Command & Cactuar: A Review of Multiwinia – Survival of the Flattest for the PC

November 16, 2008 at 23:36 (Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Three like-minded undergrads meet at Imperial College London and hit it off.  In their love of retro games, Chris Delay, Mark Morris and Thomas Arundel share a passion that proves decisive when they band together to form Introversion Software.  Almost single-handedly, Chris cooks up a little hacker sim by the name of Uplink, while his collegiate compatriots get down to the business of selling their fledgling company’s quirky debut.  They appoint themselves “the last of the bedroom programmers” and invest in some CD-Rs and ink for their printers; they make and distribute the first copies of the game by hand.  They’re a dedicated, down-to-earth bunch of dreamers, and as such, it’s a pleasant surprise to say that they didn’t fall victim to that essentially British condition Top Gear so aptly ascribes as “ambitious, but rubbish”.  Within hours of its launch, Uplink had made back the developer’s paltry initial investment – and then some.  Enough, say, for Introversion Software to take to E3 2002 and drop £10k on showy speedboats and supercars.

The path Introversion Software took from those no-doubt hazy days to the more sobering state of the industry today hasn’t always been straightforward, taking in the bankruptcy of their then-publisher to the near-insolvency they faced themselves, not to mention a series of heartbreaking delays.  Their sophomore effort finally arrived in 2005, but despite critical acclaim and strong overnight sales, few gamers were willing to drop full retail price on an indie darling from a largely unknown quantity.  So few, in fact, that Introversion Software had to sign on for government benefits to sustain themselves through the six miserable months after their failure at retail.  But then: lo, Gabe Newell said, let there be Steam.  And there was Steam.  And it was good.  Valve’s groundbreaking distribution network made a modest success of Darwinia; it was the perfect platform for such a loving throwback to find its feet, and that it did, thanks in no small part to the modding community that blossomed around Introversion Software’s geometric RTS.

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A Spoonful of Sugar

September 30, 2008 at 8:08 (News, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , )

Can’t stop for long, but between articles for Blogcritics and a column on indie films I’m working on, I wanted to take a moment to pimp another of my reviews over at AceGamez.  This time I’m gently poking fun at Opoona, ArtePiazza’s junior RPG for the Wii.  Here’s the intro text:

“Former Square Enix assistants ArtePiazza finally break out of the Dragon Quest grind with a new, original series. Sadly, despite an excellent soundtrack and an ambitious Skate-inspired battle system controlled entirely using the Nunchuck, the eponymous Opoona’s adventure is an experience measured at all times by a desire to achieve crossover success with the casual Wii crowd.

This isn’t My First RPG by any stretch of the imagination, but poor level design and a dodgy camera will test the patience of core gamers. If you can swallow that, you could well love Opoona…”

Click through here to read the rest, if you please.  First person to spot the sneaky porn lingo I snuck past my editor wins an official All Things Uncertain no-prize!

Here’s something to ponder in the meantime: do I want to uproot my life and move to London to take a job with Gamespot UK?

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