Friday, December 31, 2010

Blog: Oh Right, This Thing!

Wow, so, I haven't posted a review - or anything else for that matter - for something like half a year. That's pretty crap of me, isn't it? But I have . . . well, not a good reason. I'm going to be perfectly honest with you. I have a flimsy excuse.

I mentioned this sort of in passing in another post, but my game controller is messed up. Specifically, the B button doesn't work anymore. Not unless you press really, really hard, and I'm not the least bit interesting in having to press really, really hard, especially since the B button is a pretty important button the game playing process. So I set the controller down and decided to take some time off from the reviewing game until I could find a replacement.

I did not, obviously, find a replacement. Did you know that retro-style six-button controllers for the computer pretty much do not exist anymore? Not anywhere I've looked, anyway. They're all styled after the Playstation controller nowadays. Not that that's a bad design or anything. In fact, I think it's a wonderful design. Of all the post-18bit controllers that have come out over the years, it's still my favorite. But the problem is, the PS design does not work well with Sega Genesis games, some of which are either more accessible with or even downright require an arcade-format six-button scheme.

And the extremely few properly retro controllers that I have found? Crap. Completely unsuitable for me for one reason or another.

But whatever. The search continues for a new controller, but that never should have stopped me from doing reviews in the meantime. Emulation is not the only option available to me, after all! I have plenty of old games that I actually own for the physical consoles sitting in the entertainment center! I have several old computer games that I can play on this old dinosaur of an eMachine! And it just so happens that I've just recently finished one of those games! So as soon as I'm done posting this, I'ma gonna go and start writing a new review!


PS, In my absence, Blogspot has apparently added one of those nifty share bars, which can be seen at the bottom of this post (and the others retroactively, I'm guessing?), so please feel free to be kind and start sharing stuff from YOTGR on Twitter or Facebook or wherever else it is the kids like to hang out on these here internets!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beyond Good & Evil

Platform: Playstation 2
Developer: Ubisoft
Released: 2003
Genre: Action Adventure

The Game
Things are looking down for the mining planet of Hillys. Its population is under attack by an alien menace known as the DomZ, which is snatching folks up into space for undoubtedly nefarious purposes. The citizenry is nominally protected by the Alpha Sections, an elite army task force that holds Hillys under the grip of martial law. When freelance photographer Jade takes on a job in order to pay the shield energy bill for her lighthouse home, she ends up involved with an underground resistance intent on exposing both sides for what they really are and taking them down once and for all.

Beyond Good & Evil is the creation of Michel Ancret, the mind behind the popular Rayman games as well as a number of more obscure titles. For a time, it seemed that BG&E would also languish in obscurity as its initial sales run was very poor despite receiving many high reviews from critics. It has since gained something of a cult following, however, and it has been announced that a sequel is in the works. Whether this will further develop into the full trilogy that Mr. Ancret originally envisioned or not is yet to be seen.

The Characters
Jade is our main character, an intrepid freelance journalist who lives in a huge lighthouse with her "Uncle" Pey'j and a whole bunch of li'l rugrats, orphans of DomZ attacks that she and Pey'j have taken in. She - as with many of the human characters in the game - has a very interesting look about her in that she doesn't have a specific ethnicity. I originally pegged her as Asian, but she seems to be a futuristic mix of all sortsa folk-types. Lineage aside, her gender is definite . . . she's a fine, foxy lady!

Past her appearances, however, beats the heart of a strong, caring person. She watches over the children that live with her as if they were her very own kids, and her bond with Pey'j is as strong as any familial tie. She's also quite the butt-kicker as well, being a tough martial artist that specializes in staff fighting. Her reporting skills are top notch as well, from all indications. She's kind of like Superman, only a hot lady in the future.

Pey'j is one of a number of humanoid animals running around the game, in his case an anthropomorphic pig. He's a short but boisterous old fellah who is nominally Jade's uncle but acts more like a father to her much of the time. He acts as a general handyman, mechanic, and tinker around the lighthouse, but proof gets dropped every once in a while that he's actually way more brilliant than he lets on.

Double H is Jade's partner in the resistance for the latter half of the game. She rescues him as he's undergoing brainwashing in a DomZ controlled facility, and as a result he's kind of loopy for a while. And for the rest of the game, for that matter, but it's eventually revealed that his regular personality is that of the big tough guy with a heart of gold and a strict code of honor (the Carlson and Peeters Handbook, to be precise). And he definitely is a big tough guy, the premiere agent of the resistance before Jade comes along and forever clad in Hillys militia armor.

The DomZ (pronounced "doms", as in multiple dominatrixes) are the primary antagonists in the game, and it is them or their agents that Jade has to face off against throughout. Very little is explained about them, even at the very end, but that's really to be expected considering this is supposed to be part one of three parts overall. There isn't any cohesive appearance to the DomZ other than a certain Giger-esque aesthetic, and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. About the only thing most if not all of them share is an orb-shaped part of their body which often turns into a pearl after they are defeated, signifying some sort of connection between them and the pearls you collect to buy certain items with.

The Alpha Sections are a military faction that have basically taken over the government and declared martial law on Hillys in response to the DomZ attacks. Right from the beginning, however, it becomes apparent that not all is as it seems with them, and Jade is hired by the resistance to seek out what their true motives are. The Alphas are the stock enemies of the game, particularly in the first half.

Secundo is . . . eugh. I'm just gonna go ahead and say it. I don't really like this guy. He's the artificial intelligence in Jade's SAC (a mini-computer that doubles as a "bag" that holds items by digitalizing them and then later reconstructing them), and he's . . . well, I don't want to say "useless", but he's close to it. He gets a short scene near the beginning of the game where he jabbers on in his bizarre almost-French almost-Spanish almost-Italian accent, then doesn't show up again until almost the very end of the game to pull off a big deus ex machina maneuver. He does pop in on occasion with various "Way to go!" voice overs when Jade picks up a new item, but he has no actual presence in the main game whatsoever. He doesn't even act as a tutorial for the game (mostly because one isn't needed), and if he were cut out completely, I doubt anyone would have really noticed. I almost hope that his existence is justified by having a larger part in the upcoming sequel(s), but then I remember how difficult it is to even understand what they guy is saying most of the time and all hope is lost.

The Writing
Not bad! Well, if you don't mind the open-ended nature of it. Not a lot is explained, and even when revelation seems to be coming fast and furious at the end, we're left hanging with several unanswered questions. What are the DomZ, really? What's the full nature of the connection they seem to have with Jade and Pey'j? Why does Peeters of Carlson and Peeters spell his name with an extra E?

An unfortunate side-effect of this and the shortness of the game is that it only scratches the surface of the true plot. There are definitely hints of hidden depth, but for the most part we are only allowed to see the shallows up until the very end. For the most part, it's a pretty basic and predictable story of conspiracies and revolution.

But for all of that (not that any of that is actually bad of course), it's still well constructed and presented. Predictability be damned, each and every plot twist was still brilliant and intensely moving, especially the very ending. The dialogue and characterization is quite vibrant and clever, making me feel very comfortable with these people in this world. Pey'j and Double H are especially good in this aspect, between the one making various pork product jokes at his own expense ("Thanks, Jade! I'd've ended up on a silver platter with an apple in my mouth if it wasn't for you!") and the other constantly quoting cheesy lines from his special agent handbook ("D.B.U.T.T.! Don't Break Up The Team!").

The Gameplay
As is usual with action adventure games, there's a lot of running around, smacking things around, and moving stuff around. It's all very simple, and everything you really need to know about controlling Jade takes about two minutes total to learn in the game itself, so I won't bother getting into it here.

These controls, however, are deceptively simple, I think. Unlike some action games that will give their characters a million and one abilities, 90% of which players never actually use under any circumstances (including the circumstances they were put in specifically to deal with), BG&E actually gets a great deal of use out of its limited repertoire. The solutions for all the puzzles in the game may only utilize the same four or five abilities over and over again, but they'll each use those same abilities in unique ways or combinations. It makes for tight yet varied gameplay that I rather enjoyed.

And even though you change modes of transportation every once in a while (by foot, by hovercraft, and by spaceship, to be specific), most of the basic controls remain the same for each. R2 makes you run/fly faster, X makes you attack with your staff/blaster, square makes you jump, circle activates an item, and so on. Hoping into a vehicle, therefore, doesn't make it feel like you suddenly hopped into an entirely different game as well, allowing for a smooth transition without having to learn a whole new control scheme.

Along with the action and the adventure elements are the stealth sections. These . . . are interesting.

