Mento Gear Solid 4: Puns of the Patriots: Part Five

Apologies for the delay everyone. I've been a little too invested in SGDQ over the past week to keep up this obversation LP on everyone's favorite geriatric tactical stealth espionage game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Well, that and I didn't want to get too far ahead of Dan and Drew for the handful of you out there who won't read any this until you've seen the game first-hand (well, second-hand) for the first time with Giant Bomb West's least effective special agents. Also I don't particularly want to play the game anymore, but that comes a distant third in my list of excuses to take the previous week off.

So instead we're here at the start of Act Three, ready to take on whatever the game's Eastern Europe block throws at us. You can catch up with our adventures in Parts One, Two, Three and Four if you'd like, but here's the story so far: We rescued Naomi from her prison/lab, defeated the first Beast and Beauty boss and got our asses saved by a robotic Raiden while escaping. We now need to go meet Raiden's contact "Big Mama" to discover the whereabouts of the body of Big Boss as well as find a way to fix Raiden after his calamitous fight with Vamp. Naomi's followed us on board the Nomad to help us determine what Liquid's up to next.

Today's update concludes at the end of Act Three. Turns out it was a short one. Well, sort of. You'll see.

  • Act Three! Let's do this! This is the best one, right?
  • Sunny's eggs song is now the periodic table of elements in a random order. And here's Naomi, to actually teach her how to fry eggs right because it's not like Otacon's ever going to.
  • Aww, they're bonding. Over the periodic table. I guess that's a twist on the "girls bonding over periods" classic. I never expected a Metal Gear Solid game with insane sexy skinsuit-wearing ladies to pass the Bechdel test.
  • Lot of talk about Liquid's plans. He needs something about the something with the genetics and the nanomachines. Blah blah blah. Some interesting facts though: Snake isn't actually a perfect clone of Big Boss, nor is he and Liquid genetically identical. This is why Liquid still needs Big Boss's genetic code for his plans. It probably also explains why he was looking for Big Boss's DNA back in the original MGS and why Snake wasn't killed by the same FOXDIE strain (at least, right away) that took out Liquid, which feels more like a hand-wave than anything.
  • Also: Big Boss is still alive. I mean, we've only killed him, what, twice? I guess because it happened in those MSX games which are soooo, like, super old, maaaan, that it means they no longer count. Or maybe the dude just has a thousand body doubles like Dr. Doom.
  • Okay, maybe not. While there's no brain activity, the body of Big Boss is being kept alive artificially in a lab somewhere as a "biomort". Aren't those the bad guys from The Inhumanoids?
  • Raiden, who is also in this scene, decides he's not getting enough attention and starts coughing up more roboyogurt. Nice little scene as Naomi looks concerned while we get a flashback to the similarly cyborgified ninja Gray Fox a.k.a. Naomi's brother (slash family murderer) Frank Yaeger.
  • Naomi takes over Sunny's console and starts typing super fast like a real hacker just like in the movies. Sunny's impressed. Cute scene, but for the fact the camera's pointing directly at Naomi's cleavage the whole time again. I don't even remember what her face looks like any more; it's been so long since the camera was interested in that part of her body. She might as well be the floating boobs from Trespasser: Jurassic Park at this point.
  • Raiden-bot's dying, but there's somewhere we can go in Eastern Europe to patch him up. Do we gotta? Also, the doc we're looking for is Dr. Madnar. Man, the Snatcher references just keep on coming don't they? Are we going to bump into a young Gillian Seed pre-cryostasis? Maybe throw in the Policenauts guys too; it's not like I can see this Otacon/Snake buddy comedy partnership going anywhere.
  • All right, so Dr. Madnar was in Metal Gear first. I get it. Old games are still old. (Might I interest you all in a new episode of ST-urday? Nope? Suit yourself.)
  • Naomi's getting in a lot of not-so-subtle handholding with Otacon. You know the dude's dressed like a golfer these days right? Did I mention the bedwetting?
  • Got my cigarettes taken away and my psych gauge dropped again. I'm guessing they installed that thing purely for dumb comedy. Hey, ditto with me and that catflap in my kitchen door that's welded shut.
  • A quiet scene follows. We get a look at Otacon's desktop: a picture of Emma, a Policenauts wallpaper and another wallpaper from one of Otacon's Japanese animes. About what I expected.
  • This scene is dumb. Anyone opposed to me skipping over it? *Sees a raise of hands* Motion passes.
  • I will at least mention the USB stick around Naomi's neck. Sabotage option? Are her loyalties conflicted? Did she and Otacon really just do the hunka-chunka in the chopper? Blaargh.
  • So now we're in Act 3: Third Sun proper. I'm actually stoked that we're sneaking around what looks like a noirish city in Eastern Europe. More opportunities to use the shadows and silence, rather than being out in the open getting shelled at in some dusty field somewhere. "Raven Sword" is our enemy PMC this time, which I imagine means we'll be fighting the Raven-themed Beauty & Beast member. Hope she's good at muktuk-eating contests.
  • Paradise Lost Army would be the rebel ally equivalent for this Act. That's the group led by this "Big Mama" character we're trying to get in contact with. I think I know who that is, but I'm curious to see if my other theory about the relationship between her, Big Boss and his trio of offspring pans out. After all, a surrogate womb makes more sense than a bunch of vats with babies floating in them. (Not that sense has a place in this universe, but I work with what I have.)
  • Why put on a disguise if I'm just going to antagonize the security detail at the train station? Or did I not anticipate that they'd have some way to check people's nanomachines to verify their identity? Isn't that how it's done everywhere in this future? Fortunately, Meryl bails me out again.
  • Meryl's gang is here too. Akiba decides to yell "HEY SNAKE!" despite us trying to be incognito because comedy relief. Snake! We got Snake here! See? No-one cares. Nice trenchcoat, Snake. What are you trying to look like, a secret agent?
  • Meryl doesn't approve that we're out to kill Liquid while she's trying to capture him so I guess I can't rely on her team of screw-ups to trap me in a building full of gas mines and FROG troopers. Oh no. However will I cope?
  • Wow, are you shitting me? A tailing mission? I have to follow some whistling idiot to the Resistance meeting point, and because he's also being careful to avoid detection he's going to take the slowest and most circuitous route possible. I'm starting to understand why there were some disgruntled murmurings about this Act.
  • Also, the tune he's whistling is the same as Sunny's song. Possibly relevant? Does Big Mama and this resistance have some connection to whatever Patriots base Sunny was holed up in?
  • Because these resistance guys are more loafers than sneakers like Snake, they'll keep getting stymied by PMC patrols. I have to eliminate the patrols while ensuring that I don't give myself away to the resistance guy, nor agitate the patrols themselves, or the resistance member will bolt and I have to start over (yaaay). These resistance members are apparently not at all perturbed by all these mysterious unconscious PMC bodies lying around everywhere.
  • Following some whistling guy through the tunnels and alleys of a moody European city at night would be kinda The Third Man-esque if I didn't hate everything about it.
  • Just collected some Snatcher music by grabbing a guard's wang while body searching him. I'm starting to suspect that Kojima misses making games other than Metal Gear Solid. Careful what you wish for, I suppose.
  • The super subtle resistance guy I'm shadowing just threw a grenade at a couple of goons and ran off to stare at a girly poster (Akina again). Am I tailing Drew?
  • So, uh, this whole next part was on me: I noticed a vehicle patrol going through the street, so both I and the resistance guy hid in alcoves as it passed. I kept following the dude from the upper pedestrian area where the cafes were, but then the same vehicle rolled up behind me. Tranqed the dude on the turret, but the alert still went off. While running away I bumped right into the resistance guy who was running TOWARDS the alert, who then pulled a gun on me. Tranqed both him and the PMC guys who showed up, let the alert/evasion/caution tick down, woke up resistance guy and then hid before he saw me and now I'm following him again. I hate this game but boy do I respect it.
  • I'm screwing up this forced stealth section in admittedly hilarious ways, which makes me kind of excited to see how Drew handles it. I know that's the second Drew burn in as many minutes but dagnabbit if that guy doesn't play these games in an entertaining fashion.
  • Our resourceful resistance guy has now switched costumes with a PMC trooper. That's going to make it slightly tougher to keep tabs on him, though I'm thankful that this Solid Eye gizmo seems to know the difference.
  • Tripped an alert at the final hurdle - a big truck rolled through the streets while I was following the dude, leaving me with nowhere to hide - but fortunately the resistance guy didn't bolt. I just followed him as I kept shooting the guys chasing me. Gotta say, that guy was good at keeping his cool.
  • So I finally get to meet Big Mama. Yeah, it's Eva. I already worked it out. Presumably I'm going to have to make nice by feeding her all the rations in my backpack and staring at her chest. I know the drill.
  • She isn't saying who she is, but she's talking about forbidden fruit and is an elderly blonde Patriot agent so I don't know who the game thinks its fooling by not stating it right out of the gate. Fine. Let's find out what "Big Mama" wants.
  • And she mentions a new guy: Zero. Founder of the Patriots. Wasn't the British Major called Zero...?
  • Okay, yeah, once she gets into Operation Snake Eater it's a little more overt. Clearly Kojima didn't think he could pull the wool over the eyes of the majority of the players with Eva's reveal, so the build-up to this cutscene gave us ample clues to figure it out before they made it perfectly obvious. I respect that, especially in a series where the hero regularly repeats back new plot keywords in an interrogative tone.
  • We get into some "what happened after the ending of the last game" business here. Eva got kicked out of China for screwing up the Philosophers' Legacy heist, and is recruited by the fledgling Patriots organization lead by Major Zero and featuring all the other codec contacts in MGS3: Sigint, who became MGS1's DARPA Chief through his expertise with technology; Para-Medic, who became (Doctor) Elvira because of her love of schlock horror movies; and the DJ of that radio station that played knock-off Beach Boys tracks that healed Naked Snake, who became Senator Bluto Blutarsky. I may have made some of that up.
  • More info: Les Enfants Terrible was started by Zero without the consent of Big Boss, and Eva carried both Liquid and Solid to term as a surrogate mother (called it!). Apparently Solidus showed up later? They haven't mentioned him yet. Having little Big Bosses running around (how cute would it be to have a baby bib with "Big Boss" written on it?) was the final straw for the original, and he left to create his globe-hopping mercenary company and Outer Heaven: footsteps his two sons that aren't Solid Snake seem super eager to follow. Meanwhile, Zero is an embittered old rich man who continues to gain power thanks to the war economy and the Patriots AIs. He probably still likes Bond movies a whole lot. The end.
  • I say "the end" because it just prompted me to save. The game is acknowledging that its cutscenes are so long that players shouldn't be expected to sit through one in a single sitting. Wowzers.
  • I like the implication that every conflict in this entire series was because a couple of guys were following their own interpretations of the will of The Boss: a hero they idolized. Meanwhile, Naomi and Eva are also beholden to the example set by The Boss. Specifically, how she walked around with a neckline plunging down to her belly button.
  • More talk about the events of the prior games, including ones in which Solid Snake was an active participant. Zero lost faith in everything after Big Boss told him to sit and spin on his crumpets and tea, and he built AIs to carry the torch after he was gone: GW, TJ, AL and TR. All named for the initials of the Rushmore Presidents. (The program based on 13th US President Isaiah Orville Smith was sold to Apple instead.)
  • Gray Fox apparently assassinated Dr. Clark (a.k.a. Para-Medic) at some point before MGS1 began. If only she'd watched the 1975 B-Movie classic Cyborg Killers: The Rebloodening at the local drive-in; she might've recognized the warning signs and saved herself. We'll always have the "Can I eat rabbit poop?" conversation to remember you by, Doc.
  • All right, now we're getting to the task at hand. We go visit ol' Pops in the back of Eva's van. He's not looking so hot, but then the last time we saw him we'd fired a thousand rockets at his decrepit Sean Connery ass.
  • Naomi's left the Nomad! And I just saw something that looked like the white spy from Spy vs. Spy slink past the door to Eva's church. Something's about to happen isn't it? Oh, thank God.
  • That thing in the coat was three weird mini-robots with big beefy arms that the game called Scarabs. They looked a bit like a cross between the interrogation droid from Star Wars and a Shin Megami Tensei monster (though fortunately not Mara). Why did they design all these robots with realistic human limbs? To creep people out? That actually kinda fits Liquid's MO.
  • Eve shot the crap out of them with that Chinese pistol she's apparently kept for forty years. I got a flashback to MGS3 while she was gunning them down. So wait, these are the player's flashbacks and not Solid Snake's? How meta.
  • We're outtie. While Eva's goons are drawing away the attention of some inbound Geckos, Eva apparently wants to escape on her ancient Triumph motorcycle. Does she not throw anything away?
  • Oh man, it just hit me that we're about to have a motorcycle chase. Like that's the one thing I wanted to revisit from MGS3.
  • "The kids they play all the video games and think they're real soldiers. Look at these losers." Lady, I am trying to enjoy your video game here. Trying really hard, even.
  • Well that was a dumb sequence. Driving around, shooting guys on the pavement from a moving vehicle. Good thing this game has an auto-aim option you can turn on, or I wouldn't have hit anything (and yes, it's going right back off once this godforsaken excuse for a turret sequence ends). At least Eva's still a badass behind the handlebars. More than I can say for Ocelot. Burn!
  • "Raging Raven"? What is this, a highschool football team? She swoops in with her robo-winged posse and tosses Eva and Snake around for an additional chase scene. The FROGs are starting to turn up too, though fortunately they're the tough female troopers from before and not a bunch of Kero-tans I have to hit with pinpoint accuracy. Again, no idea how I'm supposed to hit anything without a minigun or auto-aim. Sure is exciting though.
  • We all got taken out: The van, Snake and Eva. I'm sure Big Boss survived getting flipped over three times despite being a skeleton on life support, because that's how that fucker rolls (as it were), but Eva's looking less good. She got herself a new navel courtesy of some broken iron gate bars. What is that, her third? All right, bring up the surgery screen, let's do this.
  • We drag her into where the van crashed while we scale the tower to take out bird lady. I guess this is our second boss fight. I'm surmising from the amount of times she's screamed "Rage!" so far that she's going to be a bit like The Fury: sneak up on her, shoot her and then run to evade her missiles. Then again, maybe this is our version of the Hind D fight, given how she's flying all over the place.
  • I'm at the top of the tower right now taking potshots at these unmanned winged drones with my Mosin Nagant and having no luck. Where's Duck Dynasty where you need them? I think I'll just focus on the pair of wings with a person attached: I suspect the rest are there as back-ups or decoys.
  • So the fight was really just to find out where she was, get a few hits in and then escape her wrath for a few seconds until she loses you again. So yeah, like The Fury. Or really any MGS boss.
  • Oh, this one's like a dusky brunette. I guess they grabbed these gals from all over. This Beauty battle seems very similar to the first: we get some spooky Eternal Darkness background ambient noise as we stay away from a beckoning Beauty in her skintight suit. Not hugely difficult and sort of makes me wonder why these fights are even in here. Maybe by rendering these bosses practically harmless (yeah right, like I was going to let one grab me and pull my arms off to check) it forces you to make a moral choice between tranquilizing them or putting them out of their misery with a lethal weapon.
  • As before, we get the creepypasta rundown from Drebin. Rage-y here was caged up with other kids and forced to endure abuse from her soldier captors, taking the brunt of the rage they accrued from years of combat. She escaped thanks to some birds who were eating all the other kids (ew), then killed the birds, killed the soliders and killed the civilians they'd captured in a rage-induced fugue. There's something almost Whedon-esque about all these 90lb waifs taking down whole units of burly soldiers.
  • Anyway, she's dozing off after her tantrum and I borrowed her grenade launcher. I'll find some use for that, I'm sure. Best go see how Eva's doing. You know, I kind of like old Eva: it's like she went from Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway. Tough old lady that doesn't give a hoot.
  • Crafty Eva hid Big Boss on a secret fourth van, which meant the one that crashed through the building was another decoy. The real McCoy is floating down a river right now. Eva mentioned the Volta River, so I guess that body is bobbing all the way to Africa. This is starting to turn into "Where in the World is Corpseman Snakeiago?". Otacon, open me a Codec channel to Rockapella.
  • We got made by one of those high-five robots while sneaking into the sewer. This ought to be fun.
  • It got very fun very quickly. Liquid's down here, as is Vamp and Naomi. They sunk the boat with Big Boss on it, but spirited away the legendary hero for their own machinations. Also Liquid kicked my damn ass. When did he get so good at CQC? Oh right, the end of MGS3.
  • He apparently picked up Volgin's powers too. I'd love to hear the explanation for why that is... which are words I would use here if I wasn't sure that I would end up eating them later when the game patiently gives me the explanation for why that is in an hour-long cutscene.
  • That apple keeps showing up whenever Eva wants to make a pointed Adam and Eve reference. It's like doves in a John Woo movie. Did Eva bring it along just in case she needed it for some blunt metaphors? Do you think you could've used that space in your fanny pack for a human puncture kit, perhaps?
  • Anyway, Liquid explains almost nothing in a long rant while intermittently zapping us and then faffs off, leaving a half-dead Snake and Eva on the dock. I guess he wants to show off the culmination of his big plans before he kills us for real. That overtheatrical ham is the same as he's ever been.
  • Meryl's team was waiting for him in her own boat! It cuts to Akiba freaking out, and then back to Meryl who yells "Hold it right there, Liquid!" on the loudspeaker. I'm sure Akiba's thinking the same thing. (I swear I'll stop with the diarrhea jokes when the game stops setting them up for me. Until then they're just going to keep pouring out.)
  • Liquid's like "nah, fuck that" and bugs out. Except he's going to have a hard time with all these other US ships and helicopters. What are you going to do against all this, Mr. Wet Cat? Turn Super Saiyan?
  • Hey, you there, with the spotlights. Change the bulbs to UV ones; they have a vampire aboard that badly needs disintegrating.
  • Oh right, the nanobots. He just turned everyone's ID tagged weapons off. Well, you know, I just got this grenade launcher with no tags that I'd be very happy to bust out right about now. I can barely hold it with this knife in my shoulder, but I think I'll make the effort for this special occasion.
  • There go the choppers. I guess turning those off is slightly more serious than a bunch of guns. Hell, if I only have the one arm I'll go for my pistol. More than enough bullets to kill anything that moves, remember? Put me in, coach!
  • And there goes Liquid's brown note. And the subsequent gunning down of a hundred US troops. Could've prevented all this, Snake. At least Akiba can still get to the ship's turret in time. Get to it, you damn otaku. No, I guess you're going to keep pawing at Meryl while she's incapacitated. Super.
  • Big Boss gets cremated, Eva leaps into the flames because reasons and Snake gets scorched trying to rescue her. Also I think Liquid shot one of the three of us as he was escaping. I dunno. It was very dramatic. Lots of fire everywhere.
  • Meryl's squad's down. Exclamation point hair and cool black guy are chilling on the embankment but they both look kinda tore up. Meryl would've died were it not for the timely CPR of Akiba who apparently is the Kingslayer in disguise? Naturally, Meryl mentally puts aside all the times she's been downwind of him after one of his "unfortunate rebuttals" and falls passionately in love. Looks like the Johnny Sasaki line is continuing for one more generation at least.
  • Not so (getting) lucky? Poor Eva, who finally succumbs to her injuries. No adorable fried egg scene with Sunny and Grandma. Though given those nasty-looking third-degrees that Snake's sporting maybe serving him a fried anything right now would be a little insensitive.
  • That's the end of Act Three. A forced stealth section, a motorcycle chase in which I couldn't hit a thing, a quick boss fight against some angry bird woman and about four hours of exposition. Best Act ever; y'all called it.

