Beneath a Steel Sky

[youtube id=”pm7V-VrlJuo” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Beneath a Steel Sky

Ah, the point-and-click adventure – a genre so fondly remembered yet so close to extinction… ~Lewis Packwood

The fortunes of these most traditional of adventure games took a nosedive with the demise of the Amiga and never really recovered; the kids got into their fancy new ‘Grand Theft Autos’ and ‘Tomb Raiders’ and rapidly lost interest in figuring out how to combine broken string with some mud in order to create a mask with which to frighten the temple guard into giving you the key for the dungeon. Actually, when you put it like that it’s probably not surprising that the popularity of these games waned – after all, one of the best points about Grand Theft Auto is that you never have to spend twenty minutes painstakingly combing the screen with the mouse in a bid to work out whether you’ve missed picking up an essential item. “Ah, so that tiny yellow-green blob 14 screens back was actually a key!” is something you’ll never hear uttered by players of GTA.

Beneath a Steel Sky - Amiga - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Of course, I’m doing the genre a disservice – for all the frustrating back-and-forth wandering and pixel hunting there were a hundred more golden moments of ‘Eureka!’-style puzzle solving, not to mention elaborate plot twists. For, of course, ’tis in the narrative where these games truly excel, and Beneath a Steel Sky was a shining beacon in this respect. The developers even went so far as to create a mini-comic to be shipped with the game, detailing the events leading up to the opening credits.

 

Set in a dystopian future Australia, the comic describes how the main character, Robert Foster*, is raised by Indigenous Australians after a helicopter crash in ‘The Gap’ (the Australian Outback). He learns electronics and builds himself a robot, Joey, who becomes your companion throughout the game. Upon reaching adulthood, Foster is kidnapped by stormtroopers sent from Union City (a possible future Sydney), and his tribe is murdered. The stormtroopers have been sent by LINC, the mysterious computer mainframe that controls the city.

Beneath a Steel Sky - Amiga - Gameplay Screenshot

 

The game proper opens with a jaw-droppingly animated (for the Amiga) sequence as the helicopter crashlands in Union City and Foster escapes. It emerges that in this ruthless future world, cities comprised of mammoth skyscrapers have swallowed up most of the remaining liveable land. Working class citizens are confined to the upper levels of the city, whereas the leisure elite luxuriate below (‘beneath a steel sky’, geddit?). In order to confront LINC and learn the truth about his past, Foster must evade security and work his way down to the lower levels.

Beneath a Steel Sky - Amiga - Gameplay Screenshot

 

If the set-up sounds a little similar to Mega-City One in Judge Dredd, then it’s no coincidence – Dave Gibbons (of 2000 AD and Watchmen fame) did all of the artwork for the game (including the mini-comic), and every screen simply drips with cyberpunk chic. At the time it looked astonishing, and even now the dystopian backdrops are capitivating. The anticipation of what graphical delight awaited you on the next screen was almost as much of a draw as the fantastic plot.

Beneath a Steel Sky - Amiga - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Even though the game plot was more serious than some of it’s point-and-click contemporaries (e.g. The Secret of Monkey Island), BaSS still managed to squeeze in a fair amount of humour, mostly of the British variety (i.e. double entendres and sarcasm). Indeed, the fact that the game never takes itself too seriously is one of its most enduring features (Gears of War take note – non-stop, po-faced machismo is more likely to make gamers laugh derisively into their sleeves than empathise with the characters).

Beneath a Steel Sky - Amiga - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Of course, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. The chief problem with the game was it’s sheer size (in terms of memory space anyway): the Amiga 600 version of the game came on a whopping 15 floppy disks (which I believe is actually the most disks used by one Amiga game – correct me if I’m wrong). This meant that backtracking through screens might involve several bouts of disk-swapping and loading, which became very tedious very quickly. Luckily I upgraded to an Amiga 1200 after I got BaSS, which meant that I could load the game in its entirety onto the 1200′s mighty 60 megabyte hard drive.