Normally, I despise stealth games and anything to do with them. I'm not going to say they were my favorite thing here, either, but I will say that I despised these stealth elements the least of any game I've played so far. Just like the rest of the gameplay, the sneaking around here is very simple. Instead of having it take over huge swaths of the game, each section that requires stealth is usually contained to just a single room. Even if there's a series of several such rooms one after the other, once you get through one of those rooms, you don't have to worry about it again just because you fail in the next room. Failure is not rewarded by snatching away your previous successes. Which is nice. You usually only have to deal with one to three guards as well, and escaping is as easy as running into another room. The Alphas and the DomZ are apparently of the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality and don't spend more than a couple of seconds searching for you before resetting to their regular guard behavior.

And in the end, there are only a few sections where stealth is absolutely mandatory. Most of the time, if you either run out of patience or have an overabundance of bravery, you can run right on out and try to have a go with the guards face to face. It some ways it much more difficult than sneaking past (them guards is tough dudes), but in others it's pretty satisfying almost to the point of being cathartic. So the game typically doesn't punish you for wanting to play it as a straight action adventure game. Which is also nice.

The Challenge

There were only a very few parts that felt more than a little challenging, and most of those were only tough until I figured out whatever simple trick there was to it. Most of the enemies pose little problem, falling quickly under Jade's whirling staff. The stealth sections never reach anything even close to thinking about possibly approaching Metal Gear level. The races - racing being something I hate even more than sneaking games, by the way - are laughably easy to beat. Even the extra special bonus stuff is no big thing. I collected all of the animals and pearls in the game as well as all of the Mdisks save one without even really trying hard. Well, for the most part, anyway. The last couple of animals gave me a short-lived fit, but it only took a few minutes to figure it out in the end.

BG&E definitely strikes me as something for the casual gamer, difficulty-wise. In fact, with all the other good things going for it, it would make an excellent introduction to the video gaming scene for people who had never picked up a controller before.

The Sights
Based on the name and the way people seem to salivate ever so slightly over this game, I've long held this image in my head of this massive, epic game with impressively stark settings and tough looking characters showing how gritty they are by having grimacing contests in seedy bars.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I plop the game into my PS2 and find that it's basically a action adventure Saturday morning cartoon. Main character Jade herself is at least somewhat realistically portrayed, but almost everyone else in the game has the exaggerated proportions of a cartoon character and/or is an anthropomorphic animal. Much of the setting is beautiful European-style architecture, and even the grimmest and grittiest parts of the game are pretty brightly lit.

Not that this is bad! No no no, perish the thought. The story itself was also lighter than I expected, and the imagery suits it quite well. BG&E is very visually appealing, and its aesthetic of bright and vibrant with just an undercurrent of darkness fits perfectly. The characters are all well designed and memorable. Even if their personalities hadn't been as well defined as they were, I would have been able to easily tell them apart and tell who was who based on their looks alone.

This is a very pretty game packed with a great amount of detail, and it's great that the main character carries a camera around, 'cause you'll be wanting to take pictures of every damn thing in the game. Heck, even the in-game password system has a delightful design, both functionally and graphically.

The Sounds
I started grooving the second the music started and continued to groove all the way to the end of the credits. The music in this game is, in one word, phenomenal. The rest of BG&E be damned, if there's any one reason to go out and buy your own copy, it's the soundtrack. I guarantee I will have "Propaganda" at the very least stuck in my head for the next week solid.

The voice acting is top notch as well. Half of what makes Pey'j and Double H such great sidekicks is not just their dialogue, but the way in which that dialogue is delivered with such absolute gusto. Secundo's weirdness aside, everyone did an exemplary job.

The Bottom Line
As I mentioned before, BG&E has something of a cult following, and the latest announcement of BG&E2 being on its way has sent quite a few folks into a frantic fervor. While I am not exactly frothing at the mouth or anything, I do find myself greatly looking forward to the sequel. If it's even half as good as this game, it will be well worth picking up.

And ladies and gentlemen, Beyond Good & Evil is indeed beyond good. It has a few black marks (too easy, Secundo needs to go away-o), but those are more than made up for by tight gameplay, beautiful graphics, wonderful characters, the beginnings of what looks to be a stellar story, and an absolutely rocking soundtrack. This is a great game, and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fun: College Humor Mario

My game controller is on the blink at the moment and there's not much going on in old school gaming news that I'm aware of, so y'all get some more entertaining videos. Hooray!

Fun stuff website College Humor has been doing a series of Mario-related videos as of late, all of them more or less hilarious. The above is just a sample . . . check out Bowser's Minions, Sonic and Mario's Awkward Reunion, Mario and Princess Sex Tape, Luigi Finally Snaps, and The Problem with Warp Whistles for the full Mario awesomeness.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fun: We Are Not Time Travelers

But what if we were? Sure, we could go back and kill Hitler or become our own grandparents, but those are pretty pedestrian paradoxes with little in the way of personal profit. So what would graphics designer Alex Varanese do with the awesome power of temporal displacement?

Well, perhaps you'd better just see for yourself.

WARNING: May be more awesome than you can handle.

Night Trap

Platform: Sega CD
Developer: Digital Pictures
Released: 1992
Genre: Interactive Movie

The Game
Something strange is going on at the Martins' residence. There have been reports of people going missing, including five young girls who were staying at the Martins' overnight. In response to the disappearances, the - oh, brother - Sega Control Attack Team, or - aw, come on - "SCAT" for short, has been sent in to figure out what's going on. And what's going on is that there's these weird ass blood-drinking mutant things called "augers" that are kidnapping people and draining their blood with these devices that look kind of like pesticide sprayers hooked up to the crappy (if amusing) robot claw toys moms buy their kids to shut 'em up. As a member of - ugh - SCAT, your job is to monitor the house through hidden cameras and activate traps to capture augers and save the latest batch of girly girls the Martins have lured.

Night Trap is one of the earliest games in a very short-lived genre sometimes known as "trap 'em up", as well as one of the first console games to include live-action video footage. It's main claim to fame, however, was its involvement in the series of congressional hearings at the time regarding video game violence that led to the creation of the ESRB. Like most such hearings, the jabs against Night Trap were largely overreactions, misinterpretations, taken out of context, or simply invented from whole cloth.

Though I didn't remember the name of the game itself, the big "damning" scene where a girl wearing a nighty is dragged away by augers as their hook thing drains her blood was one that I saw on the news when they were reporting the hearings, and it was the big reason I decided to try the game out. I'm a sucker for controversy.

And for girls in short night gowns getting dragged off by bloodthirsty monsters. Hubba hubba.

The Characters
You are the main character of the game, the voiceless, faceless member of SCAT who gets to stare at video feeds all night in the vain hope of catching some augers off guard so you can pummel them into submission with the many booby traps littering the Martin homestead. Rather than give you a name or any kind of characterization, all of the characters in the game just call you "Control".

The leader of SCAT is Lieutenant Simms, a mean man who yelled at me a lot and broke my controller on multiple occasions. He said it had something to do with me not being up for the job, but I think he was really just disappointed that I wasn't an omniscient and omnipresent god among mortals, capable of seeing the future and thus living up to his impossibly high standards of what a real man is supposed to be.

Kelly (or Kelli, or Keli, depending on which version of the game you're playing, apparently) is an undercover agent of SCAT played by the late Diff'rent Strokes actress Dana Plato. She infiltrates the Martins' residence by posing as one of the girls that were invited to stay for the weekend (or night, or whatever . . . honestly, I'm not sure how long they were supposed to be there or even why) and runs around the house looking for clues while you get to do all the real work.

There's the Martins themselves, a pack of vampires who deliver blood to the local community of augers as part of their "charity work", getting said blood from locals and transients they lure into their home. It was they who set up all the traps in the house in order to catch those unwary victims more easily. To give you the short rundown of each family member, there's the father Victor (wannabe French/Italian/whatever douchebag), mother Sheila (MILF straight out of a daytime soap opera), daughter Sarah (creepy bad actress with enormous gums), son Jeff (whiny teeth brusher), and cousin Tony (wooden lump).

All of the Martins are bad actors with poorly written lines and motivations, but Tony really takes the blood cake. He has the exact personality of a fence post, which I guess is his attempt to seem like a "bad dude" with a "rude 'tude", but all he really manages is to come off looking like he forgot his lines but he doesn't want anybody to know. He just sort of stands there with the same expression through the whole game no matter what he's doing, from talking about how they should change the security code on the traps to talking about how he's going to zap the shit out of Kelly with his vampiric lightning powers (I'm not making this up) and then suck all her blood.

