Youth culture f-WAIT A MINUTE! Didn't I do this game already? I don't know why I'm asking you, because I know that I did it last year, alongside two whiny little assholes who got lost in Dracula's castle. Surprisingly, the latter entry was the better game. Hopefully, that doesn't happen here, since I actually like Jet Grind Radio. OK, so it's not the smoothest game in the world (and that's not the best thing for a game that relies on smoothness), but the concept's sound enough, and it does it all with enough energy to be endearing and some other E word. Ear infection? Yea, this game is totally ear infection.
You think I'd use that as an opportunity to transition into the music, but really, what more can I say about it other than "that song I linked earlier is the best one in the game"? Instead, I'll begin where I always begin: the story. Now remember how last week, I complained about Sonic's mouth opening so wide that it looked like he would wrap around his own face and destroy reality? Well, that can't compare to the Lovecraftian horrors of Professor K, DJ of the radio station Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio absolutely never appears in the story) who constantly looks like some octopus demon who's gonna bite your face off. Unfortunately, he's the narrator, and you're gonna be seeing him a lot. Anyway, most of it is just gang warfare with spray cans instead of guns, and really, that's all you need: some thin justification for the scenario. Who gives two shits about the politics of graffiti gangs or milking a dog? I just want to spray shit in a bright, 2000s environment, and the narrative gives me just that! So I guess the batshit insane finale is just a cherry on top.
There's just one problem at the center of this: everybody's an asshole. How can that be? They're just spraying shit up. What's wrong with that? Well, ignoring that peppy youthful attitude I absolutely hated in Burnout 3's music, the GGs really don't give two craps about anybody else. Hey, Beat (and I guess every other character I never bothered touching): do you really care about those people you nearly ran over while spraying the town? Or did you completely ignore them so you could grind that railway? And tell me: how are you making your voice heard by interrupting traffic? (Then again, given that every motorist is completely fine with running your ass over at full speed, you may be justified.) Here's a tip: when you start spraying people's residential houses, you're no longer sticking it to the man. You're just being a dick. It doesn't help that the people living there probably can't afford to remove the graffiti, since every neighborhood looks like effing garbage. Plus you destroyed the inside of their tiny houses for no real reason. No wonder the police respond to these guys with tanks and guns and flamethrowers and electrocution and wait, who am I supposed to give my sympathies to, again?
Screw it. Let's just get to the actual game parts. They're the....OK, they're not the best part of the game. That honor would probably go to the overall atmosphere I just described. But that doesn't mean the gameplay is bad. I mean, it knows what it's doing. The levels find a perfect balance between open world and contained, giving you just enough space to screw about. And by "screw about", I mean tagging, because that's all your going to do. Finding tags, spraying tags, spraying tags again because you're now on fire. I know that sounds mundane when I say it, but it's actually kinda exciting. There's something oddly cool about both jumping from tag to tag in quick succession and working your way through the larger ones. Maybe it's that you're too caught up in the moment to realize that anything else is going on, or maybe it's just something to do with rotating the analog stick a bit. I don't know. Throw in some cops to chase you around and keep things exciting, and I'm suddenly in love with this game's sense of flow.
Now I just wish the game knew how to maintain that sense of flow. Maybe this is just something that's impossible to fix, but there were too many times I simply ran out of cans while spraying larger tags. Come on, Sega. A lot of the fun in those things comes from building up a sense of rhythm and being in the moment. You're probably not supposed to jettison me from said moment because I didn't have enough spray left over. Then again, simply getting to these moments can be something of a chore. Sometimes, they're hidden away in some obscure area of the city (defeating the whole purpose of graffiti), and other times, they're just way too high up for you to reach, requiring you to jump at it like a cat chasing a particularly interesting laser dot. (There's a graffiti analogy in there, somewhere.) Then you get there and find that the hardest spray is the first. I'm not sure why, but I really had to mash down for it to register as a spray. All the others work just fine, but that first one...man. But even after all that, I'd still recommend the game. I know that I hate everything about the 2000s, but for this, I'm willing to make an exception.
Somehow, Japanese Marc Ecko quickly becomes Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Sprayer.
There's nothing better than covering the whole town in graffiti.
Too bad Jet Grind Radio can't keep it going for long periods of time.
Jigglypuff: the original graffiti artist. How more in your face can you be than literally on your face?
Well, that certainly tested the limits of my new cartoonlet titles. I'd say that it tested the limits of my sanity, but have you seen my blog lately? I review games like this and post videos like this alongside them. Clearly, what you consider mind-numbingly insane is what I consider ordinary. Not that I'm dismissing the game or anything. I love assaults on the psyche like this. Why do you think I play them so often? Well, in this case, it's also because of the addicting and challenging gameplay of falling straight down (trust me: I'm not being sarcastic about that), but still! This game is crazy!
