Yes indeed. Wibblefish. It’s tricky coming back to the blog after these gaps. I never quite know whether to just plough onwards and avoid mentioning the fact I got distracted by other non-blog stuff (like that giant fluorescent elephant that enjoys sitting in the corner of the room), or to apologise profusely while crossing my fingers behind my back. But then I realise – hardly anyone reads this anyway, so why pay it any mind at all? :roll:

One does not simply log in to Diablo 3.Okay. Let’s get back into things with a predictable start. Diablo 3 is out, and many yays were heard across the multiverse! I have it. It’s a good game and I’m enjoying playing it. There’s no doubt that it’s polished with the usual addiction-causing Blizzard chemicals and it’ll absolutely keep me playing for many more hours than what I’ve already put into it. The inevitable “but”, though, goes like this: It feels more like My First ARPG than a true Diablo. I find it hard to overlook the dumbed-down character stats and slow-paced itemisation. I don’t think the method of drip-feeding new item mods into the game really works, and playing through on Normal difficulty becomes snoreworthy after your first playthrough. Then there’s that always-online-Battle.net-DRM-error37 thing, which is a whole internet meme in itself…

In the end, I’ve endorsed it by buying the game, so I guess I’ve partly signed away my right to complain. Still, its insidiousness – and terrible reliability to date – are a considerable downer. If I had to give D3 a score, it wouldn’t get any higher than 85%.

Fortunately, in a related and also completely predictable topic of conversation, Torchlight 2 should soon be pecking its way out of the Fabergé egg that Runic Games seem to be incubating it in. Briefly, I played a few hours of the beta, and I think it’ll turn out to be as good as, if not better, than Blizzard’s behemoth. I know enough to say that it’ll be completely unpossible to get more value for money in any game this year – assuming you like clicking monsters to make them drop shiny items to kill bigger monsters with. And who doesn’t, really?

I won’t crowd this post out any more – I’ll leave the rest of what I wanted to say for next time, to try and give me an excuse not to fall into a weird pocket dimension that apparently doesn’t have access to blogs. Notes to self: Endless Space, Mordor: Chronicles, Guild Wars 2. Possibly Definitely marmots.

Diablo III logoI think I can sense a lot of diary-clearing going on! Much as I would’ve liked Runic Games to be the ones to announce their date for Torchlight 2 first, I’m still happy to finally have a firm date to look forward to.

Presumably as a reference to the 15th anniversary of the Diablo series, Blizzard will be releasing Diablo III to the general public of Earth on Tuesday, May the 15th. Fwee! Just another two months of nail-chewing to endure before we can all finally get our hands on the latest entry to the series that defined the term “lootfest”.

With it being such a short time away*, it makes me feel somewhat less impatient at not having gotten into the beta. :roll:  I’m hyped!

* Note: 2 months in “Blizzard time” is barely enough to have a nice cup of tea in, so yes, for them it IS a short time.

“Oh,” I thought. “This looks different…”

I had just embarked upon a new Roguelike adventure. On a whim, I had renewed my acquaintance with the rec.games.roguelike.announce newsgroup for the first time in an epoch, and lurking within were announcements relating to the usual long-standing suspects – epic saga ToME, fast-paced DoomRL, Rogue-with-mechs GearHead, classic Angband and its variants, and many others. But there were also lots of unfamiliar names, a testimony to the rate at which the Roguelike scene has expanded over recent times. Looking down the list, something drew me toward Brogue by Brian Walker – was it the clever name or the enigmatically plain description? Or was it just the fact it had an unusually solid-looking version number of 1.6? It’s impossible to say. Further investigation was required!

Brogue, a Roguelike game with style

I was looking at a typical ASCII dungeon of hash signs and dots. But this dungeon had colour, variety, and life - not the usual console window of decidedly 8-colour visuals. Yes, yes – not judging a book by its cover is all well and good, but there’s no harm in making a good first impression, is there?

