Clintario Part One: The Creations of Doctor Gobbo (PC) Review

Developer: Gizmo Games

  Clintario (PC) (2.1 MiB, 1,179 hits)

Game by Gizmo Games, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

This is a side scroller…like Mario…same sounds and everything…the annoying coin sound…the stupid enemies…the annoying coin sound…and even less of a story than Mario. There IS no story…well its about the same now that I think about it.

Graphics:

Average. The background was kind of interesting…and the enemies are really simple drawings.

Sound:

I like the music a lot actually…but the annoying coin sound balances the sound out to a 0, meaning its not good and its not bad.

Gameplay:

Simple enough. You’d think that the up arrow would be jump, but its actually the space bar. that’s the only annoying thing. Also the fact that you have to jump realllllllly long lenghts is kind of annoying, because if you’re way into the room, it starts you over.

Crappiest Part:

Umm…I don’t like this game too much…I have no idea why I’m playing it, because there’s no story.

Overall Score:

This isn’t a good game, if it were more complete I might give it a better score, but it really wouldn’t have gotten much more. The ANNOYING as hell coin sound is stupid as hell….GO TO HELL! I give it a:

6/10

  Clintario (PC) (2.1 MiB, 1,179 hits)

Game by Gizmo Games, made with Game Maker.

 

Cliff Gunner (PC) Review

Developer: Blackrat Studios

  Cliff Gunner (PC) (1.5 MiB, 1,150 hits)

Game by Blackrat Studios, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

Cliff Gunner is basically an updated version of Space Invaders, with better drawings, and not much anything more different.

Graphics:

The graphics are nice. I like the buildings. The ships and UFO things are kinda weird looking though. But hey, who am I to say that an alien ship looks weird? It may even be the gay ships that have come to attack Earth so they can rule it and suck off all the other alien cock they wanted without persecution.

Sound:

Its ok. The air siren is sort of annoying after the first 2 seconds.

Gameplay:

Simple enough. You point and click the ships and missiles that are coming down at the city, and try not to have anything blow up the city.

Crappiest Part:

Well, the crappiest part would be how its not really that exciting to just blow up missiles and stuff. Its more fun to blow up the city yourself. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do the first time around. Then it said I lost. Why can’t there be a game like that, that you go from city to city and blow all their shitty buildings up? WHY!??!

Overall Score:

This is a good game, but there’s not much that is different from Space Invaders. The scenery and all the sprites are easy on the eyes, but I have to give a 7/10, because there is nothing new in this, that I’ve seen.

  Cliff Gunner (PC) (1.5 MiB, 1,150 hits)

Game by Blackrat Studios, made with Game Maker.

 

Christmas Crunch (PC) Review

Developer: CapnChubby

  Christmas Crunch (PC) (664.5 KiB, 1,235 hits)

Game by capnchubby, made with GameMaker.

Overview:

I couldn’t really read the menus, but you control a bunch of icons like socks and santa heads. They all move when you go left, etc. The goal is to get them into thier individual goals without hitting any diamonds.

Graphics:

menus are kinda cool, though hard to read. I don’t like to take off points for that kinda thing, though. The other stuff is pretty boring.

Sound:

Really starts to piss you off, since it’s the same thing over and over. Well, actually more, but all Christmas songs sound the same.The scream when you die scares the crap outta you. who knew socks could scream so loud?

Gameplay:

Original. Not too fun to play, but it makes you think. Sometimes it screws up and the block off guys you control split up a little.

Crappiest Part:

How it’s GAY! GAY GAY GAY!! There, I said it…

Overall Score:

5/10

  Christmas Crunch (PC) (664.5 KiB, 1,235 hits)

Game by capnchubby, made with GameMaker.

 

Chip Buffington (PC) Review

Developer: gamezwhiz

  Chip Buffington (PC) (1.6 MiB, 1,131 hits)

Game by gamezwhiz, made with GameMaker.

Overview:

The title screen was a bit cheesy, but i’m not here to talk about that….basically what you do in this game is…collect coins which i don’t know what you do with, get keys and then use them to open the door to go to the next level (if there even is one). And boy, let me tell you right now: What an involving storyline.

Graphics:

I swear that title screen really spoiled it for me. oh yeah i said i wouldn’t talk about it anymore. The graphics are moderate, they’re not great, but they’re not bad.

Sound:

The music is OK, it “sets the mood” but its kind of annoying, along with the sound effects…nothing you can really dance to, if you want me to be frank. But my names not Frank.

Gameplay:

Gameplay is pretty much like Pac-Man, but you can jump…and you get coins…and you get keys…i don’t know why it takes 4 keys to open 1 door, its like living in the ghetto where you have to have 5 locks on your door to feel secure. This game is so stupidly hard, too. You can’t kill the monsters except by losing a life, and on top of that, they shoot little pink things to make it even harder to beat. ARRGHHH!