That's it for today. The last thing I want right now is another feature film length briefing cutscene. I'll be back either tomorrow or Tuesday with the next part, which will either be the first half of Act Four or the full Act in its entirety depending on how long it turns out to be. As always please feel free to like, comment and subscribe and go easy on the spoilers. I know we're running out of game to spoil but I still don't wanna see 'em.

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ST-urday #006: Cadaver

It's been a difficult week. Without getting into too much real-life stuff, a week full of speedrun fun has been marred by a troubling development. Still I'm not exactly on the way out, and there's no stopping ST-urday once it begins, so we here are again with another look at an Atari ST game from my halcyon days. Also: I have something odd planned for next week. We'll see if it pans out, but it's a change of pace compared to the usual one (or two) game format.

As for the SGDQ speedruns: While there's been a lot of entertaining streams, there's also some degree of diminishing returns setting in as well. It sort of feels like the Steam sales: the first few are incredible, but after a while you notice the same games popping up over and over. I suppose it's in the speedrunner mindset to play through a game so many times and never tire of it, but that's definitely less so the case with me. Of course, I say that in a feature where I specifically dredge up games from my past instead of focusing on the new and unplayed. It's not like I don't have a dozen never-touched Steam games on the "must play" tier of my backlog I could be getting on with. (As a parenthetical aside, how messed up is it that I now have so many games in my Steam backlog that I've had to tier them in order of how badly I want to play them? I might laugh at Brad's unfortunate DotA 2 hat fixation, but I'm equally in the thrall of some manner of diabolical mercantilism.)

Still, the idea here is to highlight some PC games from before "PC game" was really a standardized model and to show you fine folk from outside (and within) the contours of the European continent what you may have missed, having been born in the wrong place and a decade too late. Subjectively speaking.

Cadaver

I'm well aware that invoking the Bitmap Brothers in an Atari ST retrospective focusing on "obscure European titles" is the equivalent to asking console gamers if they've ever heard of a little thing called "The Legend of Zelda" (hyperlinked for additional sarcasm), but BB's 1990 action-adventure game Cadaver is one of their lesser known titles outside of Europe because it was one of the few that never saw a console port. That's opposed to games like Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine, which are definitely well-trodden ground by now considering both are available on Steam.

As will become apparent when the screenshots start showing up, Cadaver owes some debt to C64/Spectrum ZX isometric adventure-puzzle games made popular by developers such as Ultimate Play the Game - that would be Rare Ltd. to you or me - with one of these isometric adventures (Knight Lore) soon being made available for the first time in decades via their Rare Replay compilation. Cadaver changes things up with a very detailed world - more than the 8-bit systems of the mid-80s could hope to convey - and frame it all with some medieval fantasy RPG trappings. It's not exactly Ultima or Wizardry (though it does bear a certain resemblance to another isometric RPG I'll be covering in due time) but it does make the game feel a little more thoughtful; like a D&D campaign crafted by a particularly trap-happy DM. I suppose Shadowgate would be a pretty close approximation of what you can expect; just with a different interface and more control over your character's physical movements.

Cadaver has an interesting history in the world of demos too. It was around this time that the idea of a coverdisk demo was starting to build steam, and many developers would go the extra mile for their fanbase via enthusiast magazines by giving them something that would be a little more substantial than the first couple of stages cut from the full game yet still remain only the smallest taste of the finished product with the intent to get them invested sufficiently enough that they would fork out the dough for a retail copy. Even back then it was a difficult balancing act of showing off too much versus too little, and some developers and publishers were far more adroit at it than others. With Cadaver, the Bitmap Bros actually created a few small standalone adventures with the same engine and a few of the same puzzles, but in an otherwise completely different setting: "Temple", "Gatehouse" and "The Last Supper" were three mini-campaigns given away on coverdiscs leading up to the game's release (or immediately after, to keep sales going) that gave nothing away of the final product but still provided a decisive glance at what Cadaver was. We'd also see this in cases like DMA Designs's Lemmings, where the developers would create a handful of levels especially for magazine readers. If I recall correctly, those little extra steps always went appreciated by the Amiga/Atari ST/PC communities eagerly following future releases. I suppose that's still the case.

Welcome to Cadaver! Now this is what I call a reserved title screen.
Like last time with Prophecy 1: The Viking Child, there's a fair bit of story in the opening crawl. These are on crumbling parchments too. I guess toss that in with "skulls used as health gauges" for Atari ST tropes we're accruing.
Here's the basic interface. Now that I look at it, it's sort of Populous-esque with how it uses the bottom two corners of the screen for additional HUD space.
When standing next to an object, the player can hit the fire button - remember, we only have the one button on an Atari joystick - to bring up this context-sensitive list of commands. This thing that looks like a dragon breathing fire is actually "pick up". I forget if there's an inventory limit but then half the stuff we'll find is junk anyway. We're told that Karadoc is a "treasure hunter" though so I tend to hang onto anything that looks valuable for the sake of kleptomaniac verisimilitude.
Full water barrels are good for replenishing one's stamina (provided they're not full of poison or beetles or something) though I'm not even sure stamina is really a thing in this... wait, did something behind me just make a noise?
The first puzzle isn't particularly challenging, but then the idea is to ensure we have a grasp of the command menu. As stated, it's context sensitive, so we'll have an icon that is "use" for this lever that we didn't see when looking at the barrel or pickaxe (a.k.a. mattock a.k.a. Matlock) earlier.
Though this squirmy customer looks like it might mean business, it's fairly harmless. Minor enemies - the sort of dungeon dressing creepy-crawlies that are everywhere - can be easily killed by stomping on them. We have an infinite amount of stomps, as the default (or "neutral") function for the fire button is to jump.
I neglected to mention the first pick-up of the game: the diary. This records your progress, gold and XP. Going up XP levels lets you live longer and does more damage with weapons, but I have no idea how it's calculated. Gold is essentially "score", since I don't think this game has merchants. Then again, it's been a while since I got particularly far with it.
A helm! Karadoc is already fully equipped with dwarf gear, so I don't think he can use any of the armor or melee weapons that can be found. He's more of a rogue class that relies on thrown items, like rocks or shurikens. Actually, he mostly relies on avoiding combat all together. It's a wise decision.
Especially when the tougher enemies are these creepy pointy thingummies. You can't leap on these for obvious reasons, and many act as obstacles that need to be puzzled around. Because this game is big on the pixel-hunts, you might not have noticed the item in the torch sconce up on the top-left there. I dunno what it is, but I want it (and that spare pickaxe on the ground too, while we're here).
One of Cadaver's classic puzzles is this sack tunnel. There doesn't appear to be anything here and we can't carry these sacks around in our inventory: however, we can push and pull them out of the way to reveal a gem on the ground.
The game also has a lot of instances of scripting. By finding this gem I've "disturbed" this overlarge maggot. Another minor enemy, but the sort of event that'll either: A) Make you jump due to the surprise, B) Bolster you because they wouldn't have programmed this in unless you were making progress, or C) Both.
See? This gem has a goddamn name. You try telling me it isn't important.
Another scripting example: finding this runic stone at the end of this dead end tunnel drops a spider at the entrance, forcing me to deal with it. I'm afraid this little eight-legged fiend is going straight to Squishtown. The runic stone itself is inscribed with a spell that can only be used so many times before the stone vanishes, so it's imperative I use it at the right spot. Abra Cadaver!
I picked up a bag full of rocks, so now I can take care of this spiky menace by throwing stones at it. You equip an object through the inventory, but all it usually does is make you throw said object. Actually, if I had a skull handy, I could throw that as a distraction: for whatever reason, the spiky ball monsters love skulls.
A simple pushing puzzle later and I'm the proud owner of a charm. No idea what it does, but it vanished immediately. Aren't adventure games fun?
Chests are great fun too, especially if they're trapped. This one wasn't, fortunately. While it didn't have many items I needed, that lever on the wall definitely helped. Maybe the chest was put there to distract me from the lever?
Sometimes you'll come across these solid puce walls. They're not incredibly stable, however.
This is where the pickaxe comes in. While you're meant to throw it at the wall, you can also place it by your feet and walk it into the wall to remove it. Must be one of those automatic pickaxes.
Whoa, it suddenly got all Atlas Corporation in here. No idea who this skeleton was, but it's rare to find a whole one.
Yeah, I'm not going to touch any of these until I read something that explicitly tells me what order to press them in. Last thing I need is bombs dropping from the ceiling.
Actually, I should probably stop here. The game's starting to open up a bit now, and there's a distinct non-linearity with how you can tackle each of the game's floors. Plus, this screen raises all sorts of tantalizing questions: what does that potion do? Can I use that shield for something? Where's the key for that keyhole? If this is a gaol, who is imprisoned here? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

Cadaver's a lot more enjoyable than I remember it, even with the confusing adventure game logic that was so prevalent in its day. I actually had to tear myself away to write this week's ST-urday (and also because I'm concurrently working through Metal Gear Solid 4's Act 3 and should really get back to it), which is probably all the praise it needs. Though I can't imagine it'd be easy to find or figure out a way to play it on modern systems, it's aged fairly well largely due to how expertly the Bitmap Bros handled the pixel art and sound design in their games. If you're a fan of this particular niche sub-genre of isometric adventure games - I'm partial to Solstice and Equinox myself, scored by the very same fellow behind GBEast's beloved Contradiction: Spot the Liar! - go seek it out.

(Back to the ST-urday ST-orehouse.)

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The Comic Commish: Syberia

It's speedrun fever here on Giant Bomb and gaming circles elsewhere right now, as SGDQ 2015 continues to exploit, explain and expedite its way through a number of beloved games (and Sonic) for the sake of charity fundraising and our collective entertainment. What better way to honor their celeritous struggles than with a super leisurely graphic adventure game? Before we begin though, I'll just throw out the standard boilerplate for The Comic Commish: For every month this year, I'm taking a brief pause from all my screenshot LP-ing to create a screenshot LP of a game that was gifted to me by a generous Steam donor. This is just my small way of repaying their kindness or, occasionally, debasing myself for their amusement by earnestly playing their gag gift.

Here's what we've encountered so far in The Comic Commish '15: Harvester - Long Live the Queen - Luftrausers - Papers, Please - NiGHTS Into Dreams. If you'd like to see me "get all lugubrious for the lulz" (as the kids say), feel free to send me (at KingMento on Steam) whatever dreck you have lying around in your Steam gift folder. It appears I am socially obligated to show my gratitude with a documented playthrough regardless of however miserable the game might be, so take advantage all you will (and someone's already sent me Bad Rats, before you get cute).

Syberia

I knew next to nothing about this French adventure game, only that it was old (2002, which isn't too old) and that it looked a bit like Myst in that it used the same format of a lot of late-90s graphic adventure games (and many games in general from this time like Resident Evil and FF7) with pre-rendered backgrounds and static camera views for its environments, and put models for the characters on top. I'm not sure we were at in 2002 with this genre, as it had more or less retreated to the European mainland at this point, but Syberia still looks pretty good. The protagonist Kate Walker isn't quite as uncanny valley as I was anticipating (though the designers were wise to not animate her too much during cutscenes), and the game's backgrounds are picturesque (which, I dunno, is probably a word that loses all meaning when applied to actual pictures).

But there's even more interesting stuff to dig up by looking into the game's background. Microïds isn't the first French developer that comes to mind - I'm usually considering the big corporations like Ubisoft or Atari SA (formerly Infogrames), or the smaller, arty studios of my youth like Delphine, Coktel Vision or Silmarils - but they've been plugging along since the Amiga era and continue to produce moderately popular games in their home nation and elsewhere. Lots of adventure games of late, and Syberia is one of their two biggest along with Post Mortem/Still Life (from which I also own games). Syberia also has the influence of Belgian cartoonist Benoît Sokal, who got into video game development in his middle-age and hasn't slowed down. So yeah, there's an odd arty-farty French pedigree to this game. Look forward to that I guess.

(Shout-out to @omghisam who gifted me this game and its sequel years ago.)