“Cool – there’s plants that block my vision. Let’s try walking through them. Oh, they grow back! Perfect for hiding in! Neat. Wait up, what’s that over there? Oh hello there, mouse control – this takes me back to playing Larn on the Amiga!” Good first impressions indeed. But there was plenty more to surprise me…

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What the deuce has happened in the past month? There’s been a sudden explosion of indie-related bundles from places on the internet that you never thought existed! Anyone would think it was nearly Christmas or something.

Bundles of fun!

A little while ago it was the Indie Music Bundle to titillate your ears with fantastic vibes, but right now you have a choice of not one, or even two… but four different game bundles to check out – and they’re all asking you to pay as little or as much as you like! One is even completely free to download!

Since a couple of them are also supporting charity, now is a great time if you’re just starting to dip in to the world of indie games and are looking to snag some great deals at the same time as helping a good cause. While it’s possible to take the dimmer view that it’s an easy way for an organiser to make a quick buck, that would be pretty unfair – if you believe in the charitable roots behind a couple of these bundles then they’re doing a lot of good at a time of year when it matters the most. Even if a bundle doesn’t donate part of its proceeds to charity, it’s still a good way to get some games you might otherwise have overlooked for an excellent price. Stocking fillers ahoy!

Read on to see all of the currently running bundles that are clamouring for your attention…

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Quote would be sad, tooCave Story+, the PC port of a Mac port of a WiiWare port of a PC freeware game, has apparently come full circle and is now available on Steam. I am a huge fan of Cave Story and, I like to hope, a reasonable person. Like many others I admire “Pixel“ - Daisuke Amaya - for creating the original version and releasing it back in 2004. Aeon Genesis deserve some credit as well for the English translation patch. It is a charming game that has done a great service in boosting the indie gaming scene. That said, I will most certainly not be buying into this thinly disguised cash-in – and I’m actually shocked and quite disappointed that Nicalis had the cheek to go so far down this road.

So here’s the story: After a chain of poorly-communicated delays spanning through 2009, the $12 / £10 WiiWare release of the game in North America last year was deservedly well-received but expensive and somewhat glitchy. It included one particularly annoying bug with music playback when the original music tracks were selected instead of the default remixed tracks (which some people – including myself – didn’t like). Not only did it take eight months to get these problems patched out but it took ten months after the NA release for the game to get to Europe. Meh. So far, so mediocre.

Then there was the DSiWare release for portable gamers to enjoy Quote’s adventures. Cool. But a year on from the Japanese and North American releases last November, it still isn’t available in Europe, despite a suggestion from Joystiq it would be out around Q2 of this year. It seems likely that Euro gamers will now never see that version due to the incoming Cave Story 3D for the 3DS (which – who’d have guessed? – has also been delayed). Based on their track record, who knows when the 3DS incarnation will arrive in Euroland…

Surely things can’t get any more ridiculous. But wait! Yes they do!

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Some people say that random levels suck. I say: You’re wrong. Be a good chap / chapess and toddle off back to playing <insert console FPS here>, would you? And don’t bother arguing about it because Forget-Me-Not will kick some proper indie-fuelled sense into you every time.

Once again it was The Gnome’s Lair that enlightened me with the knowledge of this particularly sparkly treasure, and I can safely say the game’s creator nyarlu labs (also known as brandon and, on Twitter, @cucumberoneye) has played an absolute blinder with this one.

Forget-Me-Not

This game is nuttier than an almond nutcake with cashew and pecan topping. For an unrelated sidenote, forget about the whole game aspect, it’s great fun to just leave running in the background for amusement purposes since it provides an excellent audio accompaniment to whatever you may be typing: As I write this, I am being serenaded by a beautifully bonkers selection of 8-bit noises upon each cursor key tap and each press of the WASD keys…

But, erm, yes. Read on after the break for some words that actually pertain to the gameplay!

