I’ve been playing a lot of games this past week. I’ve had family down from Sydney, so while my days have been fairly busy, my evenings have been pretty chill, with lots of games to while away the hours with.
On a more serious note, the site has been struggling when it comes to views lately, so if you enjoy my content at all, I’d really, really appreciate a share or two, maybe on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram – whatever! I really hope that what I’m doing is going down well with you lot – I know I cover some specific, niche stuff, but all the more reason to try to spread the word, right? I’m all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so I’m giving it my absolute best shot!
Anyways, without further adieu, here’s some neat stuff I’m playing that you might just dig too!
APOCRYPH (DEMO – PC)
Retro FPS action is what I’m all about lately, so I found myself going back to a demo I found about a month ago. A one level demo, Apocryph on itch.io is a game that didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed it well enough.
Apocryph is an Indie Retro FPS game inspired by Heretic, Hexen and Painkiller, as these screens clearly show, and I really, really like it. I’ve knocked over the demo on all the difficulties now, and whilst it doesn’t have the best level design out there, I find it moreish for reasons that are beyond me.
What I mean by that is that the game has some pretty serious flaws, and you don’t have to look very far to find them.
Its current state, Apocryph runs pretty badly, even on my rig (GTX 1080Ti, core i7-7700k, 32gb RAM). It may be running at a high frame-rates, but the frame-pacing is all over the place and it feels like a jerky mess. It doesn’t help that the highest resolution available in the game is 1080p – so it looks rather soft on my 1440p monitor. And that’s a shame, since the core artwork, whilst not on the level of a AAA production, looks suitably dark and overall really, really nice. Another problem I’ve struggled with is that the controls are quite laggy, with any movement taking forever to stop. For example, if you let go of the W key to stop moving forward, expect the game to take about half a second to register the stop.
These sound like deal-breakers, but taking into account the early state of this demo, and the fact that the developers look to have made huge strides since it’s release, I’m willing to cut it some slack. If the game were terrible, I would have played for 2 minutes before exiting the game and calling it a day – never to come back again. But there’s promise here, and the core game-play is a lot of fun.
What’s here is great. The game looks really nice, the atmosphere is heavy and the creature design is out of this world – definitely above the game’s pay-grade, that’s for sure. Watching these skeletons and ogres move and tussle is a treat.
I’ve played this one level many times over, and I’ve enjoyed myself each time. I’m hoping that the game gets the spit & shine it so desperately needs, because if this small taster is any indication, then I can see myself putting a heap of hours into Apocryph in the future.
Bigzur Games, you’ve done good, kid! Keep it up!
GRAVEL is an off-road rally-ish racing game from Milestone that has just seen release on the PC, PS4 and Xbox One – I picked it up on PC. I’ve enjoyed Milestone’s games before (Monster Energy Supercross and a few others), but I really think that they’ve hit their stride now that they’ve taken to the Unreal Engine – definitely the right move for them. I love what they did in Monster Energy Supercross, and GRAVEL is even better.
First up though, here are a few things you might want to do in order to extract the maximum enjoyment possible from GRAVEL.
- The game features lots of half-hearted attempts at ‘tude. Mute the announcer ASAP.
- While you’re at it, you might as well go ahead and mute the music too. It’s awfully generic.
- Turn off most of the assists. I was worried that GRAVEL would err on the side of simulation, but it doesn’t, and as an arcade racing nut, this pleases me. I’ve disabled everything except the Traction Control, which I’ve kept on LOW.
I know next-to-nothing about cars in real life, and I’d like it to stay that way. Now with that out-of-the-way, I really got a kick out of GRAVEL and its roster of vehicles. There’s tonnes of 90s rally cars in here, and being able to choose cars previously seen in the likes of SEGA Rally Championship and Colin McRae Rally put a big smile on my face. I’m also happy that Milestone have kept those classics as competitive in-game as possible. I like that I can choose those older models, and know that I can win with them. There’d be nothing worse than having these cars on offer, but not having them be viable options whilst playing the game. Kudos Milestone, kudos.
GRAVEL will feel pretty familiar to most gamers of a certain vintage. There’s a bit of the aforementioned SEGA Rally and Colin McCrae in there, along with some Motorstorm and Rallisport Challenge too. Actually, the game does bear a striking resemblance to the phenomenal Rallisport Challenge 2 on the original Xbox, in structure and overall aesthetic, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
The Career Mode is the meat of the game. Redundant statement is redundant. Races take place all over the globe, and the actual types of races differ too. You’ve got Cross Country, Rally Cross, Circuit Races, Smash Ups and a Time Attack-style mode. Get to the end of a chapter, and you’ll face off in a championship against one of five Rivals. They’re FMV characters. It’s kinda neat.
All the modes are pretty good, but the Time Attack one is horrid. You have to avoid the Red ‘X’s on the track, which slow you down and take time off your overall time, and hit the Green arrows which allow you to continue unhindered. Sounds alright on paper, but in practice, it’s dreadful. The signs are randomly generated, and don’t appear until you’re almost on top of them in most cases.
I really hope it gets the axe, because it is no fun at all.
I’ve only played about four hours total of Gravel so far, but I’m having a blast with it. I think I’m about half-way through the Career Mode, which isn’t too bad. The difficulty is climbing ever so steadily, and I’m finding that I have to restart an event more often than not if I bungle something up. Which I don’t mind so much, because the racing is addictive as all hell.
