You thought I forgot, didn't you? Or, perhaps more accurately, you didn't remember me saying anything about doing TG16 games or weren't aware in the first place. Well, I stated in my 2013 Resolutions blog that I would break out and beat a Turbografx-16 game every month this year for a bit of retro Turbo action as a way to address my unfortunate unfamiliarity with NEC's 8/16-bit hybrid console, since it skipped Europe entirely back in its heyday. I've mentioned the site a few times, but the very excellent internet documentary/entertainment series Chrontendo has been experimenting with a spin-off feature called Chronturbo that details the early games and history of the maligned console and I've rediscovered an interest in going back and playing a few of its best received titles.
For the record, I've been purchasing these games for the Wii's Virtual Console with all these free points I get for Club Nintendo from buying new games (though my new copy of Pandora's Tower didn't seem to come with a scratchcard Club Nintendo slip, so maybe they've stopped doing the points thing over here?). I'm still holding out for an official TG16 compilation though, possibly like the ones for Mega Drive games on Steam since that'll make it way easier to capture screenshots. Let's pretend we all live in that world, so I don't have to explain where all these pictures came from. Yes? Agreed.
My first game for this feature, tentatively dubbed TurboMento-12 (because, you know, twelve months in a year), is: Ninja Spirit, Irem's Arcade game answer to Ninja Gaiden which received its best home version on the TG16. It got a few releases on home computers too, but we all know how ass those tend to be. I know I do; I owned a damn Atari ST. Try playing anything originally from the Arcades on that business and see how much fun they are (N.B. The Amiga/Atari ST had a lot of strong points, don't get me wrong, it's just Arcade ports were not one of them).
Anyway, enough digressions. I'ma briefly take you through the entire game just below. It's... it's not a particularly long game. The Ninja Spirit that burns twice as bright burns for half as long, or something.
C'mon, Give This Feature a Chance! Where's Your Christmas Ninja Spirit?
After Mummies Alive! is comprehensively turned into Mummies Not Alive!, the dog (or wolf, I guess) changes back to its animal form, its task complete. His ninja master is avenged and only half a million other ninjas had to die in the process.
That's Ninja Spirit: It's a lot of fun, and hasn't aged to become this hard-as-nails completely inaccessible 8-bit game like so many others of its era. You have infinite continues (one of the few Arcade games to graciously leave that part in instead of imposing a hard limit) and its more difficult sequences just take a bit of trial and error, or luck. Sometimes it's as simple as trying a different weapon or not just wading through everything with your clones. Overall the game took about an hour to complete, so maybe don't rush out and spend $30 on it (though if anyone out there is actually charging that much, you can feel free to kick them in the teeth) but it's a worthy purchase consideration for the Wii Virtual Console or that aforementioned hypothetical Steam compilation I hope someone gets around to.
What is Irem even doing these days? Oh, they've gone back into full-time Pachinko machine production. Figures. Well, you have my assurance that at the very least this particular Irem product isn't completely balls.
Around this time last year I wrote a blog about a quintet of Wii games that, I felt, exemplified the Wii's occasional diversions into the inexplicable and unexplainable: Games that seem to defy any cut-and-dry genre definition or elevator pitch premise. People point to Nintendo's first-party staples, such as the Zeldas and the Marios and the Metroids and the Kirbys, as the chief reason to purchase any given new Nintendo system (and they're generally correct) but neglect to mention the innumerable eccentric titles from various tiny and obscure studios that really help to define the character and charm of the Japanese giant's consoles more comprehensively than their once-or-twice-per-console big names are capable of doing.
In fact, I made this pie chart last time that cogently points out how prevalent that sort of game is in the Wii's library:
So if all this pre-amble hadn't clued you in, I've got another five games I want to showcase as the sun continues to set on Nintendo's most profitable if most contentious console since... I dunno, didn't the Game Boy Advance do rather well? I should go look at some of those figures. While I'm doing that, here's some Wonderful Wii Wiirdness for you all to enjoy:
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
The full title of this game alone should give you some idea of how weird I'm prepared to go with this blog. Fragile Dreams, from the studio that brought you that Chopin's saccharine TB fever nightmare JRPG, is a gentle and emotional story about the end of the world and all its corpses, ghosts, broken down ruins of a once-bustling civilization, robots that think they're human and innumerable cats that love to be played with. Seto, the protagonist and only immediately evident survivor of some initially unexplained catastrophe that robbed the entirety of mankind of their existence, pokes around a series of ruins in and around the borders of Tokyo. In the process of exploring underground malls, sewers, theme parks, hotels, and, yes, even a hospital of sorts, he encounters a series of oddball characters and cries a lot. I mean, his friends keep dying on him and all, but he sure gets melancholic over the slightest things. Adding to this oppressive air of depression are the memory items: Random objects Seto can find that will reveal to him the thoughts and conversations of diverse members of the human populace shortly before they succumbed to their collective apocalyptic fate. Because this is the sort of game this is, every human being was apparently aware of their inevitable demise and spent plenty of time pondering their regrets and sorrows.
Yet it's also a super bright and cheery game, as perhaps might be anticipated from a tri-Crescendo joint, with every character looking like an overdressed mannequin from a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu music video, being all amazed at colorful marbles and blithely skipping through scenes of abject desolation. This is especially true of the waifish waifu Ren, the enigmatic silver-haired girl that Seto spends most of the game searching for after an early meet-cute. Even some of the ghosts are adorable, like the early jellyfish enemies with smiley faces. The crying Sadako-esque female ghosts with needles in their backs that open the skin to reveal giant, bloodshot eyes are perhaps less cute, but you can't begrudge (so to speak) the developers for wanting a multifarious bestiary. More like multinefarious, am I right? All right, fine.
Anyway, a slightly more in-depth exploration of the game can be found with this user review I wrote. If you've ever wanted to know more about that weird chicken head guy @Video_Game_King keeps posting in his blogs, go check it out. I knocked it down to three stars for its pacing problems, but if you're a patient sort and really enjoy death and sadness and apocalyptic despair, I'd recommend it.
Deadly Creatures is one of those games that has perhaps justifiably hidden under a rock since its release. Giant Bomb filmed a memorable Quick Look of the game which had plenty of fun at the expense of Jeff's arachnophobia (which any arachno-expert will tell you includes a fear of spiders and a fear of scorpions) but only the merest hint of the game's odd sensibilities. There are, for extended periods, sequences where the player spider is holding onto a wall and watching the world from a horizontal perspective. Vertiginous doesn't even begin to describe the game and its disorientating viewpoints. This alone makes it a curio, beyond simply "hey the player controls a bunch of bugs fighting other bugs", which might as well have been the byline to some deservedly long-forgotten N64 fighter. But fighting there is and it actually has its own in-depth system of combos, ducking and weaving enemy attacks and timing-based counters and Wii-Remote gesturing finishing moves. There's giant terrors to avoid, or at least that's what a rattlesnake and a Gila monster would appear to be to a three-inch-high scorpion, and a whole oddly addicting side-quest of eating every insect grub you can find, even if it involves crawling into tight enclosed spaces (like Jeff's shoes) or exploring the ceilings like 1980s Lionel Richie was wont to do when he wasn't being horrified by clay homunculi of himself.
The presentation will, at times, leave a lot to be desired. There are two human characters that the game occasionally announces the presence of by indirect means such as their booming voices and loud stomping, rather than you actually catching many glimpses of them - it initially feels like a clever Cloverfield reversal, where it stays its hand for as long as possible with revealing the largest of the antagonists you'll face, but you'll wonder just how deliberate that decision was when you finally do see them during a climactic battle with one of their crotches: It turns out they don't look so great, even with the Wii's limited means. But since most of the game involves fighting insects (which seem quite well-realised, down to their insect-like motions, which was one of the many things that unnerved Jeff in that Quick Look) and trotting around cool environments full of discarded trash and knick-knacks made to seem much larger to a humble bug, it's more or less effective at what it tries to do. Perhaps the weirdest part of all this is that the two humans are voiced by Dennis Hopper (his penultimate role, it would turn out) and Billy Bob Thornton and are embroiled in an entirely ancillary plot about betraying each other over a pile of found money, which has little bearing on the small-scale missions of the two playable characters, who just seem to want to kill each other for the heck of it. I guess you could draw parallels between their story and yours, but it's a stretch.
It's an interesting game, all told. Hell, it wouldn't be on this list if it wasn't. Give it a try if you aren't grossed out by creepy crawlies.
A Boy and His Blob
A Boy and His Blob is from the increasingly more renowned WayForward Technologies - developers of the recent Adventure Time game, Aliens: Infestation, that Double Dragon thing and the Shantae games - who have come a long way from their halcyon days of creating forgettable (and occasionally regrettable) license games. A Boy and His Blob was one of their early efforts that demonstrated the type of creative aspirations they had beyond dropping SpongeBob into another wacky adventure involving collectibles and jumping over spikes. Clearly inspired by the David Crane (inventor of Pitfall, lest we forget) NES cult classic of the same name, Boy and His Blob is a platformer-slash-puzzle game in which the player has to use a selection of jellybeans to transform his amorphous companion into shapes necessary to move past a series of obstacles, traps and enemies. The game begins gently enough, explicating on the various jellybeans and their effects in a breezy first world of ten mostly tutorial-based stages. The second world and beyond is where the game chooses to take the training wheels off and replace them with jet engines, requiring some precise jellybean action and a superlative control over the non-shapeshifting Boy as the duo parachute and trampoline through the worst the pleasant, hand-drawn world has to offer.
