Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption & Wingnuts

Introduction

This month, we look at releases from two companies at opposite ends of the Mac-gaming market. Freeverse Software, best known for its “boxless” software, brings us WingNuts, an arcade-style action game. MacSoft, a heavyweight in the Mac-game market, delivers a role-playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption (VTMR). VTMR was a long time coming to the Mac. The game was announced in July 2000, but it didn’t ship until late in 2001. Was it worth the wait? For some hard-core role-playing game (RPG) fans, the answer is a definite yes. But Vampire will probably not have a lot of mainstream appeal, in part because RPGs have limited pull, and because of some technical shortcomings. In this game, you assume the role of Christof Romauld – formerly a crusading medieval knight, now a bloodsucking fiend (through circumstances quite beyond his control). Moving through time from the Middle Ages, you visit various urban settings on different continents, on a quest to avenge your fate. Vampire takes place in a 3D arena, which you explore from a third-person perspective. Vampire has elements of a 3D-action game, but at its core it’s an RPG. The main interface gives you, as Romauld, many ways to interact with the game’s environment, and it provides you with easy access to Romauld’s inventory and accoutrements. Although there are many commands to get used to, it was surprisingly easy to learn how to use the keyboard to navigate. Even in single-player mode, you can have multiple companions in your party. Unfortunately, the game’s interface falls short when it comes to controlling them. Battle sequences are especially chaotic; getting all the characters to do what I wanted drove me to fits of frustration, even though I followed the instructions. Vampire also has a multiplayer mode that lets users play a true RPG-style game, through the use of a Storyteller feature. The Storyteller player (similar to a Dungeon Master, for you Dungeons & Dragons geeks) leads the others – as many as three – through a scenario of his or her creation. Vampire’s overall production quality is good. The voice acting is a notch above many games, and the level design has plenty of gorgeous graphical elements. Without a doubt, though, the best aspect of this title is its deep story. It’s not a game you can get into in a few minutes, but if you spend a few hours, you’ll be rewarded. Playing Vampire on a Power Mac G4/500 running a stock Apple Rage 128 Pro graphics card with 16MB of RAM, I experienced some graphical glitches. During transitions to new areas and levels, the screen would often produce a static fuzz. If Vampire had been released in late 2000, as was planned, its lack of Mac OS X compatibility would have been forgivable. But now, it’s a jarring shortcoming. Super fly
Memories of playing classic arcade games are often better than revisiting the experience itself. I’m happier when a game developer takes a tried-and-true idea and builds a modern game around it – so I’m delighted with WingNuts. It’s a thoroughly modern Mac game that uses a bona fide classic as a major source of inspiration. In WingNuts, the evil Baron von Schtopwatch has developed a nefarious plan to take over the world – he’s figured out a way to put his legions of robots behind the yokes of aircraft, ranging from balsa-and-canvas biplanes to armoured jets. As the temporal navigator, you must try to stop him. To do this, you have a fast, nimble jet fighter, which is upgraded throughout the game. From atop the deck of your aircraft carrier, you have to single-handedly down squadrons of the robot-controlled planes, through 30 progressively more difficult levels. Along the way, you can recharge your shields, collect bonuses, replenish fuel, and power up your weapons systems. Running out of fuel is a constant concern, and you may have to perform mid-air fuelling manoeuvres. The Baron’s military arsenal isn’t limited to swarms of planes, helicopters, flying mines, the occasional dirigible, and other airborne menaces. You’ll have to destroy ground targets, such as missile launchers, by dropping bombs on them. As each level ends, your score is tallied and you’re given the opportunity to save the game. Pressing the escape key on your keyboard will pause the game mid-level, and if you click on the Hide button in the resulting window, WingNuts quickly disappears altogether. WingNuts has all the hallmarks of a Freeverse Software game, including unique humour. If the Baron himself isn’t needling you with Teutonic-tinged Dr Evil-style remarks (“My master plan is going according to my master plan!”), Freeverse’s inimitable mascot Jen is offering you advice or encouragement. WingNuts’ production quality is top-notch. The game’s core engine was tooled by Mark Andersson, whose claim to fame is an earlier Freeverse arcade game, Burning Monkey Puzzle Lab. The graphics have terrific detail. When you hit aircraft, ships, and ground installations, a trail of smoke billows from them. Explosions result in fiery showers of sparks and flames. And falling pieces of robot-controlled planes impact the ocean’s surface with a ripple. The sound effects are great, too. You can hear the roar of individual engines, weapons firing, even the plunk of wreckage falling into the ocean. Joel Pleiman and Andrew Tokuda did a great job with the music, which resembles an orchestral movie soundtrack. Resident Freeverse artist Steven Tze’s graphics are, as always, colourful and a joy to behold.
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