Portal 2 ( GET TO DA CH....no.) I'm not doing that bullshit meme thing twice. I mean, I could try to work in a gag about potatoes, given that Steam came down with a case of Irish fever around the time this came out, but that would be really dumb. That's as close as Portal 2 ever comes to anything meme worthy. So what happens when you take a beloved game, remove a meme from it, and then some other stuff? Well, it's the same game, only slightly better.
Only that's certainly not the impression I got when I first opened the game. Now most people just plop the game into their Xbox 360 and have at it, but I'm a bit more cautious than that. I decided to read the manual and got....four or five toilet paper sheets of basic instructions lacking anything even resembling a personality. *sigh* What the hell happened to game manuals as of late? Is it the green movement? The trend toward digital distribution? People being too goddamn lazy to read the manual for a game they just physically bought, likely in an actual store? Remember the days when manuals had a semblance of personality? You know, like in 2007? Or 2010? But now, you're lucky to get color in your crappy little leaflet. I thought that this game OF ALL GAMES would be the one to have a great manual, given the sense of humor and everything. But no, it's just a nine page leaflet that could just as well read "play through the tutorial and stop expecting us to write these." This needs to stop. It's been going on for too long (certainly longer than my previous links may suggest), and it needs to end right now. Just look at L. A. Noire. Not only does the game come with a fleshed out manual (no padding it out with Spanish and French translations (I'd glare at El Shaddai, but it was meaty without the translations)), but it even has nice little film reels for an in-game challenge. You know, in case you want to feel like a detective, of all things. Step up your game, Portal 2. Step it up for the sake of the industry. OK, sorry, sorry. This was the first thing I noticed, and I just felt that I needed to write my thoughts down regarding this pres-OK, OK, I'LL WRITE ABOUT THE ACTUAL GAME!
Moving right along, we find that GLaDOS has pulled an Amakusa and come back from the dead...to belittle and insult poor little Chell. (I should point out that I haven't even touched the co-op, mainly because I wanted to spend most of my time killing a human, not a robot.) That's pretty much what the first half of the game is, and there are two things to note about it: first, it's pretty goddamn dark. You thought you were getting something pristine like the first game? Well, strap it on, motherfucker, because we're veering into Epic Mickey territory. A once pristine world destroyed by years of decay, paint recklessly strewn about (more on that later), some humor to lighten things up, etc. Wait, that last one wasn't really present in Epic Mickey! Yes, point number two is that this game is pretty damn funny. I'd say that it's "laugh out loud" funny, but two things. First, the only time you'll see me use the phrase LOL is if I'm talking about Lack of Love. Second, because I didn't really laugh out loud. I'm not the type to emote, so I just sat in my chair, stoically viewing this game and writing down things that I found funny. Despite not laughing, I wrote down a lot. Let's see, we have something about lemons, Chell getting insulted, that apple thing, level design (usually with turrets), that 50s stuff (or maybe it was the 90s; hard to tell), and something I can't really mention because of spoilers. I'll just say that I'm involved in some way, as is Fragile Dreams. Yes, it's as awesome as I'm making it sound. Granted, I also took note of the times when it missed some comedic opportunities (really? No punishment for not appreciating the art?), but those were few and far between.
But then comes the second half of the game that I've been ignoring for an entire paragraph. Mainly because it begins with a plot point ripped from Aladdin, of all places (there are more spoilers in those clips than in the entire Forza series). (Christ, why am I making so many Disney references as of late?) So after Return of Jafar happens, you begin exploring the ancient ruins of Aperture Science...OK, the other ancient ruins of Aperture Science. You can never have enough decrepit buildings, I guess. Actually, that's totally unfair. These ruins actually explain the origins of Aperture Science. Not content to let us think that the company was just a playground designed to piss off Galileo, they crafted an origin story that, again, makes it sound like it's part of Fragile Dreams. Oh, but that's not all. This time around, Valve decided to give GLaDOS some development, too. Turns out that there's more to her than "lady T-Pain wants to shove some neurotoxin into your face." She has personality quirks, aspirations, and a really predictable plot twist. Wait, I'm noticing something about this game: it's a sequel, but...it has purpose? It actually expands on the concepts of the original, and has a valid story reason for being made? I didn't know games could do such things! Is anybody else surprised about this? Oh, and I guess they made it for the co-op, too. It's there. It's a thing.
