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Preview: Hover: Revolt of Gamers

A throwback to the classic gameplay of Jet Set/JetGrind Radio, Hover is an injection of adrenline to your boring gameplay lineup.

Review: Colin McRae Rally

A throwback to the classic CMR 2.0, should you hop in and take this ride or leave it at the starting line?

A Second Look @ Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach was the last great "hurrah" from Bungie Studios in the Halo Universe, and it remains as one of the best games they ever produced.

Unpublished blog: Collect or Evolve: A Gamer's Dilemma

This is an unpublished blog from 20XX. To be honest I forget when exactly I had started writing it but figured I would finish it eventually and, occasionally touching it up, wanted it to be my debut blog on TheBGB.com. Unfortunately I never did get around to finishing it but continued to try. I have resisted the urge to touch things up so this is the unedited and very unpolished version of something that might have been. And for the record: my current collection sits at over 600 games right now.



Displayed in my room on three bookshelves is the bulk of my gaming collection. Over 300 games ranging from PC to Neo Geo Pocket Color, from Xbox One to Sega Saturn. PS1, 3DS, and even N-Gage. Due to a lack of space my Genesis, N64, and Atari games are boxed away along with their consoles. Every so often I drag them out when I get a new game and play them for a little while, only to stick them with the rest and probably never played again.


I'm a collector.


I wouldn't consider myself a rare type of gamer since the popularity of collecting has increased in the last few years. I can't begin to think of how much money I've spent or the exact number of games present as I always seem to miss a few when attempting to catalog them, but I do know the number is over 500 according to some websites I use, which also includes digital titles. I have all these games, genres, and consoles to choose from but I never know what to play. The depth of my backlog is truly in the hundreds.
I've been collecting for at least 9 years but the fascination with it grew when Retro Hunters premiered. It was a YouTube show about two guys going to flea markets looking for old games and good deals. It seemed like a fun hobby to be a part of and I was fortunate enough to have a few friends who liked the idea of "the hunt" as well. We've never found anything truly rare aside from the occasional JRPG or uncommon NES game. The only problem we've come across is that most sellers just don't understand the value of some games. More than half the prices are so outrageous that it may not be worth it to have the game immediately. Old does not mean rare. Rare does not mean expensive.


These friends have also been ahead of me in terms of consoles. I was always one of the last to have something new until recently when I took the plunge and bought an Xbox One. I'm glad to see that the general length of games has increased and most of them allow for weeks if not months of interesting play. The constant online connection now allows for true MMO-style games and better background downloads. The depth and ability of things to do has greatly increased since the last generation and the possibilities to create and publish your own games are easier than ever before.


But for a while I've felt that I've been at a crossroads as a gamer which I could best simplify into one question: Do I continue to buy old games, building up a collection with stuff most others have ignored, or do I evolve and focus more on the now?
Many people I know would say I could do both but I would prefer to think of the situation from a financial standpoint. I could spend $60 on one new title or I could spend that on several classics. In my mind there is no need for me to have more games. Its not a collector's addiction. Most of my games, both old and new, are gathering dust, going untouched for months. Even now there are several on these shelves that I could do without. Games I don't think I'm going to play years down the road. Some I've bought on a whim, thinking they'd be great, only to turn out to be major letdowns. Others I've collected just to have, never really bothering to play them or try them out. My top favorites reside among the rest of them, alphabetically and separated by console but not in any order. My DVDs and CDs are also on these bookshelves and deep down it irritates me that they're taking up space that could be used for the ones boxed away.


