Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee on PC (9/10)

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Most of the platform-type games made for the PC are utter crap (remember Duke Nukem 1 or Biohazzard, yuck!). Abe’s Oddysee is an exception. The graphics and animations, although a bit chunky by today’s standards, are stunningly detailed, and the game makes great use of light and shadow, and the cut-scene animations are smoothly coordinated with actual game play scenes. The story and characters are imaginative and original. Although the basic story is your typical “Business is Evil” fare, it plays out is such a way that you actually care about what happens to Abe. There are always new twists on how you solve the game’s many puzzles: some visual, some skill-based, and others audio based.

FIFA 1999 on PC (8/10)

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Ever since my brother was suckered into buying a 3D0 console system, I have heard good things about the FIFA soccer games that have been released. I have never been much of a fan of sports games. The only exceptions I can think of are Intellivision Baseball, Larry Bird and Dr. J Go One on One for the Apple ][ (also by Electronic Arts) and Konami’s Double Dribble for the NES. FIFA is most similar to Double Dribble. The action is team-based and quick (well, quick for soccer). One button shoots, one passes, and one steals. In addition to these basic controls there are more advanced combinations that allow you to pull some fancy foot work. The graphics are great and the announcers make it a fun game to listen to as well. I have come to the conclusion that sports games are the closest thing to a traditional Pac-Man era video game being produced these days. Simple twitch-based game play without attempting to interject story. The player is concerned more with points and improving skill over beating the final monster, etc.

Nox on PC (10/10)

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Nox is an action packed role playing game for the PC. Many would compare this to Diablo. Both feature hack and slash combat and are rendered in a top-down isometric view. Nox is a much closer cousin to console style RPGs like Phantasy Star or Zelda. The thing that sets Nox apart for me is its goofy sense of humor and the ability to make your character run around in a pair of briefs! Visually, the game is top notch, especially the use of shadows to obstruct areas not in the player’s line of sight. The action is very fast paced and fun, and the controls are easy to master. Über Geeks may be turned off by the simple non-D&D style of character development, but you have to realize that this is a different type of game. I have gone back and played through the game twice now and I’m still not bored of it.

Deus Ex on PC (8/10)

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Essentially a first-person shooter game mixed with lots of role-playing elements. For the most part the game is pretty fun. The graphics are great (but slow at times) and the game play is pretty good. One of the better things about the game is that it isn’t always to your advantage to just shoot everything in site. Stealth plays a big part in solving many of the game’s puzzles. Some strikes against the game are it’s convoluted story and the awful voice acting of the main character. It is a massive game (with massive save files) that can drag on here and there, but overall it’s a fun experience.

Ultima 7: The Back Gate & Serpent Isle on MS-DOS (8/10)

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Considered by many to be the best games of the Ultima series, Ultima 7 is one of the most detailed and time-consuming RPGs I have ever attempted to tackle. You can pick up and interact with just about every object in the game and there are tons of dialog trees to navigate through. The story is intriguing and branches all over the place, with some of the main plot lines spanning both games. My biggest complaints with the game is the awful MIDI based sound effects, major Windows compatibility issues, and the fighting system lacks any strategy. The game makes up for these flaws in its depth. The game is less about building a character as it is about unraveling the mystery of a strange religion known as the Fellowship.

Easter Fun

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One of the first Flash animations I ever created was for a site that Ajenda produced called Easter Fun. Well, six years later, we still get about a thousand or so hits a month. In an attempt to squeeze some money out of this Internet relic, we are redesigning it to fit in some Google AdSense ads. In the process, I have completely revamped the look of the menu animation. Check out those gradients! And, as an added bonus, the chick doesn’t squawk at you every 3 seconds. Go to Easter Fun… and click on the ads for Christ’s sake (or, more accurately, Ajenda’s sake)!

I Love My New DVD Player: A Philips DVP3040

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This past weekend I made an impulse purchase in the form of a new DVD player. My previous player (a Samsung DVD-P421 from 2001) seemed okay, but recently it was hiccuping on the many-a-DVD layer switch. This always seemed to happen at a key moment in whatever movie I was watching. A minor glitch, but annoying nonetheless.

While off in the ‘burbs running errands, I decided to pop in to Best Buy to see if there was a cheapo DVD player for sale to replace my ailing Samsung. I’m not too hip to what makes a good DVD player these days. My only requirements where that it be progressive scan (even though I have a crappy 19″ NTSC television), be priced under fifty dollars or thereablouts and that it be able to play computer video media like AVIs or Quicktime. Lo and behold I fould what I was looking for in a Philips DVP3040.

Compared to the Samsung, this player is tiny, quiet (you can hear the high pitched buzz LASER on the Samsung) and it managed to stay near room temperature when watching a long DVD! It jumps from chapter to chapter very quickly. The remote is compact and easy to use. Again, this is comparing it to my Samsung which had an awful joystick-type of menu controller. It plays DivX movies effortlessly, subtitles and all, and they look great on my small TV screen. Now I can watch all my crappy video podcasts in the comfort of my living room. The photo and .mp3 playback capabilites are an added bonus.

On top of it all, it is region-free hackable! Just press setup and then navigate to preference. Press in the code 138931 and set the region you want. Awesome. It also claims to be able to play both PAL and NTSC media. I will have to find a PAL disc and test this out someday.

My only gripe so far is that, if you stop a DVD and power-down, it won’t pick up the movie where you left off. I thought that was a standard DVD functionality. I guess not. But, all-in-all a great bargin at about fifty dollars.