Crappiest Part:

How it mixes 15.3% Chips’ Challenge and 84% Pac-Man into a hard game. The other 0.7% is shit.

Overall Score:

With all “jokes” aside, this is a basic sidescroller, and he did an ok job making the concept, by mixing 2 old games. But its not the best game around, nor is there too much to keep you entertained if you’re stuck in the first level (like i was). I give it a:

7/10

  Chip Buffington (PC) (1.6 MiB, 1,131 hits)

Game by gamezwhiz, made with GameMaker.

 

Chao Virtual Pet System (PC) Review

Developer: Keyro Productions Inc.

  Chao (PC) (1.2 MiB, 1,351 hits)

Game by Keyro Productions Inc., made with GameMaker.

Overview:

This is a virtual pet system, that is a little bit deeper than the Tomagotchi shit everyone and their grandmas had a long time ago.

Graphics:

The graphics are average…there aren’t too many different things that are drawn really..

Sound:

The music is pretty good, but after like about 10 minutes of doing nothing but feeding bars of shit and junk like that to your Chao, it won’t be so giddy and happy…except annoying and aneurysmic

Gameplay:

Uhhhhhhhhh….you drag and drop the shit for the Chao to eat…and that’s it…you don’t do anything else.

Crappiest Part:

Well…how it takes so long for the Chao to do anything. I didn’t even SEE it do anything because it took so long. Its just really annoying. Another thing is, you can’t kill your Chao.

Overall Score:

This isn’t fun…I’d only open this game to listen to the music. And the depth that I was talking about before, well its useless depth, you don’t do anything in this game.

5/10

  Chao (PC) (1.2 MiB, 1,351 hits)

Game by Keyro Productions Inc., made with GameMaker.

 

Blood of War 3: Operation Snow (PC) Review

Developer: JCS Games

  Blood of War 3: Operation Snow (1.5 MiB, 1,116 hits)

Game by JCS Games, made with GameMaker.

Overview:

Blood of War 3 Operation Snow only has one thing going for it. Its name. Now that makes you think. At first sight, Blood of War 3 Operation Snow seems like its a good name, right? Or does it? Its actually really fucking stupid, because there is no fucking snow. Not even yellow snow. And there’s no blood. And there’s no war. And this seems like its a “3rd in the series” kind of game because of the 3. The truth is, I don’t see how this could be the 3rd game of anything, because usually games get better as they get sequels. This game is like a prime cut piece of ass. I think the 3 was just tossed on there for the hell of it, to make it seem like this game was a part of a popular series. But it isn’t. Its all ass, and this ass tastes bad. Very bad.

Graphics:

Bad. The sprites don’t even move. They just slide around. Bullets are big black lines, and there’s a stupid assortment of shitty weapons that don’t even look good when they’re used. This stupid war is being fought in Cement World where everything and everyone is made out of cement. People are colored, so you know they’re people and not walls. When people get shot, they disintegrate into a pile of mush. If they get electrocuted, they change different colors and then disappear. If they get burned with the flamethrower, they fall into a pile of mush. There are these weird crystal things floating out of nowhere, that seem to give you more ammo for your electrocuter…

Sound:

Horrible. The only semi-good sound effect is the gun shot sound. There’s an annoying screaming sound for a soldier when they die by electrocution.

Gameplay:

This game is so fucking boring. There’s nothing to do in this game. All you do is shoot the enemy, or get hit by as many bullets as you can before the game decides to randomly restart the level so you’re back to what you originally had for your health and ammo. This game is bullshit. I don’t see how anyone can have fun playing a game that lets you slide around in a Cement World filled with stupid blue soldiers shooting each other’s dicks off and then shooting them at you so you can eat them.

The flamethrower doesn’t even work right, because when you press Alt, it pauses the game because the game thinks you want to do something with the actual window.

Crappiest Part:

I hate this game. Its 11:30 pm right now, and I’m tired as fuck. This is not the greatest game to play at any time of day, especially this late at night, but nothing can impair my decision about this game sucking the balls of every man (or woman?) within a 5 mile radius of each computer this stupid fucking game is on.

Overall Score:

I’ll tell you something about how this game is good. Getting an extremely low review score.

1/10

  Blood of War 3: Operation Snow (1.5 MiB, 1,116 hits)

Game by JCS Games, made with GameMaker.

 

Battlefield 1942 (PC) Review

Developer: DICE / Publisher: EA Games

Overview:

The War might be over, but not the slew of games based on it. Don’t get me wrong, I like World War II games that aren’t shitty. Battlefield 1942 definitely isn’t a shitty game. Its actually one of the best games I’ve played. And one of the only PC games I have. I don’t have too many, and this is definitely a must-have for first-person shooter games. And it seems to all be historically accurate. It has the same sort of “realistic” gameplay as Counterstrike, while still making it fun.

