25 November 2011

"Your Xbox can't recognize this disc"

Bored with so-called hype games the big game companies pour onto the shelves for the end of year season, we dug up old Xbox, dusted it off and hooked it up to the TV. After all, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II was left unfinished few years ago so what would be better time to continue it! Hurrah!

Alas, that was what we got, attempt after attempt...

We know the first generation models with Thomson DVD drives have compability issues with later games, but that couldn't be the reason as the game worked perfectly years ago. As did all the other games which didn't load up now. About 50% of the games that used to work without a hitch didn't work anymore. And yes, all discs were clean with absolutely no scratches or dust.

So we figured the disc drive must be dirty. We bought pure alcohol from pharmacy (remember kids, that's something not to consume or inhale, in fact a very good ventilation and even a face mask when using the stuff is strongly recommended) and a couple of "jeweller's screwdrivers" as we knew there would be such screws to, er, unscrew outside and inside the machine. I watched from sidelines and let my brother to do the job, heh. After getting to the heart of the DVD drive, he carefully cleaned both the lens and the reflective mirror with q-tip dipped in the alcohol and then let them dry for a while. After that all pieces back together.

The good news: he didn't kill Xbox. It's working.

The bad news:

Those games still don't load so we assume it must be some mechanical stress on the DVD drive. Sigh. So all we can do is watch jumble sales for a working, newer model of the first Xbox...

6 November 2011

Hydrophobia attacks!

Downloadable games can be like straight-to-DVD alternatives to Hollywood blockbusters. Most of them are crap but some of them are actually more honest and likeable than their multimillion counterparts. Here we have Hydrophobia Prophecy (available on PSN store and Steam) by a small UK developers Dark Energy Digital. On a big screen we have Uncharted 3, one of the hyped, "must see, must play" games of the fall. That is, if you read forums and see those strange comparisons. In fact Hydrophobia owes more to Tomb Raider's legacy than to Sony's flashy thrill rides.

Hello, Kate. Feeling well, are we?

You see, there are none of those "push the buttons" set pieces and orchestrated cash-in on offer here. Instead we have Queen of the World, a big ocean liner suddenly flooded and taken by terrorists. That's when the panic ensues and in the middle of all of it we find Kate Wilson, a low-level security officer. The water rushes everywhere, presenting hazards to your way, and to top of that, "malthusians" take very seriously their agenda. That is, they kill everyone who doesn't think like they do.

The water in Hydrophobia is your worst enemy and best friend. Presented in three acts, Hydrophobia follows Kate through the ship, a reluctant heroine (phhs, not that kind of reluctant, like "fuck you, man" attitude but more as frightened and bewildered young woman) in a pursuit to escape the chaos and perhaps find the solution to end it all.

Like Hydrophobia Prophecy does. Yes, this is the fourth time Dark Energy Digital has released Hydrophobia. Originally it appeared on Xbox Live over a year ago. They listened to the critics and soon released a patch so comprehensive it gave the game a name Hydrophobia Pure. With revamped graphics engine, controls and obstacles, it was smoother, yet as thrilling and cool (pun intended!) as the original. Me, I would have been perfectly happy with the original but it's a good sign developers listen to fans and try to improve, isn't it? Soon after Pure, Hydrophobia Prophecy was announced for PC (available through Steam) and PS3. PC version landed first, re-cut, re-designed, making it practically a completely new version of the same game. And they changed Scoot's (Kate's supervisor with whom she talks via ear piece) voice actor. That's what the audience wanted: "get rid of that awful, screeching Scottish accent!". And so we hear a bulky, commanding voice coming out almost unfriendly towards his protegee. Oh dear! Don't listen to everything the people say! For Pete's sake, you make the game, you should know better! No word about the promised PS3 version though. And no, Xbox would not get its Prophecy. Go figure!

I couldn't believe when I saw the game was suddenly released on a PSN store! At very handsome price it was a must buy for me. And thus we arrive at what Hydrophobia is to Uncharted 3. For all of its lack of big budget polish, it has more character than Nathan Drake ever could have. PS3 version is yet again revamped from PC's Prophecy, with some re-designed levels and added Move controls (luckily they are only optional). At the moment, it's the ultimate version of the game.

A boss fight! Great! Wait a second, Xbox version didn't have it. I smell something here...

Sounds great, doesn't it? Yes it is! It looks good, plays good, Kate is good, new Scoot voice is still crap, Kate's new water-controlling kinetic powers are cool. Yet... somehow I'm disappointed. Prophecy is more straightforward and forgiving than the game originally was. And it has a boss fight... A stupid boss fight because as cool as kinetic powers are their controls don't work well. In the end, it's easy though but this boss fight tells something. I fear there will never be a Hydrophobia trilogy as it was originally intended. Now Dark Energy Digital you should hear us, fans of your game! Don't be like George Lucas! Stop obsessively tweaking your game and move to the second part! Please! Pretty please! Still, I recommend Hydrophobia Prophecy. It costs only about 1/10 what you should pay for the blocbuster games big game houses throw at you for the end of the year season! It gives you chills, you know, those good chills and not those why I wasted my hard-earned cash chills.