Return of the Friday fun link: Cursed Treasure

Cursed Treasure is a fantastic flash-based tower defense game with a level up system. If you’re a fan of the genre you don’t want to miss this one. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it’s just really well executed, has good graphics, UI, and sound, and enough depth to keep you engaged. I finished all levels with a brilliant rating. A hint: the fear power of Crypts is really powerful. I found it easiest to focus on leveling that tower type up. Also holding down shift lets you repeat actions, something that’s not obvious and which is critical to beating Ninjas with your fireball.

Game finished: Halo O.D.S.T.

Halo 3 - Master Chief
Image by Ricardo Saramago via Flickr

I finished Halo O.D.S.T. (aka Orbital Drop Ship Troopers), the 4th game in the Halo series (or like the 8th, if you count the Marathon games as the spiritual predecessors they were) over the weekend. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected. I’ve solved all the Halo games at this point, including 2 of them in coop, and I figured I had seen everything the Halo games had to see at this point, plus Halo 3 concludes the Master Chief‘s story arc, and I sort of figured without the Master Chief I wouldn’t be interested.

I only ended up getting the game because Toys R Us had a buy 2 get 1 free sale after Thanksgiving and I couldn’t find anything else I was interested in. My first session with the game seemed to confirm my suspicion – been there, done that, I thought, and I quickly set the game aside for others. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out my game backlog before buying any new games though, and I love buying new games, so I returned to it and warmed up to it as I played.

The Halo series does a pretty good job with their basic combat mechanics, and their level design focuses on setting up repeated ‘situations’ or skirmishes that require tactical thinking, skill, and sometimes a little luck. The same skirmish can play out wildly differently each time you approach it after a failure too, which helps enormously with enjoyment. In terms of what ODST brings to the party this time around…well, not much new. Some tweaks to the weapons, graphics, vehicles, a lack of the more resilient Master Chief, and that’s about it. The relatively short plot follows the misadventures of a squad of soldiers on a mission in a city under siege by alien invaders. It’s told non-linearly, and while in the end it’s not that exciting, by the standards of most first person shooters it’s actually pretty solid. I played on normal difficulty and either the game is fairly easy or I’ve played enough Halo games to do really well at them, because I mostly found it pretty easy.

The one new thing that ODST does bring to the table is a multiplayer mode called Firefight that’s pretty fun – it’s basically the human players versus increasingly powerful waves of AI characters in skirmish battles. It’s tough, frantic, and a good deal of fun. The rest of the multiplayer is basically what you see in Halo 3 with a bunch of additional maps included, including some which were DLC for Halo 3.

So – would I recommend it? Qualified yes – if you’ve played Halo games and really enjoyed them, no question, you should pick it up. If you’re a singleplayer only player, well, it’s a tougher call. The single player is fun and well designed and has an above average story for the genre, but it’s also fairly short. If you’re a Halo 3 multiplayer fan, it’s probably worth picking up just for the Firefight mode alone.

How much is your Steam account worth?

Image via Wikipedia

A little friday fun of a different kind, we’ll call it theĀ  ‘scare the spouse with your gaming expenditures’ edition. Steam is the most successful of the PC gaming digital distribution platforms. I’m a big fan and have been using it for years. The folks at ddgamer have put together a little tool to calculate what your account’s worth. Remember when you look at this that the numbers are based on the current value of the software, not what you actually paid. For me this means my account looks like it’s worth a lot more than I actually paid because I so often take advantage of the weekly and holiday sales Steam offers. Caveats aside, here’s my account, which today is worth $1,603.26. Change the username to your own to calculate the value of your account. A side note – folks have actually been selling off their Steam accounts, so if the number makes you feel sheepish and you want to try and recoup some of that money, you can try selling it on Amazon zshops or ebay or whatever. Mind that Valve (owners of Steam) may not approve, it’s probably a violation of their TOS, etc etc.