Welcome to Syberia! Check out this lensflare-heavy intro. Like some bad Canadian TV show about hunting relics.
We arrive on what is presumably the funeral for Toyman. That's a Superman villain everyone's familiar with. Good goof, here.
We also get a glimpse of our (humanish) protagonist Kate. We still don't know what's going on, but then this is a game all about mystery. That's not just me being flippant either; the game's appeal is entirely predicated on setting up mysteries and then resolving them. More on that later, however.
The game lets us take over shortly thereafter. Interface is super basic: the icon changes depending on what you're pointing at, allowing you to take items or get a closer look at tabletops or notes.
The game's got a lot of text too, in the vein of these collectible notes and journals. It also serves as a practical means to tell the player all they want to know about this location: Valadilene is an alpine village kept solvent by a large clockwork toy manufacturer. The automatons, as the locals prefer to call them, are all over the place and lend the town a retro Victorian-era charm. It's odd that the game insists that the place is on hard times because of modern technology rendering the local cogs-and-gears industry obsolete, because it'd be crawling with steampunk nerds were it real.
The first "puzzle" is simply finding the key for this little bell-ringer and hitting the button. It's very simple, hardly Fireproof's The Room, but it's also a subtle and intuitive tutorial and those are definitely preferential to big arrows everywhere.
I don't know what this two-bit font they're using is called, but I don't care that its capital "I"s still have dots. We're briefly introduced to both the innkeeper here, Kate herself and Momo.
This is Momo. The game has a recurring theme of "idiot savant". Momo talks in broken third-person English but is a whizz with mechanical gadgets and is the protégé of the CEO of Voralburg Manufacturing, the aforementioned toy factory.
I should say "former", because she just died. That was her funeral before. That puts Miss Walker here in a fix because she's supposed to be here to sign off on a contract to sell the manfacturer to a giant toy conglomerate back home in New York. Fair warning: both these captions and the game itself is extremely narrative-heavy.
We're dumped in our hotel room. It's a cozy enough place, but the only things we can look at are our suitcase and a fax left on the table. The game has ample opportunity to fill its screens with hotspots that simply fill in more story, but opts not to. The game can definitely be a little too economical in spots, which is a shame for something so story-focused and clearly spent no expense in creating all these pre-rendered settings.
There's something to be said for economical puzzle design in adventure games too, of course. I played this game for several hours and didn't get stuck because I lacked some item I couldn't see. We're even told about this fax ahead of time, so there's no missing it and wandering around the town ratiocinating on what to do next.
Our mission, if it wasn't clear to us yet, is to get Anna Voralberg to sign over the property to our corporate client. Aren't many games that put you in the high-priced "biz cas" shoes of a lawyer and then tasks you with doing actual law work for the first hour or so of the game.
But yeah, looks like I've got a little more to do here than to stick a contract under the nose of an old lady and make her sign it. Kate's mobile phone comes into play a few times, but while I have a list of contacts to call I don't think we're quite talking Metal Gear Solid's codecs. If anything, they tend to call me at certain points of the story and are busy signals the rest of the time. I'll admit that I haven't tried calling them too often; it's not like you need a lot of hints for this game.
More faxes! These were still a thing in 2002. Actually, I guess it's still sort of vital in the lawyering world to send official documents to and fro. I just tend to put faxes in the same place in my mind that telegrams and the ravens from Game of Thrones live. Anyway, we need to find this notary fellow and get the scoop on how to proceed from him. To the lawmobile!
Well, no, I'm just going to walk there. It's a nice day and I really have no idea where he is, so this is the part of the game that lets you explore a bit.
Not that there's much to see. This old man here essentially explains why there's no other NPCs around: the ailing local industry meant everyone moved out to seek employment elsewhere.
Going north lets us pass over this bridge and to the chapel on the hill. The game doesn't look half-bad in motion, and if you aren't here for the scenery there's a "running" speed for Kate. I'd prefer a screen-skip if you double-click an exit or some sort of navigable map, but at least a run is something.
The chapel's presently closed. I get the sense that it won't be forever, though.
Heading south, I pass through this door. It needs something to work, which the game was kind enough to inform me. "Not yet, bucko" is the message here, in so many words.
She says this about every entrance that isn't (presently) story significant. Even those that aren't "down" anywhere, like this raised doorway. The localization from the original French isn't always perfect, which might actually explain why there isn't too much incidental text in the game. What there is mostly fine from what I've seen.
Oh sweet, I can pick up a brioche and maybe a croissant and... nope, closed. The baker says that because today's a day of mourning, so all the businesses are closed. His is the only "business" I've found that isn't the hotel though, which of course isn't closed. I suspect he's just lazy.
This is either an ugly mailbox or the notary is screening his guests. In which case, I need to present that fax in order for it to let me in.
This one wasn't too tricky either, though you don't often think to use notes (which are kept on a separate inventory screen) to solve a puzzle. The automaton reads it, while the notary looks through its eyes with a periscope device. Why not just get a secretary?
So, yes, apparently the game is not ten minutes long and there's another snafu.
Anna left a note to suggest that her younger brother, whose death was faked long ago by their jerkwad father, is still alive somewhere in Siberia (hence the name, I suppose). As we'll find out, Anna's brother Hans is also responsible for the designs of all the automatons in the city, and continued to send blueprints to her from his travels around the world.
The notary decides to recuse himself from the rest of the game with the flimsiest excuse I've seen yet. "Sorry, too tired to help. Good luck!". We're on our own if we want to find out what happened to Hans.
Y'all are probably dozing off too, so let's wrap this up.

I guess the focus with this LP was less to show off the excitement and thrills of Syberia and more to explain, precisely, what the game is all about. It's not Myst, at least not quite; the puzzles so far (I'm a few hours into it, though still in Valadilene) have been more genteel and so while the sense of mystery is still as pervasive as it is in the Miller brothers' pioneering adventure game Syberia's been less inclined to really challenge the player analytically. In a sense, it feels like every modern "casual" adventure game that tends to involve a lot of hidden object scenes and straightforward inventory puzzles and is really more focused on conveying genre fiction with a handful of video game trappings. Your Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Cans and the like, or maybe the various critically-acclaimed "walking simulators" that are more interested in exploring what this medium can do for storytelling than looking for a new way to challenge players via the standard skill-focused paradigm. That's not a knock against Syberia's comparative simplicity; on the contrary, as it's neither one of those early FMV adventure games which is far too obtuse for its own good nor does it look embarrassingly dated in 2015. I'm enjoying the pace and mystique of the story and while the English voice-acting isn't great, I tend to give smaller foreign developers a pass in that regard. But yeah, it might just a little too leisurely-paced and soporific for most, and the moment you stop caring about the central story thread or its characters is the moment you put it away and never look back. Keep in mind that I'm probably less than 20% through this game - I'll report back if it starts ramping up the difficulty.

I'm going to stick with it because it's relaxing as heck and not particularly challenging, and I'm a very lazy person who likes both those things. It's a good tonic for the busy and weird Metal Gear Solid 4. The sequel's a bit more recent, so I might want to try that too depending on how this one ends, and apparently there's a third entry that's due any day now. The series is presently (for the week of July 27th to August 2nd) on sale too, but then I imagine it's been on sale a lot in its lengthy tenure on Steam.

I'll leave you all with the eponymous Comic Commish, as I predict where this game will eventually lead:

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Wiki Project: Summer Games Wiki'd Quick 2015 (Cont.)

Please refer back to the first part of this Wiki Project rundown for additional information. In a nutshell, I've just been sprucing up the wiki pages for games featuring in this year's SGDQ, due to begin tomorrow. I extracted ten games of note based on how unusual I expect the run to be (without seeing any prior speedrun footage) or how much work their page required, but the original intent was twenty. As such, I've extended it to a separate article here. I guess I didn't really need to explain all that, huh? Well, that's me. Mr. Explainy. (As before, all times are in GMT.)

Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue

[06/30 - 6:30am. 37 minute estimate.]

You may be asking yourself... well, possibly a whole lot of things. But specifically, why would anyone speedrun a Hello Kitty game? That wasn't Sanrio World Smash Ball?) Well, she has rollerskates so that probably means that, regardless of whomever she's rescuing, she can presumably get to them fairly quickly. Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue is the vanguard for the Silly Games Done Quick block this year, which replaces the usual Awful Games Done Quick block. I couldn't say whether or not Hello Kitty is silly or awful or both (y'know, let's go with both) but I'm curious to see how someone might speedrun through it. Well, the archive anyway. I'm not waking up at 6:30am for any man or beast or beloved yet monstrous combination of the two. Give my regards to KeroKeroKeroppi when you see him in Roller Derby Hell.

Samurai Pizza Cats

[06/30 - 7:10am. 15 minute estimate.]

Continuing the Japanese cat theme for Silly Games Done Quick is a mostly forgotten Famicom adaptation of the Samurai Pizza Cats cartoon, known in Japan as Kyatto Ninden Teyandee. The history of the show is a little weird: while a minor footnote in its home nation as part of the endless parade of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clones happening on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, its incredibly goofy US dub which has very little to do with the original Japanese dialogue allowed it to take on a much more prosperous second life overseas. It's perhaps not everyone's favorite early 90s cartoon, but it certainly stood out among shows like... I dunno, The Adventures of T-Rex. The game, alas, has very little of this manic dub's influence, based as it is on the original Japanese incarnation of the show (though it too received an English translation that wholesale replaced the script with a more comedic take more in spirit with the US dub). Could be fun for SPC fans.

Panic Restaurant

[06/30 - 7:35am. 16 minute estimate.]

I'm not sure what it is with chef protagonists, but between BurgerTime's Peter Pepper, Panic Restaurant's Chef Cookie, Halo: Combat Evolved's Master Chef and Out to Lunch's Pierre le Chef we suddenly saw a lot of them running around and trying to defeat the unholy sentient food monsters that they were usually partially responsible for releasing. Panic Restaurant seemed more like a traditional side-scroller from what I played of it, but like Pizza Pop! last year I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop and something completely bizarre happen in its later levels. It does have an incredible opening movie with a Waluigi-style rival cook named "OHDOVE" as well as some absolutely horrifying box art. I can't promise you an utterly insane NES oddity made even nuttier with a glitch-exploiting speedrun, but the building blocks are certainly there.

Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 2: Karakuri Land

[06/30 - 7:55am. 15 minute estimate.]

As in, the sequel to Kid Niki: Radical Ninja. The Kid Niki games began and ended with the first game in the US and Europe, but in Japan the series kept going for two more entries. Oddly enough, the main character Kid Niki/Yanchamaru got a facelift with each new game. In the first game he looked like a mildly bemused mannequin, the second (this one, Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 2: Karakuri Land) depicted him as some kind of goblin with an overbite and the third game gave him a bean-headed head and a wicked ninja ponytail. I suppose Mario went through various sprite differences in his three (well, four) NES adventures too, but it wasn't quite as pronounced. If you wanted to see a speedrun of a classic Famicom "Nintendo Difficult" ninja platformer that Arino Kacho hasn't already played on GameCenter CX, this seems like a good one.

Stretch Panic

[06/30 - 10:05am. 35 minute estimate.]

All right, this is the last Silly Games Done Quick entry, or I'm just going to end up covering the whole thing. Stretch Panic is Treasure's inaugural PS2 game and is very much continuing the spirit of their prior nonsense simulators Dynamite Headdy and Mischief Makers. It's a pretty short boss-rush type game too so I'd suggest sticking around to see how quickly the runner can take down the thirteen bosses with nothing but a pinchy scarf and a few demons with giant boobs to practice on. Because I'm weird, Stretch Panic (known here as FreakOut) was actually the first Treasure game I ever played, and it acted as a gateway to some of their earlier (and, it should be said, far more difficult) games for the N64 and Genesis. I'll always have it to thank for introducing me to Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier.

The Oregon Trail

[06/30 - 11:45. 15 minute estimate.]

I'm just really curious about this one. I'd guess that there was some foolproof means of getting across the entire North American continent without falling prey to a thousand different maladies, ranging from pooping diseases to getting massacred by Quetzalcoatl after disturbing the Snake God's final resting place in the Rocky Mountains, but maybe there really isn't and the speedrunner's banking on the RNG being kind to them. The Oregon Trail's RNG has been feasting on schoolchildren for four decades and growing stronger all the time, do they really expect anyone to defeat it? It'll chomp their head off. Just like Quetzalcoatl.

The Wheel of Time

[06/30 - 2:25pm. 20 minute estimate.]

I'm adding this one out of personal morbid curiosity. You see, while I don't have a whole lot of familiarity with Robert Jordan's one-man attempt to deforest an entire continent a.k.a. The Wheel of Time anthology, this was the last game based on an original IP (well, the first video game adaptation of that material anyway) produced by Legend Entertainment. Legend are a favorite developer of mine, producing a number of excellent and maybe slightly less excellent adventure games in the mid-90s around the time when the genre was starting to wane. After being bought out by GT Interactive, publisher of a lot of big, loud first-person shooters, they immediately took Legend off the interesting and well-written adventure games based on literary properties they were known for and put them on producing even more big, loud first-person shooters. Wheel of Time represents the moment in which the two incarnations of Legend Entertainment were balanced between the thoughtful literary-based adventures of their salad days and the first-person shooters they'd be working on for the rest of their life. The Wheel of Time feels like one of those games I want to see for a sense of closure, if nothing else. Watching it get speedrun to pieces is just a bonus.

Doom 64

[06/31 - 4:30am. 40 minute estimate.]

The curious thing about Doom's N64 port is that it's not a port at all. Id Software and Midway built the whole thing from scratch on the N64's hardware, giving all the usual Pinkies and Imps a graphical facelift and adding new enemies and an upgradeable laser weapon to replace the plasma gun/BFG. It also has an original story set after Doom II. At the same time, it's a little shorter and quite a few elements had to be scrapped to fit onto the N64 cart, including multiplayer. Odd to imagine, considering Duke Nukem 64 and Hexen 64 - which used similar tech to Doom II on the PC - were straight (if considerably inferior) ports. If you're not familiar with this particular entry in the Doom series, what better way to see as much of it as possible than by watching someone run through it as fast as they can? Either that or a new Breaking Brad. Hmm...

Super Turrican

[06/31 - 12:10am. 20 minute estimate.]

I thought it was interesting Super Turrican showed up on the schedule, given its relative unknown status outside of Europe. The product of German engineering, Turrican is a Contra-style run-and-gun with a bit more of an exploratory bent. It's generally kind of average but for its incredible soundtrack which I'm sure survived the trip to the Super Nintendo's sound chip largely intact. If you haven't checked my output for a while, the two things I'm blogging most consistently about right now are SNES games (as per an ongoing Wiki Project that isn't this one) and Atari ST games (as per a weekly retrospective on the platform) and this sort of fits in with both. So yes, I added this to the list of games to check out when SGDQ begins so that I could plug two of my other concurrent series. There's a strange sort of respect to be earned through audacity, I think.

Ikaruga

[07/01 - 7:20am. 21 minute 29 second estimate. Well, not even an estimate.]

As the show begins to wrap on the final full day of the streams, there's time for one more TASBot segment. The TASBot segments are a recurring feature in each GDQ event in which a carefully programmed speedrunning robot completes games via the optimal route. There's very little room for error and the little guy appears to freak out as it plays every game given to it perfectly. They've done some amazing work with the TASBot in the past, but I'm really curious to watch it be tested with a bullet hell shooter like Ikaruga. What's amusing to me is that the estimate provided by the schedule knows down to the second how long this stream will last, and even how long it will take to set-up. A joke, I'm sure, but they've probably clocked the TASBot enough times to get a good idea of how quickly it can pass through a shoot 'em up. I'm just picturing them measuring its output with a whole bunch of computers like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

Well, there's no easy way out after referencing Rocky IV, but here goes: I'm fully expecting to enjoy the following week of speedruns, at least the ones I'll be awake to see, and I imagine I'll be chatting with some of you duders in ExplosiveRuns when SGDQ 2015 starts tomorrow. I hope this list (and the last one) have hyped you up sufficiently for donating to a good cause and watching a bunch of nerds beat games really fast.

Also, be sure to check the official GB discussion thread here for more details on the event including which naming incentives the GB collective decides to donate towards. I'm going to push "Jenks" for someone, anyone (maybe Frog? He's British and hates Satanic cultists too).

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ST-urday #005: Prophecy 1: The Viking Child

We're just a day away from the advent of SGDQ this year, not to mention the new season of the deliciously weird Rick and Morty, so I'm getting excited about having stuff to watch again. That isn't to say the site hasn't been killing it lately between robo-UPFs and throwing people the horns and asking them what it would mean to them, but more distractions are always welcome.

Talking of distractions - I realize that I'm procrastinating on MGS4 despite edging ever closer to the juicy parts - we have this week's ST-urday. Rather than burn out on CRPGs, I'm going with a UK-developed action game this time around about which my impressions have shifted considerably in the twenty-odd years since I last played it due to the benefit of acquired knowledge and years of additional video gaming.

(I didn't realize while playing it, but just like Federation Quest 1 last week this game is also the first part of a planned series that would never see a sequel, but was still so cocky as to include a "1" somewhere in its official title. Weird.)

Prophecy 1: The Viking Child

Prophecy 1: The Viking Child's about as mainstream as I'm willing to go for the rest of this series. While the game was built for the Atari ST and saw the requisite Amiga and PC DOS ports, it was also released on the Game Boy, Atari Lynx and Game Gear. There are a number of games I want to cover further along that also saw console ports, usually the SNES and Genesis, but I did find it a little odd that this game came out for every prominent portable system released at the time but nothing for the home consoles. We're talking a 1990 release, so it's perhaps before the purview of the Super Nintendo (which was launched in the US in 1991 and Europe/Australia in 1992), but I might've assumed a Genesis release?