How crazy? Well, the game's counter-counter-culture. Or maybe it's just counter-culture. I don't know. Maybe you guys can sort it out. We live in a future where buildings just float in mid-air, because DreamWorks were architectural masterminds. Clearly, this is not an ideal state of affairs. It calls for action! It calls for...jumping off buildings and then landing safely nearby. That's...the lamest form of rebellion, at least when I phrase it like that. That probably explains why all of the game's vocabulary is so messed up. I'd call it random, but it's just all too deliberate. You hug and kiss buildings to gain teeth and the level names are all a convoluted mess and then there's...this. What is this!? WHAT AM I LOOKING AT, AND WHY IS THIS NOT THE MOST SADISTIC THING IN THE GAME? Not that I'm complaining. This shit? This, right here? This is half of why I enjoy the game so much. Somehow, all this twisted terminology lends the game a fun sort of charm. Who knew that looking into the face of insanity could be so fun? Besides everybody reading this, because I'm clearly not right?
So what was that other half? The falling part. Granted, there's more to this game than simply falling (I'll get to that in a bit), but that's the majority of this game: falling and then safely landing at the end. Surprisingly, this is balls hard. Some of it has to do with the controls or a couple of cheap deaths (if you hug a building too hard, the game punishes your love with a violent death), but a lot of it is simply because of the main appeal of the game: it's easy to get caught in the moment. Everything's going by quickly, you're swaying from one building to the next, building up that score, and then SPLAT! You're dead, out of fucking nowhere. All you can do is hope you flipped off some nearby spectators the split second before that death. And that you landed on them. But let's say you make it to the end somehow. You're in the clear, right? Not really. Did you get enough teeth for the next level? You did? OK, that's what most of the game is like, but you do run out of teeth eventually. That's when you go back to previous levels and replay them a billion times over for that next star ranking. You'll be thankful for every minute of it (partially because the longest level in the game lasts approximately 90 seconds at most).
Probably because the game stuffs so many things into such a tiny space. Some of it, like ol' Grandma, serves no purpose other than just being funny. Fortunately, most of the game isn't like that. Instead, you get shit like flipping off those assholes you killed in the middle of the last paragraph, spray paint to tell Jet Grind Radio to suck it, and caffeine if you're a pussy. (I was playing on Mormon Warrior difficulty, so I had to trade in the caffeine for all kinds of crazy sex.) It may sound like a lot (and to be honest, it gets to be when graffiti gets thrown into the mix), but somehow, the game mixes them all well enough to contribute to that sense of flow I love so much. I'm also aware that may sound like me just listing off the game's features one by one, but what I'm really doing is listing off all the reasons to replay the game. Wondering why you got a shit score the first time on a level? It's probably because you couldn't spray shit up your first time through. So that's one thing (of many things) that this game is good at: forcing you back into earlier levels. Wait, I think I was supposed to outline a flaw somewhere in this blog....You know what? Fuck it. This game is awesome. There. I took the controversial statement of sincerely liking "I Don't Know How Many A's I Should Type Here". TEAR ME APART, READERS!
Oh, this oughta be fun. No, I don't mean in terms of the game itself, but in terms of you guys. I'm sensing a controversial blog on the horizon, and for one very good reason: I actually like Sonic Adventure. (That's what happy Knuckles is supposed to mean.) Yea, Big the Cat is fucking terrible, but good news: he only has four levels throughout the entire game! The rest is what you'd expect of a Sonic game: blasting through a level in under three seconds, barely comprehending what's going on.
That goes for the story, too, because for whatever reason, this marked the occasion when Sonic Adventure became Assassin's Creed. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. It all starts with an ancient civilization that survives only through about one person: the First Civilization Echidnas. They crafted the Pieces of Eden Chaos Emeralds to control the power of chaos for the better of all mankind. Unfortunately, the damn things are so powerful that they end up corrupting whosoever uses them. In enters Dr. Robotnik Abstergo Dr. Robotnik Eggman Eggmanrobotnik, who wishes to control the power of chaos for himself so that he may rule the entire world. Now it is up to the last assassin echidna left to put an end to his evil plans and access the memories of the past to figure out just how his kind died off. "Nothing is true; everything is permitted"? Have you ever heard anything with more attitude than that? And Sonic...Sonic is...Batman, oddly enough. So I guess that makes this better than Assassin's Creed. Did Assassin's Creed have Batman in it?...Exactly.
