Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Electro-Mechanical Magic.

Lets take a look at some pre-electronic arcade games.  



 What was in the arcades before the advent of video games?
 If you said one-armed-bandits and slot machines you are half right. Because mechanical based arcade games machines shared the floor with the more long-lived pin-ball machines and bandits from far before even I was born.

These arcade games machines were all initially very much mechanical based.

I’ve read first-hand accounts from the people responsible for building these machines and it appears that, towards the end of their run at least, the building process became more of a suck-it-and-see ‘black art’ than a precise science. Many of the people responsible for fixing these electromechanical marvels would freely admit to ‘not know exactly how or why they worked in the way they did half the time.’ The ‘science’ of these machines had evolved into an ‘art’ in much the same way early bedroom-coders would later forge the beginnings of the multibillion dollar/pound video-game industry.

One of the most collectable of these is the ‘World Series’ game released by Rockola in 1937.
This was pretty much a mechanical device, but did have some minimal electricity-run components, so technically this was an early electro-mechanical gaming device.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A Review of AMY (PS3 & Xbox 360)

I’ve decided to have a look at those quirkier or somewhat left-of-centre games that got panned in the general press and internet review sites.

First of all I intentionally picked a few games that I had never heard off, which consistently got low reviews from the main media sources, and then I did some internet research, before playing them with an open mind whilst remembering the on-line and in-print comments.
I intended to see if I thought all these games are genuinely awful, or if there is possibly something more to the general review trends? After all there’s truth to the old axiom ‘know your audience.’

Me, well I’ve absolutely no idea who reads this stuff: So this one’s for you Anon...

Panned Games - Review 1: AMY
The first game on my list was AMY by VectorCell. This is a first person horror-survival game, where you take control of, Lana. A character who, as well as trying to survive in an epidemic ridden world, also has to take care of Amy, a young girl who appears to have some undisclosed form of autistic communicative difficulties. 

The back-story revolves around your attempts to escape the city with Amy in tow.
The game-play is primarily puzzle based, with the Amy ‘companion character’ having three main functions. The first being that you must keep Amy safe; this is done ether by keeping her close (calling for her and holding her hand) or by hiding her. The second function of Amy is to aide in puzzle solving. This can range for something as simple as getting her to crawl through a space where the main character couldn’t fit and press a button to activate some mechanism or open a door etc, to more complicated puzzles where you must place her in certain positions in order to perform some action(s). Then move her around with a combination of instructions; getting her to move and perform a series of simple commands that help accomplish a task; always bearing in mind that she is more vulnerable when away from your direct control.
The third, and most intriguing, function of Amy is to protect your protagonist from the infection. When separated from Amy the main character will slowly become infected, leading to your eventual death if you can’t find Amy in time and don’t have any serum handy.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The best indie games on PSN and Xbox Live

Indie, or Independent, game releases have been gaining momentum and notoriety on the PC for some time now. And over the past few years they have turned into a legitimate force on the two main console platforms as well...

The main problem with Indi games has generally been deciding exactly what an Indie game is. Some people seem to forget that ‘Indi’ simply stands for ‘independent’ and generally try to define the games by their game-play or genre, normally calling anything that’s outside the mainstream gaming gamut and ‘Indie’ game. This never really works though, because there’s nothing to stop an Independent developer making a game which is firmly within the mainstream game style, and some of the major developers have released the odd quirky game over the years..

The grey-area comes in trying to define exactly what an Independent publisher really is, and isn’t. Although, I think it’s faire to define a few (but still rather fluffy) rules...

They are not financially backed by a publisher.
They are generally promoted by small or start-up companies.
They tend to be produced by individuals or groups, who may form small companies.
They generally rely heavily on on-line ‘digital-distribution’ markets.
They tend to have much less (or no) resources and budget than mainstream games.
They are not limited to an allocated budget or development schedule and time-frame.
Development is not generally steered by any controlling (corporate) interests.
They do not require publisher approval: many self-publish.
They often rely on the artistic ability, creativity, imagination, and experimentation
 of an individual or very small team.