He's the only member of the Martin family that seems to have a character arc, but it doesn't make any damn sense whatsoever. He's just as ready as the rest of the bunch to suck and/or drain the blood out of every last college-aged girl that comes into the house, but he starts to have doubts because one of the girls just happens to look 100% exactly like some other girl. Who this other girl is exactly is never clearly defined. Or even muddily defined. His long-dead girlfriend? His long-dead sister? His long-dead hairstylist? You got me.

Anyway, he tries to warn the girls away toward the end of the game, and then almost just as quickly tries the zap-and-snack on Kelly I mentioned. As he's slowly coming after her up the stairs, Kelly yells at control to trap him, and inexplicably Tony smirks (the only other facial expression he has, it seems) and says something to the effect of, "You really think they're gonna do it?" I'm pretty sure that the people who made Night Trap fully expected the player at this point to actually yell out, "HELL YAH I'M GONNA DO IT! YOU'RE TRAPPED, SUCKAH!" I didn't say that, however. I said, "Uh . . . why wouldn't I do it?" I dunno, did Tony try to bribe me in some deleted scene that I didn't see? I hate the guy. Not because he's an evil vampire or whatever, but because he's a horrible actor, and it would have given me nothing but the greatest pleasure to have sent him spiraling into each and every trap in that house over and over and over again.

Anyway, there's some other characters running around, but frankly, just thinking about them is depressing me. The short version is there's an extremely strange neighbor appropriately named Weird Eddie who built ray guns and inexplicably disappears about halfway through the game, a bunch of idiotic, ineffectual, and borderline offensive members of SCAT who all bungle things to almost epic proportions, the five girls who are staying at the house, and Danny, younger brother to one of the girls. He's the first to spot the augers, and he gets a ray gun from Eddie and his final scene is just a copy/paste job of one of his earlier scenes in which he screams and runs out the back door while being chased by augers.

The only one of these mostly-forgettable people that held my interest even momentarily was Megan, played by Christy Ford in apparently her only acting role ever. She was one of the few actors in the game that didn't seem to be taking the whole thing seriously in the slightest, which really worked. Her performance was over the top crazy and I felt she brought more personality to the show than all the rest of the actors combined.

It's just a shame that she couldn't also make up for all the rest of the actors combined. That much outpouring of over-the-topness would have caused even the sturdiest individual to explode.

The Writing



Night Trap is by no means an A-list movie. It's not a B movie. Nor a C, a D, or any other letter. The script for this terrible, rotten, no-good piece of crap shot straight past Z grade and just kept on tunneling. I don't know if I can even talk about it. I'm starting to dry heave just thinking of the tortured dialogue, the unfunny "jokes", the nonsensical storyline, and the gaping plotholes.

But I'll try to pick out a few especially horrific parts.

Sega Control Attack what the fuck ever. I've read that they changed this first word to "Special" for ports to other systems, but that doesn't change the fact that for this version it was SEGA CONTROL ATTAAARRRGH. That damn Lt. Simms even held up a Sega Genesis controller from time to time! And it said "Sega Genesis" right on it, just like a real controller! Why would they do something so completely and utterly stupid?! What happened here, Sega?! I used to think you were cool!

And as bad as that is, regardless of what the S stood for, the abbreviation is "SCAT" either way. I mean look, guys, I understand that you probably meant it as the "shoo, go on, get out of here" kind of "scat" and as a wordplay on SWAT, but if you're going to be making a shitty game, then you probably don't want to have an organization with a name that is also another word for "shit".

The vampires have lightning powers.

Tony wears sunglasses throughout the entire thing. This, I think we're led to believe, is because his eyes glow. But the thing is, all of the vampires have glowing eyes. And just like them, Tony's eyes don't glow all the time. So why does he continuously wear the sunglasses and act like it's important that he keeps them on?

The vampires have teleporting powers, yet somehow the traps are able to hold them and they aren't able to catch up with a normal bunch of girls running away from them. They also have lightning powers.

After characters have served their purpose, they just seem to run off into the wilderness and disappear forever. While in some cases that's not such a big deal, in at least three it makes even less sense: Lisa (who shimmies out a window, completely deserting her little brother), Danny (who ditches out in the aforementioned copy/past of an earlier scene, despite the fact that as far as he knows he's deserting his big sister, and even though before that he was totally gung ho about taking on the augers), and Weird Eddie (who goes downstairs with a ray gun and an auger disguise, but then is never heard from again).

Sheila gets knocked over onto a bed by one of the traps and then has time to have a conversation with Victor about it before the bed lifts up and catapults her out of the house or wherever. Thank goodness she couldn't have just, I don't know, stood up from the bed she was merely sitting on or anything in the five or six seconds in between!

THE VAMPIRES HAVE LIGHTNING POWERS. And they don't even use them! Tony and Jeff just kinda shoot lightning out of their hands a couple of times. Why? Just because they can, I guess, because they never actually hit anything, and most of the time they aren't even aiming it at anyone!

And I'm really wondering whether Victor's line of "THE WALL TRAP! AAAAAAAAAH!!!" was actually scripted, or just an imaginative ad lib on the part of the actor. Either way, it was terrible and both he and the writers should be ashamed of themselves.

Oh yah, and the vampires have lightning powers.

The Gameplay
You, as Control, have access to the series of hidden cameras and traps strewn throughout the house. You can switch the camera feed between the various rooms, but you can only look in on one room at a time. When nothing is going on in that room, the feed is a static picture display. When something is going on, the something is typically split into two different types: plot relevant scenes and auger capturing scenes. In the plot scenes, the various people in the house are moving around, going about their business, giving exposition, or just having some fun or doing work. Sometimes these are just transitive scenes as people walk from one room to the other on their way somewhere specific.

The other scene type is the meat of the game. The augers occasionally get into the house and lurk around, looking for tender morsels to capture and drain, and from time to time one or two of these monsters will step in the range of a trap. A trap meter resides on your control console, running from green to yellow to red, telling you when to strike. If you hit the trap button when the meter is in the red, then you've caught yourself an auger and are treated to a quick scene of them getting sucked into the trap. If you don't, they continue on their despicable way.

On rare occasion, you can capture good guys in the traps. Doing this gets you an immediate game over as Lt. Simms appears, bitches you out, and breaks your controller. He'll also snap it like a Slim Jim if too many augers get away from you.

Some few scenes close to the midpoint of the game and more often toward the end are combination plot and capture scenes in which one of the girls is threatened by augers. If you don't manage to capture one or two of the augers, allowing the girl to escape, then the girl is instead captured and drilled for precious, delicious blood, and then Simms pops up to tear into your shit again.

To operate any of these traps, you have to have the proper security code, which is one of a set of colors. The game always starts set at Blue, and then during preset times the code is changed to a different randomly selected color. If you don't switch your access to the new color, then none of the traps will work no matter how hard or often you press that button.

The changing color code is the first problem I'll be addressing in the cavalcade of horrors that is Night Trap's system. The code change happens during specific plot scenes, and if you don't get to the right room at the right time to listen in on the conversation regarding which color it's been set to, you're just shit out of luck. You have to randomly change your access code, try to find some augers, and try it out. If it works, hooray, you guessed right! If it doesn't, oh well, better luck with the next color. And you better hope you get it figured out before they change the code again, too many augers slip through your grasp, or one of the girls gets dragged off by the foul beasties.

So how do you know when the code is being changed? Well, that's the thing . . . unless you've happened across the scene in a previous playthrough and written down the time and place it was changed, you don't. It's entirely trial and error, restarting the game every time you learn of a new change time. And since the code change is randomly determined, you have to be sure you get to the scene in time, because you can't just write down a list of specific color changes.

This problem is endemic of the entire game, unfortunately. You never know exactly when a plot scene is going to be popping up unless you happened across it in an earlier playthrough and made a note of it. The only indication that an auger is near a trap is a popping noise accompanied by the count of possible captures on your console bumping up a notch or two. This does not, however, tell you where the augers are, so once again unless you already know from a previous playthrough, you have to search through all the rooms and hope you luck upon the correct one before the augers can slink away. And since your window of opportunity to capture them is mere seconds at most after you hear the pops, slinking away unharmed is usually what they do.

