Best Linux Games Column

"Space Pirates and Zombies 2" brings near-perfect blend of action, strategy, comedy
Posted On: 2017-11-10 19:32

I never got to actually play the first "SPAZ" ("Space Pirates and Zombies"); it never wanted to cooperate with my multiple monitors on Linux. It hurt my emotional parts to be excluded from a game that the majority of the Interweb-speaking peoples of the world widely regarded as (to use their slang) "rad." Damned beatniks... but I digress.

Thus, when the sequel was released earlier this week, I jumped: first with joy, then with both feet, directly immersing myself in the game's insanity. Even though (apparently) a direct continuation of the plot of the original, and in spite of my arrival halfway through the story (which, shockingly enough, focuses heavily on a conflict between pirates and - spoiler alert - zombies, set mostly in space), I was instantly made to feel at home amongst the game's numerous, distinct, memorable, and frequently nose-sprayingly-hilarious characters.

Even as a total noob, within moments, I was focused almost entirely on the game: a visually glorious, rock-stupid-easy-to-control, yet insanely-complex-to-master symphony of far-flung science-fiction beer-and-popcorn deep-space action/strategy sandbox orgy of factional conflict, zombie carnage, ship design, and frenetic, demi-nautical, ship-to-ship real-time combat.

Simply put, SPAZ2 is like a masterfully crafted samurai sword: a perfectly balanced, razor-sharp, supremely honed and polished, lightning fast, irresistible creation relentlessly slicing at your face-holes until you die, die, die.

Players take on the role of Captain of "The Metal Mother," fresh from its victorious eradication of the zombie-plague as depicted in the previous game. Now facing a fractured and deeply factionalized universe, your job is to re-engineer and expand your ship, forge alliances, destroy enemies, gather resources, and fight like a rapacious son-of-a-bitch. All this, while juggling the endlessly jagged edges of your crew-members and their universal mutual hatred (the bonding agent on which your relationship is based), you bravely assault the endless void, ever-vigilant against the potential re-emergence of the zombie plague - a nefarious symbiotic entity that transforms all it touches into its subordinate slave.

It sounds complex. Overwhelming, even. But it's not. SPAZ2 has been painstakingly designed to be terse, simple, fast, exciting, ultra-polished and absurdly addictive. Every aspect of the game reflects this ethos: Tutorial elements are rolled out at near-perfect intervals, and are incredibly to the point. Even better, the game's fantastic dialogue (and well-above-average voice acting) helps to conceal the fact that you are actually learning how to do stuff, so much so that, it wasn't until my 16th hour of gameplay that I was struck by the sheer amount of complexity I was actually managing.

The magic of this deep-yet-simple (i.e. "perfection") design shines throughout.

Ship design and modification, for instance, takes place in a VR-optomized, 2-buttoned drag-n-drop of your in-combat ship view. At first, it's pure WYSIWYG sublimated: self-snapping parts, consisting of only a handful of component types (right wings, left wings, sub-cores, noses and engines). Before you know it, you are 20 hours into the game, and are spending endless time obsessing over the infinite combinations of weapons, damage types, and defensive characteristics that come with each individual component. By the time you are actually contemplating these things, you already know how to use them; it's like a Jedi mind-trick: you learn nothing, but, in doing so, learn everything, and discover a much larger world that's governed by forces which you previously only felt, but now you truly understand.

Don't worry, though: the path to this epiphany is paved with one word: fast, fast, fast. You will spend most of your first 10 hours exploding humongous chunks of enemy spacecraft in a strategic riot of gratuitous (yet irresistibly delicious) particle effects, lens flares, and 3rd-person simple-seeming real-time sci-fi carnage. Even though you will find yourself controlling and designating targets for (literally, dozens) of drones (which also have drones), while trying to squeeze every ounce of carnage out of your on-ship weaponry, the learning curve remains subnormal-Neanderthal-flat.

SPAZ2 meets the major criteria towards which all great games aspire: as easy to learn as gravity, but as difficult to master as acrobatics. Its excellent balance of universe-map-strategy, ship design, storytelling, hilarious dialogue, and constant, visceral, immediately-available high-resolution stra-tact-o-carnage commends its addition to any devout gamer's library.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"SPAZ2 meets the major criteria towards which all great games aspire: as easy to learn as gravity, but as difficult to master as acrobatics. Its excellent balance of universe-map-strategy, ship design, storytelling, hilarious dialogue, and constant, visceral, immediately-available high-resolution stra-tact-o-carnage commends its addition to any devout gamer's library."
gamereleasedate:
Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 7:15pm
Link: view
Node UUID: 8abfe761-c4b1-421d-ab90-3b4d320b1b7d
Underneath "Bomber Crew's" cartoon surface and simple-seeming design lurks the essence of strategic bombing in WWII
Posted On: 2017-10-28 15:10

 Versatility is the name of the game on a bomber; each crewmemebecrewmemeber has to be able to handle the complex and unique tasks associated with their primary role, while also being basically familiar with the core competencies associated with every other crewmember's job. The real genius of "Bomber Crew" is that it forces the player to deal with the actual crew instead of their posts; this brings to life the endless juggling act inherit to strategic bombing. It's a universe of multi-role sidemen in motion within a purely mechanical world, and here, finally, the player is in control of all of it. At once. No "tactical pause," no second chances. Here's a sample:

Farfan - my tail gunner - is hit and begins bleeding out. We are being strafed by 1 or 2 wings of bogeys that I haven't designated as targets because I've been otherwise engaged, ordering Wallace (our bombardier) to leave the ventral turret and return to his bomb-sights in the fore of the aircraft. He has to get there in time to open the doors, and sight our ground target before releasing his payload.

Simple enough, were it not for the flack; it began eating us alive 2 minutes earlier, forcing us to climb to mid altitude in order to keep our two remaining engines running. Engine No. 3 is being worked on by our engineer, Ms. Birt, whose currently out there on the wing like a barnstormer.

Our objective materializes in visual range, and as I tag it (which simultaneously designates it as a target, sets its location as a waypoint, and tells Captain Stevenson to change course accordingly) I realize that we are coming in too fast, and too high for Wallace to get a decent chance at the target, and I'm pretty sure we won't have enough spare fuel for more than just this one pass. Everything is refactored in that instant, and I know exactly what must be done.

With the dense plumes of flack blossoming just beneath us, I order the Birt back into the plane, and watch the agonizing slow-motion eternity (2 seconds) until her hand reaches the first rung of the external ladder. No time to wait for her to get to the top hatch, I quickly select the captain, hitting the "Emergency Dive" button on his panel.

"Hang on chaps!" he shouts, as he pitches the aircraft into a near straight nose-dive, directly into the firecracker exploding hell of the flack beneath us. Wallace (only at the communications station) continues to make his way towards the bombardier position, staggering from handhold to handhold of the now vertically-oriented fuselage. As the pilot performs this maneuver, I waste no time, selecting our radioman and activating his "Auto-Tag" ability, instantly target-designating all bandits in radar range so our gunners can keep them from blowing our wings off after we hit the target. Oblivious to the exploding, lawn-darted, black of night, strafing, screaming, fiery, hell-storm surrounding us, I pull Shaw (our deadliest top gunner) from their perch, and carefully select the med-kit from the tilt-a-whirl disorientation of the rear equipment rack.

I had planned to spend the invaluable 2 or 3 seconds that would be necessary to watch Shaw complete this order in the front of the plane, ordering the bomb doors open, but some shrapnel catches engine No. 4, which bursts into flame. I jump back to Brit, now at her station, and select the extinguishers from her panel, then select Wallace (now on the bomb sights in the nose of the plane), and open the bomb doors.

As the emergency dive concludes, I set the pilot's altitude to keep us there on the deck, and select Shaw (now with medkit) in the aft. Clicking on Farfan (70 seconds left before bleeding out) I order Shaw to revive him. Flashing to Wallace, I select the first bomb on the rack, and watch through his bomb site as the target scrolls in. I drop slightly off-target (the bomb doors are slow to open), but its a hit. No time to celebrate, though: I order him to close the doors and mount the nose turret.

As I re-man the gun turrets (which begin firing furiously at the bogeys swarming around us), and with one functional engine, the mission may be accomplished, but the hard part is still ahead. The pilot begins ascending to cloud-level, and I tag our next waypoint, turning back into the hell behind us. Now we just have to get back home.

The game is "Bomber Crew." Don't let its cartoon graphics and simple controls fool you: this is the WWII bomber experience you've been waiting for.

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"Hang on chaps!" he shouts, as he pitches the aircraft into a near straight nose-dive, directly into the firecracker exploding hell of the flack beneath us. Wallace (only at the communications station) continues to make his way towards the bombardier position, staggering from handhold to handhold of the now vertically-oriented fuselage.
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 3:00pm
Link: view
Node UUID: b46eff8a-e579-4d8b-8ad1-28c73f52d94f
Indie play-alike to vaunted classic gaming series outdoes its predecessors
Posted On: 2017-10-13 03:36

I am screaming across a snowy mountain pass, treacherous not just for it's curves, but for the rival biker gang that owns this territory: The Sigmas. As much machine as biologic, their power shields make taking them out with melee weapons a damaging two-step process.

A large group of them materialize for a moment on the distant ridge line horizon of the dipping, twisted hills, the red targets above their vanishing a second later as I ride into a frozen river gully. I powerslide hard through the apex of the turn, coincidental to the base of the descent, dodging the lights-and-sirens and civilian traffic head on.

As I climb the hill, I hit my nitro and take stock of my weapons. This is going to take more than guns; this is going to take the Problem Solver: C4 explosive sticky bombs, set with a 3 seconds timer. There are no shields known to humanity that prevent the instant death caused by converting your screaming crotch-rocket into a 90 MPH ballistic missile. Cyborg or no, you will be reduced to your component parts - if not atoms.

I want this done quickly. As Teddy Atlas would surely say, "Punches in bunches." I'm riding using a character with almost no health, and won't be able to withstand the cluster of vicious attacks from my right and left once I am in the middle of the pack; even with expert kicks, sending my opponents into oncoming traffic, I won't last longer than 12 seconds among them.

As I near the apex of the hill, rapidly gaining speed, nitro systems peddle-to-the-metal, a copper rubber-bands up to me, and (just before I can hit him with a kick that would send him to early retirement, exploding into a tree on the roadside) he reaches out and love-taps me with a stun baton. "Don't taze me, brah," I shout, now completely unable to steer, yet still launching myself head-long into the pack.

Time for a Kansas City Shuffle.

I switch weapons, the pack a hundred and closing ahead. Out comes the Peacemaker. Still frying from the switch that just got flipped on my central nervous system, but still able to aim, I identify the four targets I need to complete the run. As I kick the cop off the road (exploding with a satisfying red pop in my rear-view, illuminated against the cold dark of the snowy night) I level the magnum. There is no hesitation. As each rider falls under my cross-hair, I send exactly enough rounds downrange. They fall in high-speed meth-head pantomime. To finish the entire pack (and to conserve ammo) I whip out the Problem Solver.

Careening past the rear end of the pack, I rocket up to the girl in the lead, and (as the confused riders in my wake exchange quizzical glances) give her a pat on the back, leaving her a ruby-red blinking piece of ticking jewelry. I slam the brakes, and watch the fireworks, as the gang catches up to her just in time. Five bikers explode, taking with them a police cruiser, a paddy wagon, and a taxi cab, all exploding and ricocheting wildly in hulking masses of twisted metal and flare-gun explosions of fire.

Mission accomplished.

The game is "Road Redemption," an excellent, indie-developed play-alike and answer to the old "Road Rash" series of biker-combat racing video games. This new re-envisioning manages to surpass it's progenitor in nearly every way, serving up high-speed, procedurally generated tracks in an intoxicating rogue-like mash up of adrenaline, strategy, bike-on-bike (and bike-on-car) carnage the likes of which will explode your tiny little mind. Combined with the stats-based, rogue-like approach, it's capricious (and totally unhinged) levels of complete insanity (let's race across the rooftops, while it rains cars, for example), truly, "Road Redemption" brings just that: redemption to a long forgotten and uneven franchise, with a damn near definitive fan-rendered play-alike.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"This new re-envisioning manages to surpass it's progenitor in nearly every way, serving up high-speed, procedurally generated tracks in an intoxicating rogue-like mash up of adrenaline, strategy, bike-on-bike (and bike-on-car) carnage the likes of which will explode your tiny little mind."
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 3:30am
Link: view
Node UUID: 69098c14-27a5-43f8-b23a-740549ea1249
"Vikings" serves up new twists on old-school isometric button-mashing slaughter
Posted On: 2017-09-30 18:41

 My name is Aurullox. I am a 7 foot tall, 280 pound, dual-ax-weilding behemoth. Clad in chain mail frosted blue from the cold, my enemies cower when they see my Goldilocks-style pigtails lumber out of the snow towards them, facial tattoos glowing red from my rage. Yes, you read right: pigtails: gigantic, pectoral-length, blonde little girl pigtails... attached to my very own, fearsome, humorless, Viking-warrior demigod Fabio-physique. Obviously, I am the first metrosexual Viking.

