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Future Linux Game Evaluation -- 2000

Not Available at a Store Near You

  • September 2, 2000
  • By Paul Ferris
Well, it's that time of year again! Game manufacturers have showered me with a ton of new Linux games for evaluation. These babies are hot, just out of alpha test, and soon to be ready for the shelf. I spent several days evaluating some of the best ones, and I think you'll find the results surprising. Even so, I'm surprised at the lack of originality that a lot of these products exhibit.

You'd think that there would be some creativity in the gaming scene or at least a new plot every now and then. Read on, and you'll see what I mean.

Wagon-Wheel EggStorm II

Description: Robot War Game

The time-frame is the future, where high tech robots rule the land. You are part of the Grede-eye, a band of cyber-robot troopers that rule the high tech landscape, decimating any rival life-forms that dare cross into your turf. Outfitted with what seems like an enormous war-chest of ammo, an array of weapons that would make a Quake player envious, and hoards of minions, you must protect the turf of your overload and chief supplier of energy, the My-Crow-Softies.

The enemy, a nebulous band of rouge system crackers and mutant children who can't spell, is constantly assailing your ground with puny looking little robots. The objective is to win (of course) the landscape by firing your weapons at the little critters (literally, millions of them) while watching your supply of energy and protecting the enormous My-Crow-Soft fortress.

Evaluation: .5 on a scale of 5
The printed material that comes with this game is top-notch. The CD cover is done in a brilliant, professional-looking glossy. The manual is a work of art, with screenshots and game-play descriptions everywhere you look. Yet somehow, the game doesn't live up to the quality that the packing material conveys.

The play of this game is poor and yet so familiar as to be almost boring. The robots in the game are clunky, and unable to respond correctly to most simple situations they face. No matter how hard you try, the little critters always seem to come out ahead of things. I was quite dismayed at the amount of energy expenditure needed to defend the turf you're supposed to protect.

The turf boundaries themselves were hard to determine. The amount of ground is huge, and everywhere you look, the enemy seemed to be eating away at it. Fortunately, I always seemed to have an unlimited supply of ammo, but near the end of the game, I always ran out of energy. Oddly enough, the weapons didn't seem that effective against even the smallest of the enemy robots.

No matter how much effort I put forth, I couldn't keep from losing the entire field, and I played the simulation many times. It was amazing. The hard part always comes near the end of the game, as the enemy robots amass into huge, cyborg-transformer like creatures that dwarf any robot in your control. To make matters even more embarrassing, these babies don't fire a single shot, they just seem to run like a steam roller into whatever territory you're trying to defend, taking it for good.

While this part is not all that boring, it is a bit depressing. I kept wishing I could be on the other side of the equation, as it was clearly a losing battle no matter how I sliced it. I can't recommend this game at all, as the poor game-play and no-win situation make for a pathetic gaming experience. Even still, I'll bet that with all the glossy promotion going on for the product, this will be a popular seller this season. However, I'd also be willing to bet that next year after the word gets out as to how bad this game is, it'll be sitting on the discount racks like old copies of Windows 3.1.

Whack-A-Muth

Description: Arcade Game Simulator

The game play is simple. You have a virtual wooden mallet, and on the screen there are about a half-dozen holes. You hit the start button, and mindless corporate executives pop out of the openings. Before they can begin babbling, you swing your virtual mallet (controlled by your mouse) and smack the executives on the head. Smitten, they drop back into the holes, to emerge later at a random time.

Evaluation: 4 on a scale of 5
This game is an oldie, but a goodie. I remember playing a similar game a lot in an arcade in my youth, and the virtual recreation of this game was very good. There's something satisfying about popping these critters on the head, and watching them retreat back into their hiding places. My only worry here is that some executive-rights-activists will sometime protest or ban the sale of this game, as it seems to promote cruelty to dumb animals.

Quick-Hack Arena

Description: Shoot-em-up

This is a special multiplayer version of Quick-Hack, a game I evaluated last year at this time. In this version, the levels are more diverse, and the weapons are improved quite a bit from the single-player game.

Evaluation: 5 on a scale of 5
It seems like the more people that can get involved in a game of Quick-Hack, the better. The fun part about this game is that you don't have to play, you can just set up a drone and watch as huge numbers of players get involved and decimate the competition. In Quick-Hack III, you have just a few weapons, beginning with an GCC pistol, progressing through the I386 rotary cannon, and finally the LNX9000 -- which was the ultimate weapon for that game.