OK, that's all a big, fat lie. Like Big the Cat, because I can't believe somebody honestly thought he'd make a great addition to the game. But I digress. The actual story is much simpler than that: Sonic jumps between Station Square and the Mystic Ruins, losing Chaos Emeralds until things are over. Oh, and there are other characters who do stuff or whatever, but that's pretty much it. That's the problem, though: this story needs a bit more than what it already has. Nothing on Metal Gear Solid scale, but...actually, exactly that. But let's pretend I didn't come up with that awesome idea. What was I getting at, then? Well, for one, Robotnik's whole plan is to destroy the city so he can take it over. It gets worse: he came up with the plan when he read about an evil being from ancient tablets he, for whatever reason, took at face value. The being's real, apparently, and it obeys him exclusively...except when it doesn't, for no real reason. See what I'm talking about? With some more thought, this might have worked. But instead, we get a story where an emotionless robot is expected to elicit pathos, Amy's a crazy stalker who serves no real purpose in the story, each story ends with a cliffhanger, and Big the Cat exists.
Strange, then, that I actually like how the story itself is told. Not in terms of the graphics or anything. The townspeople are blocky and inanimate, and the main characters...oh god, the main characters. None of them look natural whatsoever. Their faces twist and contort at the behest of some sick puppet master who wasn't told that this isn't a survival horror game. The constant crotch thrusting only makes it worse. Sonic gets it the worst; he always looks like he's caught in some sort of quantum feedback loop, looking at his future self and growing infinitely more horrified with each passing second. And then you hear him speak and...actually, I have no problems with Sonic's voice. I have problems with it not matching his mouth flaps (not even in the original Japanese!), but none with the actual voice. It fits him well enough. Same goes for the ever-hammy Eggman and, surprisingly, Tails. Yes, he's 10 years old. What of it? If anything, Amy and Knuckles get it worse. Knuckles speaks with absolutely no authority, and the only difference between Amy and Misha is that Misha isn't a cat. (Then again, Amy might not be one, either.) And speaking of cats, don't get me started on B-
Wait, that paragraph was supposed to be complimenting the game. Right. As I said before I went off on that tangent, I kinda like how the story presents itself. And by that, I mean that I like the whole multiple perspective thing. Yea, it's all about Sonic, but that doesn't mean his friends don't get some action. Turns out offering multiple perspectives actually helps flesh out the characters a little bit. That robot Amy wants to protect? It wants to protect its friends...by killing them, somehow. Again, this is a simple story; it's just presented nicely is all. Hell, the story's even abbreviated in each of the non-Sonic chapters so you're not watching the same shit each time (unless it's the unskippable credits, for some reason). And ignoring that, you do get a properly foreshadowed, pretty important plot twist that I'm not going to spoil until right now: that red light is Tikal.
Perhaps now is when I should mention the gameplay. There's a big cat in this game. He's called Big the Cat, and he fishes.
I think that's more than enough space to devote to him.
Odd that I should transition into the game like that, since I actually like some of the side activities in the game. They can even be as strong as the core game itself (which, for some reason, I'm saving for last), if not nearly as deep. Some levels are just this crap, like Casinopolis or the Sky Chase ones, but they're just as fun as the regular levels. I spent way too much time just blasting through the pinball parts, mainly because there were enough flashing lights and moving parts to keep me coming back. Something similar happens in the Sky Chase levels, which throw enough enemies at you to keep you engaged. Think Panzer Dragoon if Sonic was the main character. (You know Sega would do it if they could get away with it.) The only exception seems to be the boss battles, which are pretty much all the same easy crap: hit somebody 3-5 times and watch the game shower praise on you. This gets especially sad with Gamma, who can lock onto anybody and destroy any word that even begins to resemble the word "difficult". Again, Sega of 1998, this could've been more highly developed. (Also, there are Chao. Like everybody else, I ignored the hell out of them.)
And finally, in what's probably going to be the end of this blog, do I get around to the core gameplay. There's a good reason for that: it's clearly the best part of the game. Coincidentally, it's the fastest part of the game. I can't even remember a lot of the game because does your memory go down to the millisecond level? Mine doesn't. But I'm OK with that, since what I do remember is a lot of visceral action. Who cares if you can't tell what's going on? The point is that there's a lot of stuff going on at once, and that's enough to keep me excited. As long as it's there. I guess that's the game's crippling flaw: it stops. And I'm not just talking about the completely useless open world (seriously, what's it doing there?). I mean when you slow down in the level itself. Trust me: it's gonna happen eventually. The camera will betray you, or the controls will hang up a bit, or maybe you're playing in Knuckles' mode, for some ungodly reason, but you'll slow down. This is when you begin to notice things like how easy the game is or how you're pretty much holding forward the entire time. Fortunately, this doesn't happen too often. The rest is speedy bliss all around. Not only does Tails get in on it, too, but I'd argue his sections are actually the best, since you're going against a running/rubber-banding clock the entire time. So I'll end this where I began: what's so bad about Sonic Adventure? Besides Big the Cat?