It doesn’t hurt that GRAVEL looks a treat too. It may not be right up there technically, but you’d have to be a shallow son-of-a-bitch to pick it apart too much. The colours are gorgeous, the vehicle models as nice as they need to be, and the environments can be striking. The PC version is also well-optimized. I get anywhere between 100-160fps on my rig at 1440p, and if you’re rocking a GSYNC monitor like I am, then you’re in for an absolute treat. Your mileage may vary on console, but on PC, it’s been nothing but consistent.
I’ll cover GRAVEL in a bit more depth at a later date, but if you’re hankering for an arcade-style Rally game, then you really can’t go past it. It doesn’t have the production values of the DIRT’s, Forza’s and Gran Turismo’s of the world, but I’d argue that it doesn’t have to. It’s mid-budget gaming as it should be. A few flaws here and there, but when the gameplay is this good, that’s all that matters.
The Photo Mode from Monster Energy Supercross is here too, and it’s gorgeous.
Having now completed the preview episode of the new Early Access BUILD Engine game Ion Maiden twice, I was itching for more BUILD FPS action. I’ve played Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior to completion back in the day, and I’ve revisited them a fair bit over the years, but I gotta say, I’ve never put too much time into Blood. I have finished the Shareware episode once before, but that was 20+ years ago, and my memories are hazy, at best. All the goading I needed to jump straight in, then.
Gggmanlives is one of my favourite Youtubers, and he recently took a look at Blood and the lack of genuine source-ports of the game, whilst exploring various other options one could take to play the game today. Some looked pretty terrible, but the last few he covered stood out, so I settled on the best of the bunch, BloodGDX.
BloodGDX a port of the game into Java, and acts as a wrapper for the Steam/GOG releases of the game. You might laugh at the Java bit – hell knows I did – but actually having tried it out? It’s pretty flawless, I’ve gotta say! At least, as flawless as a reverse-engineered ‘source-port’ can get – the source code for Blood has never been released, so the developer has worked over-time to make sure this is as close as humanely possible.
Straight out of the gate, I enabled wide-screen, removed the FPS cap and bound the controls to WSAD, then proceeded to jack the fuck in.
And what a glorious time I’m having.
There’s just something about these BUILD Engine games that just doesn’t age. I mean, visually, yeah, you can tell the engine and its games are two decades old, but limitations forced developers to get super creative with their art. Blood, in particular, looks awesome. The sprites are well drawn, and the animation is tops – everything looks great, even blown up to higher resolutions. It runs as smooth as butter too, and though my monitor tops out at 165Hz, the in-built FPS meter in BloodGDX shows readings of 1000-2000 fps. Speed won’t be an issue for anybody.
But really, it’s the level designs, secrets and oddball weaponry that shine in Blood. Again, like the best of these old FPS games, Blood straddles that line between feeling like a game, yet a real place with real architecture at the same time rather perfectly. Stages burn into your brain as you play, and getting lost just doesn’t happen. At least, not in the early game.
I’m loving every second of Blood, and it’s providing a rather hefty challenge so far. I’m playing on the third difficulty level (of which there are five), and I’ve got my ass handed to me more often than not. But it doesn’t matter, each time I die, I learn something, so coming back to tackle a section that had gotten the best of me earlier isn’t at all frustrating. Yet.
There’s plenty of time for that to change. Also, those Lovecraft references that are everywhere. Hngggggh
ACE OF SEAFOOD (SWITCH)
That about sums up Ace of Seafood.
To be honest, I’m not even quite sure what Ace of Seafood’s deal is yet. As far as I can tell, it’s a game where you play as a variety of sea creatures and engage in a lot of combat. Defeat a creature that you haven’t seen before, and you can then breed that kind of creature and add it to your army. You build up an army of sea creatures. Amazing.
I guess the ultimate goal is to own the ocean, because you can take over reefs and outposts to expand your fishy empire. If you can tolerate the jank, then there is an absolute gem of a game in here. Refreshingly, you’ll need to employ some strategy in what creatures you take out with you into combat, because pick a fight with a bigger fish, and you’re dead. Like this poor fellow below.
Ace of Seafood is one of those games that shouldn’t work, but it does. The controls aren’t the greatest, the combat is strange, the visuals are pretty lacklustre and the performance can tank. But by golly is it fun!
And cheap. You’re best going into Ace of Seafood as blind as possible, so pay the 8-ish dollars for the game and prepare to wear a huge shit-eating grin for a good long while. I haven’t put too much time into it yet, but what I have played has got me eager for more. I’m looking forward to a full day off work with some colder weather, pyjamas, a few cups of coffee and Ace of Seafood for company.
So there’s some variety for ya! Two FPS games, an arcade racer and a bizarre strategy/mech-shooter with fish and hermit crabs! Gotta love gaming, eh?
What are you guys playing? I’m always on the look-out for neat little games that get lost in the shuffle, or classics that I just haven’t gotten around to yet! So don’t hold back – let me know what gems you think I should try out next!
Drop me a line in the comments below, and I’ll catch you in the next post!
Tagged: Ace of Seafood, action, Apocryph, Arcade Racer, Arcade Racing, blood, Build Engine, cheap, colin mcrae rally, demo, demos, dirt, driving games, Free Demo, Gravel, heretic, hexen, Hidden Gems, indie fps, Indie Games, Milestone, Nintendo Switch, one whole unit blood, painkiller, racing, Rally Games, Retro FPS, SEGA Rally, strategy games, Switch