Actually, watching the footage of Ni No Kuni reminded me of this game a great deal, and not just because both feature a young boy, a tiny magical creature and some exquisite art direction. The atmosphere of both games seems geared towards a younger audience, but without compromising an older audience who is perhaps a little younger at heart. It's not afraid to get scary, or difficult, or thought-provoking, since the respective development studios responsible have had enough experience with writing for children and know not to look down on their ability to comprehend or enjoy slightly more challenging material. They're both games I was initially excited to get into, but it'll probably be the case that I will play through both years after their release (Ni No Kuni seems a bit pricey right now).
Any game based on a 20-year old concept is going to be a little odd, and that aspect is exacerbated further if that 20-year-old concept was weird to begin with, but there's a lot to recommend here. I wrote a little more about it back with this blog about shapeshifters, so go take a gander at that (and its Quick Look) to see if it's something you'd be into. As with WayForward's other recent platformers, it's a bright and colorful game that certainly doesn't pull any punches in spite of its easygoing demeanor.
Disaster: Day of Crisis
I feel a little bad adding this to the list, since it's currently the only game on here that doesn't seem to be receiving a US release. I suppose I could buy the Fatal Frame 2 remake and add that here too, but why be even more of a jerk? So I'll just include it in case the Operation Rainfall co-ordinators, still pumped up from their recent successes, decide to delve back into the Wii's back catalog for more Europe and Japan exclusives to champion. As I'll explain in a minute, it might be worth the struggle.
Disaster: Day of Crisis comes from a long line of natural disaster-based survival action games from Japan, something they unfortunately lost their taste for after the tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Crisis a couple years back. It's a shame, because it's a sub-genre that has a few ideas that you don't often see in the more established genres we have over here. So while not exactly as genre-defying as the other games on this list, it belongs to a genre we have very little exposure with beyond other similarly cultish games like Raw Danger and Disaster Report.
Day of Crisis is, well, sort of like a mini-game collection combined with a light gun shooter. Sounds like the two most over-abused shovelware Wii game genres meshed together, but it works better than it sounds. Well, at least some of the time. Therefore, it's safe to say the core draw for this game is its completely ludicrous plot and movie presentation: It plays like a trite Roland Emmerich disaster movie crossed with the dumbest and most explodiest Michael Bay action fare. The game focuses on ex-Rescue Team and ex-Marine depressed layabout Ray who quit after dropping his best friend into a volcano (oh hey there Cliffhanger), called back into service to stop a disgruntled but noble-intentioned armed forces bigwig from detonating a weapon of mass destruction over a major city (oh hey there The Rock) all the while avoiding - in this order - an earthquake, a fire tornado, a tsunami, a volcano, a massive flood and a potential nuclear explosion. As all this is happening around him, he has to foil an entire legion's worth of mercenary troops including their helicopters, tanks and what appears to be a Metal Gear. An imminent meteor strike is even hinted for the next game, though to be fair there's really nowhere left they could take a sequel. Wouldn't be surprised if the Four Horsemen showed up. It's not like Vigil's using them (too soon? Yeah, sorry).
It's perhaps not worth tracking this game down, considering it has more than a couple of faults of which its really awesomely farfetched movie aspirations can only absolve so much. I wrote a bit more about it in this review I did (and boy I sure am throwing a lot of links around) so if any further elaboration is desired, go clicky. Maybe just wait for Operation Rainfall's more outspoken proponents to set up a similar Operation Debrisfall and see if it bears fruit?
Talking of Operation Rainfall, perhaps it's time to take a close look at the third and final game of that campaign to earn its North American release: Pandora's Tower. What little people seem to know about this game is that A) you feed a poor girl monster meat (not a euphemism) and B) it's not as good as the other two Operation Rainfall games.
That perhaps isn't quite fair since it feels completely detached from those two. I mean, sure, it does have a blond, ruffle-haired protagonist pining for a love interest just beyond his reach, but Pandora's Tower is more like a 3D Castlevania or a Zelda, in that each chapter of the game focuses on a single tower-like dungeon with a boss at the top. The goal is invariably to find a way to reach that boss, kill it and take its flesh back to the deuteragonist to dispel her curse. In a Majora-esque twist, this curse will continue to work its fatal magics for as long as you're dungeoneering in the towers, adding something of a ticking clock to these jaunts into monster-infested territories. While this time limit is fairly generous - a hour in real time roughly speaking, about the same time it takes for Majora's Mask three-day march towards certain moony doom - the player is beholden to make the occasional return trip every now and again to jam some raw, gooey Steak monstartare down that poor girl's gullet so she doesn't have to suffer the painful intermediate effects of her curse which involve slowly turning her into some sort of purple tentacle monster. The quality of the ending is apparently (I say that because I'm not quite there yet) based on how much you've bothered to grow the affinity between the two main characters, which is increased with gifts, talking to her about her problems (WOMEN AM I RIGHT) and, oh yeah, not letting her turn into a hideous monster lady. That really puts her in a foul mood for whatever reason.
As much as this back-and-forth balancing act sounds like a pain, the game is carefully crafted to make it far less so. As towers are generally a vertical affair, the player can find ways to knock down ladders and make short-cuts wherever they go, and their first concern with any given tower is to remove the chains barring the boss's door which stay gone once those chains are destroyed. So like Majora's Mask, any progress you make in a dungeon is likely to carry over onto your subsequent visit, lessening any annoying incidents of having to repeat everything you just did. Likewise, the game throws even more bones at you by replenishing all the breakable items and a few of the environmental treasures lying about the place thereby creating a sort of Roguelike atmosphere, implementing some useful crafting and upgrading mechanics and including a handy (if dubious) shopkeeper back at home base to sell junk to that'll ensure that there's always a means to become stronger and better equipped if you're struggling with any given dungeon or boss.
I'll have more (I didn't even cover the cool mechanics of the primary chain weapon) when I review it next week but here's the skinny: It's not a perfect game by any stretch - I'll agree with the dissenters that it's easily the worst of the three Operation Rainfall games, though I say this as someone who adored The Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles - but it's as interesting and nuanced as any of the Wii's best indefinable games. Another five of which I've hopefully convinced a few of you to try out with this 'ere verbose screed what you just peeped. To paraphrase site fixture @Claude, "Jeepers, do I like my goshdarned Wii."
I'm writing about ghosts this week. Booo! Happy Halloween in January everyone, I hope you have your Jack Frost o' Lanterns keeping you warm and that the trick or treaters by the door that haven't all died from exposure. Because having frozen corpses of children near your property that you will have to later explain to a nice policeman is scary, and scary is the reason for the season here in Mento Blog Land this week.
Because I played the doubly disturbing Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (for its ghosts and also for its emotions) in the past few days, I wanted to highlight the versatility and innovation that the spectral dead bring to games that focus their narrative and/or gameplay on the intangible horrors that await behind the grey veil that crucially obscures our vision of the netherworld beyond and protects our ever so brittle sanity from a realm of madness from which there is no ret- Look, I just wanted to talk about ghosts. I like ghosts. From the zenith of high-brow culture ("Ghost Problems More") to that of its lowest nadir ("Ghostbusters 3: The Legend of Swirly's Gold: Swirly Being The Ghost In The Ghostbusters Logo Yes This Is All Going Into The Subtitle Mr Copy Editor I Don't Care How Messed Up The Posters Are Going To Look: The Official Game of the Movie"), our entertainment mediums (so to speak) have discovered many a means of incorporating the incorporeal in a way that will either titillate us with jump scares or make us ponder solemnly about how death is such a huge bummer. Both are equally terrifying, frankly.
So, then, a video game history/rundown of apparitions and their applications as they pertain to our favorite hobby. Hold on tight, because this spookhouse ride doesn't have brakes. And we're all out of ride tickets. That cotton candy is turning to grit in your hands. The... the carny guy outside looked at you funny. It's probably, I dunno, 50, 55? degrees outside and that's sort of chilly if not really the kind of weather where you'd bother wearing extra layers, you know? I think people get way too weird about it being a few degrees cooler and-
What the hell am I even talking about? Here's ghosts:
Ghostly Quality #1: Identifiable Shapes
Yeah, ghosts kind of got an inauspicious start when they originally appeared in the video game scene, starring alongside a ravenous pizza beast that was debatably scarier than they were. It's been said on numerous occasions that ghosts were chosen as Pac-Man's eternal nemeses because of how simple and identifiable a shape they had. Since they were mortal, in a sense, they rarely registered as true ghosts. Really, they could well have been any sort of being that regenerates their entire corporeal forms from a pair of sentient eyeballs. The list of real-life animals that can pull off a similar feat is literally endless.
As the Pac-Man franchise continued to innovate in the video gaming world - creating one of the earliest side-scrolling platform games, the earliest game to feature a (I'd say non-sexualized, but oh man that beauty spot. You know what I'm talking about, hey fellahs? Dismembered lady torsos ain't nothin' on that business, hoo boy) female protagonist, the first instance of a video game teddy bear getting visibly irate that bizarre creatures were stealing his jelly beans - the ghosts likewise continued to be a presence in Pac-Man's oft-dark world of fruit and steroid abuse. To Pac-Man and a generation of Arcade-obsessed youths, they were villains; to every other spook on this list, they were trailblazing heroes.