Which reminds me: I haven't gotten to the best part yet: the actual game. (Am I developing running gags? I certainly hope not; "Disney references" and "delaying gameplay descriptions" sound like shitty gags.) Well, to be fair, I kinda have a reason for that: I mostly wrote about it before. Don't believe me? Go check out the first thirty minutes, which literally amount to a large amount of the first Portal. Then again, I don't have much of a problem with that. Portal 1 was awesome, and more of Portal 1 means more awesome. I mean, it's not like they forgot everything that made the first game awesome.......Where's the comedic contrast? Oh: there is none. The levels still make some freaky use of portals, even when you're just learning how to use the damn things. Oh, but it's not all portals and cubes and ball puzzles. (Wait, that last one's absent for some reason.) There are actually some new (taken from indie games) ideas on display like lasers (boring), launch platforms (significantly less boring), light bridges (ooh, now we're getting somewhere), and, somehow, Flubber (how the fuck is this the best part?). Again, freaky use, even while you're just learning the ropes. But after you're done learning the ropes? That's when things get awesome. Expect to wall jump once, fly through the air like a madman while screaming "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!", get pushed and pulled to and fro, and a bunch of other cool stuff. I'd ask if somebody finally managed to do first person platforming right, but I've never really had a problem with it.
Normally, this would be where I say that the game's too easy, but it's really not. There were some pretty challenging puzzles in this game, and for the most part, they're the right kind of challenging. The Braid kind of challenging, where the solution's in front of you the entire time, and you feel like a smug dickhead for having solved it. Of course, as always, there is a dark side to this difficulty, and that dark side is called "the Braid kind of challenging." There's one particularly egregious example in chapter 7 or 8. Somewhere around there. Anyway, part of the solution is that you're supposed to shoot a portal into an air duct. The problem? You can only see the shootable surface with the forgotten art of FAQ-fu. Now imagine an entire game like that. Odds are that game's called Secret of Monkey Island, because those moments aren't the majority of Portal 2. Speaking of the majority of Portal 2, this is a meaty game. It took me...four days. OK, not as meaty as I thought, but keep in mind that it's 400% longer than the original, so that's a plus. So are there any crippling flaws to this game? Well, for one, it's not Fire Emblem 4. It's not even El Shaddai. So there's that. But despite its flagrant display of things that aren't sexy men and swords, it's still a cool game.
- It's my belief that Portal takes place in the same universe as Fragile Dreams. Which means.... AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! (Again, spoilers.)
- I'd call the concepts creative, but a lot of the ideas have been done before. Portal 2's just really, really good at what it does.
- It's essentially more Portal. In fact, I think this game should have been called Mortal. Wait, that type of wordplay usually sets off my spell check. What's going on?
Hey, I have some semblance of a meme count to uphold. Why do you think I made the "strap it on" joke?
Custom Robo V2 ( OK, there's absolutely no way I can write a blog about this.) Now don't confuse that as a statement of quality. Custom Robo V2's a pretty good game, and it was just as good when it was called Custom Robo. That's right: it's exactly the same as the first game. The only differences are a new story, some new weapons, and a costume system that doesn't bring enough changes to warrant a brand new blog. So go ahead and read this while I work on an actual blog.
Ranger X( That's more like it.) Finally, a game I have yet to cover, at least on this site. But wait a second: why haven't I covered this yet? I struggled through an all-Japanese version of Snatcher and found out that dues suck when imbued with a certain level of attitude, but it took me this long to get around the Ranger X? What the crap? By now, you've probably realized that I really like this game. Given your predictive powers, you should also know that I will tear your throat out for not knowing what Ranger X is. What's that? You do? What system is it for?......That's what I thought. Excuse me while I write a blog before I exact justice upon you.