Blimey, it’s crazy to think now that my current mobile phone has nearly 67 times more memory than my old Amiga 1200…

Beneath a Steel Sky - Amiga - Gameplay Screenshot

 

The other major problem with the game was the problem shared by many point-and-clickers – that of the obscure puzzle. To be fair, BaSS was relatively good in this regard compared with some other examples in the genre, but even one of the first puzzles in the game (which involved wrenching a rung from a ladder to use as a crowbar) had me backtracking between screens for AGES. And of course, all this was in the days before GameFAQs.com (God bless you GameFAQs! Sing hallelujah, for yay, the days of becoming frustratingly stuck in video games hath endeth!).

watchmen_characters

Of all the games on this list, I’d rate BaSS in the top five games I’d like to play again, which just goes to show how much of an impression it left on me (if you fancy giving it a go yourself, you can play it for free using ScummVM). Interestingly, it seems that point-and-click adventure games are starting to make a bit of a comeback, chiefly thanks to the Nintendo Wii and DS. The laid back pace of the point-and-clicker is perfect for the older end of Nintendo’s gaming spectrum, and the Wii remote and DS stylus might as well have been custom made for playing this kind of game… With talk of a Director’s Cut of Broken Sword to be released for the Wii and DS, as well as the release of a new generation of point-and-clickers (e.g. Sam & Max: Season One, The Secret Files: Tunguska), perhaps this is the start of a point-and-click rennaissance?

In the meantime, here’s a clip of BaSS to whet your appetite – this is the CD-ROM version of the game, which used voice acting rather than text (although, inexplicably, everyone seems to be American, even though the game is set in Australia…).

Rise of the Dragon

[youtube id=”vfBlqyaqF3s” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Rise of the Dragon

Rise of the Dragon is set in Los Angeles in the year 2053.  It’s a surprisingly mature-themed game, with drug overdoses, criminal behavior, and gruesome deaths all important plot elements.  The player assumes the role of William “Blade” Hunter, a private detective tasked with quietly solving who gave the Mayor’s daughter a fatal dose of a new designer drug, MTZ.  It seems MTZ creates monsters by altering its users’ DNA, and the Mayor is very torqued that his daughter turned into one, but not enough to call for a public investigation.  That’s where Blade comes in.  Along the way, a dire threat to L.A. is uncovered involving MZT and the head of the Chinese mafia, Deng Hwang, “The Dragon.”

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

This game was a visual masterpiece, with its game backgrounds and portraits all hand drawn by Robert Caracol, of Dark Horse Comics fame, and ran in 256-color VGA.  The critics agreed, and Rise of the Dragon received the “Special Award For Artistic Achievement” in 1991 by Computer Gaming World, arguably the most influential PC gaming magazine at the time of the game’s release.

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

Rise of the Dragon plays out in a real-time environment.  Blade has only three game days to solve the mystery, and the clock is ticking.  Every action costs time, especially travelling from one area of the game map to another.  Strategic play is a must, here, as time of day is an important game element, and must be accounted for.  For instance, some locations are accessible only at certain times, such as City Hall.  More importantly, Blade isn’t a super-human, and needs sleep.  He’ll doze off around 1am every evening, no matter where he is.  This leads to the amusing instance of Blade collapsing on the street and falling asleep, which quickly loses its charm when you realize that he was robbed during the night and you’ve randomly lost important inventory items.  In short, it’s best to get Blade home before he turns into a pumpkin.

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

The real-time environment also plays out in character interaction.  What Blade says and does to each character will influence his future interactions with them or their friends (or enemies).  This can have devastating effects on game play as a snide remark that seemed so appropriate at the time can limit Blade’s access to important game areas, and make the game’s ending untenable. Again, it’s best to save before any character interaction to avoid running into a dead end (or use the hint book…but I digress).

Rise-of-the-Dragon

 

Rise of the Dragon was a moderate success for Dynamix, neither setting the PC game sales charts on fire, nor being a dismal failure, and was released on several platforms: IBM-PC in 1990, Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga in 1991, and a modified version for Sega CD in 1993.  It sold well enough to warrant a sequel, Heart of China, set in the 1930s, but the sequel parade ended there.  Regardless of how it fared, Rise of the Dragon remains a classic PC game that the pcgamerverse has forgotten, but well-worth the time to replay!

Just like a dumbfuck, I fell into the trap

Just like a dumbfuck, I fell into the trapJust like a dumbfuck, I fell into the trap.

