Legend of Grimrock II, PC

A brilliant sequel to the tile-based RPG of 2012, Legend of Grimrock II is more of the same atmospheric adventuring from developer Almost Human, but with 2014‘s new content and ideas.

Grimrock 2 begins after a shipwreck; on a beach, with rocky, exterior locations, which is a surprising and refreshing way to start a game like this. You can even walk in the shallow water, which is nice, and on the very first level the shallow water holds an important secret. Don’t miss it.

As the sun goes down, though, you know you’re going to be in for a hard time with the local monster population, and keeping death at bay is often a game of split-second reactions and clever movement, than anything. At times, in the heat of battle, you have to remember how different enemies react to your movements in order to beat them, or not fall into their traps. For example: early in the first level you meet some little blue creatures (Goblins) who are very aggressive and attack you with no warning. They come at you in small groups. If you sidestep next to one, to try to get a hit in, they will jump backwards to avoid your blow. So you have to remember to sidestep once more, before you can get a hit in. So the tactic for beating Goblins is to try to separate them, then try to get one into a corner, where it can’t jump backwards to avoid your side-swipes. Magic is good against certain enemies. The creepy mummies are weak to fire spells, which is good because that’s the way the game introduces you to the magic system, which is done by clicking a series of runes on the menu, then clicking the ‘cast’ button.

All the monsters in Grimrock 2 are well thought-out, and have their strengths and weaknesses; move speeds, and move tactics. The mini tree-like creatures – the annoying ones that hide in the trees and leap out at you after you’ve passed – I think they’re called Ents, have a really tricky move pattern, where they move towards you sideways and attack really quickly. So unless you’re fast they can overwhelm you quickly. Others spit poison at you from a distance. The world of Grimrock 2 really is a deadly hunting ground for some of the scariest monsters you’ll ever meet in an RPG. The skeleton guards especially put the willies up me! Their real-time shadows as they move across the corridors into view are really quite astounding. The atmosphere generated by the lighting and music is just sooo good! You’ll be gripped by the precise WSAD/mouse combat, and cursing certain monsters when they kill the front row and force you to re-load.

A very practical enhancement to Grimrock 2 is the ability to have alternative weapons setups on your characters, and the ability to quickly switch between them when in combat. This gives the player the chance to experiment with more weapons and items, which is good.

Grimrock 2 also has its tense boss battles. There’s alchemy this time, and plants to pick up and make into potions. There’s digging (for buried treasure). An improved automap system. A mysterious, unfolding storyline. And even a simple-to-use dungeon editor, for making your own custom dungeons that anyone with a copy of Grimrock 2 can play. The gameplay, and the whole package, is top quality. And it is a tough challenge too. Getting all the achievements is way beyond my capabilities…

Legend of Grimrock II is a worthy sequel to a great first game. It expands and enhances the Grimrock experience immeasurably, and the result is arguably one of the best tile-based RPGs ever made.

Click: The original Legend of Grimrock on The King of Grabs.

More: Legend of Grimrock II on Wikipedia
Steam: Legend of Grimrock II on Steam
GOG.com: Legend of Grimrock II on GOG.com

Ecstatica, PC [Part 2]

Here’s a second, completely different, set of grabs of Andrew Spencer‘s classic Ecstatica. The game is so good that it deserves more attention…

These grabs show more of the game played as a female character, and of different locations and situations.

Ecstatica is a game that is simple to play but contains layers of devilish detail. Someone should re-release it.

Here’s the first set of grabs: Ecstatica, PC [Part 1]

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstatica

Ecstatica, PC

Andrew Spencer Studios1994 release, Ecstatica, is a masterpiece of survival horror.

Ecstatica is as unforgiving as it is surprising. Turning the wrong corner will often result in death – at least until you can gain a foothold in the game.

From the atmospheric opening, to unlocking the mysteries of the village you have inadvertently wandered into, Ecstatica is a tense and scary experience. Learning how to run and fight helps, and – at the start of the game – Ecstatica gives you reprieves from what you think are death. For example: early on you’re captured by a werewolf and beaten up. The scene cuts and you awake hanging from the ceiling. The werewolf beats you some more, then leaves the room. You presume you’re dead at this point, but no – if you wiggle the joypad you can break free and escape! Limping and bloodied you are then given a second chance to survive. It’s like the game is toying with you…

Later on, Ecstatica becomes more complex; more dark, and more ‘poetic’. Hypnotic, female, goat-legged spirits try their best to kill you. Miniature people try to beat you up and carry you away. A huge Minotaur patrols a nearby castle’s gardens. A hysterical priest is hiding in the bell tower. A local monastery seems the only place of any safety… And what is this underground cavern? The whole story feels like a Ray Harryhausen/Hammer Films cross-pollinated nightmare.

Playing Ecstatica is a bit like playing a Resident Evil game, but rather than using polygons, Ecstatica uses ‘spheroids’ to make the characters – including yourself (you can play as either a man or a woman) – and all the monsters. And pre-rendered ‘bumpy’ 3D Studio-style renders to make all the backgrounds. It gives the game a very unique look.

What makes Ecstatica so good is the attention to detail overall. Finding places to hide is a brilliant way of avoiding certain monsters. You can wear armour and use two different items – one in each hand. There’s magic and transformation. The scale of the story starts off small, then becomes quite grand… Ecstatica is full of surprises.

Unfortunately Ecstatica isn’t currently available to buy anywhere legally, at the time of writing. This game – and its excellent sequel – would make great re-releases on GOG.com. Someone out there please make it so. Ecstatica is a great game that should be played; not forgotten!