Welcome to the world of "Vikings: Wolves of Midgard" (currently on Steam Store sale, -65%, $13.99). Developed by Games Farm and published by Kalypso Media Digital, "Vikings" takes the old isometric dungeon-crawler formula of games like "Diablo," the story-driven and RPG elements of "Torchlight," and throws them into the crazy mashup-blender with a huge helping of Norse mythology, then takes the unrefined product and tunes it, adding subtle tweaks and twists to the gameplay and combat that alter the all-too-familiar-formula into something that's just new and shiny enough to be addictive and compelling - a whole much greater than the sum of its (highly repetitive) parts.

This all begins with character creation. You can be either a Viking guy or a Viking gal (er, "warrior" or "shieldmaiden") and select from one of several initial weapons specializations, each keyed to the favor of a certain Viking deity. Loki, for instance, is the God of duel-wielding, while Odin is God of the staff, etc. Other initial weapon specialties include Archery, the Greatsword (2 handed), or you can get all Thor about it and wield a gigantic fucking hammer... the bottom line is that each God's weapon preference confers the wielder of those types of weapons with special passive "Gifts" that buff the player.

Thus begins the many micro-divergences in "Viking's" design that separate it from other games of its ilk. While seeming to be your normal 1-button masher at first, the actual combat in the game is made of many smaller elements that must constantly be managed, kept track of, used, and exploited at the appropriate moments, lending the action a faint RTS kind of feel.

For example, you need to keep track of your exposure to the elements, as too much time wandering the tundra and snowdrifts between visits to campfires will totally fucking kill you. You need to remember to use your stamina meter to dodge massive incoming attacks with a well-timed roll. Boosting your blood-collection (essential for leveling up your character's base attributes) by strategically weakening groups of opponents with basic attacks, priming them for a devastating special attack that earns high combo scores and multi-kills is also important, as is the careful monitoring and management of your rage meter - the use of which can be the crucial factor in boss-encounters.

Speaking of bosses, the enemies in "Vikings" range from the inconsequentially small to screen-filling giants. The camera accommodates these creatures dynamically and generally with great competence. Actual boss encounters are strategic affairs, in which (just as in normal combat) you must balance the risk of leaving yourself open to critical, health-crushing hits with everything else you're already thinking about. Thus, a game seemingly centered around a single attack button becomes much deeper than is initially obvious.

Furthermore, this depth of play extends through the inventory, crafting, and equipment menus: new equipment requires a skilled craftsman, and the resources necessary to make the new item. These have direct and profound effects on the myriad of character statistics. This concept extends from armor and weapons through to the special attacks available to the character. In short: everything is upgradeable, level-uppable, skill-tree improvable, etc., making for surprisingly varied tactical and even strategic approaches hidden deep within the delicious, old-skool button-mashing slaughter.

All of the gameplay elements are enhanced by first-class graphics, environments, and visual effects: in this area, "Vikings" earns a solid "B."

In conclusion, the game also offers a multiplayer mode which I've not yet had time to explore, but - like much of "Vikings: Wolves of Midgard," opens and offers exciting reasons to keep playing and exploring this sneaky-old-school hack-and-slasher. Stay tuned to the podcast for a full review in future weeks.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"...everything is upgradeable, level-uppable, skill-tree improvable, etc., making for surprisingly varied tactical and even strategic approaches hidden deep within the delicious, old-skool button-mashing slaughter."
gamereleasedate:
Saturday, September 30, 2017 - 6:45pm
Link: view
Node UUID: 28473305-2835-4888-93ae-74799cbfac11
"Jettomero" blends jaw-gaping visuals, pathos, slapstick, and giant robot-carnage into a fantastic piece of interactive art
Posted On: 2017-09-25 15:33

 I'm not sure yet if "Jettomero: Hero of the Universe" ($12.99, Steam Store, Ghost Time Games) manages to meet-or-exceed the absurdly high bar that it's visual style and overall aesthetic sets, but, please - for the love of the medium of the game itself - buy it. Not only will you be supporting the creative minds behind this singularly unique, mawkishly destructadorable, robo-cosmic, tragi-comic, cell-shaded, catastro-opera-of-awesomeness, but you will be telegraphing (perhaps, in your own quiet way) your secret-signal to the greater creative universe, and, in doing so, might help make more games like this (impossible) game possible.

But first: the impossible.

YOU: are Jettomero, the (titular) HERO OF THE UNIVERSE: a clumsy, impossible-to-not-adore, intentionally-poorly-rigged, cell-shaded, sensitive, perceptive-yet-slightly-clumsy hundred-and-thirty(ish)-story-tall enormous robot. You are indestructible and have two major super-robotic-abilities: you can fly like a pinwheeling rocket from planet to planet using your super-powered jet-feet, and - for the times when combat is unavoidable - can use your standard-issue death-ray-firing laser-eyes (but only to defeat opponents who are capable of competing within your weight class). Your mission is... well, uncertain and ambiguous, but your lack of memory when you begin your adventure in no way impedes Jettomero's innate, intuitive certainty that he has to "save the universe and protect humanity."

Comically, the player quickly realizes that Jettomero's blue-sky/brainstorm cocktail napkin sketch of the actual definition of "protecting humanity" is wholly absent from details, and Jettomero actually appears to have no training, understanding, or particularly useful skills in the "human saving" vein. In fact, he is so clumsy, and so overwhelmingly terrifyingly enormous, that - after landing with a tectonic-crust-cracking explosive thud on a planet's surface - it's common for the local population to begin evacuating their cities in abject panic while their pathetic military forces attempt to delay your character, as he enthusiastically explores (and explodes) the major cities and locales. Power plants erupt into apocalyptic balls of fire. Entire downtown areas are stripped of their skyscrapers like sets of dominoes. As lasers, missiles, spaceships, artillery, tanks, and experimental weapons batter our hero like small insects, he continues on, invulnerable and blissfully oblivious to the chaos and destruction he is causing, as he wheels uncontrollably, limbs twisting and spinning like a cross between a newly-mobile infant and some drunken-master kung fu marionette performing a slapstick pantomime routine.

When combined with the fantastic, comic-book art style, and the game's entirely unique set of camera perspectives and play-mechanics, the end result of this is overwhelmingly winning and effective: you'd be hard pressed to find any human being aged 3-130 who will not be ultimately charmed and bemused by the game's mythic-comic (human-tragedy) pantomime-pathos infused tale of well-meaning actions leading to unthinkable unintentional consequences/completely catastrophic scenes of destruction.

It also bears mentioning that, as players progress along J-Lo's procedurally-generated freewheeling inter-galactic trail of havoc and mayhem, several smaller, interstitial game modes advance a predictable-but-charming backstory told in interactive graphic-novel form.

As a finished videogame, "Jettomero" is incredibly short, slightly repetitive, and fundamentally fun to control. However, what makes this little guy so truly special is how quickly player's will find themselves shrugging off these shortcomings in favor of simply seeing and experiencing the title as a major, somewhat-visionary, entirely-unique piece of interactive visual art - one that also happens to be insanely fun to manipulate. Judged by this criteria, "Jettomero: Hero of the Universe" is a captivating artistic achievement, and is hopefully just a tasty preview of further things to come from indie developer/publisher Ghost Time games. "Jettomero: Hero of the Universe" proves that they can get every aspect of development pitch-perfect, hopefully setting the table for larger and more ambitious projects to come.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"When combined with the fantastic, comic-book art style, and the game's entirely unique set of camera perspectives and play-mechanics, the end result of this is overwhelmingly winning and effective: you'd be hard pressed to find any human being aged 3-130 who will not be ultimately charmed and bemused by the game's mythic-comic (human-tragedy) pantomime-pathos infused tale..."
gamereleasedate:
Monday, September 25, 2017 - 3:30pm
Link: view
Node UUID: dc0a7aaa-21be-411b-86fd-4cde4d4609e4
Sundered serves up beautiful 2D animations and engaging environs, but is not without its flaws
Posted On: 2017-07-30 19:52

Let's not beat around the bush here: "Sundered" ($19.99, Thunder Lotus Games) is a uniquely strange take on the old-school "Super Metroid"/"SOTN" 2D sidescrolling platformers.

The keyword in that sentence is "strange." Everything about this game is just the slightest bit "off," and, after just under 3 hours of playtime, it's hard to determine which aspects of the game were designed with this goal of strangeness in mind - and which parts just accidentally ended up being so fucking... well, odd.

We'll delve into details in a moment, but the other salient thing you need to know is that it is really and truly beautiful (in a strange way, of course). Your character's sprite animations alone come close to being a masterclass in the form, with each action so fluid, yet so clearly defined, that it's hard not to want to play the game. You dive-roll, leap, stab, and just generally play the game in a state of what I can only describe as an endless string of pure florid flourishes. However, these flamboyantly obvious curlicues feel more like a constant enbu of the animation team's prowess and skill rather than your character's actual efficaciousness in either combat or acrobatics.

That aside, let's talk about the strange:

Billing itself as an "epic" experience ready to hit gamers with a "horrifying fight for survival and sanity," "Sundered" (at least, so far as I have played) is in no way "horrifying." The geography you traverse is (at its scariest that I've seen) at most a dreamlike juxtaposition of nature, magic and futuristic scifi technology that doesn't set you on edge with it's eerie weirdness so much as it just awkwardly cloys at the corners of your consciousness: while the game's procedurally-generated levels offer the prospect of a fluid, non-linear, endlessly-varied and replayable game, the algorithms which generate the map are just a little bit off, leaving the player feeling both perpetually lost, torturing them with perpetual deja vus awakenings in totally familiar screens. In spite of the fact that "Sundered" does a better job of procedural generation than "MegaSphere," (in that MS regenerates the terrain on death, while "Sundered" seems to generate it only once, at the start of a new game, after which, the map is static to that save slot) players will find themselves saying things like "is this just the same type of psuedo-room-tile as the one earlier, or is this actually that room tile from earlier, or is it a new one entirely, and, either way, am I going in the right direction?"

Luckily, this is mostly offset by the game's intuitive, LT-bound map overlay, which presents you not only with a clear picture of where you've been already, but has nice highlights, icons, and simple symbols to keep you heading towards the next new thing/area/powerup/boss/unlockable door. Still, the perpetual deja-vus can get confusion as you slowly lose your mind.

Finally, the biggest complaint I have with "Sundered" is the way the game structures enemy encounters. They happen very frequently at random intervals if you stop moving, and can best be described as suddenly being attacked by a giant swarm of whatever lives in that area. While the frenetic mashing of the attack button is punctuated by must-be-timed-perfectly employment of the dodge button, and while the game actually does require some degree of skill and nuance, I felt that the combat was lacking something. This sensation is not at all alleviated by the repetitive and constant - and, very often, totally unfair - screen-extending swarms you spend most of your time battling.

These drawbacks are offset by a highly addictive and (initially) cool upgrade system: when you die, you are taken back to the start of the game, and can then spend your accumulated tokens to unlock numerous areas of the skill tree. Unfortunately, the actual upgrades themselves feel far less exciting than they should be, favoring mostly incremental passive upgrades to health or armor or shield regeneration. They come in such small doses that they go almost entirely unnoticed once purchased - especially as the opposition gets much more difficult as you progress further into... wherever the hell this story takes place. Ultimately, it makes the skill tree feel flat, almost as if all the points you've spent have been carefully calibrated to enable you only to get to the next, predictably and finely calibrated swarm. Rinse, wash, repeat.

It may not be the most original, nor the best executed game in the neo-Metroidvania field, but on the whole (and so far), every deficit and flaw in the game has been countered by an equally persuasive positive foil (repetitive use of duplicate map tiles is countered by the excellence of the mapping system, for instance). Overall, while many gamers will notice and be irritated by some of "Sundered's" shortcomings, it's visual beauty and pick-up and play mechanics make it a strangely addictive experience. Stay tuned for a review in later episodes. Till then? Try some strange. 

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"...the biggest complaint I have with "Sundered" is the way the game structures enemy encounters. They happen very frequently at random intervals if you stop moving, and can best be described as suddenly being attacked by a giant swarm of whatever lives in that area."
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Friday, July 28, 2017 - 7:45pm
Tags: Sundered, Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: 16336cf3-04c6-455c-a8e4-1e1a54ebeff7
"Hollow Knight" has a "nothing to prove" attitude that conceals sidescrolling delights
Posted On: 2017-07-12 13:58

 BLGC 2017-07-08

Sug Head: Of Jump Boots and Locked Doors

Sug Sub: "Hollow Knight" has a "nothing to prove" attitude that conceals sidescrolling delights

"Hollow Knight" doesn't come on strong. Opening quietly, players find themselves in control of a diminutive cartoon hero let loose upon the game's inscrutable, purple, blue, and black environs. There's a brief - and inscrutable - intro cinema that sets up no plot of any kind, serving much more as an invitation than it does as an exposition. Once the player takes control of their expressionless, skull-head, cute-yet-creepy, empty-eyed little hero, they quickly learn that there are no super-wicked-cool actions or moves they can use. No powerful combos, no magical spells, no actions, in fact, beyond moving left and right, jumping, and attacking.

It is an entirely unspectacular beginning to what is (in terms of this journalist's ten hours adventuring, still in progress) an absolutely extraordinary sidescrolling platformer.

