Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Coming soon... a look at the games of 2012

Hey there!

So, what have I been up to, you might be wondering?  As far as the book goes, I've written about 30 mini-reviews and got some great screenshots for them all.  And I've got programmer quotes to go with a few of them, too!

The problem for the blog when doing that is, I don't want to write too much here so that it doesn't spoil anything that will be in the book.  That's where this is a bit of a balancing act... I do like to give out information and ideas on what I'm doing, but I want to be sure there will be plenty of fresh and interesting stuff to read in the finished article.  So forgive my recent lack of updates, but be assured, we're still moving forwards.  Yay!

Now that we're moving toward Christmas, I probably will put my work on the book on hold for a little bit.  Probably.  It's very easy to fire it back up at a moment's notice, and if I ever get bored of The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Great Escape, James Bond or the other traditional Christmas fayre, there's a more-than-reasonable chance I'll do just that.

What I thought I might do, though, is write a round-up of the new games I've enjoyed this year.  It will keep the blog rolling, and show that I'm a slightly more-rounded gamer than you might think! There were loads of fun games released in 2012, and although I haven't played a lot of the really big names, that doesn't mean I can't talk about my favourites.  So, keep checking back here, and have a mince pie and a cuppa at the ready.  It won't be a list or a rundown, but you can certainly compare my picks with your own, recommend anything I might have missed, or perhaps even find a gem you've been missing out on.  Incoming!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas is coming... win stuff!

Hi all!

I'm working on some cool posts for the blog at the moment.  I'm also writing some nice reviews for the book (I promise to update the word count on the front page soon!).  In the meantime, though, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I'm giving away some games on Steam throughout the run-up to Christmas!  Why not be part of the action and maybe win yourself something fun for the holiday season?

Saturday, 1 December 2012


When I were a lad, one of the main disappointments, if you can call it that, of owning a Commodore 64 was its lack of isometric 3D adventures.  The Spectrum had them in abundance, with Ultimate's offerings being particularly impressive.  I was a bit jealous of my Speccy-owning friends, and could often be found in their houses, pottering around Knight Lore castle in an attempt to rid myself of a lycanthropic curse.

I was delighted, then, when Firebird released, with surprisingly little fanfare, an isometric 3D adventure on the C64 called Chimera.  Set in the future, the game saw the people of Earth thrown into panic when an undoubtedly hostile alien craft was found to be orbiting the planet.  It had to be stopped, and the only way to do that was by beaming you onboard in a robotic space suit, with the aim of finding a way to destroy the ship from within.

This is how it started.
It wasn't a big game, but it was quite tricky and, crucially, it was fast and played pretty well.  It certainly scratched that isometric itch nicely for a good while.  It was also notable for some excellent Rob Hubbard music, and some quite frightening synthesised speech, with the game bellowing its name at you at the start and offering up a blood-curdling scream upon your death.  It was well-received on all formats, and rightly so.

Author Shahid Ahmad was responsible for a number of other games, including the C64 port of Jet Set Willy... which would be very interesting to discuss.  He also wrote the Spectrum and Amstrad versions of Chimera... the latter of those being done in just a week, with no prior experience of the machine!  Remarkable stuff.  There were versions on other platforms, too.

And this is how it looks now!  Which do you prefer?
I was very interested when I read last year that Shahid was attempting a remake of Chimera on the PC.  In fact, the project began in 2010, as his blog shows.  Have a read of it, there's some good stuff there.  There's no real reason for the remake, other than it was something he fancied doing.  Who needs a better reason than that, anyway?

Two years later, and it's finished.  Or, at least, the first playable version has been released.  You can download it on Shahid's blog page for either PC or Mac.  It's pretty faithful to the original, and quite basic as games go these days, but it's fun to potter around in that world again.  It has an appropriately spooky opening, with some random atmospheric sounds playing, and the famous speech makes a return.  Other than that, not much has changed... yet.  You still eat bread and drink tea and die because of radiators and try and make missiles to blow up the ship.

Hurray, I've created a missile! Hang on... where the hell am I?
And that's great, for version 1.0.  But it's just a stepping stone to more, promises Shahid.  There will be some updates to this, but it all appears to be leading toward a Chimera 2.0.  It should have lots more features and ideas, and be a much better game all round.  That makes me happy... it's great to have that to look forward to.  For now, though, have a go at Chimera 2010. It's a nice little piece of unashamedly retro gaming.  I hope to talk to Shahid about it, and of course his 8-bit games, for this book.

Tell you what, the first one of my readers to finish Chimera 2010 gets a free Steam game from me, from my stockpile of gifts.  How can you refuse?