Also problematic is that plot relevant scenes will often play simultaneously not only with the auger capture scenes but with each other as well. This starts from the very beginning and continues virtually unabated throughout the entire game. A plot scene involving Sarah Martin starts playing right from time 00:00, starting in the bedroom and ending in the bathroom at time 00:24. At 00:02, two freaking seconds after the plot starts, an auger capture sequence starts in another room. And another one starts at 00:20 in the bedroom just as Sarah leaves. So if you try to pay attention to the capture scenes, you miss the plot scenes. If you try to pay attention to the plot scenes, you miss the capture scenes.

Now in this case, the plot scene isn't really all that important. It shows there's something not quite right with Sarah and that there are secret doors and passages in the house, but both of those points are shown many times over throughout the game, so you can catch onto it pretty quick. But it does the same thing over and over and over again after that during plot scenes that are important if you're to follow exactly what's going on. And capturing augers is definitely the more important of the two scene types since you get a game over if you don't capture enough of them, leading the player to miss tons of exposition and action elsewhere in the house.

Now given what I've already said about the story being just absolutely putrid, this might seem like a good thing. But really, even though they totally sucked at writing the story and acting it out, they did still take the time to write it and film it. One of the big boasts on the box art itself was that the game contained around one and a half hours worth of video. We the players might be glad to be spared all the lifeless acting, terrible dialogue, and weak action/horror, but why in the world would the people who made the damn game go to lengths to make sure almost all of their hard work would slide by unseen? What sort of sadistic bastards would make it virtually impossible to sort out their already nearly incomprehensible plot in even multiple playthroughs? It's like they're standing there going, "Ooooh, you want to watch this movie, don't you? But oh, dear, I'm sorry, we're only going to let you have a few glimpses now again because right now you need to sort out all of these rusty, handle-less knives right over here without any hand protection. Maybe when you've finished doing that, we'll let you have a peek!" And then when you do get your peek, what little you do understand about what's going on is complete shit!

So, in order to play the game, you're more or less forced to sit down and write up a list of all the different things that are happening around the house and when they occur. You then use this list to progress through the game until you get to a new section, then start listing the events that happen there as well. You have to play through the same beginning sections over and over and over again, watching each room one by one and writing down what happens until you finally get shut down by Lt. Sucks. In other games, your continued progression is generally based on getting better at the game, becoming more skilled at controlling your character and directing your attacks. In this game, skill has nothing to do with it whatsoever, unless you count "pressing a button when the game tells you to" as a skill. Instead, your character is pretty much just using a time machine to go back to the past with the knowledge they have gained in the future to proceed.

And even when you've got all the events listed, you still have to do multiple playthroughs in order to see all the different plot scenes that are happening simultaneously, then even further, in order to see the actual ending of the game, you have to do a perfect game, capturing every auger and vampire in the game and saving every girl without fail. This means that in order to see the real end of the story, you have to ignore almost all the other story scenes before it!

Who does this sort of thing?! Who?! And why would they do it?! Do they just hate us?! Did the people at Digital Pictures simply decide they hated video game players and then created the most awkward, idiotic, counter-intuitive gameplay mechanics ever devised just to make us suffer?!


The Challenge
I eventually decided to pull up a walkthrough for Night Trap so I could play through a perfect game. Even with the list telling me exactly where to be and when, I got a game over because my nose started to itch just as the second girl-threatened-by-augers scene popped up and I thought, "Surely I'm fast enough to scratch and be back at the trap button in time to save this hot, nubile young lady!"

No, I wasn't, and all the work I'd put into the perfect game was gone in a flash.

Even if the gameplay section above doesn't tell you everything you need to know about the bullshit challenge presented by Night Trap, just remember that I had a walkthrough for the perfect game, and I still utterly failed just because I wasn't fast enough to press the trap button in the half-second window provided by the game. All because my nose started itching.

The Sights
I vaguely remember hearing that Sega CD games had a reputation for being a little on the ugly side, and I really should have been prepared from the choppy graphics I'd already seen on the Saturn years back, but dah-yumn this game is uuuuuuh-glee!!! In order to compress the game down to where all the video would fit on the CD, it looks like they just beat it with an ugly stick until enough pieces were smashed off, allowing them to crowbar in what was left. So on top of having a story that starts off barely coherent and gameplay that ensures you barely get to see anything of relevance to the plot, you've got an impenetrable fog of video that would make Zapruder blush with shame.

Night Trap's big claim to fame is the controversy started over a scene where a girl in a somewhat revealing nighty gets attacked by some augers before getting dragged off to be drained of her blood good and proper. To be honest, this was the only reason that I decided to give this game a chance, 'cause if there's anyone willing and ready to watch a scantily clad girl get dragged off by monsters, it's me. But when I finally got to the scene, it was not only compressed down to the point where I had trouble figuring out which unsightly blob of color was supposed to be the hot chick, it was also plumb damn ridiculous.

The nightgown isn't really all that revealing, and was even slightly less so than some of the regular outfits the other girls were wearing. And not to hurt the poor actress' feelings or anything, but she was the one that I would have least wanted to see in a nighty. Not to say she wasn't attractive (she was, in an 80's richy bitch sort of way), but still, comparatively.

Also, the augers are just guys wearing black full-body clothing, their blood draining devices look like toys, and the most menacing thing they do is kind of hop around like idiot monkeys. Further, there's the Z-grade acting and shoestring budget "traps" that wouldn't be able to capture a . . . well, an anything, much less those weirdo vampire wannabes. All put together, it was like trying to watch a scrambled porn channel, and it isn't even good porn.

It's an awful looking game with stupid looking traps and moronic looking bad guys in idiotic looking costumes with pathetic looking equipment.

The Sounds
Fortunately the audio isn't quite as compressed as the video, but it still ain't really pretty. The popping noise that warns of auger incursion is repetitive and annoying. And having to listen to the "acting" is enough to make anyone's ears bleed.

The Night Trap song played during the party scene is kinda catchy, however.

The Bottom Line
Since I didn't actually finish the game (not even with the walkthrough) and had almost nothing positive to say about Night Trap, I had originally planned to relegate it to a spot in one of my Short 'n' Sour triple reviews. But as I started to write, I found that while everything I had to say was sour, it was in no way short. So I did some more research, started compiling my thoughts on the game more thoroughly, and decided to go with the full hate-a-thon you just read. This is hands down the worst game that I've reviewed so far, I honestly think it may be the worst game I've ever played, and I earnestly believe it may be the worst game ever devised by anyone anywhere ever, and I just had to share my pain with the rest of the world.

But strangely, one of the reasons it's so bad is because I want it to be good. I think that there may have been a real possibility for a good game here, it's just that Digital Pictures went about making it in the most ham-fisted and wrong-headed way possible. The fixes for their broken system would mostly be quite simple to implement, even on the primitive Sega CD system. Having already played Double Switch, which is another, later Digital Pictures game with the same setup, I've seen that they'd come up with one or two of those fixes on their own (such as alerting you to what rooms exactly are being broken into), but it still left a lot of other stuff broken. And that's one of the most infuriating things about all of this . . . DP just seemed to have absolutely no idea what to do with the very genre of games that they helped create and mold.

Sadly, whatever good ideas Night Trap may have contained were all buried under huge piles of manure, never again to see the light of day. And then the Senate hearings regarding video game violence as well as the awful, horrible quality of the games in the trap 'em up genre overall pretty much made sure those ideas would remain buried forever, only cropping up every once in a while as crappy DVD games in the extras section of kid's movies.

If you ever get the chance to play this game, don't take it. Just drop the disks, smash them if you can, and then run far, far away. You may think you want to play it just to see how bad it could possibly be, but I assure you, you don't want to do that. If you've just gotta see how bad the acting, writing, and traps are at least, then I'd suggest just checking it out on YouTube. Besides the obvious upside of not having to actually play the game, it's also composited from the PC version and the second edition of the Sega CD version, both of which looked way better than the original. But be warned, I wouldn't recommend watching that, either. The picture quality might be better, but the quality of everything else is just as terrible. It's not even worth watching to make fun of, and I love making fun of bad movies.

Seriously, this game is the devil. I find it offensive on almost all levels except the ones the US Senate was up in arms about. Avoid at all costs.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fun: One of the Seven Legendary Videos

You ever play one of those games where you can't rummage through people's houses without them getting all indignant, calling the cops on you, or trying to shoot you themselves? Man, what's up with those games? Don't they know who I am?


Blog: Things Of All Sorts

I know I only have maybe five or six readers, and I'm not even sure all of them are really paying any attention anymore, but I'm still gonna go ahead and apologize for not posting anything for Sunday. I promised I'd try to get at least one something up every day, and I failed all (five or six) of you miserably. But to be fair, I did have my reasons! One of those reasons is actually a pretty funny story, and the punchline is . . . veeerrrry drunk.

