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.

DuckTales: Remastered – Compatibility

DuckTales: Remastered

DuckTales: Remastered

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon 64 X2, or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Nvidia GeForce 200, AMD Radeon HD5000, or better. 512 MB Video RAM
Hard Disk: 2 GB

Windows 10

DuckTales: Remastered seems to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Apples to Apples – Card Game Review

Apples to Apples Game Box

Apples to Apples Game Box

Apples to Apples: The Game of Crazy Combinations is a party card game released by Mattel. My copy is copyrighted 2013. The game is designed for 4 to 8 players, but I have played games with as many as 12 participants.

My Apples to Apples deck contains 438 red apple cards, 62 green apple cards, 3 blank red apple cards, and 1 blank green apple card. In our house rules we decided to not require players to use the blank cards if they did not want to. They are available to make the game more interesting and more personalized for those who wish to come up with a creative wild card.

All red apple cards are shuffled together and randomly distributed across as many piles as is convenient face down. These are the draw piles for all players. All players draw five cards out of the red apple cards to compose their beginning hands. The green cards are also shuffled together into their own deck and placed in the middle of the table so everyone can reach them.

Apples to Apples Card Piles

Apples to Apples card piles

Someone is selected as the first judge. It’s typically best for this person to be the one with the most prior experience in playing Apples to Apples. The judge takes a green apple card off of the green apple card pile and selects one of the two adjectives written on the card. They then place the card face up on the table where everyone can see it and say what adjective they chose out loud. All other players then play face down the red apple card they feel contains a noun that is best described by the green apple card adjective selected and then draw a new red apple card from the red apple card decks to replenish their hand up to five cards. Once all of the players have played a red apple card, the judge selects which green/red apple card combination they like the best. Once they have picked the winning red apple card, the green apple card is awarded to the winner of that round for score keeping and play continues with the player to the left of the judge acting as new judge in the next round of play.

The rules state that the first person to win four green apple cards wins the game, but there is really no max number you have to stop at. The last time I played this game we exhausted the entire deck of green apple cards. Another interesting twist we made to our own game was to create a dummy player. Each round of play we would toss an additional random red apple card into the pile for the judge to examine. It was fascinating to see how well the non-player did compared to the actual human players around the table. In fact in the game I played last night, the dummy player actually came in second place!

There have been numerous times that I have asked people if they wanted to play Apples to Apples and they have wanted to know what it was. I would then explain it to them and they would say, “Oh, kind of like Cards Against Humanity? I’ve got that one, why don’t we just play that?” Apples to Apples is a family friendly game, while Cards Against Humanity is more adult themed with explicit content. Be aware of this if you are a newcomer to this genre and you want to keep your gaming experiences more family friendly for everyone involved.

The Apples to Apples rulebook contains a couple other play variations that I have yet to try out. In the Crab Apples variation, the objective is to pick the best red apple card that is the opposite of the word chosen for the green apple card. In 2 for 1 Apples, each player attempts to pick the one red apple card in their hand that matches best with both words on the green apple card.

If you were judge, which would you pick?

If you were judge, which would you pick?

Apples to Apples is probably my most frequently used go-to game to take to parties, especially those where I am unsure of the tastes of the hosts and whether they are gamers or not. Given that Apples to Apples is essentially an exercise in understanding other players’ psychology, this game acts as a good icebreaker to better understand and relate to the people I play with without bringing up any over the top embarrassing or offensive themes. One of the red apple cards is “Republicans” while another is “Democrats.” One of the red apple cards is “George W. Bush” while another is “Hillary Rodham Clinton.” I have been able to learn a lot about the people I play with based on the cards they play and how they talk about the subjects on the cards. We all learn a lot more about each other. Apples to Apples has probably helped me build rapport with those I have played it with more than any other game I own.

Any gamer who is serious about being a social gamer should have Apples to Apples in their collection. It’s easily available and fairly inexpensive in most stores with a toy section. I don’t even worry if my copy gets damaged because I know I can always get another copy. Meanwhile its benefits to opening avenues of conversation through a friendly game cannot be understated. I feel this game truly is a treasure to human society.