While most of the critical praise that has been heaped upon "Hollow Knight" has been for it's hand-drawn graphics and visual art style, the real good stuff in the game lies hidden within and under its chitinous bug-shell: it disrobes slowly, shyly, and sadistically, shrinking from untoward advances into nebulous shadows, and responding to overt force with punishingly brutal admonishments. As they say about the Sahara Desert, "The desert teaches by testing," and so does this game. Even as it crushes and kills you (sometimes through thousands of papercuts, other times through truly brutal acts of seemingly impossibly unfair annihilation at the hands of bosses), it opens tiny little pinpricks into its own design, all of which seems to unfold in addictive blend of geography at once designed for speed-runners, skill-based technique-freaks, and puzzle-solving/next-unlock obsessed explorers.

We are balls-deep into the design ethos I have described as "Of jump boots and locked doors," that delicious type of sidescroller where the challenge is to figure out which powerup is necessary to get past obstacle X to get to next powerup Y to get past obstacle or boss Z. This game design (now commonly referred to as "Metroidvania") is best exemplified in "Super Metroid" (for the SNES) and the superlative "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night," (for the Playstation).

In less than capable hands, this genre is an abattoir of tedium in which giant chunks of my life are slaughtered in sacrifice to the gods of meaningless frustration: I hate games in which the geography is its own "puzzle." Very much like a poem, I don't believe that the medium of the videogame should be something in which the audience is actively made aware of the fact that they are expected to "solve" something - especially given that usually these "puzzles" are so blatantly contrived, infuriating simple design devices meant to pad out the playtime for an otherwise entirely uninspiring and derivative game.

In "Hollow Knight," however, the developers manage to achieve the rarely-accomplished goal of concealing the "puzzle" and "exploration" aspects of the game within the sheer joy of actually playing it. Simultaneously, the game jealously guards its secrets (and your character's powers, upgrades, and abilities), only giving them up after deeply satisfying challenges of mortal combat, or 3x's-5x's-27x's re-exploration of previously visited map areas searching for dead-ends. Along the way, we are strung along nicely by a mysterious, strange, and highly stylized storyline - even as we become more and more engrossed in trying to find out more about the main character itself.

Eventually, you turn your little anonymous primary-attacking hollow knight into a badass daredevil, mastering the tricky twists and misleading turns of the game's many areas (spoiler alert: until you reach the explosive foliage and neon-leafy-green-ness of the garden area, it is entirely possible to miss the fantastic-throughout 2D art and backgrounds in the game), as well as learning and mastering the perfect timing and behavioral patterns necessary to destroy your foes, well... ultimately (however slowly) the game will win you over before you even realize that you have, in fact, become the "Hollow Knight."

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
While most of the critical praise that has been heaped upon "Hollow Knight" has been for it's hand-drawn graphics and visual art style, the real good stuff in the game lies hidden within and under its chitinous bug-shell
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Friday, February 24, 2017 - 2:00pm
Link: view
Node UUID: 28a98cb9-c0fa-45c7-9f1b-375de484fcb2
Use virtualjaguar to play some old favorites, or to discover some new faves you just missed!
Posted On: 2017-06-10 02:03

BLGC 2017-06-10

Head: Super Zapper Recharge!

Sub: Use virtualjaguar to play some old favorites, or to discover some new faves you just missed!

With the release schedule for new games currently in a bit of a lull, we'd like to take this moment to introduce you to an all-time classic title finally playable on an emulator that's (very likely) lurking within your Linux distro's default repositories, just waiting to be installed and fired up!

The game is the inimitable classic "Tempest 2000," one of the flagship titles for the short-lived Atari Jaguar. The emulator is called virtualjaguar, and if you run Mint 18 (and by extension, likely any Ubuntu derived distro) the odds are very good that its available straight up through your default repositories. Just fire up Synaptic Package Manager and do a search for it. The version you want (if you have to go searching the interwebs for a .deb) is 2.1.2-2.

Be patient the first dozen times you open virtualjaguar, though, as it seems to like to crash a lot BEFORE/when its not actually running a game; but once you have a ROM loaded, it is rock solid - we've experienced zero in-game crashes, but were initially kind of disconcerted by the crashes we experienced while configuring our controls etc.

You can read a step-by-step about how to get ROMs we wrote for our buddy (a windows user) Captainford, here:

http://sethbarkan.tumblr.com/post/160982167782/super-zapper-recharge-bit...

Other games that you might want to grab for the platform are:

Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy

Rayman

Raiden

Cybermorph

Defender 2000

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure

Iron Soldier 2

Flashback: The Quest For Identity

Club Drive World

Alien Versus Predator

Unfortunately, some of these titles do rely on the Jaguar's numerical gamepad (the original controller had an Intellivision like numpad which allowed players to slide game-specific plastic templates on top to control the game), so your mileage may vary absent this functionality. However, "Tempest 2000," and a whole slew of the other excellent titles listed above should give you hundreds of hours of complaint free gaming.

Super Zapper Recharge, bitches!

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
Unfortunately, some of these titles do rely on the Jaguar's numerical gamepad (the original controller had an Intellivision like numpad which allowed players to slide game-specific plastic templates on top to control the game), so your mileage may vary absent this functionality. However, "Tempest 2000," and a whole slew of the other excellent titles listed above should give you hundreds of hours of complaint free gaming.
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Saturday, June 10, 2017 - 1:45am
Link: view
Node UUID: e08a2d14-14cf-4877-a072-6523e22ab055
Battlefield clone "Ravenfield" putting the pieces together in early access
Posted On: 2017-05-21 01:34

The year is 2005. The place: Cyberzone, the best CS LAN Cafe in Las Vegas. We peer through the smoke to find a young Skookiesprite. He is screaming at the players around him, "When I say go, bail; gonna have 3 seconds on this." Skookie is piloting a Blackhawk helicopter into an LZ that looks like a fireworks show; there are jets whizzing across the horizon, anti-aircraft guns encircling the enemy flag spraying death at the skies, and, as Skookie put the helicopter into what seems like a nose-in suicide dive, he shouts "Gunner: here's your chance!," and rotates the machine 45 degrees. The Blackhawk's door gun opens up, everyone inside the aircraft totally convinced they are going to die, as Skookie effortlessly threads the needle between the bunkers, buildings, and trees, bringing the helicopter into a perfect love-tap of a landing on the skids. "GO GO GO!" Skookie counts to 2 before continuing the maneuver, pitching the machine forward with max power, capitalizing on not actually having stopped during the descent, using the momentum to bring the machine up, out, and turning sideways once again, shouting "Gunner: you still here?!" "HOLY SHIT THAT WAS AMAZING!"

Yes, friends and neighbors, apart from my other secret lives as Jurassic-Era CS master (of even minor note), Minecraft IHC OP and Admin, I was also once (for a brief and shining few months) one of the most ridiculous Blackhawk pilots to play "Battlefield: Modern Warfare." At least, I think that was the game we played briefly in between CS go orgies, but you understand the point.

Well, it's been a long long time since massive forces opposed massive forces in real-time ticket-taking death-dealing, control-point oriented humongo-scale fucking total insane balls-out warfare, and even longer for those of us who have been trying to game on Linux during the intervening years (considering that no type of "Battlefield" game has ever really been made available to us).

That all changed this week with the Early Access release of "Ravenfield," the first legitimate step towards control-point style mass-scale warfare. While these early results are promising, there are several noticeable absences that I think should be pointed out before you jump in with your Early Access fundages.

First and most noticeable is that the game isn't multiplayer, and (according to the steam discussion's official FAQ thread, there is no multiplayer planned to be added in the future). This is... a fantastic disappointment to discover after you've ponied up your money, somewhat on par with paying for sex and get over the pants heavy petting (members of our audience not yet as hellishly old as myself will learn: it is pain). But, on the plus side, at least the devs have openly and solemnly and completely taken this off the table as a point of discussion.

Secondly, what is actually there in this Early Access release is quite compelling apart from some of the helicopter mechanics.

Third, finally, and most promising, there is hope that the game could be used as an excellent platform for modding enthusiasts, and from such humble beginnings, the early rumblings of massive, game-changing, genre-defining evolutions have been known to arise.

Regardless, even in Early Access, "Ravenfield" is impressive at scratching the itch for this type of gameplay (singleplayer only or otherwise) for Linux enthusiasts. The action is fraught, fun, fast-paced, and with attention to detail that's impressive, especially in the individual soldier's animations. Check it out, but know that you will do so, sadly, alone.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
First and most noticeable is that the game isn't multiplayer, and (according to the steam discussion's official FAQ thread, there is no multiplayer planned to be added in the future).
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Sunday, May 21, 2017 - 1:30am
Link: view
Node UUID: df25434e-bdd4-40cc-ab43-e0fb189c45b0
Flinthook is more than just another piece of pastel-palleted neo-pixel pirate trash: it has a combo counter too!
Posted On: 2017-04-28 14:32

 Flinthook has a lot going for it: one of the only sidescrolling, procedurally-generated, rogue-like, traditional-platformers made during the Steam Era of Linux gaming, it advances the same design ethos as its excellent progenitor, "GoNNER," by adding numerous play mechanics to the mix. These include the (constantly-used, pervasive, and inventive) hookshot grappling hook (a play mechanic which I firmly believe no game should be without), upgradeable/tweakable blaster pistol, and the limited ability to slow down time using Flinthook's ChronoBelt. Add the delightful Neo-Pixel pseudo-16-bit visuals, the wonderful and whimsical anthropomorphic space pirate theme, and the upbeat color palette, and you got yourself a recipe for success in (and deep breath here) the world's first: procedurally-generated, rogue-like, sidescrolling platform, grapple-hook, time-bending, Neo-pixel, retro-traditional, non-linear, shooter with rogue-RPG/permadeath upgrades and repetition-based flow-style.

In most universes, a game whose classification runs that long should be enough - especially if it is good. And "Flinthook" is definitely very good. But wait... THERE'S MOAR:

While all of this polish and craftsmanship and excellence in character design, play mechanics, style, and the whole experience overall just shines smiles at you from a thousand wonderful surfaces, the thing that really makes the game for me is one of the simplest, subtlest, easiest-to-overlook quiet mechanics, an addition to a game already stacked with additions, but one which nonetheless puts the quality maximum-goldness effort-cherry on top of the already delicious space-pirate sundae.

Behold, friends and neighbors, the lowly combo-counter: a simple numerical indicator of the number of hits you've landed on your enemies in sequence since the last time, yourself, have taken damage.

Unadorned with any flashy 16-bit zing, and extant in the game only with the charm of a digital alarm clock with a fancy font, it is this combo counter that makes "Flinthook" complete for me.

See, when you are grapple-hookshot-swinging and jiving like a lightening ninja through the game's forever-new rogue-like rooms, blasting away enemies whose patterns are just on the perfect side of the complex-enough-to-hurt-you/simple-enough-to-be-memorable scale, it's very easy to get lost in the loot accrued, the mindless space-blasting, the endless assortment of traps and room patterns and other accouterments of the game. Add into this the ability to slow time to a crawl (think the sidescrolling platformer equivalent of Max Payne's patented Shoot Dodge), and, in short order, the game would collapse in on itself in a big mushy pile of happy-colored space pirate-grapple-goo - like a bad first layer on a 3D print, resulting in endlessly spiraling swirling curlicues of madness that add up to nothing.

But, with the simple addition of the combo counter, every single thing you do in every single second of the game's dungeons is transformed from yet another disjointed and meaningless spiral of filament and turns it into a long, long, long, long, long series of ballet-like meaningful gestures, each one evincing the player's skill and artistry, as they dynamically solo over the game's surface. Sure, the game is challenging (in fact, it's almost perfectly balanced in its deceptive challenge), but it is fairly easy to tactically work your way through most rooms and dungeons, taking damage as you go, arriving safely at the end.

However, it is a different fucking meta universe entirely to be able to do the same thing (each run being unique and different and unpredictable) without getting hit; you will have to marshal every ounce of concentration, reflexes, strategy, skill, memory, and badass-space-pirate-bounty-hunting twice-grapple-hook, time-slowing, spinning, acrobatic, blasterizing acumen you have to get that counter to go up... and it's in this that "Flinthook" truly shines and pushes the player to moments of great (albeit simple-seeming) freeform artistry.

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Friday, April 28, 2017 - 2:30pm
Link: view
Node UUID: 253cc202-9507-470f-a25a-1c9cf87188f0
"Mr. Shifty" proves that guns can't fight bi-locating kung-fu
Posted On: 2017-04-22 06:50

 It's impossible for any fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to not fondly recall the episode in which Joel and the Bots eviscerate the hyper-violent, tone-deaf, nihilistic love-letter to anti-continuity, "The Gunslinger."

In one of the host segments for that episode, Tom Servo explains Roger Corman's directorial and production design technique without the benefit of Occam's Razor, answering the question "how are people apparently teleporting through buildings at will?" Obviously, the simplest answer is Tom's (heretofore hidden) ability to bi-locate by quantum manipulation of one's origin across space and time. To Joel's amazement (and eventual horror), Tom Servo says one thing in one position on the show's set, zooms off camera, and appears nearly-instantly in a variety of positions demonstrating hilarious imagination and virtuosity never-before-seen in the field of Theatrical Puppetry (which, as we all know, is the greatest craft and art-form second only to book-binding, poetry, music, and video-games).

Enter "Mr. Shifty." Where? Here. Huh? OVER THERE! What? Behind you! There? To your left!

Exactly.

For those who found "Max Payne's" manipulation of time in order to dodge bullets merely the intriguing entre to an entire genre of realistic portrayals of potentially devastating capabilities in the normal, physical world, once one can gain control of even the most simple of supernatural mechanics, "Mr. Shifty" has finally arrived.

