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Like real reviews, only with less effort.

Project Nomads
PCG 116

In the written equivalent of placing a bucket full of custard at the bottom of a ladder, let’s deliberately misunderstand the nature of the title of this game, in order to reach an painfully inevitable conclusion:

If I were a nomad, the main aspect that would get me down would be the wandering. Wandering is the most tediously slow and unprogressive mode of foot-ridden transport, leading to a tiresome combination of sore legs and poor exploration potential. But imagine if there was some way for the travelling type to reach new destinations without cause for such wearying drudgery. Imagine if there was a device into which a nomad could climb, that would, through mechanical force, propel her or him far through the air to a brand new destination. A device one could use to… project nomads.

Project Nomads may not quite have this in mind, but its own solution to the nomadic lifestyle is no less strange. Instead of roaming from land to land, here, in this post-destruction-of-the-earth ‘world’, it is the land itself that roams. Instead of a planet, all that’s left are mysteriously floating rocky islands, inhabited by a few warring groups.

Things begin when your choice of character crashes their plane into one of these clumps of land, and wakes up an ethereal wizard. Who wants to make the island into a giant weapon of sorts. To fight the other islands. Which is strange to type. And play.

Novelty is the word. But unfortunately this isn’t just novelty in the sense of being specially unique, but also novelty in the sense of a weird, plastic thing you might put on your shelf in order to try and looking interesting to your friends who see straight through it and recognise you to be trying too hard but they put up with you anyway because you’re alright really and if only you’d stop and just relax a bit it would probably be far easier to get on with you. That sense.

The notion – converting a floating island into a rock of destructive power – is a pleasantly bonkers one, with the potential to make a genuinely interesting game. However, despite the beautiful shine, and the pleasantly touched thinking, the final punch is somewhat lacking. Think style nestled high on one of the islands, with substance left somewhere far below in the fragmented ruins of the planet.


Genuinely interesting, but fails to settle down.

Combat Mission
PCG 90

It’s probably fair to say that turn-based combat is still in the early experimental stages. Do not be mistaken – this is a good thing, not a criticism. Some formats have found their way early on and are sticking with it. For instance, the first person shooter hasn’t found a better method than floating the gun at the bottom of the screen, and so that’s pretty settled. However, TBS is yet to discover such a comfort zone, and at least for the meantime shall be trying out all sorts of methods. Combat Mission’s stands out as one of the contenders for the crown.

Instead of the usual options of either pausing and issuing commands at will, or taking it in orderly turns to clobber the opponent, here both sides decide on their tactics, issue their commands, and then sit back and watch the results. A sort of wind it up and watch it go approach. But wind and watch what? you ask, noticing I’ve rushed straight in and forgotten to describe the game. Good job you’re here.

CM is a WWII turn-based war strategy sim, set between 1944 and 1945, letting you play as an Ally or a German. Better? In fact, it’s more that sort of meaty, chewy, gnawable sort of tactical warfare sim that you people seem to love so much, but in your actual 3D.

Astonishing in its depth (125 vehicles, 130 infantry types), and huge in its delivery (43 scenarios), this is as hefty a wargame as you’ll find. Don’t expect the pretties, and you’ll be one happy little warmonger.

When Combat Mission was first released, it could only be bought over the clockwork internet. So I want everyone to say a big thank you to Xplosiv when they leave for putting it into a shop-compatible casing.


Mobile Forces
Sold Out
PCG 110

We’ve entered an odd phase for the first person shooter. This is no doom-filled soothesaying of imminent demise, or even a slackening of popularity – this is just the casual observation that things have gotten a bit vague. We’re all excited about Doom III, Half Life II, Thief III, Quake IV, and So On VIII, but you’ll note from the panting sounds all around you that nobody’s holding their breath.

It just seems we’re in something of a dry patch, and it doesn’t seem likely that Mobile Forces’ budget release is going to be throwing down any buckets of water. Certainly it’s not utterly generic in what it proposes – an online shooter with a heavy emphasis on heavily armed vehicular transport – but it just doesn’t have the polish that makes us sit up in our beds at night, and cry, “BLIMEY, that’s a good game!”.

Rather than throwing in the vehicles because they’re currently the trend (like the recent and abysmal Terminator 3 cash-in), the entire gaming world is developed around their presence. Levels are enormous, requiring travelling distances that would be near-impossible on foot. This crucial recognition of the significance of having transport is supported by four pleasingly solid wheelbeasts – APC, truck, Humvee and buggy, which all mean it isn’t a chore to get around. The trouble is, it’s not inspiring enough awe to make it required playing.