Sega, how did you know that I wanted Panzer Dragoon with Sonic characters? Because I didn't know that!
I know that I make too many straight-up cocaine jokes, but it's oddly appropriate here: you don't want that high to end, but when it does, you fucking crash hard.
Big the Cat fucking sucks.
Is this what you guys see where I see Sonic Adventure? Because that'd explain a lot.
And here we have a game that actually sucks. Does it surprise you? Has anything with the word "punky" in it ever denoted good things? I'm pretty sure you guys already knew of this as the go-to game for making fun of mascot platformers of the 90s, along with Aero the Acrobat, Bubsy the Bobcat, and Arthur the Also Alliterative Aardvark. What you don't know is that this game is incredibly cheap. Its entire budget was $20, and that was all spent on coffee for the programmers the first day of development.
I mean, just look at the game. I know that's not the best way to make a point, but really: look at it. Look at all five of the colors. Look at the limited frames of animation (in that picture, somehow. Not my problem). Now look at something else, because I am a merciful King who would not let you look at such for that long. Yea, the art style itself, divorced of anything technical, is OK, but it's not nearly enough to make me ignore everything else I've said about it. Now add on top of that some glassy, bubbly music, more annoying voice samples than Big the Cat's part of Sonic Adventure (I'm still not over it, you guys), and a military coup I sincerely wish got more focus than it did (seriously, how awesome would it be to play a game where a skunk takes down a leisurely Muammar Gaddafi?), and it should already be clear that I don't have high opinions of this game.
OK, maybe it's a bit hasty to say that before I even mention what the game is like. Here, I'll give you an idea: it's a platformer with a ton of ideas. Now that may sound like a good thing, but in reality, it's the crippling flaw of Punky Skunk: too many ideas. There are so many ideas on display that it's hard to focus on the platforming that ties it all together. Then again, that might be for the best, since the main platforming is....OK, actually. At the very least, it's certainly competent. Everything controls like it should, and there's a decent amount of challenge to it...and that's about it, really. Nothing more to it than jumping around levels and farting on enemies. Not bad, but it does leave you wanting more. Hell, the game even gets there at one point. BB Industries is one of the best levels in the game, mainly because there are so many cool things going on at once competing for your attention. See, Punky Skunk? Why couldn't the rest of you be like that?
Wait, that's exactly what you did with the game, and that's one of the major issues here. Problem number two with all these ideas: they're not given enough time to develop. There sure are a lot of power-ups in this game, like digging and snowboarding and gliding, but for Punky Skunk, it's quantity over quality. You get a ton of ideas in a short space, meaning, again, none of them get the spotlight for too long. What you get is nothing more than what my previous descriptions offer. Hell, there's even a race level in the game where you go forward and...that's about it, really. Nothing more to that level. I'd also say something about the mini-games, but clearly, they were gonna suck anyway. Then again, some of these ideas might not have been worth developing in the first place. I mean, what more can you get out of roller-skates other than "they're fast, I guess"? Or how about a skunk that fights a military dictator?....OK, that's the best idea since Metal Gear Sonic. It just sucks that it never really went anywhere.
Some of this game looks like it was made in Paint. Great.
The core gameplay concepts are solid, but never really develop too much beyond the first island or so.
I have a screenshot problem. Don't believe me? Back in 2012, Katawa Shoujo saw me upload my 1000th image to the site; fast forward a year, and I'm sitting pretty on over 4000. So am I going to stop anytime soon? Hell no! Instead, I thought I'd introduce a new side-blog sort of thing: Renegade Photo. Here's how it works: whenever I feel like I'm starting to take way too many screenshots of a particular game, I'll start a new entry where I show you exactly why I'm taking so many screenshots. (Galleries aren't enough.) Maybe it's because it's a genuinely good screenshot, but most of the time, it's going to be because Junpei said something racist. Then, when I've got more screenshots to show you, I'll bump them into the thread. Imagine that thing Jeric did for Persona 4 Golden, only its own totally original thing. Honest.
It probably doesn't help that I'm starting with Persona 3 FES. A bit of warning before we get started on this feature, though: I'm already about 200 screenshots deep into this game, so there's no way I'm showing you all of them in this one post. I would, but the site only allows 20 screenshots per post. So for now, I'll cherry pick the best ones and sporadically update with some others. Has that been established? Let's get this shit started. (Note: I was going to add "and that's it for now" at the bottom, but turns out it's pretty much impossible to add text after an image.)
