Owlboy – Compatibility

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Any Linux variant with glibc 2.15 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

macOS

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7.5 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or greater
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: DirectX 10 capable graphics card required. DirectX must be version 9.0c or greater.
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

Windows 10

This game was designed for and seems to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Owlboy – Linux, Mac OS X 10.13, Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy is a puzzle, platformer, two-dimensional free movement shooter released in 2016 for the Steam platform. It was developed and published by D-Pad Studio. With a rich though linear storyline like you might find in a JRPG, Owlboy blends many genres and integrates game mechanics from many types of games.

Owlboy follows the adventures of a mute owl by the name of Otis. Given Otis’ disability, he is bullied by his peers and has a hard time living up to the standards of the town leaders. Overcoming disability and standing up to bullying may turn out to be a theme throughout the game.

The game begins with the player flying around the village of Vellie getting to know the villagers and serving as a look out for pirates. The villagers inform Otis of a troublemaker who has been plaguing the town. Eventually the player explores to the point where the bully owls frighten and intimidate Otis. The local tinkerer named Geddy comes to Otis’ defense and they team up to explore together. At that point Geddy becomes part of the player’s party and Otis can pick up Geddy to fly him around.

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Otis flies around using the W, A, S, D keys. Geddy has a pea shooter than can be used to shoot at enemies and objects. It is particularly effective when shooting anything that is wooden. The player uses the mouse to aim and the left mouse button to fire. Most of the game controls are well labeled on screen whenever they may be used to interact with the environment.

After all of the villagers have been greeted and another owl has been saved from bullying, Otis and Geddy encounter the town troublemaker and chase him down to a cave where the real game begins. The first area is fairly simple to navigate and serves as a tutorial to help the player learn all of the game mechanics and get used to the style of puzzle solving that will be expected later.

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Geddy can be picked up and flown around and is useful for firing on enemies. His pea shooter kills most enemies I have encountered thus far and annihilates dry old tree trunks. When not carrying Geddy, Otis can use a spin attack that can only stun enemies, but can also be used to break rocks which are impervious to the Geddy’s pea shooter. It is in this area that the player learns the strengths and weaknesses of each character’s abilities. Similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, health is boosted and restored in Owlboy by pulling produce out of the ground and eating it. Whenever I have encountered something growing out of the ground, I have found it best to go ahead and eat it to get a larger health bar.

The First Boss

The First Boss

The first boss wasn’t as easy as I tend to expect a boss to be immediately following a tutorial. There was a good deal of trial and error as I worked to determine which character needed to fire in what way in order to cause the boss damage. I don’t recall seeing any health bar for the boss to indicate how much damage was being dealt, nor was there any particular difference that I could detect in the flashes that came from shooting the boss with Geddy’s pea shooter and using Otis’ spin attack.

It eventually became clear however that the first boss had armor in the front that could not be penetrated. It that had to be kicked off using Otis’ spin attack from behind. Then once the armor was off, Otis’ had to be carrying Geddy in order to shoot the boss with the pea shooter. Once I figured out the pattern, defeating the boss wasn’t at all hard, but definitely provided evidence for an interesting game going forward.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Upon defeating the boss, the player gains an artifact that allows them to press a button to transport Geddy to Otis’ location from wherever he happens to be. This is an extremely helpful mechanic as I was worried about losing him throughout most of the game leading up to the first boss. In many games any companion received must usually be handled with care. In Owlboy it appears you can slam Geddy against any wall or throw him off cliffs with great comedic slapstick relief and he will come back with no issue. Geddy looks fragile, but he can take a real beating.

Once Otis and Geddy get back to town after chasing the troublemaker and defeating the boss, they find the village riddled with pirates. The pirates seize an artifact that will help them attack the capital of Advent and they leave to do so. Otis’ mentor Asio leaves with the village professor to warn those at the capital while Otis and Geddy are tasked with going to the ancient Owl Temple to discover if there is a way to defeat the pirate fleet with the old owl technology.

Sky Pirates!

Sky Pirates!

