Al Emmo and Running with Rifles

This week I would like to look at two games which don’t really have anything in common other than a pleasantly retro style of game play. The first game on my list this week is Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. The game is a delightful return to the mid-90s point-n-click adventure games and Al Emmo has a style (and humour) which feels remarkably like Sierra’s adventure games like King’s Quest. The game opens with a fairly long intro video in which we learn the main character, Al, is a 42 year old man who has no money and who wants to marry a mail-order bride. Al arrives in a wild west town by train, gets rejected by his bride-to-be and misses his train home. At this point the player takes over control of Al (a single, broke nerdy-type stranded in the wild west). Our goal is to find money, find a woman to marry and catch the next train that comes through town.

Al Emmo is, as with most point-n-click adventure games, fairly slow in its pacing. There is a lot of looking at things and talking to people and clicking on everything on the screen to see what we can interact with. The slow pace is balanced a bit by the delightful humour. There is a good deal of wit in the game and little bits of word play which keeps things interesting. Al, though not a striking figure, is kind of endearing in his ineptitude and I think he works fairly well as a protagonist.

I did not play Al Emmo all the way through, so I can’t comment on the whole of the plot, but what I did experience was well done. The controls are simple, the game allows us to look at and interact with a lot and I did not run into any glitches. If you liked games like Kings Quest or the Star Trek 25th Anniversary series, then Al Emmo will feel like a light-hearted return to the past.

Game: Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine
Developers: Humalaya Studios
Platforms: Linux, Windows
License: Unknown
Genre: Adventure, Humour, Point-n-click

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My second game this week is Running with Rifles, a sandbox action/combat game. In Running with Rifles (RWR) we are given control of a solider and let loose in a map with a bunch of other soldiers. Typically there are two teams fighting for control of an area of the map and the two sides come together amongst buildings, woods and parked cars to do battle.

The perspective of RWR is third-person and while I found we can zoom in/out on our player, I was not able to find any way to rotate the view. This meant that, as my solider was roaming around objects, I often had trouble keeping track of exactly where I was and (as a result) whether I was exposed to enemy fire. The controls are pretty straight forward, at least the basic movements — shooting and reloading. Things can get a little more complex when we want to switch weapons or use other items, but the basics are straight forward. Two of my favourite things to do, I found, were climb on top of buildings in an attempt to get a better view of the combat area and take command of vehicles. Walking up to military trucks and tanks will allow us to get in and pilot the vehicle. If other soldiers get into a tank with us the AI can control the gun while we drive, which I thought was good fun. In fact, driving over enemy troops while a gunner behind me fired, was probably the only time I was effective in RWR.

Which brings me to some of my complaints about this particular soldiering game. The first is that there is no tutorial. While the basics of running and shooting are pretty straight forward, I found (by trial and error) there were a lot of other things I could do. Things like drive trucks, raid supply dumps, crouch behind objects, throw grenades and so on. It would have been very helpful if the game had walked through how to do most of these things in a non-combat situation so we could practice without dying on a regular basis. Speaking of dying, the AI seems to have good, long-range vision and good accuracy, things our character does not have. This can make getting close to the enemy and taking a shot quite difficult. Third, I found that if I were crouched on a rooftop, away from the edge, enemies on the ground could (apparently) both see and shoot at me. This was a frustrating lesson. Last, but not least, I found that my mouse pointer behaved properly when RWR was run in full-screen mode, but if I ran RWR in a window, the mouse pointer would constantly fight me. Sometimes it would not venture into the bottom half of the screen, it would not leave the game window and the mouse would “tug” always toward the centre of the game window. This made controls awkward until I wised up and switched to a full-screen display.

What I took away from RWR is that the game can be a lot of fun. The concept is good, the game is fast and fun. The many characters on both sides make the game feel more intense and the quick respawn time is nice. I really liked the vehicle control and I especially enjoyed driving a tank-like vehicle. The game feels like it needs a couple of training missions so we can get a feel for the controls and features, and I think aiming could be improved (pretty sure I only ever managed to shoot two or three enemies). Hopefully these features will be tackled in later updates.

Game: Running with Rifles
Developers: Modulaatio
Platforms: Linux, Windows
License: Unknown
Genre: Action Combat, Sandbox

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