Facing a highly organized, heavily-armed, alerted-and-ready army of deeply entrenched corporate security forces, Mr. Shifty enters their gleaming sky-scraper unarmed, unarmored, wearing a ball-cap and a smile. And he makes them all die.

There are two basic premises operating here: the first is that Mr. Shifty can instantly shift (or "blink") his location at will, bypassing any obstacles or physical matter between himself and his destination. He can do this as fast as the player can order him to do so, and is limited only by the range of his "shifting," and a cool-down period once he has shifted five times without pausing.

The second premise is that Mr. Shifty is capable of incredible acts of raw physical violence using only his hands (or ordinary office objects). The amount of damage he can inflict to his opponents and the environment is profound, decisive, crisp, graphic, and wicked-pisser cool.

The end result is Jet Li/Bruce Lee teleporting point-to-point remorselessly throwing people through windows, two-punching their faces so hard they embed into walls, and causing unstoppable, incalculable havoc in a top-down vengeful love-letter to the hypothesis that a war of guns versus kung-fu would have ended so much differently if only kung-fu could bi-locate.

There are few things as satisfying as suddenly appearing in front of a conga line heavily armed shooters, waiting for them all to draw a bead on you, then vanishing as the last in line executes the entire squad. Just as excellent is the ability to use anything that isn't a firearm (cause, well, Mr. Shifty, and stuff) as a ranged weapon. Hurl a pillow with such force as it kills a beefy interrogation gorilla, pick up a coffee cup and break it across someone's face, wield metal poles and brooms with lethal efficiency. It is awesome.

Probably my favorite thing about Shifty is that the game is at its best when it's at its hardest. The mid to late quarter of the game positively sings with the screams of gunfire and chaos of your opponents. And, even though Mr. Shifty is a pretty short ride (I beat it in about 6 hours), it is deeply satisfying. My one complaint is that the very last chapter of the game gets a little too mind-bendingly difficult for my tastes, but it's nothing Shifty can't handle.

Overall, Mr. Shifty earns Best Linux Games' highest honor: worth full price any day of the week.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
The end result is Jet Li/Bruce Lee teleporting point-to-point remorselessly throwing people through windows, two-punching their faces so hard they embed into walls, and causing unstoppable, incalculable havoc in a top-down vengeful love-letter to the hypothesis that a war of guns versus kung-fu would have ended so much differently if only kung-fu could bi-locate.
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Saturday, April 22, 2017 - 6:45am
Link: view
Node UUID: d59c70fb-d110-4b07-95b8-f1b0b532f4f4
Play your old Playstation 2 Games on Linux with PCSX2
Posted On: 2017-02-25 15:21

Here are the cliff notes version to episode 222 of the Best Linux Games Podcast segment about using PCSX2 to finally play your old PS2 games on your Linux machine!

-

See some video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn8MEVFi218

-

Get PCSX2:

PPA for Ubuntu/etc. users:

https://launchpad.net/~gregory-hainaut/+archive/ubuntu/pcsx2.official.ppa

For Arch users:

http://forums.pcsx2.net/Thread-PCSX2-for-Archlinux

-

Get your bios here (just get the whole big zip of all of them):

https://www.loveroms.com/extras/ps2-bios.php

-

PCSX2 Wiki Main Page with playable games listings:

http://wiki.pcsx2.net/index.php/Main_Page

-

I highly recommend you get images of your games so you don't have to use your old scratchy discs ruined by your old PS2 machine (saves time, huge amounts of frustration, and just basically makes everything old seem new again, etc):

Use your favorite search engine (duckduckgo or google) with colon (site-search) for emuparadise (great resource), i.e.: emuparadise: ps2 god of war or emuparadise: ps2 prince of persia warrior within; the results should take you to the page on emuparadise you are looking for (has yet to fail me).

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"I highly recommend you get images of your games so you don't have to use your old scratchy discs ruined by your old PS2 machine (saves time, huge amounts of frustration, and just basically makes everything old seem new again, etc):"
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Saturday, February 25, 2017 - 3:15pm
Tags: PCSX2, Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: efbbd2b5-012f-477d-8377-8046eb899525
Super difficult, supreme balance, innovative level design and incredible play mechanics equal big win for 2D shooter fans
Posted On: 2017-02-24 20:48

Astro Port is an awesome developer.

Focusing exclusively on new 2D-shooters incorporating the best play mechanics from 1990s-era SNES shooters, the company (is it a he/she/them/it - no English speaker has lived to tell the tale of the seemingly-Japanese developer) builds fantastic games. No title is too obscure for Astro Port to re-envision: provided that it was one of the best games of the 2D shooter genres, they will design a game inspired by it.

From the rarely remembered "Cybernator" (a sidescrolling mech/platformer with upgradeable weapon system powerups) to mainstream monster-hits like "R-Type" or "Raiden," Astro Port simply makes new games based on the raw material of classics - seemingly with fantastic taste and regard for little else in their selection criteria.

Note that I said "inspired by:" while some may argue that the majority of the company's titles are play-alikes, the truth is that, for the last five years, they have published games that fall somewhere between "homage" and "the-sequel-to-a-game-that-never-became-a-franchise."

After watching Astro Port for years (since I started Best Linux Games Podcast, AP has released 6 titles with Linux compatibility via Steam), I have enjoyed most of their releases but have always felt slightly guilty - almost as if the enjoyment of the game I was playing existed only "in the shadow" of the original title.

Until now.

With their newest game, "Zangeki Warp," Astro Port steps out of these shadows, producing not only their most polished product, but (what is arguably) their most entirely original game.

And boy, is it fun.

Taking the traditional 2D-sidescrolling space shooter as a template ("R-Type" or "Gradius," but without the in-level powerups), "Zangeki Warp" adds numerous twists to the genre. Chief among them is the ability to freeze time and warp from point to point, which makes for an interesting (and super challenging) approach to level and enemy design. Usually, games of this type rely on player error when overwhelmed with incomprehensibly dense and complex bullet patterns, enemy behavior, or level design - we are talking "touch anything once and you die," gameplay here. In incorporating this warp ability, "Zangeki Warp" attacks in innovative and surprising ways; sometimes through traps in the level design, but also through boss encounters which behave in ways previously unseen in 2D space-fighters.

While the warp ability pretty much steals the show, the game's real excellence is the way in which all of the Zanfighter's other abilities work within the warp-based framework.

All abilities (shield, decoy, shot power, slash power, warp recharge, and shockwave) are ultimately absolutely essential to not getting your ass handed to you, but you only get three upgrade points to distribute between each level. This is the perfect balance, forcing players to consider what approach they are taking to the game over all as well as matching their current abilities to best meet the challenges of the next level. Do you want to be a warping badass who can move with near-impunity relying on the post-warp area-based damage of the shockwave (useful for eliminating small enemies outside of the range of your field of fire), a warping-badass who relies almost exclusively on your slash attack (which applies damage to points along the line of your warp and is catastrophically damaging in most boss encounters), or do you want to heavily rely on your shield systems and main guns?

In many games, these choices don't really matter, but in "Zangeki Warp," they are absolutely crucial. More importantly, they allow the player to really adapt the game to their own playstyle, even as they try to combat the constantly super-challenging combat-styles and defense demands of each level.

Yes. "Zangeki Warp" is punishingly difficult, and no, it makes no appologies for the pain you will experience. But, for the dedicated fan of 2D space shooters, it comes very close to being one of the most rewarding experiences of the genre in years, and is ultimately Astro Port's finest game to date. With this level of polish, sophistication, and mastery of the genre, personally, I can't wait to see what Astro Port come up with next.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"All abilities (shield, decoy, shot power, slash power, warp recharge, and shockwave) are ultimately absolutely essential to not getting your ass handed to you, but you only get three upgrade points to distribute between each level. This is the perfect balance, forcing players to consider what approach they are taking..."
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 8:45pm
Link: view
Node UUID: 30aa37e6-0f0a-4eba-bba7-ba94cdeded69
Everyone's favorite silent assassin teams up with Tux in Feral's new port
Posted On: 2017-02-19 20:08

It's difficult to oversell how big a fan I am of the Hitman series of games (specifically, "Hitman 2: Silent Assassin," "Hitman: Contracts," and "Hitman: Blood Money"). My own love affair began with the unforgivably difficult, almost entirely open-ended, inscrutable slaughter of 2002's "Silent Assassin," a game which turned off many of its players (fans and critics alike - myself included) with its tantalizing offering of untold gun-violence kept just out of reach by its mission structure.

I beat the game within months of owning it, chafing under the realistic constraints it placed on weapons usage, doing my best to just kill the fucking target and get out. It wasn't until nearly a year had gone by - and I was faced with a dead spot in the release season for the industry at large - that I fired up H2:SA again, this time merely curious as to how little of the weapons-based violence I could utilize in order to complete the first hit. This would become (for me, and for many others) the beginning of a long and delicious road to mastery of the challenges that would be thrown at us through our addiction to the "Hitman" universe. Getting hooked first by just trying to reach the target without use of weapons would yield a better ranking, as would accomplishing the mission without killing anyone other than your target, until, eventually and inexorably, you are hopelessly addicted, certain of the possibility of the nigh-impossible ranking of "Silent Assassin."

To get SA on a mission meant that you could be neither seen nor heard (including by the victim; if they flinched over their shoulder as you crept upon them with the fiber wire garrote prepped and primed and they saw you for an instant before you strangled them to death, then no SA for you); you left no evidence of your presence beyond a corpse; you subdued no one; you touched no one but your target; and escaped with the same phantasm non-nonexistence with which you arrived.

In H2:SA, this was brutally difficult, requiring endless experimentation, reconnoitering, timing considerations, learning the rules of the geography, the behavioral patterns of your target, endless (and I mean 20-30 hours spent on a single mission) amounts of tireless trial and error, careful experimentation, and practiced study.

Well, the years sure have rolled by at breakneck speed, seeing the unspeakably awesome cinematic sequences and storyline that accompanied "Hitman: Contracts," along with games that many regarded as missteps in the series (such as the XBOX360 release of "Hitman: Absolution," a game which added new narrative wrinkles to the structure, but also included a mostly bastardized level design). Ultimately, the series' last stop in recent history came in 2016, with the release of "Hitman" for XBONE, PS4, and Windows.

Well, my Linux gamers, after nearly a decade of this author having waited patiently for a legitimate release of one of his most favorite franchises in history, "Hitman" has been ported to Linux boxes everywhere.

We will save the details of the port (done by the much-beloved-by-this-podcast Feral Interactive) for a review to run either in later editions of this column or the podcast. What we will say now is that this new pseudo-reboot of the "Hitman" franchise simplifies much of the action, eliminating the need for dozens and dozens of hours of try-and-fail experimentation along the chain towards getting your target dead, and instead relies on an inter-run-conceit that allows you to follow mission tracks that - should you choose to follow them - organize and provide waypoints towards accomplishing your objective along that strategy. Of course, users are encouraged to freestyle it as well, utilizing their own skills and instincts to pull off their own perfect assassinations using their own style and sensibilities. Just the same, a little simplification goes a long way when it comes to "Hitman," and we hope it will make the game appealing to younger generations.

Finally, the game initially runs flawlessly (despite the now-familiar Feral Interactive warning for compatibility problems with our Linux distro and Graphics card), and marks yet another landmark franchise that we no longer have to shirk from when recommending friends to make the switch to Linux. So get your fiber-wire ready, friends: "Hitman" is here at last! Shhhhh.

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
" What we will say now is that this new pseudo-reboot of the "Hitman" franchise simplifies much of the action, eliminating the need for dozens and dozens of hours of try-and-fail experimentation along the chain towards getting your target dead, and instead relies on an inter-run-conceit that allows you to follow mission tracks that - should you choose to follow them - organize and provide waypoints towards accomplishing your objective along that strategy."
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Friday, February 17, 2017 - 8:00pm
Tags: Hitman, Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: 8a2e8cff-beda-4fcf-8680-a92c66bb06b1
Fuck the Super-Feetballs world championship: for athletically disinclined, "Disgaea 2 PC" will swallow you in its super time-hole
Posted On: 2017-02-05 07:12

Editor's Note:In keeping with a long-standing tradition, games critic and entertainment writer Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan always finds the most exciting stories as alternates to the Super Bowl. Last year, while writing for the now-defunct SlantNews service, he made a rebound-touchdown with his coverage of James Murray's birthday, incontestably proving that the pen is mightier than the jock-strap, and will always win - because Good is dumb.

Are you looking for a contest this weekend that isn't made of dead pig, concussed, overblown, under-worked, and outrageously overpaid?

No, I'm not talking about Donald Trump's face here, nor am I talking about the Super Bowl. I'm talking about a contest between your own mind and Time itself: first to tap out loses, and winner take-all.

If so, then let me introduce you to the recently-released "Disgaea 2 PC," a slickly updated Linux-compatible re-issue of brightly colored, anime-styled insanity chock-full of all the Japanese-flavored hardcore ultra-crazy that you can cram into your brain. If you let it get into your head, it will dominate and enslave your sanity, only to be found 20+ hours later, blind, drooling, clutching your gamepad, a deranged smile stitched across your (now thoroughly non-verbal) face. Here's the deal:

The game places you in control of Adell, a young man in desperate need of shirt sleeves and some serious, hard-core Demon-Overlord Vengeance. All of humanity has been turned into demons (cute, funny, surreal, JRPG-styled anime-demons), including his family. In order to save our species before our memories are entirely erased (thus becoming "full" demon), he embarks on a noble quest to slay the evil force that has cursed the land. Adeptly assisted by the treacherously buxom Rozlin - the Overlord's daughter, who attempts to lure our brainlessly noble hero to his doom at every turn - and a whole cast of hilariously absurd and surreal characters (all clad in ridiculously inappropriate anime-costumes), the player embarks on this great journey to meet their destiny.