Owlboy’s graphic style is reminiscent of 32-bit platformers released in the mid to late 1990s. The parallax looks phenomenal. The sound is what I would expect and suites the story. In many ways Owlboy is a typical puzzle platformer that delivers everything I would expect in a predictable manner. But just when I guess where I think it is going, it has so far surprised me with a little twist here or extra unexpected depth there. This also seems to be a good title for adolescents. The content so far seems safe while the challenge provided is worthy and not too easy. The game is rated E10+ by the ESRB, so I’ll leave that to parents to decide. I certainly have enjoyed playing Owlboy thus far, and look forward to continuing the adventures of Otis and Geddy again soon.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Compatibility

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 7 or better
Processor: Quad Core x86 compatible
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: AMD Radeon HD 6950, NVidia GeForce GTX 560, or better
(Incompatible with Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics)
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 12 GB

Windows 10

The Steam version of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified ran flawlessly for me in Windows 10.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Windows 8 and Mac OS X 10.8 Game First Impressions

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

When I think of the XCOM series, I think of turn-based strategy and covert government agency management. I have fond memories of playing the first game in the series, XCOM: UFO Defense, with a close friend a few years after it came out in 1994. He found it in a bargain bin at a Tuesday Morning and talked his mom into getting it for him, much to our delight. The gameplay elements introduced in this first game were recreated in Firaxis Games’ reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown released in 2012. In both of these games, the player recruits a squad of elite special forces soldiers to train and send on missions to defend against the extra-terrestrial menaces facing the planet while determining how government funding should be spent to best protect Earth’s security interests. The premise underlying these games provides intense potential for fantastic storylines across genres. And given the cult following of not only the original game, but also for shows like The X-Files, game developers worked to release other XCOM titles spanning other genres of gameplay.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

When I first installed and played The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, published in 2013 by 2K Games and developed by 2K Marin, I thought it would be based on XCOM: Enemy Unknown from the previous year. Interestingly, development on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified began in 2010 and these games seem in most ways unrelated outside of them both having the player defend earth from extra-terrestrial aggressors. The initial events of the game occur in 1962 during John F. Kennedy’s presidency. I haven’t played the game far enough to know if the developers made it tie-in with the story of other XCOM games in the series.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is primarily a third-person shooter with tactical elements. As the player receives new recruits throughout the game, they can press the spacebar to command those recruits to move to points of strategic cover and target specific enemy locations. The interface to this is similar in some ways to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six but happens from within the mission. Time slows down when entering what is called “Battle Focus Mode,” but does not stop entirely and the player is vulnerable while they are making decisions.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

In general, the core gaming mechanics require that the player seek cover behind objects while being shot at, and when the time is right, use the right mouse button to aim and fire at enemies. Aiming makes you vulnerable, so it is prudent to time your shots when the enemy is firing the least and is the most vulnerable themselves. The controls used to take cover seemed a little awkward to me. Left-shift while facing a wall or other such structure is supposed to enable the player to crouch behind it. Left-shift while moving forward is also supposed to make the player run. Once in such a defensive position, the player may then use A or D on the keyboard to move left or right respectively across the defensive surface. This maps a number of two-dimensional planes onto a clearly three-dimensional world that is at best confusing. I have yet to tell if I’m just not comfortable with the controls yet, or if there is actually a disconnect in some cases with how the game’s engine handles ducking behind a surface versus running around in the larger three-dimensional environment.

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a very linear game divided into levels with cutscenes throughout to advance the storyline. The storyline is fairly typical for its genre, though rich enough thus far. It reminds me a bit of Resistance: Fall of Man. It plays much like the typical console third-person shooter, but without any save-point frustration that I have noticed thus far. The player may press F5 at any time to get a graphical overlay with the direction they game intends for them to go to progress, and any in-game objects that can be interacted with glow a bright golden yellow.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is unfortunately only single-player. I think it would be incredible to have an arena in which players may strategically command their squad while simultaneously participating in a classic deathmatch. Perhaps someone could eventually release a mod for the game to accomplish this.

If you are a fan of The X-Files, XCOM, Men in Black kind of stories, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified would be relevant to your interests. Outside of having an interesting story, I could think of a multitude of other games I would rather be playing. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a good game for what it is, polished and enjoyable. But it doesn’t quite stack up as a game that would keep me coming back again and again, like the more traditional games in the XCOM series whose namesake The Bureau: XCOM Declassified shares.

Carmageddon TDR 2000 – Compatibility

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98 or later.
Processor: 1.8 GHz or better.
Memory: 1 GB RAM recommended.
Video: 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 9
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Windows 10

Carmageddon TDR 2000 runs almost flawlessly in Windows 10. Multiplayer requires DirectPlay which is unsupported, but there may be workarounds to make multiplayer work.