The other reason is that I'm thinking about taking weekends off from the blog. I've got other things in my life, y'know! And one of those things is actually playing the games that I intend to review for YOTGR. Another is trying to get a new job (horrors!), and yet another is just staring at the wall, contemplating the abyss. Oh, right, and I usually go visit my parents on most Saturdays.

Still, weekdays I'll be keeping up with YOTGR a bit, and as it's Monday, I'll be getting on posting something entertaining here in a bit.

But speaking of YOTGR, I'm thinking about changing the name. "Ye Olde-Timey Games Review" was something I just came up with after a few moments of thought when I decided to do this, and while I still kinda like it, it's a bit unwieldy. I think the place needs a punchier sorta name. I'm not sure exactly what kind of punchier sorta name just yet, but I'll hopefully figure something out soon enough.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sonic CD

Platform: Sega CD
Developer: Sonic Team
Released: 1993
Genre: Platformer

The Game
For one month every year, the Little Planet, home of the Time Stones, appears over Never Lake. Intent on harnessing the power of the planet and its stones, Dr. Robotnik takes over the place and starts doing his mad scientist thing. Sonic, as the designated hero, zips his way up to Little Planet and starts kicking robot booty.

Sonic CD (or Sonic the Hedgehog CD when its mama wants to make sure it knows it's in trouble) is the product of an interesting set of circumstances. It was developed by good ol' Sonic Team, the group responsible for making most of the Sonic and Sonic-related games in existence . . . but only part of Sonic Team. Yuji Naka, one of the most prominent members of the team, had himself a fit, grabbed up a bunch of the best and the brightest from Sonic Team, and went over to the US to start working with Sega Technical Institute on developing Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Naoto Oshima, the actual creator of Sonic, took what was left of his team and started developing Sonic CD.

Originally, the two were supposed to be the same game, but eventually they branched off from one another (quite wildly, I'd say) and became their own thing. So how does the CD side of the equation hold up? Well, let's see.

The Characters
Sonic the Hedgehog is the same rude blue dude as always, the somewhat callous but still heroic figure who beat Robotnik once and aims to do so again. The tools at his disposal are his super speed, his cutting quills, and a new figure-eight extra fast running move that was not in the first Sonic game and has never, to my knowledge, ever been seen again. He just revs up his legs in a figure-eight cycle and then blasts off. Whee!

Dr. Robotnik is the goofy but still somewhat threatening evil genius bent on dominating all in his path and turning everything and everybody into robots. He appears at the end of the third zone in each area with a new mecha monstrosity with which to smash, slice, crush, or puree Sonic.

Amy Rose got her introduction here in Sonic CD, though for American audiences she was renamed "Princess Sally", I suppose because Sega thought that American kids wouldn't understand why Sonic would have a love interest that wasn't Sally from the animated Sonic series made by DiC Entertainment. The fact that Sally and Amy look look absolutely nothing alike besides both being female didn't seem to deter them. Anyway, Amy is a young pink hedgehog with a complete and utter crush on Sonic, though Sonic does not return her affection in any way whatsoever. Her entire purpose for being in the game is to follow him around in a couple of the early stages while cartoony hearts float around her head, then get abducted by Metal Sonic.

And speaking of Metal Sonic, he's Dr. Robotnik's newest creation, a machine shaped like and (almost) as fast as his namesake. He is the primary antagonist in the Stardust Speedway level, in which he and Sonic compete against each other in a deadly race.

Besides these four, there are the usual array of evil robots trying to drill, saw, spike, or beat Sonic to death and - if you save them from a nasty Metal Sonic hologram - a bunch of happy, peace loving animals that bounce about the screen, forcing the player to consider if those mushrooms they ate just before starting the game had gone bad.

The Writing
What writing there is I cannot fault. It's a pretty interesting setting . . . a tiny world in temporal flux. Sadly much of the rest is pretty much boilerplate. An evil twin (albeit a very cool one), unrequited love, bid to take over the world, so on and so forth. Structuring one entire zone into a race was fairly inventive for the time, tho', so good on 'em for that.

The Gameplay
First off, let me say that I am a complete and total old school Sonic fanboy. The first one I played was Sonic 2, and almost every 2D Sonic I've played has made me quite happy. So it was that I sat down with Sonic CD with the expectation that I was going to have more or less a pretty good time. But . . . I didn't.

Oh, it was alright, I suppose. There were some interesting ideas going on in the game. But overall I found myself constantly frustrated, and it wasn't until I was almost finished that I realized why.

See, Sonic - both the character and the game series - is all about speed. Wooshing around like a maniac, grabbing rings and kicking 'bot butt. It really goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway, and the reason I'm saying it is because Sonic CD isn't about speed.

It was when I was jumping from an inconveniently situated pit to an inconveniently situated ledge to another inconveniently situated pit et cetera in the Metallic Madness level that I came to this realization. One of the gameplay conceits of the game is that Sonic's temporal state on Little Planet has some leeway. If he touches a lamppost marked "Past" or "Future" and then keeps up his top normal running speed for a certain amount of time without stopping, he will shoot into either the past or the future where the zone layout is a bit different, the enemies are altered (or, in some cases, no longer present at all), and Sonic can make the future better by destroying the robot manufacturing machines in the past, thus eventually going on to get the Good Ending. Because of the need to run without stopping in order to time travel, the stages are built specifically to be a hurdle in this process. Even in areas where there aren't any timeposts nearby, there are little obstacles in the way that will keep Sonic from reaching and maintaining his top speed for very long.

Thus Sonic in Sonic CD is slow, and my brain rails against the entire concept.

Now, I like a thinking game as much as the next braniac. I rather enjoy puzzlers, games that test my wits and force me to figure out the optimal positioning to do whatever it is I need to do to proceed. But that's not what I play Sonic for. I don't go to McDonald's for their Chinese food, y'know? So it is that this game in which I have to pick out a good spot for an extended run, clear it of enemies, find a timepost, and hang on to the charge long enough to pull off a temporal jump just so I can go on a scavenger hunt instead of just blast through from beginning to end doesn't feel like a Sonic game at all. The entire gameplay mechanic has been toppled by a new paradigm of level design built to accommodate a new story element, and it bothers me.

I understand, of course, that this was actually very early in the game and it wasn't known at the time that Sonic 2 would pretty much forever place its stamp on all future Sonic titles, pushing the whole speed thing even further, perhaps even to ludicrous levels. Maybe if I had played Sonic 1 first and then went straight to Sonic CD, I would have been able to handle the change and even come to prefer it. But things didn't happen that way and I'm looking back at the game from the standpoint of being used to Sonic moving so damn fast that he leaves the screen at times because the camera simply can't keep up.

But I think you all get the point, so I'll stop harping on it. Instead, I'll go on to say that the temporal jumping is rather nifty and I found myself trying to make the leaps even when I didn't actually do anything ending-altering with it. The music and scenery changes enacted by those leaps made it worthwhile enough for me.

I also found the shrink ray areas in the last stage to be absolutely delightful. Running around as teeny tiny Sonic was both a blast and utterly hilarious. I kind of wish they'd had those rays in more areas of the game.

While I may not have enjoyed Sonic's new paradigm, I totally dug Robotnik's. Instead of just finding different ways to wail on him, you have to instead find different ways of getting to where you can wail on him. Eh . . . that sentence might not make too much sense right now, but you'll get it when you actually play the game. Just trust me, it's interesting.

I also liked the special stages, though I was a bit rubbish at it at first. I finally got the hang of it and got my first Time Stone, however, so yay me!

The Challenge
Even though they slowed things down a bit and put more environmental dangers in the way (hell, I'd say 75% or more of the game was entirely environmental dangers with only a handful of 'bots thrown into each level just to make things interesting), it's still a Sonic game in many other ways, and I've been playing those for more than half my life. I pretty much blasted right through it, with only the last stage giving me any sort of real trouble. Relative Sonic newbies might find it a bit harder, but not terribly so, I don't think.

The Sights
I read somewhere that Sonic CD was one of the only games on the Sega CD that looked worth a damn, and now that I've played a couple of other Sega CD games, I can definitely see where they're coming from. The game doesn't really try anything fancy (most of it would look right at home on the Genesis), and where it does it keeps the fanciness pretty understated. The result is deceptively simple, hiding subtle beauty wherever you look.

Once again I praise the special stages, and I was almost shocked at just how good their pseudo-3D look came off. Also wonderfully done were the animated sections at the beginning and the end of the game. Very reminiscent of animation in the Sonic OAV from way back, and I'm kind of curious now whether or not it was made by the same people. Not curious enough to actually look it up, mind.