The last time I purged my collection was years ago when it reached 200 games total. I sold to EB Games what I didn't want, didn't like, or never played anymore. I then used that money to buy (then) newer games on Xbox and Gamecube. I regret getting rid of a lot of them but now with access to Amazon and eBay, the memories can be simply bought and sold. Which brings up another question: if I so readily sold those games long ago, why would I want to own them again?
There are several I'll never get rid of and a few that I've kept for the longest time. Metroid II, for example, being one of them. The internal battery still works and I have one save file on the cartridge just before facing the Queen Metroid. The affection I have for this game isn't just for nostalgic reasons; Metroid II helped shape me as a gamer and I feel like I owe it to keep it around, even though I have it on my 3DS as well.
Its the few classic games that I still own that keep me coming back to them years later that I feel like I could never get rid of. Those that I did sell I still have fond memories of, but I've already experienced what they've had to offer. Others, like Jersey Devil, I remember for its difficult camera, awkward platforming, good animations, and spooky soundtrack, but it was one of the first that I traded in. I beat it after a couple weeks of play and just didn't find it compelling enough to keep around, but at the same time I wish I had it now so I could play it one more time.


Meanwhile the current console generation is having its gaps filled in by HD remasters and Definitive Editions. Platinum-selling games that were released near the opening of the new console cycle are up for upscaling. Developers seem to be repeating games rather than putting more effort towards new series entries or new IPs. It makes me wonder how this generation will affect us as gamers. Will we look on the memories and experiences with fondness like we do our old treasures or will it be seen as just another obstacle towards more realistic graphics and new ways to not press a button?
Its hard to get excited for new games when repackaging old product seems to be acceptable to some publishers. Don't get me wrong: I think the current selection and variety of original games is going strong but its hard to ignore when walking into a game store yields more used games of those who received the “HD Remastering” treatment.
I expect it will be a "throw away" generation: one that we play and get rid of, moving on to the next first person shooter or recycled sports title. It will take the minds of a few new companies to push the limits of capabilities. No Man's Sky is one that will prove the technology is at height of expansiveness for this generation. It'll be up to another company to come up with something that can top it as we move forward. Mind you I'm not saying the Big Three companies aren't trying but there are suddenly a lot of upstarts with Android-powered systems, pre-built PC gaming machines, and even the impending threat of Steam becoming the fourth superpower in the industry.


The rarest and most valuable game in my collection is Einhander for the PS1. It goes for about $70 on eBay and over $400 if still in shrinkwrap. Meanwhile I have Vectorman for the Genesis, which I've had since its release in 1995. It was one of the best games for the system and is fondly remembered by all who played it, but averages an asking price of $10 (unboxed) on eBay. So a fourth question: just how valuable are all of my games?
I suppose it depends on how the word "value" is seen: it could be defined as rarity due to a limited release or a wide publishing range but still in high demand years later. Value has little to do with a player's memories and more to do with a number on a website. I would take Vectorman over Einhander any day. I can still lose myself among the variety of levels but I know how to beat every boss because I've learned their patterns. I thought playing through Einhander would be awesome but its plagued by design issues like a small moving area, major screen clutter, and more attention to atmosphere than to gameplay. Remind me again why this goes for $400?
My all-time favorite games aren't rare but I would rather keep them around and keep enjoying them than spend $70 on a game that I'm not going to bother trying to complete.


I'll just have to pick and choose my games more carefully in the future. I don't expect to ever beat Shadowgate on the NES, or the recent PC remastering anytime soon. Maybe I'm just hoping to collect a lot of them then one day sell them all for some big bucks. Maybe one day after I've retired and I've made some money after selling them I may have time to sit and play. In the distant future I can retire from working, sit at home, and finally try to beat the original Shadowgate. Maybe I can evolve while being a retro collector.

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SGC 2015

But here's one more thing.

Here's a video from SGC 2015. In all honesty I was hoping to end the blog after SGC but the Picasa error forced my hand.


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While running and jumping around the vast city of Hover, you come across a locked box. After a few seconds of hacking it opens to reveal a gameball. Video games are highly illegal on this world thanks to the imposing security force. You are part of a resistance movement to bring games back to the masses and with your parkour skills the multiple levels of the city are simply your playground. You grab it and run, leaping over walls, bewildered citizens jumping out of your way, through tunnels, across rooftops, through a crowded plaza. Suddenly a security camera spots you and from seemingly nowhere a hovering SecuBox is right on top of you, threatening to take away the console or imprison you. You run and the adrenaline starts pumping. 