Carmageddon TDR 2000 – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 is the third game in the Carmageddon series released in 2000. It was developed by Torus Games and originally published by Xicat Interactive for the Microsoft Windows 98 and 2000 operating systems on PC. The TDR in the title stands for “Total Destruction Racing,” for those who were wondering.

When I was a kid, I’d be sitting in the back seat when my parents took me along to the grocery store in the family car. More often than not when driving through the parking lot, a pedestrian would walk right out in front of my dad’s car without ever looking up to see if any vehicles were coming. Whenever this happened, my dad liked to jokingly say, “There’s fifty points!” as they crossed in front of his car’s grill. This is the kind of sense of humor the Carmageddon series is geared to.

I can drive a Steam Machine while playing on my Steam Machine.

I can drive a Steam Machine while playing on my Steam Machine.

If you are unfamiliar with the Carmageddon series, the original game’s tag line is The Racing Game for the Chemically Imbalanced with a pedestrian carrying a briefcase being run over by a fast-moving red sports car. Like most racing games, the player races against other contestants around a track for a certain number of laps, reaching check points along the way. If the player is able to reach the next check point in time, they are awarded more time as they make their way to the finish line. Where the Carmageddon series differs is that the player is awarded bonus points for each pedestrian they are able to run over.

These guys are about to get steamrolled.

These guys are about to get steamrolled.

In Carmageddon TDR 2000, railroading pedestrians rewards the player with satisfying crunch and squish sounds encouraging the player to produce more carnage. Performing fancy tricks also awards points to the player. These bonus points can be spent purchasing new vehicles or upgrading an existing vehicle’s engine power, armor, or weapons. Unlike real-life, many of the pedestrians really seem to have a death wish. In many cases the race track is clearly marked with innocent bystanders carelessly walking right into harms way, even when they are walking around the remains of their already previously unlucky comrades.

I didn't know this doubled as a airplane. Vroom!

I didn’t know this doubled as a airplane. Vroom!

I forgot how much I have missed playing with Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars as a kid and pretending I was in the cars doing the incredible tricks and causing massive crashes. I had fun doing all of this in Carmageddon TDR 2000. The tracks I have played so far have not been linear like in other racing titles to the point of being rather impressive. The game seems much more open-world than most games ever got in the year 2000. There is plenty of room to drive around and explore provided the player doesn’t run out of time. I just figured out where the checkpoints were and made sure I drove through them in sequence whenever I needed to add time to the clock. The rest of the time I was trying to drive up and over anything I could, enjoying the full extent of fun the sandbox I found myself in could provide. The first track provides a loop the loop to speed through and a ramp to jump over a series of RVs and trailers.

It's sometimes too easy to get stuck doing crazy fun stuff.

It’s sometimes too easy to get stuck doing crazy fun stuff.

There are a number of interesting cars available to choose from even at the beginning of the game before any of the later cars are unlocked. I noticed one called the Steam Machine. Given that I am an avid PC gamer, I had to drive it. It was massive fun steamrolling everything in my path. With great freedom of movement comes great responsibility though. I found it trivial in many cases to pin myself in a place where I could not maneuver free. When aborting a race, a player keeps the points they accumulated up to the point they aborted, so it’s not much of a loss to start the race over when stuck. If you run the race straight along the track, you shouldn’t have this problem, but if you’re like me and enjoy pushing the limits of the game, it will likely become a fairly frequent occurrence.

Is that a car that's just a moving wooden wheel? I want to wreck it!

Is that a car that’s just a moving wooden wheel? I want to wreck it!

The multiplayer functionality in Carmageddon TDR 2000 requires DirectPlay to work. When I attempted to install DirectPlay in Windows 10, the process locked up and wouldn’t let me proceed. A quick check of the Steam forums indicates there are people who were able to get it to work, but their solutions may not work in all cases. Microsoft’s official current stance from what I can tell is that DirectPlay is deprecated and therefore completely unsupported for Windows 10.

Got 'em!

Got ’em!

Carmageddon TDR 2000 is available for download on both Steam and GOG.com for a fair price on each. This game is raw arcade vehicular mayhem and racing, and devoid of any meaningful plot or story-line. The Grand Theft Auto series probably fills this niche for gamers better these days, but I had a great amount of fun launching my steam machine around for the small time I have played. I do plan to revisit this one and see where the rest of the game takes me.