Ghostly Quality #2: Look, But Don't Touch
Moving ahead to the mid-80s now, we have a couple of examples of ghosts in perhaps their most commonly used role: That of an undead horror from which you were expected to run away from very fast. Obviously, the Pac-Man ghosts had a bit of that aspect too, but they came from an era where everything killed you in one hit. In that respect they were no different than the robots in Berzerk, those space invaders in that one game (Defender?) or even the mindless space rocks of Asteroids. When video games invented hit points and saving and ghosts were still a nightmare to deal with, that's where this category comes in.
My first example is the Scarlet O' Hara ghost from ICOM's Uninvited, one of the three original MacVenture adventure games (along with Shadowgate and Deja Vu) that most users here will probably know from its NES incarnation. This spiteful spook will wait inside of one of the many doors on the first floor landing and hover benignly in front of you until you decide to do something. If you do decide to do something, like try to reason with it, it'll suddenly be all up in your grill and tearing your face off. It's the game's first big scare and first instance of a puzzle you cannot escape from without the right item (even trying to leave counts as "agitating" it), so if you hadn't yet been introduced to the game's save feature, well, you'll know better than to open a bunch of weird doors next time. Honestly, if you're coming to this game from Shadowgate and still haven't learned that crucial lesson, it's hardly the game's fault for insta-killing you for no reason.
The other example comes from D&D. Rather, the early computer games that commendably managed to squeeze in so much of the venerable table-top's immense ruleset in lieu of graphics or sound or pretty much anything else of note. D&D has a lot of rules in particular regarding how bad for your health a run-in with any of its menagerie of non-corporeal entities invariably tends to be. If we look at Might & Magic VII, which despite being released at the turn of the millennium still uses many of the old-fashioned ideas of its 80s antecedents to be deliberately nostalgic, ghosts will occasionally prematurely age you an entire year upon contact, with nary a congratulatory slice of birthday cake to compensate. They really don't mess around in those old games. Fortunately, the age of the characters makes no appreciable difference and this unnatural aging can be reversed for a sufficient amount of tithes at your local chancel, but it's a relatively early in-the-game wake-up call that impolitely informs you on the importance of letting the dead lie. Or float. But float somewhere else, preferably.
Of course, it's no fun if ghosts are this intangible, invincible presence in a game. Games are all about killing things, whether they be aliens, monsters, foreign people who disagree with America or the undead. As such, video game ghosts are usually vulnerable to something, even if that something needs to be equally magical in nature to compensate.
The Fatal Frame series, known over here in Europe as Project Zero and simply Zero in Japan, features the Camera Obscura: An enchanted photography machine that is somehow able to banish ghostly essences due to crystals or qi energy or God knows what hippy spiritual nonsense that goes on over there. It's really just a contrivance to make sure the only way you can hurt any given ghost is to let it get really close to a first-person viewfinder and scare the crap out of you first. That the camera is based on an actual legend was something of an added bonus for the game developers, I feel. In addition to fighting malevolent ghosts, it can also be used to catch those brief glimpses of less aggressive apparitions as they attempt to direct your frightened teenage girl protagonist (usually) to where the next jump scare piece of the puzzle is located. However, the solution behind whatever happened to everyone to turn them all non-corporeal and sinister generally needs to take the most circuitous route possible around the creepy mansions that feature in the Fatal Frames. It's the Cretan Labyrinth effect: Though by all appearances a maze, there is in fact a single route with no dead-ends that is intended to take as long as possible to navigate around, the idea being that you can not escape the minotaur in the middle and still be horribly lost and confused by the time you reach it. In this case, that means not escaping the terrifying ghosts that lie waiting in every innocuous clothes hamper, wardrobe or well because you'll be required to probe them all for the next key or emblem or crest or precious stone or-
Really, though, it's when games view ghosts as something beyond an enemy or an obstacle is where they really start to shine. Or give off an unearthly glow, as the case may be. Ghosts have problems; it's usually implied as to being the reason why they're still around. Solving their problems allow them to pass on to the other world, and gets them out of your hair to boot.
Echo Night: Beyond is a slow-paced survival game in which an astronaut explores a silent and empty space station. Or rather, empty but for the ghosts. The ghosts are generally depicted as invincible terrors that will quickly kill you if you linger too long in their presence, but are otherwise non-hostile. Instead, the path to success is to find items - keepsakes - of their past and help them discover the reason for their regret and find their eternal rest, at which point they stop haunting the critical path and you can move onto the next part of the game. This is conversely to something like Dead Space, where the specters of the deceased are distraught about their fates, but choose to express this by tearing your head off with their horrible jabby monster limbs.
Fragile Dreams, to go back to that whole "game I've been playing this week" inextricable aspect of these blogs, is another game that is largely atmosphere and only occasionally hitting spooky things with sticks. While exploring the dilapidated remains of civilization, since everyone got wiped out by a mysterious disease save the hero and a few others, said hero will find items that are imprinted with the memories of the deceased, allowing you to hear their final thoughts. It's all part and parcel of the game's overbearing sense of melancholy, only topped by the sheer depression porn that was Lost Odyssey, but it's a way of instilling terror you don't often see in games, especially not games with art direction as cutesy as tri-Crescendo's (the developers of Eternal Sonata, the saccharine presentation of which would suggest that Chopin was dying of Type-II Diabetes rather than Consumption): Rather than instinctual fear of the unknown, or the similar instinctive fear of a big thing about to eat you, or even that elusive existential dread that causes one to break out in cold sweats, it emphasizes the fear of just being all alone in a dark place.
And of Chickenhead too, of course. I don't think that sort of terror even has a name.
Ghostly Quality #5: I'm a Ghost?!
Finally, we have developers who have long since grown tired of watching the ghostly types flaunt these miraculous powers of theirs and decided it was time the players had a turn at the haunting game. By making a haunting game. Ghost protagonists have all the strengths of their ghost brethren and none of their weaknesses. No wait, that's Daywalkers - I get those confused sometimes. Rather, then, ghost protagonists have the ability to possess objects and occasionally people, depending on the game, and can also walk through walls and generally be invisible and when they want to be.
Oddly, many ghost games put you as something of an antisocial sort who wishes to chase out the fleshy denizens of your (technically former) domicile with whatever's handy. This is the case with games like Haunting: Starring Polterguy for the Genesis and a significantly more playable Indie game that was inspired by it, named Haunt the House. Then you have games like Geist and Ghost Trick, where the goal is to use these items and people to your advantage in some way, and solve environmental puzzles with the rules you've been presented. In both those games, there tend to be some harsh and limiting requirements to your ghostly skills and where you can take them, because otherwise being allowed to go anywhere and do anything will make things a bit too easy. Dead easy.
Hello Spider-friends and welcome to another Mento Miscellany. Somehow I powered my way through four different games this week, and no way in Niflheim am I going to find some interesting method to tie them all together conceptually like I usually do. So instead, you're getting one of these cop-out round-up blogs instead. Enjoy!
XCOM & X-COM (and a little bit of Space Crusade)
I have plenty of good things to say about XCOM, though I suppose I'd be largely preaching to the choir at this point. I mean, this very site did just name it their Game of the Year less than a month ago. The Walking Dead is probably more important, at least in terms of an evolutionary step forward for game narratives (though maybe perhaps a few steps behind the infinitely more sophisticated Choose Your Own Adventure book format, if you ask me) but the myriad ways that XCOM succeeds at what it sets out to do is equally promising for the future of video games.
It managed to simplify and modernize without lessening the appeal of its original (and quite dated) source material, cherrypicking its best aspects while excising much of the dead weight and overly complicated systems that made the original so intimidating (well, that and the difficulty, and the latter is such an indelible trait of the series that amending it would be an irrational decision). That accomplishment alone perhaps isn't too significant, as Skyrim managed to pull it off last year and Deus Ex: Human Revolution the year prior to that. It's become emblematic of a decent series relaunch; it's also the bar at which this manner of franchise resurrection is now set. In other words, a bar that similar relaunches like the new Tomb Raider will need to reach with a running jump, lest they fall and break both their legs and a dinosaur eats them. Figuratively speaking.
More impressive, then, is how XCOM managed to wrangle a new generation of fans without alienating (pun intended?) the fans of the original games. Or maybe that's just "game", since UFO Defense didn't quite have the follow-up it deserved back in its day (though I'm sure Terror from the Deep has its exponents around here). For me, nostalgia for sci-fi turn-based strategic shooters goes even further back, with Gremlin's Space Crusade, coming soon to a Brief Jaunt any day now. Space Crusade was an antecedent to the original X-COM and the more elaborate Warhammer 40k video games both, acting as it originally did as an introduction to Games Workshop's oft-ludicrous space opera wargaming dreadnought.
This was what most appealed to me personally about the new XCOM: Much of its new combat rules, which wisely sacrificed the GURPS-esque action point system on the altar of newcomer-friendly explicability, instead seems to borrow from Space Crusade directly. I want to believe the original X-Com took a lot of its cues from Space Crusade and its similar ilk (Lords of Chaos definitely deserves a mention, which is really X-Com but with illusionary armies of grizzly bears), but the simpler mechanics like the ability to move and shoot, or shoot without moving, or moving more instead of shooting, all without being dictated by a variable point total that arbitrarily assigns certain actions as more strenuous than others seemed like they skipped a generation. Perhaps it's a spurious connection, since Space Crusade is simply one of many turn-based strategy games of the early 90s with a wonderful simplicity that was as much due to serendipitous limitations of computers at the time than some enlightened game design decision, but it made the resulting package of XCOM: Enemy Unknown feel like a "best of" of the turn-based squad games of my youth.