Graphics:

The graphics are great. You really can’t get much better right now with these graphics. Of course there’s some exceptions right now, but this is good enough for me. The graphics could get better, but I wouldn’t really care for it too much, unless it was made a little more realistic.

Sound:

The sounds of all the different guns and vehicles are good enough for me. They’re not really that annoying either because when you’re gunning down an enemy, all you care about is killing them.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is just like a regular first-person shooter. There is a single player mode, but I usually play online. The online mode is exactly the same as the single player mode except its not a career, and your computer doesn’t have to do all the work of computing the actions of the dozen or so other guys on the map. Its also a lot more fun online, because you can play with your friends, or you can just play with other people who are usually smarter than the computer.

Crappiest Part:

The crappiest part about the game is the long load times. The maps are huge, so I understand why it takes so long. It just takes away from the game to have long load times.

Overall Score:

This game is loads of fun, and with mods you can install, the replay value of this game is very high. The best mod out right now is called Desert Combat, and I am actually playing it more than Battlefield 1942.

10/10

 

Battle Bees (PC) Review

Developer: Urisoft

  Battle Bees (1.7 MiB, 1,269 hits)

Game by Urisoft, made with GameMaker.

Overview:

Battle Bees is a mediocre Real Time Strategy game, set in a mediocre world with mediocre missions. But don’t let that stop you from playing this game. This is actually a fairly involving game that takes a little too much clicking to do what you want to do.

You are the commander of some survivor bees fleeing from their home after a mysterious plague destroyed their livelihood. All the bees that were survivors wandered the world for years, and finally came upon a grand field, that seemed to stretch for miles and miles. It looked like the perfect place to settle down, other than the fact that there was a huge war between all the other insects in the field. As an external force, you’re going to have to destroy all the insect factions in your way and claim the field as your own, for future generations to come.

Graphics:

The graphics are ok. They could have definitely been polished up a bit, and some of them seem to be rushed or not even made by the game creator, like the spider.

Sound:

The sound is alright, and there isn’t anything annoying. When you get into a battle, battle music starts playing. Sometimes this can lag the game though, because a swinging spider can keep going in and out of your “battle zone” (I guess you would call it a battle zone). This really started to show in the 3rd level.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is pretty good. You can direct where units can go, and highlight a big group of units and then tell them where to go. When you have a young bee that becomes an age 3 bee, they are able to become one of 2 bee classes, worker and fighter. When you choose which each one will become, a little box opens with your choices. The box would have been better if it appeared near the bees, and in the same place, but instead it jumps around the screen, and you’d be really lucky if it appeared close to where the previous one was. Supposedly a worker bee is able to get honey, but I didn’t see any real use for it because there weren’t any “base” missions I played so far. They may be used just to get the honey from the flowers, and then right on the spot some bees would pop up. It didn’t really explain that part too well.

Crappiest Part:

The crappiest part of the game is how the game wasn’t polished enough. There’s a huge amount of spelling and grammar errors that make it so you can just barely understand it when reading. The drawings as well could have been polished a little bit too.

Overall Score:

There aren’t too many games that are RTS games made in Gamemaker. Partly because they probably go a little slow, but this game is pretty good for what it is. It’s worth playing through if you have the patience to read bad grammar. There’s also a lot of levels, so you can play with your bees for a while, and find out what actually happens to the colony.

8/10

  Battle Bees (1.7 MiB, 1,269 hits)

Game by Urisoft, made with GameMaker.

 

Arena (PC) Review

Developer: Delta9 Games

  Arena (PC) (2.5 MiB, 1,175 hits)

Game by Delta9 Games, made with Game Maker.

Overview:

A space shooter-type game, where you have a ship that looks like a bat, and you go around trying to kill another person (that is playing too, on your keyboard)

Graphics:

The graphics are nothing great, I have no idea what the hell the ship is really supposed to be…are there fangs on it?

Sound:

The title screen music is annoying. But the in-game music is better, and sets “a mood” that you would want to have.

Gameplay:

The control scheme is a bit weird to get the hang of at first, since you go kinda fast for the little amount of space you really have to go in before you have to make a turn, and you bounce off walls, so it might take you about 4 minutes to get out of a dead end corner….

Crappiest Part:

How you have to have someone with you when playing this game. If the other ship had an AI or something, it’d be fun to play…or some random enemies flying around. There should be a one player mode, i guess is what i’m trying to say.