It all starts with a zombie woman drowning. This is promptly ignored for the entire game as we follow an Australian version of the Beyond Good & Evil chick jump around something between Mirror's Edge and Deep Fear. Now none of those comparisons should be read as insulting or anything, because I actually like how the game looks. Not entirely, given the junk frame rate and the glitchy cutscenes, but still, you gotta give credit where credit's due. That squeaky clean Mirror's Edge aesthetic creates a cool looking, futuristic environment, and the water looks amazing. At least on a pure graphical level, it's hard to think of many games that handle water more realistically than this game. And to think that only, like, five guys did the graphics on this game. So yea, job well done and all that.
Anyway, back to the story, or what I'm going to call a story. So our Beyond Good & Evil-ish protagonist, now to be called "Kate", gets caught up in a terrorist attack by some Neo Malthusians or whatever. What do they want? To....kill people....That's a really weak motivation. It's like a character trait you give a villain with the asterisk "come up with something better" attached to it. In fact, I'd say the best way to describe the story would be to call it weak. For example, let us look at every other character in the game. They're all either assholes or Kate, and Kate's personality seems to be nothing more than "kinda worried about stuff, I guess". No real backstory or anything; just a kinda dumb engineer who doesn't like her situation...and somehow gets magical superpowers in the last ten minutes. Is this explained well? No, not really. And it's not like this agrees with the predominantly sci-fi world, so...uh, here's a robot for a final boss, I guess. Hell if I know where it came from. I think you can see what I'm saying by now: none of this is terribly exciting or even especially bad; it just occupies space and barely strings segments of the game together.
This would be the part where I describe the gameplay, but Hydrophobia is a bit strange in this aspect. Not in terms of the gameplay concepts it employs (that much I can handle), but more in how it employs them. Specifically, the pacing is all kinds of strange. The game's divided into three roughly equal acts, and each one introduces a new major gameplay concept. And I mean major; the second act alone introduces something resembling gameplay. I don't have to tell you how much this throws the game out of whack...but I will. You're either left with a situation that feels like it's wasting your time, or one where you're teased with the possibility of decent gameplay ideas. And the game does have some good ideas. It's just that it doesn't allow them enough time to develop, making them feel like the world's strangest form of padding.
Take, for example, the water mechanics. You know, the water mechanics advertised on the Steam page for this game? Turns out they come halfway through the final act of the game. I don't think I even have words for what a confusing design choice this is. Again, don't get me wrong; the water mechanics are...kinda cool, I guess? OK, so it really amounts to nothing more than shifting objects around, but I'm not sure if this is because you only get to use it for ten minutes or because Dark Energy legitimately didn't know what to do with this new toy. Here are a couple hints, guys, in case you decide to remake this game again: make it present for more of the game (at least then, I'll have more time to acclimate to the weird Z-axis controls), include more powers than just "move shit", or dedicate the entire game to me flinging enemies about with my stupid, stupid water powers. Any one of those would greatly improve on what you have here, Dark Energy.
Or you could just focus on anything, really, because I'm not getting that from anything in the game. Like the combat. Is it supposed to be an action game? A stealth action game? A survival horror game (presumably with action)? I have no goddamn way of knowing, since there's hints of all that at some point in the game. You have some drowning and claustrophobia and useless flashlights for people who like scary games (so I guess the opposite of me?), some environmental stuff for the stealth nuts in the crowd, and combos for everybody else. Well, except those combos assume that the score actually means something, and hell if I could figure out what that something is. And that stealth crap I mentioned before? You can totally cheese it with cover mechanics and infinite ammo. Hell, I didn't even know there were different ammo types until the end of the game, since the default works so damn well. AND HOW CAN A GAME BE SCARY WITHOUT MASSIVELY MORONIC PUZZLES!? What we're left with is....uh....
So is there anything you deal with consistently throughout the game? Like, anything? Oh, platforming? Joy. I'd be more excited if the platforming actually warranted excitement. Unfortunately, it amounts to nothing more than "go here, I guess". The game gives you a path; you follow it; that's the end of that. Sometimes, you have to balance on poles (which makes no sense in a PC game using a keyboard for movement, but whatever), but you mostly go back to aimlessly wandering around the vessel in search of some stealth-action segments or whatever. It's not because the platforming's especially bad or anything. It's more because there's really nothing to it, so there's nothing terribly engaging about it. (Plus, half the game is nothing but aimlessly wandering around in search of a goal.) Actually, now that I think about it, that's probably the best way to explain Hydrophobia to somebody: it would be better in just about any other game, but somehow, all it manages to do here is simply exist.
I only need one bullet, but it's a good one: the Dark Energy offices were staffed entirely with the people from the 5 Hour Energy commercials while they were developing Hydrophobia.
Japan and the Internet: The Video. Rated....something.
