Category Archives: Internet

Sam & Max [S1E1]: Culture Shock

It is done! Sam & Max have returned after 13 years of absence (whereof two years Sam & Max were just a Lucasarts announcement). After Sam & Max Hit The Road Telltale Games brings them back with a lot of marketing (and exclusive contracts with GameTap), comic strips, a new distribution method and fully 3D! The big Dog and his somehow lunatic Rabbit have returned under a new star but with all the old humour we loved back then. Let me sum it up for you…

Story
Soda PopperSteve Purcell’s Sam & Max, the Freelance Police, are still in business. And while Sam is playing Wilhelm Tell with Max whilst he is balancing on a ball they are waiting for all those criminals that need to learn a lesson. A hard, scary and brutal lesson if so has Maxs way. Suddenly the telephone rings but it is nowhere to be found because their very own house rat has stolen it and demands cheese, Swiss cheese. Meanwhile our (anti-)heroes are negotiating with a rat something odd is making its way through the city. Former child stars of the Soda Poppers are spreading out and act weird, very weird: Vandalism, impersonation and unwanted deliveries! Something is wrong and Sam & Max have to solve this riddle… but a much bigger evil is growing behind.

Graphics
“Culture Shock”, the first Episode in a six Episode series comes with a slight better Bone Graphics engine from Telltale itself. The graphics are not really bad or state-of-the-art but fit to the Sam & Max style. The complete 3D style is based on a colourful environment with winding buildings and interior. A lot is done with just colouring and shading but there are also lots of fine textures. Everything illuminates the whole scenario and leaves a great mark. Overall the designer were inspired by the old “Hit the Road” game. Even some specials and trivias have been transported into the new 3D environment. Every Sam & Max fan will feel itself home immediately. The graphics are no new Unreal but it is exactly the style Sam & Max needed. It reminds me of Grim Fandango, the best Adventure ever in my opinion.

Old and New

Gameplay
Sam & Max is an oldskool Point’n’Click adventure where you control Sam (No Max this time, sorry!). Nothing more, nothing less. Everything is handled by the cursor. The interface is intuitive and most likely you will only need your left mouse button. The inventory is a little box (couldn’t think of that, could we ^^) in the corner and your gun is your best friend. You will never have to scroll through your inventory because of plenty of items. Inventory puzzles are present but only as much as needed. The whole scenario plays around their office. You play along the street, a psychologist and a corner shop. All places are small but filled with interesting stuff Sam & Max have to comment on. If you do not want to solve the big mystery you can even ride your car and catch some delinquents. A funny action sequence like Full Throttle! combined with some of the funniest lines of the game. Overall a very classy Adventure which warps you back in the nineties and a time where Lucasarts made good Adventures.

Humour
Most important for you probably is the humour. One word should be enough: Hilarious! There are so many funny lines you will piss yourself laughing. All those old references, continuous asking actions and the notes by a damn crazy Rabbit that wants to punish everyone will keep you laughing until you gasp for breath. Not only the conversations but the whole environment is filled with allusions to the old Sam & Max and much more. Some example:

Sam Take that you lawbreaking dairy products!

Max Sam, No! The cheese was innocent!

Sam Innocent!? I think not.

Cheese

Every sentence if filled with analogies, word jokes and much more fun by those two damn cranks. Not only them but every character has some nice gags you will run into. But the bests are with Max of course ^^. Overall Culture Shock is much about talinkg. Some minor talking riddles but bascially just the jokes, the wits, the fun comes through those dialogues. Subjective I think that this Episode has more lines and jokes most fulltime games have. Just great!

Conclusion
Pull over or else...In my opinion Sam & Max is the first “real” Adventure since Monkey Island 3. It’s not only about puzzles. No mechanic riddles. Not just inventory items to combine. No “Go get me this and you’ll get that!”. Do not get me wrong it has everything an Adventure needs but does not limit itself to that. All Adventures untill this day were copies of memories developers had from the time they played Indiana Jones and Monkey Island. With Sam & Max you feel that these guys made those Adventures back then (Telltale was founded by old Lucasarts developers).

If you have to criticise anything than it would be the playtime. About 3 hours is not much but enough compared to the price. With 5 more Episodes to come I cannot stand the wait. All I can say is “BUY IT DAMN IT!” It is worth every penny and if it would cost 100$. If you love Adventures then you will marry Sam & Max: Culture Shock! Otherwise Max will give you a Shock Treatment!

Source of Picture http://www.mobygames.com/, InGame Screenshots taken by myself.

