NGAD: Zombie Smashers X3: Ninjastarmageddon!

March 14, 2007

Okay I admit it… the decided to try this game out almost entirely out of curiosity about the title. I’ve never played Zombie Smashers X or X2, but I understand that they’re pretty common action games. X3 is not. X3 is an Elite-style space trading game. Only one with a definite sense of humor. Instead of flying through space using hi-tech (sexy!) spaceships and powerful alien weaponry, Ninjastamageddon puts the player behind the wheel of interstellar jalopies and other beat-up cars. Though the largest ships are giagantic galleons. Each with their own weapon capacities and cargo space. All in all the game is probably described as an Elite/Privateer that does not take itself seriously in any form.

[[Screenshots go here – will be uploaded sometime after posting.]]

The game’s story at least belongs to the Zombie Smashers X series: Ninjas and Zombies have forever hated one another throughout the ages. Only when humanity reached space were these factions able to go their separate ways and find enough space to live independently. However the ruling Pterodactyl Government encourages trade and the lure for profit causes these factions to interact once more. On top of things, there are nasty space pirates and crazy Cyborgs who want to assimilate everyone (usually after killing them first). In this crazy galaxy… tensions rise approaching Ninjastarmageddon!

Ahem. Yeah… So players begin by choosing a starting vehicle, a player skin and a co-pilot’s skin. The co-pilot mans the secondary weapon, from missiles to rocket launchers, once purchased from the hardware store. In addition to hardware, there also exists the Bank (load/save game), the supermarket (the big ones are named Ultra-Shopper-Mart) (buy/sell goods), the Shipyards, the Weapons store, Mission Control (sign up for new missions), Gas Blaster station (cars need gas, even in space!) and possibly one or two other spots I’m forgetting. The player travels between different “node” star system locations on the space map, which may contain some or none of the services listed… usually to fulfill some mission or to sell off goods tractor beamed in from a defeated ship. If all of this is beginning to sound familiar, it’s because this type of gameplay is used quite a bit among the Space Trader sub-genre. What sets X3 apart, aside from the cel shaded graphics, is it’s ability to make a humorous game in a genre that’s been traditionally filled with “serious” spaceships and alien weaponry.

ZSX3 also allows players to purchase larger vehicles (such as galleons) which are able to store and launch smaller cars for combat situations (such as the jeeps and 4-door flying cars), at the cost of cargo space. As the galaxy is opened up, it becomes clear that there is much debris in the universe, many direlects, and a lot of places where Zombies, Ninjas, Pirates and Cyborgs clash together in combat. I haven’t progressed far enough, but it seems possible that the game features a “main plot” which the player must find by talking to and accepting the right missions.  I’ll definitely continue playing this wacky game.

[I’ll edit from here if I decide I should be talking more about this…. Tomorrow’s Game: Skygunner]

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NGAD: Sid Meier’s Covert Action

March 1, 2007
  • Year: 1990
  • Developer: Microprose
  • Publisher: Microprose
  • Type: Commercial
  • Mobygames Link

I’m actually cheating here since this isn’t technically a new game today, but rather something I played around December. The cheating is necessary due to my computer problems. However the game was “new to me” only a few short months ago, as someone I know was getting rid of old “computer junk”, and I convinced him to let me grab any games that looked interesting. That’s how I ended up with a box of Sid Meier’s Covert Action. Now some gamers swear by Sid’s works, citing him as one of the few people in the videogames industry whose name in the title motivates a purchase (sorry American McGee… I don’t think you’re on this A-list yet… I really tried to like Scrapland though, so keep plugging away :). In any case, I had never heard of or played Covert Action before. Covert Action in short is a spygame. Obviously influenced by the secretive spy world of ciphers and tracking suspects and gathering clues together and even a slight touch of 007 thrown in. After a few hours of playing though, my attitude is somewhat adjusted: I’m playing the adult version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Only there’s nothing about matching geographical clues. Instead I’m trying to figure out which enemy agents are working for which organizations (some politically apropos 20 years later) and what exactly they’re planning.

To give better detail, Covert Action is a series of minigames linked together by the common theme. The four minigames are basically: Wiretap (get hidden messages and clues, Cryptography (decode hidden messages), Break-in (the bulk of the game can be spent here, as clues are more frequently found) and Driving (chase down a suspect). Even including the extra challenges brought about by difficulty levels, the Wiretap and Driving minigames can be completely ignored and the player is still able to solve his or her case. Each sequence plays differently, Wiretap and Cyrptography are logic puzzles… while Break-In and Driving are action games from an overhead view. Each of these minigames is only so-so on it’s own. The real fun comes after clues are gathered with these methods: Trying to piece together the puzzle of the enemy plot and decide which partipants to go after first. However as the heat starts closing in and arresting the plot participants, they start to panic… and the most important ones go into hiding. Thus it’s always a gamble whether to arrest the peons, and delay the success of the evil scheme… or try to gather enough evidence to capture a criminal mastermind. All the while the clock is ticking and none of these agents necessarily have to be anywhere near one another on the globe, so it’s not uncommon to be traveling quickly to a new city hoping to arrest an enemy sniper BEFORE he kills his target. It’s particularly satisfying to find “incriminating evidence” (in the Break-In minigame only, hidden in conspicious red safes) which then can be used to turn enemy agents… which has the same result as an arrest, but without alerting any other members of the plot (turned criminals will “go along” with the scheme up to the point of actually making it a success (e.g. pulling the trigger)).

Covert Action was a game that’s never quite listed among Sid Meier’s greatest achivements. Sid himself complains that he doesn’t really like the game, thinking it an uneven mishmash of minigames that can’t quite decide what they want to be. In that he’s right, but the overall product and experience is still an enjoyable one and I had a lot of fun putting pieces of a international intrigue puzzle together. In that, it’s probably similar to the “spy novels” or Tom Clancy-esque material that sells well at bookstores. A worthwhile experience, but one that’s not “heavy” and can definitely be laughed at.

Screenshots available via the Mobygames Link