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Hokay, let’s get this show rolling again. My most appreciative thanks for bearing with me during the past two weeks of slacking and panicking (roughly in that order). It’s TAR time once more!

Ranger by menki TIGForum thread Download Ranger for Windows
Jump into the boots of a ranger and do rangerly things like plant trees, harvest the fruit they grow and, erm, use them to kill nasty monsters. Defend the forest! ‘Cos you’re a ranger, and that’s what rangers do! Feels like a quirky combination of Rogue and Harvest Moon. Curiously enough, it seems to work. Playable but unfinished; could easily grow into something big, har har! :roll: 75%

ro9 by Crackerblocks TIGForum thread Download ro9 for Windows
Controlling one character at a time is just so 80s. Fortunately Crackerblocks is here to break the mould and give you the chance of controlling 9 (!!) adventurers simultaneously! Quite simply you job is to get as many of them “ascended” as possible, remembering that each move you make is mirrored across all nine of your heroes. A simple idea implemented really well, making brilliant use of Oryx’s first-person graphics. 84%

Roguelet by Hyperlogic TIGForum thread Download Roguelet for Intel Mac
Sadly, without a Mac, I was unable to play this one. :cry: Shame – it looks interesting…

Running Pandja by prof TIGForum thread Download Running Panda for Windows
What is this, Bleeding Obvious Name Day or something? :-D Now, this may come as a shock, so best sit down before I tell you that this game involves a panda… that can run. Just think of it as really short version of Knytt. Explaining more about it would ruin the 2 minutes of gameplay. Barring some kooky dialogue (English or Gibberish? You decide) there’s not much to see here. Way too short… but does have an editor. 41%

Aside from being a little under the weather this weekend, due to my internet provider being so fantastically naff I actually had to type this post up twice. Pfeh. :-x But you don’t want to know about any of that – let’s get on with the lushness of today’s four Assemblees, three of which you can play straight from your browser!

Mushroomer - ain't mush room in 'ere, har harMushroom Stew - slip-sliding away on the iceOh Crackers - Not Again! - fly, Lassie, fly...One pack - put that flab to some use

Mushroomer by Jotapeh TIGForum thread Play Mushroomer
Seeing the phrase “Just like a real video game!” immediately made me smile, but sadly the rest of the game couldn’t quite pull off enough to keep that smile on my face. A run and jump platformer made vaguely interesting with slidey controls and ninja rope goodness. Escape the cave before you lose all your lives or a ten minute timer expires. Competently done (nice backdrop!) and points for the rope, but a tad plain. 63%

Mushroom Stew by iarwain TIGForum thread Download Mushroom Stew for Windows Download Mushroom Stew for Intel Mac Download Mushroom Stew for Linux
Wahey, more mushrooms! You can never have enough mushrooms, folks. In this case you have to blast through a story of confusion and deception to find out why your mushroom buddies are suddenly trying to kill you. Use your crouching and time-bending skills to reach the end. Technically very good with several tricks used to enliven the graphics – sharp gameplay too, if a tad repetitive. Even has a level editor! 77%

Oh Crackers, Not Again! by The Greenest Banana TIGForum thread Play Oh Crackers, Not Again!
In a spicy, tangy twist to normality, here you have to protect a helpless little girl as she tries to get back home following a path which is infested with monsters. You take the part of her faithful and happily indestructible hound who can jump on enemies’ heads to stop them from being such a nuisance. A charming Flash effort but quite challenging even on the easiest difficulty. Needs more levels but still a great effort. 78%

One Pack by MrRoboman TIGForum thread Play One Pack
Being a toned ace space pilot is all very well but it’s oh-so-easy to pile on the pounds in your retirement. Such is the problem Ace Fatman now faces in his quest for… okay, I have no idea what his quest is, since this game is one for the “unfinished” pile. But it’s enough to raise a guffaw at the creative use of assets. Multi-purpose flab, anyone? Throw a can or three of polish at this and it could have an entertaining future! 52%