Due to a cock-up at Greenwich last Sunday, residents of Bramley End – the village I call home – lost a day this week rather than an hour. The government is offering each adult resident £50 in compensation – a frankly insulting sum bearing in mind the amount of rambling, reading, cider drinking, red kite feeding, triffid training, Archers omnibus listening, computer gaming, foxer setting, and Friday Feature prep, that can be crammed into an average Sabbath.
If I hadn’t been swindled out of March 27th, 2022, I probably would have spent a portion of it swindling 18th Century French toffs.
The Card Shark demo is a delight. If you’ve not tried it yet, you really ought to. You play a mute, illiterate, epileptic potboy who falls in with the Comte de Saint-Germain, a professional cardsharp. A likeable chap, your companion teaches you the tricks of his trade during travels around Southern France in search of gullible gamblers. The tutelage isn’t entirely altruistic. The Comte has a vacancy for a stooge, someone to help him execute a range of card-based cons.
Wonderful art, music, and writing contribute to Card Shark’s charm and freshness, but what I admire most about the game is the way it ludologises its core activity, cheating at cards. A less talented dev might have relied on stats, levelling, and spell-like special abilities to communicate the hero’s increasing prowess in this nefarious art. Nerial, however, handle things far more naturalistically.
Mastering the various mouse gesture deck manipulations and signal systems the Comte and another character, The Magician, demonstrate, takes actual practice, dexterity, and focus. The more you use them, the better you get, and the longer you can play without prompting suspicion and risking discovery. You feel like you’re slowly acquiring a manual skill or learning a language, which is apt.
If the relatively short demo can deliver such a palpable sense of progress, one wonders what the full Monte – due later this year – will be able to achieve. If my Tipped Ten was a rolling format rather than a fixed thing, and wasn’t restricted to sims and wargames, Card Shark would, at this precise moment, be sliding into the slot recently vacated (by dint of its release) by Tiny Combat Arena.
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Another game likely to have seen action on that stolen Sunday, is OpenBVE. Reinstalled after a second attempt to bond with pedantic Train Crew Prologue failed, this atmospheric freebie is my rail sim of choice at the moment.
The metals I’ve shined most often of late are North London ones. Thanks to a solidly simmed Seventies EMU, a line teeming with stations and protoytpical quirks, and lashings of authentic audio, crossing the British capital using this add-on never seems to get old.
Back in 2004-2006 (the ‘Metrolink’ era depicted by the add-on makers) a 75-minute run from Richmond in West London to Woolwich North in the East was a pretty demanding turn for a Class 313 driver. In addition to stopping tidily and punctually at 28 stations and obeying myriad signals and speed limit signs, cab occupants had to remember to alter their electricity acquisition methods at various points on the journey. Unusually, the route includes both third-rail DC and overhead AC sections, so periodic pantograph management is necessary.
Further complicating things are neutral sections on the overhead wires (coast through these signed stretches or risk troublesome power surges) and the 313’s profusion of safety devices. Keen to perturb you with alarms and bring you to a grinding halt at the slightest provocation are approximations of TPWS, AWS, and DRA accident prevention systems.
Intimidated? Don’t be. The pitfalls of route and rolling stock are explained in the manual, and the reward for learning to skirt them, is friendship with an exceptionally absorbing hunk of rail sim. Free train games don’t come much better than OpenBVE + North London Lines.
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My first ride on the Train to Sachsenhausen was delayed by a day due to ‘Skipped Sunday’ – hardly a major inconvenience considering the brevity of the journey.
Czech outfit Charles Games have followed the brave Svoboda 1945 with a free short inspired by events at the other end of the war. A tale of post-invasion protest, repression, and incarceration, TtS isn’t, thanks largely to Mr Putin, short of contemporary relevance.
When the game displays maps of Czechoslovakia shrivelled by the loss of the Sudetenland, it’s hard not to think of Ukraine sans the DPR, the LNR, and Crimea. When you’re given the opportunity to participate in protests in Prague against the German occupation, there’s a good chance recent scenes in Kherson and Russia will spring to mind.
TtS asks the question ‘Would you be willing to march and placard-wave if it jeopardised your future?’. It’s also intelligent and honest enough to admit that sometimes lives are irrevocably changed by much smaller moral decisions, not to mention luck and equivocation. At the end of my first playthrough, Antonin Nedela, the medical student main character, was safe and sound in England. At the end of the second, conducted with (I thought) greater thought and care, well, let’s just say he wasn’t.
Some Train to Sachsenhausen passengers will appreciate the spare, documentary style and structural simplicity – essentially you’re asked to make a series of binary narrative choices. Others may find themselves wondering whether this little-known-outside-of-CZ story could have been explored and communicated with a dash more flair and imagination. I won’t spoil the game’s most playful moment but will say it’s inspired by the protagonist’s studies and might, if developed into something more all-pervading, have rendered a memorable creation unforgettable.
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If David Walters and Why485 are serious about resurrecting early-to-mid-90s combat flight simulation visuals, they need to pay attention to incidental 2D graphics as well as 3D views. This thought struck me during a recent, BST-balls-up interrupted, attempt to get Stormovik: SU-25 Soviet Attack Fighter running on DOSBox.
I suspect it was images of Su-25s operating over Ukraine that reminded me that the Ilyushin Il-2 wasn’t the first Soviet ground-attack aircraft to get a standalone sim to itself. In 1990 Electronic Arts built a game around the tough-as-old-boots Frogfoot.
A mediocre flight model, a primitive linear campaign, and a seriously daft back story, did Stormovik no favours. Launched at a time when the far-superior Red Baron was quickening pulses and topping charts, the Paul Grace design swiftly disappeared from view.
If it wasn’t for the sim’s splendid incidental art and entertaining debriefings there’d be almost no reason to ‘mount c c:\su25’ today.
…and fatal prangs…
…much more bearable than they might otherwise have been.