Thursday, May 7, 2009

In Brief: Zombie Zombie Zombie

Do you like zombie movies? Do you like shooting things? Do you like SHOOTING ZOMBIES?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, steer clear of Zombie Zombie Zombie. A relationship simulator in the vein of Love is the Sweetest Gift and Panty Quest V, ZZZ is both surprisingly tender and extremely sexually charged.

Not recommended for those under the age of 18, or over the age of 12.


Review: Ice Rink Manager VII

've seen plenty of cynical money grabs in my time, many of which made use of highly regarded licenses and slick marketing in order to pry as much cash as possible from eager – and in short order, desperately disappointed – fans. So it was with no small measure of apprehension that I opened up my long-awaited copy of IRM7, inserted disc into drive, and began the pleasingly brief process of installation.Within minutes, I was faced with the familiar sight of the IceRinkSoft splash screen, and began the process of reacquainting myself with an old but rejuvenated friend.

For those readers who are desperate for a hint as to the game's quality, but have thus far resisted the urge to scroll directly to the score, I will torture you no longer. If you are a fan of the Ice Rink Manager series, buy this game. You will not be disappointed. The thrills, spills, and above all, the sheer tactical intensity of managing an ice rink have been captured here with the affectionate attention to detail found in all of IceRinkSoft's games, and the gritty realism of the series' previous installment has been more than matched.

That's right: for those of us who doubted that IRM6 could be topped, it's time to eat humble, icy pie. The ice physics have been improved, the economic simulation revamped – and, remarkably, further deepened – and the patron AI is now stunningly lifelike. No longer will skaters simply move around the rink in perfect, robotic circles, but instead are governed by a startlingly human system of motivations and realistically flawed thought processes. I don't want to spoil anything, but the first time you witness a clueless skater traveling in the wrong direction (counter to the established flow of ice-traffic) you'd better hope that
unlike this reviewer you are not in the process of eating breakfast, or your keyboard will be at serious risk of milk-and-cereal damage!

Such pleasant surprises abound in IRM7, and could fill several reviews, but are best left to be discovered by the player. A brief look at the feature list, then, before my closing comments.

The thing that smooths over the ice after people have skated on it is, as promised, now directly controllable by the player. It is glorious, and could justifiably have been held over for one of the inevitable expansion packs. IceRinkSoft are to be applauded for resisting the temptation to do so.

The revamped economy, stunning artificial intelligence and improved ice physics were noted earlier, and all add immeasurably to the overall experience. My only complaint is that the physics are, if anything, too detailed, putting excessive strain on systems lacking a dedicated physics processor. This is ultimately a small price to pay, however, and fans of the series must surely have come to terms with the need to keep up with the latest hardware in order to get the most out of each new edition of IRM.

Other notable additions include five new employee types, a streamlined user interface, and a staggering two hundred new rink designs.

This is truly a tour de force, and the only question that remains to be asked is how IceRinkSoft could possibly top this one. A strangely familiar question, and one that has been emphatically answered so many times before, but never with quite such flair as in the transition from IRM6 to IRM7.


Review: Elephant Rescue

I've often wondered how we would live were death avoidable. Still possible, but not inevitable. Getting run over by a car or catching certain diseases would still be fatal, but the aging process would not continue past the point of maturity, and as such life would not have a (roughly) pre-defined finishing point. How would we fill this open-ended journey? Would the risk:reward ratio of actually living be skewed so badly that we would focus all of our efforts on preserving our fragile but potentially infinite lives?

In our world, it is easy to rationalise risk-taking. We'll all die eventually regardless of the choices we make, so being over-cautious to the point of living an unfulfilling life achieves nothing. Working out which concessions to safety are worth making is rarely completely straightforward, but the fundamental truth that some risks are worth taking is obvious. In a world of potential – but by no means guaranteed – immortality, such a conclusion may be far harder to support. Make one mistake, fall victim to one unlikely but not-entirely-unavoidable tragedy, and the possibilities left unfulfilled are quite literally infinite.

The flipside to this, of course, is that living out those possibilities would always involve a degree of risk. Suppose that complete safety was achieveable, but only by remaining in a state of isolation and self-imposed captivity. Surely this would be no way to live, and remaining in such a state indefinitely would seem to many a fate far worse than death. But who could avoid ever making use of this safety net, this guarantee that nothing could take from you the sole prerequisite for all of the experiences life had to offer? As long as you and those you loved remained locked away like this, nothing could separate you permanently; the possibility of being together, of simply living, would always exist and be yours to realise whenever you chose to do so. Would this possibility be enough to sustain you? Would the fear of losing everything become so crippling as to prevent you from directly experiencing any of it?

Elephant Rescue is a passable addition to the 'animal rescue' genre, offering up the gameplay mechanics and emotional engagement we have come to expect, and damned only by its lack of genuine innovation and a creeping sense of familiarity. If you enjoy games about rescuing elephants, you will love Elephant Rescue. For everyone else, this is definitely one to try before you buy.