If there's one place this game does not disappoint, it's in the looks area.

The Sounds
Dreams Come True, the composers of the music from the first two Sonic games, has spoiled me. Every bit of music in the series gets compared against the masterpiece that is the Sonic 2 soundtrack especially . . . but this does hold up well on its own rights. I liked the main theme - Sonic Boom by Pastiche - especially and may be playing it every once in a while and humming it to myself in the shower.

I've come to understand that the soundtrack I heard while playing the game isn't the original, and that there was some big hullabaloo over the change when it was first released over here in the states. I might end up joining the haters if I ever hear the original Japanese soundtrack, but for now I'm quite happy with what we got myself.

The Bottom Line
I want to like this game. I really really do. But I just can't get over my own preconceived notions of what a Sonic game is and isn't supposed to be. If it were something completely different, like a fighting game or an RPG, then maybe it wouldn't be a problem, but it's just too close to a regular title in the series for me to not see the differences.

Still, it's a gorgeous game, the music's pretty cool, and there are some few gameplay changes that I can get behind, so I'm gonna grade this one "well above average". I did beat the game but haven't gotten the Good Ending yet, and I find myself not entirely disgusted with the idea of giving a Good Ending run another try later on.

Short 'n' Sour - Kid Icarus, Golden Axe (Genesis), and Dragon's Lair (Sega CD)

Hello and welcome to the first installment of a new feature here at YOTGR . . . the Short 'n' Sour review. See, as much as I love old games, there are some that I simple just can't stand. It may be a long standing hate rooted in many many many many hours wasted sitting in front of a TV, computer, or arcade machine as I tried to plug my way through a game that was either unforgivingly difficult, poorly written, buggier than a roach motel, had a frustrating gameplay mechanic, or was otherwise Just Plain BAD. Or it could be a new hate, a fresh loathing for some bit of video game scum that I had somehow managed to avoid, be it through luck or purposeful deselection, until the day I foolishly decided to try and play it with intentions on reviewing it.

Either way, as I will almost always have only horrible, nasty, soul scarring things to say about games I absolutely despise and probably haven't ended up playing them all the way through, I figure making full reviews of them based on annoying fragments to be a waste of time and not entirely indicative of the game as a whole. Instead I intend to lambaste them in as few words as I can, and not even give them the dignity of having a post all to their own, having to share each SnS entry with two other horrible, soul crushing games.

I will most likely step on more than a few toes with some of my SnS reviews, as there will undoubtedly be some classic favorites out there that I shall cruelly and heartlessly toss into the garbage as if they were naught but dry turds scraped off the bottom of my boots. I may make some enemies. I may get some death threats. But my hate shall not be denied! FEEL MY HATE!

Are you seated comfortably?

Then let's begin.

Kid Icarus

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Released: 1987
Genre: Platformer

The Game
You're an angel (or something) named Pit, and you're trying to defeat the goddess of darkness, Medeusa.

The Good
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. This game has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. If you like it then you are a bad person and you should feel bad.

The Bad
You've played Super Mario Bros., right? You know how hard the eighth world of that game is? Well, just imagine that the very first level was as hard as that one, and every level after that is also that hard. That is what Kid Icarus is like. Teeny tiny platforms, monsters that take forever to kill because they're immune to your shots half the time, a hero character who's sloppy control makes it seem like he's on ice all the time, rooms that serve no purpose or offer you items that you can only afford if you've spend at least half an hour farming hearts in one spot, an insta-death pit that's always at the bottom of the screen even where you absolutely know you just left a platform that would make it only a two inch drop at most, etc. etc. etc. I only (barely) made it to the second level before quitting in disgust.

Having played so many NES games, I'm pretty much inured to the completely featureless black background, but I'm going to bitch about it anyway because I'm bitter. I know Pit is supposed to be in the Underworld or whatever, but bleh. They could have at least tried putting in the hint of a stalactite or stalagmite in there somewhere, right?

Bad challenge level, bad graphics, bad mythology, bad controls, bad game. And if you win with 100% completion or whatever? Your reward is Pit getting a kiss from the goddess of light? Yah, sure, okay.

Go to hell, Kid Icarus. You deserve everything the Captain N cartoon did to you.

Golden Axe (Genesis)

Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Sega Probe
Released: 1989
Genre: Beat 'em up

The Game
The evil Death Adder has taken the King of Yuria, the king's daughter, and the fabled Golden Axe hostage and has threatened to destroy all three if the people of Yuria do not accept him as their ruler. Bent on defeating this vile being are a dwarf, a barbarian (named "Ax Battler", I shit you not), and an amazon warrior chick.

The Good
It's definitely a pretty game, I'll give it that. Not quite as good as the arcade version, but a worthy enough port. It's got a hot chick in an armor bikini, and that's all that really matters when it comes to good graphics, right?

And I suppose the challenge level isn't that bad, except . . .

The Bad
Oh, you want to constantly try to flank me and take me out from both sides, even going so far as to moving at almost the exact same speed as me so you always stay almost on either side of me unless I take the time to bop one of you assholes one across the noggin? That's fine! But now you wanna start doing that cheap ass run-and-kick move over and over again, especially every time I manage to get on one of the creature mounts for even a second? That's fine, too! 'Cause I'll start doing that bitch shit maneuver right back at you, over and over and over again until the entire game is nothing but seeing who can pull off the dash move first and most often! But don't worry, just for shits and giggles I'll try to hit you with a few normal combo hits until I end up trying to clonk you on the top of the head even though your head is actually about a foot away from where I'm trying to hit, and then you just up and hack at me before I can manage to get my character to stop beating uselessly at the gahtdamned air! That's fine!

That's just fucking fine!

Maybe someday I'll go back and actually finish this one up and give it a full, proper review, but right now all I want to do is strangle one of those little magic potion dropping imps until it shits out its own spleen.

Dragon's Lair (Sega CD)

Platform: Sega CD
Developer: Advanced Microcomputer Systems
Released: 1983
Genre: Interactive Movie

The Game

The Good

The Bad

Friday, June 18, 2010


Platform: TurboGrafx-16
Developer: Namco
Released: 1990
Genre: Beat 'em up

The Game
Rick and Jennifer, a couple of good ol' university kids, get caught out in a storm and decide to take refuge at the scariest, creepiest, most weirdest private residence in the entire town, West Mansion. Once inside, they are beset upon by numerous monsters who mortally wound Rick and steal away with Jennifer for undoubtedly nefarious purposes. Rick wakes up in the basement of the house some time later, alive thanks to a sentient object known as the Terror Mask (or "Hell Mask", if you live in a non-wussified country), which binds itself to his face and transforms him into a hulking monster. With the power of the mask at his disposal, Rick starts to tear his way through West Mansion and the monsters that inhabit it in search of his girlfriend . . .

Splatterhouse is the first of a trilogy and the only one of which was on the TurboGrafx-16 Entertainment SuperSystem, with the other two being made for the Sega Genesis. A remake is currently in the works and due out for the PS3 and XBox 360 later this year, and supposedly the remake package will also include all three of the original games.

Due to the violent nature of the game, a lot of content was either changed or removed outright when it was ported over from Japan. This includes swapping weapons out (a meat cleaver became a 2x4, for instance), toned down violence, and the removal of a few screams, amongst other things. But don't worry, there's still a fair amount of gore and horror to be had.

The Characters
Rick is a university student who nearly gets killed, gets fused with a sentient mask that turns him into a brutal monster, and rips West Mansion a new one.

Jennifer is Rick's damsel in distress girlfriend. She gets kidnapped by monsters at the beginning of the game.

Dr. West is a parapsychologist who's been missing for a while, owns West Mansion, and only gets a mention in the backstory. He might be the end boss of the game, but there's really nothing to indicate whether that's true, or if it isn't, what might have actually happened to him. For all we know, the dude's just off having a vacation somewhere, blissfully unaware that his house became a creepy spook joint while he was out.

The Terror Mask is a self-aware mask that can make people mutate into giant super-strong monsters, and it seems to have plans and motivations of its own, but it's left openended as to what those might be.

The monsters . . . man, I don't know. Maybe they'll explain it more in the other two games. And even if they don't, it seems that the remake will delve further into the mysteries of the mansion, at least. But as far as this game goes, all that's revealed is that they are monsters and they aren't very nice.

The characterization is so thin as to be virtually non-existent. The people are more or less just props for the setting.