Cat Girl Without Salad – Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Cat Girl Without Salad Title Screen

Cat Girl Without Salad Title Screen

Revenge of the Mutant Camels meets Power Puff Girls in Cat Girl Without Salad developed by WayForward Technologies and released in 2016 as a Humble Bundle Original for the Windows 10 operating system platform. The game was originally an April Fools joke announced in 2013 billed as a game spanning all genres in one title. While my experiences with it thus far have revealed it to be primarily a horizontal side-scrolling shooter, Cat Girl Without Salad parodies familiar game elements from other video games integrated throughout its gameplay.

How to Play

How to Play

The protagonist hero of Cat Girl Without Salad is named Kebako. She is a robotic, ditsy cartoon girl bounty hunter with cat ears flying through space to fight enemies and take down bad guys. She is equipped with a default pea shooter that literally shoots peas. Throughout the game, the player will find what look like game cartridges that upgrade Kebako’s weapons in various ways. Each weapon upgrade is unique, creative, and sometimes annoying.

Starting Pea Shooter

Starting Pea Shooter

There is a platformer gun that shoots a cartoon platformer sprite who jumps on the enemies to kill them. The sports gun shoots golf balls at the enemies based on the direction of the player’s swing. A puzzle gun turns the side-scrolling shooter environment into a scrolling game of Bust-a-Move. An RPG gun opens up a fight menu similar to those encountered in Final Fantasy games where the player can choose to attack or use magic against approaching enemies.

Using the RPG Gun

Using the RPG Gun

I also encountered a dance gun that mimicks the Dance Dance Revolution games made by Konami. Instructions for how to play Cat Girl Without Salad are simple and provided to the player at the beginning of a new game. Guns can be fired using any of the four direction arrow keys on the keyboard. When using the dance gun, if the player times their shots appropriately with the “dance” arrows scrolling across the screen, they can achieve a combo score for each time they time their shot correctly.

Dance, Dance Gun

Dance, Dance Gun

Ice cream sundaes, pizza, cheeseburgers, and any other junk foods may be collected to restore health, but not salads. Suffice it to say, Cat Girl Without Salad is a crazy game. The game characters seem to act like characters from animated television shows aired on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon to preteen girls. This somehow seems to actually add to its charm. The blasts of bubblegum pink and strobing pastels excite rather than frustrate. Whereas many such cartoons tend to grate on my nerves, the audio in Cat Girl Without Salad is thus far enjoyable. The development team seems to have really known what they were doing and enjoyed doing it.

Am I playing Bust-a-Move or R-Type?

Am I playing Bust-a-Move or R-Type?

For appearing to be geared toward younger girls, whether in fact or as a joke, Cat Girl Without Salad is a legitimately challenging game. It is far from the hardest side-scrolling shooter I have played, but it’s certainly not easy either. The game feels fair, challenging, and the controls are solid. While the weapon types are clever and creative, they are not immediately useful without adequate practice. Expect to play even the first level over again to learn how to get it right.

As I said, Cat Girl Without Salad is a Humble Bundle Original. This means it was made as an exclusive title for those who subscribe to the Humble Bundle Monthly service. When subscribed, it may be downloaded DRM-free to the subscriber’s local machine and launched from a simple executable. If Humble Bundle were to ever no longer be a thing, I could imagine this game would become a rare but coveted title, perhaps like Chex Quest is now.

Let the reader note that after I wrote this article, I saw that Humble Bundle will be removing this game from its Humble Bundle Monthly offering on February 2, 2018. If you’re a Humble Bundle Monthly subscriber, you’ll need to get it before then to play it as part of that packaged deal. Hopefully it will still be available to be purchased in some way after February 2, 2018.

The First Boss

The First Boss

The more I play Cat Girl Without Salad, the more I really like it. It is an addictive side-scrolling shooter that takes the genre to places that are completely different from where its ever been while keeping the core elements familiar, but fresh. If you sign up for a Humble Bundle Monthly subscription, make sure you check out Cat Girl Without Salad.

Psychonauts – Compatibility

Psychonauts Box Art

Psychonauts Box Art

System Requirements

Linux

Processor: 2.0 GHz or higher
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: 128MB Video RAM with OpenGL 2.1 compatibility
Hard Disk: 6 GB
glibc 2.7+ required. Binary is 32-bit.