Hover: Revolt of Gamers is developed by three French amateur game designers with the studio name Fusty Game. This is the second game they've developed, with the first having unfortunately been canceled on Kickstarter. The style is similar to the ones found in the movies The Fifth Element and Star Wars: a variety of alien species living together in a multi-tiered society with the threat of a police force controlling everything. Alien languages on billboards, anti-video game propaganda, and the jumbled crowd of alien species walking about lend greatly to the atmosphere. The gameplay is a mix between Jet Grind Radio and Mirror's Edge: a fast-paced first- and third-person camera view allows you to feel in control as the action takes place. Delivering gameballs and completing missions will help you raise your stats to better your speed, jumping, and grinding, just to name a few.
This is a parkour game; it unleashes the fast-paced art of free running into an open neon-colored metropolis that's rife with sharp angles, large drops, bright lights, and a security force that wants you out of the equation. The futuristic world is a maze of pathways and, barring the obvious invisible walls, if you can see it then you can get there.
Following a MASSIVELY successful Kickstarter that ended with over triple the amount of the original goal, they were able to not only double the initial size of the city but they brought on board Jet Grind Radio/Jet Set Radio Future composer Hideki Nakamura. If you were a fan of his work for those games then you'll feel right at home here. Also for those of you lucky enough to have an Oculus Rift handy, the game is compatible with the headset but may give you motion sickness if you're unprepared for the insane movement. Biggest of all is a planned Wii U release, however no information on this has been posted. Those who were lucky (and rich enough) to contribute majorly to the Kickstarter will get rewards along the lines of a special DJ pet, an exclusive character skin, a physical copy, and, to someone who contributed $1,500 to the campaign, will have their likeness turned into a giant statue somewhere in the game.



In your free time between missions, you can explore the city to look for the best lines to get the best speed and ways to get around. It will most certainly put your pathfinding skills to the test. Currently the alpha version only allows players to traverse a small section of the city, both online and off. You can gather gameballs, GameGirls, avoid police, and take part in a few races against NPCs, or race other plays online if you prefer. The full version will have missions that include police evasion, stealth infiltration, and a few more variations that the creators have yet to reveal. A deeper character customization will be available in the full version as well as spraypaint tagging, more playable character skins, a deeper history of the world, and an expanded soundtrack.


A modern mid-level system will have no problem playing Hover on medium graphical settings. It will take a lot of horsepower to make it run at max with 60 fps. Fusty Game took no prisoners with the depth of the game's graphics. Even my laptop that's only a few years old manages to crank out a meager 15 fps on the lowest settings. There's a lot going on that's not on-screen that the game is having to keep track of: mindless NPC pedestrians, traffic, and the security system are all present and don't fade at a distance. Expect the fps results to pan out better as they make the game more compatible with different setups.

The game is compatible with an Xbox 360 control pad and is easy to use with it's minimal button usage. While it feels more organic than the keyboard and mouse layout it loses the ability to make sharp turns and that is something that's required for traversing this city cleanly. A rewind feature is extremely useful and helps you correct mistakes if you miss a jump or find yourself stuck in some way. Currently in the alpha there is no limit to how far back you can go. The ability to scan things can bring up a text menu with some interesting tidbits on the city and its inhabitants. This can also show you the locations of important NPCs, gameballs, race starting points, holographic signs, security cameras and E-cops. It can leave the screen cluttered and is disorienting at first. Time will tell if this is corrected.

 The Fusty Game team: Charles Vesic, Marine Baron, and Pierre Raffali

If you missed out on the Kickstarter, Hover will be coming to Steam via Greenlight and will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux OS's in a multitude of languages. No pricing or release date has been posted yet but its not too late to get in on the hype.  If the alpha proves anything, its that even dedicated fans can make the game of their dreams. There is something awesome about just hanging out in another world, running and exploring. Hover has something that a lot of the AAA titles these days are lacking: fun.

