Tag Archives: Mobile

No Thing Review

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Imagine the surprise I was given when Nintendo reminded fans on Twitter that they may have a few unredeemed coins on the eshop set to expire. I had a scant handful, and so I figured, “Why not give it a shot?” and looked to see if there was anything that cheap. Well I stumbled upon this little game. A game about travelling along a path, in a Orwellian future that would actually lead me down quite the rabbit hole.

PROS: Simple, yet compelling game play.

CONS: Fairly short for anyone adept at it.

SUDA51: Your first look at the game will almost certainly remind you of No More Heroes.

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because after playing it for a couple of hours, (Yes, hours.) I just had to do some research. No Thing started life on phones, and tablets during the craze of endless runners. Except that it set itself apart in, many, many ways. The most obvious is the art style. This game looks like something Suda51 would have made for a No More Heroes mini game. Blocky minimalist geometry? Check. Low color palette? Check. Regular images that somehow come off as surreal or even creepy? Check. It has a very similar art style.

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But that isn’t to say it’s a stereotypical endless runner dressed up in edgy shock value. Far from it. For starters, it isn’t endless. There are ten stages. That’s it. Many of the stages are pretty long though. Even in the early goings. The stages are also not made via procedural generation. Every time you play, they’ll be the same. So this game is much more conducive to speed runs. It also isn’t a 2D side-scroller. This one uses a First-Person perspective.

No Thing also has a story that seems simplistic at first, but uses its stage layouts, and bizarre imagery to tell it. In this regard it reminded me an awful lot of games like Portal, and Deadcore, despite the fact it plays nothing like them. And through it all, it just became something I had to keep playing to see more of. The setup is that it’s the dystopian future of 1994. You’re an office worker who has to send a message to the Queen Of Ice. That’s it. Walk to her, and give her the message. Except it isn’t that easy.

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No Thing’s stages are essentially long tracks, and walkways. You use two buttons. One turns you ninety degrees left. The other ninety degrees right. At first you’ll go along fairly easily. Left turns. Right turns. You’re probably thinking to yourself “So? That sounds pretty boring. What’s so special about that?” Well before long the game puts gaps up in the path. Going over them makes a minor jump. The better you do, the faster you begin to go. So it doesn’t take much to have you running. Eventually, the game throws in ramps, branching paths, and mazes. Keep in mind all the while if you go off the path, you fall to your death as this is Super Mario Cyborg in that all of these stages hover over a chasm.

Over the course of the game’s stages, a voice that sounds like it came from early speech synthesis technology narrates instructions, and vague words that also tie into the storyline. Of course you won’t have time to read it as things become faster, and faster. Take your eyes off of the task for even a second, and you’ll fall to your doom. Throughout all of it  you’ll die a bunch of times, but you’ll keep playing it. It’s strangely addicting.

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The stages themselves have a pretty wide variety. Which you might not assume considering the length of the game, and the simple control scheme. But some of these work like tracks you lap. Others are long trails. Others place a lot of ramps in places which speed you up, and have you catching air. There are other stages that throw you curveballs by waiting to give you a turn at the last moment. And that’s part of why you’ll keep giving this one a go. You’ll just want to see what comes next.

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This isn’t to say, it’s a perfect experiment of course. Sometimes you’ll catch air, won’t be able to see below you, and you’ll have to estimate your landing. Also, while many of the filters in the game go along well with it, they can get in the way. When you’re about to make a crucial decision, and the distortion filter comes on, it could lead to you missing a turn. That means starting the stage all over again. The storyline may also a little too vague for some. You’ll get some references through the visuals, and cryptic speech. But chances are you still won’t get exactly what’s going on. On the other hand that could be the point; everyone can take something different away from the experience.

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One thing that certainly stands out is the soundtrack. Coincidentally if you get this one on PC via Steam you can buy the OST as DLC. Many would throw it under the Synth Wave genre, which pays homage to the New Wave, and Synthpop genres, particularly of the early 1980’s. Most of the compositions here are pretty catchy, and make great use of simulated analog synthesized sounds, and percussion.