The Writing
Having the main protagonist also be the main savage monster of the story is a nice spin, but in the end this is basically your standard low-grade horror movie plot. Monsters take girl, hero battles monsters, so on and so forth. There's a minor twist here and there, but nothing too far out there.

And this is one of those games where that's all it really needs. If more story gets added on in the sequels, that's cool, but this game is more about splattering monsters against the wall than some hoity-toity storyline.

The Gameplay
Pretty straightforward and, in some cases, somewhat disappointing fare. Rick can punch. He can jump. He can kick. He can jump and kick. He picks up the occasional weapon, but they only last for the one level they're picked up on, and they're more just for the cool splatter animations than actual necessities most of the time. There's one, the wrench, that's only found in one spot and can only be used once, as a throwing weapon. Since at that spot in the level there's usually one of the nasty ghoulies right within punching distance anyway, it's fairly pointless to even bother picking the damn thing up.

The Challenge
The game only rarely takes cheap shots, but when it does it can be particularly annoying, especially the ones dealt out by the final boss. Most enemies can be taken out by a single hit as long as you've got a weapon in your hand, and even when you don't have a weapon most of them only need two or three hits at most.

The main challenge, as with a lot of lazier games of the mid eighties to mid nineties, is remembering where everything is. The baddies only rarely switch up their positions from one run through to another, so making it through any given level without getting hit is just a matter of rote memorization. It's fairly noticeable throughout the rest of the game, but it's most blatant in the very last level where all you have to do is time your jumps over burning logs and your dashes under burning guys as they jump over you. No punches or kicks until you reach the final boss . . . just the simple rigors of an obstacle course.

The game is pretty challenging, but not for good reasons.

The Sights
Before this, I had never played a game on the TurboGrafx-16 before. To be truthful and to my shame, I was only barely aware that the system even existed at all. But having gotten a look at Splatterhouse, I'm looking forward to getting to know it. The animations are a bit weak (Rick doesn't really jump so much as he stands still and then suddenly launches up in the air without moving his legs at all), but the sprites and backgrounds are pretty well rendered, almost up to the quality of a Genesis game. The splattered forms of the monsters were pretty neat looking, and the entire house was well decked out with a grisly horror feel.

The Sounds
There were a few voice bits in there, which I wasn't really expecting, mostly extremely short phrases from Jennifer. The music was alright, getting across the sort of B horror movie vibe that most of the game seemed to be going for.

The Bottom Line
Eeeeeeeeh . . . I won't say I'm sorry that I played Splatterhouse or anything, but I really just don't feel it offered anything unique or interesting enough in a beat 'em up game. The fact that I know that I got a watered down version of the game is also sort of a turn-off, making it feel just that much blander, as the violence is supposed to be the main draw of the game.

Overall, it was an average game at best, worth one play through but not any more than that. Hopefully the sequels have some more substance to them, or at least more style. I think I'll also seek out an unfiltered version of the game to see if the changes really made a big difference.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

News: This Ain't Your Daddy's Space Paranoids

So, did you guys and gals hear about the new Tron movie coming out sometime around the end of this year? It's called Tron: Legacy, and here's one of the trailers just in case you don't believe my senile ramblings. Welp, little did I know that my review of Discs of Tron from yesterday was going to end up being somewhat topical, but it seems that the fine people at Propaganda Games are working on making a new tie-in video game called Tron: Evolution. Here, check it out:

Strangely, I find it somewhat reminiscent of the gameplay in Spider-Man 2 for the PS2, and I'm okay with that. The main attack mechanic at these early stages is the iconic ID disc, which it seems can be upgraded in various ways. I'm holding out hope, however, that you'll eventually be able to pick up different types of weapons as well as you go along. As regards the combat system in all . . . well, it's too early to make any real judgments, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

This? Wellllll . . . this I'm not so enamored with.

I love lightcycles, don't get me wrong. Just like every other kid who grew up watching the original Tron film, I found the the lightcycle game to be hypnotically cool. Even as an adult, my fascination with the system continued . . . the geometrical precision of it, the sleek look of the bikes, and the system of elimination of the opposition all made up for an extremely awesome game. I've downloaded and played several version of the lightcycle game, both officially licensed and not, and one of my favorite games on a Tron based MUD that I used to play was the ASCII who-types-the-fastest version of lightcycles.

But this? This is just a racing game. And I generally despise racing games or anything that has most of the trappings of a racing game. As much as I love the Grand Theft Auto series, I dread the inevitable drag race missions that encrust it like nasty little barnacles. As much as I love Final Fantasy VII for its setting, characters, and whatnot, I hate the motorcycle-riding escape from Midgar that sits at the end of the game's opening act. And now I'm gonna have to go ahead and get all geared up to hate the level (or, goodness forefend, levels) of Tron: Evolution indicated in this video.

One of the greatest parts of the lightcycle arena was the claustrophobic feel it evoked, a feeling which became more and more prominent as the game went on and the field grew ever smaller and more cut off as a winding maze of light trails were laid down. Racing along in a single direction with no sharp right-angle turns and apparently very little chance that you'll hit enemy light trails for any serious amount of damage . . . well, it just takes all the fun out of it.

That said, it is at least consistent with what can be seen of the lightcycle race shown in this Tron: Legacy trailer, but honestly all that really does is make me more pessimistic about the movie as well.

Still! As I said, cautiously optimistic. I might have preferred a direct remake of Discs of Tron, but I suppose I can give Tron: Evolution the benefit of a doubt for now. (via

Fun: Three Princesses, No Waiting

Nothing says "old school gaming" like the princesses from the Super Mario franchise, right? Peach and Daisy have been around for, like, ever, and though I wasn't exactly fond of Rosalina at first since she's relatively new and I am both afraid of new things and angry that new things even exist, I have to admit that she's grown on me. And by that, I mean that I am willing to overlook her horning in on the other princesses' action because she is quite attractive for a video game character.

Anyway, the point of me babbling on about P, D, and R is to point y'all's attention to some quality entertainment starring these three fine ladies!

The Three Little Princesses by Yves "The Bourgyman" Bourgelas is a fun little romp revolving around Rosalina's attempts to survive the insane attentions of Peach and Daisy, who have basically kidnapped her so they can have a sleepover. It's filled with slapstick, situational comedy, and hilarious cartoony visuals that are fun for the whole family! And it's all finished up, so you can read it from beginning to end right away, which I hear is pretty nice. If you like your humor light, frothy, and filled with people being comicly oblivious to the feelings of others, then T3LP is the comic for you!

The Three Not-So-Princesses by The Artrix (who's real name escapes me at the moment and I'm too lazy to bother looking it up) was inspired by T3LP, but Artrix is taking his offering in a far more depressing and disturbing yet no less entertaining direction. No longer princesses, Peach, Daisy, and Rosalina now share a flat in the dystopian city of Rothingham, working for their livings and generally having a rotten, miserable time of it. Other characters from the games - such as Wario, as seen in the page above - have popped up in this alternate universe, and there have been hints of more to come as the comic goes along. If you like your humor dark, sarcastic, and guaranteed to crush the souls of everyone involved, then T3NSP is the comic for you!

Me? I like 'em both. That probably says something about me.

Something like, "That Jim guy sure has good taste in comics".

News: Nintendo Becomes Remake King

Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals Various

I bet you were hoping for a screenshot from the Goldeneye remake, weren't you? Weren't you?! Well, since that's what everyone's buzzing about and because I'm an ornery old cuss that happens to like the Lufia series better than Goldeneye (that's right!), you get a picture of a whiny elf girl talking in Japanese instead. Or one of them there foreign languages, anyway.

I tend to automatically tune out all the E3 shenanigans that come my way, mostly because it's pretty depressing hearing everyone salivate over all the new, shiny toys that I won't get to play with until several years after they get released. I just can't get excited about stuff that's so far out of my reach that it takes the light emanating from that stuff at least a thousand years to reach my position in the video gaming universe.

But IGN and Nintendo are starting to school me rather harshly that if there was any year an old school gamer like me should be paying attention to that big old expo, it's most definitely this year. The Starfox 64 remake that I talked about yesterday really should have tipped me off on what was happening, but I'm kind of slow on the uptake. Along with developing all new installments in several of their oldest and most vaunted series, Nintendo is also working on a nice little stable of remakes, updates, and ports of old games as well.

Besides the aforementioned Starfox, there's the aforementioned Goldeneye do over for the Wii that's on everyone's minds right now since it sold roughly 10 billion copies and everyone on Earth and every other inhabited planet in the entire universe would gladly bend themselves over and allow the N64 James Bond classic to lavish their orifices with whatever it has that passes for an enormous penis. For those of you who couldn't penetrate that horrifically tortured metaphor, it means that people really really liked the original game and are apparently very excited about its upcoming remake.

