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Graphics: At first glance, the potential for this game to have great graphics seems minimal. In modern first-person shooters, a dedicated team of modelers, designers and coders use the latest hardware and software advances to optimize their game. How could a single person using the dated Blitz3D engine make anything that even comes close? The answer is, by doing things differently. You don’t notice the lower polygon count and the lack of bloom effects when every texture is intricately detailed and beautifully colored. The first room has much more color than most other first-person shooters, as glowing greens, blues and reds swirl together in a giant kaleidoscope. Everything looks extremely well-crafted as you explore the base, and while each section has its own look, the developer maintains a unified theme throughout. The game engine is really pushed to its limits by the ingenious use of smoke, flame, sparks, water and transparent effects, making almost every room gorgeous. The author has paid special attention to the puzzle graphics, as some have spectacular visualizations and never-before-seen effects that can leave you breathless. In addition to detailed and cohesively designed interiors, this game has some great landscapes and outdoor areas where you battle robots too large to contain in buildings. Despite the very modest system requirements, this title fully supports widescreen resolutions; it ran smoothly at 1920×1200 on my system.
Interface: TECNO has an inventive and dynamic interface that does a lot to add to the game. Through the detailed menu system you can view weapons, items and maps, but it’s a little tricky at first to figure out the two-button mouse control system in the menus. The play controls are standard to first-person shooters for the most part, and even when driving machinery, the controls remain responsive and easy to use. The HUD has been kept small and unobtrusive, and its style fits well with the theme; you can easily check on your health, stamina, weapons, ammunition and other indicators. As you play, you encounter a plethora of computer interfaces that can control machinery, provide information, and even print. All of these are easy to learn to use, as your crosshairs serve as a cursor on the screen. Sometimes the computer acts as a camera mounted on the device you are controlling.
TECNO allows you to save your progress only at data terminals located throughout the game. These are generally well-placed and are shown on the level maps, but in some areas their absence causes a great deal of tension. Loading times between levels are blissfully short.
Gameplay: TECNO is a highly unusual combination of a tense and frenetic arcade action shooter and a highly cerebral thinking-person’s puzzle-adventure experience. You have to keep changing the skill set you are using, which keeps things exciting and makes sure that you stay on your toes. There is the standard array of pickups scattered throughout the base, and the health packs and ammunition regenerate after a short period of time, so if you are low you know where to go. There are also many puzzle-specific inventory items, such as machine parts, which you might discover as well. Some of the more interesting pickups are distraction capsules, which draw enemies’ attention away from you, and a camouflage device, which helps with stealth but cannot always protect you. The visual effects for this device are very well done, as a screen filter with gradually changing colors lets you know the device is working. Depending on your skill, TECNO can take a while to complete, upwards of 20 hours for some. As for replay value, when you finish the game you unlock a cheat menu that allows you to return to certain spots, watch the videos and experiment with wireframe graphics.
Sound FX: The sound in TECNO is excellent. Due to the nature of the base in which you are located, almost all of the effects you hear are intentionally artificial. Motors and machinery whir and clank in the background, and their noises realistically change with their movements. The sounds help create the feel of a base dominated by machines. Each robot has many noises that make them seem more ominous and powerful. The weapon sounds are also very satisfying, conveying the right amount of power and never seeming stock.
Music: The soundtrack in TECNO is fantastic—riveting, rhythmic, tense, and perfectly suited to the gameplay. Not surprisingly, the music is not a full orchestral score, but rather a techno-electronic soundtrack. The music changes appropriately with the mood of the gameplay, and the audio quality is quite high.
Intelligence: Though not state-of-the-art, the artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled enemies is quite impressive. Your foes are usually very powerful and are adept at swerving to avoid your fire and catching you in their crosshairs. Some of the bosses have truly spectacular AI, as they use their powers to protect their weaknesses and annihilate you. For example, one boss can be hurt only if you make him magnetically catch a table instead of you. This same boss tries to throw all of the tables upside down so that you can’t hide under them, and if you do he will fling them off of you if he gets the chance. If you try and hide from him in a narrow hallway, he hurls a robot’s corpse towards you instead of coming in himself, causing massive damage. There is one NPC with whom you interact in one portion of the game, but it doesn’t understand you very well.
Difficulty: TECNO is without question one of the most difficult games you will ever play, so I cannot recommend this one for a general audience. You have a choice between “normal” and “hard” settings, but even on the normal setting, the puzzles are incredibly challenging and enemies are quite powerful. The puzzles are almost always logical, however, so if you persevere, you will eventually make it through to the next great hurdle. The “hard” setting is actually not that much different from the “normal” setting, with the major difference being tougher enemy combat.
Overall: I love TECNO, and was very sad to see it end. I took my time writing this review, waiting not only to complete the game but also to try it on two different computers and reflect on what makes it so great. The superior concept and execution show what can be done by someone with true talent, ingenuity and guts. Now when I engage in puzzle solving or enemy combat in other titles, they seem tame by comparison. Although absolutely not for everyone, if you are up to the challenge, you would have to look really hard to find a title as fulfilling as this one. While certainly not likely to be a blockbuster, TECNO is a textbook definition of “a diamond in the rough.” I hope that the developer produces another title in the near future.
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