It looks fair, but it won’t run away with your breath; it runs smoothly, but it doesn’t ever glide. All the multiplayer options you’d expect are present, and technically correct, and there’s the expected vapid, token single player vs AI mode of play. But ultimately, nothing else. Yup, the vehicles are well implemented, but the trouble is, implemented into what? Seemingly, just another online shooter.


Sea Dogs
Sold Out
PCG 92

Sea Dogs: It’s like Tomb Raider with pirates, without Tomb Raider, and isn’t like Tomb Raider. Pirates are just so terribly hip at the moment. Last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean reminded everyone just why we love those scallywags so. They’re daring, romantic, and rebellious. Of course, take away the boats, oceans, and pleasingly spooky flags, and all you’ve got a drunk thief. It’s hard to imagine generations being so enamoured by the breathtaking tales of a bunch of pissed up car thieves nicking stereos in Bristol city centre, so quite why their aquatic equivalent receive such good press is hard to fathom.

For once, in Sea Dogs, at least the pirates are something of an enemy to your honest-to-goodness trading ways. A maritime strategy role-play, this is all about taking your ship betwixt islands, in order to complete set missions, trade your wares, and generally become the finest bunch of scurvy-free sailors about. Essentially, the game is split into two interspersed approaches – on dry land in England, France and Spain, shopping, chatting, and improving yourself; and on the waves, navigating your way to the next destination, claiming victory against rival boats and the menacing pirates.

But Sea Dogs is no vast, awesome ship of unrivalled beauty. It’s more of an old crate, with a couple of patched leaks, and some disturbing rot in the mast. It’s hard to conclude how much of the fault lies at the feet of developers Bethesda, with the lacklustre town design, and repetitive play, and how much is an inherent fault with simulating naval battles at their realistic and painfully slow pace. The former prevents you from finding the patience to put up with the latter, meaning that you’ll grow quickly tired of the entire thing.


Sold Out
PCG 92

ALICE was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped at the game her sister was playing, but it had no 3D graphics or explosions in it, “and what is the use of a game,” thought Alice, “without 3D graphics or explosions?’

So she was considering, in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very violent and murderous), whether the pleasure of making a chain-gun would be worth the trouble of getting up and finding the bullets, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself “Oh dear! Oh dear! She’s going to kill us all!”; but, when the Rabbit actually took a knife out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, and stabbed its ears into the ground.

Is what games designer American McGee sees when he reads Alice in Wonderland.

While Carroll’s vision was certainly sinister in its own way, Rogue Entertainment’s twisted sister to the story takes it to a whole other realm of mental illness, attempted suicide, and brutal bloodshed. This bizarre and grotesquely beautiful understanding of the legendary tale puts a depressive teenage Alice in the lead, ripping apart her enemies with knives and playing cards alike, throughout inspired, broken-minded levels.

Dark and macabre though it is, the third person action adventure occasionally fails to weave the puzzles and the fighting properly, allowing you to see the edges and perhaps somewhat through the disguise. But this aside, here is a blackly cruel and magnificent interpretation of a childhood horror.


And The Rest

Look at me with all my budget games to review. Like a pig in mud that he managed to get significantly cheaper than the mud he normally has to buy, I’ve got more games than columns, and even already have some names for next month. Look, three more:

Bubble Bobble Rainbow Island is another new Xplosiv release for £5. Takes me back, to those happy hours spent bouncing on bubbles or rainbows on my Atari ST. State of the art, they were, now mocked by being released as a pair on a single Gameboy cartridge. And somewhat less impressively as a duel PC release. However, the GBA release was priced at £30, so at least we’re not being ROBBED. 65 nostalgic percent.

Commandos 2 : Men of Courage, as we all know, is great because of the penguins. And the elephants. It’s also great because it’s so gosh-darn beautiful, and full of what we Games Journalists like to call “good game”. Big, long, challenging levels, detailed environments, and penguins, make for a comfortable 91%. From Sold Out, and so £5.

And lastly, also from five pounders Sold Out, the dismal Offroad. Sorry to end on a low note, but despite being pretty, Rage chucked out a baddun here. Poor handling, and upsettingly uninspiring to play, it’s getting 40% and a penknife in the tyre.

BEEP. Turn the page now.