Saturday, October 30, 2010

Have a scary Halloween with "Veil of Darkness"

dotpixel by me!
Days of Amstrad opens the veil...and here it is - Veil of Darkness. Arguably the best horror game ever made. 

Veil of Darkness is a horror-action-adventure game for the PC, which was developed by Event Horizon Software and published by SSI in 1993. Some of the main reasons why it may have escaped your radar could be poor marketing of games in 90s, your lack of taste in good games, or you could be too young for that. In any case, you`ve missed a lot.

Veil of Darkness is a 2D point-and-click adventure game with some RPG elements mixed in. It features a fixed isometric perspective and a good amount of action-RPG style combat. Except the leveling system, it could be the grandfather of Diablo or a far relative of Sacred. But the coolness of the game lies in the twists of the plot. The plot overall sounds cheesy at first (your plane crashes in Romania, a dark curse affects a small village), but feels mysterious and the atmosphere is scary. 

The biggest factor making the game scary is the lack of technology. Don`t take my words as an insult to the game - because that`s not true. The low resolution graphics and midi sound are irritating. It is similar to being afraid of the dark, you tend to get more scared when you cannot fully see, hear or understand the details. And when this unintentional element meets the intentional horror aspect, you find yourself in a tasty horror experience.

One of the disturbing twists is figuring out who it was attacking and eating villagers - an unexpected werewolf action from an unexpected town resident. Overall, the game has a disturbing atmosphere.

Of course, do not expect like a horror movie tension, as things evolve and occur at a much slower rate and speed, nevertheless couple of plot twists, unpredictability, low detail graphics and disturbing midi sounds are its strongest points. And the slower pace will make itself unforgettable as it slowly sneaks into your conscious and subconscious.

One caveat though - if your eyes are already adjusted to the colorful HD world and hi-res sounds, it may become hard to look at this old boy on your PC. But I say, try it when you have time. It`s only like 3MBs to download.

I hope you`ll enjoy your Halloween, and may the veil of darkness (the game, not death) surround you one day. 


Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween is coming to "Days of Amstrad" (teaser)

Carve your cross, prepare your silver bullets because Halloween is coming to town...I`ll talk about a scary old gem that most probably escaped your radar all those years. Coming this weekend!

copyright goowik design

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"This won`t work."

I played every Indiana Jones title made for pc and home consoles. Don`t you miss a fine 2D point-and-click adventure sometimes? Although there is and steam selling some of the finest selections of older adventure games, I miss the days when they came in approx. 28 floppy discs, a fine box and a manual. 

Fate of Atlantis is special for me as it has a unique plot, and does not rely on a movie script. Even if you`re not familiar with the game, you`ve probably guessed that it`s about Indy`s search of the lost city. Sophia Hapgood, an old co-worker of Indy who gave up her archaeological career to become a psychic, joins him along the journey. As expected, Indy and Sophie are opposed by the Nazis who are seeking to use the power of Atlantis for warfare, and serve as the adventure's antagonists. The game came out in 1992, and 1993 again with voice acting. As usual, I had the previous version and wanted to kill myself when they released the new version. (That`s why I`ll wait for the newer version of iPad, so sneakily.)

There is no need for me to talk about the gameplay or the marvel of point-and-click adventures - your loss if you`ve missed them. But the limits, beautiful, tight limits of these games- that is something to talk about. Unlike new technological breakthrough games like GTA, where you can beat up senior citizens, kick pigeons and explode buildings, 2D adventures have a single route, a character. 

If something happens, that`s because it is supposed to happen. It`s like reading a fine book, smooth and less plastic. You encounter less bugs, no physical weirdness, just plain game, where your character proudly says: "Can`t do that", when you try to open a jar with your whip. For a change though, Fate of Atlantis had an interesting twist. Depending on your selection in the first part of the game, you were allowed to pick one of three gameplay styles: Cooperatively with Sophia (easier), alone (you have to think a lot), or using your fists more than your wits (lots of button mashing). 

The locations and the plot do not change much among the 3 selections, but the experience is slightly different, as your inventory options and conversations differ. I finished this game 3 times in my life, 1992, 1999 and 2010 (don`t judge me); and I liked the "wits" option the most (1999).  

I miss the days where you could not find 323 ways to overcome an obstacle. When it comes to games, I like my limits. I love it when "There`s no room to maneuver..."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Joy and the stick

You don`t know Combat School. You don`t know what kind of an evil game it was. It was our 4th joystick in a month, I remember my mom`s eyes when I asked for the fifth...oh, the horror.

Combat School is actually an arcade game by Konami. The game can be played against the CPU or another player. Player one takes control of Nick, a green haired recruit in a green shirt. Well thanks to my father, our screen was a poor green screen, so no colors for that boy.  His rival`s name is more creative than Nick, he is Joe, another green haired dude with a green shirt. Joe was a little lighter green on the head though, so I assumed he was blonde in the real and colorful world. 

The game has 7 different training stages that you have to go through against your opponent. But the trick is here: if you fail at any level, you have to do push ups. I swear real push ups are easier than this thing, as you have to pummel your joystick right and left to do the moves to a level that 80s plastic engineering can not take anymore. The brutal move usually broke my joysticks at the neck, which makes the "stick" part detach and leave you with a blank "joy". 