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No Thing may have come out alongside much of what fans would cast under the shovelware category. But it isn’t. The aesthetics aren’t for everybody. But the underlying gameplay is honestly pretty good. And in spite of some of the cheap deaths due to the eventual jumps, it’s still a pretty fun game. Persistence is the key in No Thing. Every time you screw up, you just have to play again until you beat the level at hand. I enjoy going back to it fairly regularly. It even has a handful of achievements you can receive for beating stages, and scoring exceptionally well. With it being on Steam, and the Switch, I can see it being something speed runners may look into. Again, an acquired taste to be sure, but it might just be a game you want to check out. Especially if you want a game that stands out on your phone, or just something different from the genres you might normally buy on your computer or console.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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Kid Tripp Review

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Endless Runners. There are thousands of them out there on a multitude of mobile devices, consoles, and computers. The good ones try to do something unique. Robot Unicorn Attack was an early example of a great one. A runner with challenging patterns, speed changes depending on how well you were doing, and a great song choice for its BGM. Turbo Pug was another one that pleasantly surprised me by adding different variables into the mix, along with great music, and cute characters. So how does this game fare in a sea of similar contenders?

PROS: Nice chip tunes. Nice sprite work. Conventional stages.

CONS: Cheap deaths.

ADORES: The big Nintendo, and Sega mascot platformers.

Kid Tripp was originally a game for the iPad, then the 3DS. But now it finds itself on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a lot like an Endless Runner. Except that it can be beaten. You see, this game’s trailer on Nintendo’s shop never makes it clear that you won’t be controlling your character’s movement. Other than jumping, or throwing rocks. It jumbles along, showing off visuals, and music in line with what you might find on a Nintendo or Sega console in the mid to late 1980’s. Chances are, if you were to pick it up without doing any research, you would think of this as a typical platformer.

But you’d be wrong. Kid Tripp gives you some stages laid out in a way you’d expect Mario, Alex Kidd, or Sonic to run through. But you have no say as to how Kid Tripp will move through it. He just automatically starts running, and you have to instinctively know when to jump. Basically, you have two commands throughout the entire experience. A jump button, and a throw button. That is it. Jump, or throw rocks. So the entire game consists of auto scrolling stages, and you timing jumps. Much like an endless runner. Except with an end, because there is no procedural generation on display here.

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Right away, this is where some disappointment sets in. The reason that games like Robot Unicorn Attack were compelling was because of the vintage arcade play they provided. You were always on a quest to last longer, and eventually get to the top of the boards to gloat to everyone that you were the best. Then, a friend, relative, or even rival would attempt, and eventually succeed at besting that score. So it led to a competitive environment. At the same time, it was a great casual game. You could play it for 20 minutes on your lunch break, or you could play it for hours before you had to go to bed.

This game does none of that. Instead it tries to be more like Super Mario Bros. with a broken D-pad. No matter what you do, you’ll always move right. I can already hear some of you bringing up Super Mario Run. The thing is, for its faults, Super Mario Run is a pretty well done mobile title. Mainly due to the well thought out level design. In that game you generally have enough stuff on the horizon you can see, and plan for.

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Kid Tripp does not consistently do this. Often times you will not see a pit, enemy, or other lethal obstacle until you’ve already succumbed to it. So where Mario feels familiar, Kid Tripp can feel frustrating. That’s because trial, and error in this game doesn’t always come off as challenging. Sometimes it just comes off as cruel. A stage starts, you’re going along, and you get crushed by a boulder. You’ll have no visual or audio cue of note that it might happen. You just get to a platform, see you’re going to have to bounce off of killer spiders, and get crushed by the boulder before there’s any time to react. There’s no way to avoid it the first time.

So you’ll finally figure out when you need to jump to avoid boulder death. Then you’ll bounce on the spiders, and you’re dead. You were killed by the next obstacle you couldn’t possibly know about, because it was off-screen a moment ago. That is how a number of stages in Kid Tripp work. The conflicting thing is how other stages don’t do this. Some of them do give you some advance warning. Some of them have some genuinely fun, and creative moments. One of them is even a really nice send up of the mine cart stages in the Donkey Kong Country games. There are some really great moments that will make you glad you decided to play it. It also keeps records, so you can try to speed run the game, and shoot for the best possible time.