Well, actually, there might be an issue with that. You see, Viking Child is a flagrant clone of Wonder Boy in Monster Land: the first in Westone's Wonder Boy series to start adopting light RPG mechanics like purchasing weapon upgrades and finding secret routes through stages. Sega kept a stranglehold on the console rights for Westone's Arcade series, denying Hudson the use of the name and forcing them to find creative ways to get around it for their NES/TurboGrafx-16 ports of the same series: The NES's Adventure Island, the TurboGrafx-CD's Dynastic Hero and the TurboGrafx-16's Dragon's Curse are just a handful of these workarounds. While Sega evidently weren't watching the Game Gear too closely - like Sony and the PSVita, they'd all but written it off after it was clear Nintendo were whupping their asses in that market - maybe a Wonder Boy clone wouldn't have been quite so welcome on their flagship system. Of course, that's all conjecture. It would be equally fair to surmise that most big console developers simply didn't consider games coming out of Europe at the time unless they were getting rave reviews. Viking Child's were acceptable, but not glowing.

Nailing down who actually created this 1990 game is trickier than I thought it'd be. DMA Systems (apparently unaffiliated with DMA Design: the developers behind Lemmings that would later become Rockstar North) is credited as the developers in affiliation with UK developers Imagitec Design Ltd. It's possible the former is a subsidiary of the latter, or maybe just a guy who joined Imagitec's team to develop this one game. It was published by Wired for the Atari ST; another company I'm unable to track down because, understandably enough, Google points to a hundred different articles from Wired Magazine with every variant of "Wired game publishers". The inclusion of Imagitec meant the musical influence of the talented composer Barry Leitch, whose in-game music tracks are definitely a highlight. Here's a sampling: Intro, Title Screen, Level One: Village.

Welcome to Prophecy 1: The Viking Child! Someone probably spent a really long time on this logo. It's certainly... pointy. (I suspect everyone was trying their hand at a Roger Dean logo after Shadow of the Beast.)
I won't cover the whole story here - there's ten more pages - but I'll show off some highlights. Our coiffed protagonist is Brian, one of the least exciting heroes I've yet to encounter. Grey and brown, huh?
Odin the White Wizard gives us a pep talk after our village gets wiped out by a freak hurricane and we start bawling our eyes out. A rainbow for a steed? Turns out the Norse God of Mischief sent the twister to kidnap everyone. That's not very low-key of him.
The whole story's available on the game's wiki page. It's essentially "Kid is sad because tragedy, gets told he's the God's chosen warrior of prophecy, decides to take on the world with a tiny dagger and his shorts". You'd think Odin could spare a broadsword or something.
More pointy logos. I really like this title screen though. Odin's quietly contemplating how "wise" it was of him to send yet another pre-teen out to his probable death.
Oh hey, the map screen from Dragon's Breath is back. I guess this feature's going to keep feeding back into itself as we keep going, huh?
This is Viking Child. A lot of ST games would minimize computing power by filling the screen with distracting HUD nonsense, but it's not quite so bad here. I dunno if we need the little satyr sword things, but they look neat at least. (They also blink, so try not to get weirded out.) Talking of blinking... really, Brian? Right when I was taking the shot?
The dagger doesn't have much of a range to it, but it can be upgraded. Most of the time Brian is dependent on the power-ups you can see across the bottom of the screen. We'll cover those when we can access them.
Brian doesn't take fall damage, but he will be stunned briefly. Time is a major factor in this game, as it was in Wonder Boy in Monster Land, and you can see the hourglass on the right. Once it empties, which is about thirty seconds, Brian loses one of his ten hearts. That's more damage than most enemies can do, so time's of the essence. Then again, so is exploration and earning money. Hard to praise Viking Child for a risk/reward balancing mechanic that it purloined from elsewhere, but it's effective motivation to maximize the efficiency of one's route.
Another similarity with Monster Land are the frequency of shops, found as doors spread across the landscape. These things are essential points in the game due to how necessary it is to... did he blink again? Unbelievable.
Stores are the only place to get consumable power-ups, hearts and, eventually, weapon upgrades. The upgrades tend to be better hidden though. I've yet to find any money so I'm going to leave Merlin and his little goblin assistant be.
Money randomly drops from enemies in two forms: the coins on their side like the above are worth twenty, while the other kind is worth fifteen. You can also find diamonds and jewels, which simply boost your score and are therefore useless. These drops can also be found in the environment in secret places by jumping around a lot, though it's hardly a good use of your time to leap around hoping for riches to fall from nowhere.
While stunned, you can't be hurt by enemies, but you will be hurt the moment you stand back up. Best bet is to simply stick to one side and hope they leave you alone until you can recover. I think I've eluded this moody Goomba thing.
It's paramount to restock your health whenever possible. Hearts only cost ten each, so even if you're a little short, it's worth sticking around and grinding for the rest. Wouldn't hurt to fill up on these consumable items either: Bombs are thrown straight up which makes them useless for everything except annoying flying enemies, but this is balanced by them being the cheapest to stock up on; Bolas fly horizontally in the direction you're looking, like Castlevania daggers; Fire Sprites can home in on enemies, making them great against everything. Items need to be selected with the space bar (like many action games for the ST the player only has one "fire" button, but they will make liberal use of the keyboard) and used by pressing down.
There's some neat touches to the game. For instance, this flytrap enemy spits grey blobs from you at a fair distance, making them tough to pass. However, the first one we met didn't expectorate a thing. The game eased us in gently.
These mushrooms are my favorite. All they do is hop and give us the shifty eyes. What do they know that we don't?
It'd be easy to walk right past the well, but it actually leads to a part of the level that is unfortunately necessary. Still, the game has imparted the importance of jumping regularly to find secret stuff. Wouldn't take much to accidentally fall in even if you didn't plan on going down there.
I remember there being a long well in Fantasy World Dizzy too. Maybe everyone just has a phobia about falling down wells. I blame Timmy.
This Puyo Puyo has finally snapped. The village well and sewage system has more elaborate architecture than the village itself. Someone was serious about pooping.
It's been a while since I found a shop. You might notice that I no longer have the little version of Brian in the item bar: this is actually a voodoo doll that dies instead of you when you run out of health. It's an exceptionally valuable (and rare) item that the game is kind enough to give you from the offset.
That wasn't a shop. More Monster Land similarities: bosses are found behind the same innocuous doors that shopkeepers are hiding behind. I don't know if this is a baby dragon or a mutated rat or what, but its reach is a lot further than it seems. Fortunately, all it does is jump around a bit. Easy enough to avoid, and it helps to have some ranged power-ups so you aren't getting clobbered by being too close when it leaps.
Bosses drop all sorts of useful items, but will also drop a key that allows you to leave the level. Once you get the key, you're automatically moved on, so it's actually best to avoid it until you've grabbed everything else.
I can't believe it's taken this long to mention it, but the game plays pretty well. A lot of Atari ST "action" games feel kind of stiff due to the Atari 2600 joystick, but the game has a decent sense of what is and isn't a platform and the game has plenty of air control. It's not Mario, but it's smooth enough.
The last two power-ups is a stun that damages the whole screen, and a potion that does the same thing but all but kills everything. However, they cost more and give you less items per purchase, so I find the fire sprites give the best balance between damage and cost. Of course... there's something to be said for putting some money aside for an extra Brian doll or possible sword upgrade should be lucky to find one.
The door at the end of the village moves onto the next stage. Little reason to stick around, as your health is constantly trickling away, so off we go to the castle. I notice Loki left this one standing.
Our first human opponent. Maybe Loki owns the whole castle then. Enemies in this game, despite a range of appearances, tend to fall into the same movement patterns. Often that pattern is simply walking left to right, but some also jump around a bit to confuse you.
This guy just looks incredibly pissed off. Hey, buddy, today hasn't been great for me either.
Here we are. The Brian dolls are outrageously expensive, but you really can't afford to be without one for long. Ideally, you want to be restocking your health before it drops to zero and necessitates the use of the doll, but that's not always easy to do especially with bosses around.
The castle stage has a lot of these hidden floors. It's actually quite linear for as circuitous a route as you end up taking, but there's a few secrets I'm sure I've missed by falling into these invisible pitfalls.
This stage is absolutely lousy with shops too. It makes it far easier to pass through than the village, even. You can't go fifty paces without another shop with which to refill your hearts.
The heart stack is an interesting item. It completely fills your health gauge, but unless you have less than five hearts left it's actually a rip-off compared to buying the hearts individually. Occasionally, shops will only stock heart stacks instead of singles.
The game toys with you with these horizontal floating platforms. Half of them allow you to be carried across without needing to touch the joystick, while the other half require that you walk along with them as they're moving. It's a little odd that they didn't standardize that, but then there is a line in the manual about how the platforms are meant to trick you occasionally.
So many damn shops in this castle. Did the Vikings have malls back then?
We finally have access to stun powder, but I'm not inclined to buy too much of it. You only get two charges per purchase.
There's the other three powers above, which I've yet to mention. These give you a temporary burst of one of three beneficial states: the ability to glide over wide gaps, the ability to cloak (actually makes you invincible rather than invisible) and the ability to run really fast which can come in useful if you want to get to the next boss quickly. Unfortunately, they become active as soon as you leave the shop rather than being player-activated.
The potion is the most expensive and the most powerful power-up in the game. It kills any enemy on the screen in one shot. It'll even do a considerable amount of damage to bosses. Trouble is, it costs 60 gold for just a single use. Maybe if I was swimming in dough...
That... wasn't a shop door either. In my defense, it looked like every other door this time, not quite as ornate as the last boss door was. There's little strategy to this guy, but he's also incredibly tough to avoid since he runs the entire width of the screen. He does jump occasionally, but you really need to be quick to get underneath him.
Fortunately, I had a whole bunch of items, so I was able to just barely survive by spamming them all. I doubt I'll have that doll for much longer.
I think we'd better call it here. The game continues on in this manner for a while yet, including a stage where a viking passes through a pyramid. No thematic consistency, I tells ya.
I'll leave you all with this metal as hell high score name-input screen. I'm sure the Saga of Butt will live on in Nordic lore forever.

I actually still like this game, for as much as I realize how transparent a clone it is in retrospect. Keep in mind that I didn't have internet back in those days and thus very little knowledge of the Wonder Boy franchise, so I really appreciated how "uniquely" it managed to combine aspects of my beloved (if not necessarily great on average) ST action games and the complex RPGs that belonged to my parents that I could only follow half the time. Music's a bit more bloopy-bleepy than I recall but still has a lot of craft behind it, and it certainly doesn't look bad for a game made in 1990. I say that a lot, but then I've considered a side-by-side comparison with the games that were released on NES and Genesis around the same time frame. I bet the ST would acquit itself nicely.

I guess the most exciting thing to take from this, at least personally, is that there might've been a whole bunch of games I thought were novel but were actually based on Japanese games that the developers hoped were too obscure for the general gaming population to know about. The classic example would be Super Mario Bros. and The Great Giana Sisters, and the various Capcom ports of variable quality we'd receive on the Atari ST, but I'm hoping to dig up more elusive cases like "Wonder Brian the Viking Boy" here in the weeks to come.

(Back to the ST-urday ST-orehouse.)

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Mento Gear Solid 4: Puns of the Patriots: Part Four

So I guess we're doing this again. Metal Gear Solid 4. I'll warn you, it gets rougher to read the further you go down, but since I always write these intros last I can tell you that despite what follows I'm actually enjoying this game, admittedly by a very loose definition of the term. I'm like Alex Navarro, inasmuch as my sense of humor is apparently powered by spite and ridicule. For as often as I take digs at the game and by extension its fans (as that's how it always seems to work whenever bad reviews show up), I want to assuage any concerns and say that I think it's perfectly acceptable to like this game from what I've played so far. Maybe even love it. Just, uh, be aware that I'm probably not going to be particularly kind to it, mechanically or narratively, in the near future.

While we're discussing the usual disclaimers: You guys shouldn't be reading this if you're unfamiliar with the game and/or haven't yet seen up to this point in the Metal Gear Scanlon video series, happening concurrently with this observational log style LP. I haven't seen any of those videos myself - I half expect Ryckert to run his mouth about something that shows up later in the game and immediately try covering it up by switching to Party Bill for fifteen minutes - but they're easily the best place to get the hours and hours of exposition that this game regularly throws at you for which I am providing only the barest summary thereof. I'd also like to point you towards Part One, Part Two and Part Three if you're just joining us. I know how new blog notifications tend to get buried.

The end point for today: The completion of Act 2: Solid Sun. Nice and succinct.

  • Getting better at moving through areas now that I'm just finding somewhere small and concealed to hide, tranq-ing every person I see and tranq-ing everyone who comes by to check up on them. The ammunition I'm using is easily replenished with the money made from collecting all their weapons. As always seems to be the case these tranq guns are OP, but I'm not complaining. I'm really just here for the story; for as frequently as I mock it.
  • Hey, I discovered a new control thing. Folk are suggesting I look to alternate ways to play to keep myself amused, and I found one: if you hold the movement analog stick very gently while crawling Snake starts moving extremely slowly while humping the ground. I'm sure that'll come in useful later. Maybe I'll need to press a button on the floor at some point without the use of my hands.
  • I don't know what these boys are carrying, but I'm getting $12k apiece for them. Is it weird that I wish there were more items to purchase other than weapons? Like little figurines, maybe? (I already found one of those in the parking garage after the FROG soldiers, so I'm guessing they're boss trophies? Or maybe they're like the camos of MGS3 in that they only drop from non-lethal boss defeats?) Actually, I probably have enough weapons and ammo to buy without worrying about cosmetic extras I don't need. I mean... what was I really suggesting, here? Concept art?
  • I'm finding that, after tranqing PMCs, the rebels run past and shoot them in the head. Hey, I'm not taking the blame for those. You make your own bed (so to speak) when you fall asleep on the battlefield.
  • So the big base to the northeast is bad news, but the one to the west is considerably safer without all these mortars going off. I suspect I probably should've gone that way to begin with.
  • I figured out that there's a difference between exclamation points in this game: a blue one says "I've been shot! There's someone out there!" and red means "Hey asshole! Those bullets you shot at me hurt!". Which is to say: Blue (or white) means that you haven't blown your cover but the dude is looking towards wherever the shot came from, while red means that they can see you. Spotting the blue exclamation point is super helpful for figuring out if your tranq hit them or not because they otherwise won't react at all until they eventually fall over.
  • Also the Mosin Nagant is loud. I'm making sure not to use it in populated areas to take down distant enemies (like those in watchtowers) in case I get made by the noise it makes. Rather, I'm shooting them from remote areas outside of where they're gathered. It's sort of like how I used to clear out bases in Far Cry 3 and 4. Well, except for the part where I shot the locks off tiger/elephant enclosures.
  • We're now at Vista Mansion. A bunch of arid grasslands seems like a pretty crappy place for a mansion. Especially now that a bunch of army dudes are blowing it up.
  • Being in the mansion is better than being outside, I've discovered. The place itself seems empty, while there's PMC soldiers all around its perimeter that keep showing up. You have to wonder where they're coming from, but then there's just as many rebels pouring in from nowhere to help me out so maybe I should just overlook this.
  • Who the heck is Akina Minami? I found a picture of her and Snake seemed super pleased. Well, not quite as pleased as he was with that girly poster he found in a locker that one time, but he still recognized her and his psych meter went up. Wait, are cheesecake photos all I need to get Snake's psych meter up? 'Cause I'm rocking five or six Playboys at the moment.
  • After a crazy route through the mansion, happily devoid of enemies, I found the hidden research lab. Weird coincidence that I name-dropped the Spencer Mansion last time. I suspect I'm going to get an earful when I finally locate Naomi; provided I don't get a faceful from her guards first. Of bullets, I mean. Weirdos.
  • Oh wait, it's just Naomi here. We sure built up a lot of suspense for nothing then. When we finally see her, we spend an awful long time looking at her cleavage (there's not even a prompt this time, like there was in MGS3) as she completes a phonecall and then gets hit with what looks like a non-fatal FOXDIE attack. I guess that's what she injected herself with earlier. Except she just injected herself again, so maybe this is to slow down FOXDIE? I dunno. I'm sensing there's going to be a tragic arc with Naomi, because that's how Kojima rolls with female characters.
  • While we're talking about Otacon and Ocelot, I keep seeing glimpses of OctoLady with the L1 view. Boss fight!
  • Well, no, long dialogue about what Dr. Naomi's been up to first, then boss fight. Vegetables before dessert, I guess would be the pertinent analogy here.
  • Talking of pertinent, do we really need to keep staring at Dr. Naomi's chest as we're talking to her? It's odd how they portray Snake as both a sex-starved maniac and a suave action guy who's too cool to get involved with all the ladies swooning over him. I guess that never stopped the writers of City Hunter though. Now that's an anime Dan would be into.
  • More nanomachine talk. Apparently, that affair that occurred at the end of Act One was Naomi and Liquid turning off everyone's nanomachines, which had up to that point been regulating their hormones and other brain chemicals. The sudden burst of post-traumatic stress and lack of emotional regulators caused them all to freak out like that. I'm not sure I buy it, given how much dialogue has been spent on how the nanos minimize war atroicities and other elements of combat that might scar a dude for life, but I guess those little bots can do some psychological damage after tinkering with one's noggin for so long.
  • I also note that Kojima loves to wheel out this computer footage of soldier mugshots and little gauges everywhere. Presumably, this is how the Patriot AIs see the world.
  • We get to hear a bit more about our old ninja cyborg buddy Gray Fox when Naomi eventually says this: "Until that point, war was like a game to them." Suddenly a list of all the Metal Gear games shows up in the XMB format. It'd be cute if it wasn't so blunt.
  • I just refilled my psych bar with a sneaky upskirt glance. Turning this off.

