Destiny? I chose the original Half-Life instead

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Life has been busy lately – my lack of updates here is not for a lack of effort – and no, I haven’t been wasting my free time playing Destiny along with the millions of other FPS fans across the world. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it is a great game for what it is, but I’m just very tired of the online multiplayer FPS genre and it’s over abundance of foulmouthed preteens. What have I been doing lately? After dropping Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on my ASUS gaming laptop, I took a look at the 100+ games in my Steam library that were Linux compatible, noticed that all of the Half-Life games were available, and decided to start back at the very beginning: the Black Mesa Transit System in the original Half-Life.

I recall playing the original Half-Life on the PS2 in the early 2000s. I also recalled beating the game; yet, oddly enough, approaching the final stretch of the game, it became quite clear that my memory had not served me correct. Hey, it happens to the best of us – some of us a bit more than we want to admit, really. Anyhow, settling back into the game once again after all these years isn’t sore on the eyes, thanks, in part, to the HD resolution and updated graphics found in the Steam release. While new-age atmospheric titles like Dead Space make these older games’ scares a bit laughable, the environment and atmosphere of Black Mesa is still creepily enjoyable to explore – especially when there’s half a game here that I thought I’d seen before.

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If you’ve somehow missed the Half-Life series, it’s a FPS game from the masterminds at Valve. The game pushed the genre further than few thought possible at the time of its release and even still today it’s an enjoyable experience that’s well worthy of blasting back through. The game didn’t reinvent the wheel, so to speak, but instead brought excellent shooting mechanics, graphics, narrative, and environmental and atmospheric effects all together into one intentionally designed package. The combined effect of all these elements coming together creates an experience that immerses the player into its world in a way that no shooter before had done so before. Even in its age, the game sucked me in completely until the end credits rolled, which is more than I can say for Destiny – okay, okay… no more sly japes at Bungie’s new shooter; it’s unfair, I know.

Half-Life runs pretty well on Linux, with only a few minor noticeable hiccups that I can recall. The most memorable of these was a few non-interactive walls that had a tendency to blink when moving the character around. Aside from that, there were a few (and I mean a few) instances where I had some limited frame rate drops for a few seconds. Aside from these minor compatibility issues, there was one specific issue that brought back memories from another classic FPS title: Turok (N64). Considering that you can see further than three inches, err…feet, in front of your character in Half-Life, that would mean that it would be the jumping sequences that can be quite an annoyance at times. While so much of Half-Life is near perfectly designed, there are few baffling jumping segments that disrupt the smooth flow of the game play. There’s nothing too terrible, for sure, but the annoyance is there nonetheless. Now that I think of it though, having the bow from Turok to silently take down some pesky head crabs would be ace – can we get the modders on this, like, ASAP?

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If you’ve never played the original Half-Life, you probably should. Even if Halloween is already over for this year – the time that many people choose to play creepy games – there’s never a bad time to jump back into this classic shooter. If you’re a Linux fan like myself, retro PC titles just feel great to play on the platform. Can’t really pinpoint the reason why that is, really, but hey, some things are just the way that they are, I guess.

Review: FFFFF2P (iPhone)

 

If the title of this satirical little retro platform title comes off a bit confusing, know that it is a shortened version of a much longer title: FREE FREE FREE FREE FREE 2 PLAY! This is a game that intentionally pokes fun at the Free-to-Play business structure that developers and publishers so love right now, while daring to embrace the formula itself. Can this little platformer hop to new heights or does it fall into the ever-growing pay-to-win pits of flawed F2P titles?

The inspirations from the great Super Mario Bros. that dominated the 8-bit era is instantly apparent here. A princess is in dire need of rescuing from the evil ogre named Ug, whom floats around on the top of the screen upon a cloud with a smiling face. The simple graphical design used here emulates the notorious plumber’s world so much so that a quick glance could easily mistake it as a snippet from an early Mario game. It sounds the part too. Elevate Entertainment’s previous title, Lumena: A No-Nonsense Rhythm Game, featured a fantastic electronic soundtrack from Modbon, and the composer delivers yet again with a lively chip tune soundtrack.  [Review Score: 2.5/5 Stars]

 

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Preview: Wrack (PC)

 

People that grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s undoubtedly have fond memories of arcade-style FPS corridor shooters. Wolfenstein and Doom were all the rage (no pun intended) and for good reason; the pure fast-paced nature of these games is, simply put, a lot of fun. Indie developer Final Boss Entertainment’s Wrack reanimates the old-school corridor shooter once again in a fantastic cel-shaded style. Fans both new and old alike should indeed be looking forward to this one.

The speed of the game play in Wrack is instantly captivating. Swiftly running and gunning through the corridors might bring back a bit of nostalgia for some, but it feels great still today. In a more modern touch, putting down baddies finds kill count combos quickly becoming commonplace, significantly increasing the level score with intentional combo chains.

 

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Preview: Altitude0: Lower and Faster (PC)

 

Nearly two years ago, when Steam Greenlight was in its infancy, several of our team pitched our most anticipated titles that we wanted to see receive the elusive ‘green light’. One of my two picks was Altitude0: Lower and Faster. This air plane racing title looked to be right up this wannabe pilot’s alley.

In those early chaotic days of Steam Greenlight, the duo indie team of Gugila made the executive decision to remove the game from the service and has spent the past two years hard at work bringing the game to life. Today, it’s now available in beta access on Desura and has finally been greenlit on Steam, bringing the beta action onto that platform later this year. We’ve gotten the chance to strap in and take to the skies of Altitude0 and I can honestly say that the long wait was definitely worth it.