The game also has some pretty good sprite work going for it, with some great character designs. Though on the flip side, Everything seems substantially zoomed in. Which leads to some of the blind jumps, and cheap deaths. That said, it looks bright, colorful, and a nice use of darker shades for contrast. As far as graphics go, this is a good-looking indie game. It also has the chip tunes to match. Kid Tripp has a soundtrack rife with catchy hooks, and digital effects.

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Kid Tripp also has a few different movement speed settings. Honestly, I didn’t notice all that much of a difference between them. For the most part the game played pretty much the same. There are also achievements you can shoot for, like clearing levels without killing an enemy, or beating the game using fewer than a certain number of lives.  The game isn’t terribly long as it goes around four worlds, and a few sub levels in each. There are a lot of homages in it too. Every stage ends with a spinning post sign as in Sonic The Hedgehog. The settings of each stage hearken to the Super Mario Bros. games, and some of the death traps will remind you of Mega Man.

Kid Tripp isn’t a terrible game by any means. It looks nice, it plays alright most of the time, and it has some good music to go along with the action. But the game could have used some better scaling, and balancing.  There is some enjoyment to be had with it for sure. But the lack of balance, and telegraphing in key points of some stages leads to cheap deaths. Still, the challenge isn’t insurmountable, and if you’re persistent you’ll likely clear it. Hopefully any potential sequel will address the problems, and take things from fairly decent, to pretty great.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Robot Vs. Birds Zombies Review

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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But not every imitator is looking to be a complement. Throughout the history of the video game hobby there have always been imitators. The thing is, the good ones were also innovators. When it came out, Mortal Kombat was often called a Street Fighter clone. But it went in a new direction with digitized graphics, and gore. Great Giana Sisters is thought of as a Super Mario Bros clone. But it added a plethora of new power ups, had its own physics, and cool characters.

But this game is one of the worst kinds of clones. A clone that not only replicates something popular, but does it badly. A clone that feels cynical every time you try to pick it up. Like Action Girlz Racing, and other DDI Wii games. The kind of game that shrugs at you, and asks “Who cares? Somebody’s going to play it anyway.”

PROS: It’s only a dollar, so you’re not out that much.

CONS: Almost everything else.

ALSO: There are many better things you could do with that dollar.

If you couldn’t tell by the terrible title, and opening screen shot this is an Angry Birds clone. For the five of you who don’t know what Angry Birds is, it’s a puzzle game where you shoot birds into contraptions to squash cartoon pigs. You use a slingshot to do it. The game started life on cell phones before moving onto nearly everything else. While it’s a popular game for people to hate, it was a legitimately good mobile game. It was nothing Earth shattering, but it was solid. It used touch controls very well, and gave players a lot of puzzles to solve.

It took the mechanics of Gorilla Basic (Man am I dating myself with that reference.), and made them work in a new, and different style of game. Angry Birds became so popular that it spawned several sequels, a ton of merchandise, and tie-ins. Unfortunately for Rovio none of the sequels were all that different enough, and they haven’t really come up with any entirely new games. At least nothing that has captivated anyone the way Angry Birds did.

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But we’re talking about a clone here, and while one might feel Angry Birds isn’t for them, Robots Vs. Birds Zombies isn’t made for anybody. It dresses itself up as a parody of Angry Birds. Likely in the hopes that when you find out it sucks, it can rely on being a parody, as a thinly veiled excuse for being bad. “I’m not supposed to be good, because I’m making fun of something that was popular! So it’s okay!”

When you first fire the game up you’ll be greeted with a configuration menu. Basically you can set your resolution, a one word quality setting, and whichever monitor you want to use in the event you have more than one. The title screen has no options whatsoever. After around 60 seconds of screaming “WHAT DO I DO?!?!” You’ll notice blue arrows of lightbulbs on the side of the screen. One on the upper right, one on the lower right. Clicking one gets you to a screen of circuit boards. Clicking an arrow of bulbs next to the boards takes you to the next set of boards. Each of the circuit boards is a stage.