Just like a dumbfuck, I fell into the trap. I was at the office, almost closing time, when the phone rang and it was her crying. Like a twisted knight from the days of old, I tried to run to her rescue.

Two days ago, this piece of jailbait came in to talk to me about how her step father, mega industrialist Jack Roberts, had raped her. She said he was going to do it again soon and that she couldn’t go to the cops as his deep pockets had paid them off for the next decade worth of fucked up cover ups. Little Shelley told me that she wanted to hire me to catch him in the act and either capture video or give him my own personal kind of justice. She said daddy would be back in town soon and that he promised her a good time. Little Shelley didn’t have much to offer me for pay but I knew that many of Mr. Roberts rivals would be interested in seeing him with his pants down, his Mr. Happy missing, or with a trademark bullet greeting right in between his surprised eyes. I would have gotten my bounty either way.

Now here I lay in a dilapidated hotel room lying on a puddle of some blood, my guns missing, and a total probable suspect in the murder of a little girl.

The Top Cartoons From The 1990s

This list includes every cartoon I thought was great or totally amazing that started airing or were super popular in the 1990s. Let”s go over all of them in alphabetical order!

Aeon FluxAeon Flux

This was a really weird science fiction cartoon that was showed on MTV”s Liquid Television in the early 1990s. The show was about Aeon Flux, a female secret agent that was mixed up in a lot of conspiracies, a war with a neighboring country, assassinations, betrayal, cloning, and a bunch of other crazy plots. The entire cartoon was a complete mind fuck.

The feeling this show gave me was similar to the feeling I get from the Paranoia RPG and Brazil. Pretty much, it”s a totally fucked up distopian future where you are either a drone or you are involved in sinister greater forces that control and rule everything and keep everyone oppressed. Life is cheap and everybody is replaceable.

The way this cartoon was drawn and the bizarre style of it reminded me a lot of the comics that would come out in Heavy Metal magazine. A lot like the style of those weird french graphic novels from the 80s and 90s.

There aren”t a lot of episodes of this show. I remember renting the whole show on VHS back when those existed, so you have an idea how short it is.

There was a live action movie that was a remake of the show. It was okay. Most people either liked it or flat out hated it.

AnimaniacsAnimaniacs

This was Steven Spielberg”s next cartoon character after having made the hugely successful Tiny Toon Adventures. The show was like watching a cartoon version of The Marx Brothers. The entire cartoon was about two brothers and a sister going around trolling everybody they met. The show also introduced Pinky And The Brain, a cartoon that was about an idiot mouse that is always trying to help a super genius mouse “try to take over the world!” The Brain sounded a lot like Orson Welles. Pink And The Brain were probably my favorite characters from the show.

The main storyline for this insane show was that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were 1930s cartoons characters that got trapped in the water tower of the Warner Bros Studios and were finally released to mess with the world in the 1990s. There were other sketches with other characters such as The Goodfeathers. The Goodfeathers were a parody of the gangsters from the movie Goodfellas except that they were a bunch of pigeons. They were great, even impersonating Joe Pesci”s characters that usually go ape shit over everything. There was also Slappy Squirrel which was a bitter old cartoon character that would put people in their place while trying to teach those values to her nephew Skippy Squirrel.

Batman BeyondBatman Beyond

Think Batman meets cyberpunk Shadowrun and this is pretty much what the show is. It”s set in the future. Bruce Wayne is old, has heart conditions, and is slowly dying. Everybody that Bruce Wayne worked with either hates him or is dead. What ends up happening is that Bruce Wayne can no longer be Batman. For a while he”s already used a power armor kind of Batsuit but even that doesn”t prevent him from having heart attacks while fighting crime. So… some kid that has a situation like Bruce gets picked up to be the next Batman.

The show is almost not even a kids show as people (rarely) die in this show but at least there is death. If you are a fan of the other Batman cartoons then you need to follow the chain of history by watching this show. The sad part is that this show got cancelled, probably because of the violence and dark tones, but if you really want to see how all of Batman ends, I urge you to watch Justice League”s “Epilogue” episode. That ends all of Batman, forever. It is simply the best thing ever written for Batman.