Speaking of justice, there's probably something about it in the game's story. Maybe. I've read things about how there's supposed to be a story about a robot doing things or something, but I don't remember seeing anything about it in the game. Just an opening credits sequence (somebody needs to tell Ranger X that it's not a movie) and that's about it. But I don't care. Why? Because it's just a 90s shooter, and games like these don't require a significant amount of story to enjoy? What the fuck are you talking about!? I was gonna say "because this game looks amazing." Go check out that video from before. How do you get that much mileage out of 1989 hardware? That looks good enough to compete alongside Bahamut Lagoon and Spriggan Powered. And I mean that quite literally; there are some pretty cool Mode 7ish moments later in the game that would have you incredibly confused if you were a 1993 gamer. Add in an oddly bitching soundtrack, and it's almost like an SNES game ran away from home to be with its lover, Sega. Ah, but that's not all. You also get vector graphics ripped straight from Escape from New York. Yet unlike that movie, the vector graphics actually look pretty cool. It's like somebody translated the already cool looking in-game artwork into cheesy sci-fi vector graphics. In fact, somebody did do all that. I don't know their name; if I did, I wouldn't be writing this blog right now, but I would rather be fellating them in their sleep. It's like the first Star Fox, but with a certain sci-fi charm to it, along with a billion practical gameplay uses.
Which, of course, brings me to the gameplay. The awesome, awesome gameplay. Remember what I said about those vectors actually doing something for the gameplay? They point you toward which enemies are most in need of death. But don't worry about getting lost, like in Duke Nukem Forever (not sure why I'm making that reference). This time, you have a radar system telling you where to go and what the proper balance is between linear and not linear. And a motorcycle-airplane-sidekick thing. I should point out that this is kind of an odd game. It's a side-scrolling shooter that kinda controls like a dual stick shooter (why?), and you can combine with your motorcycle for no reason. It definitely takes getting used to. But get used to it. It's an awesome game. You know, like Portal 2. Only instead of finding new and creative ways to bounce around like a pinball with an utter hatred for physics, Ranger X focuses on all the cool ways to put a bullet in somebody's face. Hell, just look at the boss battle on the left. Pretty awesome, right? Well, imagine if all the bosses were like that. Now stop imagining, because that's exactly what this game is like. I'd list off each one like an asshole, but I'll do that for the levels, instead. You get a forest, a cave, a building, a sci-fi area, and quite a bit more. Add some cool weapons, like a robotic eagle whose sole reason for existing is to kill your enemies, and you have a pretty cool shooter.
But that's not all I love about the game. If I it was, then this would be a shitty blog. (OK, so this is a really shitty blog, but you're missing the point.) So why else do I like this game so damn much? Well, there's the challenge. It's not too hard, but not exactly easy; it's....actually, it leans a bit more toward hard, but in a good way. Remember Silent Bomber from my last blog? (If not, just scroll down for a second and remind yourself that Silent Bomber is a thing.) Remember how there were a ton of enemies at any given time? Well, same here. There are more enemies on screen than scanlines, so you'll eventually take enough damage to kill an entire village for a week. What's that? You want to heal? You'll only get the opportunity about....two or three times a level. Coincidentally, that's as many continues as you're getting. (Fortunately, Ranger X adopts the Contra system of losing lives, so it all works out.) But trust me, it is possible. There really aren't a lot of moments where you can call bullshit on the game, so it's pretty easy to feel like a smug asshole for managing to dodge all those bullets while scaling a building. Oh, and there are six stages total. I feel like this crap is standard by now. Wait, did I just use the word "crap" to describe this game? I won't make that mistake in the future. Mainly because the blog ends here, since I've already detailed all the intricate ways in which Ranger X rocks your face.
- A mid-life Genesis title that can stand up to Spriggan Powered? What the crap?
- All I can say is that there's a lot of cool stuff in this game.
- I'd insult it for old-school difficulty, but this is one of the few times that it actually works really well.