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If you start the lower run of boards you’ll get the obvious experience of using a slingshot. You’ll pull back the band using the mouse instead of your finger. But the idea is the same. Try to destroy undead birds, by using rocks to cause Rube Goldberg style chaos to have things fall on them, and squash them. If you start the upper run of boards, you’ll get a different experience. This one involves using missiles. You place tracker markers about the level so that when you fire your missiles, they’ll follow the path to make objects explode, and fall on the targets.

The thing is, in neither case does anything work the way it is supposed to. The slingshot stages never seem to line an arc up properly when you pull back, and fire. The actual slingshot itself, will many times reverse itself, get jittery, and shift above your character oddly. Even when the game works competently, there are bugs. There were several times objects that should have squished a bird didn’t. There were times where a bird would shake around violently in between two or more obstacles, unable to decide if it should count it as a kill or not.

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But the game doesn’t fare much better in the other mode. It has some of the worst physics this side of Bad Ratz. It also has a very specific way it wants you to solve the puzzles. But even when you comply you’ll be fighting the game the entire time. Place a path point for your missile, and watch as the missile goes just outside the line enough to hit a wall, forcing another continue. In the slingshot rounds, a tracer appears after you shoot. You might think “Great! I was off a hair. I can use this as a guide, and see a success!” But you’d be wrong. Moving a hair suddenly makes your stone miss by an even wider margin.

The game functions. It hasn’t crashed on me. But it doesn’t make it fun. It’s just bad. It isn’t even the kind of bad you can play with your pals to laugh at. It fails as a parody, a clone, and an all around game. Even if you come into it with the expectation that it could make for a good gag gift, it doesn’t. Moreover, for the same dollar there are far better games you could give to someone as a joke. Some of them surprisingly pretty good. Some of them admittedly terrible, but entertainingly so.

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Spend the dollar on one of those games instead. Or a great vintage game in a yard sale. Or a can of your favorite cola. Or a candy bar. Or a bridge toll on your next road trip vacation. Don’t spend it on this drivel. This game actually has Steam cards too. Don’t spend any money on those either. Put them as well as this game out of sight, and mind.

Final Score: 2 out of 10

Windows 10 Review

Microsoft always gets flak whenever they stir the OS pot. Any interface change, is met with torches. Any new feature is met with skepticism. Of course there have been very good reasons for that over the years. Windows 95 was the first really lauded version. It came out as I was getting out of High School. It was the first version to really prove people wrong. A lot of folks, most folks some would say, vowed that DOS would reign forever. Obviously that hasn’t happened. But 95 would prove itself, only to be replaced by 98 which was loathed. Bugs, performance issues kept it down, until it’s revision Second Edition came out. Suddenly Windows was loved again. Then, when XP would be delayed came a stopgap version of 98 called Millennium Edition. This was probably the worst version in the history of the OS. Fortunately XP came along, and for 14 years, made people forget about it.

But even good OS software goes obsolete. So Microsoft brought us Vista. It let us access more RAM, take advantage of 64 bit processors, in exchange for a lot. Particularly displeased were businesses that used expensive proprietary programs. All met with the reality of either keeping all of their old stuff running, or buying the latest versions of their proprietary software because the developers weren’t patching the old versions to run on Vista. But along came Windows 7, which basically took the Vista structure, and patched up a lot of Vista’s headaches. People were okay with that for a while, a lot of folks started buying tablets. So Microsoft gave us 8, which tried to blend the desktop, and tablet interfaces.

While nowhere near the travesty of millennium Edition, or Vista, people really didn’t dig the new interface on their desktops. Eventually people on the whole got used to it, an 8.1 update beefed up some security, and things began to settle down.

So now we have 10. Should we be happy, or should we grab the torches again?

PROS: Start button menu returns. DX12. Performance gains. Edge performs better than IE. Free for a year.

CONS: Does very little to excite the average person. Only free as a digital upgrade for 7, 8, or 8.1 users.

BLAND: The light/dark theme in Edge.

Installation went fairly easy, and brisk. Normally I opt to go for a physical copy in case I need to wipe a drive, and start over. But with the free upgrade offer, I took a shot in the dark. In my case I had no problems. Windows 8 update easily downloaded the upgrade files, and then gave the option to go through the installation when it was ready. Of course I still advise anyone to back up any important files (pictures, documents, songs, video footage, etc.) to an external hard drive before you begin. Though you should be doing that anyway. Because if something glitches out you may end up needing to wipe the drive, and start over. Which means losing everything on your primary hard disk. Anyway, once it was completed, the only drivers I even needed to download manually were for my video card, and for my printer. Windows 10 actually found all of my other drivers on its own, with little to no trouble.