Here’s another set of grabs: Ecstatica, PC [Part 2]

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstatica

Shadowrun, Megadrive/Genesis

I can’t write about the other Shadowrun games without mentioning the Sega Megadrive/Genesis game, first released by Sega in 1994.

It came out a year after the Super Nintendo original and features a top-down, overhead viewpoint. The gameplay in this is similar to the SNES version, with futuristic RPG elements and real-time combat, although the graphics aren’t as good. The storyline isn’t as engaging, either.

Still: Shadowrun is not a bad game at all, and is one of the better Role-Playing Games on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis.

Overall: a good Shadowrun game, but not the best.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun_(1994_video_game)

Shadowrun, Super Nintendo

This classic Super Nintendo action adventure was developed in Australia in 1993 by Beam Software. It was published by Laser Beam in the UK, and Data East everywhere else.

Shadowrun on the SNES is a brilliant isometric, futuristic adventure that mixes guns, technology and magic from FASA’s infamous Shadowrun role-playing universe. You have to shoot and hack your way through a gigantic conspiracy, starting with your very own death. The opening scenes (and the music) still make me laugh to this day… But Shadowrun soon becomes serious, as you are constantly having to draw your guns in battle to survive. And – because the combat is real-time – how quickly you draw your guns has an effect on your health bar.

Considering the limitations of the machine, Shadowrun on the SNES is something of an achievement. Completing the game takes quite some time though. Is it worth it? Definitely!

Here are my grabs. From the beginning of the game to the very end.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun_(1993_video_game)

Shadowrun: Dragonfall, PC

Shadowrun: Dragonfall is a 2014 indie release from Harebrained Schemes, set in the Shadowrun universe.

The developers tried to continue the success of the Shadowrun console games of the early ’90s, and in many respects succeeded.

Like the Super Nintendo classic original, Shadowrun: Dragonfall adopts an isometric viewpoint, although the combat is turn-based, and more tactical, than the real-time combat of the SNES and Megadrive originals. This game is arguably much more detailed than the older Shadowrun games as well, with tons of weapons, gadgets and magical powers to buy, collect and use.

All the usual Shadowrun elements are present in Shadowrun: Dragonfall –  futuristic shamanism, hacking (aka Jacking) computers, medical skill upgrades, backstabbing, wheeling and dealing, and getting dirty jobs done for dirty money.

The game is beautifully constructed and a welcome addition to the Shadowrun gaming canon. Well worth a play if you like cyberpunk stories or tactical combat games.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun:_Dragonfall
Steam: steampowered.com/app/300550/Shadowrun_Dragonfall/
gog.com: https://www.gog.com/game/shadowrun_dragonfall

Scarabaeus, Commodore 64

This obscure Commodore 64 classic is one of THE scariest – and most confusing – games of all time. Both in one!

In Scarabaeus you have to explore an ancient Egyptian tomb, chasing ghosts, avoiding zombies and spiders, and eventually making your way to the Pharaoh’s tomb in the centre of the third level.

Scarabeus is hard to play because it is not initially clear what you’re supposed to do.

The instructions are not much help either.

Key to solving the game is in collecting good potions and rejecting evil potions, and solving hieroglyph puzzles, in order to win more zombie traps. And also knowing how to run away from monsters to avoid being captured helps too. And, also: knowing how to use the elevator between levels. If you turn the winch handle incorrectly you can injure yourself. You need to save your health for the final level.

And you are constantly under pressure from chasing zombies and spiders. At least on the second and third levels.

The monster graphics in Scarabaeus are kind of strange, but that adds to the unsettling atmosphere. The sound effects are hella scary too. The alert when a spider comes near you… DAMN SCARY.

Scarabaeus is a unique Commodore 64 game really worth working out how to play. It’s a strange game, but it’s a decent challenge. Check the guide below for more pointers.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarabaeus_(video_game)
Guide: https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Scarab%C3%A6us

Limbo, PC

Dark and disturbing, Playdead’s Limbo is a small boy’s journey into a world filled with deadly traps and killer monsters. It is one of the best platform games ever made, with beautiful, subtle, atmospheric, black and white graphics, eyebrow-raising situations, and ingenious solutions to problems. And lots of gratuitous killing. Almost always of yourself.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbo_(video_game)
Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/48000/LIMBO/
gog.com: https://www.gog.com/game/limbo
Origin: https://www.origin.com/gbr/en-us/store/limbo/limbo/standard-edition

 

Sunless Sea, PC

Sunless Sea was developed by Failbetter Games with the help of a Kickstarter campaign in 2015. It is a dark-humoured, fantasy seafaring game, mostly centred around island exploration and real-time combat.

The graphics and music are particularly nice!

Sunless Sea also spawned a sequel, Sunless Skies.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunless_Sea
Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/304650/SUNLESS_SEA/

The Magic Circle PC

The Magic Circle, PC

Hugely fun, satirical 2015 indie game about playing a broken RPG.

The Magic Circle cleverly mixes modern high res graphics with retro DOS-style graphics, and is something of a first on that front.

The game you play is apparently so ‘broken’ that the key to success is in ‘hacking’. That is: hacking your enemies to make them fight for you. Eventually you get to break into the game and have to make a level good enough for release.

It’s a short game, but full of surprises, and well worth a play. And fun to grab because you can give silly names to your allies.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_Circle_(video_game)
Stream: http://store.steampowered.com/app/323380/The_Magic_Circle/
Website: http://www.magiccirclegame.com/