While the vast majority of the actual gameplay consists of party-based, turn-based, tactical deployment of your characters in "Final Fantasy Tactics" esque strategy/action in 3.5 demi-isometric faux-3D area-arenas - the combat itself is very addictive and fun in a challenging way due to the endless variety of combination attacks that can be achieved depending on how your characters are positioned, resulting in hyperbolic and hilarious multiple attack animations that are deeply satisfying - the really insidiously addictive aspects of the game's mind-control powers come from the ways in which this combat system works with the in-game animated cut-scenes. Simple geographical geometry is rendered with gloriously jagged textures as the superbly animated and expressive pixelated sprites of the characters pantomime the story sequences, usually with hilarious dialogue delivered by voice acting that is superior even to most meticulously translated major anime films and TV series.

The fact that the characters are (conceptually) hilarious, likable, and entertaining in of themselves only sucks you further into the game's universe - whether you are a long-time fan whose intimately familiar with the game's universe or (like myself) totally uninitiated to the Disgaea series, you're going to end up laughing at (and liking) these characters.

Furthermore, the fact that this game was originally released on early 2000's-era next-gen consoles means that this new PC edition zooms you in up-close to the action, which (while unappealing for some polyester tourists) provides a fantastic and mesmerizingly beautiful master-class in sprite animation and pixel-art design. Simply put, if you are at all a fan of 2D sprites, they do not get better or more expressive or more fluid or more varied or more stylized than these.

Finally, after all of the above has sucked you into the game and made you its slave, the endless depth of inventory items, their upgradeability, and the supremely cleverly concealed infinite complexity of their use in your nuanced and sophisticated hands will erase entire days from your life in single-sitting-sized 20-hour-long servings. Once you become addicted to the game's infinite, procedurally-generated dungeon ("Item World," which uses the stats of an inventory item to create endless levels of pure, insane death and conquest) it will already be too late to stop and/or resist.

"Disgaea 2 PC" is a slightly more expensive risk than I'm usually willing to take on a blind chance, but it absolutely overflows with details and flourishes (in both gameplay, presentation, narrative, and interstitial randomness) and is positively incandescent with bright, shiny polish that make the near-infinite replayability seem like a sparkly parade of pure-gaming entertainment. So do as I do: fuck the Super Bowl and give yourself to the Super Hole. You'll be glad you did. Dood.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"...the combat itself is very addictive and fun in a challenging way due to the endless variety of combination attacks that can be achieved depending on how your characters are positioned, resulting in hyperbolic and hilarious multiple attack animations that are deeply satisfying..."
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Monday, January 30, 2017 - 7:15am
Link: view
Node UUID: 635154a0-0a73-4651-bc4f-fe272ad11a43
On this Christmas Eve (also the first night of Hanukka, possibly also a member of other as-yet-unknown religious cults and organizations) we get into the spiritual and reflective true meaning of the season by advocating wholesale commercialization and buying sweet delicious games for yourself and hoarding them so you will feel less bad about your emotional issues. JUST SHUT UP AND BUIY
Posted On: 2016-12-24 20:23

We've organized our list of don't-miss titles for the Steam Winter Sale into three categories this year: Major Titles, Rare Discounts, and Everything Else. Unlike some other (auto-generated) lists, a title has to meet all of the following criteria to make the cut: great (or extremely well-received) game, discounted enough to make a deals list, and runs on Linux. This year, we tried to limit the number of titles to feature to under 20, weighing in at a near-ideal fifteen selections. The "Major Titles" category is particularly star-studded, and is therefore weighted (descending) in order of just how badly you need to play the game/how much we loved it/how badly we have wanted it/how steeply it's discounted. So, let the sensuous Capitalist orgy of conspicuous and amoral consumption and materialism commence in all of its glorious immoral digital-bank-draining glory: you have not satisfied the Spirit of the Season until you've gifted at least 500 games and purchased double that amount for yourself! RAMMING SPEED!!!!

The Major Titles:

Mad Max

-If you listen to the podcast at all, it defies my sense of the possible that you have somehow escaped at least one prolonged love-rant to this excruciatingly and utterly fucking awesome high-octane opera of post-apocolyptically-delicious exploding greatness. AND AT THIS PRICE: fuck you, you are not my friend, are not cool, will be forced to wear a scarlet "D" (for "Dickface") for 10 years, and will be publicly shunned by all your BLGP loving peers if you don't snatch this up at $6.79

Darkest Dungeon

-One of the best games we've reviewed this year, howl at the hysterically hyperbolic totality of pessimism, then scream in agony as you come to understand the brutal accuracy of every line in its addictive, super-nuanced easy-to-learn strategy battles.

Kerbal Space Program

-Only taken around 3 years for Kerbal to finally get discounted into our price range. -66 percent off, it became ours at last for only $13.59

Special Ops: The Line

-$5.99 asking price ultimately put us over the resistance point to picking up this hugely popular, glowingly reviewed beauty pageant of moral quandaries.

Ark: Survival Evolved

A perennial fave of myself and critically featured to great prominence in several episodes of the podcast, Ark is almost always a steal regardless of price.

Civilization V

Trying to cover all of our big-game bases, for those of you who don't like exploding dinosaurs graphically being launched into space by cartoon cutesy characters to battle ancient evil in demi-sidescrolling party-based RPG action, Civ V is here to destroy all free time you may have til this time NEXT DECADE. Yours for the absurd price of $7.99

Rarely Goes On Sale:

Eldritch

-Rarely seen on sale (yet almost always at the top of suggested buys and other auto-populated steam client store page lists for us), try to find an excuse to avoid finally buying it at $1.49

Binding of Isaac

-Not sure, but I think this game (which I've waited forever to get at anything other full price) has been on sale one more time prior this year's Winter sale. Don't make the same mistake we did: snap it up while it's still half off... or be content with waiting over a year to play it.

Icewind Dale

-One of the earliest titles to ever be featured on the podcast (somewhere in the first 6 months of the show), we finally add this nearly-universally loved and acclaimed title to our menagerie for $7.99.

And the rest of the deals:

This War of Mine

-Everyone's fave war-torn civilian simulation experience! %80 off at $3.99

Dead Synchronicity

-If "This War of Mine" didn't fire up your despair and surreal anomie engines to full blast, then "Dead Synchronicity" will finish you off with it's Jungian acid trip storytelling (or so the critics have told us). %75 off at $4.99

Outlast

-Super steep sale price and great reviews not enough to ever get me to play scary game, making it one of the only titles on this list that I have not played, do not own and yet did not buy while combing the steam store. %75 off for horror fans at $4.99

Out of Reach

-Mixed reviews won't stop me from finally giving this castaway survival crafter a try. %50 off, $7.49

Overlord

-Really old, but super cheap, had to add this to the list (and my shopping cart); at $1.24, how can you resist?

Magicka 2

-Finally at a reasonable-for-try-outable $5.99

Concluding, Prayerful, Deeply Spiritual Meditation and Prayer For All to Leave This List In Peace and Feeling Closer to Their Divine Creator:

NOW THAT YOU KNOW, get out there and make Satan proud and buy!

IF THERE ISN'T AT LEAST ONE TITLE ON THIS LIST that you know (deep in your selfish, anthracite, tiny, bleak little obsidian center of your heart) that YOU SHOULD BE BUYING AND GIFTING AND THEN BUYING MORE OF RIGHT NOW, I challenge you to let me know via twitter: @Vegaswriter. FOR THE REST OF YOU: cheers, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Enjoy-Your-Holiday-Period, etc., but most of all: have a happy and safe holiday season (by locking your kids in the garage with the car running, ensuring you can buy more games without being interrupted)... YOURS!!! ALL YOURS! FINALLY!!!

Season's Greetings from your friends at BLGP!

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
... have a happy and safe holiday season (by locking your kids in the garage with the car running, ensuring you can buy more games without being interrupted)... YOURS!!! ALL YOURS! FINALLY!!!"
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Saturday, December 24, 2016 - 7:15pm
Tags: Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: 552b7db1-cd88-4763-aaae-c8274139c2a6
For gamers who know they are going to be incapable of resisting buying the game and DLCs, 48 hour flash sale is your chance to get the game at steep discount - without compromising your morals or ethics in real-life! Read on for details....
Posted On: 2016-12-20 20:52

So, as outlined in this week's episode of the podcast, the latest installment of the "Deus Ex" universe could have been a fantastic game, truly a historic and important title - if only its publisher hadn't decided to intentionally butcher the finished work, parcelling out portions of the complete game into a dishonestly named, unfairly expensive, and essentially unethical abomination of a "season pass DLC," and further ruined by only being able to experience the game as it was originally designed by in game microtransactions we estimated to cost an additional $50-$60, bringing the total cost for the game (as originally designed to be released as the full game) to an astonishingly unfair $160ish dollars. 

This decision - to lie to their consumers, destroy an otherwise magnificent game in the name of short-sighted bold-faced rapist-caliber greed, market these components in super shady ways, and essentially kill their own fantastic and othberwise wonderful title for the worst reasons and in the worst ways, etc. - not only made it impossible for us to recommend the game from a critical and design perspective (especially if you actually take into account the game from a cost-benefit analysis point of view), but most importantly, branded the entire creation as an abomination whose creators shouldn't just be punished by the silence of consumer sales, but also led us to make the plea for gamers to not buy the title on the grounds of personal morality: buying this game and its associated DLC isn't just a vote for practices that are bad for games and the industry and the player, but is actually supporting a type of evil that shouldn't just be troubling on a moral level, but should be anethema to any person's sense of ethics with any kind of moral compass.

Well, that all changed hours after we released our episode decrying these horrible practices when Square Enix put the game up for midweek madness sale on the Steam store, dropping the asking price for "Deus Ex: Mankind Divided" (which is the "full game" minus the "rest of the full game" they ripped out and are sold seperately) from $59.99 to $19.97. This sale price (as of the time of this writing) will be available for the next 36 hours. 

This truly brutal bargain markdown doesn't just come close to negating the most punishing aspect of the game's real price tag, making it more affordable for gamers to actually buy, but makes buying the game during this sale a fantastic way of being able to play the title while simultaneously punishing Square Enix for thier idiocy: "Deus Ex: Mankind Divided" is a world-class triple-A title whose development budget came in around the $97 million USD mark, spurring the insanely greedy butchery and mark up and parcelling of the game into seperate revenue streams at its release. This sale comes just months after the game's street date (August 23, 2016), meaning that gamers who buy the game at this price are essentially getting the title for free (at least, according to the twisted logic of Square Enix's distorted pricing model - this sale utterly destroys everything the ruined the game to charge extra for), meaning that - for the morally troubled gamers out there who knew buying the title is the wrong thing to do but were also self-aware enough to know that they would ultimately lack the strength to resist eventually buying it - now is an opportunity to get the title in a way that won't make you feel like a fucking Nazi collaborator every time you boot it up, AND also marginally makes it less insanely expensive to afford, AND truly actually HURTS Square Enix.

This game will still require the additional purchases of the "Season Pass DLC" and or the outlay of further investment in in game microtransactions to fully enjoy the game as it was originally meant to be experienced, none of which are discounted at all, but if you want to be able to both play the game and still be able to look yourself in the eye, this is absolutey your chance to do so, and is one that (by virtue of actually injuring Square Enix) BLGP not only endorses this as being non-reprehensible, but actively encourages as many gamers to take advantage of this sale as possible. I'll be buying and gifting several copies of the game later tonight just to put my fist into the facial rectum of Square Enix for their war-crimes; I suggest you do the same. 

Happy Holidays!

