Heleus cluster. However the human ark ship "Hyperion" wakes up to find itself of cause and out of contact with the other ships or the Nexus a central command ship sent ahead of the arks.

The set up here nicely sidesteps the "ending" issue of Mass Effect 3 and removes the need for a canon ending. Bioware states that whatever the results of you Mass Effect 1-3 playthrough that is you canon. Which implies we won't see anything else Mass Effect from the Milkyway set after Mass Effect 3.

The Ryders

Alec Ryder in his N7 armour
Leading this mission is the "Pathfinder" Alec Ryder (star of the E3 trailer), unlike previous Mass Effect games the players won't be choosing Ryder's gender like they did Shepard. Instead, players will be picking (and customizing) between his son Scott and daughter Sera. Whilst Bioware has confirmed both the siblings Ryder will survive and not pull a Nate/Nora or Bethany/Carter but things look less... joyful for Alec as his title will pass to your Ryder. Speaking of Nate/Nora Andromeda will allow players to customize not only their choice of Ryder but also the sibling and father.

Scott and Sera Ryder in their AI armour
Player Freedom
Andromeda seeks to set players free from some artificial constraints from the first series (and the genre) so the first thing to go is the Paragon/Renegade system (it is unsure if the epic interruptions return) making that invisible should free the player to make more natural choices (we found this true for Fallout 4). Instead of a visible ranking affecting your interactions with NPCs instead, it'll be your actions and "tones" used in conversations. the goal here is to give you a more diverse way of expressing yourself without worrying about or being locked into a simple binary blue/red system.

Next up is the class system, instead of offering players an starting class to build up ME:A will be flipping the system on its head and letting players build their characters freely. There are however bonuses for following "traditional" classes so for example, unlocking multiple biotic powers will net you a bonus to your biotic prowess.

This new found freedom expands to combat whereas Mass Effect 3 had two "play styles" where you either played it like a Gears or "stop and go" using the power wheel. Andromeda is attempting to merge the two allowing for faster gameplay, this also involves removing the 'tactical' roll in favor for a jet pack dodge and leap, allowing you to avoid fire, get across gaps or to higher ground.

Bioware confirms this style of gameplay will transfer to ME:A's Co-op mode, which is expected to be similar to Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition's. Which pleases us as we enjoyed both games attempt at multiplayer.


You know what? we missed the Mako, the hover tank was not the same.
The Mako is making its return to the franchise but altered to matched the feedback from Mass Effect 1. The new vehicle is called the Nomad and will allow people to explore the open terrain of the planets, which will apparently feature not only story missions but also side quests for the local populous. Bioware is making great pains to let fans know this isn't the same Mako it won't handle like the old ones, the sense of speed has been corrected and the camera will be a lot more compliant.

Unlike the Shepard Trilogy humanity is the alien invaders in Andromeda, the Hyperon is the only source of pink meat bags in this galaxy and the locals are not happy about the new guys. the new race

Whilst the Hyperon is the human ark ship it appears there is at least one non-human on board as players will be joined by the Asari Peebee who as you saw in the trailer doesn't appear to be like other Asari like Liara or Samara. (there is some rumour that she might have a human "father")

Peebee, part human or an Asari Teen (50 years old)
The End?
Bioware isn't talking about where this game will end, if it will feature multiple endings or if its the start of a new trilogy. The goal with Mass Effect Andromeda was to tell a "complete" story. Which gives us a sigh of relief as an increasing number of games are expecting to get the trilogy treatment and as such, we don't often get a clear ending.

Whilst Bioware isn't giving us a date outside of "spring 2017" but Dark Horse's tie-in comic is still coming "the same day as the game March 21st". Regardless Mass Effect Andromeda is available to preorder on Amazon. Mass Effect Andromeda is also confirmed to be PS4 Pro compatible which will see the game boosted to "near" 4k.

Abe's Take
I speak for most of us at GK-UK when I say "We can not wait to play this" as Bioware is building not only on the lessons learned from Mass Effect 1-3 but also Dragon Age Inquisition  

Monday, 7 November 2016

Tantalus has Switch Games

Today will just not give me a break on the Nintendo Switch stuff today. A new interesting Studio has also thrwon their hat into the ring.

Tom Crago, CEO of Tantalus has joined the chorus of studio's confirming the have Nintendo Switch games in development but Tantalus needs a special mention because of their job with Nintendo. Tantalus made the rather good HD remasters of Wind Waker & Twilight Princess and we could be hearing about their "titles" soon.

“I can confirm that we’re working on Switch, and have been for some time. Our titles haven’t been announced as yet, but keep an eye out for more news soon”

What could they be working on? re-remastering Wind Waker and Twilight Princess for Nintendo Switch (if so they better be bundled together) or are they finally going to give us that Skyward Sword remaster we've been asking for since the Wii U was announced.

This new has however made us a little worried as Nintendo only seems to produce these remasters when they delay a Zelda... which makes us look at a brief report from Emily Rogers who thinks Super Mario Switch could replace Breath of the Wild as a launch title. It also possible however that they are simply handling the Switch port.

Abe's Take
I really hope Skyward Sword sees a remaster, the game's art style was amazing but was hampered by the Wii's low resolution and power. Here, check out the orginal game running in the dolphin emulator.

Capcom finally talks Switch

Well lucky me, another publisher has begun speaking about the Nintendo Switch. However, this time it is not the usual 'Yay Nintendo!' comment.

During Capcom's 2nd quarterly Q&A they brought up them bringing multiplatform titles from Xbox and PS. It seems unlike other companies Capcom isn't prepared to treat the Switch as a Wii U successor

"We are currently carrying out research with regards to multiplatform implementation of software for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on to the Nintendo Switch,"

This research apparently is need not due to 'power' but with the "playstyle" of the Nintendo Switch, so they appear concerned that it's a handheld hybrid and not a full console.

"However, we do feel that there are differences in the desired direction and the play-style of the Nintendo Switch and those of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. At Capcom, we determine which platform to release a title for after considering the features of both our software and the hardware in question, believing we must bring the enjoyment of our games to their maximum potential"

Though they do seem to be open to treating the Switch as a home system but they seem intent on letting Nintendo take the lead in that department. If Nintendo treats it as a home system and it can support it Capcom will follow but if they don't then they'll support it like the 3DS

"As a software publisher, we endeavour to develop games that offer enjoyment best suited to each piece of hardware's features and target users. Following first party, in order to introduce our own content we are currently moving forward with internal planning and analysis as a partner company."

Abe's Take
Capcom is making a lot of strange moves recently, the company is been having trouble outside of Japan (can't think many Japanese developers that are) which is leading them to remasters, paid exclusives and changing their games to appear to western gamers but these have not gone well Resident Evil 5, RE:6, RE: Revelations and RE: Revelations 2 have been criticized for being too action based. Lost Planet 3 effectively killed the franchise, and there is a lot of concerns over Dead Rising 4's health regen, no timers and apparent dropping of the series' branching story.

However they can not be blamed for wanting to see how the public and Nintendo treat their Switches, will the be home consoles on the go, or will they be handhelds on the TV?