Windows 10 comes off as another 8 at first. The art design from 8, carries over while at the same time bringing back some of the functionality we saw back in Windows 7. The most obvious one being the Start button menu. Now you can once again, click it, and go to all programs (now called all apps), and choose your executables that way. You can still go under File Explorer, and search your drives that way. You also have the power, and shutdown options there. However there are also the tiles from Windows 8.1 you may have gotten used to by now. You can still customize, and rearrange them, making it handy for things you use all of the time. It isn’t exactly the same though. There are limits on the number of programs it will list, and often times instead of simply putting an .exe file shortcut instead it has a folder with a drop down menu.

Microsoft also has a new browser called Edge in Windows 10. It sits there on the taskbar waiting for you to go web browsing. But it isn’t just for web browsing. As Internet Explorer did in Windows 8 to an extent, Edge also lets you search your entire computer. It’s embedded in almost everything, even putting a search bar on the taskbar. Overall, at least on its face, it doesn’t seem much different from Internet Explorer. You still have tabs, a favorites list, and the options to tweak the look. The theme is a little bland however. Pulling up the browser settings is similar to Windows 8’s charms bar. A side bar flies in from the right with the options you’d expect. You can look at your favorites, history, and other options pretty easily. The browser adds a couple of new functions. A reading mode that lets you make the content of a page or document the center of attention. You can also have a reading list that queues up things of interest. Joining the mode is the Cortana application from Windows Phone. It is embedded in Edge’s search function. (You can also run it as a separate program) Cortana works as well as it does on phones here. So long as you have a microphone or a headset for the program to hear you even if it does seem a little weird to use on your desktop. They also gave tablet, and touch panel users the ability to write notes on web articles. If you prefer to use Internet Explorer or another browser, you still can.

Microsoft also carried over their digital storefront application to 10. If you happen to use their store, the handbag icon on the taskbar takes you there as it has before. The layout has changed, and the selection has expanded somewhat. But on the whole it is going to feel familiar, and easy enough to navigate. This is where you’ll begin to see some overlap with the Xbox branding. You’ll find many of the apps, including video games will run on X86 or ARM so you can download them to a Windows Phone, Tablet, or computer. It still has a long way to go to catching up to Google or Apple storefronts, but it looks to have made some headway here. The apps themselves often feature a Windows 8 style side bar which makes them useful on Tablets which many of them are geared for. Still, they’re easy enough to navigate on a mouse as well. So should you want to run one of them on your desktop, or notebook it isn’t going to confuse you.

Windows 10 also takes a page from Aero 3D with its Task viewer. You can see several window panels laid out upon clicking the icon on the taskbar, and then selecting the window you want. You can also snap the windows side by side, or even on multiple monitors if you have such a setup.  Down next to your clock, you once again will see your volume, notifications, hidden icons, and network connection status. Most if not all, of the shortcuts you’re used to using are also back. Basically if you’re still on Windows 7, this is going to be pretty easy to get used to. If you’re on 8, you’ll have some “Oh, that’s right.” moments. But beyond these interface changes is there anything else? For those really obsessive about security it does support biometric scanning through it’s Hello software. Provided you have a supported fingerprint reader, and don’t trust yourself to make new passwords very often. It should also be noted that Windows 10 does something 8 probably should have done, and that is make the Start screen a default tablet interface, and the desktop a default well, desktop interface.