So that's the end of our Metal Gear Solid 4 run. I'd like to thank everyone for joining me on this journey, and for all the advice and comments you've been providing with each new entry. As I consider the direction Metal Gear has-

  • No, I'm just messing with you. Like Solid Snake and war, I've slowly built up a tolerance to the intolerable.
  • We need to get naked now and there's no time to explain why. Naomi freaks out and starts crying as soon as she sees Snake without his shirt on. When doves cry, man.
  • She mentioned that "70% of [my nanomachines] were lost through breeding or excretion." By "breeding", does she mean those nanomachines left via...? Which were then passed onto...? Wow. I think Snake has some difficult phone calls to make once he gets back home.
  • Naomi confirmed that Snake's short lifespan is due to how he was genetically built, rather than something he contracted later in life. I guess this had all but been confirmed in the previous games but it doesn't hurt to make sure here. I also get to save the game, which isn't ominous at all.
  • "How long do I have?" "Half a year." *psych meter goes down, makes a slide whistle noise.* I guess it was either that or the Price is Right foghorn.
  • We have a bigger problem, it seems. The FOXDIE is mutating inside Snake's body, threatening to turn into super AIDSthrax and just murder everyone instead of specific targets like the DARPA chief. It'll be like Outbreak, which makes me hope that Drebin's creepy monkey will be the first to bite it.
  • Oh, and the disease is likely to start spreading in three months. That's another slide whistle. At least he gets to have his cigarette. Can I get a psych boost for that?
  • OK, so now it's the boss fight. After a few waves of FROG grunts, Laughing Octopus shows up and the real fight starts. This is our first proper boss fight! Yay! She's tough to hit when she's out in the open because she'll reflect most bullets with her tentacles. She does let her guard down when she's about to fire her SMG, so I'm using that to blat her with the Mosin Nagant and getting out of view. If she can't see you she can't block the bullet, so it looks like finding hiding places to shoot from is working out. I'm also dropping stun grenades when appropriate.
  • She's invisible to both myself and the Solid Eye radar (though I admit to my chagrin that I forgot about the night vision), but she frequently taunts me which ghosts her position briefly on the radar. She's also way more perceptive than I am, so it's hard to get the drop on her. I'm actually finding it easier to just whomp her with the Mosin and hit her again when she recovers, though she will eventually curl up into an invincible ball, drop an inky smoke grenade and send some testicle grenade things floating after me.
  • Now she's rolling into me. It's like fighting a psychopathic female Sonic the Hedgehog. (So Amy Rose the Hedgehog, then.) I also noticed my camo is doing absolutely nothing if its percentage is anything to go by, so I guess whatever advanced OctoCamo she's wearing can see through mine.
  • Oh god, she was posing as the MRI machine and surprised me as I passed by. This battle is starting to unnerve me. I'm just going to try to brute force it before Snake's (and my) heart gives out.
  • Found her that time. She was in a box, with her tentacles hanging out (ew). I guess she wants to play hide and go seek, huh? She was the simulacrum next (I wondered why that was here. Why else decorate Naomi's lab like it was a science classroom?).
  • Otacon starts calling me. One check-in with the Codec later and... yep, that's not him. Nice try, OctoLady. I now recall that she's based on Decoy Octopus from the first game: the master of disguise and duplicity. Hey OctoLady guess what? I killed that dude without even trying, so what hope do you have?
  • Ha, I didn't see where Otacon's voice was coming from. It was from a five-foot tall Mk.2, just standing in the corridor. I retract my "nice try".
  • Wow, posing as the body of one of the fallen soldiers that time. Unfortunately, she was lying on top of another one, and I already knew where all the bodies were. Doesn't help her that she keeps killing their prone forms with her explosives (and I won't take the blame for those either).
  • Okay, turning into Naomi isn't going to convince anyone. I saw her get carted out of here, and she wasn't wearing skintight leather. Though I suppose any excuse to depict her in same, right?
  • Finally, I took her down. Actually not too tough: While she hid a lot, she also telegraphed her attacks a fair deal, making it easy to get out of the way of her gunfire. The arena with all its doorways and windows to hide behind helped too. It felt more like a tutorial boss fight that set the tone and meter for the rest to come. I approve - sussing out her hiding places and the spooky atmosphere set by this insane octopus lady was a lot of fun. There you go, I've said a positive thing about the game.
  • I'm talking like I didn't expect there to be a second stage to this fight. She sheds her tentacles and reveals herself to be... Heather Mason? So wait... you're telling me this young woman was a squid now, and she's a kid now? She's a squid, she's a kid? Unprecedented.
  • She's still crazy, and I don't think I want to go near her. She's coming in for the hug and I'm not having any of it. She's legit creeping me out even more than before just following me around with a static grin on her face. Also the whole arena just went grayscale and the BGM's gone super hardcore weird. Guys, am I dying? I mean in real life? Is that burned toast I smell...?
  • Well, "Laughing Beauty" has a health gauge, so I'm taking out the Mk. 2 Pistol and turning her into "Sleeping Beauty" if it's the last thing I do.
  • I took too long, so I got punished with a time limit and had my background privileges taken away. It's just white space now.
  • She finally went to sleep, though it almost appeared as if she bought the farm with a very tragic and tearjerking death scene in which the camera spent 80% of its time staring at her shapely derriere. You might assume I'm being too gutter-minded about all this salacious camera work, but if it zoomed in any closer we'd be able to see her kidneys.
  • Oh sweet, we picked up her FaceCamo. Now we can get up to some Mission: Impossible mischief. Well, after it gets adjusted to fit around a mustache. (The game just completely ignores this and lets you equip it in the very next sequence.)
  • Holy crap, this backstory on Laughing Octopus. You're a sick guy, Kojima. Also it all reads like some terrible creepypasta: "everyone in her village was killed by cultists except for her and then they made her torture and kill her family even her dumb brother who still hasn't given her back her yu-gi-oh cards including the super rare mega-pharaoh card brent and then they made her laugh when doing it and then she saw the blood was black like octopus ink instead of red and laughed some more and then she became an octopus who laughed and killed people and then she found a haunted pokemon red cartridge that told her she would die in seven days unless she traded evil pikachu to another person with the link cable and then they would die instead also it said 'slendermon' on the title screen."
  • Oh hey, so I got her FaceCamo and her face for the FaceCamo. Now I can walk around pretending to be her. The chameleonic mask's on the other face now, ain't it?
  • Got in contact with Raiden again. He apparently became a tracking master since we last saw him. Dude's really made an effort to improve himself after the feedback he got in MGS2, wowzers. I like how he suggests Snake track the prints and Snake says "I'm not Big Boss, I don't know how to track" which is just one step removed from "This isn't MGS3 and there's no hunting and tracking mechanics. I'm going to need to visit GameFAQs for a map or something."
  • "Ninja are the ultimate scouts." Yep, even after going up five levels in badass, our little Raiden is still the weenie we loved to love feeling ambivalent about.
  • Haha, this Laughing Beauty mask looks super great on my muscly old man body. Oh boy the fanart this probably lead to.
  • Anyway, enough funning around with masks and stupid Raiden. I gotta follow Naomi's trail to see where she was taken. Raiden said a whole lot about birdcalls and the wind, but it looks like I'm just following footprints. That knucklehead always has to make things difficult.
  • Did I just find a crop circle? The dulcet tones of Colonel Campbell recanted his experience with a UFO (the AI rambling of MGS2, of course, which Solid Snake couldn't have possibly known about) as I checked around for alien weaponry. No zappers, alas. I bet they would've been worth a mint.
  • "Naomi's footprints just vanish beyond this point. But just hers." That's because Jesus was carrying her at that point. I guess I need to look for a guy with long hair and a beard who has a habit of coming back from the dead.
  • Yeah, yeah, Vamp grabbed her. I sort of figured already. Snake chose to shoot him in the same place Raiden did. Maybe he figured twice was the charm. Even with a hole through his head he finished a chat with Liquid on his mobile and took a nap as the chopper took off, just before hitting us with the brown note again. Is every Act going to end this way?
  • Those mooing Rockette robots are back. Fortunately, Naomi gave me some syringes earlier to counter this nanomachine business so I don't have to fight them with the nastiest of hangovers.
  • An oddly altruistic Drebin suddenly drives up to the chopper and caught Naomi. Apparently the goons in the back of the chopper (who also inoculated themselves) had no problem with this. Maybe Vamp never filled them in about how crucial Naomi was before his forty winks? Honestly, if I was a regular mercenary (well, a regular nanomachine-enhanced super soldier) I'd be sitting there wondering what the hell was happening too. My boss just got shot in the dome mid-phonecall, an old man in a musclesuit opened fire on my buddies and a monkey riding on an AFV just kidnapped the woman I'd rescued minutes before. Makes you wonder what was in those injections.
  • Well, we all got in and escaped the Geckos. The monkey offered the nice doctor lady a cold beverage. You know he probably tampered with that can, right?
  • The Act's still not over? We're being chased through all the prior regions now on top of Drebin's AFV. And, well...
  • I decided to restart from the last checkpoint because I'd murdered people with the turret-cannon before realizing I had a strong enough tranq weapon to get past the power-armored dudes without despoiling my "no kills" rule. So I quit to the main menu, loaded up the auto-save and... there's no auto-save. I forgot that the people who made this game are living in the damn 1980s. So I'm back to just after the Laughing Octopus boss fight. Just gimme an hour to get back to where I was, and...
  • OK, so back to the truck then. I think from now on I'm just going to ignore any comments that say anything along the lines of "the checkpointing isn't too bad. In fact it's probably too generous" because they're made by silly people who should go to a dungeon. That mountain trail area was just as huge the second time.
  • Okay, so this region does have a checkpoint mid-way through that I didn't notice. All you silly people can be released from that dungeon now. I've got my eye on you, though.
  • Drebin: "We've got an MGS on our ass." More like this MGS is ass. Yeah, I said it.
  • Finally reached a marketplace where we crashed the truck. We're certainly taking our time getting out of the vehicle, given how those Geckos were mooing down our necks a minute ago. Ah well, out of sight, out of mind.
  • Well, they're still hovering around, turns out. Then Raiden showed up and just one-shotted a whole bunch of them with his little samurai sword. Hey, game, even if you show me Raiden doing cool ninja shit it's not going to change a thing. Once a weenie, always a weenie.
  • So the last part of this Act involves running past a bunch of Geckos to reach Otacon's helicopter in the town square. Those things were tearing the place up and spinkicking me to near-death whenever I got too close. Sure was exciting though. Too bad about all those poor civilians getting trampled, but as I've said a number of times before: That shit won't stick on me. I'm Teflon.
  • Naomi got to the chopper and shared an interesting look with Otacon. What's going on with you two? Did you know he still wets the bed, Naomi? Or, more vitally, that all his love interests end up dead because drama reasons?
  • Vamp's here again. He's doing little pirouettes under the Geckos. I really, really hate that man.
  • He's going to torture Raiden, but stuff happens. I dunno. I'm inclined to skip anything regarding either of these two Todd McFarlane rejects. Let them lick blood homoerotically and do ballet dance choreography and talk about how they don't fear death all they want - I don't have to pay attention to any of it.
  • Oh good, please say they just killed each other. That would make my millennium.
  • No such luck. A half-dead Raiden's now with us in the chopper, and Vamp's going back to Liquid to presumably write poetry about the full moon iceskate up a hill send his bat minions to knock Vinny Belmont down a pit over and over search for Big Boss's body. Try the MSX.
  • Also I guess Raiden is a robot now. That's SMAKA #3, because there's no way I managed to completely avoid hearing about Revengeance. He's also vomiting up Bishop blood everywhere in the chopper; it looks like the War Boys have been through here there's so much chrome paint.
  • We are to meet Raiden's boss "Big Mama" next. We're coming for you Martin Lawrence!

And that's the end of Act 2. The thlot is certainly pickening now, and the game's established a lot more in this Act than the previous one did. We now know that: multiple parties are looking for Big Boss's corpse; the nanomachines regulate emotions and can be used to mess with people; Vamp still looks like an extra from the rave at the start of Blade; Raiden's an androgynous ninja robot from one of Otacon's Japanese animes; Snake will kill the whole world in three months with his foxy virus; I'm quickly losing patience with any game that doesn't know how to save properly; the Beauty and Beast fights work by creeping me out with scary discordant laughter/screaming and then creeping me out in an entirely separate way by showing off so much squirming latex T&A that the Marquis de Sade would be embarrassed if he was caught watching it; Drebin's monkey still dwells within the uncanny primate valley; and finally, despite every impulse in my brain telling me to stop, I need to see what happens in Act 3 (which I only imagine is the last Act because that's how Acts are supposed to work).

Thanks for stopping by for this super lengthy blog today. I wanted to keep going until I saw that end of Act results screen and maintain this "two entries per Act" system I've got going on, but it turns out I had a lot to say about the first B&B fight and the madness before and after. Don't be too concerned with how quickly I appear to be burning out on this game: I'm in it for the long haul now, and I don't like quitting games (or blog series, for that matter) midway through. At the very least I hope my pain continues to be entertaining for you all. Apologies to anyone who actually likes this game; our love can never be, for our worlds are far too different.

Stick around for Part Five, where we'll locate Big Mama's house and get even more answers. Nothing but answers, you might say. Can you believe I thought the game would be cagey about revealing too much too soon? What series did I think I was playing?

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Mento Gear Solid 4: Puns of the Patriots: Part Three

I think Metal Gear Solid is unique in that I feel Pavlovian shivers every time I reach for the controller to start playing it, and yet I find I can't put that controller down for several hours once I begin. I mean that in the figurative sense, of course, as I'm frequently putting it down to watch the 80% of this game that is cutscene, but there's always something about the bizarre otherworldly logic behind the way this universe works and its "half overheard from Syfy Originals, half overheard from WarGames"-style world-building that forces me to keep watching to see what happens next, because I lack the imagination for even a fraction of the revelations it throws my way. It's like the video game equivalent of a Mexican sci-fi soap opera; doubly so, when you consider how few words I can make out.

For that reason, I cannot ever claim to "hate" Metal Gear Solid. Not even the second one, for as often as it would test me with its terrible escort and platforming sequences. Not even the game's series-long aversion to proper saving/loading/checkpointing protocols and defying what I consider to be the prime detective of all video game design - don't waste the player's time. Equally, I can never profess to "love" these games either, for as uncomfortably attached as I find myself to seeing how they pan out.

I'm sure there's a name for this kind of "hate" and "love" relationship, but I'll be darned if I can think of what that might be. Instead, let's resume from where we left Snake. Oh right, he was a quivering mass of jelly because a bunch of nanomachines pooped in his brain. Let's resume from slightly after that:

(Today's disclaimer for where today's update will end: After a power plant, and a corpse-related power play. If you aren't familiar with that part of Act 2, please wait until Drew and Dan have caught up before reading. Here's Parts One and Two.)

