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Old 11-16-2010, 12:08 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold

Eric Corp Gamer's RU Exclusive Review 24
Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold


Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold was released in December 1993, developed by JAM Productions, and published by Apogee Software, which is powered by the Wolfenstein 3D engine. However, it was released at an awkward moment because one week later, id Software would release one of the most popular FPS ever, DOOM, that used a much more advanced and powerful engine (id Tech 1) that makes the Wolf 3D engine look like a "baby's toy". Because of DOOM's huge popularity, the game ends up selling poorly, making it a rather under-looked and a barely looked game. However, JAM Productions would also create a sequel named Blake Stone: Planet Strike, released in October 1994 (dead serious), still utilizing the Wolf 3D engine.

At first, I never heard of this game, but I was open-minded and decided to try the shareware version of Blake Stone. After playing through the shareware, I instantly liked it that I actually bought the game off eBay (rather than illegal downloading) for a rather cheap price, and started playing them on DOSBox to play the complete version of the game. Even though I finished the game, I still continue to play this game once in a while.

REVIEW

Graphics:
B+
Despite the game using a rather outdated engine (even at the time of its release), Blake Stone still looks damn good. This game uses the engine to its full potential in terms of graphics, coming from simple graphics used in Wolfenstein 3D to much more complex ones that is actually jaw-dropping, considering its age.The gun graphics are overall well-detailed and actually looks similar to those sci-fi guns we see in movies and TV shows. The enemy sprites in this game are also pretty amazing to look at and also well-animated, though I wished there was more of a variety of the scientists in the game (Bio-techs and informants), but nonetheless, it's still awesome. The other sprites like the items are also done well, too. Another improvement in the engine is the use textures on the ceiling and floor, and the walls are also improved in detail, too. I'll admit the developer (JAM) of this game actually did much better job of the engine showing that the Wolf 3D engine still has legs to continue, despite the more advanced id Tech 1 taking over the FPS business.





Gameplay: A+
For people who have played Wolfenstein 3D (or pretty much any FPS ever made), you will know the basics of this game, but this game adds some stuff that makes the gameplay somewhat more interesting. You play as Blake Stone, trying to terminate the evil Goldfire, and his plans to conquer Earth and enslave humanity. There are six episodes (8 main floors, 1 boss floor, and 2 secret floors each) in this game with four difficulty levels like the mentioned game. In the beginning and end of each episode, there is actually a story sequence of what's going on in the game as you progress through, which is pretty cool. The gameplay is similar to that of Wolf 3D, but it isn't as linear as the mentioned game. Rather than reaching to the end of each level like any other FPS, you have to find a red keycard in order to proceed to the next floor. This gives you an opportunity to search around for many different secrets and items that will help you along the way. Unlike most FPS games, you can actually return to a previous floor to try to destroy all the enemies in the level, or just search around for anything that you may have missed like weapons, treasures etc. You wield an arsenal of weapons, destroying all enemies that come your way on your quest to save the human race. Blake Stone adds a couple of extra weapons at your disposal increasing the total to 6 in comparison to just 4 in Wolf 3D. The enemies are also more varied and have some interesting personalities, from sector patrols to bio-techs, from sentinels to pod aliens etc. and each have their own strategy and tactics to overcome them. Another interesting thing are the scientists that you can actually talk to, and they may be an informant that gives you some food tokens or energy packs (in other words, ammo), or they may be bio-techs disguised as innocent scientists. The level layouts are overall pretty good and offers more interactivity than a typical FPS like shooting boxes that may grant you some items, eggs that hatch when you shoot them, turning on and off arc barriers etc. Like Wolf 3D, the game utilizes the score, lives, and the wall-pushing system, but adds a few twists to it. For example, if you kill all the enemies within a single floor, you will receive bonus points for accomplishing such a task. Another cool and interesting concept is the use of these vending machines that heals the player by either 7% (beverage) or 10% (food) for each food token used, but they are limited, so you have to use them wisely to stay alive and continue. Even though the gameplay is amazing, there are some flaws within the game. Since the game is more open-world, you will need a map since you may go in circles multiple times (the game does offer one, with the TAB button), but I wished there was a way to put a map in the status screen without forcing me to pause the game to look at a map. Also, I find that the game to be a bit too similar to Wolf 3D (though not that much) than it needs to be (also this is just a rather minor inconvenience). Other than that, Blake Stone takes the core FPS gameplay and adds twists and innovations to keep the game interesting to play.


Sound: C+
I'll admit, Blake Stone's sound department is a rather mixed bag, because I find the overall music not really that intriguing and catchy (only a few are cool to hear, and maybe because I've been listening to DOOM's music a bit too much), but the sound effects are amazing and cool to hear. I'll admit, the game's overall music is a slight improvement over Wolf 3D (though nothing beats Wolf 3D's theme song), but not enough to consider it. It's rather depends on the taste on the person, whether you like it or not. Judge the music for yourself and determine it:


Controls: A+
Do I really need to explain why the controls are brilliant? They are simple to use, and overall crisp controls. If you played Wolf 3D, DOOM, or any other FPS, then you'll understand what I mean.

Replay Value: A
If you're a FPS fanatic or looking for an enjoyable game, then Blake Stone will be a great choice for you. For other people, you'll still enjoy it but, maybe not as much. Like I mentioned in the sound departmen, it depends on the taste.

Overall: A
Blake Stone is one of the most enjoyable early FPS to date with some interesting stuff that other FPS never seem to use. Wolfenstein 3D may have started the famous FPS genre to a great start, but this game keeps what keep Wolf 3D great, but improves on it in multiple levels. While the game may be a Wolf 3D clone, but even so, it is one of the best Wolf 3D
clones to date (if not, the best) and should not be forgotten. I recommend trying this game and you will not be letdown. Well done, JAM Productions and Apogee Software, for creating this brilliant game.

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