Anyone who reads this blog "on the reg" - as the kids might say, if they sounded like assholes - might know, I occasionally do these Fine Tuning blogs that take the many games I've played of a certain genre and extrapolates from them a hypothetical result that is the best of all possible worlds. It would seem that XCOM beat me to the punch in this particular case.
Barkley, Shut Up and DAMN, is this game odd
I made it one of my new year's resolutions (a more in-depth follow-up later this blog) to finally play through Tales of Game's RPG Maker Indie cult classic Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden after a group of friends of mine were excitedly discussing the upcoming Kickstarter-funded sequel. I dimly recall a thread of the game they had made around the time the original was making waves shortly after its release in 2008, where each new insane revelation and weird reference was highlighted and picked apart. I deliberately stayed out of the thread, deciding I would need to play this game for myself and observe its wonderful weirdness first-hand. I guess I must've forgot, because it faded from memory and the slow burn humor of the various Quad City DJs mash-ups to hit YouTube in the years hence fell on jam-deaf ears.
But I finally loaded up and beat the game in a matter of hours earlier this week and, man, is that reputation well-deserved. I guess it's a testament to how well it's crafted that most of the jokes and references still resonate, despite being either long since played out memes or referring to a certain era of 90s basketball I had little to no knowledge or interest thereof. Much of the appeal came instead from the game's many digs at hoary JRPG tropes, as plentiful and prevalent to the game as its basketball references and real-life b-ball all-star cast. This is despite the fact that many of its jokes probably worked better back when everyone was making derivative RPG Maker mediocrities with horribly mangled sprites and jpeg photo portraits applied liberally throughout. BSUaJ:G has all that as well, of course, but you get the sense it was more of a deliberate tongue-in-cheek decision; that this new sequel deigns to replace all the graphical assets with entirely new, original art seems to attest to that.
I don't really want to talk too much about the game, other than I advise anyone who hasn't played it to do so. It's not a particularly large RPG, and the way the combat mechanics incorporate player triggers in the same manner as something like Final Fantasy 8 (or perhaps 6, since Sabin's odd combo-input system is also present) makes the combat encounters enjoyable beyond the fleeting novelty of the oddball enemies you'll face. Also, and unlike Zeboyd's similar parodic 16-bit JRPGs which kind of screwed the pooch in this regard, the game never lingers on one spoof idea or trope for too long: Dungeons are short and sweet and annoying JRPG instances like a healing boss or a maze-like lair pass by as soon as the joke's worn off. I'd like to believe this was done on purpose, because it's relatively simple to craft a dungeon everyone will hate for being too long or too complex even if you're being satirical about them. It's a quality game, it'll make you laugh a few times and it's completely free. I'm sure Patrick's breathless extolling of its incoherent virtues on the podcast (a happy coincidence that we played it at the same time) will have already persuaded anyone who might want to play it, but here's another recommendation from me anyway.
Spelunky: A Deathtrap Dungeon That's Better Than the First Spelunky. And Also Deathtrap Dungeon.
I've been wracking my coconut on how best to review a game like Spelunky. Specifically, how to talk about its abject cruelty in such a way that it comes off as the positive trait that greatly enhances the game it somehow inexplicably is. I decided the best way to do so would be to write down some of the deaths my character suffered and write about what precisely went wrong for my stalwart hero in these particular instances. I figure it should eventually be obvious to whomever's reading that dying, rather than (or, I suppose, in addition to) being the huge bummer it invariably is in these "one death and you're out" Rogue-like-likes, is an inextricable and inevitable aspect of the game.
This is the default green protagonist. I don't believe she has a name. For the purposes of this review, I'm calling her Spelunky Brewster. What Spelunky Brewster lacks in protective headgear, she makes up for in sheer moxie. Here's just a few ways Spelunky Brewster met her (temporary) end, Darwin Awards style:
Knocked off a high ledge by a spider into another spider, losing all four hearts instantaneously. This happened five seconds after starting a level. Rule #1 of Spelunky: Beginners are welcome.
Tried to emancipate a "kissing booth" girl - one of many shady establishments manned by a legion identical-looking irascible shopkeepers - getting both herself and the girl shotgunned to death by the pimpslavemaster entrepreneur. Rule #2 of Spelunky: Your ethics are no good down here.
Attempted to carry a Maneater plant to somewhere out of the way. Stunned enemies don't stay stunned forever, even while carrying them. Certainly not ones that can instantly devour you. Rule #3 of Spelunky: You're gonna carry that weight. Until it eats you.
Disarmed an arrow trap by cleverly activating its proximity sensor with an urn. However, a second trap waited just beyond. Ingeniously, the first trap's arrow was thrown upwards to activate the second trap. The second arrow harmlessly bounced off the nearby wall, but the original fell straight down on her head and killed her. Rule #4 of Spelunky: Spelunky does not differentiate between the stupid and the resourceful. All are equally boned.
A tiki-trap, where spikes come out of either side of a statue, was placed right next to the exit to a level. If you're fast enough, the trap is avoidable. Rule #5 of Spelunky: If.
Won a valuable item as a prize in a roulette-based gambling den. Elated at this uncharacteristic stroke of luck, walked right into another tiki-trap. Rule #6 of Spelunky: Easy come, easy impaled.
Gets the message "I hear the sound of rushing water!". Not knowing what this means, she gets it helpfully explained to her by a giant piranha. With its teeth. Rule #7 of Spelunky: If you get a message, there's something big and horrible you'll wander into. Or it's a dark level, in which case wandering stupidly into your own death becomes all that much easier.
Killed by a mutant snail's toxic snot bubble. Rule #8 of Spelunky: Treasure-hunting can often be a glamorous career.
There's a certain height limit that a character can fall before they'll hurt themselves. Despite not being able to actually see the floor beneath a ledge, she deduced the damage from the fall still wouldn't kill her. Rule #9 of Spelunky: Fall damage is negated by spikes.
Boomerangs hit twice: Once on the way forward and on the way back. It also stuns you for a moment. This moment is generally long enough for the boomerang to make it back to its wielder so it can be thrown again. Your initial health total is an easily-divisible-by-two four hearts. Rule #10 of Spelunky: Stun-locking? We have that.
Found the hidden "Giant Worm" level. Got Kaori'd by its regenerating cells. Its far from the only thing that will kill you in that horrible place, though. Rule #11 of Spelunky: When has being eaten by a giant worm ever ended well? Don't expect to find Gogo in this game. (Though funny I should mention secret characters trapped in worm viscera...)
Some wonderful human being left a landmine on Kali's altar. Generally, if her altar explodes she blames the player. However, the legion of jumping spiders that erupt from sundered altars, as aggressive as they are, are powerless to kill the recently exploded to death. Rule #12 of Spelunky: Doesn't mean they won't play with the body for hours.
The UFOs of the Ice Caves fire laser bolts straight downwards and will also explode when struck down, making them dangerous before and after you defeat them. Leaping safely over a UFO, she didn't notice the one above it that immediately shot down towards her. She avoided it deftly, letting the bolt kill the first UFO, which subsequently dropped its explosive wreckage on top of her. Rule #13 of Spelunky: Fuck you.
I have since beaten the game. With short-cuts, naturally. But from what I'm reading of its bonus areas, I've only seen the tip of the iceberg of what this game has to offer. Reaching the Hell levels and extricating Yang, the tutorial character, from his grisly fate requires such a huge amount of fortuitous coincidence and focused, error-free playing that I've preemptively thrown in the towel. Then again, I never thought I'd be able to carry that key from the Mines all the way to the end of the Ice Caves to unlock the last short-cut, so maybe some Arino-esque perseverance is required...
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale with Cheese
I've been playing a little of Sony's oddly familiar brawler of late, since I have around seven rental vouchers left that expire at the end of Feburary and, heaven forfend, I might actually have to spend them on movies at this rate. It's not a game that I would call particularly polished, since most of its budget appears to have gone into its stages and not so much on the menus and other cosmetic details. Seriously, it looks like its using placeholder text for much of its GUI. But hey, why complain about menus when there's so much of the game itself to crucify?
Honestly, it's not that bad, just kind of an underwhelming whiff of a game that doesn't seem to try to improve on the very first N64 Smash Bros, let alone its incrementally busier sequels. There's a handful of starting characters (there's presumably a few more than can be unlocked), a bunch of Modern Warfare-esque superficial perks that only unlock if you play the same character over and over and are rather unimpressive regardless and a complete lack of the sort of nostalgia fest that Smash Bros is predicated on. By which I mean there's none of those cool trophies or many, many cameos, beyond what inexplicably pops up in the background on any given stage. I realize Sony doesn't have the wealth of first- and second-party exclusives that Nintendo does, at least as far as ones that provide a host of unique mascot characters, but what's proffered is a really barebones assortment. It's only exacerbated by the crazy rule-set the game follows, too. When Smash Bros imposed the rule that a character can only be killed after it leaves the stage one way or another, it took a while for players to adjust to, but at least you still got a sense that your normal attacks were doing some harm: The way opponents were increasingly unable to recover from your attacks had a nice feedback to it, as did weakening an opponent and finishing them off with something spectacular. Conversely, nothing does any harm whatsoever in PAS:BR besides those special attacks, which just disintegrates the opponents instantly. It's just not satisfying to anything like the same extent.