  • Act 2! Let's do this! And we get another Nomad briefing scene with Sunny, her eggs and her numbers song. I don't remember that one from Sesame Street. I really hope this doesn't turn into Mercury Rising with the autistic kid (and holy shit did the title of that movie get funnier/more depressing in retrospect thanks to those anti-voxxer idiots).
  • Olga photo in the kitchen. Guess that confirms that. Hey Otacon, don't lose this child genius as quickly as you did the last one.
  • Kid burned the eggs and then got burned about the eggs. Dairy wasn't the only thing getting served. *Z-snaps*. (I'm saying this briefing scene is like a bad sitcom so far.)
  • We're talking about Naomi now, and I guess if Otacon had to run a DNA trace on the syringe she was holding he wasn't watching through his robot when she did the whole "standing over Snake and talking to him" bit, which would've been slightly more telling (but then who even knows with nanomachines). I suppose the Mk.2 was getting all nano-sick too off in the corner somewhere.
  • Naomi apparently Skyped Otacon at some point after we fell unconscious. As she's explaining FOXDIE and nanomachines too a webcam that keeps swinging around, it somehow manages to accidentally point at her open cleavage a couple times. Subtle.
  • Hey, we just got a note about Mei Ling helping us out too. The whole gang's back together. How long's it been since Shadow Moses? Around nine or ten years?
  • Where the hell is the Colonel broadcasting from? The Pope's office? Spencer Mansion? Looks expensive as heck. Also, I'm not sure who's skulking around in the back, but I'm sure there's going to be another five minutes of explanations soon enough.
  • Haha, okay I love that. The Colonel's talking about how Liquid's base, where we're heading next now that Naomi's given us the coordinates, has "a regime backed by the PMCs, and a rebel army fighting to overthrow it" nearby. He then pauses with this kind of half-smile and then nods slightly as if to say, "Yeah, we're repeating the first bit again. Deal with it, wuss."
  • Pieuvre Armement. That's the French PMC from before. Maybe I was a little off with the FROG comment earlier. I'm sure the Pieuvre Armement's special soldiers are called the C.E.S.M. (and kudos to anyone who deciphers that joke).
  • And yes, I did notice that the first PMC had a mantis-based name/logo and this one has an octopus-based name/logo. And that there's five PMCs in Liquid's control. And that there's five mysterious female badass cyborgs. And that there were five members of MGS1's FOX-HOUND group that wasn't Snake. It's this "recreate Shadow Moses" AI meme shit again, isn't it?
  • These flashbacks don't really add a whole lot, given how indistinct they are and how it's dawning on me just how much of a bad idea it would be to make Metal Gear Solid 4 your entry point to this series. But the game gives me bonus Drebin bucks for viewing them, sooooo...
  • Briefing's over. We're off to South America. Replacing the adobes with favelas, huh? I didn't expect this game to be so Call of Duty-y. It does also have an old guy with a cool mustache though.
  • That peeg totally got ate by that snake. Make sure no-one lets Brad play this... oh, he reviewed it? Peeg's out of the hutch now, then.
  • What the hell is Snake doing? It's either some kind of super stealthy belly crawl or advanced calisthenics to keep his old ticker in check.
  • We're at the base and... no. No! That Anne Rice reject is back! I thought I kille- yeah, I'm not going to assume that's going to mean anything. Octopus lady is here too, and has a bad case of the buttersnakeface. I don't even want to imagine why she looks like Solid Snake, though I have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that Vamp coaxed her into the idea before whatever they were about to do got interrupted by the rebel attack.
  • She sure is crazy as shit though. It says something when Vamp is the least insane psycho person in the scene. She told the surviving rebel goon to "remember her face". Uh, he's probably going to remember the rack too, and it doesn't look like Snake's suffering any gynecomastia in his old age.
  • "That was Vamp! I'll never forget his face." Specifically the fangs, right? Or the bullethole scar on his forehead? Or how he looks like he's waiting for Kate Beckinsale's Underworld character to swipe him on TinderVania? Otacon's talking as if Vamp wouldn't be memorable if not for the stepsister-murdering.
  • After more complaints about Vamp (Otacon, baby, I'm right there with you) and how my OctoCamo isn't quite as unique as Snake had hoped, I finally have control again. I need to remember to turn the controller off between acts to save all that battery power.
  • It also means I can buy that gun I keep talking about that I can't be bothered to look up how to spell it properly this time! Good thing the clock just ticked over to 12:30am Wednesday and I got the discount price.
  • Drebin also has a new porn mag? "Beauty and Beast". The boss squad's on the cover. So they're the Beauty and Beasts? (Before you wonder if this is something revealed ahead of time, I did notice that Vamp called the OctoLady by the name "beast"). So... the beast is the animal-like outer shell and the beauty's the crazy lady within? Sure, okay. I guess I'll find out soon enough.
  • Well, I managed to only accrue about a dozen alerts sneaking past a single village. Good to know my sneaking game hasn't gotten rusty in the months since I started this Act. What really did me in is how people are marching across the map every few seconds, picking a route I cannot seem to ascertain ahead of time. I was sneaking up a guy and about three or four them ran up behind me. Mind jogging somewhere else? You're biting my style. And also shooting my style, repeatedly. And by "style" I mean "ass".
  • So that's who the woman in the background was in the Colonel's mission briefing video call. I had a horrible suspicion after seeing that haircut, but I'd managed to convince myself otherwise out of sheer optimism. It's Rosemary, a.k.a. Rose, a.k.a. "Please be quiet about our relationship troubles for five minutes, I'm trying to save the President". Hearing she's a psychologist these days doesn't fill me with hope for the United State's mental health care system.
  • Snake and Colonel begin to converse about her and her background like she isn't even there while she sits in the Codec's viewscreen fidgeting nervously. I'd make a "shoe's on the other foot now" joke about her discomfort but she's suffered enough. I mean, she's had Raiden's baby. What a beautiful, bullied kid that little nipper must be.
  • Rose specifically trained in the psychology of soldiers, PTSD and the effects battlefield stress. I'm guessing after MGS2 Raiden didn't speak to her for six months. "Shell-shocked from his mission, clearly," she probably thought. I notice he hasn't shown up yet.
  • Rosemary's married to the Colonel?! What? You sure can pick 'em, boss. And Rose, not to be crass, but are you sure the Colonel's famous purple stuffed worm can still do a raw blink on your Hara-Kiri Rock at his age? Also, yeah, I guess that means Raiden's been out of the picture for a while then. Probably laughing it up on a tropical island somewhere surrounded by busty women who aren't the least bit concerned about putting away some money to buy a house together. Or being a pissy little baby in a VR training facility somewhere. I dunno. I'm not his day planner.
  • So what I thought was my stamina bar is actually a "psych" bar. Presumably it drops whenever I see a spoooooky ghost. Did they seriously implement a sanity gauge into this game? Or is it more that it's actually a stamina bar in all but name, but it just so happens that Ms. Psycho Mantis will be able to drain it with weird brain shit as well?
  • If the psych bar is low, I won't be able to shoot or move around as effectively, similar to how low stamina effects you in MGS3. The game suggests that the best way to boost psych if it's getting low without using expensive meds is to call Rosemary on her line. Talk about your Morton's forks.
  • All right, in this new area now. The rebels are creating distractions but it was hard going with all those narrow valleys. Hopefully this power plant area's a bit more open.
  • Oh yeah, we got a mysterious phonecall from Deep Throat. Nah, not really. For some reason, Snake thought it was Jack (i.e. Raiden, a.k.a. Blond Weenie), despite the fact he sounded bass-y and almost kinda Caribbean. Either they upgraded the voice actor or Snake's hearing is going.
  • I snuck around back, hoping to find a way in. Instead I find Drebin and his cigarette-stealing monkey.
  • He's going to tell me about the B&Bs (Beauties and the Beasts, I'd assume) but first a dig at my age, which apparently drops my psych gauge. Am I really going to get penalized for age jokes? You'd think a legendary soldier like Solid Snake would shrug off insults from a guy wearing zebra print camo.
  • Yeah, Drebin's confirming what I pretty much already ascertained about this boss group. Well, except that they're all victims of war atrocities that went insane from their PTSD. I didn't expect Kojima to use that to create his bunch of expendable villains. Maybe in MGS5 I'll get to kick a guy in a wheelchair down a hill (no, I already know what's in 5 and it's even worse, though still along a "women and battlefields don't mix" theme. This is the same series that had The Boss just a little while ago, right?)
  • "They [The Beauties/Beasts] all think that if they kill Snake, their minds will be freed from all the pain. From all the fury. From all the sorrow. From all the... wait, which is the one that jumped around the trees?" "The End?" "No, no, he was half-tree. I'm talking about the Ninja Scroll knock-off." "They were all Ninja Scroll knock-offs, you'll have to be more specific." "The damn snake-y tree guy with the poison darts! Remember, everyone yelled at you for not feeding him rotten food?" "Ah yeah."
  • Raven, Octopus, Wolf, Mantis. The SNAKEHOUND unit. They aren't even trying with these unit names anymore, are they? At least make them MONGOOSE. That'd be slightly easier to backronym with military jargon you damn hack.
  • Also, I said "five animals" earlier, to go with the five PMC groups, and we've only been told about four B&Bs. We're one B&B short of a tourist brochure. Who's left? Please say there's an Ocelot too. One that Liquid Ocelot has taught how to cat growl, like in the good old days. If there isn't a cat lady cyborg causing Old Snake and/or Batman trouble, I'm calling foul.
  • Drebin's switched topics to the Patriots AI. I guess we kinda let them be after MGS2. Old Skullface Campbell's still out there, determining the rules of the world. I think his most recently implemented one is that all cutscenes need to be five times longer and full of barely comprehensible exposition, as per the precedent he himself set at the end of MGS2.
  • That monkey needs a nicotine fix and Drebin's having none of it. Poor little guy. Actually that monkey creeps and irritates the crap out of me in equal measure. Maybe the next time I stop by I'll bring some "bad dates".
  • Didn't get really get a chance to explore the power station. Unfortunately, while we were talking, the repels were rebelled... wait, that's... nah, forget it, let's keep moving. So anyway, I've had to sneak around a bit more without the distraction to help. I did find an area full of stuff, but it meant blowing up the plant's power station first. Good thing I found all this C64 in the nearby room.
  • Oh cool, it's my old friend the Stinger missiles. Given the amount of palaver required to reach them, I'm hoping I don't have a Hind D fight coming up. All the same, that's a nice piece of kit, and if I find any more I imagine Drebin's going to pay me a premium for 'em.
  • I like how, if you're moving around in a crouched position, Snake always arcs his back straight up to reload his gun. It's stealthy, is what it is.
  • So, as soon as we hit a new area we're hit with even more exposition. Sure, it's been almost ten minutes, what do you have?
  • Raiden tells us he's been out digging up bodies. Big Boss's to be precise, on the orders of a "Matka Pluku". Apparently, whoever Big Boss was in life, he caught the attention of the Jedi Council and they want to give his remains a proper funeral so he can rejoin the Force.
  • Actually, it means "Big Mama" in some language neither Raiden nor Snake felt like telling us. Hmm. I have a suspicion I know who this is too, though only because we're running out of major female characters from the last three games who haven't already made cameos.
  • Of course, if there's Raiden talk to be had, that means another long chat from Rose about failed relationships and Raiden becoming emotionally distant and oh god why did you let her pursue a counselling degree, Colonel? That's like giving a pyromaniac nitroglycerin. She's weaponized talking about her feelings now.
  • I've been given the advice to talk to my Codec contacts more often, but it doesn't seem like there's any point. They're all calling me every couple minutes to see what's up anyway. Maybe they read somewhere that you have to regularly talk to seniors to make them not die. Or maybe that's plants. My only options are Nerdlinger and Clingy anyway. I think I'd get more productive conversations introducing myself to enemy soldiers.

That's about all I can stand today. I have a psych meter too, you know, and it's bottoming out something fierce with all this Raiden and Rose business. When I next join you all, we'll be heading through a confinement facility (why not "prison"? Or does it confine something else? I'll guess I'll find out when I accidentally shoot at it and discover it's nuclear material) and possibly meeting up with Bellend Lugosi and a chuckling Cyborglapod (that's a good portmanteau, right? I'm pretty tired).

I've appreciated all your comments, and I'm still reading them and taking their advice on board. For that reason, no spoilers. Also, don't expect me to gymnastically waltz through this game either: I'm not particularly proficient in any game that gives you a thousand commands to memorize (I tend to panic and forget all of them except for the "go into the foetal position" button) nor am I the most patient player when it comes to stealth games - though I am now getting used to being spotted constantly and running off to hide somewhere instead of anything more drastic. "No Alerts" wouldn't be nearly as restrictive were it not for the game's awful checkpointing, so as it is I'm just going to drop any illusions of subtlety. I'll stick with the no-kills thing for as long as I can though, as I can at least conveniently buy ammo for the two (yep, I bought the Mosin Nagant) tranq guns in my possession whenever I need to.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you soon for more of Act 2's Solid Shenanigans.

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Mento Gear Solid 4: Puns of the Patriots: Part Two

I perhaps didn't choose the best place to end last time, as it turned out I was a handful of areas away from the end of the game's first Act. I haven't quite got a sense of how the game is paced just yet: I'm aware that there are five "Acts", but have no clue how long each one is individually, nor is that something I'm eager to dig deeper into in case of spoilers. So while I intend to find "appropriate" points upon which to end of each these observation LP chapters, they're going to end up fluctuating in size a lot. Then again, I'll be posting a new one every other day or so, so it's hardly as if there's going to be a dearth of sarcastic MGS quips emanating from this corner of the internet.

Be sure to read the first part of this series if you're just joining us, and keep in mind that I may be pushing ahead of the MGScanlon videos from this point forward. I'll preface every new part of this series with a vague indicator of where I'm at in the story, just in case you're experiencing the game for the first time through the filter of Drew and Dan nincompoopery ("poopery" being the operative word this time around thanks to Akiba). Today's end point is the end of Act One.