With Quick-Hack III Arena, the ultimate weapon has been upgraded to the LNX9002.4 -- and it's improved vastly, capable of decimating the enemy in the most disadvantaged situations imaginable. A couple of shots with this baby and the entire level is cleared of rival troops. This is the only downside of game-play, as the enemies are so under-powered to win in these situations, it's just not a challenge anymore.

But other than that, the satisfying layer of dead bodies on the ground and the fast game-play in a network situation makes this one of the best products I've ever evaluated. I'd have to strongly recommend it to anybody who's bored with things like the Wagon-Wheel EggStorm game above.

BattleScar MelGateca

Description: Starcraft Simulator

Set in the same world as a familiar old TV series, you're the destitute leader of a pack of old-world rebels without a home. Your fleet of ships is quickly running low on supplies, and you've got to find more territory soon or the natives will get restless and begin to defect, further weakening the fleet.

To make matters worse, a recent battle threatens to break the fleet into two parts. Your mission is to move the BattleScar MelGateca into new territories, while preserving the unity of the fleet and fending off the vast numbers of enemies you encounter during game-play.

Evaluation: 1 on a scale of 5
This game was fraught with emotional twists. The enemies in the game seem to be all around. As play progresses, you get more and more evidence that the MelGateca deserves the constant attacks its receiving. You see, in order to build the fleet, it turns out that in the past you took resources that other civilizations needed to simply survive. Because of this and other past karma, when the enemy attacks the exchanges are fearsome and emotionally heated. I found the action to be predictable, but the video sequences, although somewhat repetitious, to be very entertaining indeed.

At one point in the game, you're captured by your arch-rival foe, Dr. DeBoise. You learn a lot more about your sordid past as a leader, as over the space of a four day interrogation, many secrets are revealed. Although you get most of your information from the questioning by the evil Dr. DeBoise, the extra information helps explain a lot of the problems you're facing as a leader.

Although game-play is very snappy, in a similar vein to Waggon-Wheel EggStorm it's depressing. The fleet is battle-torn and the weapons become more and more useless against your foes as time progresses. It's as if all the innovation you need to create new weapons is gone (although you spend a lot of time in the game bragging about past innovations, it turns out that prior weapons were stolen or copied from enemy design).

Further complications of game play turn out to be the result of warmed-over technology from the early 1980's. It seems that there're no new 3d effects in this game, and much of the game is based upon clunky code that was a bad idea, even back then. The only new item was the addition of the video sequences, which do little to enhance the overall gaming experience.

I cannot recommend this game, as the plot-line is extremely stupid, and the technology second-rate.

Sim Son 2000

Description: Simulation Game

Your objective in this game is to simulate a modern open source and technology-focused corporation--a company that goes by the name of Son MonoTone Systems. You have many tools at your disposal, and you begin by making hardware and software. All the typical facets of corporate operation are simulated, including number of employees, hardware manufacturing output and also things like PR Spin, and market share.

Evaluation: 2 on a scale of 5
I had a lot of fun with this simulation at first, as I could make hardware and software adhere for the most part to open standards and protocols. Then, every time, without exception, just as I had built what seemed like a really good company, the game-play would become frustrating. You see, as play progresses, the stakes get higher and the market begins to expect you to play by the changing rules of the day. No matter how hard I tried, for example, I could not pick "Release software under GPL"--it would be grayed out for some stupid reason.

The company would come up with some cool new technology, but insist on really lame licensing that would cause the market not to trust it for their long-term business. Rival companies (with weird names like Eye Beam Manufacturing and Hughlit Packers) seemed to be all over the new market place changes and yet the only thing I could get released under the GPL was an office suite--and that after many rounds of attempting to select the right licensing scheme.

Despite complex array of alternate licensing choices, the end result is infuriating. To top it all off, your CEO often makes embarrassing statements in public and you almost get the feeling that the company you're trying to control doesn't even grok the new marketplace. It almost seems like someone outside of your control in the company is wishing for ancient times to return, where monolithic software and hardware overlords ruled the net-scape, er landscape. Unfortunately for this type of wishful thinking, the simulation time period is set solidly in the present, where that type of business interaction from a technology company simply isn't tolerated.

I can't recommend this game, as newer simulations at least let you make the right decisions to keep your company afloat in changing times.

Well, there you have it. It's unfortunate that there are no new ground-breaking game paradigms to choose from. Even this column is a rework of an old one, as past readers can plainly see at this point. The problem is that internet.com has put a mandate out that I'm not to be innovative in my new columns, or Kevin Reichard will come by with a broad axe and cut me in half. Despite the obvious weight-loss advantages this would bring, I want to avoid that situation at all costs.

Hey, wait -- there's an innovative new game plot right there! Quick, somebody get me the phone number for Loki!

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