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Review: Colin McRae Rally (Steam/Mobile, 2014)





You know your favorite band's greatest hits album? Sure, you've heard all the songs before and are probably tired of them but you know they needed to make a little more money before the next full release so a greatest hits collection is their next step, and maybe you still buy it anyway. Colin McRae Rally is that in a nutshell. I understand that its actually a port of the iOS game which is a remake of Colin McRae Rally 2.0, but you would think Codemasters would add a little extra to sweeten the deal for both new and returning fans of the original franchise. Instead it feels like less-than-half of what the latter games in the series became and a barbones recreation of the PS1 classic. Last year Codemasters teased that the next CMR game will be focused on rally racing, rather than hopping from one sport to the next as done in the DiRT Series. There's been no word on whether it will be the next DiRT entry or a return to the classic CMR staging but us fans can only hope that this isn't what they were talking about.



There are only 4 cars and 30 stages. The stages feel planned out rather than organic. The physics dulled down. The power sucked out. The driving stiff. The awesome feeling of awesomeness as you drift through a hairpin is completely absent. A lot of the magic has been lost in its conversion to mobile, and even more so with its port over to Steam. I'm sure the original was never this dull and there was more than likely an exciting feeling of powering through turns and speeding through forests but this time it suffers by removing a lot of the technical aspects that introduced a lot of people to not only sim racing games but the sport of rally racing as well. Players can no longer tune their cars before each race (which is fine because all four cars play exactly the same) and for that it grudgingly inserts itself into the casual racing category, but even then it fails because the driving is simply boring.
The physics problems are just the beginning. In one of the first races in Australia, a large jump is the main event that completely breaks the game (see below). As your car almost does a barrel roll in mid-air it immediately proves the point that the game engine itself is broken. Speaking of breaking, the cars actually break down as they drive through the stages, and not just falling apart from hitting things; by the end of the second stage there is a clanking sound that wasn't there before that lets you know something is seriously wrong. Repairs are still allowed after every other stage but players may find the 30 minute time limit a bit too short for all the damage that was mysteriously caused while driving.
Australia, Greece, and Corsica are the only three locales to drive through and there just isn't anything within them to make things interesting. There are no sights to see, no majestic backgrounds, nothing within the roads to make it fun and yet it stretches out to 10 stages a piece. Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer, and Lancia Stratos are the four cars but, like I said, since they all play the same it only comes down to which one you prefer. 
On mobile devices you can choose between tilt controls with auto-acceleration or full on-screen controls. On the PC/Mac version, you can choose to use either the keyboard, a gamepad, or wheel support. Mapping the controls are difficult as it seems to fight against what the player has chosen as presets. There is no pressure sensitivity for accelerating and braking so even the keyboard feels fine when being played with.

(via Steam community member CueZero)


The graphical update is just about the only thing done well enough. The graphics engine gets the job done until you notice the faults such as front-facing sprites for the trees, flat crowds, and the plastic-like textures on the cars. The stages fair no better with a static image for the background and distance pop-in. Understandably this is all limited due to being built for mobile but nothing was changed for the Steam release. If you own a computer from 2006 then you should still be able to play on lowest settings with few hiccups.
The co-driver directions by Nicky Grist are just pre-recorded and chopped together but are accurate enough to not leave you heading toward a tree at high speeds. One of the biggest concerns that you'll face immediately in the area of sound is the airhorn which blares EVERY TIME you pass a crowd and is so distracting that you may want to consider turning the SFX down, which in turn reduces the engine and gravel sounds so its a lose/lose situation unless you can do without either. Sliding on gravel or the pavement produces an accurate enough sound and crowds cheer as you pass but your attention should be focused mainly on the directions rather than immersion.
Engines don't sound powerful at all and gradually decline in strength the more you drive. At least they put in enough thought to make the engines separate from one another.
There is no in-game music, only the menu, which is a simple tune that is easily forgotten. 