  • Heading through a busted-up building. Between the confusing level geometry and the sounds of death and destruction happening around me, this is probably a fairly close approximation of how terrifying it would be to get around in a warzone like this. Well, aside from the goofy little weapon drop blips that follow every dying scream.
  • I've found a couple of them so far, but these iPod track collectibles are kinda weird. Mostly because that they look like briefcases instead of other iPods, but also because they're branded Apple products and not some in-game generic term like "Earsnakes" (y'know, like earworms, as in catchy music? Sure, fine, I'm not a MGS joke writer. Not yet).
  • Big Boss Porta Pros! Shout-outs to Jeff Green and his preferred headphone brand.
  • Talking of branded goods, the "sexy magazine" is now an actual Playboy. With actual photos of girls in it. The game even lets you flip through the thing, like Snake doesn't have enough to focus on. Well, it's not like this isn't the first Metal Gear Solid game that lets him "enjoy himself".
  • We're out of the building and there's... a fart barrel. Well, no, it's our old incontinent pal Johnny Sasaki suffering from the green apple splatters inside an oil barrel before getting made and having to run off with his pants between his legs. Solid Snake (I'd make a poop joke, but with Johnny it's usually Liquid) makes the interesting decision to pick up and carry around a 9kg oil barrel that someone's shat all over. This game.
  • I've not really been helping the rebels around here, despite dressing like one, but it behooved me to remove that sniper before he took my head off. The guy next to me was all "hey, thanks man". Believe me, the act itself was its own reward (plus the free sniper rifle I used the Mk.2 to fetch).
  • The checkpointing in this game is... well, just as awful as it's always been. I lost twenty minutes of progress there, from finding the barrel to sneaking through a dozen alleyways and past snipers and other soldiers. I got shot because I tried to hide in an enemy area with constantly respawning units. This is a whole bunch of bullshit, frankly.
  • OK, I found a better route this time and was able to make it over the last hurdle by crawling along my stomach where there was an incline. Absurdly dangerous, but I guess there was no better way. The game could use some better checkpointing if it's going to make its individual areas this large.
  • Wow, who rigged this whole place with sleep mines and claymores? Probably the Rat Patrol, since I'm supposed to be meeting them here. Perhaps my reputation precedes me.
  • I bumped into those clowns on the top floor. They got the drop on Old Snake, so it's surprising to hear him criticize the whole bunch as rookies. Maybe you just get to call everyone "rookie" when you hit 70 (or appear to).
  • Yay, it's Meryl. She has a real character model now, and is no longer just bunch of cubes stacked on top of each other in a vaguely sexy manner. "Akiba" is what we're calling Johnny these days and then there's these other guys with distinct personalities and nicknames who are probably going to be worth remembering and certainly won't die in an upcoming cutscene. They've even worked out their own group pose. Adorable.
  • I love how they followed a "Akiba has diarrhea" gag scene with the line "Liquid's been in the area for four days". Timing is everything.
  • Okay, the mohawk exclamation joke got me when Meryl was introducing the team. More like it scared the bejeezus out of me.
  • The nanomachines, which is a word I'm almost certainly going to repeat a thousand more times in this playthrough, apparently monitor every aspect of a PMC soldier's status, from their heart rate to their reserve bullet count (presumably this is monitored separately via the gun's ID tag, though maybe soldiers in this world swallow bullets they aren't using). Creepy stuff, and factors heavily into the Patriots AI business from the end of MGS2. Why follow one weenie around recording his every move when you can do the same for entire armies?
  • Meryl explains that constant monitoring and ID tagged weapons prohibit renegade soldiers from committing atrocities and acts of terrorism, because their guns would suddenly stop working and everyone within a fifty mile radius would suddenly get a heads up to shoot the assholes who aren't playing by the rules. A little too altruistic a system, especially as we already know how to get around the ID tags. I suspect a lot of Liquid's personal units aren't beholden to these same rules.
  • Meryl still hears "la li lu le lo" whenever Snake says "The Patriots", which must make New England football matches hilarious in the future. The very next piece of dialogue is, "They call this nanomachine system 'the SOP'", "Sons of the Patriots...". No, that'd be SOLLLLL, idiot.
  • We're getting attacked by some badass (and creepy) FROG soldiers. I guess this would be the French PMC the briefing was talking about. I'm glad I removed all the traps heading up, because trying to avoid all these guys (and their screaming?) would be hard enough without it.
  • I think the implication here is that Johnny just went in his suit. They're really ramping up the poop jokes in this game.
  • The FROGs appear to be all women (hence the screaming) (which, uh, probably isn't a cool thing to say? I just mean that they shriek more than they grunt when they die. Nope, still sound like a psycho) and they all disappear into ash once shot. Some spooky shit is going on here. They actually remind me a lot of Mantis, in fact. He didn't have a hundred heretofore unknown sisters perchance?
  • Meryl's team splits and Snake decides to call her out on a Codec call to Otacon, saying she's worse than Raiden with all this l33t nanomachine bullshit. "In my day, rookies got overconfident because of too many Virtual Reality military video games dagnabbit. Now you got these kids running around with tiny robots in 'em and grah grah grah get off my Lawnmower Man."
  • I've acquired a lot more Drebin bucks, running around collecting all those FROG weapons, but it looks like all the prices have gone up by 50%. Hold tight, lil' Mogin Nasant. I'll rescue you from the cool guy and his monkey soon enough.
  • Now we have weird wolf and raven cyborgs? And an octopus. And a floating psychic person. Why does all this feel so... familiar? They all knew I was here too, which doesn't bode well. I guess we've just seen this game's boss group?
  • I eventually make it to Liquid's camp, where I spot the dude himself. He's looking more like The Sorrow these days with his smart little glasses and trenchcoat. What happened to you, Shalashaska? You used to be cool. (Nah, you were never cool.)
  • Rat Patrol's here too, and despite saying they're not getting involved with Snake's assassination mission they're certainly sneaking furtively around the camp for some reason.
  • Whoa, Liquid just activated some brown note thing that's causing everyone with nanomachines to freak out. Johnny and Liquid appear to be the only ones not suffering any ill effects. I guess that's what happens when you let a shady organization put tiny robots in you.
  • Now they're going insane and whacking each other. Jeez. Oh, and a mystery woman showed up next to Liquid. Might be Dr. Naomi, since they bothered to mention her in the intro? Hard to tell without all the green scanline PS1 graphics. Liquid managed to spot me, because I'm being less than subtle with this mind spike going on, so I get to hear a snippet of his flamboyant rants about whatever utter nonsense plan he's cooked up this time as I pass out. Ah, memories.
  • Hey, it is Naomi. And she just injected herself with something before telling Snake to split and walking off. Then they both took off in a chopper with a dozen of those creepy Gecko things chasing after them. Thanks for stopping by, Snake. Thanks for breaking my cow lamp.
  • Akiba came through for us and carried us out of there like he presumably did with his team. That little poopypants is going to get a proper redemptive arc, I can tell. No Incorrigible Buffoon Storyline (I.B.S.) for him, no sir.

Well, that's the end of Act 1. It sets up a lot of questions, though probably more than it ever intends to answer, and given us a glance at some of the game's major players, including the new boss troupe. They struck me as kinda feminine, like the FROG soldiers. Is this just Kojima being Kojima? Will I have to knock their clothes off before I can defeat them? I also saw more jokes about feces than I anticipated, suggesting that the humor of the series is clearly not aiming for subtlety for the time being.

Regardless, I think this is a natural end point for today's update, even if it's a little shorter than yesterday's. With the bonus bucks I earned at the end of this Act I might finally have enough to purchase that dang ol' Mogin Nasant. Everything's coming up Old Snake. Well, except for that whole "nanomachines just set my brain on fire" thing.

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Mento Gear Solid 4: Puns of the Patriots: Part One

Hoo boy. A new Metal Gear Scanlon series means a new Mento Gear Solid to accompany it, as I attempt to sneakily get ahead of Drew and Dan so I can enjoy their video content without spoiling anything about Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots without the "purity" that comes from your own playthrough. Prior to their initial Metal Gear Solid run, I hadn't played a single one of these Kojima-penned nonsense tactical stealth action games before, partly because I've never particularly cared for the stealth genre. My present attachment to the series is entirely due to its legendarily daft plots filled with random asides, dumb jokes and the most ludicrous grasp of modern military thriller movie tropes. Now I join them on Solid Snake's fourth video game adventure - which is still technically true despite MGS2 and MGS3 having different protagonists, though you'd have to take into account the two original Metal Gear games and probably exclude a whole bunch of extra side-story stuff for portables that I don't know about.

I'm cautiously optimistic about this one. Jeff's stated in the past that MGS4 is his favorite, and largely because it's even more insane than the previous games. That remains to be seen, of course, but even if that's a high bar to reach I have no doubts that Kojima pulled it off. For the number of common sense complaints I can level against the guy - plot and game design decisions both - no-one directs a game quite like he does.

Some disclaimers before I start:

  1. I absolutely encourage everyone to watch the corresponding Metal Gear Scanlon 4 vids first. I'll have to go back and ensure that they match up once I'm reasonably certain that I've gotten ahead of the videos and can watch them, but the idea is that this loose "observation log" style is chiefly meant for those familiar with the game already. I'm skipping, or at the most briefly summarizing, the game's many huge cutscenes and story exposition dumps, and the game makes little sense already without getting an incomplete Cliff's Notes version from yours truly. For the sake of your own enjoyment of this feature, only start reading these if you're familiar with the game's events or have watched Drew and Dan play through the same part already. (I just hope Drew hasn't beaten me to many of the same jokes yet; we share a similar sense of humor, I've discovered.)
  2. If you'd like to read my prior war journals on this series, please feel free to start here with Mento Gear Solid 1, here with the two-part Mento Gear Solid 2 rundown and here with a six-part Mento Gear Solid 3 scrutiny here. Watch a series neophyte lose his damn mind in (almost) real-time. (And hey, give my other concurrent series some love too. It's about old European computer games no-one remembers!)
  3. Please, no spoilers in the comments. Not from the Scanlon videos if they've managed to get ahead and not even from Peace Walker, which I'm presently skipping for now. Story elements from MGS1-3 are fine, except when they directly relate to something coming up later in MGS4, like the re-emergence of a beloved series character (so no "hey, you should go back and read what you said about _____. I think you'll change your tune about it soon enough ;)") I have an inkling about a handful of twists and cameos, but I'd prefer to remain surprised. It'll make the reactions funnier, if nothing else.

I was reliably informed to watch the Act 1 Mission Briefing before starting the game proper, as it was deemed "too much cutscene" for the game's opening and was relegated to a main menu extra. That's setting an ominous precedent. Well, let's just tear this band-aid off already:

(Final disclaimer: I'm playing up until the point where I meet a certain coke-swilling monkey. If that checkpoint makes sense to you, the MGS4 fan and/or Metal Gear Scanlon 4 viewer, read on.)

  • PMCs are the name of the game this time around. They've taken over most of the conventional militaries of the world. I guess this was every modern military game's plot in the 00s.
  • Oh hey, there's a kid in Otacon and Snake's base. She's called Sunny. Is this Olga's kid? The way I see it, either Otacon got lucky with a woman who didn't immediately die on him, or the duo managed to locate the hidden high-tech Patriots safehouse where they were keeping Olga's child and defied the odds to free them. The latter seems more likely. (Helps that she looks like Olga too.)
  • Otacon's also working on that little Metal Gear that was in Snatcher. That's cool, I guess. I hope it yells at me if I decide to peek on a girl taking a shower.
  • Ah, we're actually flying on some ex-military airplane called The Nomad. Sunny's yelling at Snake for smoking on what is presumably not a commercial airliner. Dude already looks like he's in his seventies; I don't think the tar is what's killing him, junior.
  • Before we continue... SMAKA (Stuff Mento Already Knew About) Alert #1 for this new playthrough: I'm aware that Snake is aging rapidly, and appears to be an old man when really he's in his 40s and it's only been about five years since the events of MGS2. I'm not quite sure why yet. I recall hearing from one of the earlier games that the Les Enfants Terrible project had some built in genetic failsafe that rapidly aged the clones in case they, I dunno, wanted to live a normal life or something. Solidus got hit with it extra hard as a means to explain why he looked older than Solid.
  • PMCs are now more populous than regular national forces, due to the lessening of the US's military after the Big Shell (of MGS2) incident. The only nations with overwhelming military might these days are the richer ones who can afford to pay for all these mercenary armies. Like the US. Wait...
  • Nice little shout-out to Raiden with the "more orphans, more child soldiers" bit of this briefing. How much did the Colonel pay for this Powerpoint presentation? It's super elaborate. After MGS3's less than kind treatment of the blond wonder, I think it's 50/50 whether he'll show up again.
  • France and UK have two of the most valuable PMCs? Sweet. Oh, they're run by Outer Heaven.
  • Outer Heaven is, of course, run by Ocelot/Liquid (Liquid Ocelot, I believe is the preferred nomenclature, because everyone is just an adjective and an animal in this series). For someone who hated his dad so much, Liquid's sure eager to complete his dream. And we gotta go kill him. What, you mean again?
  • The cutscene just turned into some 24-esque picture-in-picture thing. Did I do that? Why am I controlling the cutscene now? For a semblance of interactivity?
  • "There's a rebel army of ethnic minorities in the Middle East, waging a civil war against the regime in power." Way to get specific, Otacon.
  • So the mission is to sneak in disguised as one of the goons the locals have hired to stop the goons the regime has hired. We need to rendezvous with Rat Patrol 1, who will be henceforth referred to as Ratrol.
  • Colonel Campbell's getting awfully cagey with how well he knows Ratrol. I suspect we'll be seeing a certain someone's "fantastic ass" in due time.
  • That's the end of this briefing. I guess I learned some useful things. I've been told the extra context is useful, but I suppose I'll need to get a little further for that to sink in.
  • And now we're watching a commercial for an exercise program from some hell dimension. What is this? All it needs is Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom to show up, point at the camera and ask if we're ready for pain.
  • It's still going. Did they hire Tim and Eric for this?
  • Okay, this intro credits sequence is a little more somber than those commercials. The crazy tonal shifts are back. This is Metal Gear Solid all right.
  • "War has changed. It's in 1080p now. Well, upscaled to 1080p, but the difference in image quality from 720p isn't so signif-"
  • Oh shit, I'm in control. I put the contoller down because I fully expected this opening to take thirty minutes. Just a few lines grousing about "proxy battles" and "emotion control" (the original name for SIXAXIS?) and I'm suddenly neck-deep in Fallujah.
  • Sneaking through a warzone is interesting. The game's too linear right now to properly exploit all the commotion to hide myself, but it's letting me get a feel for... what the hell is that mooing sound?
  • What the jumping Jehoshaphat are these things? They look like AT-STs with weirdly muscular legs. Geckos, I think Otacon called them. Why do they moo?
  • Snake's cloak falls off, also displaying a new and overtly revealing muscleman Sneaking Suit. I feel like I just fell biceps-first into Cho Aniki.
  • Oh, so this is OctoCamo. SMAKA #2. I'd heard about this chameleon sneaking suit somewhere before. It boosts its own camo index so I don't have to, but I gotta sit/lie/lean still for a few moments for it to shift colors to match the surroundings.
  • Title drop. "Opening theme: Love Theme" credit seconds after. This is such a dumb movie of a game already.
  • And we're "Three Days Earlier"ing for more cutscenes in a graveyard. I get it. Start us off with something controllable and ease us into the five hour... wait, is that a button prompt?
  • Oh, so these are like little flashbacks you can trigger, a bit like the "Snake view" in MGS3. A few flashes of story points from previous games in case you forgot. I like how they made them all blurry and indistinct, both because that's how memories tend to work and also to disguise the blocky mannequins of MGS1 (though I suppose they're more likely to snatch those screengrabs from Twin Snakes, huh).
  • They addressed the aging thing. I guess they'd have to sooner or later. It's not like you can say "oh, he's always been this old, but you just couldn't see the wrinkles until the series went HD". FOXDIE was also brought up, so maybe that's partially to blame too. They did kind of leave that whole "FOXDIE's going to kill you at some point" thread dangling at the end of the first game.
  • Odd, we got a few seconds of the eggs and Sunny cutscene from the briefing before, but it suddenly skipped back to the warzone. Glad I saw it then, even if the game didn't consider it important.
  • Wait, Sunny helped build Otacon's Snatcher Metal Gear? Is she another child prodigy? Why are there are so many of these in this series? Otacon gives us the scoop on the Gekkos (why are they named like the guy in Wall Street)? Anyway, we're to meet with this robot ahead.
  • Got instantly spotted because I was getting used to moving behind cover and using CQC, discovered the game STILL doesn't have a "reload last checkpoint" button. At least I can go back to the title screen and load without waiting for them all to kill me, though it's only marginally quicker. Why is a convenient restart function still not a thing in a game that prioritizes stealth and rewards players who don't set off alarms? The mind boggles.
  • I almost stopped playing MGS3 because of this shit. I want to play these games stealthy. If I get caught, I'd ideally like to quickly reset the present area, and I really don't mind if I end up a few rooms back. I just don't want them to waste my time more than it already does with its Mickey Mousecapades hijinks about staring at boobs from inside a cardboard box. Every game past the first one (which can be forgiven, to an extent, due to it pioneering the whole genre) continues to surprise me with how lacking it is in some core game design necessities, and that's especially egregious given how much additional game design frivolities there are to an obsessive level.
  • Anyway, just because Snake looks like an old man, doesn't mean I have to grumble like one. I'll keep the kvetching down a tad as I keep playing. Well, at least the kvetching regarding series-wide problems. I'll keep the whining specific to MGS4, is all I can promise.
  • And I'll make sure to keep manual saves because I'm going right back to the beginning cutscenes for Big Boss's sake why is it doing this why did anyone think this was acceptable in 2009
  • Okay, grabbing the statue's junk is funny. You've won me back over, MGS4. Well, no you haven't, but I'll accept this as a peace offering. (It even comes off? I think if Michelangelo's David lost his D, I'd be more avid about it.)
  • I'm getting the hang of the controls again. They fixed CQC I noticed, making the "hold R1 while you're grabbing a guy" now the "knock him out" move rather than the "slit his damn throat" move. I wasn't informed ahead of time that no-kills was the preferential way to play this game, unlike in MGS3, but it's how I play every stealth game so let's stick with it. Of course, I'd need to get an actual tranq weapon first. The game's being a lot more cagey about giving me one off the bat this time.
  • I grabbed a PMC weapon after choking out a dude but I can't use it because of the ID tag. Clever stuff. Means I'm not finding high tech gear early and often, though presumably the ammo still works. Still, the way Otacon left off with "I wonder if there's a way we can remove the tags..." very pointedly suggests these locked weapons might be worth hanging onto.
  • Finally met with the Mk.2. It really is the Metal Gear companion from Snatcher. How long has Kojima wanted to reuse this little guy?
  • Neat, this little guy is just packed with gadgets. Now I have my tranq pistol and some "detective vision" eyepatch thing. Otacon calls it "Solid Eye" instead of "Snake Eyes" for some reason.
  • Man, this place is getting blown to shit. I think I got spotted trying to find the one staircase I was allowed to go down, but it didn't seem to have much impact. I'm sure I've lost some kind of amazing post-game item because of it, but...
  • Well, for the sake of transparency, I did check the trophies real quick (no spoilers!) and, unlike MGS3, they are completely asinine. In fairness, that was the case with most trophy/achievement sets around the time the feature was introduced to the 360/PS3 in the late 00s; it's clear no-one really knew what to make of them. At least that frees me up to be a little less stringent than usual. Probably for the best after the Kero-tan madness of that MGS3 Platinum run...
  • So all right, I'm in a safehouse now and the walls have finally stopped exploding all around me. It's dark and there's still hostiles around, but I'm a little more at home sneaking around in the shadows. The Solid Eye is super handy for being a combination enemy-spotter, radar, binocs and night-vision, though I'm guessing from the battery meter that I can't keep it on forever. Again, this feels like a convenience thing, though one that the game was thoughtful enough to include than to ignore, unlike the save states.
  • I'm grabbing all sorts of sweet gear I can't use from this bunker. It feels like I'm playing Borderlands in a late-game area with weapon drops and allies that are ten levels higher than me.
  • I didn't mention it earlier, but items in this game no longer spin around in circles in mid-air. Maybe the developers didn't think it was particularly verisimilitudinous or something. They got around the "well now the items just look like every other background prop" issue by having the Solid Eye point them out to you, including the item's name and other useful details like whether it's a weapon or a curative. Sneaky, but it means constantly having use this eye in the active item inventory (the L1/L2 side) instead of keeping rations available in case of healing. Would make more sense to just have this "normal mode" be the default vision format and add in other features (like the radar, binocs, night vision, etc.) as the power-draining bonuses you can switch on and off.
  • I also found a disguise. It'll make getting past the militia easier, but way harder to get past the enemy PMCs since they'll still shoot me on-sight, but I won't be able to use the OctoCamo to get away from... is that a monkey drinking Coke?
  • It's a cool black guy weapons smuggler. Drebin, that's a name that inspires smoothness and competency. Maybe we'll bring him along if we need to foil an assassination at a ballgame in the most slapstick way possible.
  • Actually, I wonder if this guy inspired the equally cool black guy gunsmith from Deadly Premonition? He had a stupid name too. "Wesley." Felt like I was Mr. Belvedere every time I bought something.
  • We've determined that Drebin's a useful asshole, so now we're trading weapons and counterfeit ID chips with him.
  • He just injected me in the neck with some suppressor thing to eliminate the old nanomachines (presumably the FOXDIE ones. Maybe should've removed those a long time ago?) I was wearing my militia disguise, though, so he actually injected all those priceless nanos into my headscarf.
  • You know, for a whole cutscene talking about how he's going to set us up with any guns we could want for the right price, he did just drive away before a vendor prompt came up to do any business. Maybe I'm supposed to do it remotely?
  • There's also "the war price" which fluctuates depending on the intensity of the fighting. I imagine that's an excuse to boost and drop the prices at random points in the game, story permitting.
  • I was right about the remote thing. That's a relief. Otacon said that I'll automatically sell duplicate guns I find, which is an awesome system that should be in more games. To my knowledge, the only other game that made it that convenient to sell vendor trash is the 2004 The Bard's Tale reboot, where treasures (and weaker/identical equipment) are automatically exchanged into their value in gold.

