18 February 2015

Agent Carter

You really don't need to be a fan of Marvel or super heroes in general to enjoy this fantastic show. Honestly, I am not a big fan of super heroes myself. I can watch them in a TV show or in a movie, but I haven't read more than 4 or 5 comics or books about them in my life (I have read a lot about Batman, but I don't consider him to be a super hero!). So, what about Agent Carter?

Agent Carter is a spin-off of Captain America set in a time a little bit after the end of World War II. If you saw Captain America: The First Avenger you will most definitely remember Peggy Carter, charismatic British officer working for American Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) as an advisor. She worked on Project Rebirth, a project that gave "birth" to Captain American himself. As I said, the show is set after the WWII and Peggy is now a full member of SSR although... As a woman in late 1940s, she's been patronized by her colleagues and kind of demoted to a secretary, serving food and drinks for her colleagues. At the beginning of the show, she is contacted by Howard Stark (Iron Man's own father and one of the leaders in Project Rebirth) who has been accused of treason. Stark claims his innocence and asks Peggy to work for him as a double agent, to help him find his lost inventions and clear his name. That's when we can finally see Agent Carter's skills and that's what this show is all about.

Agent Peggy Carter on an undercover mission. She changed her hair color!

There's something about World War II and the period right after it. Agent Carter is no exception and I guarantee you will be charmed right away. Let me tell you, Peggy Carter herself is something special. She's extremely charismatic, intelligent and skilled. She can fight better than any of her colleagues (those bastards who take her for a waitress) and is more brave than any one of them (as proved in episode 5: The Iron Ceiling where she finally gets a field job and rejoins her comrades from 107th Regiment known as The Howling Commandos). You will love her right from the start, unless you have already been charmed by her during the first Captain America movie. Oh yes, she was mentioned a few times in Agents of SHIELD as well and made a brief appearance in one of the flashbacks concerning the obelisk.

Peggy is just... I don't know how to explain it, she just overshadows every single character in the show by her very appearance. She's witty, she's skilled, she is just incredibly dominant over everyone else and her SSR buddies just cannot see it. That is what makes her even greater in my eyes and that is what makes this show just super awesome.

Honestly, Agent Carter has become one of my favorite TV shows after only a few aired episodes (the show is currently only 7 episodes old) and I can't wait to see the next. It may have something to do with Hayley Atwell's charm (and accent!) but it's really about the whole setting and the idea behind the show. It's worth mentioning that season 1 will have only 8 episodes so you don't have to worry about "fillers", making it even more attractive. Enjoy this one as I have and have a great time watching Agent Carter!

12 February 2015

Star Wars: Dark Forces

Dark Forces. If you were playing games back in 1995 you most definitely know about this first person shooter and you are probably wondering why I am writing about it in 2015? Honestly, the game was included in a recent game bundle and I decided to check out how well did it age. You know, some games may be awesome at the time they were released, but as the time passes and games evolve, some of those old favorites end up being very bad. And we wonder how come we loved them so much back then and now they seem like games we'd never play for more than 15 minutes. Anyway, before I move on I want you to know that I didn't really like this game even when it was first released. Just as I didn't like Doom, a game that Dark Forces was too often compared to. I didn't dislike it either, I just thought it was an average Star Wars game and an average FPS and it was well accepted just because it was set in Star Wars universe.

So, how well did it age? Not good. First of all, you need a DOS emulator (DOSBox) to run it on a modern computer, but if you are using a Steam version of Dark Forces you don't have to worry about it as Steam was nice enough to set up DOSBox for you. The resolution is extremely low (640x400) and everything is very pixelated. There's another solution for this (and more) called DarkXL. DarkXL allows you to play Dark Forces even in full HD (1920x1080) resolution and/or in a window (as I prefer it). It doesn't just stretch the pixels as you may have thought, it really has new game textures and makes everything look a lot nicer. Don't expect wonders though, the graphics are still more or less the same, it just looks a lot more polished.

By default, you use mouse only to look left and right and if you want to look up and down, and more importantly shoot enemies who are above or below you, you need to use PageUp and PageDown buttons on the keyboard. Actually, the game will usually shoot up and down automatically if you line up the reticle with the enemy, but it's extremely frustrating and unforgiving at times. DarkXL fixes this as well as it allows you to use fully use mouse and view your surroundings. Trust me, this helps a LOT and not only with shooting the imperial scum, but also with switches and doors.