Finally! A game that isn't water themed! Granted, there's a single water level, but given that it makes up slightly less than 14% of the game, I'm willing to declare it a non-water themed game. But wait. Including this, the past three games I've blogged about have had female protagonists. Does that mean Season 3 is gonna be this all over again? Oh god...I'm gonna have t-Huh? Oh, right; the game.....It's OK, I guess.
The story? Oh....there are witches and stuff, and lots of animes, and...I think it's clear that I skipped just about any cutscene that presented itself. Can you blame me? I can't read any of the cutscenes and even if I could, it doesn't sound like they'd offer too much. But who cares about shit like that? LOOK AT HOW CUTE THIS GAME IS! All those bright primary colors and exaggerated expressions and the bob cut on the little girl that makes her look like a medieval page! It's enough sensory overload to destroy your reasoning abilities. Who cares if, at least technically speaking, the game doesn't look too good? Or if the main melodies only use about one instrument? You get to fight a fuzzy squirrel as a mid-boss. What more could you want? (That was all written in baby talk, by the way. It's just that you can't tell because it's writing.)
So why the lack of genuine enthusiasm throughout this blog? Well, ignoring the fact that the above video will drain the life out of anyone, the game itself is for babies. Granted, it's really good at being for babies, but this is still made for an audience that can't walk (yet somehow knows how to play a video game). How else do you explain the difficulty? You power-up kinda quickly, so nothing stands a chance against your girly power. Just hold down a button (not the A button, but I can't remember which one) and watch as everything explodes in front of you. And no, the one-hit kills don't come back to make things more challenging, since your power doesn't go down enough to make that a viable option. The later stages can pose a challenge (as in "there's a chance you might actually die"), but it's too little too late.
The strange thing about all this, though? There's a solid game buried underneath everything I've just said. I'm not just talking about the shooting, although I guess that works. The pacing's pretty good, delivering a steady flow of cute things to murder in the face, and it at least seems like there's strategy as to what magic you use when. (I couldn't tell you, given how little I used it.) No, I'm talking about the experience system. Yes, it leads to an easy game, but that aside, it's actually pretty cool. You can shoot EXP items to make them worth more, but doing so pushes them further away from you and into enemy territory. It's a pretty cool risk/reward twist that adds some much needed challenge to the game...and then takes it all away should you actually get the EXP. Quite a quandary. What should I do with this game?.....I'd still go for it, but only because of Tea Time. Without Tea Time, Cotton is nothing. And I'll end this blog on that chunk of VGK wisdom.
Wow, bouncing around little EXP balls sure is fun...
...yet more challenge would surely be appreciated.
I'm finally getting around to it. I'm finally gonna play Persona 3, you guys. But there's one thing I have to get through first: the box art review. Why the hell is that? Well, remember the previous game in the series? Persona 4? I did one for that, and I'm a man of tradition. With that out of the way, let's get this shit started!
(Yes, I'm going FES. Is there any other way?) Well, shit. Looks like I can't stretch this thing out by describing all the various facets of the box art. Just Aigis looking at her gun (presumably, she's used to that flayed mess of a left arm by now) and the Shin Megami Tensei logo. Kind of a weird choice, since none of the previous games bothered with this association. It's also a weird logo, since I don't think the Greek alphabet (that is Greek, right?) actually had the letter S, let alone the words "Shin Megami Tensei". Other than that, though, there isn't a lot I can say in regards to the box art.
But you know what? That actually makes the box art really strong. Stronger than its predecessor, even. Remember how crowded the box art for the last game (by which I mean "the next game") was (by which I mean "will be")? You don't get that problem here. You only get a few elements to focus on and fuck all else. Not only does it look super goddamn cool, but it also tells you everything you need to know about the game: it has robots, occult stuff that barely makes any sense, and it's all kinds of dark. (That's what Persona 3 is like, right? I'm just going to assume based on the box.) My only real complaint is the Persona 3 part of the box, strangely enough. First, that damned pixelated font. It just looks weird, and not in appealing way. Pixels don't bleed into each other like that! You look like a broken monitor, Persona 3 box art. Second, why does the game get an F upfront? Was somebody grading this?
Eh, I'd buy it. Anyway, enough about the front of the box. Let's open this fucker up.
Moving right along, we have the manual just staring at me. I'd say it's welcoming, but it's more terrifying than anything else, really, like I just intruded upon a village of gnomes living inside my Japanese video games. The upper left corner is particularly bad about this. While everybody else has that look on their face like when a cat has a treat held in front of its face for way too long (try it, sometime, if you don't care about being a dick to cats), Bowl Cut and Monochrome seem to have something more sinister up their sleeve. I can't tell if it's violent or sexual. Or violently sexual. I'm gonna open up the manual before the people just slightly out of frame plot something far worse.