I was hoping to get to the end of Act One before stopping today, but I've clearly written more than enough for an inaugural "Mento Gear Solid" observation log. Chalk that up to a long intro and a lot of new mechanics to introduce.

My early impressions so far? Well, aside from the undercooked saving issue that I've already whined at length about, I'm starting to turn a corner on the game's other additions. The Solid Eye's a neat idea, I'm looking forward to using this robot more often to go exploring and this stuff with Drebin sounds like the sort of fun, dumb side-activity that I'm going to get weirdly obsessive about, tranq-ing folk so I can steal their guns (or have the little robot do it) and start earning Drebin bucks. That said, I have no desire to use any of the lethal weapons that need unlocking or purchasing - regardless of whether or not there's a big trophy/achievement for doing so, I always try to play stealth games with a no-kill style. (Of course, Dishonored tested that resolve by making all the assassination magic powers so darn tempting. I'm hyped for that sequel.) However, he does have one of those Mogin Nasant tranq sniper rifles at a ludicrous price, so I guess I'd better start building some credit.

When we come back for part two, I'm going to find the Rat Patrol (yeah, I didn't like "Ratrol" either) and hopefully get out of these war-torn adobes and into a cool metal base with lasers and Nikitas and shit. Old times, old crimes. See you then, everyone.

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ST-urday #004: Federation Quest 1: B.S.S. Jane Seymour

ST-urday's going to keep going down this Eurotrash hole for the time being, looking at the sorts of unique products coming out of my home continent in the late 80s and early 90s. We're back in the UK with Gremlin Graphics as it turns out, the developers behind the adaptations of board games Space Crusade and HeroQuest - the former was covered during the Estival ST Festival and the latter's definitely on the upcoming list. They acted as publishers for this particular game: the developer was a guy named Dr. Dinosaur. Yeah.

As for the past week, well, it's been a period of highs and lows. The passing of Satoru Iwata is a heavy blow that this industry, let alone Nintendo, won't be quick to recover from. It's a common observation that the higher up a corporate chain a person gets, the less they seem like a human; every public appearance they make is carefully crafted and stilted so as to not to lose face or seem weak in front of investors and millions of consumers. Iwata cared more about the games he was producing to ever let any of those corporate charades get to him, and dared to be silly in his frequent appearances in the Iwata Asks and Nintendo Directs his company would regularly produce. Dude always came across as genuine, and I hope Nintendo carries on in that spirit. Please understand.

On the flip side, between Contradiction: Spot the Liar! and Rocket League, we've had a lot of fun with GBEast coverage this week. And I was concerned there'd be nothing to show this month, smack dab in the middle of the Summer slump. Here's hoping next week will be just as entertaining; between SGDQ (check out my write-up for a Wiki Project concerning SGDQ if you haven't seen it yet) and Rick and Morty season 2 on the 26th, I just need to hang in there for another six days. I suppose there is that Metal Gear Solid 4 playthrough I've been putting off...

Federation Quest 1: B.S.S. Jane Seymour

Federation Quest 1: B.S.S. Jane Seymour (US title is "Spacewrecked: 14 Billion Light Years From Earth") is one of those games that, from all appearances, seems steeped in obtuse rules and mechanics, but is actually deceptively straightforward. You do need some direction before playing it though, which is why I'm here (or perhaps the wiser choice would be an online copy of the manual). There's a lot to unpack, but let's just start with the title.

I believe the Federation Quest series was meant to be a multi-part series of dungeon crawling games with a sci-fi theme. Think something like Captive, which I covered a little while ago in a Brief Jaunt: the mechanics of Dungeon Master, just with a handful of modifications to make it work in a sci-fi setting. I don't know how well this first game did, but it probably says something that there wasn't ever a Federation Quest 2. B.S.S. Jane Seymour is the setting of the game: a spaceship that was briefly lost to the Federation for over a year after being hit with the radiation from a nova before reappearing with failing systems and still a considerable amount of distance to go before reaching Earth (no Event Horizon hell dimensions, fortunately (or unfortunately?)). The player is one of the surviving crew, and must systematically repair each ship in BSS Jane Seymour's fleet (there's twenty, so that's twenty "dungeons") until they can get the transporters back online and can head over to the next one. The flagship at the very end of the chain is thought to have enough fuel to make the trip back home to Earth, though it'll also be the closest to full meltdown in the time it'll take to get there.

Of course, it's never that simple. Captured alien specimens have escaped and are rampaging across the ships, crewmembers have mentally deteriorated due to sustained cryosleep and are now psychotic madmen and every ship is continually losing power to vital systems, including life support. There's a ticking clock to every mission, though fixing a few key systems gives you some breathing room to fix the rest. While it's all a little confusing and stressful with that time limit and your limited means to defend yourself from hostiles, each of the twenty ships follow a similar repair process and you'll get into the swing of things quickly enough.

It's also distinctly less "RPG" than other games in the genre as your character never goes up levels or gets stronger: rather, the goal for each mission is to explore the ship, repair the key systems with coolant and move onto the next one. It's simply that items and geography get shifted around, tougher monsters are present and more systems begin on the fritz as you get further along. It's an odd format for a game - an action-adventure game with a dungeon-crawling format that emphasizes your role in the story as an engineer and mechanic with limited martial ability. It's a bit like EA's Dead Space in that regard, and almost as spooky when the lights go out.

Welcome to BSS Jane Seymour! As title screens go, this seems a little thrown together.
You get this cool little docking animation before the game drops us back to the main menu.
This is the main menu. You also come here to save/load the game, and there's even passwords if you don't have a formatted save disc handy. We can also select our avatar here: there's Arnold Schwarzenegger, or...
Téa Leoni? Let's stick with the Terminator. I suspect I'll need the muscle.
The game just dumps you in the hangar and lets you get on with it. It does at least give you a handful of useful items right off the bat.
We have a pass key with a limited amount of power, a goshdarned gun and a mysterious book.
Oh. Cute. Well, while I'm here, might as well explain this interface. Your face, heart and ECG all tell you different things about your status: face is HP (or "stamina") and gets progressively more skull-like as you take damage (what did I tell you all last time when playing T2? Skull HP gauges forever). Heart displays the effects of radiation or poisoning and the ECG changes if you've been performing strenuous activities, like fighting or running around too much. Your health comes back gradually, but not as quickly if you're stressed or poisoned.
Hydroponics is one of the many "non-vital" room types you can come across while exploring the ship. While vital to any star voyage, there's nothing we can do here: it simply serves as dungeon dressing.
There are many terminal rooms on the ship, and they act as great hubs because of how vital they are for information. The player has a map, a database of the creatures/crewmembers they might meet and a diagnostics window that tells you how all the ship's systems are doing, but all three can only be accessed from within one of these rooms. A room that can be interacted with has its own symbol on the bottom taskbar, which in this case is using the terminal. As long as I'm in here, I can access it.
The map fills in as you explore, of course, and uses a very easy-on-the-eyes grid model. Rooms also have number and color codes to help distinguish them.
The room codes tie into the ship's systems. There's a lot of information feedback here, but essentially the golden items are the "master" systems, while the greys underneath each of them are their "slave" systems. By fixing the golden one, you also fix the greys attached to it. I'll just quickly whizz through these: Bio Control involves the ship's lifeforms, which isn't so important on its own but if Cryogenics or Stasis Fields start failing, they'll unleash their contents (insane crewmembers and aliens, respectively) on the ship, which will be a big issue for us. Life Support is self-explanatory, and easily the most important to fix first. The galley serves food, making it a free-healing zone, but only if it's operational. Lighting is self-explanatory (hope you have a flashlight if it goes down), malfunctioning doors mess up the passkey system and rad filters are, in addition to being rad, necessary to prevent radiation poisoning. The rest are information-based, and if they go down you'll get less info from the terminal rooms. Phew!
Despite all that, our directions are clear: we need to find flasks (and the manufacturing room to create more), fill them with coolant in the laboratory and then head to the various rooms that house those master systems and repair them with the coolant. There's a few more wrinkles to take care of, but we'll access that bridge when we come to it.
Ah, the game's other big headache: robots. The player can have up to six robots following them at any given time. They have multiple applications, not least of which is additional inventory space, and can also be programmed to go off an perform repairs and other tasks while you focus your efforts elsewhere.
While each bot is purpose-built - the sensor droid here will inform me if enemies are nearby with its built-in lifeform detector - they can be given additional command routines via data cartridges you find lying around. I'll set this little guy to follow me for now, but it's worth keeping in mind that almost everything in the game eats power while turned on and the ship can only recharge so much while it's in disrepair like this.
I just so happen to have a Medical cartridge I found next to the droid, so now it'll heal me whenever I ask it to. Also, this red herring? Don't worry about it. It's not important.
That reclin-o-bed sure looks comfortable. If all the cabins look like this, I think I understand why everyone went insane. You might've noticed that the text side-bar has been yelling at us for a while about the missing energy flux decoupler - the ship can't really be fixed without restoring power first. Fortunately, that's what that thing in the middle of the room is.
It's a large item, so I can't carry it in my inventory: I can only hold or wear items that size, and the latter only if it's something I can put on (like a spacesuit). Fortunately, my robot chum's a little burlier than I am.
Hooray! This is one of the intermediary steps we needed to take of first. The initial dungeon makes it easier by putting it and the power room close to where we start, but future dungeons won't be quite so accommodating.
Regardless of how fixed some systems are, there'll still be rooms like this one where the lights don't work or there'll be too much background radiation around. With a flashlight it's not a problem, but you have to find one first.
I do have one. The game's generous this early on. I also have a lifescanner, a knife for when my gun runs out, a funnel which makes moving coolant around easier and... that's a flamethrower. Huh. Maybe I'll just take that with me...
Our first alien! Greedo here isn't a big threat, but I've already expended my handgun ammunition and have gone mano-a-fisho with this boxcutter. You can see that I've taken a few hits. An explanation for how weapons work: all weapons produce a crosshair on the main window, which jiggles around a lot as you try to line up a shot (because you're terrified, you see). As long as the crosshair is in within the monster's sprite when you fire, it counts as a hit. It makes for the worst FPS ever (a year before Wolfenstein 3D even!) but it's an interesting mechanic for this genre.
When enemies die, they leave behind... a typo and a not-so-well tended gravestone? This game likes to have its fun, imminent threats of disintegration aside.
Medibot here can patch me up. I sort of wish I'd remembered about the flamethrower during that fight, but switching weapons in your inventory happens in real-time and I was kind of busy.
The recharge room is a great find. As well as recharging my energy weapons - there's one on the floor there, conveniently - I can also recharge some other things.
Stuff like my flashlight, my robotic companion and even door passes. The way door passes work is that each door requires a certain amount of door pass "power" before they'll open. The higher the security clearance, the more power the pass needs. Key cards don't expire, but they will eventually drop to "red" making them useless until recharged.
Since I have a few full "white" door passes now, I can continue past some of the security doors in the previous corridor. i'd really like to start finding one of the four Master system rooms before I start losing lights and oxygen.
No real reason for this screenshot. I just wanted to show off these ugly carpets again. The game has some decent graphics for 1990, but these "MS Paint spray tool" floors aren't doing it for me.
Robot's about another two or three cartridges away from attaining sentience. That isn't a thing, but he sure is a little polyglot these days. I've now installed a Comms cartridge and given him a sci-fi walkie-talkie, so if I want to I can go send him around the ship to do tasks and report back to me. This is actually essential in some scenarios, as the background radiation will be too high to go myself.
Finally, I find a laboratory. I haven't found the manufacturing room yet, so I can only use the two flasks I've found so far, but I start filling them up post-haste. This filler will actually scan the flasks for imperfections first: the coolant is lethal to the touch, so as a safety measure the computer won't accept any flask that isn't perfect. It means there's a small chance (that increases the more you use a flask) this thing will reject and destroy any flasks you give it. Annoying, but if there's a manufacturing room nearby it's not the end of the world.
I've also found Life Support, which means I can finally start fixing this place up.
To fix a system, you need to inject with it as much coolant as you have to fill up that bar in the middle there. Your odds of successfully fixing the system is based on how broken it is and whether you have an applicator (that funnel thing in my inventory), a repair kit (which is necessary, and fortunately also nearby) and a robot with a repair cartridge.
I finally find a manufacturing room a little while later and start producing flasks. You can only hold five at once, but the robot can also carry some extra. Now back to the lab to fill these up...
While the systems continue to deteriorate as I mess around looking for flasks, I do at least have some means of fixing the ship now. It's simply a matter of finding the rest of the system rooms and carting coolant back and forth. I can program my robot to do the same if I want to speed things up.
There's also alternate decks, with more dangers and more vital rooms to find. But I think I've uploaded enough screenshots for today.

That's essentially how every mission goes in BSS Jane Seymour: the player has to quickly establish a foothold, find a number of items that range from crucial (flasks, pass cards, a weapon) to handy (an applicator, a communicator, robots) to downright pointless (crappier weapons, that dumb guidebook joke). As there's no RPG mechanics and no merchants, there's no reason to hang onto anything you don't need. It's a game about efficiency and exploration, and you're always bouncing between one objective or another. It does mean that the game gets a little repetitive - especially as every solution is the same - but there's a clarity that comes with always having some clear target to work towards. The game can also do some mean things with the "established route" once it gets further in, like hide the flux whatsit on the opposite side of the ship and turn all the lights off.

It's an interesting experiment, using the constraints of this very specific real-time first-person format with which to create a game that's really more like a sci-fi puzzle/strategy affair with some action and exploration thrown in. The sort of curiosity I purposefully began this feature to highlight, in fact.

(Back to the ST-urday ST-orehouse.)

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