Machinarium Review

I recently got Machinarium for Linux as part of a recent Humble Bundle deal, though it’s available for a variety of platforms, and I just beat the game yesterday.

Machinarium is a graphic adventure game with the regular sorts of puzzles you’d expect from that genre, along with more traditional puzzles mixed in, like having to move pieces in just a certain way or activate lights in just a certain way to solve the puzzle and move on to the next.

There’s no dialog in the game.  The story is told completely through animated thought bubbles and sequences.  It’s very slick, and it works well.

Overall, I highly recommend this game.  You can learn more about it on the game’s wiki page or check out the game’s page itself.

Dust Force Review

I recently picked up the indie game Dust Force as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, and have spent the last few days playing it.

The Humble Indie Bundle is a program where you can get a package of independently developed games and pay as little or as much for it as you want.  The money gets divided among the developers and charities, and if you pay more than the average amount, you unlock some additional games.  You can learn more about it here.

Dust Force is one of the games you get for paying more than the average, so I was expecting it to really be something special.  In Dust Force, you play a number of different characters of your  choosing.  You run around levels in 2D side-scrolling platform style, cleaning dust and leaves off of surfaces.  The game incorporates some puzzle-like elements, as you need to use the right combination of jumps, moves, and key-presses to get to some of the surfaces.  Cleaning surfaces also adds to your combo counter, which counts down over time.  You have to keep your combo counter active if you want to achieve a perfect score on the level.

The idea is certainly different and unique, but to be honest, I don’t enjoy the game very much.  I’m sure there are some people that do, but I’m not one of them.  The controls are far too twitchy and unforgiving.  A game like this requires that you move your character precisely, yet when you stop running you always slide.  Then when you’re jumping around, it can be difficult to position and move your character just how you want, resulting in you landing on some spikes or something similar and having to repeat that section of the level over and over again.

The game isn’t difficult because of its puzzles or creative mechanics.  The game is difficult just because of its controls, and that’s just bad design.  Dust Force ends up being far more frustrating than fun.

Piratey Reminiscence

As Talk Like a Pirate Day was earlier this week, it’s something that I’m still thinking about.

When I was growing up pirate things weren’t as pervasive in the culture and media as they are now.  Everyone knew about pirates of course, but it wasn’t something you encountered very often.

My first real experience with piratey goodness was the game Sid Meier’s Pirates! on the Commodore 64.  That’s what really got me hooked.

In Sid Meier’s Pirates!, you can play the captain of a ship, or a fleet of ships, either acting as a pirate, or under the banner of one or more countries, earning letters of marquee and increasing in rank and prestige from there, including earning land and even winning the hand of a governor’s daughter in marriage.

While all this is going on, you can also sack towns and drive the governor out and install a governor from the country of your choosing to help further a country’s goals, find pieces of a treasure map to find buried treasure, rescue members of your family, capture the silver train and treasure fleet, recruit more sailors to your cause and expand your personal fortune, all while sailing, getting into cannon fights, and sword duels.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! remains one of my all-time favorite games.  It was ported to a number of different platforms, including the Apple II and the Sega Genesis and was made into a number of versions, such as Pirates! Gold and the newer game, also called Sid Meier’s Pirates!, for all the modern video gaming systems, the PC, Mac, and the iPad.  Each version plays a little differently, especially in the areas of fighting with cannons, sword duels, and attacking towns over land.

I always found the most enjoyable remake to be Pirates! Gold, but the original Pirates! for the Commodore 64 is still my favorite.  I would recommend that anyone that hasn’t played one of the many versions before to find one and give it a try.

The Dakota Cipher Review

I just finished reading The Dakota Cipher by William Dietrich.  It’s a book set in the 1800s, in which Ethan Gage, the main character of other Dietrich books as well, winds up getting involved in a plot to find an ancient Norse artifact.  This book chronicles his adventures crossing part of early America as he searches for this artifact.

The book is a bit different than my normal fare.  I picked it up on a whim, but overall I’m glad I did.  William Dietrich has a very nice writing style that’s colorful, descriptive, and flows well.

Be warned though, some parts of the book deal with things that might not sit well with those that have tender sensibilities.

The book is a good read and as long as you’re a fan of adventure stories, good writing, and you’re not easily offended, I would recommend it.