However, DarkXL is incomplete and will probably remain so. There are certain bugs that have been reported and the most important are present in the very last level. You will be unable to complete the game with these bugs (you will have to cheat to advance and to give you a hint: hold G to move through walls) and it's a real shame. Especially since regular save game file is incompatible with DarkXL save game file, meaning you cannot just switch back to normal game and complete what's left regularly. Another annoying bug (or a missing feature?) is lack of weapons. If you play through the game using DarkXL you will be unable to pick up the strongest 2-3 weapons for a reason unknown to me. You can use another cheat to unlock and equip those weapons though, so it's a minor issue at the end.

Now that you know how you can enjoy the game better using DarkXL, lets get back to the game itself. The story is mostly unimportant: you are Kyle Katarn, a mercenary who works for Rebel Alliance. You are being sent on a series of missions to find out about the latest Imperial project and ultimately destroy it. An army of Storm troopers, Imperial commanders and commandos, droids and other aliens will stand in your way as you progress through 14 levels consisting of mining facilities, space stations, cities and other environments. The levels are average in size, have no respawning enemies and will take an average of 30 minutes to complete (more if you play on hard since you have to be more careful). Most levels will require you to find switches, cards or buttons to open up certain doors in order to advance. However, I hated that part a lot. Why? Simply because you will often run into a switch or a lever, use it and... wonder what actually happened? The levels are not linear and you can wander around as much as you want, and as good as that is it confuses you because you are not sure what did that switch do. There is no "objective pointer" to tell you where to go (this is a 1995 game after all) and it's especially frustrating in missions where you have to go back to your ship after you complete the mission. I walked around for more than 20 minutes on one mission, looking for the starting point in order to complete the level. Frustrating! I tried using the in-game map as well, but since you can go up and down in elevators, the map adjusts and doesn't really help at all. Ah yes, you cannot save your progress during the mission - it is auto-saved after each complete mission so don't expect to load the game and see where something is before returning to your "real" save.

At the end I played through Dark Forces' 14 levels using DarkXL and it didn't feel rewarding at the end. The game is not hard, the story is nothing special and there's no special "accomplishing" feel once you are done. Again, I never liked Dark Forces much and I played through it some 15 years ago just because I loved its sequels, but that's an entirely different story. I didn't rate the game as I usually do because... it's just not easy to rate a 20 years old game, especially since it really did not "age" well.

Have fun!

06 February 2015


Game score: 82%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam link:

I recently replayed this beautiful game and decided to review it. And then I remembered I already did, back in 2002. Here it is, unedited:

Games such as this one bring smile to my face. Why? Because I was initially an adventure game player and the last few years have been quite bad for this genre. Ever since Sierra and LucasArts stopped their production of adventures and turned over to the more profitable games, a few developers have even tried to do something. The only true masterpiece that I can think of at the moment is Funcom’s The Longest Journey, while Dreamcatcher’s creations were far from what we really need (still, my congratulations to Dreamcatcher for even trying where others don’t bother at all!). I doubt the situation will get any better soon, but Syberia might prove that there’s a lot that adventures can provide, especially to young gamers.

In this 3rd person adventure you play a role of Kate Walker, a young lawyer from New York who was sent to Valadilene, a little town in France to complete the deal of purchasing a local toy factory for a huge multinational company. Unfortunately, the owner of the factory Anna Voralberg has just passed away and her only heir, her brother Hans is nowhere to be found. This is where your adventure begins.

The story might not sound like it’s anything special, but it’s actually amazing! As you do your research to find Hans, you will discover a lot about the Voralberg family, their toy factory and Hans’ maniacal obsession with automatons and mammoths. You will even meet a few automatons made by Hans, robots with their own character! Your journey will also take you to the weird university in Barrockstadt in Germany where you’ll meet more weird people, then to Russian mining city ruled by a lunatic and so on. Everywhere you go you will get into a bit abnormal situations but you’ll get used to it.

Unfortunately, most of the puzzles are rather easy and each problem can be solved in a real short time. Still, since there are many locations and a lot of puzzles you won’t notice this often. I got stuck in only two occasions and both times it really was my fault – once I had to use a cell phone and the other time I just didn’t see the closet that contained two important items. Also, there is no item combination at all, making everything a lot easier as well.