But as this is a gaming blog, you’re going to want to know if Windows 10 is a valid upgrade for gaming. I would have to give you a resounding yes. At least in my case, Windows 10 seems to use considerably fewer system resources than 8 or 8.1 ever did. As a result, most anything I do on the system runs noticeably smoother. There has been a lot of positive buzz for Direct X 12. But since I don’t have a DX12 card, and nothing utilizing DX12 is out yet, I have no way of testing that. However, a host of my games ran better than they ever had on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1. Chivalry, Insurgency, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat 9, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams, and Rise Of The Triad (Reboot) all performed 15-25% better on my machine. Running the 3DMark Fire Strike 1.1 (standard version) even scored slightly better at 5732 instead of 5687 I had before. If you predominantly use your computer for gaming, it’s worth downloading, and installing Windows 10. If the rumors about the next DX revision hold true, you’ll especially want to download, and install it. Because they won’t be bringing it to the older versions of Windows, and hardware manufacturers will certainly support it.

For everyone else, it’s going to depend on the situation. The average person will probably get used to it rather quickly, and the quicker response time is likely going to impress them. The returning Start menu although not identical, is still similar enough that they probably won’t mind it. Some however, may want to wait. particularly if they’re in a situation where they’re required to run an expensive proprietary utility in a business, that may need patches or other updates to run on the new OS. Realistically however, this time it is likely a much smaller number of users than it was with the last few versions.

Overall I would say Windows 10 is certainly worth the upgrade, more for the game fan, but with benefits for the average computer user too. It’s just too bad there isn’t much outside of gaming that it offers to get excited about. Further uniformity between platforms, comfortable interfaces, and security improvements are certainly important. They’re just not that exciting. Still, they are all things you may have been wanting since the days of Windows 7. If you have, you may want to follow your gaming brethren into the pool.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

The Conduit Retrospective Part One: The Conduit Review

Conspiracy theories can always make for a good story. Sometimes they are simply a fun romp held together by contrivances, and speculation. Other times they are deep stories, that bring up philosophical questions. Some are so good in fact, they will make the possible seem plausible because they are told so well.

The Conduit is between these two ends of the spectrum.

PROS: PC level controller customization, campy story, voice acting, satisfying gun play.

CONS: Multiplayer is no longer playable. Unique ASE mechanic far too underutilized.

ODD: Head shots that decapitate aliens but not humans. Strange.

Made for the Wii as an exclusive labor of love, The Conduit tells a narrative of a centuries old plot by a secret society to allow extraterrestrial beings to take over the world. The protagonist of the story, Michael Ford, is a secret service agent who saves the president from an assassination attempt.

In doing this Ford, unwittingly throws a wrench into the works of this plan. This causes a man named John Adams (Who shares a name with our second president) to contact him, and recruit him to do work for a shadow government entity called the Trust. The Trust is over 200 years old, and has access to many top secret technologies at its disposal.

The Trust sends Ford on a counter terrorist mission to find a man named Prometheus (Named after the character in Greek mythology). Prometheus is said to be behind the invasion of Earth by aliens known as the Drudge. But just when Ford thinks he’s caught him, Adams double crosses him, and it is here where The game really begins to take off. Ford will traverse throughout Washington DC fighting off alien threats in his quest to track down Adams, uncovering all sorts of vast conspiracies along the way.

The Conduit was novel in its release because at the time, very few first person shooters were being released on the Nintendo Wii. Developers decried the underpowered graphics hardware, praised the infrastructure of Microsoft’s Live service, and Sony’s horsepower, and went for those. Developer High Voltage Software, (who had mostly made licensed tie ins throughout its history) looked at the console’s pointer controller, and decided it could be used to play shooters.

HVS really surpassed expectations with its in-house engine. Called the Quantum 3 engine, it allows the Wii to produce some lighting effects previously not thought possible on the system. While the environments are not littered with detailed textures, or high polygon counts, The Conduit does feature some impressive effects. Explosions, lens flares, reflections all make for a few “Wow!” moments. Sadly, this does make for a little bit of unevenness, as some drab areas will lead to some really impressive ones only to go back to some drab ones.

The Conduit’s biggest victory however, has to be its emphasis on tweaking its control scheme.

You can change everything from what button, or gesture does what function to how sensitive the pointer is, to how big or small you want the bounding box to be. You can even change the colors, opacity, and layout of your Heads Up Display. Do you want your health bar in the dead center of the screen for some reason? You can certainly do that. Do you want to make the D-pad your pause button, and melee attack? Absolutely. For the truly insane, you can remove the HUD altogether. Of course most players will try to set the layout as close to a familiar setup as possible. Once you have it configured properly it definitely controls very nicely. While it doesn’t give you quite the precision a good mouse on your computer does, it is more responsive than most analog pads. It even beats out a lot of other Wii shooters in terms of tweaking controls, and user interfaces.

