Zombie in My Pocket – Let’s Play

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Are zombies passe yet? Yes, they are. Some time ago, this game captured my imagination, and apparently I kept a short log of one play-through. I found it, sitting in my drafts, dating waaaaay back to 2008. I chopped up some old photos I took and put a wrap on it. This is me, playing the free-to-print solo game Zombie In My Pocket.

With a few small decks of cards and a notepad, you role-play an intrepid adventurer trying to stop a zombie uprising by locating and burying an idol in a randomly-generated, besieged house. You must do this by midnight. It’s a roguelike in pocket format.

You do this by laying down square tiles, each representing a room in the house. Each turn, 10 minutes in game-time passes, and an event happens by drawing a card. You might find a weapon, you might fight some zombies, or you can take a moment to rest and gain some health back. In all, you have 18 turns to finish the game.

In my experience, it was a pretty well-balanced game, giving you maybe 40%-60% odds of winning each time, with room for tactical choices. A really nicely-designed gem, and free, to boot. Read, and enjoy the purple prose.

Three Hours to Midnight

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9:00pm – At the center of the terror lies a house. Continue reading

Because Stars Matter: Starshatter (Sci-Fi Flight Sim) is Free!

Entering orbit in an F-34D, a slower multi-purpose fighter.

Update

The original host site, Starshattermods.com, succumbed to hacking and is down. Hard Light Productions, a fantastic community that grew around Freespace Open, has generously taken up hosting the Starshatter forums here. Starshatter files are hosted in this thread. I still have some of the files, please let me know in the comments if you have any trouble obtaining them.

The Short

Starshatter: The Gathering Storm is a moderately complex, moderately realistic, spaceborne military flight sim that takes place in a series of dynamic campaigns. It won’t change your life, but it ain’t bad.

The Good:

  • it’s not too punishing or difficult. It strives for a moderate amount of realism, but offers an optional video-gamey control scheme
  • takes place in four dynamically shifting war campaigns, rather than a static set of missions or a bland open world design
  • graphics and sounds are good for such a small studio, but won’t blow your entire head off
  • receive promotions! Start flying fighter craft, and move upward to capital ships, even become an admiral and direct the course of the war.
  • heck, it’s FREE and open source!
  • fairly open to modding
  • rewards come after overcoming the learning curve, about 4-6 hours, perhaps less if you’ve flown flight sims before

The Bad:

  • a bit repetitive, a bit spare, a bit bland. It’s a quasi-military flight sim, there’s not a lot of character here.
  • lack of variety in ships
  • reportedly difficult and tedious to create your own missions
  • no multiplayer campaign

Read on for the review, or skip to the “Getting It” section for info on how to get it!

Continue reading

Hero Core: Blow Up a Whole Asteroid Filled with Angry Robots

It's time to shoot some things in space.

I’ve been waiting for this one. You can’t browse for three feet on the internet without running into a retro game these days. These are the consequences, I’m afraid, for a generation of kids who grew up playing NES games that cost around $40-$50 a pop: you never got enough, and now with a multitude of free tools and talent, free retro platformers are everywhere. You can afford to be picky, to wait for the game with just the right mix of difficulty, nostalgia, and creativity to come around.

Hero Core has been worth waiting for. I won’t waste your time with too many words, you should probably start downloading it now.

Gameplay is focused on exploration of a large world, with locked-off bits opening after periodic equipment upgrades, much like in the Metroid series. Your character controls like a fighter from a shoot-em-up: no jumping, you simply float around in the vacuum of the enemy lair, propelled by jets built into your suit.

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In a Time of Roguelike Chimpanzees I was a Monkey

Ok, so a theme munged from an old Beck song has absolutely nothing to do with roguelikes. Really though, this month seems to be all about new releases of roguelikes, lots of ’em, and you’re a loser, baby, who should kill himself if you aren’t just a little bit excited about it. Yep, that’s my tie-in.

Hope you have some time to waste and are also nerdy enough to like this sort of thing. If not, go play some Mass Effect or something. Go on, git.

Yo, bring it on down.

Here’s a quick list of the big names updating this month:

  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup 0.6
  • DoomRL 0.9.9.1
  • Transcendence 1.0

Also recently, a rash of newcomers, mostly one-off concept games  made in the heat of friendly competition:

  • Tigsource’s Assemblee Competition
  • 7DRL (7 day roguelike competition)

Continue reading

Looks like Spelunky hit 1.0… and the big time

Snapshot from Spelunky website.
Click to download Spelunky!

I was just writing about Spelunky for my blog, wondering when it would hit 1.0, when BAM, front page of IndieGames:

Spelunky Coming to XBLA in 2010

No foolin’. And it’s got a real website, too:

http://www.spelunkyworld.com/original.html

Though it came out shortly before year’s end, I’ve pretty much thought of this action roguelike as my personal Game of the Year ’09. It’s not immediately obvious, especially if you’re one to quit games the split second they get difficult (and this is one unforgiving game), but the acrobatic stunts and the unexpected interactions of simple mechanics really add up to a charming and deeply fun game.