Wait, what am I gonna say about this manual that I didn't say about the last/next one? This one goes into detail about anything and everything. Basic plot synopsis (that I didn't read, lest spoilers), characters, gameplay mechanics, etc. Just about anything you could imagine about the basics is explained in this shit. Even the stuff I don't remember from the Persona 4 manual, like how time flows backwards in the world of Persona 3 and...hold on? Fusion spells? What sorcery is this!? And one of them is dedicated to knocking enemies down with the stand-up comedy of Pyro and Frosty Jack? This shit is going to be amazing. Although in terms of what a video game manual should do, this is nothing special, by which I mean "it's the best thing in the world of video game manuals". Terribly depressing that manuals have become so horrid that "nothing special" now qualifies as "fan-fucking-tastic". But anyway, that concludes the manu-WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE BACK OF THIS THING!? (Same thing.) Did the artists feel like they forgot something when I said the box art was minimalist? You're making Aigis and Fuuka and possibly that insect thing in the middle-left sad!
And we finally arrive at the back of the box, and what are we greeted with? Why, @Turambar telling me to "step back into the night", of course! I'm certain that this is racist. What do you have against Lunarians, Turambar? It only gets worse that the box art is calling me a terrible c...wait, that smaller text is referring to the Shadows, presumably. In that case, the first sentence does a good job of setting up some intrigue and atmosphere that is then shot to hell and back with the next sentence. How's the Dead Poet's Society gonna protect mankind from...either Aigis all decked out for the apocalypse, or that red-eyed thing in the top left? With Toy Story references?
And the strange word choice continues, with very visible asterisks and.....no, wait, that's pretty much it. The rest of the wording seems to make some sort of sense, although why I'd jump into a new chapter right off the bat is beyond me. No, if you want some crazy on this box, you're gonna have to look at the pictures, and I'm not just talking about stubby-thighed Gunbot on the right. Look very closely at the Persona list in the middle. You get a bunch of 20s, and then, out of nowhere, somebody in the 60s and 80s. Why the disparity? Did the game deem this player awesome enough to get two wildly overpower Personae, or is he simply busting through the game with shit Personae to prove a point to somebody? And what's going on in the bottom picture? Why are Minato and some....person (I can't tell) practicing karate in the Palace of Versailles (or "Massive Typo", as the game prefers to call it)? With weapons? "What's going on" indeed, Akihiko. Your pictures have redeemed you, back of the box! And just when I thought I'd have to dismiss you because of the wording.
So what's the game's final score? Box art doesn't get scores, or at least not conventional scores. With that in mind, the FES art gets 5 King Frosts of Comedy. Make of that what you will.
The barriers have finally come down! No longer shall my sonorous notes be confined to their previous parenthetical prisons! LET MY FREEDOM MUSIC RING FREE!!!....A strange way to open a blog, but an oddly fantastic way to transition into BioShock. You know, that five six year old FPS game where you shoot lightning at drug addicts while Ayn Rand gets beaten to death with a golf club. Guess what, guys? It's still effing awesome.
And I'm still going to make all the jokes about it I probably made in 2007. For instance, one day in the 1950s, a man gained access to a movie that wouldn't be released for 30-40 years. Spurred to action by a homosexual crustacean whose E just kicked in, he builds the city of Rapture, wherein the only currency is the sweat of your brow. Fast forward some amount of time, and a man survives a plane crash just outside Rapture, leading to a journey of discovery, collapse, hobo-esque foraging, and unexplained ghosts. What I'm getting at is that this story has more leaks than the underwater city it's set in. Ghosts and easily survivable plane crashes aside, if Andrew Ryan is a tight-fisted tyrant with absolute control over a city he'd like to keep isolated, how the hell does Jack get in in the first place? The guy knows to send Splicers to Atlas' fake family in their bathysphere, but never bothers closing off the one that let the CIA hound or whatever into his city in the first place? That's a pretty important detail to overlook, Ryan. And the "would you kindly" plot twist would make more sense if it was said more than four times until that point.
But are you going to care about any of that? Hell no, you aren't! You're too busy just drinking in all the atmosphere. Yea, this game was released in 2007, but even today, it still looks amazing (at least on a technical level). Just look at that lighting. Look at how murky and abandoned everything looks; look at all the advertising just bombarding you around every corner; look at me tell you all this, which I can't imagine actually helps you experience any of this. Trust me: the game does a good job of building some atmosphere, and not just with lighting and level design and stuff like that. The characters like getting in on this stuff, too. Hell, those generic enemies you fight again and again? It goes a long way toward making them into sympathetic victims of a city where you can't trust a single person. How awesome is that?