It will take you about 5 hours to complete and there is very little after-game. Playing a few stages here and there is all it will amount to but there are other racing games on the app stores and Steam that are worthy of attention. This game should have stayed on the mobile platforms and even then the small amount of content should be asking for no more than $5. To even call itself a remake is a disappointment since it doesn't really feel like a Colin McRae Rally game, more like a fan project. The original CMR games were about the driver's skill and knowledge of the car and physics, that's all been thrown away in favor of tilt controls and making it more mobile friendly. The thrills of driving and overcoming opponents have been cut out in favor of ease-of-access just to make a quick buck.  Its an insult to the series and the fans, and that's what hurts the most.


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DC15



Remember remember the 9th of September
Dreamcast release and next-gen splendor
1999 and a new year comes soon
The PS2 means for Sega's doom
Awkward controller and internet activity
Fell short into the massive tragedy
But with homebrews still made
And games still played
The last great console is still not downtrodden
I can think of no reason the Dreamcast should ever be forgotten

I've unfortunately almost missed this year's DC anniversary but its been on m mind today more than the release of Destiny. I wasn't able to come up with something big, just this that I wrote while on break. If you've fallen into the hype of the year's biggest release (like I have), at least take a minute to hook up your DC and play one of your favorite titles.
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Review: Shadowgate (2014, PC/Mac)






As I said before in my preview of Shadowgate: point-and-click games, more commonly known as the Adventure genre, are becoming few and far between these days. Some of the more recent notable games of the last few years would be The Walking Dead series or The Raven, but if you want to travel back in time you may recognize the Monkey Island series or Maniac Mansion, which was also ported over to the NES during its lifetime. Given that every title in the genre does something different, measuring this adventure to the old school Shadowgate rather than comparing it to other adventure titles only seems fair since even the devs call it a re-imagining. The changes, similarities, what it does well now and what it lacks are up for inspection. Its mostly the same Shadowgate, but this time you get a lot more reasoning behind the journey.

As Jair Cathegar, you are instructed by the wizard Lakmir to take on a perilous task by traveling far and finding your way to the living castle of Shadowgate, then navigating its many perilous halls to stop the evil Warlock Lord, Talimar the Black, from unleashing the Behemoth to destroy the world. A little ways in to the game the bulk of the plot is explained to you through a couple of cutscenes. Lakmir, who is a surviving member of the Circle of Twelve, the only other being Talimar, has grown too weak to fight him face-to-face. Which is where Jair Cathegar comes in. He's descended from a long line of kings and prophecy states that he will be the one to defeat Talimar, but standing in his way is the castle and it's many, many, MANY traps and treasures. Almost everything you pick up can be used for something down the line but there is also a hefty amount of trash. Discerning which is which is up to the player. On the hard difficulty, you're limited to how much you can carry and since the puzzles adjust with each level something that can be used at one point may instead work somewhere else on another difficulty. Its these three levels that give the game am immense replayability factor.




Fools Rush In
The first thing you should know about playing Shadowgate is that its not for those who lack patience: you will die a lot and if you're not adept at using your noggin to solve some complex puzzles then I'm afraid Shadowgate isn't for you. Additionally an attention to detail and a keen eye for things that stand out is also definitely required. If you enjoy games with a steep level of challenge then you'll love it. If you're looking for a nostalgic trip you may or may not be disappointed: while a lot has changed, conjuring up memories of past solutions might help you in some ways but not in every case. In the first screen you find a talking skull named Yorick that offers vague hints and the occasional commentary, he's a decent traveling partner and provides a few passing chuckles, you're notfied by what he says when you hear bones clatter ominously. If you don't like his chatter you can simply choose to hit him to make him speak less. There is no direct combat, just a command that will let you HIT something, including yourself. You will encounter a few beasts that will attack and sometimes finding a way to avoid combat is your best bet.
From the dragon immolating you with fire breath to falling down a pit, almost everything can kill you, the game is still fraught with the familiar death traps that made the original so tricky to navigate. Shadowgate can be smooth as silk when you remember all of the possible combinations of things and think cleverly on when and how to use items. Sometimes being stuck in an area will require backtracking by several rooms. Keeping your torches lit is also a priority. Yorick will notify you when the light is getting too low, and letting it burn out is a bad idea. Once the fire is gone, you can't start another one, and it'll be awfully hard navigating the darkness by feeling your way around.