Believe me when I say Amstrad never excelled in making joysticks. The two parts of your stick was attached thanks to this 2 mm cheap screw, which is ready to blast into new adventures rather than doing his job. 

Back to game: After all seven training courses are cleared, during which you`ll break your joystick anyways, the graduate (only the winner of the 7 challenges) will go to rescue the president from the terrorists. What a turn off. Your friend has to sit down and watch you play half of the game, because he could not shake his joystick fast enough...well, games have not developed into Fallout in one day.

In my case, Combat School shared the same disc (or disquette if you will) as Gryzor. So that was the golden item in my room. Throw all my clothes, pencils, posters if you want; but my friend, if you touch my golden disc, well we will have some problems.

Please take one last look at the craftily programmed graphics of that marvel. Nick is crossing the bridge while Joe is waiting for his turn, oh so anxiously. 

Pixel hunting 101 for couples

(image credit: coba)

Playing games as couples is more like an art than science (don`t know why I said that). You have a world that you may or may not want your significant other to be a part of. In any case, there should be games that you can share, if you have to. Mystery Case Files is definitely one of them.

The concept is extremely basic. There is a list of items on the right, and you are trying to find them in the picture. Actually the developers are clever enough to embed this puzzle pieces into a story and the items are not easy to find.

My favorite one was Madame Fate, a twisted circus story with lots of different puzzles in addition to hidden item quests. There are 6 games available for Windows or Mac. After a while, your eyes get crossed, and the fun activity with your partner becomes more like a frustration, where her incapacity to find a hidden item becomes your only focus, you fight, plates crashing on the wall, slamming doors, lawyers and so happy ending in this one.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gryzor, my friend, it's time to tell the world..

Nothing came in shiny boxes back then. That`s what you`d get, if so nice and clean at all...

Gryzor was one of the big and cool games for Amstrad that used one full side of a compact floppy disc. It`s one of the forefathers of the go-right-kill-at-sight type of games. The setting is somewhere like the Predator movie, alien jungle kind of place. The player controls one of two armed military commandos named Bill and Lance (so 80s), who are sent on a mission to neutralize a terrorist organization called Red Falcon that is secretly planning to take over the Earth.

The main character is equipped with a gun with an unlimited amount of ammunition. The player can also jump, move and fire in eight directions, as well as move or jump simultaneously while firing. Awesome stuff. I bet playing co-op would be superb, but countless times I`ve tried, I failed to do the settings and decided to go play a self-invented role-playing game we called "alien attack" with my best friend A!riza.

I give this game a good 8 out of 10, considering the ahead-of-time approach and gameplay. Don`t worry, I won`t score every game I mention here, but this one deserves something. The 2 points are lost for graphics, not because of the game, but my father, who decided to buy us a GREEN screen instead of a colored one.

Speaking of scoring, let`s look at some differences now and then:


And now (

Kind of cool to see the difference. Long live Gryzor, long live two dimensions and limits of choice!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let`s fall out

Since I finished Fallout 3 - instead of studying for my MBA courses - I was looking forward to this. My first game to pre-order. Well, cool stuff comes with the collector`s edition: (A) a deck of playing cards with 50s post-apocalyptic vegas images, (B) an illustrated story to tell you happenings before game starts (C) poker chips (D) a large metal poker chip, which plays a role in the game (E) the making of the game blu-ray and (F) well, the game.

Matthew Perry voice acts the guy who shots you in the head at the very beginning of the game, along with other semi-celebs like Kris Kristofferson, Machete`s Danny Trejo. Now I`m waiting for my strategy guide to go with it, I was hoping to get the full experience - my luck, the game is full of bugs. Seems like I`ll have to wait until they release some patches, I don`t want to go nuts following a lost NPC.

I`ll let you know later how it goes and some of the ethical dilemmas the game producers are so proud of.

copyright obsidian entertainment

Mona Lisa in Basic

I remember one night, when I was introduced to the whore called technology...or the lack of it. My brother, who is six years older than I am, came home with an amazing magazine, "Sizin Amstrad", which means "Your Amstrad" in Turkish. In the last few pages of every issue, there was a basic code to digitize a picture. Here is an example:

For those lucky and young ones, who don`t know basic programming, it looks like this:

It was a time when graphics were seldom on a computer screen. So my brother decided to type down the codes for a mona lisa photo. Well kind of...look at Sylvester Stallone`s and imagine him as mona lisa. It had hundreds and hundreds lines of typing odd symbols and numbers (see above). He finished after working 3 days.

When he finished he was shouting, cheering, calling us to his room. I ran (I was like 8, you know, always ready) and looked at it for like 5 minutes. Amazing. Proud of his hard work, he jumped to call my mom; his foot touched the power cable, snapped the poorly attached plug from the electricity outlet and the screen went black. Well maybe you don`t know, but saving was not invented back then.

He went into shock. Since then he is an odd person. Barely walks, rarely talks. Technology is a whore. Or the lack of it.

How it all started...


I don`t remember when we got that Amstrad, it stood in my older brother`s room for a long time. I guess I was 6-ish or something. It was a different time, when there was no blogging, no facebook, no twitter, no internet as we know (except for maybe NASA or something). Better times, if I may say, or at least simpler...

If they ever tell my story, let them say I spent time with giants. Things rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Tetris, tamer of the bored. Let them say I lived in the time of Michael Knight, Turtles and Star Wars. Let them dig my grave next to Manowar and Dune.