Anyways, back to Batman Beyond… The Joker is dead and so are many of the old villains since it”s the year 2039. Instead of having The Joker, you have The Joker street gang and other characters based on themes from the past as well as some of them returning. The new villains are insanely more powerful than classic Batman villains, some of them being to the scale of power that it would take Superman or the Justice League to bring them down.

There are movies of the show, and they are all worth watching.

Since youtube restricts it, I can”t embed the intro, so here”s the link to it instead (open in a new tab).

Batman The Animated SeriesBatman: The Animated Series

This is a cartoon that was so good that I would stop doing anything to watch. This set the bar for me for what everything comic book related should be for the rest of time. Batman The Animated Series is so damn good that it makes everything else Batman look like shit, and I am including the Tim Burton and Chris Nolan movies. Now, yeah, that might be going a little bit too far but for a cartoon this is simply ART. The music along with the drawings along with the voice acting and writing makes for a perfect cartoon. This IS the Dark Knight. The writing is so good that I often remember quotes from the show. “How much is a good night”s rest? Now there”s a riddle for you…” and many more.

This cartoon is what and are based on.

This cartoon is so good that each episode has its own unique soundtrack written for it. The level of writing are just as good as the original Twilight Zone series. You MUST watch it.

Again, youtube doesn”t allow embedding so just open in a new tab, the HD 1080p version of the Batman Intro.

Darkwing DuckDarkwing Duck

Darkwing Duck was a spinoff from DuckTales and it was sort of like a comical parody of superheroes, especially Batman. This takes place in the DuckTales universe, even having Launchpad MacQuack as his sidekick, the really bad pilot from DuckTales that always crashes everything that he pilots. Just think of it like a light hearted Batman except that his parents didn”t get murdered and that he has to take care of a bratty daughter Gosalyn Mallard. I remember any time that there would be action he would always say his catchphrase: “Let”s get dangerous!”

This cartoon was really popular in the early to mid 90s especially when DuckTales was still around.

Dilbert TV SeriesDilbert

This was an amazing comedy show based on the incredible make-fun-of-working comic strip Dilbert. The show was as funny as the strip but I could tell it was probably doomed from the start since it would show on UPN. Like it was totally marketed incorrectly, on the wrong network for this show. It would probably done really well on Fox or Cartoon Network or on Adult Swim but then again this was the 1990s, not 5-10 years later. Still, they should have at least gone with Fox, although Fox kills most of all of its good shows (like Family Guy and Futurama).

If you don”t know what Dilbert is, it”s about showing how crappy it is to work in a corporate cubicle farm culture. The boss is a moron/asshole, everybody does anything they can in order to do the least amount of work and get paid the least. You know, just like in real life?

If you like the strip, just watch the show to see the cartoon version. You can see all the episodes of Dilbert on youtube via Crackle. Here is the link to the first episode.

Eek The CatEek The Cat

Eek The Cat was the perfect cartoon created by Savage Steve Holland which was intended for kids with ADD and to make fun of pop culture. The whole show was about Eek the Cat which was the nicest cat ever and he would always get hurt for trying to do the right thing. Pretty much every episode was about that. There was this dog, Sharky the Sharkdog which was always trying to bite Eek at every opportunity. “It never hurts to help” was what Eek would always say and then the worst things would happen to him, always physically. He had this horribly fat cat girlfriend called Annabelle that was morbidly obese and disgusting. Despite that he always loved her.

To me this show was infinitely superior to shows that came afterwards like Spongebob Squarepants.

Exo SquadExoSquad

This is the pinnacle of 90s cartoons as far as rare cartoons go. I would say only Batman was as good as this cartoon. This is the ultimate space opera cartoon. It shows real war with people dying, the “good guys” not always winning, racism, terrorism, megalomania, etc. It was hard to watch this cartoon because they would always air it randomly, sometimes skipping episodes. I had the same problem with Babylon 5 because my parents never had cable so I would have to guess what I had missed.

The show is the ultimate parable made on World War 2. A lot of people die and you see things like crimes against humanity and cruelty. Shocking for a publicly aired cartooon.