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Processor: Intel Core I Series Processor
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: ATI HD 3870 or Nvidia 8800GT or better. 512 MB Video RAM required.
Hard Disk: 4 GB

Windows

Operating System: Windows 2000/XP or higher
Processor: 2.0 GHz Pentium IV or AMD Athlon or higher
Memory: 512 MB RAM
Video: 128 MB GeForce FX 5600 or ATI Radeon 9600 or higher, DirectX 9 compatible.
Sound: DirectX 9.0 compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 6 GB

Windows 10

The Steam version of this game appears to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Psychonauts – Windows XP, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.6 Game First Impressions

Psychonauts Box Art

Psychonauts Box Art

Psychonauts is a 3D-platformer action adventure game developed and published by Double Fine Productions. The original boxed version for the PC was published by Majesco Entertainment. First released in 2005, its story was written and directed by game design legend Tim Shafer.

The player begins Psychonauts playing as Raz, an adolescent who runs away from his parents to attend the secret Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp in order to learn how to use his psychic powers to become a Psychonaut. Since he is there without parental permission, he is only allowed to train at the camp until his parents arrive to either pick him up to take him home or grant permission for him to continue his training there. While Raz is eager to complete his training more quickly than his parents are able to arrive, most of his fellow camp residents are apathetic to the goals of the camp coaches and just want to go home. When Raz begins to demonstrate his abilities, some attempt to impede his progress.

Getting ready to attend "Basic Braining"

Getting ready to attend “Basic Braining”

Those familiar with Tim Shafer’s other games such as Full Throttle and Grim Fandango will note the same signature charm in the story, dialog, and artistic nature of Psychonauts. However, unlike those previous games, Psychonauts is a true action 3D-platformer, not a relaxing point-and-click adventure game. This makes sense given that a version of the game was also released for the XBox and Playstation 2 game consoles.

A piece of mental baggage.

A piece of mental baggage.

The first forty minutes of the game consists of cut-scenes introducing Raz and the characters at the camp and a tutorial on how to successfully implement the mechanics of the game across an obstacle course known as “Basic Braining.” The controls are a little awkward to get used to for a PC gamer utilizing the mouse and keyboard. I have played many more PC titles in the same genre that felt like they had much better controls. That being said, the effort to learn the awkward controls felt worthwhile in order to progress further into a rich, compelling game.

Swinging on poles was challenging until I learned you're supposed to press the direction arrow at the same time you jump

Swinging on poles was challenging until I learned you’re supposed to press the direction arrow you want to move in at the same time you jump.

Once through the tutorial, it is apparent that Psychonauts is a vast game with a great deal of depth to it. The player may press the “Esc” key to access the game’s journal. The journal keeps track of the quests the player has been sent on, any key game information the player needs, player stats, and games may be saved and loaded from the journal as well.The game may be saved at any time the player accesses the journal; there are no pesky save points.

Then there are these tightropes. A little tricky.

Then there are these tightropes. A little tricky.

Every few moments at the beginning of playing Psychonauts there is something new being introduced. I sometimes hate writing first impressions articles on games like Psychonauts because I feel like I haven’t spent enough time playing yet to adequately describe the essence of the game as a whole, but only a sliver of the tip of the iceberg. The character acting and animation are phenomenal. The game does a good job introducing the player to a large, bizarre story world a little bit at a time to keep it all fresh, interesting, and fun.

But the trapeze was the most challenging of all.

But the trapeze was the most challenging of all.

Psychonauts includes a little something for everyone it seems. Collecting various items throughout the game allows the player to level up their character’s abilities. There are pieces of mental baggage to find and sort through. I felt all sorts of good when I received my first merit badge and could score more as the game progresses. Psychonauts is a challenging 3D platformer, and provides an intense, deep story for adventure gamers as well. This seems to be a classic in every sense in my gameplay so far. I’m eager to continue playing through Psychonauts to really see how good it is.

Treasure Adventure Game – Compatibility

Treasure Adventure Game Title Screen

Treasure Adventure Game Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows XP or higher
Processor: 1.8 GHz
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: DirectX 9 compatible graphics cards
Hard Disk: 2 GB

Windows 10

The GOG.com version of this game worked flawlessly when I played it in Windows 10.