DuckTales: Remastered [Woo-Ooh!] – Windows 7 Game First Impressions

DuckTales: Remastered

DuckTales: Remastered Title Screen

DuckTales: Remastered is a Disney licensed title published by Capcom and developed by WayForward released in 2013 for Valve’s Steam platform. It is a remake of the classic DuckTales for the Nintendo Entertainment System. While I was concerned that Capcom and Disney might be attempting to market this game simply to capitalize on the nostalgia of fans of the classic game, this game appears to be a solid single-player platformer for Windows 7 era PCs. Fans of the show will appreciate getting reacquainted with all of the characters and the plucky humor is true to form for the series.

DuckTales Remastered: Intro Level Tutorial Gameplay

DuckTales: Remastered Intro Level Tutorial

Upon loading the game you are greeted with a title screen with the town of Duckburg in the background. The DuckTales instrumental theme music plays and I couldn’t help but sing along. The original game went straight to a level select screen. This remastered version however begins predictably in the spirit of the animated show with the Beagle Boys breaking into Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin. McDuck, played by the player, must make his way to the money vault and defeat the boss. This level acts as a sort of tutorial to help the player get familiar with the game’s controls.

For those who are not familiar with playing DuckTales, the player controls Scrooge McDuck throughout the game. Like most platformers, the player may run in the horizontal directions and jump in a vertical arc. The player may also have McDuck use his cane like a pogo stick to get a jump with increased distance or to crush an enemy beneath him. He can also use his cane like a golf stick to whack items in the game.

DuckTales: Remastered First Boss

DuckTales: Remastered First Boss

When I was growing up, having a few friends who owned DuckTales for the NES, the general consensus was that the game was really hard. It appears my concept of hard has changed over the years. I wouldn’t call this an easy game, and it’s probably harder than the original Super Mario Bros., though that may be an apples to oranges comparison. That being said, the game feels fair even while I’m losing, and thus far at no point has felt overwhelmingly difficult. Quite the contrary, every time I have died, I wanted to try again and keep on playing.

Upon defeating the Beagle Boys, it is discovered that they were after a particular painting that contained information hidden in its picture frame as to the whereabouts of large sums of hidden treasures. McDuck punches all of the data into his large treasure hunting computer which then provides the menu screen for the additional levels of the game, segueing into the familiar level select of the original.

DuckTales: Remastered Diving into Money

DuckTales: Remastered Diving into Money

Just like in the original there are five main levels in DuckTales: Remastered: the Amazon, Transylvania, African Mines, the Himalayas, and the Moon. The player can choose to play these levels in any order, so of course I picked the Moon first being the sci-fi adventurer I am. But before I went on my moon mission, I had to take a dive into McDuck’s piles of gold coins. This is actually probably the best part of the game I have played so far. I must have spent several minutes just enjoying making Uncle Scrooge dive into his wealth, drinking in the satisfying jingles.

DuckTales: Remastered Hard to Duck in Space

It’s Hard to Duck in Space

I was impressed to find the moon level plays almost exactly like it did in the NES classic. I’m surprised they did not include a feature where you could switch between the old and new graphics of the levels like they had with the remastered version of The Secret of Monkey Island. Maybe there is more new stuff here than I realize, but the similarity between the two games is shocking. Added to this remastered version are new cut-scenes that provide back story and giving fans of the show new material that fits in with the series.

DuckTales: Remastered Moon Gameplay

DuckTales: Remastered Moon Gameplay

So far I would recommend this game to any fan of the DuckTales animated series and anyone who really enjoys a decent platformer. The voice acting is fantastic and the graphics have received a worthy face lift. While there is nothing here particularly groundbreaking, given that the platformer genre has seen a great deal of changes and innovations since 1989, the game play continues to hold up well and provides a great deal of entertainment in our current decade. The simplicity of the controls may also make it an obvious choice for those who are unfamiliar and new to playing 2D platformers.