Anyways, this show is probably one of my highest recommended shows in GENERAL to watch of all time. I like it enough that I run the main facebook fan page for it. Fortunately for us, although the show is dead, we can see the entire show for free here at hulu.

Start watching it and don”t stop until you saw it all. Only season 1 is available on DVD because Universal doesn”t care much for this show. 🙁

Family GuyFamily Guy

This show started off in the late 90s and it”s still on the air after having been cancelled many times. Personally I think the first seasons of the show were much funnier than the current seasons, since they seem to keep changing writers all the time and lately they”ve been relying too much on recycling internet jokes. Even the writers of the show make fun of how much the show has become like their spinoff show American Dad and there was even The Cleveland Show which was just SHIT.

Anyways, everybody knows what Family Guy is. It”s as famous as The Simpsons and Futurama. If you don”t know what Family Guy is, it”s nice to finally have met a time traveler or I”m glad that you”re awake from your coma.

FuturamaFuturama

Here is a show that was created by Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, that was superior (for geeks) to The Simpsons. The show is a LOT like Red Dwarf but even crazier because you can pretty much draw everything but Red Dwarf was limited by its budget. This show too had problems with it getting cancelled but it”s coming back again.

There are various movies of Futurama and they”re all worth watching.

The show is about this loser that gets frozen in cryogenic containment and he wakes up in the year 3000. The show is insanity having characters like the Santa Claus robot that kills everybody that”s been naughty and that means everybody. The aliens in the show are disgusting often eating garbage or they”re deadly or they”re just weird. Anyways, the loser Fry goes to work for an interstellar shipping company that”s run by an incompetent (not evil) genius Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth.

The show belongs in the comedy science fiction category alongside Red Dwarf. I highly recommend it.

Gargoyles
King of the Hill
Men in Black: The Series
Mighty Max
Muppet Babies
Pokemon
Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles
Sabrina the Animated Series
South Park
Spawn
Superman: The Animated Series
TaleSpin
Taz-Mania
The Maxx
The Simpsons
The Tick
Tiny Toon Adventures
X-Men

Neuromancer: The Graphic Novel

 

Neuromancr

William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the book that introduced cyberspace as a term and single-handedly created what we gnomes tend to describe as cyberpunk, has apparently gone the graphic novel way, with the valuable assistance of Tom De Haven and Bruce Jensen. What’s more, you too, oh humble mortals, can freely glimpse at the 1st volume of this magnificent opus. Click here. It’s free and features everyone’s favorite Street Samurai.

Machinarium review en espanol

Machinarium screenshot
Machinarium screenshot

Machinarium review en español por Leandro Montesanto


DESARROLLADORA:
AMANITA DESIGN
TITULO:
MACHINARIUM
FECHA DE SALIDA: 16 de octubre del 2009
VALOR: formato virtual+ost 20 dolares;formato fisico edicion coleccionista 7 libras
PLATAFORMAS: PC (windows,linux,mac)
PUNTAJE TOTAL: 10/10
DEMO GRATUITA ONLINE: http://machinarium.net/demo/
Reseña en una oracion: la nueva escuela de juegos recibe a su artistico avatar

Prologo:

Juego realizado por la empresa Checa, Amanita Design, en el 2009; en el cual usamos a un robot sin nombre, al que se le denominara “machi” con motivos de practicidad, este es desechado como chatarra y su mision es rescatar a su novia de las manos de la hermandad Capa Negra; el despliegue resonante de su simpleza no hace valor al gran juego “point and click” (aventura grafica para nosotros) que hoy decidi reseñar ya que su ambientacion cyberpunk, su banda sonora, su sistema de juego, la forma en la cual esta contada la historia, sus coloridos escenarios y sus intrincados puzzles son lo mas fresco que vi en años de jugon.