Overall Score:

This game does have a little fun to it, even if you do play alone. I give it a:

7/10

  Arena (PC) (2.5 MiB, 1,175 hits)

Game by Delta9 Games, made with Game Maker.

 

Annihilation (PC) Review

Developer: Liberty Freak

  Annihilation (PC) (1,008.2 KiB, 1,286 hits)

Annihilation by Liberty Freak. Made with Game Maker.

Overview:

You are supposed to shoot people or something. I don’t read “story screens”.

Graphics:

ok.. It’s all birds eye perspective, so i guess you can’t expect that much, but infiltrator looks much better.

Sound:

Not that great. Kinda sucks. Actually the menu sounds ok… alright i don’t really remember the sound and i don’t want to play it again.

Gameplay:

Arg! i hate it! it was a good effort but it plays really bad.i hate the RE style controls (rotate, walk forward,backward) i could think of some better schemes… in fact i might just make a game like that to prove it!…anyway it’s hard to shoot anyone and they see you no matter what direction you’re facing… I couldn’t get past the first mission. some doors dont open… i’m not sure what you’re sposed to do with those. if you hit a wall, you stick to it… you walk too fast.. rotate at the wrong speed, i’d say… just not very enjoyable.

Crappiest part:

The sticking to walls thing. And the title. i hate it when people make these stupid titles to hype up their games. arg! also you get all these training missions for the different weapons, then on the first level all you can buy is a pistol. since i coulnt beat that level…. i never really got to “annihilate” everyone!! HAHAHAHA!!!! there’s your stupid review dave. hey evryone, go look at my “AMIGOS” flash movie.

Overall Score:

I give this a 4/10 for effort. there’s probably more levels… so yeah.

  Annihilation (PC) (1,008.2 KiB, 1,286 hits)

Annihilation by Liberty Freak. Made with Game Maker.

 

5 Finger Fillet (Web) Review

Developer: 13th Street Games.

Overview:

Five Finger Fillet is a Flash game in which you have a knife and you have to time your space bar hits so that it goes into the area between your fingers. If you’re not careful, you might cut off a finger…or five..

Graphics:

The graphics are pretty good. There aren’t any animations though, just a hand going back and forth. The red “x” that appears when you hit the space bar is kind of out of place, too.

Sound:

Pretty god damn annoying, that’s for sure. There’s a breathing noise all the time, like the guy is nervous about playing knife-hand. Everytime the knife is put down onto the wood, you hear a thump sound. When its put into the guy’s finger, he screams…like anybody should. But even while he screams, the breathing sound is there…yeah…

Gameplay:

Not that interesting. You press space bar…and try not to cut your fingers off. You have to time them right, as the hand that has the knife goes faster until its not possible for a human’s hand to go.

Crappiest Part:

The crappiest part is the boring-ness of it. This game is not fun. Sure, I’ll give them points for the fact that they can draw a severed finger bleeding on a nicely colored piece of blue and green wood, but its worth shit if the game isn’t good. You could make a Barbie game look nice graphically, but you know its going to suck.

Overall Score:

Ok, I’ll be straight and to the point. Don’t play the game. Its not good, and the highlights of the game are shown in the 2 screenshots above.

2/10

 

Micro Machines V4 (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Codemasters || Overall: 7.0/10

Micro Machines V4 from Codemasters is a follow-up to the somewhat popular mini-car racer Micro Machines V3. In a Micro Machines game, one races through courses that are a little bit unconventional to your regular racer, for the fact that you’re actually racing around on things like pool tables, kitchen counters, sand pits, gutters, and other locations of the sort. Quite simply being the best part about Micro Machines V4 itself, the courses are very interesting and arcade-like. However, an arcade racer wouldn’t be complete without power-ups and weapons, and Micro Machines V4 is no exception. There’s plenty of fun to be had with the game, but where it lacks is depth in the gameplay that will motivate you to keep playing the game. Not to mention it can get very frustrating.

Micro Machines V4 is a typical racing game in that you dive right in. Much of the game is focused on three different types of modes that can be played: Race, Checkpoint, and Battle. Race mode is your typical racing game; quite simply you beat your opponents doing whatever you can as you make it to the finish line after three laps. Checkpoint is more like a time-trial mode in that you try and get the best time you can going around a certain race track twice, except you have to make it to the next checkpoint before counter runs out. Battle is by far the most fun part about the game, and the goal is to simply beat the crap out of your opponents, laying traps, shooting missiles, and leaving them in your dust – you have to either eliminate your enemies or get far enough ahead of them in your race around the track to get a point. Once you get enough points in Battle mode, you’ll win. By playing through the game in a Tournament, you can unlock new modes, tracks, and collect more cars for your garage. The cars you keep in your garage can be used for trading with other people online so that you can get other kinds of cars. You can also play the game in an online multiplayer mode.