 

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Revelations Quick Study: Perseverance and Discipleship

 

Rev 2:7 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

The “tree of life” reference here is an obvious reflection to the Garden of Eden, but Jesus isn’t actually saying that “believers will be fed from the actual tree of life that is ‘in’ the Garden of Eden.” You have to put this statement into context; this is being written to the seven churches – the seven candlesticks that John saw in his prophetic vision – and these churches are both commended for their good deeds and threatened for their works of evil that is being carried forth within them at the time of writing here.

What Jesus is saying to these churches is that while here on Earth, they need to persevere in the ways of righteousness and stand firm in the face of the evil within their midst, while constantly proclaiming the truth (love) of God’s Word. Simply put: discipleship.

The very same is said to all believers, as those filled with the Spirit are the body of Christ in the World; again, a calling to discipleship. This means that a Christian life isn’t a calling to a life of leisure and self-pleasure, but a life of selfless works, purpose and perseverance. And if we do these things, if we overcome, our rest – “eat at the tree of life” – and rewards will be found in the midst of the paradise of God.

Review: AiRace Xeno (3DS eShop)

AiRace Xeno is a fitting title for this game, considering the game takes the exact same formula as its predecessor, AiRace Speed, but adds an alien-styled theme to it. “AiRace Dubstep Edition” would be an even better fit, because it’s the crazy hard hitting techno beats that set this release apart. Everything else is just more of the same with a cheaper entry fee.

For those who don’t already have an AiRace title on their 3DS, Xeno is well worth the investment. AiRace titles are all about locking the throttle to the max, and tunnelling through the twist and turns of some truly treacherous tracks at breakneck speeds. Each track offers its own unique style and track layout, with branching pathways and hidden shortcuts to be found. At first, you’ll barely touch the turbo button as you learn the ropes of each track, but to have any chance of success here you’ll need as much of that nitrous button as you can squeeze out of it. If at first you don’t succeed, go down in a fire of blazing glory and all that. [Review Score: 3.5/5 Stars]

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Review: Transistor (PC)

There’s a certain eloquence that hinges on Shakespearean tragedy intricately seamed into the fabric of Supergiant Games’ Transistor. The talented minds behind the critically acclaimed and wonderfully crafted Bastion have moulded together another beautiful world in a signature digital oil painting aesthetic.

What happens when a world goes cold? Dark, yet alluring, the utopian world of Cloudbank is intricately brushed to life with futuristic neon hazes and an opulent touch of Gothic architecture. In its opening moment, we find an oil painting depicting a beautiful woman with flowing red hair and pale skin, looking away from a man sitting in shadows with a futuristic computer chip-like great sword protruding from his chest. There’s no blood, instead there’s almost a sense of tranquility through the sorrow. Accented by the incredible lighting effects reflecting off her luxurious attire makes her seem, well… famous, possibly. [Review Score: 5/5 Stars]

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Review: Moon Chronicles – Episode 1 (3DS eShop)

I have fond memories of spending endless hours playing early home console first-person shooter (FPS) titles. We’re talking Doom, Wolfenstein and Quake, here – classic corridors, horrific monsters and ever more powerful guns to earn as you play.

While the industry today has taken the genre to new (and different) heights with giant leaps in technology and online competitive gaming, I do think there will always be room to return to the classics. Moon’s developer, Renegade Kid, is no stranger to retro-themed games, with its superb Mutant Mudds acting as a love letter to old-school platforming souls. Moon Chronicles, meanwhile, is a sci-fi throwback designed just for those looking for a shot of that FPS nostalgia. [Review Score: 3.5/5 Stars]

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Review – Lumena: A No-Nonsense Rhythm Game (iPhone)

If Terry Cavanagh’s retro rhythm game Super Hexagon was a NES title, Lumena: A No-Nonsense Rhythm Game would be its Game Boy Color younger sibling.

Fans of electronica music and brutal difficulty levels take note, Elevate Entertainment will likely be the next developer to send iPhones flying through the air in frustration, only to find them picked right back up for another go (assuming they still work, of course).

The subtitle says it all, really; “A No-Nonsense Rhythm Game” is exactly what Lumena truly is, and that’s not a bad thing at all. A static screen brings the play field to life with two neon coloured circles – the smaller of which being found in the centre of the larger one. The outer circle has eight parts which pulse and spin to the beats of the electronica soundtrack, and flicking the centre circle, or disc, into the a matching coloured side of the outer circle keeps the game in motion. Fail to flick the disc longer than four seconds or into a matching coloured side of the outer circle and it’s game over. Simple and effective. [Review Score: 4/5 Stars]

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Freeware Focus: Leaf Me Alone (PC)

Leaf Me Alone began life at the Ludum Dare 26 Challenge by two very talented and passionate developers: Mark Foster and David Fen. What the duo created in a mere 72 hours was something special; so much so, that continued work found the game to be one of the most polished and charming minimalist RPG-lite platforming titles found most anywhere. The best bit, it’s a freeware browser game that’s available to most anyone with a decent Internet connection.
There’s few times that I’m instantly captivated by a game from its onset, yet Leaf Me Alone found a way to do just that. Pausing for just a moment at the game’s opening screen finds a few small butterflies fluttering about on what appears to be the side of a lush cliff face on a beautiful Summer day. The elegant use of pastel colours finds a harmonious, soothing balance as the gentle chirps of birds sound off in the distance. Nature is beautiful; nature is bliss to the senses – to step into Leaf Me Alone is to step into nature.

Click here to play the expanded version of Leaf Me Alone at Nickelodeon’s Addicting Games.

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