Now I must mention the visuals of Syberia. The graphics are simply amazing! It’s obvious that a lot of effort was put into the visual side of this great game. A few screens of the game exist only to show the beautiful scenery such as the side view of the Barrockstadt University or the resort hotel in Russia. The same applies to the sound as the game features some fine, classical tunes specific to the region in which you are at the moment. I especially liked the music in Russia, which sounded a lot like the old Soviet anthem. The complete game is voice covered and the voice acting is probably the best I've heard lately!

Overall, Syberia may be a bit easy for the experienced players but it’s a true masterpiece in the genre. I was delighted to see normal controls unlike in a lot of similar games that I had a chance to play in the last 15 months or so. It’s all point&click, like in good old times. Syberia is a well-made game, with an intriguing story and even a little soap opera that goes on over Kate’s cell phone. I can’t give it a score larger than 82% due to easy puzzles, but … good work by Microids, I am hoping to see more of their work soon!

Plus: Magnificent graphics and sound, intriguing story, easy controls.

Minus: Easy puzzles, some pixel hunting.

04 February 2015

Lara Croft and The Guardan of Light

Game score: 85%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam link:

Run, run, jump, throw a spear, jump onto spear, jump and fire a hook to the closest ring, swing left and right to gain speed, jump to the platform, get to the rock, roll it through four monsters that just spawned, keep rolling to the nearby platform. The gate opens. You step in. Ok, the easy part is done. Now... go and get the artifact and keep pushing forward to reach Xolotl and finally stop him!

There's no need for any introduction when it comes to Lara Croft and Tomb Raider games. The difference between this game and all the other Tomb Raider titles is the pace of action and camera view (fixed isometric), as well as a multiplayer option (two player co-opeative hot-seat or via internet). Lara is still equipped with her dual pistols, remote bombs and grappling hook but she can expand her arsenal during this adventure with dozens of weapons (although you will most probably stick to 3 or max 4 of them). 

The story. Is it really important? Alright, here's the short version: Lara was hunting an ancient mirror that entrapped a creature of darkness for centuries inside a Mayan temple. A band of mercenaries got there before her and released the spirit. Now it's up to Lara and Totec, an ancient guardian, to hunt him down and stop his evil plans of world domination. Honestly, it's completely unimportant and unimaginative and the real value of this game is in its gameplay.

This is still the same, good old Tomb Raider game. It's just a little bit faster and the levels are shorter. Your goal is always the same: reach the level exit until you can finally face Xolotl and be done with this adventure. Once you complete a level, you can go back to it at any time and that is simply wonderful! The puzzles are pretty simple and will only require you to control your character with some skill to be done. The real challenge are... challenges! Each level has a number of them, including speed runs (beat the clock) and some item collecting (each level has 10 red skulls that need to be found). Honestly, I really loved completing challenges and I kept repeating each level until all were done. I would usually try and beat the score challenge on my first run, as well as collecting the skulls and power-ups, then come back and try the speed run. Some challenges on some levels are real easy and you won't even notice you completed them (meaning that you will be surprised when the "challenge complete" text flashed out) while some require strong effort. For example, the very first level has a "Disable Xolotl's fire trap in under 00:30" and that took me more than 30 minutes to complete. Fortunately, dying in game is not really punishable (you lose 5000 points which is ok if you are not doing the score challenge) so you can commit suicide and just try again from the save point. Another great thing is that you can collect weapons, artifacts and other power-ups in any order - once you collect them, they are saved. You can even quit the game right after picking up an item and it's ok, you will never have to do it again. You can even pick up a grenade launcher on level 7 and go play level 1 with it in your inventory, possibly making some puzzles easier with it. Cool, eh?

Now the real fun is the multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, I never tried it (nobody wants to play with me!) but I've seen videos and I loved it. In multiplayer, two players control Lara and Totec, while some puzzles (and solutions) are different than in a single player game. The game requires true co-operation and seems to be very fun to play.

Overall, this game provides a lot of joy. It takes about 8 to 10 hours to complete the single player game and probably another 15 to complete all the challenges. There are 12 achievements in the game and 11 are really easy, while the last one asks you to complete all the challenges. It's far from hard, but it takes time to complete. I know I will do it, I really enjoyed completing time runs and I am not really a kind of gamer who likes speed runs in any games. This one is somehow different.