Jugabilidad, ambientacion y mi historia con el juego:

El juego, como mencione anteriormente, transcurre en un ambiente cyberpunk, puede sonar extraño para muchos es “cute” en si, adorable, pero a su vez caotico, recuerda mucho a la vida urbana, ya que cada robot cumple un rol. Hay barrios bajos y artistas entre ellos. Un detalle sorprendente es la iglesia que tiene horarios para que los robots vayan a rezar, programados a cumplir funciones hasta el fin de los tiempos. Al ser una aventura grafica novedosa e ingeniosa, cuenta la historia de los involucrados a travez de dialogos globos tipo comics pero con animaciones simples dentro de ellas como dibujadas por un niño haciendo que se pueda jugar en cualquier pais sin necesidad de ser traducido. El sistema de juego aplica las leyes del espacio y el rango de alcance de machi ya que no podemos con el mouse atravesar la pantalla para ver que items podemos asir (agarrar) si machi no esta en un rango determinado cercano al objeto, ademas puede estirar su cuerpo verticalmente para alcanzar objetos en lo alto. Si tenemos problemas para darnos una idea de como solucionar los puzzles (un tip como se dice) podemos clickear el icono superior derecho (una lamparita) que nos orientara para seguir nuestro camino y si realmente te rendis no hace falta buscar una guia solo debemos acceder a un minijuego (en la parte superior derecha tambien) en un libro que recuerda mucho a los antigüos matamarcianos sidescroll. Vale aclarar que los puzzles estan espectacularmente armados y proveeran a los jugones de la vieja escuela un desafio. A mi personalmente me costaron mucho pero no soy un asiduo jugador de aventuras graficas; como agregado hace referencias a juegos de antaño un ejemplo seria un cameo al lado de la puerta del arcade nada mas ni nada menos que Space Invaders.

Musica y sonidos:

La musica derrocha calidad, tiene tonos jazzeros de a momentos, tranquila, melancolica, te sumerge en ese mundo bohemio y como si fuera poco al ser en su totalidad ambiental realiza un trabajo estupendo para calmarte cuando estas “luchando” contra un puzzle en tu cabeza. Ahora mismo la estoy escuchandolo para realizar esta reseña. Es importante destacar que fue creada por Tomas Dvorak, artista contemporaneo checo del cual recomiendo, si les ha gustado, sus otros trabajos musicales firmados con el pseudonimo de Floex. Los sonidos son acordes a la situacion, no destacan pero acompañan.

Controles y estabilidad:

El sitema de controles es simple, como en toda aventura grafica usamos casi enteramente el mouse, pero en los minijuegos tenemos la opcion de usar el teclado, haciendo la interface mucho mas intiuitiva y estimulante; con respecto a la estabilidad personalmente no tuve ningun problema, pero a algunos amigos tuvieron problema con el save del juego, ya que lo tomaba como archivo temporal y al pasar el ccleanr se eliminaba; debido a eso Amanita Design creo un parche de estabilidad rapidamente, se puede acceder a el via el blog de la empresa. Las nuevas ediciones del juego vienen con los parches incorporados.

Valor:

Su version en formato virtual puede conseguirse a 20 dolares en la pagina del Machinarium, con el OST incluido en formato mp3 para windows, mac o linux. Ademas para windows puede conseguirse via Steam, Impulse (para comprar esa version hasle click aqui), Direct 2 Drive y Gamers Gate; como si esto fuera poco, puede conseguirse la vercion fisica que fue lanzada este año que contiene el OST, un poster y un artwork en formato fisico para mac y windows a un precio especial de 7 libras via e bay o amazon.

Conclucion:

Una experiencia inigualable recomiendo que prueben los otros juegos de la empresa, en especial el Samorost 1 y 2

 

Links de interes:

Amanita design blog: http://machinarium.net/blog/ (se puede bajar la demo)
Amanita design website: http://www.amanitadesign.com/

Free Stuff – Beneath A Steel Sky

Beneath A Steel Sky box
Beneath A Steel Sky box

Free Stuff – Beneath A Steel Sky

Our friends at Good Old Games are offering the full Windows XP & Vista converted version of Beneath A Steel Sky for FREE.

I first head of Beneath A Steel Sky when I mainly used to play games on my Amiga. I unfortunately was not able to play it at the time because I only had the version for the Amiga 1200 available to me and my simple Amiga 600 could not handle it.

The game is a cyberpunk/dystopia futuristic adventure game where the protagonist is trying to pursue the truth in that kind of a sinister setting.

Dave Gibbons, which worked on the Watchmen and Rogue Trooper comics, created much of the art and the setting for this game.

You can download the full game here from gog.com