I could go on and on about how the game unwisely borrowed the worst aspect of Smash Bros Brawl - that would be the Smash Balls, represented in this game as the characters' level 3 attack, with which a single player gets to have all the fun for a while and the rest run around like helpless ducklings - or how half the characters are uninteresting realistic human characters that don't have much of a personality (Radec, Cole, Kratos, Raiden, Nariko, etc.) and even when they do, they don't really stand out adjacent to the cartoonish characters like Ratchet, Sly or Sack Boy. I worry though that most of the complaints I have are knee-jerk fanboy outcries against a game that so brazenly copied a beloved Nintendo franchise that I'm not allowing myself to see the merits it may well have. It could be an entirely acceptable one of these games. And, really, it's entirely acceptable that this just happens to be a genre that exists now, especially given how much Smash Bros itself borrowed from Power Stone. I definitely don't hate it (I believe the word I used was "underwhelming") and I definitely don't hate Parappa the Rapper, Sly Cooper, Jak, Ratchet and Clank, Ape Escape guy and many of its other "all-stars", so I'll stick with it a little longer. I can't imagine I'll have changed my tune by the time it's due back in a few days, though.
OK, time to wind this text dump down a bit with a resolution update. Last week I made ten resolutions that I intend to keep for 2013, ranging from chipping away at my backlog to trying classic games for a console I never played and avoiding as much gun violence as possible.
Since I've beaten three of my Pile of Shame items already, I'd say I'm doing pretty well. However, in each of the three games I've played that weren't XCOM, I've actually gunned another human being which was something I intended to avoid for the year - either by ignoring games with a lot of shooting or simply finding other paths to progress. In all three cases, I didn't even realize I had broken that rule until after the fact. Whether it's due to desensitization, or my inattentiveness, or the fact that the kills in question weren't particularly violent - shooting Kratos as Nathan Drake was fair game (dude had a sword on a chain!), Hoopz Barkley doesn't go anywhere without his trusty ZX Zaubertech hand gun, and the shopkeepers in Spelunky had it coming Kali curse them - it's still rather remarkable I managed to break it so quickly and so easily multiple times. Instead, I'm amending that particular resolution to simply be mindful of how many people I'm blowing away in these games, while still avoiding those that glorify it a bit too much. Again, not going for anything too political here, but I'm trying to see if those idiotic, out-of-touch naysayers have at least the merest hint of a point about this sort of thing.
That's your lot for this week. Check out my January Comic Commish if you haven't already, and I'll see you around the site. Probably. I mean, where else am I going to hang out?
It only took me four months to notice, but that title is kind of misleading, huh. Like I ought to be cracking down on comics in a pre-Shield Michael Chiklis way, back when he still had hair and brought some levity to his police work.
Either way, I'm sure you all know the drill by now, but if not: GB user @omghisam purchased a Gold membership for my broke ass, and I feel obligated to repay his kindness with these silly little comics. Similarly, I owe the Giant Bomb crew for making all these great premium features I now have access to. I've been doing this since October (that would also include November and December) of last year and am somehow not slowing down with these goshdanged ideas for new features. Whether or not that's a good thing I'll leave to the philosophers.
Premium Content For Your Premium Contempt
So one of the bigger threads of late involves Giant Bomb's East Coast Correspondent Alex Navarro asking people for premium content ideas. Since I believe this is the first recorded instance of a staff member reaching out to the community for ideas, and I do sort of have this monthly recurring premium feature suggestion thingy and everything, I feel I ought to throw another brainchild his way. Essentially, Alex argues (with himself) if the movie adaptation of a game (or a game adaptation of a movie, more likely) is better than the source. When you have to objectively rate the Acclaim/Ocean/LJN movie licensed games against TANG-bait like Uwe Boll's Uwe-vre, I guess you just have to hope that when you flip the coin that it somehow explodes and kills you (to paraphrase Bernard Black).
Following that amazing 60 Minutes parody in the GOTY videos, Jeff and Ryan investigate other fictional drugs from video games and their effects, estimating the devastation that would result should they find their way into the hands of an entire generation of impressionable youths. Possibly also taking them themselves and doing silly shit for an hour or so. For some reason, I can't see anyone else but Ryan in a narc role. Yeah, no idea why that is.
So Brad's managed to defeat a bunch of his "Breaking Brad" subjects, and I'm starting to think he should look for a new premium feature. It's just no fun at all to watch Brad succeed at things, after all. Here's just a handful of suggestions that he might hypothetically receive from his various work colleagues and close friends. And Rorie.
Just a bunch of goals for 2013. I have a Pile of Shame already, because you can't have enough ways to make your entertaining hobby less so, but I want to stay focused this year. I have no idea how many new games will end up grabbing me, though I suspect a lot of companies will be shifting their development efforts to the new generation of consoles so maybe there'll be a dearth? Or maybe not? Regardless, it's about time I cleared some of this backlog, buy and play some recent games that I shouldn't have missed out on and just overall make the following year's gaming a little more interesting.
1. BEAT ONE TURBOGRAFX-16 GAME PER MONTH
I made an abortive attempt some years ago to get into the TG16 blogging game, as a response to its games inexplicably appearing in the Wii's European Virtual Console despite the fact that NEC never elected to release the console in this territory. With the renewed interest in the device coming from Jeff and co, hearing about its odd history on Chrontendo (specifically its Chronturbo sub-series) and seeing a few highlights of the console's library featured on GameCenter CX, I figure I'll take another whack at it.
I'll frame each one as I do with the Brief Jaunts, probably, with lots of screenshots and a perfunctory review/explanation of each game and how well it has aged in the two decades since most of them originally came out. I suspect I'll just pick twelve generally well-regarded games I won't hate, since that system sure seems to have a lot of shoot-em-ups that I suck at. I have been meaning to get around to Rondo of Blood, after all...
2. FOCUS MORE ON "DOWNLOADABLE" XBLA/PSN/STEAM/GOG/DESURA GAMES
If 2012 made a strong case for anything, besides "America doesn't want a rich asshole President", "jumping from a plane in low orbit is awesome" and "Koreans sure dance weird", it's that those little games on the various digital distribution networks can no longer be ignored or derided as quirky puzzle-platformers of little substance. Universally, at least. Whether or not you rated The Walking Dead, Journey, Fez, FTL or Hotline Miami highly on your respective Game of the Year Top Tens, you can't deny how well they represented themselves last year. As such, I've decided to keep a closer eye on new releases from that particular market in 2013. I'll also probably play more of the ones I've already accrued on Steam and the like, since I seem to keep piling them on. Another year of Humble Indie Bundles and Indie Royale Bundles will ensure a constant stream of the things, no doubt.
Honestly, though, I probably won't be forsaking the big retail releases this year either. Especially since I can just rent those for far cheaper than even these $10-$15 Indie games run. Curiously, the XBLA title I'm most interested in right now is Banjo Tooie, so I can hardly claim that I'm poised at the cutting edge of this new, smaller sub-industry.
3. REVIEW EVERY GAME I BEAT
I won't review any game that was released before the site was launched - no disrespect to the many retro reviewers out there, but I just can't see that information as overly helpful nor can I really write in that "do I score it based on its era or do I mark it down because of how unfavorably it compares to games of today?" mind set. Besides, most of the older games I'll be playing this year will be the aforementioned TG16 games, which will probably receive a sufficient amount of elucidation in those blogs anyway.
I probably won't bother reviewing games that receive (or have received) a staff review. Adding my two cents amid a sea of other user reviews introduces a fun competitive aspect to the process, but no-one pays those screeds any heed if the game has something official written on it by the Bomb Crew. Besides, anything that important will be probably be reviewed to death by everyone and their grandmother anyway. Or it'll be reprehensible dreck they foisted onto poor Alex Navarro for somebody's twisted amusement, in which case I probably won't be playing it in the first place.
All that said, I'm really only doing this to get better at writing critically. So I'll probably willfully ignore my own stipulations? Resolutions are fun to write.
4. WIKI COMPLETION PROJECT: THE FAMICOM DISK SYSTEM
Through an odd coincidence that is in some considerable part due to my recent habit of reading up on NES games and inputting anything worthwhile about them into the wiki, I've managed to update a lot of entries about the once-powerhouse NES peripheral. In fact, I've actually added some 50+ FDS pages to the wiki personally. For those unaware of what one of these Famicom Disk Systems is, a brief history lesson: The Famicom Disk System was an early device that allowed Famicom users (i.e. Japanese NES users, since the FDS was never released elsewhere) to play floppy disks on their system. The disks allowed for more memory storage as well as the ability to save one's game, which were the few benefits that owning a home computer had over Nintendo's console at the time. As I'm sure most of you are aware, NES carts eventually evolved to the point where they could do everything these floppy disks could and then some, all while not requiring the annoying task of flipping the disk over, and so the FDS struggled to entice big developers to produce content for it save Nintendo themselves. By the 90s, new FDS releases had slowed to a crawl. Before then, though, they were the original format for games as important as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Castlevania and Super Mario Bros 2 (both the US/EU SMB 2's original incarnation Yume Koujou: Doki Doki Panic, and the Japanese SMB 2 best known to us as The Lost Levels).
Since approximately half the 192 FDS games (excepting all the hentai unlicensed games, though a few are on the wiki much to ZombiePie's assumed chagrin) have a "full" page - at least in terms of having box art, screenshots, general info, a blurb, some explanatory overview text and all relevant releases - I'm going to endeavor to see the same done for the other half before 2014. At the very least I want to make sure we have a page for every one. I have no idea why I want to do all this, other than that more people need to know about Kick Challenger: Air Foot.