Friday Fun: Torchlight

Did you play and love Diablo or Diablo II back in the day? Do you wish there was a modern equivalent?  If so, you can stop reading now and head over to Buy yourself a copy of Torchlight for $20, and you’ll be in action rpg nirvana within a half hour or so.

The same principle applies if you played Fate some years ago – Torchlight is by some of the same folks and if you like Fate, you’re going to love Torchlight – it’s Fate on steroids with a shiny new coat of paint.

If you’re not familiar with these games, they’re easy to pick up and play, feature some light’ish rpg elements, tons of variety in setting, enemies, and most especially loot. You run around doing simple quests, fighting bad guys, leveling up, gathering up swords of +5 smacking of goodness, lather, rinse, repeat. They don’t necessarily require much heavy thinking but there are tactics that work and those that don’t, with plenty of health potions required for those who don’t want to bother thinking and just want to plow ever deeper into the dungeon.

I love the genre and this is the best example of it to come along in years. There’s a video below so you can get a sense of the gameplay. For now this is PC only but there’s a Mac version on the way due in January. For now you can only buy this via the digital download services but a boxed version is also on the way. There are also development tools on the way and the game is very Mod friendly. If this does as well as Fate did, expect tons of additional content, conversions, and more.

My only criticisms of the game are that I wish the loading was a bit faster and I wish they had included multiplayer, but man, it’s $20 and it’s a blast to play. Definitely worth checking out if it seems like it’s up your alley.

Friday Fun: Spelunky, a roguelike…platformer?!?

Mix together Jumpman, your favorite roguelike, and some inspiration from Indiana Jones, pour it into a PC and offer it up for free and you get Spelunky, a fabulous little platformer featuring retro 8-bit style graphics, rock solid platforming controls, and procedurally generated levels that are never the same. It’s a complete blast. Check out the video below then go download your copy over on the Spelunky site. Oh, and I should note the developer’s being rewarded for his excellent work – this is coming to Xbox Live Arcade.

Game finished: Shadowgrounds Survivor

I finished up Shadowgrounds Survivor this morning. It was on sale a couple of weekends ago on Valve’s Steam software distribution service for only $5. I had played the demo some time ago and liked it but hadn’t gotten around to spending the ~$20 to buy it, so when it came up for only $5 I jumped on it. By and large the game is worth $20 though there are some annoying glitches to be found playing through it.

It’s an old school action arcade game with some light RPG elements layered onto it. The plot is a riff on the old ‘aliens that look like the aliens from the movie aliens attack a space colony’ which has been riffed on any number of times, but it’s done competently enough and you can pretty much skip through it directly to the alien blasting action if you want. Controls are straightforward – mouse to rotate/aim and shoot and WASD/arrow keys to move your character around. Over the course of the game you get to use and level up three characters – a marine with a lot of firepower, a drunken russian with a flamethrower, and a lithe little assassin with some stealthy and long distance firepower. There isn’t much variety in terms of enemy types, but the game is about the blasting of the hordes and this never bothered me. The graphics themselves are pretty good:

The player electrocutes an alien.Image via Wikipedia

There were two major technical issues with the game. The first had to do with the camera. Often as you entered a level the camera would swoop around in an in-game cinematic, and this would sometimes then get stuck in a weird location leaving you unable to see the action, or even worse, sometimes after the cinematic I’d find my character trapped in the level geometry and unable to move or stuck in a confined area. Reloading from my last save always seemed to clear this up. The second problem was worse – there is a known save game corruption bug with the game which would always happen as you transitioned into a new level and would crash the game. This one is really annoying. There’s a workaround to this problem on the forums over on that involves downloading known non-corrupt save game files. I suspect this one would have pissed me off more had I paid more than $5 for the game, but for what I paid…ehh, I more than got my money’s worth.

Anyway, the game’s worth a look if you like action shooter games. PC only, price between $0 and $20 (it’s on Gametap if you’re a subscriber) depending on where you pick it up.