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"This sale comes just months after the game's street date (August 23, 2016), meaning that gamers who buy the game at this price are essentially getting the title for free..."
gamereleasedate:
Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - 8:15pm
Link: view
Node UUID: 45560f59-7185-415d-b0f6-fbd8c8c9b0ec
The new "Natural Disasters" DLC for "Cities Skylines" provides limited apocolyptic BANG for the cataclysmically starved BUCK of fans
Posted On: 2016-12-02 01:09

Any fan of "Cities Skylines" will tell you that the game's central qualities lie in the ways in which makes super complicated aspects of civil engineering and civic planning seem (on the surface) impossibly simple. In almost every way, "Cities Skylines" makes it incredibly easy, intuitive, and graphically enjoyable to design, build, and manage large-scale communities and their suburbs: from ultra-fine-grain control of the public transportation systems (busses, light rail, etc.), to simple aspects of residential zoning and municipal recreation areas, the game makes it seem impossibly easy to point and click your merry way through what is ultimately an incredibly nuanced, unbelievably well-designed simulation of metropolitan complexity.
For gamers of a certain age (to read: "wicked fucking pathetically old"), the comparison between "Cities Skylines" and the original "Sim City," is impossible to avoid. Sure, SC is from a now-seemingly Neolithic era of computing technology, but that handicap is offset by the fact that gamers have now spent over 20 years worth of hard-earned (or begged for from parents) money buying the endlessly devolving spin-offs and sequels in the "Sim" franchise each title subtly dancing around the painful fact that - in terms of actual simulations of anything, and especially in regards to simulations of cities - it has had little to offer anyone since Windows 95 was still king of the OS jungle.
"Cities Skylines" has (since its inception) absolutely annihilated the "Sim" universe in basically every single way: CS is easier to control, easier to plan, more complex and realistic in its execution, more nuanced in the types of challenges and situations it creates, and uses a better overall simulation model for its conceptual underpinnings of what makes a city actually run. Oh, and (of course) visually, there is no comparison between the two titles as CS is in a different fucking universe of 3D wizardry (ever see a kid in a wheelchair get hit by a taxi cab)...
However, there has been one single category in which we, the decrepit gamers of the universe, have long been forced to grudgingly secede to "Sim City" in terms of true superiority: cataclysmic natural disasters.
I am sure that I speak for all gamers everywhere on the planet when I say that I have spent many, many hours hopelessly searching for a "Spawn Godzilla" button within the user interface of Skylines, only to find myself disappointed time and again; I stare blankly at the gorgeous and expansive vistas of my beautiful mega-tropo-sprawl-suburban-opolis as the burgeoning traffic from the evening commute dissipates into the beautifully cosmic pinprick illuminations of skyscrapers blinking in and out to the secret music of 3 AM, somehow sensing a painful dread growing within me as the garish dawn creeps closer, encroaching patiently on a perfectly beautiful, anal-retentive monstrosity of a fantastic city... A city as yet unmarred by the horrific scars of total apocalyptic annihilation - the one (AND ONLY) thing my creation now needs.
Well, earlier this week, gamers got to experience full-double-barrel-to-your-face flavored disappointment as Colossal Order (Skyline's developers) released "Cities Skylines: Natural Disasters," a downloadable content pack (Steam Store priced at $14.99) which succeeds only in devastating the long-simmering destructive dreams and desires of loyal fans of CS. Before we talk about what's wrong with the DLC, let's talk about what went right:
The natural disasters that "Natural Disasters" allows you to spawn affect your city in very realistic ways. This is particularly noticeable in terms of traffic congestion on the freeways, the state of your power grid, and the general breakdown of civil order in terms of your fire departments, police, and other basic services.
That's pretty much the extent of the good stuff. The bad stuff is... a much longer list.
First of all, forgetting that this DLC ostensibly provides functionality that any fan of CS with half a brain has longed for since first purchasing the game in its original release several years ago, it fails to even actually give players the powers it purports to impart, and fails to do so at the cost of $14.99.
Perhaps I am in the minority when I say that, when I pay for a DLC that adds gameplay elements that (basically) have been noticeably absent from a title from the date of its release, I expect to be able to do whatever the hell I want once those abilities are finally granted to me.
To whit: I want sliders and scales and other tweaks for the magnitude, radius, and types of damage caused by every type of disaster. I want to be able to spawn seventeen of them immediately (if I so choose) in my city. I want to bring giant monsters from Monster Island to my humble municipality and see them wreak a mile-wide disaster trail of total destruction whose path can only be determined by their reptilian, irradiated, football-sized brains. Failing that, I expect to be able to (at the very least) spawn whatever type of disaster I choose as many efffing times as I decide to spawn it: no cool-down, no intervention on the game's behalf... I SPENT YEARS BUILDING THIS CITY, and have now spent FIFTEEN BUCKS for the right TO SEE IT BURN TO THE FUCKING GROUND.
Alas, these earnest and simple prayers are discounted entirely by SCND, almost insultingly so:
There are cool-downs for most types of disasters. There is no configurability in terms of the damage and magnitude of the disaster. There is no way to blow up your entire city in any quick, satisfying, or efficacious manner. The best way to really cause the game's equivalent of "total devastation" (which is a simply and milquetoast and mediocre and utterly dissatisfying and essentially infuriating substitute on par with chalk instead of cheese) is to try to spawn as many meteor strikes as you can on your major transit hubs and freeway interchanges... Yes. I know. Jesus wept for there was nowhere near as much total leveling and burning and horrific destruction of the city as was promised for $14.99, and what little there is, is essentially school-marmed into being "reasonable" levels of destruction.
Finally - and in all fairness - it should be noted that the DLC does add many ways in which to trigger disaster scenarios (that play out with predictably bland, non-apocalyptic implications, somewhat similar to fire drills or "Duck and Cover" exercises), and that the disasters themselves (while not cosmetically impressive in any way) do force mayors to approach their possible occurrences in realistically pragmatic ways... which is French for saying "totally boring and absolutely unfun and hundred percent not worth $14.99."
We will not even discuss the BLATANT lack of gigantic, brainless, super-powered, skyscraper-scale fighting lizards within the DLC: they are entirely absent.
It's really kind of sad to see the best available, most beautiful, hitherto-dynamic, completely addictive, super-challenging, and incredibly fun game in the city simulation game devolve into an endless series of overpriced, underpowered, intentionally neutered DLC's seemingly designed to rape the game's biggest fans of whatever money can be strip-mined from them, while delivering as little as possible in terms of real functionality - possibly to provide it in the form of yet another over-priced DLC. My advice is this: buy "Cities Skylines." Avoid (like biblical catastrophe) the "Natural Disasters" DLC. If these features had been offered for free to everyone who already owned the game, my bet is that even they would be disappointed.

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
We will not even discuss the BLATANT lack of gigantic, brainless, super-powered, skyscraper-scale fighting lizards within the DLC: they are entirely absent.
gamereleasedate:
Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 1:00am
Link: view
Node UUID: bcb9ce47-5fe0-4475-8bf9-26df6689efa2
You can't avoid flipping out between these two awesome ninja titles available for Linux
Posted On: 2016-11-28 15:46

This week, we bring you two absolutely superior sidescrolling ninja experiences ready, waiting, and available to be injected into your face using your Linux box. This has left the world with one chilling challenge: which is the game that they should be playing? Here, now, we give you the answers.

The Reigning Champion: "Mark of the Ninja"

Apart from being one of the greatest ninja games of all-time on any platform or system, "Mark of the Ninja" is also notable for being one of the first (and best) attempts at creating a modern sidescrolling platformer focused around stealth-based gameplay. Only two games in the history of videogames jump out of my memory (to cut my face off with a katana) that even tried to implement 2D level design with "sneaking mission" play concepts: "Elevator Action" (and several progeny from the arcade era of the 1980's) and "Bonanza Bros" (a 2 player heist game for the Sega Genesis).

While the overall strategic concept behind MotN is stealth-based, its tactics (very much like its enemies) are executed by the player on the tactical level, and it is here where the game delivers a ninja-based experience unlike any other, rivalling even the awesomeness of the original "Tenchu Stealth Assassins" for the PS1. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTL4Nx_FJc4)

(Our Video Review of Mark of the Ninja: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGiGEs5fqpk)

To that end, MotN presents the user with a stunning variety of tools and techniques both familiar to the mythos of the ninja (ability to climb walls and ceilings, use grappling hooks, throw smoke bombs to distract and disorient, etc.), as well as several that are the products of the developer's imagination (ravenous insects for corpse disposal, for example). These combine with allowing the player to selectively stop time in the middle of the action to select the appropriate tool or technique, ultimately creating the authentic ninja-badass experience: there's nothing like taking all the dynamic factors of a complex opposition into account while effortlessly flying through the shadows of a heavily populated room, or making the precise calculation for exactly where you need to place a smoke bomb in order to escape detection faster than a guard's aim (and bullets) can hit you.

It's the detailed combination of these gameplay elements that ultimately grant the player nearly absolute free will as they attempt to complete each mission's objective, acting as a shadow insurgent against a heavily armed paramilitary private security firm, sweeping silently through the skyscraper noir of the modern 21st Century world. MotN doesn't just present you with a "choice," it is made of many hundreds of choices, and the mastery of many techniques and tools, which - just like the decision to use or not use them - open and close many paths to sweet, sweet, delicious, ninja carnage.

Finally, the total excellence of the game's design and execution makes it an absolutely timeless title, just as fun today as it was when first released several years ago - and likely as it will remain until games themselves are no longer a relevant artistic or entertainment medium.

Return To The Gaiden:

I'm not entirely sure that anyone has ever actually determined what the fuck the "Gaiden" part of "Ninja Gaiden" (a generationally revered ninja platformer from the early days of the arcade and console gaming, circa the NES), but our newest contender for Linux-based ninja action cries out desperately for the word to be placed in its title. Basically the opposite of MotN, "Shadow Blade: Reload" offers players the frenetic, lightening-fast, cartoony (but with dashes of realistic violence) action that once was the essential kernel of the sidescrolling ninja genre. In SBR, gamers will find a backflipping universe of air-dashing, shuriken-throwing, no-fall-damage, wall-climbing, deathly acrobatics, designed exclusively to keep them going forward, killing faster, and scoring higher.

While MotN is a complex and exquisite cup of perfectly brewed coffee or espresso, SBR is an insane sugar rush from shotgunning 4 NoDoz and 15 Pixie Sticks with a Jolt Cola chaser.

It's also worth noting that, while gamers on other platforms and operating systems may have experienced the wonders of "Shadow Blade: Reload" last year, the game has only recently been ported to Linux. More importantly, the game-breaking bugs that initially accompanied the port have been defeated (at least, in our tests), finally letting Tux-based users experience its liquid-smooth platforming slice-and-dice glory.

Final Verdict:

It all comes down to the "Gaiden Factor:" if you want a ninja game that harkens back to (yet improves upon) your memories of arcade platforming ninjitsu action, then "Shadow Blade: Reload" is absolutely the title for you. If, alternatively, you have spent years longing for a game that brings all of the exciting possibilities of taking on the role of a true master of the shadow path, then "Mark of the Ninja" is going to explode your brain with its multiplicity of boners. Either way, it's basically impossible to go wrong with either title's stylish sublimation of ninja action.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"Dark smoke fills the scene and pump up music slowly gets louder.  The audience sees a ninja and his girlfriend eating at a super expensive restaurant.  The girlfriend is so hot that steam is coming out of her mouth or hair.  Some old idiot is sitting by the couple.  The idiot is giving the girlfriend "the eye" and popping like 16 boners.  But the ninja sees the boners and the music really pumps up.  The audience knows this guy is dead meat for sure.  But out of nowhere, the old idiot pulls off his jacket to show that he is a pirate with lasers and everything.  The ninja is like yeah right who cares and then pops the biggest boner ever, bigger than the biggest blackest boner alive.  The ninja's boner smashes the entire restaurant.  Every single one of the pirate's boners explodes while making a whistling sound.  The ninja looks back at his girlfriend.  She smiles and they pork. " - excerpted from "The Ultimate Battle" from Robert Hamburger's "Real Guide To Ultimate Power" www.realultimatepower.net
gamereleasedate:
Monday, November 28, 2016 - 3:45pm
Link: view
Node UUID: 4a576e9f-4e53-4036-a5cb-f2b26d0f3a1e
After three years of being driven crazy, Steam makes major token gesture; resulting in fury, rage, chaos, joy, hope, and insanity
Posted On: 2016-11-22 01:21

As if in a direct attempt to destroy our minds with some kind of deranged psychological experiment designed to stress test our pathetic human mind's capacity to endure deprivation, hope, and despair before finally succumbing to complete, raving madness, the Steam Store has finally provided the long-suffering Linux-based users with the forbidden power they have longed and hoped for for centuries.

Like all arcane powers which should be witheld from the confusion and abuse of mortals (to keep them safe from horrific consequences of Divine Ultra-Power disasters caused by we, the mere walking piles of dust who stare skyward and hope for glimpses of Their Glory), the Steam Store has done its best over the last two years to prevent us from this ultimate feature.

The First Era of Divine Disfavor fell like a cloak of cataclysmic darkness, striking we, the Followers of the Penguin, at the throat like a bolt of lightening, when the Steam Store cast us into chaos and despair by removing the holy and beloved icon from the supported OS section of all their titles. Yes, they replaced the benevolently patient, inscruitably loveable, slightly cross-eyed Tux icon with an utterly incomprehensible (and, for a long time, truly unparseable) deranged abomination gangster-chain medallion of text which confusingly read "SteamPlay" adjacent to the Steam gear icon.

For months, this terrifying rebuke from above was, in fact, almost totally ambiguous: many times, this symbol referred to games that did not currently (nor ever had any plans) of functioning on Linux. It was a world of random, terrible, confusing chaos, filled with great violence, and terrific darkness, as we struggled through the endless lists of titles, one at a time, interpreting the (frequently equally ambiguous and confusing and misleading and very frequently totally incorrect) game's complete store page... holy runes, confusing, and filled only with curses for us and our kind.

Thus, The Best Linux Games Podcast was forced into existence; spawned directly from the bile-filled heart of this insane chaos, it's infant screams began to serve as a beacon for the faithful. This tiny beacon continued through The Second Era of Divine Chaos, as the Store's ability to accurately generate a list of games which did not hate us vascilated wildly in its reliability, accuracy, and utterly hatefel deceit of false-positives.

Our modest monks and priests prayed till their voices were ragged from the years of insane silence from above to end this violence against the Tux People, begging through deranged hopelessness for the unthinkably complex and Sampo-like wonderfulness of a fucking checkbox (SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE) that would communicate our wishes to view only the titles that TRULY ran on Linux.