The graphics in the game aren’t too bad. In fact, the frame rate is almost a solid 60 FPS with very little slowdown. As you make your way through the track, the camera follows your car from far away and makes very smooth reframes, creating a cinematic sort of feel to the game. For some reason, the steady frame rate makes the game a lot more bearable than it probably should be, considering the gameplay itself is very unbalanced (even during the “Rookie” division!) and can be horribly frustrating, making the early stages of a race vital and requiring that you execute each race flawlessly. Though the game is on the PC, it’s clearly made for use with a controller, and can make things a lot easier, if not, more fun in the very least. Sound effects are quite annoying, there is always the high motor whine of the little Micro Machines as they zoom along the edge of the kitchen sink and get stuck in the blender, but with the sound off this problem will simply disappear. Music in the game isn’t very impressionable either.

There aren’t any “extras” that are actually included in the game right out of the box, the reason being that “microtransactions” do take their place in the game – at least in the PC version. To unlock certain bonuses in the PC version, you must go online and register your copy of the game with Codemasters, and proceed to pay a fee for the codes that are used to unlock the extras and different modes. Obviously, it’s kind of ridiculous to have to pay extra for things that are already on the disc, and clearly a way to squeeze the consumer’s wallet on this one. However, the extras that are available to be bought aren’t exactly vital, even though it would be nice to have them…hence their “extra” status.

Micro Machines V4 is a fun game to waste a few hours with every once in a while, but past that, there’s not much to enjoy. Balance issues make the game as a whole very disconcerting, giving a slant towards only wanting to play the Battle mode, as it is the more overly balanced mode in the game. Fans of the series might be a little bit disappointed, since not much in the formula was actually improved between each game. What MMV4 boils down to is your average arcade racer that has the unique status of being a game with miniature cars racing through everyday environments.

 

Red Jets (PC) Review

Developer: InterActive Vision | Publisher: Graffiti Entertainment || Overall: 2.6/10

Editor’s Note: the following article is our reviewer’s account of his attempts to install and play Red Jets. At the request of the publisher, GamersMark would like to clarify that at no point was our reviewer actually able to play Red Jets.

The least satisfying part of white-water rafting down the Nukutaku rapids 12,000 feet above sea level is when the guy right behind you in the raft gets sick to his stomach and vomits on you, and it drips down your life jacket and you can feel it every time you move. At least, that’s what I’ve been told, because I’m terrified of flying anywhere, and if I did manage to walk (not over any bridges) to white-water rapids, I’d be too afraid to hop in the raft for fear of drowning/vomiting on someone.

I’m much more the armchair type. I sit in a comfortable armchair, install Microsoft White Water Rafting Simulator ’98 (the apex of the genre, in my expert opinion), and hit the “vomit” button over and over again until my character passes out from dehydration. As an aside, I’m fairly sure that there are entire fetish magazines devoted to this very scenario in Amsterdam. Of course, why shouldn’t there be? Sometimes, a man just wants to vomit his way into unconsciousness.

And this is precisely what happens when he installs Red Jets, the hip new combat flight simulator (which, for my money is no MS WWRS ’98) from developer InterActive Vision. Now, don’t misunderstand me – I haven’t played this game. It might be great fun. The idea of pulling massive Gs and doing a barrel roll shortly before screaming “GOOOOOOOOSE!” and shooting down like thirty tangos with a slingshot is pretty thrilling. But installing Red Jets is an exercise in vomiting on the guy in front of you while simultaneously being vomited on by the guy behind you.

You see, upon inserting the CD into my computer, the autoplay mechanism started the install process. This is normal. The setup.exe file hard-locked my computer and I was forced to reboot. This is not normal. When I restarted and double-clicked on the setup.exe file, my computer locked up again. My third attempt was to copy the file onto my hard drive and try the setup file from a different location, because perhaps I had incurred some vile “bad mojo” (the technical term) that had secured itself in my CD-ROM tray.

Finally, I was able to run the installer, and I was greeted with the traditional EULA screen. For one reason or another, I skimmed the first paragraph, which I can only assume was written by a Nigerian scam artist, as it was of dubious grammar and unending capital letters. “MOST WISE PURCHASER,” it began, “WE WILL LICENSE THIS GAME TO YOUR PERSON ONLY UNDER ALL THESE TERMS.” It went on to say that if I did not accept all the terms of the agreement, I should return the unopened CD at once.

When my “oh god I’m surrounded by idiots” laugh subsided, I had enough presence of mind to check the manual: perhaps this was just making sure I had a chance to read the terms. Sadly, my first impression was correct. I had to insert the CD into my computer to find out the license terms, and if I did not accept those terms, I was to return the unopened CD. Of course, everyone ignores those terms, but after my problems just trying to run the installer, I felt like I had wandered into an episode of Rocko’s Modern Life.