You can even map melee or grenades to motion sensors adding a little bit of interactivity to the experience.

As for the game itself, it is admittedly a bit of a mixed bag. The main campaign takes a lot of cues from other more successful games on other platforms. The most notable one being Half-Life 2. The game takes a very linear point A to point B approach to level design. This is far from the only game over the past decade that uses this blueprint. But few are able to mask it with an environment full of supplemental subtext the way HL2 does. To its credit though, The Conduit will keep you involved enough to finish the campaign. This is in large part because of TV show caliber performances by Kevin Sorbo, Mark Sheppard, and William Morgan Sheppard. While they can be campy at times, they all do give the game a TV movie feel. Other bit players are peppered throughout the background for those who wish to look for things. Notably some Military radios players can eavesdrop on, as well as AM radios playing parodies of popular, and fringe talk shows as well as news media.

The game borrows Halo’s weapon limit system, as well as the regenerating health system popularized in so many shooters. It does work in the game as it makes players have to think about which few toys to carry into which areas. One final thing the game borrows is the spawn point system from the old arcade game Gauntlet. There are portals that allow aliens to come through until they’re destroyed, as are egg sacks that allow smaller ground level enemies to keep spawning until they are destroyed. It works fine enough initially, but it does become formulaic. Eventually they’ll be the first thing you look to destroy in a shootout section. A.I. is nothing revolutionary, but it’s really no worse than what you’d find in the typical Call of Duty title. Enemies will try to find cover, or try to cover another enemy. But sometimes you will see a bad guy just stand out in the open like a sore thumb.

Character designs are honestly pretty cool. The insect look of the alien enemies is quite nice, with some real life inspiration. Human enemies also are also well designed, and varied. You’ll see men in black, mercenaries, research lab guards, and more as you play throughout the campaign. Even the weapons are inspired by the enemy designs. There are a host of weapons based on real world military armaments. But there are just as many alien themed ones. Some of them are your expected laser guns, and plasma rifles. But the look of these weapons also has a very organic, insect theme to them. This correlates with the insect designs of the Drudge.

The audio is also really good. The soundtrack is a blend of electronica, and orchestrated music that marries with the B action movie feel the game goes for. Weapons, explosions, and even small details like footsteps are presented well. In between stages there are animated cinema screens with Michael Ford talking to Prometheus or John Adams. Again these sections are well acted, but It really would have been nice to see these done in engine. Be that as it may, the cinema screens are utilized about as well as they could be.

One element of the game that feels underutilized is the highly touted All Seeing Eye. When you first start playing The Conduit you will find it rather cool, as it lets you decode hidden alien, and masonic texts hidden in the game. Finding enough of these will help you gain achievements, and unlock concept art.  The ASE  also lets you unlock secret doors that lead to experimental, and alien weapons.  Many of these weapons are exclusive to the secret rooms, and do higher damage to enemies than many of the other weapons.

Also, in some areas there are invisible bombs it can detect. Once detected, the bombs become more, and more visible. Concentrating the ASE on them long enough, can destroy them from a safe distance.  It can also find cloaked switches that correspond to certain locked doors. All of this sounds great, and it is. The first two or three times. Unfortunately, you’ll begin to see it become formulaic. There simply isn’t enough variety with the ASE. It becomes little more than a key before long. You will enter a level, have a shoot out before getting some more exposition, and then the ASE will start to go off.  You’ll immediately realize you need to find a hidden lock for a secret room, a locked door,  or a bomb.

 

It’s really too bad that it becomes so limited here. Because it could have been much better. Part of the fun in this game are the National Treasure, X-Files, Alien Nation, V, styled tropes, and influences. Seeing the ASE implemented even further as a way to find clues, or translate a lot more than graffiti would have elevated the experience a great deal.  Some more use as an interactive narrative would have certainly been welcome.Nevertheless, the game does keep everything together throughout the campaign hitting all of the notes you’d expect. There are even some awesome boss fights along the way.