Sam & Max has been released!

samandmax_ep1_max3.jpgA new Sam and Max has just been released for international customers and fans all over the world. The first Sam and Max since 1993 (OK, there was just one but that one was great!!!) is produced and published by Telltale Games. If you do not know TTG already: They do adventures and adventures only! They did some CSI Games and were the ones that brought you two Bone Episodes. Yes, Episodes! Telltale were probably the first guys that released an adventure in an episodic structure. And so is Sam and Max. The first Season is splitted into 6 Episodes all with a length of about 3-4 hours of gameplay. “Damn short” you might say but sum all episodes up and you get around 15-20 hours of gameplay. More than most Adventures, Ego-Shooters, Action-RPGs or Jump’n’Runs today. The first Episode is named “Culture Shock”.

You can purchase every Episode from the Telltale homepage for 8.95$ each. Or you buy the whole season for 34.95$ and will have access to every Episode at the day of release. That is a good price for the whole season so I bought it already ^^. The Episodes are going to be released monthly beginning from January (the first Episode is an exception). So it will probably be like a television series you like. I am currently downloading the first Episode and will give you my humble opinion later on. To get an idea of the game, the voices and the story for yourself just try the DEMO!!!

I have to get going, stuff todo, but I will play Sam and Max today!

Source of Picture: http://www.telltalegames.com/

Microsoft to the rescue!

I must admit I am no Microsoft hater. I use Windows since 3.11, loved DOS, have an affinity for Linux but if I think about a good graphical user interface Windows pops up (OK, maybe it’s all stolen and MacOS X is better but I needed about 5 minutes to crash OS X the first time I started Firefox). So I had my come out… I am a Microsoft fetish!

Why this post? In my opinion Microsoft has learned of its flaws in the past and is going in the right direction. Visual Studio 2005 has become an easy to use and intuitive development suite. Microsoft’s way to free the Express Editions is to support and not to criticize. Of course they want to push .net development. So what? Every company wants to push its own product but if Microsoft does so its the way of the devil.
I pretty much liked the Vista beta. It needs a better PC but a normal mid-range Computer today can run Vista just fine. I had it installed on my over 3 year’s old laptop and after updating the harddisk driver it ran good. The new color scheme is much more eye-friendly than XP (how blind do you have to be to mix green and orange…!?), Taskbar, Sidebar and Explorer have grown-up and the security system is much more witted than before. A little more compatibility with older software (I noticed some minor incompatibility) and Vista is the first Windows I will like from the first release on.
Microsoft Office 2007 made the biggest leap. I hated Office XP and Office 2003. Just more colors, just more annoying avatars that try to disturb your slumber at work and much to complicated. With Office 2007 everything changes, at least the user interface. The tabbed based bars give you fast and intelligent access to nearly all the features you need with live previews of the changes. It automatically gives you the right Tab based on what you currently edit. Most features are by far more stable as in Office 2003. It’s quick, it’s an ease to use and Microsoft definitely is on the right way with their current products.

Windows Media Player 11
wmp11_shuffle_list.jpg Microsoft released the Windows Media Player 11. The 24MB download gives you a new and improved (as always) user interface that is based on the Vista color scheme. It somehow reminds me of the Vista Explorer because of its pretty simple and straight forward style. Clearly structured menu on the top, content in the middle and mediabar on the bottom. The design is tabbed based which quickly lets you switch between Playlist, Layout, Library and MusicStore. As MusicStore it integrates the URGE Music Service (Yeah, Microsoft dictates your MusicStore but Apple, ITunes and IPod would never do so ^^) but you do not need to use it. The strong graphical interface is faster than WMP10 in my opinion and gives you quick access to standard features. I must say that WMP11 is not only a MediaPlayer but a MediaStation. As every new program tries to imply everything you may need the MediaPlayer covers every media that is on your computer and gives you administrative powers over them. So conquer them! Try it!

Internet Explorer 7
ie7_insanitydesign.pngAfter 5 years (IE6 was released in 2001) the Internet Explorer has been updated. And as nearly every browser on the Internet is has Tabs ^^’. But to be concrete again the interface is oriented on the Vista style which I like. It comes with common features you might know from Opera 9 or Firefox 2 so nothing special there. Overall the IE7 has nothing to really hype it for or complain about. It’s just a standard browser. Wait… standard? Maybe not as standardized as we would like. Some bugs and hacks have been repaired but others pop out. It is not as W3 compliant as expected so there still will be a lot of work for every real web designer. Not that Firefox or Opera or Konquerer or any other browser do better. Still every browser has its special behaviours so we dumb and underpaid computer scientists have to find the way in the middle to reach every user on the Internet. Much work to do! But to defend IE7: It is better. It is by far more compliant than before. It uses about as much memory as Firefox (a little more). It has an integrated Phishing- and PopUp-Blocker and makes an overall good impression. I will stay with my Firefox because of the plugins but IE7 has a plugin interface too. We’ll see what will come next…