And why shouldn't they be? Even though I wasn't as completely wowed by it as everyone else, even I could see that it was a pretty well constructed and definitely fun and entertaining game. Further, they're replacing ol' Pierce Brosnan with newest and coolest Bond actor Daniel Craig, updating all the graphics to insanely gorgeous levels, and adding new gameplay mechanics that will, amongst other things, emphasize stealth even more than the original did. There doesn't seem to be much reason not to be excited. I mean, look at this:

GoldenEye 007 Screenshot

Seriously. That's just pretty. (via IGN)

But now that I've pandered to the masses, I'd like to get all of my fellow old school RPG players to please turn their attention to the front of the class, because Nintendo is working on a remake of Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals to be called Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals and to be released on the DS. Now, there are going to be changes, of course, as there are with virtually every remake ever remade (the battle system, for example, is going to be action RPG rather than turn-based RPG style), but apparently the characters, storyline, and the like are going to be kept intact. Which is cool, because the Lufia series has always run some pretty good storylines with pretty good writing and characterization.

And I gotta say, it sure looks like they aren't going to be skimming on the graphics for this one.

Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals Screenshot

Hopefully this is just the start of a revitalization of the entire series, which I figure is most likely the case since they're starting with the first game chronologically instead of just doing Lufia & the Fortress of Doom right off the bat. While Lufia may not hold quite the same obsessive shrine-like spot in my shriveled black heart that Final Fantasy occupies, I still hold it in very high regard and wouldn't mind seeing more extra pretty versions of it gracing the television and/or DS screens of the world. (via IGN)

Man, I'm starting this whole "hard-hitting old school gaming reporter" bit off right on IGN's teat, aren't I? I might need to think about looking into some other gaming news sites unless I start getting some of those sweet IGN bucks coming my way.

Fun: War of the Console Magi

This is but the beginning of the epic tale that is Sega Fantasy VI, a delightful parody of when they first started putting out game consoles that weren't just game consoles anymore, all using the ending of Final Fantasy VI as its backdrop. If you want to see the show in its entirety, you can follow this delightful little link here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Discs of Tron

Platform: Arcade
Developer: Bally Midway
Released: 1983
Genre: ---

The Game
Based on the 1982 Disney movie Tron, Discs of Tron puts the player in the glowy blue suit of Tron himself as he plays against Sark in the game grid. Specifically, they compete in a variant of the modified jai alai and disc arena games the programs are forced to play in the movie.

DoT was originally going to be a part of the first Tron-based arcade game (imaginatively named Tron), but Bally Midway was forced to cut it due to technical limitations that they just didn't have the time to surmount. And thank goodness, I say. The first game was a bit crap.

The Characters
You play as Tron, the security program dedicated to defeating Sark and the vile Master Control Program in order to free the ENCOM computer system from their nefarious control.

Sark is a right bastard, the right hand program of the MCP and tasked with the active duties of oppressing everyone and everything that isn't already in the MCP's grip.

The MCP doesn't appear in the game. Nor does anyone else, for that matter. It's pretty lonely out there in the game grid.

The Writing
Though based on a larger narrative, DoT is self-contained, simply running through the paces of the game over and over again.

The Gameplay
The playing field is comprised of two to six platforms (half on your side, half on Sark's) floating in space. Whenever there are multiple platforms on each side, Tron and Sark jump from one to another automatically. Later in the game, these platforms can be struck, causing them to blink out of existence for a short while, limiting Tron and Sark's movements until they reappear.

The main weapon of both programs is their ID discs, frisbee-like items that they toss across the gulf at each other. Both the player and Sark can have up to three of their discs in the air at one time, and if one gets destroyed for any reason, it takes a second or two for them to become usable again. Each side has their own special items as well . . . Tron has a deflection beam with which he can knock away Sark's discs a certain number of times a round, and Sark has some rather nasty energy balls that he can deploy to follow Tron around on the player's side of the field.

In the original arcade box, Tron is moved around the screen through the use of a airplane-style joystick while his aim is adjusted through the use of a dial. Playing the ROM on the computer puts the mouse in the place of the dial, which rides a little bit different from the dial, but still works pretty well.

Overall, it's a pretty unique system that I've always kind of liked.

The Challenge
The difficulty is pretty balanced for an arcade game, and once you start hitting the later stages regularly, the first few levels are easily put down. Sark rarely even gets a chance to throw one of his own discs at first since I tend to take him down so easily.

There are no continues in DoT, as the game doesn't really end. Once you've run through all of the different permutations of the game field, it just starts putting you through the different field types over and over again, the ultimate goal being to get the highest score possible while lasting as long as you can on a single credit.

The biggest challenge of the game, besides the environmental hazards and shields they put in your way, is trying to pay attention to both sides of the game field at the same time. You need to be aiming your discs at Sark and throwing them in ways that trick or force him into their flight path, but you also have to be constantly on the move, making sure his own discs and other tricks don't catch up to you as well. It's pretty good mental exercise.

The Sights
I'd say "for 1983, the graphics are pretty dang good", but the fact is they're still rather nice looking. There's a simplicity to the design that fits the movie environment extremely well, and it really manages to capture the feel of a three dimensional field. This is one of the reasons I said above that I'm glad it wasn't a fifth wheel in the original Tron game . . . it would have certainly looked far worse if it had needed to squeeze in between four other games.

The Sounds
There aren't many sounds in the DoT to speak of, but it does make an attempt at including voice acting with Sark alternately taunting you and cursing your name, depending on the outcome of the match. A lot of games around that time tried to do the voice thing back then with varying levels of success, but I think this was one of the better attempts, even if it didn't sound anything remotely like Sark.

The Bottom Line
I probably blew a few hundred dollars worth of quarters on Discs of Tron alone as a kid. When I first grabbed the MAME emulator, this was one of the first games I sought out, downloaded, and played. I'm glad it's held up so well over the years, being just as much fun now as it was back in the day. If I were a rich man, I'd pay good money to have one of the actual arcade machines for my own personal use.

News: I Guess I Should Be Thankful!

Star Fox 64 3D Screenshot

Nintendo is apparently working on developing a port/remake of Starfox 64 for the upcoming 3DS. So, one of the best games made for the N64 being given a complete upgrade of its graphics, being made in digital 3D, and playable on a handheld system? The only way it could possibly be more awesome is if it also made all your favorite dishes, downloaded legal currency into your bank account for every bad guy you shoot down, and performed oral sex on you while you played it. (via IGN)

Fun: Who Needs Video Game Soundtracks

. . . when you've got cockatiels?

Is that total win or what?

Yes, that is total win. But what is this little bird's favorite song?

Rock on, little bird. Rock on.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blog: Expanding YOTGR's Scope

So, I'm thinking of actually advertising the existence of the blog a little more aggressively now that I've got a decent number of reviews under my belt, so it's time to start thinking of ways to make it a little more viable and marketable.  In short, I think I may need to give more reason for people to come by and stick around.

The reviews themselves will, of course, continue to be the main reason for the blog overall, and I hope they're entertaining and informative enough to keep folks from running off screaming and warning their friends and loved ones away for fear that I might end up corrupting them somehow with my awful, awful writing, opinions, and looks.  But I don't put up reviews every single day, and in these highly competitive internets, consistent updating sells.

To those ends and starting tomorrow, I will try to put up at least one news item and/or bit of entertainment every day as regards old school gaming.  Stuff like re-releases of old games, announcements of new games being made for old series, and videos of Mario saying swear words over and over again.  That sort of thing.  And just like the games themselves around here, a lot of this stuff (especially the entertainment parts) are probably going to be old, since I've got a good number of links to interesting stuff saved up in my bookmarks and I'm too lazy to bother looking for new crap all the time.  Still, if you haven't seen it, it's new to you, right?  Right!

Some folks may not care for this sort of thing, of course, and just want to read the reviews themselves.  Or maybe they just care about the news or just the pictures of Samus and Sonic getting it on.  To help facilitate that, I'll be marking the titles of those entries appropriately.  News items will start off with "News:", the entertaining stuff will be marked "Fun:", and entries like this talking specifically about the blog itself will be marked "Blog:".  Reviews will continue unmarked with just the name of the game itself as the title, though "review" will be placed in their tags so readers can sort out all the other crap if they wish.

Sound good?  Yah, that sounds good.  Cheers!