The Conduit also featured multiplayer.  I say featured because the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection servers are no longer running. But I felt like I should talk about the game’s multiplayer because of its significance.  It was pretty decent initially, bringing competitive gameplay to an underserved audience. But there were a number of problems with it.  In terms of online modes  it was relatively sparse. The game had the prerequisite death match mode. Aside from that, It had one called Bounty Hunter (a variant of death match where each player has to kill a specific player), and ASE football where one player holds an ASE for as long as possible without being shot to death.

There was  also Team Reaper (Team Death match like mode), Team Objective (Which is a Capture the flag like mode), and Marathon which was timed. Multiplayer maps were mostly pretty good, the best probably being Streets, and Pentagon. The Conduit was also one of the few games that took advantage of the Wii Speak accessory. This allowed players to use voice chat in multiplayer game modes.

Multiplayer wasn’t all it was cracked up to be however. When playing against only your friends it could be a lot of fun (Even if you did have to exchange Friend Codes). But publicly the game eventually became rife with cheaters, and griefers. Far too many to recommend it over other multiplayer shooters that would come out soon after. People clipping through walls to unreachable areas. People using a glitch to gain access to unlimited missiles. Even loading into a test level that was never intended to be seen were all things you would have run into again, and again. There were sometimes bad lag issues when far away players connected, resulting into shots that didn’t register as hits. Or rubberbanding, and other hated things. Also, take into account its better levels are also in the much improved sequel. At this point, there would be little incentive to play this mode even if you still could.

Aside from the multiplayer mode the game does have its own set of achievements you can go for if you are so inclined. Some of them are your garden variety rewards for simply getting further in the campaign. Others are rewards for pulling off certain challenges, such as killing a certain number of an enemy type with a specific weapon. The game also had a number of unlockable extras through a promotional code system. The codes were given away with the special collector’s edition of the game. The codes grant players a couple of skins that can be used in lieu of the stock ones. They also unlock a few special buffs one can use in the campaign if one finds the campaign too difficult.

The unlockable content also includes a lot of concept art. Much of it is nice, but the average player isn’t going to pay much mind to it. This is almost always the case with concept art. The most dedicated fans may go through several replays to see all of it, but most players won’t bother. The game is certainly worth revisiting from time to time. But like most single player campaigns, concept sketches won’t be the reason for replaying it.

The special edition does also have two other differences. The first is that the package art is much, much nicer. It has a slicker style in the vein of a DVD or Blu-Ray movie cover. The other difference is that the collector’s edition included an art book. Much like the one Nintendo bundled in its Metroid Prime Trilogy collection. The art book is actually pretty nice. It isn’t just artwork featured here. It also has some behind-the-scenes commentary for good measure.  The other interesting fact is that the promotional codes aren’t only compatible with the collector’s edition. They work with every version of the game.

 

The Conduit is one of those games that is by no means terrible, but fails to hit its lofty goals. It may not have the best single player campaign, or the best storyline. But it is a fun campaign to play through. The story does have its share of cheese, but it’s delicious cheese. Cheese that compliments the rest of the meat in the proverbial sandwich rather than distract you from it. It has some interesting characters. It has some wonderful voice acting. If only the multiplayer were a bit more refined, and the ASE mechanic were allowed to blossom. The Conduit could have been a bigger deal. But there is also something to be said for being a cult classic.

It’s also notable in that it’s one of those  games where the developers, not the publisher, paid out-of-pocket for most of its production. Even notable still in that such a small, humble team caught the attention of much larger, developers, and publishers. After The Conduit came out, Wii owners saw proper ports of Call Of Duty games like 4, Black Ops, and Modern Warfare 3. They also saw Goldeneye, a Wii shooter that was actually converted to its competing console brethren. It also got UbiSoft to try again with a second Red Steel.

Even if The Conduit failed to set the world on fire it did succeed in what it intended to do. Proving that FPS titles could indeed work, and play well on Nintendo’s white box. It also proved that High Voltage Software is capable of making a blockbuster action game if given the time, and resources. The Conduit would be a solid first effort, spawning a sequel before seeing a port to Android mobile devices.

Final Score: 7 out of 10