Windows Desktop Search
wds_msndesktopsearch.gif The Windows Desktop Search follows all those desktop search engines on the market: Google Desktop, Copernic, X1 and many more. There is nothing special about just a solid search engine. It has a browser like search interface, quick access through a taskbar textfield and some minor options. Basically WDS is the first to concentrate on searching and not flooding your computer. I tried them all and many more but WDS was the first to convince me. It indexes faster than the most and while indexing you computer can still be used (had my problems with others in this point). The browser interface is not beautiful but functional. WDS categorizes your files into different Medias like Photos, Music or Video and let you specify what filetypes you want the content to be indexed too. With the taskbar textfield you can quickly access your indexed content and a little popup shows you the categorized outcome.
Why WDS? Windows Desktop Search is not new, it basically is the MSN Desktop Search but in its newest version. Now there are much more options you can control like index snoozing or what hdds to index. It has some nice plugins that add support for e.g. PDF, MP3 ID3-Tag, Thunderbird and more. Just try it once (I tried them all) and maybe you are as convinced as I am.

Microsoft Office Accounting 2007
Nothing for the normal house husband but definitely worth a look. Microsoft Office Accounting 2007 is as the name states an Accounting Software. Manage employees, time tracking, the payroll, track you’re in- and outcome et cetera. It is nothing anybody can make use of but everybody can have a look if it has some minor features to manage its own finances or anything else. Office Accounting is free but uses some plugins that are shareware so beware of them. The basic functions are all free and if you do not run a big business (which you probably won’t otherwise you would not read this) you do not need other features. The about 300MB download contains nearly everything to run a small business.

That’s it for today. This post is all about objectiveness. Do not curse Microsoft by default. Just try and you’ll see even Bill Gates has some good features. So for now: Hail to thy Microsoft ^^!

Source of Pictures: http://www.microsoft.com/, Desktop Screenshot taken by myself.

What troubled me…

…this week was most of all me. My 9th semester just started and this first week I had contact with what will keep me busy for about the next 3 months. But this was actually my first week at the University where I was pretty happy. The courses seem to be fun. Good lectures with good lecturers. Let’s hope my first impression is right and maybe you will read some news about it.

Lik-Sang closed down
liksang.gifYep, it’s true! Our beloved Lik-Sang has closed its doors. The number one contact point for all people to get their Asia imports of Games or Consoles in Hong-Kong discontinues its work. I do not want to take positions here but probably because of Sony. Sony sued Lik-Sang to stop exporting PSPs to Great-Britain and Europe. After several months and years Sony has won the legal proceeding in Great-Britain. The court marks the import to Europe of PSPs (and probably PS3 later on) illegal. Basically private import is everybody’s right in Europe. But if the platform suddenly shuts down there is no place to buy Games that never get released in Europe or Consoles that are released about 4 Month later than in other regions. OK, Lik-Sang had their problems with copy stations and it is ok to sue for that but an import stop is paternalism. I got my Nintendo DS from Lik-Sang month before the European release and cheaper even with shipment costs. Runs fine, no problems! I did so with games too. But to say they sued Lik-Sang to protect the customer because of uncertified power supplies is far beyond common sense. So until another brand of Pacific Game Technology Limited opens its doors we’ll stay with Play-Asia.

C64 Orchestra
I am a big fan of chiptunes. I love it when some freakin’ n3Rd5 in bunny costumes make music with a GameBoy and a three line synthesizer. It’s just awesome! So what is this about? I tripped over the C64 Orchestra. The Dutch Micromusic community plays C64 chiptunes LIVE. Not really chiptunes but as an orchestra. I understand if somebody says chiptunes suck but those old tunes rearranged on classic instruments is just fabulous and can compare with nowadays game music. *Tscha* Chris Huelsbeck was a genius back then and still is. So for everyone who is as dumb as I am (at least with musical taste) here are some links you might like:

Nanozoa
nanozoa.jpg Chiptunes are bound to the Demoscene. Demos had and have chiptune music. Even today with MP3s and Ogg a lot of Demos still use oldskool ModTracker sounds to give you the right feeling (and save beautiful bytes ^^). So if you know the Kewlers and the demos Protozoa or Asterozoa you may find the name Nanozoa suspicious. Nanozoa is a small game by Raist from the Marshals. The Asteroid like game sends you into a human body to fight all the germs. It combines an Asteroid like control with an R-Type weapon system. It’s nothing special but still better than playing Solitair or Minesweeper ^^. It is just fun to play! The game is about 10MB big and can be downloaded from here. The whole game is black and white so do not adjust your monitor. It’s supposed to look like that with its beautiful greytones.

That’s it for this week. Let’s see what will come next. Another week at the University, more legal proceedings, more stuff to not care about and much more nonsense from the Internet.

Source of Pictures: Nanozoa, Lik-Sang