5. CONTINUE WITH MY BLOG FEATURES
Which is to say: Bringing back the May Madness feature where I play a month's worth of Steam games; bringing back Desura December where I play a fortnight's worth of Desura games; keep up on the monthly comic commissions (kind of semi-internet-legally required to do so there); and produce more Brief Jaunts. Hell, I was going to do all that anyway, but having it all written out here ensures I don't chicken out.
6. BEAT AT LEAST THREE PS2 GAMES, INCLUDING YAKUZA 2 7. BEAT AT LEAST THREE WII GAMES, INCLUDING FRAGILE DREAMS 8. BEAT AT LEAST THREE ADVENTURE GAMES, INCLUDING GEMINI RUE 9. BEAT AT LEAST THREE OTHER GAMES ON MY PILE OF SHAME
Some reasonable goals here, necessary for clearing some of my more egregious backlogs. Yakuza 2 is long overdue, since I own 3 and 4 is damn cheap at the moment and I want to catch up. I really enjoyed the first one, despite playing it for the first time only a couple years ago. It was really when playing Sleeping Dogs - specifically its environment-enhanced combat and goofy incidental side-missions - that I wanted to jump back into Kazuma's smart-casual gangster duds and punch a tiger or two. Fragile Dreams I received unexpectedly as a gift and sort of owe it to the game's most vocal fan around these parts, @Video_Game_King, to get myself immersed in that post-apocalyptic world full of Japanese melodrama and ominous chicken merchants tout de suite. I also just want to beat more Wii games in general: I've been slowly building up a library of them and I don't imagine stopping anytime soon now that the Wii U is out and Wii games continue to drop in price as a result. Maybe I can finally get Kirby's Epic Yarn for a decent price. I also made a list of adventure games I really ought to be getting on with sometime last year, since I've been getting into the point and click groove again. Gemini Rue stands out especially, as I've left it half-finished since May of last year.
Considering my Pile of Shame also has XCOM and Hotline Miami on it, both of which I currently have loaded and ready to go, I don't think I'll have any trouble hitting goal #9.
10. PLAY GAMES WITHOUT SHOOTING PEOPLE
So, OK, initially I was deliberating actually going through with something so... I dunno, condescending? Precious? Motivated by bleeding heart lefty politics? So instead of deliberately antagonizing a bunch of Giant Bomb's resident gun nuts and others who think violent video games aren't to blame for anything whatsoever, I decided to frame this challenge as simply that: A challenge. Besides avoiding military shooters, which is something I've been able to do for a couple of years without issue already, I'm going to make sure that at no point in 2013 I put a bullet into another simulated human being.
There's some exceptions of course. I can play games where you shoot aliens, monsters, zombies and anything else decidedly non-human. I can also shoot things with a bow (it is the year of the bow, after all) or a dart gun or a taser of any kind. Melee weapons are also OK. So are explosives. The last stipulation is that if a game has a non-lethal path - like, say, Dishonored or Mark of the Ninja - I'll try to follow it. Games like Hotline Miami will be a tad harder without guns, but I hear the knife is as effective. Or the bat. I realize that's a contentious issue.
Really, a single dude not buying gun-shooty games for a year isn't going to dissuade anyone or change anything, and it's not like it'll make anything I'll play that much less violent overall, but I want to see just how pervasive and hard to avoid this stuff really is in our games. I'll keep you all updated.
So those are my resolutions for 2013. I'm guessing it'll be a mellow year outside of the big conventions, in which we'll be seeing our first glimpses of the next series of expensive machines we'll need to buy so we don't miss out on anything. I hope you'll all stick around for another year of reading about the dumb old shit I'm playing and seeing what idiotic nonsense stickperson JC Denton is up to. Speaking of which...
What the Giant Bomb blogging community sorely needs right now is an award ceremony that honors the best games of 2012. That no-one seems to have yet stepped up to the plate and done so seems almost unconscionable. Fortunately, your pal and mine Mento has deigned to put down his discounted Virtual Console copy of Dr Mario for the original Game Boy for a moment in order to throw a bunch of dumb categories together with illustrated award handing-outings (to use the official gerund) to make this glitzy and venerated annual event a little more... I dunno, "fun".
Make no mistake, this isn't just a Giant Bomb GOTY Awards blog; this is the Giant Bomb GOTY Awards blog. Or to be even more specific, this is the Giant Bomb GOTY Awards blog that has stickpeople cartoons and way too much text discussing the most trivial shit tangentially related to video games. Nominees go bold and italics for winner, bold for finalist nominee and plain text for other honorary mentions. Enjoy the show! Sorry I added to the big pile of these things! I'm unusually susceptible to peer pressure! Stop sending me timeshare emails!
As always, I honor the games of yesteryear that I generally end up waiting to play because it turns out games get really cheap after they've been out a while. Crazy, right? Before I discovered free video game rental vouchers, I usually staggered my video game playing so I'd always be about a year or so behind, but fortunately I had a lot to see in 2012 as well. But most of that had to take a backseat as I spent the good part of a month playing Monolith Soft's Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii early this year. It is an absolutely fantastic RPG and I'm still a little torn that I had to except it as a 2012 game, due to the weird history behind the Operation Rainfall trilogy and their delayed US releases. Or did I?
This clairvoyant conferral is for the game I'm most likely to enjoy out of the many I didn't get the chance to play this year, based on what I've heard and seen of them. Of course, we have no real way of knowing this for sure beforehand, right? Might be an interesting prediction to revisit in twelve months. If only for me, anyway. Also XCOM wins it because effin' XCOM. I even loved the brutally alienating (as it were) original, so the chances I'll be playing Firaxis's critically acclaimed new take for most of January is pretty darn likely, you guys.
Every year I like to honor my childhood heroes Nintendo for keeping my inner tyke content with the most colorful and imaginative games of the year. At least, that's the idea. Nintendo's had a busy 2012 - and time will tell if this was actually a good year for them - but I only managed to play a smattering of 2012 games for Nintendo consoles. Three, if I'm being specific. As much as I like The Last Story, this award's very nature as a shout-out for nostalgia means IndieZero's wonderful, whimsical trip through Final Fantasy's 25 years of melodic soundtracks takes it.
This award is to honor the great games I played but didn't beat this year, so couldn't in good conscience place them in my top ten. If you told me you managed to beat FTL's final boss, then I would call you a filthy liar, throw my drink in your face (should I be holding one) and run off whooping like Zoidberg. It's a sour note to end the game on, but considering the bad shit that almost always occurs in any given FTL run, an entirely germane one. My feelings on Dragon's Dogma can be easily summed up by this Twitter exchange. Syndicate I just couldn't wrap my head around - there comes a point when you're fighting tougher enemies that you're doing the gamepad equivalent of rubbing your belly while patting your head; I just didn't have the manual dexterity or situational awareness to pull it off adroitly. I could definitely see why a seasoned expert of shooter games like Jeff would love it, though. As for the two others on that list, well, I'll be getting around to that in just a moment.
The Indie scene really took this category and ran off with it, far over the hills and the sand dunes and into a big shining light at the top of a mountain. Double Dragon Neon and Hell Yeah!, especially, were middling action games with a great, goofy sense of humor (balance that with something like Borderlands 2 this year) that mostly comes through with their music: Double Dragon Neon's insanely 80s musical stylings, from its remixes of the original's music to the references to various 80s acts in each of their little mixtape power-ups, were a delight from start to finish. It might well have won the award for "Best Credits Song" had I bothered to make that category. Hell Yeah! also excels in its use of musical humor, whether you're jamming to the best shop music since Hot Rod (that's according to Giant Bomb's banner text at least) or the syrupy weirdness of that game's Cute Zone. Journey and Fez, of course, are already receiving accolades aplenty for their moody and atmospheric music from everyone ever already, and The Last Story has some brilliant Uematsu tracks bookended with some slightly experimental numbers which I still enjoyed. So I bite my thumb at you, VGK, for disparaging the final boss music. It's dumb but I like it. But let's be serious here: Xenoblade Chronicles had the best music, by far. It's science.
I didn't much like Lollipop Chainsaw for the most part. Its jokey dialogue was a bit cloying and the character action genre is something I've long since lost my affection for, the dispassion of which was exacerbated further by my playthrough of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow this year. However, in much the same way as Hell Yeah! and Double Dragon Neon, it used its music as an effective comedic weapon to hammer home several jokes and references that ranged from laugh out loud funny to just humorously dumb. Buckman and Garcia's "Pac-Man Fever", for instance, is the sort of call out that warms the cockles of my cold dead heart, though I will admit to Toni Basil's "Mickey" and The Chordettes' "Lollipop" becoming the sort of ear worms Chekov might have had to contend with in the Wrath of Khan. That's right, Lollipop Chainsaw isn't monopolizing nerdy movie references around these parts. Hotline Miami needs no further elucidation, since I've heard from many sources how its pumping electronica soundtrack IS the game just about. Borderlands 2's theme "Short Change Hero" from The Heavy is a great use for that song for a pretty awesome intro cutscene, and LEGO Batman 2 piping in the classic John Williams Superman theme just made me smile every time I took to the skies as the Man of Steel.
BEST LOOKING GAME
Nominees: Journey, Far Cry 3, Fez, Sleeping Dogs, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy.