A crazy and blasphemous desire, indeed! Such a complicated interface would take a billion years to be carved by ALL THE GODS of ALL TIME (and they were busy bowling and pissing and trying to find their ways out of mazes and other things). "A CHECKBOX?! INDICATING YOU ONLY WISH TO SEE GAMES FOR ONE OPERATING SYSTEM?!!" Thunder. Lightening. Volcanoes. Plagues. And most of all, the GREAT SILENCE of many more months as the gods checked their voicemail and starched their tuxedo collars. UNTIL NOW.

Yes, my friends: the Steam Store has at last unveiled their greatest and most impossible achievement ever: a checkbox that allows you to express your preference to see titles that are ACTUALLY AVAILABLE ON YOUR OS. Many virgins were sacrificed, and many goats were used, and shameful drunk texting occured in great abundance. It was not until the bleary, hungover, shame-defiled, goat/virgin littered morning of judgement that the Demonic Vision of the GEAR OF PAIN APPEARED.

Thus, it spaketh:

Foul unworthy defilers of goats and wasters of perfectly good virgins (to whit: Linux Users): we gave you this checkbox you have longed for so despairingly in your miserable despairing darkness. But we have done so ONLY TO SHOW YOU MORE PAIN (which we find amusing, because, frankly, we are fucked up monsters, and find your prolonged agony and insane goat-raping absolutely HILARIOUS): the power of your Fabled Checkbox is limited exclusively to the hopeless wasteland of YOUR "Discovery Queue." Enjoy learning to use one of the WORST AND LEAST USEFUL WAYS TO PICK YOUR GAMES, for now, even though you are able to select only one operating system to populate the pool of available titles, WE CONTROL (more so than ever) the titles you can actually choose from! From the grains of the Sahara, you have chosen your certain 23 percent of sand... NOW AGONIZE (bwa. ha. ha. ha...) YES, AGONIZE AS *WE* determine which 12 grains will be revealed to you, ONE TWEAZER AT A TIME... OF YOUR OWN DESIGN!

And verily, many monkeys dressed in the costumes of human clowns descended upon the faithful, terrorizing the children with their awful arms (which ended in hooks, terrifying, hooks, on which the children found... a hook!). The virgins thus reanimated (and absolutely disinterested in the Faithful - having been converted into undead harpies by the evil Steam Monkeys), the undead donkeys began ravenous rape assaults on, well... basically anyone they could catch. And, at the height of the twisted, insane, satanic, horrifying, O'Henry-esque, "hahaha FUCK YOU MORTALS," kind of demi-hogarthian , hook-monkey undead rape-goat/donkey religious virgin-harpie Civil War portrait, the stage split in two, mirrored from above, as the Busbee Berkely chorus girls of mechanized doom descended from the staircases flown in from the background, and, as the fireworks began going off (the three seperate marching bands screaming "The Stars And Stripes Forever," some on bagpipes, as each musician fired their pistols into the opposing band), and the gigantic mechanized robots commenced to grapple on the distant horizon weilding pomade and switchblades (parelling the action in the very foreground, where Edison, Tesla, Oppenheimer, and Wayne Newton careened at each other, mounted on unicycles, jousting towards each other weilding chainsaws and adult rubber novelties in a hellishly inept attempt at geek-born carnage-fail)... well, it was at THAT VERY MOMENT that this column broke the insanity meter, leaving it's readers only with the chilling warning that it would return next week.  

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
FINAL SCORE: Goats: 27, Virgins: 17, Edison with the Shishkebab, Monkey Bits and Hooks demoted to serve as DMV guest-hospitality specialists, Linux Users tying the match in the third half of the 17th quarter, with a net loss of zero turff. PLAY TO CONTINUE... scheduled for "every day until PLEASE GOD LET IT STOP" time TBA, check local listings. This News of Sport brought to you by your friends at Gentry's Gin.
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 1:15am
Tags: News
Link: view
Node UUID: 2768a292-a3ef-4c6b-9924-50e4d9484eab
Let us help soothe post-election bewilderment with a comforting balm of banality, bone-breaking, and fantasy... It's what we're here for!
Posted On: 2016-11-12 07:06

We're strictly-post-partisan here at the Best Linux Games Podcast, but can't help but aknowledge the tangy twinge of agonizing post-partisan-depression that has hit us like a truck now that the people have spoken. To that end, we present three things that may help fellow sufferers as they wander, bewildered through a vastly new and incredibly alien political landscape.

-That New Steam Interface

Although BLGP has had a checkered history in terms of its approval of the Steam Client's Interface (especially in the ways which it sorts and displays Linux-enabled titles), this most recent iteration of the content delivery portal offers several pleasing innovations that have been long-needed.

Most notably, now, when mouse-hovering over an item in the top ten list you are viewing, a dynamic side bar appears, spewing a greatly expanded and detailed summation of the game's details. NOT! No, instead of this much-needed functionality, it presents instead a superficial series of screenshots from the game itself. While any improvement in this area is a welcomed one - and while more screenshots ultimately help determine whether or not we purchase a game - it would have been much nicer had they included the product's teaser copy from the manufacturer. Just the same, for us at BLGP, this new functionality does help drastically to de-confuse certain titles with others, and should allow casual gamers to get a flick's-eye-view of new available titles within the client. Unfortunately, the same functionality doesn't seem to extend to search result lists derived from specific user-selected criteria, but we can only hope that this is a first step to an even better, more user-friendly Steam.

-People-Spray/Peopleworks:

For those requiring more anger-management oriented digital therapy, may we suggest the melee combat system in "Mad Max," which provides (even 150 hours in) a near-endlessly astonishing variety of ways in which to recombine people into painful piles of broken parts. We've sent endless Twitter messages to friends describing the process that Max applies to his enemies, some of the notable tag lines from which include "people are crunchy," and "so many parts in wrong places."

For those whose rage is truly only satiable by the horror made into illuminated manuscripts of digital violence, one can never go wrong by using a Thunderstick to create (what we quaintly refer to as) "people-spray," or "peopleworks," the process by which an ostensibly whole human being is transmuted into an exploded, aerosolized-spray of pure abstract bloodthirsty-child-joy. To accomplish this fourth-of-July feat, proper placement of the thunderstick is essential: plant several feet in front of the prospective victim, such that the splash damage reduces them to a Jackson-Pollack of delightful shrapnel-shredded delight. Trust us: you'll be glad you did!

-Tyranny:

For those with a terrible sense of brooding foreboding of "BIG DARKNESS" soon to come, may we suggest the gentle healing salve offered by the in-depth RPG action of "Tyranny," a game which places you squarely in the center of the winning team. Fifteen minutes of this "Baldur's Gate"-esque total-story-immersion festival of magical darkness, war, bloodshed, and story left us dizzy with its relentless onslaught of detailed myth, magic, legend, and nonsense to the point that our ability to swallow was drastically improved. If you wish to be overwhelmed by narrative, dialogue decisions, complex character development, and other sundry hallmarks of games like "Pillars of Eternity," we feel that it may be entirely possible to escape the totality of the next four years within the game - stay tuned for a full review.

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"...one can never go wrong by using a Thunderstick to create (what we quaintly refer to as) "people-spray," or "peopleworks," the process by which an ostensibly whole human being is transmuted into an exploded, aerosolized-spray of pure abstract bloodthirsty-child-joy."
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 7:00am
Tags: Tyranny, Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: f0024bea-867d-43ec-9a9e-fc20d14b9143
The quiet masterwork that is "Duskers" might not be much to look at, but is guaranteed to punch-face your terror-parts till you ghasp-scream in adrenal extacy
Posted On: 2016-10-30 19:24

Editorial disclaimer: let's get one thing out of the way: as mentioned numerous times on the podcast, I am the world's greatest player of "Duskers." Those wishing to challenge me for this title are more than welcome to message me so that we can set the time and date of their educations as to how woefully inept they are at the game. And no, I am not kidding. I am the greatest, and am taking all challengers. Message "Skookiesprite" on Steam, or hit me up on twitter @Vegaswriter and I'll show you what it's like to be outclassed in every single way in "Duskers."

Also: to hear my actual review of the game, please listen to episode 85 of the podcast.

I fell in love with the magical horror vortex that is "Duskers" from the very first day it finally left Early Access on Steam in May of 2016 and have basically been entranced by it ever since. Each moment of the game is an absolute test of the player's mental acuity, tenacity, methodology, tactics, strategy, cunning, real-time free-form problem-solving, and (second only to discipline) their ability to manage their own raw, visceral, crazed terror when faced with absolutely horrible situations whose outcomes will be disastrous.

You see, the great genius of "Duskers" (unlike any other "horror" game I can think of, and pretty much unique to its design across the broad panopoly of all games throughout history) is the way in which the game allows the player to bring the full breadth and depth of their wits to bear against the sinisterly silent and dreadfully patient surface of its gameplay.

"Duskers" will not assault you with demon clowns exploding from the closet to rape your sanity (and person) with rusty butcher knives; Duskers will not consume you with a symphony of hellish, tortured screams designed to pressure-point shock and jolt you with cheap and manipulative jack-in-the-box roller-coaster idiocy. Nor will it handicap or hinder you with arbitrarily slow movement speeds, insultingly scripted action sequences and camera angles in which it shoves some lazy designer's pro-forma concepts of terror down your throat while it cooly cashes its paycheck and punches out to get drunk and try to forget the money it stole from you in exchange for yet another trite, vapid, tepid, insulting "survival horror" game.

No. Duskers uses none of these constructs or tricks to generate its white-nuckled terror. Instead, Duskers provides you with a premise, a few rules, some easy-to-learn (yet infinitely robust and complex in their combinations) commands and actions, and then, like the abyssal grin of some terribly quiet cosmic ticket-taker for a freak show so hellish that the silence from the inner folds of its tent speak for itself... it's arms open before you: the void, studded and resplendent with its dark quasars and quagmires of absolutely patient, silent, yet completely crushing horror.

This approach, of course, means that your initial hour in Duskers won't be at all scary; as you wander the derelict spacecraft and stations, exploring them like the clueless neophyte you are, directing your drones using the delicious and horrifyingly distopian elloquence of the command-line interface that you will eventually come to master, you will simply perish pointlessly, too new to the game to even know or care about danger.

Then, once you understand a little bit about the game - once you have something to lose, something you care about and can comprehend - that's when the deep and terrible silence of the game's inscruitable patience really begins; it wears at you in every thin spot of your mind, slowly and insidiously working its evil magic and terrible spells, spinning its corner-room cobwebs while it watches you crab-crawl through its perfect, procedural machinery. Each door, each decision, each moment WITHOUT decision, it waits.

"For what?" I hear you ask.

For your first mistake.

Ya see... when things go wrong in Duskers, they go very, very wrong; catastrophically and horrendously wrong. And they do so at such a vertiginously horrifying rate of speed as to intoxicate the savy player with its incalculably addictive sense of car-accident ambush slow-motion. As your fingers FLY, deftly issuing series of complex commands whose syntax you effortlessly assemble in the moment, working as fast to create, type, and execute them as your own speed of thought and comprehension can allow, it's in these moments you will become addicted to this amazing edge of truth or consequences catastrophe; the magic of the game is this razor sharp mitigation of disaster, the keyboard keys hammering like hacker poetry with such speed that, to really appreciate the sheer number of things you are doing and at such expert-speed, one really needs to see a video of their own play to appreciate it.

Once you can see it, and understand what's happening, and what you were trying to save, undo, redo, escape, destroy, sacrifice, accomplish, only then will you realize the truly shocking and awful terror within Duskers: not only does it feel like you are totally there in real life, being "there" - in the game's universe, controlling the drones in your effort to discover what the fuck has happened - is a situation so claustrophobically dire, with consequences for your actions that happen with such cataclysmic speed and intractible violence, that your one thought is (constantly): holy fuck I am SO FUCKING STUPID... I... I need to get better; faster; smarter; smarter damnit...

And by then, I'm sorry to say it friend, but you are fucked... because Duskers is inside you now, and you will forever be learning, adapting, expecting, planning for, avoiding, preparing, mitigating, and understanding - ever deeper levels of - the deadly logic behind its silent-bulkhead emptiness as it consumes you with static, IR shadowed demi-CRT monitors and endless, twisting terrors. Then, it will leave you cold as dead space itself, and as broad and merciless as an empty room, your own voice still soundlessly screaming, "OH NO! NO NO NO NOT LIKE THIS, DAMNIT..."

And you will learn.

-Happy Stall-O-Ween!

SPOILER ALERT: do not read further if you don't wish to know of an awesome secret in the game...

...

For real (and somewhat more visceral, utterly terrifying) scares: find and capture the ghost and see what it does. For me, this unbelievable-ness occured after a 12 plus hour long session in the game, and I only discovered what "it" does around 3 AM. Scare the pants off you, it will!

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
"...once you understand a little bit about the game - once you have something to lose, something you care about and can comprehend - that's when the deep and terrible silence of the game's inscruitable patience really begins..."
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 7:15pm
Tags: Duskers, Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: 290770a0-75cc-4508-9c42-3bdf7cd63d70
The head-on collision between "Mad Max" and Linux leaves us dizzy with car-to-strophic ninja boners
Posted On: 2016-10-21 21:37

Chumbucket and I have a very special relationship.