Shadowgate now has a spacious interface with the inventory and other options no longer taking up most of the screen. Part of the action unfolds through a text box at the bottom while an animation shows. Yes, a basic reading skill is required to play. The most dialogue you'll come across will be written on notes, the voiceovers are sparsely placed throughout the game.
The way of playing takes some getting used as it seems you need to be sure which command you're clicking at the top of the screen or which item you're selecting. Sometimes trying to click on an action requires a second click (or my 2-month old mouse is already breaking). The menus and inventory seem to get in the way of the game itself so if you prefer keyboard bindings over mouse movement you can set those up in the options, or in case you want the very old-school MacVenture feeling.



Painting Life 
The land of Tyragon is a dark and dreary one where magic is abundant and there remain spells crafted from people whose names have been long-forgotten, and Castle Shadowgate is almost the epicenter of it. The room and inventory art was done by Chris Cold, who has been able to create not only a variety of dungeons but ones that flow well together from one room to the next, they're greatly designed and all fit within the theme of what you would find given the atmosphere of the world. The cutscenes were animated by Wang Ling, also a digital painter, and are somewhat reminiscent of what you would see during the cutscenes of Guild Wars 2. You won't have to worry about too much brown or gray with splashes of colors in certain areas (as seen above) that almost command attention, each space is different and the map in the bottom left of the screen is a handy tool to help you remember where things are.

The voice acting, though few, is top notch with voices neatly matching the characters but the main thing you'll hear will be the soundtrack which is impeccably orchestrated: immersive, haunting, mysterious, calm at times and adrenalized at others, fitting the moods of the rooms perfectly. But don't you wish there was a bit more nostalgia to be had? Have no fear. In the options menu you'll find an NES music mode that inserts the original tunes from the 1989 NES release as well as the transitions and text-scrolling animation. Basically you can turn it into a big nostalgia trip with updated visuals. Its a nice addition that has no bearing on the gameplay itself but is a very welcome one.

Invokan, Agaap, Entraiz...
As of writing this I haven't been able to complete the game. I had a lot of trouble with it until Dave Marsh, one of the creators, helped me out. That being said I can't tell you how long it will take to complete but with the puzzles and items changing with each difficulty level you'll sink in at least a dozen hours. While Shadowgate holds itself together like a AAA game you can't help but feel overwhelmed as your torch light slowly dies and you've exhausted all options to figure out what to do next, you will feel stupid that the answer may be something you simply overlooked. A lot of thought and effort have gone into remaking everything and making it all work together and it shows... almost a little too well. When you hit a stride it feels good but when the game comes to a halt then you need to think your way through. You might find yourself trying items and actions repeatedly on random objects in the hopes that something will happen, but it never does.

Upon entering the pitch black dungeon, a shaft of light pierces the darkness, illuminating a book upon a pedestal. Opening the pages you find only two words written in the entire book: "PRICE DROP!" Then a trap door opens below your feet and you plummet to your death.
If you've been curious about it, its best to wait for a Steam Sale. Nostalgia or not, Shadowgate is a pure challenge to play and many people will be turned off by that, which is a shame since this time around it has a lot more to work with. Amazing visuals, captivating music, and a bit more depth to the story give a more complete sense of the world than what we had on the NES. Games are meant to be fun but Shadowgate proves to be a lesson in patience and observation. The immersion in the world matters little if you're not allowed to guess. I'm not saying "don't buy this game," I'm saying you should wait for some brave adventurers to go first. But if you're craving a challenge, you may have found one worthy to test your mettle.


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