When I consider which games are the most aesthetically pleasing, I tend to prioritize those games which take things in artistically interesting directions, rather than just looking really, really good. I feel like the technology behind making games look really, really good will eventually plateau, leaving that particular "good graphics! we need good graphics!" way of thinking behind to an extent. Also, the best looking games in that regard tend to be compromised in many ways for their down-scaled console releases, which are the versions I tend to opt for as I am not in the market for a £500+ PC right now. Maybe if I were getting paid to write nonsense like this, but then I could just visit Santa Claus in his workshop and ask for one while I'm off in cuckoo fantasy land. So! The best looking game this year was Journey. It's nothing short of stunning from beginning to end, though the highlight is the eye-searing sunset gleaming through and around a series of dilapidated pillars as your little peregrinating protagonist slides down a sand bank into some ominously dark ruins, marking the point where shit is about to get real. If I had a soul, it would've been enriched beyond words by the experience. Fez, too, took pixel graphics in some oddly poignant directions, and I found myself loving the little witchcraft stitch-craft art style of Theatrhythm over the attractive but mostly recycled graphics of its sister product Final Fantasy XIII-2. But then, Xenoblade Chronicles' environments were just breathtaking and it's the clear winner overall, am I right?
One of my mainstay categories, meant to award (sort of) the oddest games of the year. I appreciate weirdness in all its forms, you see, and anything that challenges us visually or narratively in a game is the best shot the medium as a whole has of being recognized as an artform. As Salvador Dali might've once said, "a plumber eating a mushroom to grow tall enough to stamp on turtles? Well, now I've seen everything!". While games like Lollipop Chainsaw, Hell Yeah!, Far Cry 3 and Asura's Wrath might've embraced their weirdness from the get go, there's nothing in the original Final Fantasy XIII (besides the usual background radiation weirdness of JRPGs in general) to suggest where its sequel might go. A time-travelling, paradox-evading, bizarre series of barely connected events that happen in a rough order dictated by sheer randomness, FFXIII-2's plot makes very little sense by any metric you care to attach to it: It's incomprehensible even for a JRPG, it's about as far as you can get from a straightforward linear narrative (almost certainly the point, given the backlash for FFXIII) and so many elements are thrown in for the sake of interesting puzzles to puzzle out and interesting strategic fights to stratergerize without any sort of explanation or logic proffered. Sure there are inter-dimensional pockets where you solve sliding block puzzles. I guess there are monsters willing to join side-ponytail and not-Zidane to have this neat monster-raising sim aspect. Of course a moogle with a squeaky accent knows why everything is what it is 500 years into the unmapped future (maybe it has a direct line to Ziggy?). I just stopped questioning things after so many hours. They should've renamed the Sphere Grid the Marble Grid, because that's where Final Fantasy's all went.
I'm thinking Giant Bomb's "JUST STOP" is probably a way better name for this sort of category, which is a prime whambulance parking zone for complaints and grudges for where the video game industry is headed. In a nutshell, I'll explain why all the above suck: Indie Platformers getting the notion that in order to be successful like Super Meat Boy, they need to be extraordinarily difficult and frustrating; Crappy Endings in general are the sort of thing to leave a sour taste in one's mouth after what might've been a sterling dozen hours of gameplay and storytelling, and is simply a terrible idea if you want people to talk about your games with any sort of joy or affection after the fact; Locked Away DLC Endings speaks for itself, and I'm really hoping Asura's Wrath was an aberration never to be repeated; Region Locking PS3 Games is something else that only really applies to one game - Persona 4: Arena, yet to see its European release - but I'm pessimistic enough to believe we aren't yet done with that either; and, obviously, how each progressive Assassin's Creed game after Brotherhood seems to be taking a dive in quality, probably due to Ubisoft's insistence of having a new one every damn year. Give it a break already, you guys; it got completely trashed this time and we'll be lucky if there's anyone left who still cares enough to see the next one. I'm calling Masocore platformers the worst this year, because it ruinedfourpromisinggames (at least!) with fantastic ideas because their designers got the wrong impression that they needed to be bitch hard or have really sparse checkpointing or decided every nook and cranny required an insta-kill spike in order to compete in the Indie market. If your game's more difficult than Rayman: Origins, which I believe sets a perfect level of challenge, then go back to the drawing board and rethink a few things. Don't ruin your neat little Indie puzzle platformer with this frustrating bullshit, I implore you.
Nominees: Far Cry 3's Buck Buck Buck Arc, FFXIII-2's Chocolina (Also a Bird Thing), Tomb Raider's "You'll Want To Protect Lara", the Anita Sarkeesian backlash/#1reasonwhy backlash/other gross sexism/misogyny bullshit of this year, Dust: An Elysian Tail's furries.
I think the cartoon says everything that needs to be said. Besides "I don't really think @buzz_clik is secretly a rapist mercenary operating in the South Pacific." (Though he might want to look that direction if he wants to get his designer t-shirt empire up and running.) This year didn't make video games look too good in the national press, you guys, though being called out by a colossal moron like Wayne LaPierre for gun violence probably restored some of that lost credibility. Might be time to knock off the sign to our collective treehouse that says "no cooties allowed" at the very, very least. And while us consumers are doing that, we'll ask the developers to knock it off with telling us to white knight vulnerable female protagonists and giving anthropomorphic animals amazing racks for a while. \there's a two-way street to betterment here, everyone.
Nominees: The Amazing Spider-Man, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Assassin's Creed 3, Darksiders II, Final Fantasy XIII-2.
I try to avoid the truly generic games, so the selection above might not even be the tip of the iceberg of the apathetic asset recycling, idea stealing and half-assed buggy finished products we saw from the video game industry this year. Sleeping Dogs and Borderlands 2, as good as they were, aren't exactly exempt from this category either. The Amazing Spider-Man has almost nothing to set it apart from its nigh-identical superhero peers (including its Prototype-esque viral plot, in the same year as that game's sequel no less) and didn't really feel like sharpening the aspects it did borrow, though at the very least it let you go outside in this one. When the only thing to set your game apart is Bruce Campbell in a blimp, you might want to try to innovate a little harder next time. LEGO games are what they are; I believe there were even two of them this year, so they're not going away any time soon. AC3 at least gave us that ship combat mini-game, Darksiders II can't really be called too lazy for how muchgoddamn content that game has to the point of tedious lunacy, and Final Fantasy XIII-2's laziness may well get trumped in 2013 by Lightning Returns, so I'll hold off my derision until then (or unexpected joy? I guess we'll see).
WORST (OPTIONAL) WASTE OF TIME
Nominees: Final Fantasy XIII-2's Slot Machines, Hell Yeah!'s Slot Machines, Borderlands 2's Slot Machines.
Knock. It. Off. (Optionally.)
Nominees: ?????, ?????, ?????, ?????, ?????.
Mass Effect's 3 ending I feel has received a sufficient amount of vitriol at this point that everyone is at least aware that its conclusion is terrible. As for the other nominees, well, let's just put up one of these:
Here are the other nominees: Far Cry 3 and Assassin's Creed 3, hence this whole "the number three" thing, and also Final Fantasy XIII-2, Darksiders II and Borderlands 2. The cardinal rule for not making your ending suck: Don't casually render inert the core appeal of the game, or the purpose of the journey, or simply kill off the protagonist. Also, don't end on a cliffhanger, because not only are you delaying the satisfaction of a conclusive finale for another year or so but you are giving this presumptuous impression that you know you'll be back in a sequel. Never safe to assume that, especially if you're a THQ property. Or what you could do is make all the sequels at the same time, like Walking Dead's episodic format, and release them shortly after one another. Anyway, even though I stuck all this in a big spoiler bubble, I don't think I've ruined much here. Nothing that wasn't already ruined from the offset at least.
Very hard to get into specifics here, so I'll simply say that each of the games nominated manage - in their own way - to reach a satisfying conclusion that effectively conveys the idea that the entire game had been leading up to that moment, rather than some dumb Deus Ex Machina ending (sorry JC) or a cliffhanger or any of the problems of the games in the previous category. It's really not a lot to ask of a game that they don't mess up the landing.
Man, how do I even? Oh hey, I have an idea. Just go visit this Tumblr blog I just created for this category. Solving problems with multimedia!
Nominees: Big Bo and Cain - Binary Domain, Lippi and Frea - Crimson Shroud, Fidget - Dust: An Elysian Tale, Anonymous Journey Player - Journey, Yasha - Asura's Wrath.
Perhaps an ambiguous category, Best Teammate is simply the award given for the best PC or NPC that spends a considerable amount of the game fighting at your side. Binary Domain lives and dies on its teammates as a squad shooter and does a grand job of developing them and giving some definition to those characters that doesn't begin and end with "people from [Country] shoot robots like this, but people from [Different Country] shoot robots like this!". Big Bo's just a stitch from beginning to end (but he gets some development time too, don't worry) while Cain is just a great addition from the moment you first meet the guy. Fidget's perhaps the most acceptable Exposition Fairy since... never? Yasha's great for his eventual but entirely expected heel face turn and the Crimson Shroud guys are simply miniatures that the game nevertheless manages to flesh out with some quality backstory and well-written, snarky dialogue. That so many strategies in that game revolve around the three of you working in tandem doesn't hurt either. I guess the Journey guy doesn't really count, seeing as how he's another player, but they might as well be computer-controlled for the amount of human interaction you have with them.
Nominees: Dust: An Elysian Tale, Hell Yeah!, Cave Story 3D, Rabbids Land, Assassin's Creed III (delicious!).
I honestly thought there were more rabbit games this year, but Cave Story's 3DS turn was actually last year. Still, I finally got around to playing that Indie darling this year, so into the deliberations it goes. Honestly, I don't know where all these games are coming from. They're multiplying like... well... yeah.