The game was finally successfully installed; exhausted, I walked off to do something more entertaining than attempting to outwit a game into letting me install it, like hammering nails into my thighbone and seeing how many I could do before I passed out. When I awoke in a pool of my own blood, I went back to Red Jets like a beaten spouse who desperately wants children and says to herself “maybe he hits me because he really loves me; maybe when we have children, he’ll stop.” Maybe, just maybe, I would find happiness instead of an unwanted cameo on Cops, sobbing on my front lawn with mascara running down my face as Officer Moustache asks me over and over if I want to press charges.

I sat down at my chair, again, and double-clicked the Red Jets icon. SecuROM, the game’s copy protection tool, informed me that I was using a duplicate CD, and that I ought to insert the real CD into my drive if I wanted to play. I contemplated burning my apartment to the ground and painting pagan symbols of ancient woe on my body with the ashes of my computer, but then I decided it might violate my lease. So, I followed SecuROM’s instructions for making sure my drive wasn’t malfunctioning.

Sadly, the instructions were written for a different version of Windows, as my version of Device Manager had none of the options or tabs listed by SecuROM’s walkthrough. That’s okay – I was fourteen six months ago once, and I know where to find what are referred to as “crackz” and “warez.” Yes, that’s right, dear reader. Such is my devotion to reviewing this game for you that I ventured into that unseemly corner of the internet to hack my way into this goddamn game for you.

Of course, the crack was for version 1.0 of the game, and I have, well, not version 1.0. So I never did play Red Jets, but I did look at the box art and skim the instruction manual. What follows is my review for Red Jets.

Do you like to fly around and shoot down enemy planes in an adrenaline-fueled dogfight with tracers lighting up your plane like a piñata on Christmas Eve? Dodging missiles like they were phone calls from one-night stands and pulling so many Gs that your testicles touch your toes more authoritatively than you have since you were 8? Well, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, buy something else, because this game is not for you.

The graphics in this game are probably pretty good, but the screenshots on the back of the box look kind of muddy, like someone didn’t know how to resize a JPG file or something. That’s a pretty easy concept, so I wouldn’t trust InterActive Vision to be able to do the complicated stuff like vertex shaders or volumetric smoke or installation. There were a lot of things the manual had to explain about the HUD, and I think the game would probably have been a little more fun if it were easier to pick up and start flying, but fighter jets are kind of complicated, so it’s forgivable. Still, the screenshots in the manual were even more fuzzy than the ones on the box, so that didn’t help their case.

There were a lot of files in the “sound” folder, so I’m going to assume that they put a lot of effort into the music and sound effects of missiles screeching by you. It was probably pretty exciting. As for the controls, well, those were just laughable. I mean, I kept hitting the “eject” button, but I still had to reach down and hit the button on my drive. I think I kept dropping F-bombs, which seemed to do a lot of environmental damage, because my dog keeps running away from me now. Overall, the game is a pretty lousy value, because installing games is the least fun part of actually playing them, even if that is the big challenge.

In conclusion, thanks for wasting my time, InterActive Vision. Your game makes a fine coaster, and your manual kept me and my family warm during the first cold snap of the new year – the cheap ink used on the pages burns long and brightly.

(Note: this game, while a triumph of incompetence, still receives a higher score than The Star and The Crescent, purely out of spite.)

 

Star and the Crescent, The (PC) Review

Developer: ProSIM Company | Publisher: Shrapnel Games || Overall: 2.5/10

Some guy in some movie with guns and really handsome actors pretending to be ordinary soldiers once said “war is hell.” Which, as I’ve been told, is pretty accurate. I mean, sure, it looks good when Matt Damon shoots some guy in the face, but any soldier who has been there will tell you that war is long stretches of boredom broken up by brief moments of sheer terror. Kinda like spending Thanksgiving with your girlfriend’s family: you can’t really remember why you signed up to be there, the person next to you won’t stop yelling, and some morbid part of your brain hopes that a lunatic in a fighter jet will drop napalm on your location and end your misery.

But I digress.

The Star and The Crescent is ProSIM Company’s newest tactical simulation for the die-hard war-game aficionado. Published by Shrapnel Games, it comes with the brazen proclamation that the realism of their game is such that both a helmet and flak jacket ought to be included in the package – fortunately for my local postal carrier, there’s just the manual and the installation CD. It zeros its sights, compensates for windage and bullet drop, leads it target, and shoots for realism: is The Star and The Crescent a hit?