While rough-riding (some would say bareback and armorless) through a terrible, sun-annihilating, red-velvet sandstorm, Chumbucket stirs, alighting from his position in back of my car, babble-howling some incomprehinsible gibberish about red devils, pointing somewhere towards our right. He jumps up and down, hanging onto the rollbars like some kind of barely-human ancestral ape, howling from the exposed flatbed of our Magnum Opus - Chum's special name for our car.

I ignore him, trying to negotiate the hazardous terrain (rocks, concrete chunks, outcroppings of the rusted carcasses of other travelers who succumbed long ago), all the while fearing a sudden descent into nowhere, fast; hitting a cliff precipice and flying face-first into oblivion isn't on my to-do list for today.

My eyes are straining through the storm, looking for any sign of a landmark; we are well off the mini-map's dirt-track trade routes. I catch a gmiplse of (what I think is) a firelight on the impenetrable near-middle-distance horizonless visibility field of the storm. Breaking Jack Burton's biggest rule ("never drive faster than you can see"), I gun it towards "there," hoping "it" still exists by the time arrive.

Really, what other choice did I have?

These musings were nocked from my mind as the first buggy hit us: exploding from the vast nowhere static-sea of the storm, its spiked bumpers t-boned into our driver's side, sending us pinwheeling across the soft, ocean-bed sand.

Spinning the wheel, now trying to counter, as well as recover our course, I gunned the nitrous system, the Opus having spun 300-and-change degrees sideways, I roared past the driver's-side of the buggy and back into the storm... only to suddenly collide - head-on - with the buggy's wingman. There was a momentary ghasp of a silent "oh-shit" before the "BAM:" the buggy transformed into an exploding wreck of a twisted fireball which seemed to vault over my front bumper, shattering and clawing and screaming into hundreds of bits of wreckage gibs, lost instantly in the swirling sandstorm.

Clearly, I should have listened to Chumbucket to begin with, but the battle upon us now - the "ROAD WAR" of song and story - I gunned the engine and used the last of the nitrous in the pathetic hope I could get more... more speed... more distance... more velocity... more damage... more "nothing" put between me and the hellish ambush unfolding around us.

Two more bare-metal buggies burst suddenly into the clear-blue and blaring desert vista that exploded before me as we out-ran the outer-edge of the sandstorm. The landscape was jaw-dropping: Formerly an ocean-bed, now a sea of a different kind: of waste, privation, starvation, depravity, thirst, and incsolable desolation, its hideous, savage, and infinitely patient beauty still dazzled me, even as the two speedsters criss-crossed the dunes before me, spewing dust like high-velocity fireflies of death.

"Fuck this, you motherfuckers," I shouted.

As Chumbucket readied the harpoon, I jockeyed into position between the two of them, slow-mo-ing us perfectly for the single second necessary for Chum to take his shot.

What follows happened in under two seconds:

CLANG! The harpoon sailed through the empty rear-window and through the front seat, neatly impaling the driver through the chest in the process. The harpoon retracted just as swiftly as it had arrived, ripping the (now hopefully dead) man out of the back of the vehicle, just as the other buggy swerved directly in front of me, following a trajectory that quickly made the vehicle cross the cable, casually crushing the corpse caught on the end of it. Meanwhile, the buggy we had harpooned had already spun out of control, reeling sideways, the front grill turning with balletically-timed perfection into the front-end of his friend's car, causing both to explode instantly. It was hundred percent poetic-justice-carnage: As their tires blew out from wheel-wells, and their gastanks burst into glorious-clouds of smokey-fireballs of death and destruction, I swear - to this day - I could hear Mozart's Requiem playing in the background, before realizing that it was actually the sound of my own voice screaming in ragged exaltation, "HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?! HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?!"

I sped (as always) forwards, on my way. This is what I do... some would say that it's even who I am: I am Mad Max.

The game, of course, is "Mad Max," another fantastic Linux port of another triple-a E-FUCKING-TICKET-game from Feral Interactive. Although the game launches (first-time) with warnings about incompatabilities with your distro (unless its Ubuntu 16), and follows them with subsequent warnings about potential graphics card problems (unless - and I shit you not - you're running an Nvidia 660), I chose to ignore them both and see if it would run (Mint 18, GTX 970) and I've been going ever since. My advice? Do likewise - worst case scenario, you can simply return the game to Steam if you run into any unexpected problems.

The bottom line is simple: Max's blending of graphical glory, modern game design concepts (think "Shadows of Mordor" meets "Tomb Raider" meets car combat), deeply immersive post-poppy-clipse environs, and free-roaming sandbox heroic carnage of the first order is not to be missed. Three cheers, once again, to Feral Interactive, for another fantastic Linux port of another fantastic first-class title.

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
I gunned the engine and used the last of the nitrous in the pathetic hope I could get more... more speed... more distance... more velocity... more damage... more "nothing" put between me and the hellish ambush unfolding around us.
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 9:30pm
Tags: Mad Max, Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: c4f3da37-3a49-4a2e-ac7d-88a9ca1e1c33
Payday 2's recent changes give ya a reason to get the band back together
Posted On: 2016-10-14 20:48

One of the most fun (and beneficial - to us Linux users) things about Starbreeze's approach to developing their "Payday 2" franchise is that there's almost always something new being offered to enhance the experience. Be it DLC's (Downloadable Content packs) offering new characters, playable maps (in the form of heists), weapons, masks, or otherwise, every few months it seems that there's always a reason to drop whatever game you're currently playing and make the return to "Payday 2."

Even though the glory of last week's update remained largely unaccessible for the Linux audience (due to pernicious bugs and incompatibilities which have now, thankfully, been solved), this most recent iteration of the "Payday 2" universe adds tons of deliciousness - all of which is Linux-compatible.

The first (and most important, yet least-prominent) change to the game is the alteration of the skill trees. Noticeable only to veteran players of the game, the tweaks and changes to the way your characters' skills and perks work provides more than ample reason to return to P2 - especially considering that your previous skill points, money, and etc. are returned to you to re-invest. Simply trying to re-engineer my MALLCRASHERING MONSTER character (a creature with maximum handheld saw blades for cracking those ATMs, a portable minigun for destroying all that glass, and other assorted bits and bobs necessary to effectively complete and destroy my favorite mission to grind) has taken me a surprisingly enjoyable amount of time to recalculate within the new skill tree.

Of course, that's the appeal to veterans of the safe-cracking, cop-capping, teller-terrorizing, civilian-hostigitation action that fans of the franchise have grown to already know and love. For newcomers, these changes, tweaks, and additions make an already excellent multiplayer-demi-strategic-first-person-shooter-robberizing game only that much better.

Among the most noticeable alterations, of course, is the new safe-house, which - instead of accomodating only the player - now has separate areas for each of the "Payday 2" team. Each according to their needs (and specialty), the new safehouse features such delightful locales as an open bar (Jimmy's hangout), shooting range, security room, and etc., accentuating each of the character's personalities. It comes replete with Hoxton's family butler, played convincingly by a platitude-mumbling/aphoristic-spewing Jon Cleese, and a brand-new, ultra-exciting introductory cinema sequence describing the move from the old Payday Hideout to the new digs.

Cosmetic bullshit aside, the hideout also offers up one of my favorite new gameplay additions: because veteran players still keep their (now scrambled, but still useable) skill points, offshore balances, weapons collections, custom masks, weapons configurations, and other assorted nonsense, it would suck to have to play the game solely to grind the same money and mission structure even more... which is why the new safehouse is truly upgradeable.

Yes, by defending the safehouse from misguided police drug raids, players can now earn Continental Coins to upgrade each individual room and area of the safe house to their heart's content (I, of course, spent my first three hours earning enough coins to upgrade Jimmy's bar to the point that it now includes an indendutred servant bartender, eager to pour me and my mates whatever we wish).

Sure, this botched "drug raid" safehouse-crashing mission by the police results (time after time) in one of the most ridiculous plot conceits ever (basically, that the crew defending their safehouse via the murder of several hundred police officers in a well-armed apocolyptic stand-off that would rank historical comparison with military engagements from the Alamo to the Battle of the Bluge)... well... as the saying goes, with enough cash and greased-squeeky-wheels, the Payday gang's connections can be convinced that the Death Star is, in fact, a moon, and that this misguided police action, well... ahem. What police? In action? Where?

Exactly.

Ultimately, the new Payday 2 additions (to say nothing of new weapons, characters, and etc.) offers up more than enough reason to get the band back together. Just remember: that's no moon, and the drinks are on me!

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
Even though the glory of last week's update remained largely unaccessible for the Linux audience (due to pernicious bugs and incompatibilities which have now, thankfully, been solved), this most recent iteration of the "Payday 2" universe adds tons of deliciousness - all of which is Linux-compatible.
GameTitle:
gamereleasedate:
Friday, October 14, 2016 - 8:45pm
Tags: Payday 2, Feature
Link: view
Node UUID: 1d1adb70-05f7-42b7-ba92-4e782f3abe55
Starbound's Frackin' Universe mod offers new hope for fostering creative thought via exciting gameplay
Posted On: 2016-10-07 16:05

A thousand years ago, I once believed that Minecraft offered one
of the best and most approachable analogues to learning to program
for, well, people of all ages. It's open-ended gameplay, infinitely
large, utterly unique procedurally generated worlds, and its
fundamental focus on basic survival provided a fantastic platform to
engender deep problem-solving skills unlike any other game I had ever
played. The fact that the problems themselves were unscripted -
instead built out of base exigincies necessary for survival - struck
me as being highly reminiscent of the software development process
itself, in which the real challenge isn't first to solve a problem,
but is usually to define the boundaries of the problem - or, to put
it simply in the form of one of my oldest and favorite maxims: the
problem contains the solution. In design, one doesn't work directly
towards the solution, because that is unknown. Instead, one works
towards the boundaries of the problem. Once those are known, holy
wow: you have yourself a recipe for a solution that can be coded.

Furthermore, Minecraft's use of technology - the ways in which
new tools, materials, methods, and processes could be discovered and
used to the player's benefit - reminded me very much of the overall
learning process itself, reduced to a voxel-based, elemental, and
arcane perfection. From the smallest ideas, the tiniest of
beginnings, the most basic of thoughts and impetuses, entire,
unimaginably complex empires could arise: what started originally as
a dirt hut built into a hillside could eventually rise as a castle
connected via public transit lines to mining sites, other
settlements, points beyond the horizon, below the surface, and above
the clouds, stretching for hours on end.

This was exciting shit.

So, when I got into "Starbound" after it's official
release earlier this year, I was delighted and amused to see the 3D
universe I had known and loved so well basically reduced into a 2D
sidescrolling platformer. It was whimsical, beautiful, poetic,
procedural, fun to play, challenging, balanced, and almost just as
magical as "Minecraft" had once been (and btw, for my
money, as it shall always remain).

But then I beat the main story of the game, started my own
legitimate dedicated server, and while playing with friends for the
second or third time, found something lacking... so, my lonesome eyes
turned to the "Frackin' Universe" mod (available on the
Steam workshop), and, after reconfiguring our server for its use, my
mind exploded and I died.

Ok, so that's a lie, but FU came pretty close. Relying on the
best aspects of "Starbound" as a basis, FU takes the game
into the realm of far-flung simplified scientific processes of
discovery, analysis, exploitation, and technological innovation.
Basically, by adding hundreds of new biomes for planets (and
combinations of biomes on those planets themselves), new crafting
elements and materials, hundreds of new plant species, dozens of
incredibly powerful science-based crafting stations, hundreds of new
wearables and weapons (many of which provide special status effects
and benefits), and near-infinite variety of enemies against which to
struggle, FU provides the player with an ever-expanding,
super-exciting universe of scientific adventure and exploration that
(THROUGH MAD SCIENCE(!!!!)) empower the player to fight and explore
smarter and harder.

There's a whole big universe out there to explore in "Starbound,"
but with FU, it's easily 20x's as compelling; you'll encounter insane
locales (and will learn to mine them) ranging from Penumbra planets
to frozen volcano worlds to hyper-dense planets where falling more
than only several blocks will kill you due to the powerful gravity.
You will explore atropus worlds made of living organic tissue that
cause madness, encounter vast, crystalline planets where the felled
trees yield valuable crystal shards, you will venture forth into the
depths of proto-worlds, gelatinous worlds (made of bouncy slime),
tarball worlds, ruined civilizations across a wide spectrum of
planets ranging from volcanic to rainforest in flora and fauna... all
this, and so much, much, much more.

But the great genius of FU is how you learn to build and assemble
the various scientific apparatuses that make up you lab - a lab,
which, at first, will only comprise a small corner of your home, and
will rapidly grow to encompass many times the size of your initial
settlement, with each piece of equipment serving an essential
function as you splice genes, breed trees (want metal trees that drop
pears and metal wood? you can do that), power hydroponics tables,
manufacture, refine, harvest, and fabricate endless varieties of
super-benificial stuff.

I could go on and on, but just go get "Starbound" and
then download the Frackin' Universe mod from the workshop, and
experience the vicarious joy that so many young people will gleen
from its powerful portrayal of magi-science.

closingbyline:
-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")
pullquote:
Relying on the best aspects of "Starbound" as a basis, FU takes the game into the realm of far-flung simplified scientific processes of discovery, analysis, exploitation, and technological innovation.
gamereleasedate:
Friday, July 22, 2016 - 4:00pm
Link: view
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