This was another thing I noticed this year: Video game characters that love getting schwammered. What kind of lesson is that to leave to all the children? That drinking is awesome? Because that's a good one. Augus is the clear winner, though his epic drinking is but one of the many facets of that... complex character. Syrenne's an entertaining souse during The Last Story's moments of downtime and the hero of Risen II downs bottles of rum and grog like they were health potions, which they actually are in that game. You don't see Salvador drink too often (though it's required for one side-quest) but you get the impression he could drink the others in his group under the table, despite being about 4 feet tall. Ditto with Sleeping Dogs' Old Salty Crab, who sounds like he's tying one on every time you call him up for something fun and felonious, and given the content of the missions he joins you in doing it's probably for the best that he gets a little buzzed beforehand.
You'll be happy to hear (probably) that this is my very last award, given to the best new character in any video game, regardless of their role. After some careful consideration, I'm giving it to Assassin Creed 3's Haytham Kenway, who is in absentia for too much of that game's running time. He's an enigmatic and entertaining character for the time you spend controlling him during ACIII's over-extended intro, and continues to be a delight as he clashes with his son at various late stages of the game. Like Vaas, my runner up and another great invention, he departs the game far too quickly and too unceremoniously for my liking. If either of these games feel like doing some DLC - and, let's face it, it's likely - I wouldn't mind being in the shoes of those gents for a while longer. Kind of embarrassing how much better they are than their games' respective protagonists, actually. As for the other nominees, well, they're all great, nuanced characters with a lot of vulnerable depth behind their bravado. I mean, besides Augus.
BEST GIANT BOMB QUICK LOOK MOMENTS
Not an award, just a list of some of the best moments in no particular order as a way of voicing my appreciation for yet another year of wonderful content from Messrs. Jeff, Ryan, Vinny, Brad, Patrick, Drew, Dave, recurring guests Brad Muir and the rest of Double Fine and everyone else at Giant Bomb Industries who makes the site run, even if Alex or Alexis or that new Lt. Squigs Ian fellow or future employee Matthew Rorie didn't get to narrate a Quick Look themselves this year. Here's to another edifying and entertaining year of Quick Looks! (Also a shout out to @TurboMan for his "Best Of" compilations, without which I couldn't have assembled this list. Or at least not as quickly, in which case I probably wouldn't have bothered.)
Hey explosive friends, it's time for this month's comic commission. Running a little late because of all that Desura daftness I got myself embroiled in, here we have three more illustrated premium feature ideas as my way of thanking the guys who made it possible for me to watch the videos in question - premium sponsor @omghisam and the Giant Bomb crew themselves. October's and November's are over here, for all those that are curious and/or stickpeople obsessives. There's probably more of the former than the latter, I'm guessing.
Premium Content For Your Premium Contempt
So a guy (GB user @Brendan in fact, since "a guy" isn't really sufficient) started a thread a while back in order to curtail a small amount of anti-Navarro sentiment around the site at the time, due in part to his relatively hands-off involvement with the site which is unfortunately necessitated by the fact he lives on the other side of the continent. Brendan's platform, for those that don't like clicking links, is that while Alex submits a fairly constant stream of interesting and amusing reviews and news stories, we don't see much of the guy on the video content side of things and it's getting to the point that people without much knowledge of the "back story" of Giant Bomb might not have any idea who he is, hence the backlash.
I forget if the above comic idea was supposed to support the idea of more Alex Navarro video content or dismiss the notion that he should have to make any. He does seem to get funnier when he's suffering though. Plus, this site does have a chequered past with the word "Never".
Still racking my brain on how Jeff intends to actually Quick Look everything. We have a guy (GB user @F1000003 even. No idea what is with me and this "a guy" crap) that's blogging about playing every game in alphabetical order, and he's still early in the numerals after a bunch of months. I figure they're going to need a whole bunch of cloned Jeffs from those intern cloning vats I mentioned a while back and are probably real. I'm also thinking the engineers could pull a "House of Cosbys" and create special Jeff clones for specific circumstances, like EA Sports Jeff and Korean MMO Jeff.
You know... we like to joke around here, but of all the ideas I've had for this blog feature this seems like the most reasonable.
I just want occasional footage of @Vinny playing all the newest and hottest games in the most sociopathic manner possible. Kind of like a stress test, but for specifically testing a game's capacity for abject cruelty: Just how much of a dick can you be in any given game? This is the kind of information we consumers need. Probably.
The pre-amble: UnEpic, from Spanish developer Franfistro, is a Metroidvania with a much heavier emphasis on the sub-genre's latent RPG aspects. A regular nerd is transported to an immense castle of horrors on the way to the bathroom and must survive in this deadly new environment with only a sarcastic ghost that failed to possess his body as company (who is dubbed Zeratul by the hero, because references). You can level up and upgrade skills, find treasures and equipment, light torches to mark your progress through the dungeons, find gateways and special transportation items to get around the massive dungeon easier and listen to reams of inane "nerd culture" in-jokes from the protagonist.
The playthrough: UnEpic is a fairly solid example of an Indie Metroidvania. It's far more deliberate; areas tend to be full of traps and side areas to explore and combat tends to be predicated on whoever gets the first swing, whether it's waiting until they're right in your face before striking or hitting them unawares either from a distance or from a stealthy approach. I've only explored the first couple of areas in the castle after several horus, with many more evidently waiting just beyond, so it's certainly not a short game either; easily the match of its many retail contemporaries in size.
However, UnEpic is sort of like Borderlands 2 in that in order to appreciate its excellent gameplay, you kind of have to suffer its sense of humor. It's quite atrocious at times. While it does focus on video game reference humor rather than the far less bearable internet reference humor of Gearbox's latest, it becomes grating after the dozenth Blizzard shout out. But it gets worse - the screenshot below comes from a quest in which the "hero" can interrupt the orcs' mating process by stealing the fertility totem from an orc alpha male and using it to impregnate three female orcs, rationalizing it with such enlightened comments as "hey, a hole's a hole". The reward for doing so was a pretty gnarly axe which continues to be useful, so I kind of went along with it. I'll have to take a couple more showers tonight to compensate, I think. Conversely, I may well be unreasonably denigrating another culture's idea of humor needlessly, so... whatever. It's not a deal-breaker. Star Control II had a similar plot thread and it's one of my favorite games. Besides, that axe is pretty great.
Something I've noticed while catching up on Chrontendo is that the larger the sprites in those old 8-bit and 16-bit games, the better regarded the graphics were at the time. Being able to so clearly see the main character sprite and those of their enemies has many gameplay advantages and tends to be more visually impressive besides. UnEpic goes against the grain in this regard, zooming out so your character is a speck among several dungeon floors full of tiny details. It works in its favor more often than not, since the effect of being so minuscule really does emphasize the size of the oppressive oubliette you've been unceremoniously dumped into. As with many Metroidvanias I've played, the temptation to keep exploring is a strong one, and any game of this type that is able to pull that off - Indie or no - is ultimately doing something right.
The verdict: As long as the character cuts down on the whole "quoting World of Warcraft" and "fucking other species" rigmarole, I'm happy to continue.
The pre-amble: Squids is a strategy RPG? Sort of? that features a colorful group of warrior cephalopods fighting against a wave of creatures infected by an oozy darkness that threatens to overrun the aquatic kingdom they call home. French studio The Game Bakers filled Squids with plenty of bright colors and upbeat music, but it's a kinda badass strategy game that occasionally requires some contemplation and forethought. I also approve of any game that chooses to combine the elastic attacking mechanics of Rocket Slime with the deeper strategy of something like FFT or Fire Emblem - specifically, following the chief rule of moving as a group and being ever mindful of surprises and ambushes.
The playthrough: Another great game. I'm almost starting to not regret this whole exercise. Squids is another like Slydris that seems purpose-built for iOS, since it's clearly inspired by the aforementioned DS game that had itself found an excellent way to utilize its console's touch controls to produce a fun combat system. Much of the game's mechanics depend on the momentum of the squids; choosing to pull a squid back as far as possible before releasing will send them flying, hitting enemies hard and covering longer distances, but it's also vital to exercise some constraint due to a plethora of spiky sea urchins and insta-kill ledges (never mind that all this marine life could feasibly swim through the "air" and not have that issue) as well as a few useful items scattered about, occasionally requiring that one of your team goes out of its way to grab them. Knocking into an enemy as hard as possible is a solid strategy early on, but you'll soon discover that getting around them and then hitting them towards said ledges and sea urchins will produce better results.
The RPG aspect is admittedly minor, as players can level up their individual team members for a steadily inflating fee and they can be powered up even further by unlocking items in the world and purchasing them in the between-mission store. Hats - the only form of equipment - will add permanent stat boosts to the character class they pertain to and then become merely cosmetic, rather than the usual system of only conferring their bonuses while being worn: It's a laid-back, casual-friendly way to ensure there's enough constant stat growth to counter the increasing enemy difficulty as well as allowing players to wear whichever headgear pleases them most aesthetically. In fact, the whole game has a similar atmosphere of breezy effervescence to it, which definitely befits its aquatic ambiance - I believe I once heard something about how life is the bubbles under the sea. Possibly from Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Or maybe it was a talking crab. What do I look like, a marine biologist?
So Squids is another excellent Desura exclusive, albeit one that's probably also available on those "intelligent portable telephones" people keep going on about. If you liked Rocket Slime, I can happily recommend this product. If you didn't play Rocket Slime, then what the heck are you doing here reading an internet blog? Go track it down already. And if you didn't like Rocket Slime, then I believe we are all done here, Mr Buttface.
The verdict: Sure, I can't wait to get back to it.