Set in the Middle East, The Star and The Crescent offers players the chance to step into the boots of an officer in the Israeli army, commanding platoons, companies, and brigades of tanks and infantry in epic battles against a variety of foes. When you first start the game, you can begin one of the four campaigns ranging from the historic (like the Yom Kippur War) to the future (now try to imagine that there might be a war in the Middle East sometime this century). In keeping with the other Armored Task Force-engine games, when you’ve completed all the missions the game comes with, you can import new scenarios and continue the carnage; similarly, the included mission builder gives the game virtually unlimited re-playability.

The actual game boasts unparalleled realism. Before you even move your tanks, you have the option to set no fewer than eleven different formations, nine different ammunition types, and commit each of your units to ten different varieties of fire mission from “company attack to breach” to “platoon breach.” Your troops are arranged quite authentically in heirarchies denoted with real military abbreviation like “2/3 Bde / 11th Ugda,” and instead of graphics for any of the tanks or jeeps or soldiers, the actual N.A.T.O. symbols are used.

Cartographically speaking, you get your choice between a topographical or geographical map. You have your pick of eight different Standard Operation Procedures, governing how your units react to enemy contact. You can control each platoon separately, plotting out assigned paths down to the individual tank if you choose, or create custom hierarchies among your companies with brigades of units hand-picked to compliment one another, taking into consideration seemingly obscure factors like the reverse speed of a T72 Main Battle Tank, or the turning radius of a jeep when affixed with a 104mm rocket launcher.

Now, this next part is important. I have absolutely no idea what I said in those last two paragraphs. None. I spent hours trying to decipher the manual enough to follow along with the tutorial, but there’s a certain level of knowledge that is presupposed by the game designers. For instance, I had no idea which was bigger, a platoon or a company. The manual doesn’t bring it up at all. Further, that whole military abbreviation stuff, like “2/2 Bde / 12th Ugda” – I haven’t a clue what any of those numbers mean. I’m pretty sure that Bde stands for “brigade,” but the rest of it’s a mystery.

And while Wikipedia can be of some use for simple questions like whether a platoon is made of companies or vice versa, and while I don’t mind a game that’s going to teach me new things about stuff I’m not knowledgeable about (hello Gran Turismo), there’s only so much you can excuse from being absent in the manual. In a game that touts the ability to devise your own companies out of platoons and units from other companies, please, guys: don’t skimp on the explanation. Some of us didn’t go through boot camp. Now it’s not like these are all arcane concepts that are beyond comprehension: no military designs a command structure to be incomprehensible to those within it. The manual is, to put it bluntly, woefully inadequate.

If you’ve ever played one of ProSIM’s games on the ATF engine, you’ll be pretty well-prepared. For one, you may have already called your local armed forces recruiting office for some much needed explication. Or, if you’re halfway through a furious email to me, explaining the difference between an all-out enfilade and an entrenched defilade, you’re probably sleeping with a loaded AK-47 under your pillow more than ready to play this game. And hell, the manual isn’t completely useless – like the Rosetta Stone, someone of a keener intellect and sharper wit than myself could probably make use of it. But a game of this magnitude and complexity absolutely needs to have a much better helping hand for new players.

But really, you don’t play a game with your nose in the manual forever, so let’s move on to the other travesties of The Star and The Crescent. The next sentence is one that all the die-hard fans and the designers and the publishers and my grandmother who can’t even turn on a computer will see coming. The graphics are horrible. Now, I spent the better part of my afternoon today playing Final Fantasy for the original NES. I prefer the original X-COM to any other title in the series. I prefer an obscure and graphically sub-par boxing game to any Fight Night on any console. My last review was a glowing endorsement of a 2D side-scroller without a polygon in sight. I am not a 16x AA/AS diva, nor do I thump my chest and cry for HDR and the omnipresent Bloom in today’s titles. My point is that I firmly believe in gameplay superseding graphics. But oh. My. God. These graphics are horrible.

ProSIM has always focused their effort on creating sophisticated AI (more on this later), a ridiculously robust damage modeling system, and simply the deepest military sim I’ve ever seen. It was a monumental task, and all Armored Task Force-engine games bear the proud heritage of the process. But the graphics are unbelievably dated and present a further challenge in surmounting the already steep learning curve that poor documentation creates.

Blue boxes are the good guys, and red boxes are the bad guys. Got it. How do I tell all my blue guys apart? Some of them have ovals, some of them have ovals with dots, or ovals with a slash, or ovals with two slashes. Some other ones have three dots above the box, which probably means they’re captains or corporals or commanders or something. I dunno. To add to the realism, and so that the player may further appreciate the skill of the commanders in the actual historical battles represented in The Star and The Crescent, the icons you’ll use are the real N.A.T.O. symbols. This means they don’t make any sense.