It kind of irks me that, like Cave Story, Spelunky will be getting the special treatment (better graphics, some unspecified extras) for its console debut, but fortunately, Derek Yu is a man with his feet on the ground, and the Windows version will continue to be free. XBLA exposure isn’t exactly a bad thing, and it’ll put a few dollars in his pocket. Good for him, I say. Plus, the interest may well spawn new variations on the action roguelike.

(Personally, I don’t own and have no interest in owning an XBox, but if the improved version of this game hit the Nintendo DS I’d be all over it.)

Seriously, if you haven’t tried out this little gem, do so, immediately.

Game of the Moment: DoomRL

I guess I’m on a roguelike tear this week, because I can’t rip myself from DoomRL today.

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Like Doom, it’s good, dumb fun… but not that dumb. The plot is still pencil thin, the demons are mostly the same as in the original. There is quite a bit of killing, and only slightly less dying.

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However, unlike the groundbreaking 3-D shooter, DoomRL is rendered completely in text. Like any good roguelike, this means randomly generated levels, lots of weapon drops, and buckets of blood.

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Probably the best thing about DoomRL, what makes it compelling at all, is its departure from the roguelike trend of growing complication. In ADOM, you have dozens of race and class combinations, an overmap, quests, a whole world to keep you busy. Dwarf Fortress is so complicated that it’s arguably not even a roguelike. In Nethack, you have ascension kits to build, endless spoilers to search, and enemies that you can cut into little pieces and store in tin cans for later consumption.

You don’t eat anything in DoomRL, unless you count the consumption of lightning and the defecation of thunder shortly thereafter. See a demon, kill a demon. Run. Do more of the thing you just did a few seconds ago.

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In DoomRL, you run, you gun. All upgrades you make to your character have either to do with how you shoot, or how you run. (Okay, there are a few that have something to do with health.) There are two classes in DoomRL: Marine and demon, and you’re never a demon. Unless you pick up a berserk pack.

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To most persons interested in roguelikes, DoomRL is old news. The latest build is about a year old. Hell, even I’ve known about it for at least a year.

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DoomRL is simple enough for a beginner roguelike – let’s say streamlined instead – but its randomly generated levels, upgradeable weapons, bonus levels, and an overall novel approach (this roguelike has sound!) make it worth playing for those of us who walked away from other roguelikes out of a fear of lifetime commitment.

Download DoomRL.

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A Brief Introduction to Decker, Part 3: Radio Shack Attack

Part 1 of this series introduces Decker and how it relates to the roguelike game genre.

Part 2 considers the part of the game the supports the action: character development, examining the cyberdeck, and obtaining or building new hardware and software.

In this post, we’ll carry out a typical cyberhit against a future version of Radio Shack, and snatch a little bit of something for ourselves in the process. First, however, let’s review our mission.

The Mission

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We’ll rejoin our fledgling hacker at the hub. Click on “View Contracts” to review the mission.

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When we’re looking for a mission, this shows a list of available missions. If we accept a mission (which we have), it shows the details for the current mission. Our contract states that all we have to do is break into the Radio Shack computer system, and disable the alarm systems. We’re probably facilitating a robbery or corporate espionage. Contracts can have more complex requirements, such as not setting off alarms, or even completely trashing a system. For now, we’ll be satisfied with something this simple, and the lousy payment of 105 credits.

Note that the deadline is in one day. If we disconnect for any reason, that’s a day’s work done. Reconnecting can only be done on the following day, so we better be done by the deadline, or our reputation will suffer.

Well, what are we waiting for, let’s indirectly hurt some people!

Continue reading

A Brief Introduction to Decker, Part 2 (cyberpunk hacking roguelike)

In my previous post, I introduced the graphical roguelike Decker, and how to obtain it and soften the harsh graphics a bit. Here, we’ll get into Decker’s actual gameplay.

Next to the graphics, the toughest part about getting into Decker is figuring out how to make a living as a hacker in the cyberpunk world of the future. Fortunately, the game itself has a decent helpfile, though you’ll be using the search function quite a bit at first. As this introduction continues, we’ll familiarize ourselves with the interface, and go on a quick mission. Then, you’ll be on your own! Continue reading

Nerding Out: Watching Tron, Playing Decker (a cyberpunk hacking roguelike)

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Acting like it’s a rainy day in 1986. Watching a young and smug Jeff Bridges in Disney’s Tron, and playing Decker, a roguelike game based roughly on an old tabletop RPG called Shadowrun. In Decker, you play a William Gibson-style hacker, taking illicit contracts to hack into corporate systems and steal data, fight intrusion countermeasures, and cause general havoc. More fun than it looks, and it looks terrible.