Tag Archives: pc

N-Gen Racing – The Interview

It’s Afterburner meets Wipeout all the way with the uber air racer dubbed N-Gen Racing. Instead of simply using the horizontal play field — as most racing titles do — N-Gen Racing pushes the envelope to its limits. Players will be able to utilize both the horizontal and vertical playing fields to full effect.

For the scoop on this promising racer, we sat down with Curly Monsters’ games designer Lee Carus and talked jets.

Daily Radar: First off, tell us where the idea for the game came from. Why planes?

Lee Carus: We wanted to do an ultrafast racing game, but we also wanted to do something a bit different to everything else that is already out there. We think that the potential of racing jets hadn’t been fully realized by other developers’ previous attempts.

DR: What will the game basically feature?

LC: There are two game modes — N-Gen and Arcade. Arcade mode is for those who just want a quick bit of racing fun, while N-Gen mode is for those who want something a bit more like Gran Turismo with all manner of race types. Expect to see Championships, Owner’s Club races, Time Trial and Free Flight — as well as the ultratough Majic-12 speed challenges.

There are two different handling modes: Arcade and Pro. Arcade is very simple and quick to pick up. Pro flies more like a real aircraft, and it’s tough to get the hang of. Once a player has it down, it’s the only way to play.

DR: How many tracks and vehicles do you hope to ship in the final product?

LC: There are 14 tracks, which are each playable both clockwise and anti-clockwise. At least one of the directions will take place during darkness. We hope to have over 40 planes — including a few hidden ones players will have to earn.

DR: What about multiplayer?

LC: We have two multiplayer game modes: Head-to-Head Racing and a game we call Powerball. This is more of a combat-oriented challenge rather than flat-out racing.

DR: Are the jets in the game based on real technology or have you exaggerated certain aspects of their design?

LC: The visual appearances of the standard jets are based on real aircraft — with differing aircraft being in scale to each other as well. However, the player is able to bolt on extras, and in the process, some of the planes can turn into things which look more like UFOs.

The handling of the aircraft has been modified. Rather than going for something which is simlike and hard to learn and harder to control, we’ve gone for a more fun feel. It still feels like you’re flying a plane — just with none of the frustration of a full flight sim.

DR: Can we expect to get hold of some crazy powerups as seen in Wipeout or Rollcage?

LC: They’re not that crazy — we tried to keep one foot in reality whilst designing the weapons. There are afterburner and health gates around the track which act as powerups — health restoring your airframe and afterburner allowing to charge up your afterburner meter. This is where it gets crazy, as the top end of the game allows players to exceed speeds of 3000 mph when using full afterburner.

DR: How will the vertical play field be used in the game, and what does this bring to the overall experience of N-Gen?

LC: This is one of the things that makes N-Gen stand out. Rather than just having to worry about left and right, up and down are real issues too. The general motto is the lower you go the faster you go — but sometimes gaining a bit of height to get an afterburner gate and then doing a quick roll to get round the next chicane can be much quicker.

DR: What has the game engine allowed you to do?

LC: This is Curly Monsters’ first game as an independent company, so we had to start from scratch. The graphics engine is very fast, very optimal and throws around an awful lot of polygons for a PlayStation.

It also uses some quite clever detail-swapping stuff to allow us to have double the draw distance of our early renderers. We’re squeezing every last drop of power out of Sony’s little gray box.

DR: What was the hardest challenge during the development of free diamonds app like this game?

LC: Making it feel like you are flying a plane without making it too hard and frustrating. We all enjoy flying under bridges in flight sims, but not the 50 keypresses to get you off the ground. Trying to balance the action of a high-powered racer with the elegance of an aircraft was tough, but we’re happy with the results.

DR: How will this push the envelope of the futuristic racing genre?

LC: Imitation is supposed to be the finest form of flattery — but I think we’d like to stay unique for a little while. However, N-Gen has answered many of the questions as to how to develop an airborne racer and keep it fun.

DR: Was there anything you couldn’t squeeze in due to time restrictions?

LC: Well … err… we’ll avoid that question. There may be a sequel, and we wouldn’t want to give away anything just yet. A sequel isn’t confirmed yet — but the idea that N-Gen could be the beginning of a really big franchise is definitely appealing.

DR: Any plans to port the game to Dreamcast or PC for some sweeter eye candy?

LC: There are no plans yet. We really haven’t looked into it. However, it’s likely that if there is another version, it will be on PlayStation2 and be a full sequel rather than a port.

Escape From Monkey Island Review

The monkeys. I still hear them in my sleep, they’re getting closer, pawing me with their calloused little banana-odoured fingers. We love a woman with a bit of spirit. And huge breasts. The title delivers a false promise. There is no escape from Monkey Island.

There never was. Its pirate residents never grow old and die; its gritty beaches are never free from washed-up grog barrels; its estuaries always knock and scrape with the adventure genre’s comic flotsam. Its secrets and curses have ensnared us since 1990, and the fourth in the series beckons us straight back into its interior.

Newcomers to the region may find the weight of its history off-putting like that of Disney Magic Kingdoms. Controlling the actions of Guybrush Threepwood, would-be pirate leader and ingenuous anti-hero, you encounter numerous characters and locations from the previous episodes. Delightfully charming this may be for fans, for first-timers it is alienatingly self-referential. Threepwood has finally defeated ghost pirate LeChuck and married his sweetheart Elaine, the governor of Melee Island. Alas, returning from their honeymoon they find Elaine declared dead by foolish bureaucrats, her home on the verge of demolition, her job challenged by a rival politician, her island’s industry the target of a hostile corporate take-over, and a dangerous burglar at large.

Upshot: a 3D puzzle-solving story involving lawyers, theme restaurants, groggacino coffee and sushi. Perhaps not the sort of buccaneereal antics you might expect, but then it doesn’t say Treasure Island on the box.

Grim Fandango’s engine has been overhauled to give LucasArts its new 3D interface. As you walk past objects Guybrush looks at them, and possible actions are suggested at the base of the screen in words. You can accept the action, hit [P] to force a Pick Up option or [U] for use. In each case, a sentence is formed and you hit [ENTER] to act on it. It may sound unwieldy but this unexpected tribute to classic text adventuring blends well with the updated visuals – and is less intrusive than many recent point-and-click innovations. The graphics themselves are stylised and cartoon-like, and while they’re not cutting edge they’re distinctive enough to define a taut sense of place. Forget the clipping and marginal flaws of Grim Fandango: this’un is slicker.

It’s attention to detail that makes Escape a success. Moving forward but with one eye (the other is patched) on the past, it begs to be called post-modern while remaining naively nostalgic. It mocks itself while celebrating its own traditions. Time and again it pauses to show you how foolish the whole thing is – characters routinely refer to their presence in ‘this game’ and Guybrush discovers a bar where he can buy LucasArts memorabilia. It could be clumsy, but it isn’t: it boasts devilish remember-the-first-time-you-saw-Airplane irreverence.

You could argue there’s too much clever-clever self-awareness here. A better criticism, however, lies in the dialogue. You get an earful of it, and it warbles on much too long. You can skip it, but hours of static – but, OK, funny – talking are inevitable. And the puzzles are growing ever more obscure… Stretching a sheet of human skin over with a drain to create a trampoline so you can bounce up to a window sounds like part The Silence of the Lambs, not a high-seas yarn. But there is no escape from Monkey Island. It is the best adventure game for years, it has a sly, well-plotted purpose and it points the way to the 3D adventures of the future.

Don’t fear the monkeys: embrace them.