Eventually, I got it down, but I’m a gamer. Call me a prima donna, but ever since 1988 or so, I’ve been spoiled by software that tries to represent an object’s function with its appearance. The Star and The Crescent thumbs its nose at this convention, and the learning curve suffers for it. That’s okay, right? Just remember that you’re the blue guys and you want the red guys to die, right? Sadly, no. Because the unit/formation icons, as unwieldy as they are, actually look good compared to interface. Graphically, the interface is a series of all but unintelligible 16x16px buttons lined up in a single bar that grows and shrinks when you press certain buttons. Confused? Wait till you actually try using it.

Firstly, as I said, the buttons are too small. The minimum requirements for this game are a 700 Mhz processor, 64 MB of RAM, and Windows 95. On a computer that old, the screen resolution would be adequate for 16x16px buttons. But on a computer built in this millennium, you’ll want to turn down your resolution while playing so you can actually see the buttons. Of course, you’d probably do about as well squinting like Great Aunt Gertrude doing needlepoint at the buttons: they suffer from the same sort of graphical malaise that your unit icons do. When you can see them, however, the buttons do a good job of representing functions for the most part. And really, I can’t blame ProSIM for not knowing how to express “defilade” in 256 pixels. Hell, I didn’t even know what it means, so even if they could represent it in a tiny little icon, it’d be lost on me.

This brings me to the least excusable facet of The Star and The Crescent yet: the interface. Say for the sake of argument, that you actually figure out which blue boxes are which, and you’re the world’s greatest tactical genius, who could actually pull off a land war in Asia. None of that matters, because the interface to this game feels like an afterthought. It’s a brilliant piece of work, really: there’s a whole hell of a lot going on behind the scenes, and I’d love to take a peak at the source code and see what this tactical orchestra of precision calculation is doing while it’s busy destroying my tanks over and over. But when you play this game, you get the sense that all the programmers signed up to design the game engine, and afterwards, they realized that one of them might actually have to design and interface and they all drew straws to determine the unlucky sod.

Simply put, I have never played a game with more than sixteen colors that has a less intuitive interface, full stop. At some point, it’s probably true that I’ve played a game with an even more incomprehensible means of controlling the action, but I find it hard to believe it was in either of the last two decades. Here we are in the year 2006, I have 104 keys on my keyboard, I have 8 buttons on my mouse, and I have almost two million pixels of screen real estate at your disposal, gentlemen. Please, please, please spend more than an afternoon designing and implementing an interface.

I love the idea of being able to custom-craft missions for my units, and the ability to copy-paste unit paths amongst all your units is mercifully well thought-out, but the actual implementation feels like a cold, uncaring spouse that has slowly grown apart from you over the years; she no longer cares about what you want, because fifteen years ago you forgot to call before you were going to be late coming home from the office, and now she’s convinced you’ve been cheating on her, so she goes out of her way to “forget” that you asked her for whole milk, and not this skim milk bullshit every week for the last decade.

If it seems like I’m harboring a grudge, I am. The interface is beyond counter-intuitive, the manual was crafted in an alien tongue, and the graphics looked bad when I was still in puberty. If you’ve been paying attention, all of these are not problems for real generals experienced players. But if you’re new, by now the learning “curve” is about as curvy as Lindsay Lohan on a coke binge running the Boston Marathon (i.e. not), and you’re banging your head against your monitor, screaming “Why?! Why didn’t you shoot? Why did you just drive up to them? Oh god the agony!” And the game has one last brick through your living room window for you.

The A.I. is vicious. While you’re trying to learn how to actually play (not how to win, how to actually play), the computer is going to make the strongest possible case that you should never be drafted and put in command of anything more complex than a dishwasher. And a damn fine case it is. Remember that “land war in Asia” crack? I think the computer could do just fine where Napoleon and Hitler failed: there is an absolutely savage beatdown that it’ll place on your units. Get ready to write thousands of letters home to some very distraught ladies, and tell them why Little Johnny is coming home in a box, because this game is hard. Having defeated poor gameplay design, lackadaisical (at best) graphics, a manual that’s little more help than a solar-powered umbrella, and the toughest A.I. this side of Deep Blue, the satisfaction you get from beating even the tutorial is unparalleled.

The bottom line? This game is not for you unless you have never played a strategy game worthy of your clearly superhuman tactical forebrain. This game is not for you if you’ve ever put down a strategy game for having too many damage tables to remember. This game is not for you if you do not seriously entertain notions of enlisting for the armed forces and studying four hundred years of tactical theory and practice. But if you’ve played ProSIM’s games before, and you know what you’re getting into, this is more of the same (unpolished) gem that you know and love, with an authentic historical vibe that can’t be beat. Of course, if this is your first foray into the world of ruthless military sims by ProSIM, don’t say I didn’t warn you.