And if you'll allow me to contradict my earlier statements (would you kindly?), this game's really good at thinking things out. I know, but hear me out. That whole "objectivism sucks" thing? It reaaallly thinks this stuff through. And I don't even mean in terms of showing it in practice; we also get the developers straight-up pointing out all the dumb little contradictions the philosophy presents. I'd say that Ryan sounds like an idiot when he says he believes in magical chains instead of God, or how dehumanizing the prick can be, but for some reason, I'm oddly drawn to the guy. I can't even really say way. I want to say it's because of the decline of his ideals, but even in the end, I don't get the feeling he sold himself out. The guy's just trying to make his (incredibly bad) ideas work, damn it! Just cut him some slack! I'd like to balance all this blind praise out and say that the game's a tad blunt with all of these messages, but it might be just me. I don't know. Was I the only person who thought the intro was objectivist as fuck? Was the Greek naming obvious to anybody else? Or how about ADAM as an allegory for nuclear power in addition to the religious connotations? No? That was just me? OK, screw everything I said before. This game has a fucking awesome story.
The challenge, however, is....weird. I don't know how to explain it. At some points in the game, you're gonna be the richest man in Rapture, while others will see you occupying the role of....still the richest man in Rapture, but not by as much. You think that would make the game balls hard, and you'd be right. And you'd be wrong, too. Here's the thing about BioShock: you're going to die a lot, but it's not going to mean anything. Any time you die, you just get revived for free in a nearby Vita-Chamber, thereby sucking all challenge out of certain situations. Why waste your first-aid against that Big Daddy when you're two feet from the nearest insta-revive station? Hell, I once let a Big Daddy beat the fuck out of me while I pelted him with bees because I was zero feet away from a Vita-Chamber and the poor schluck doesn't understand the concept of cause and effect. I wish that was something I made up, but that actually happened late in my BioShock experience. So for the love of the Great Chain, DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME WITH THE VITA-CHAMBERS ON. Otherwise, it becomes the Shining Force of FPSeses. Why yes, I do have a Photoshop for that.
Probably Shining Force III, given how political BioShock is....fuck. I've already covered that. How about the shooting, though? That's pretty damn cool. I mean, you get quite a few decent weapons (I never disapprove of crossbows in an FPS), a billion different types of ammo for each one, and enough frantic fun to act as a reason for all that. I know what you're thinking because I have the Plasmid for mind reading: wouldn't the idea of "fun" contradict that hellhole feel BioShock's trying to go for? Surprisingly, no. All that chaotic shooting actually contributes to the atmosphere, somehow. What better way to show that the city has become a militaristic, misanthropic mightmare (I'm surprised that word works as well as it does) than by making everybody willing to shoot you on site for some of that sweet, sweet ADAM? Or by making their leader somebody who actively encourages this to go Chickenhead on his dreams? The only complaint I could possibly have about the shooting is that this is clearly a console shooter (hacking isn't so difficult when you can click EVERYWHERE), but ignore that, for it is a dumb complaint.
Instead, let us focus on a much more legitimate complaint: why do you have a black and white morality system, BioShock? Mind answering that for me?...Perhaps I should explain. Your magical Plasmid powers are fueled by ADAM, a substance you gain from killing steampunk pimps (why else are they called Big Daddies?) and molesting their little girls. OK, it might as well be, given how the game presents it. You either rescue them with the power of Jesus McGoodyGood (again, might as well be) or kill them out of the blackness of your Hitler heart. What's that? You want ignore them and maintain a neutral stance? Or you want to phone up Dr. Tenenbaum for the ADAM, thus ensuring you don't have to kill anybody to get it? Fuck you and your moral ambiguity. We're giving you pretty much the bad ending for being so...neutral. The game literally forces you into a moral choice from the beginning, since you have to interact with at least one Little Sister to get through the game. Worse still, the morally good route is the one that goes against Rapture's own morality system. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself. Look, BioShock developers, I know you guys aren't the biggest fans of objectivism, but for the love of the Great Chain, you can do better than just saying "objectivism is evil".
Sad, too, because the actual Plasmid system is frigging great. I could bullshit around, but given that I've clearly already done that, it's time that I cut to the chase: the customization. There are 70-odd Plasmids to fuck about with, leaving you a TON of room to experiment and customize and stuff. I mean, I forgot to customize my Plasmids a lot, but given that the game was reminding me so much about ADAM and Gatherer's Gardens and such, I'm willing to let it slide. Besides, there's quite a bit of strategy to how and when you use these things (my favorite would be "short circuiting the water results in insta-kill"), and even ignoring that, they feed back into that frantic fun argument I made so long ago. After all, what better way to see the destructive power of Plasmids than by getting addicted to literally burning people's faces off? So yea, all-around solid game. I'd like to end it there, but before I close things off completely, there's one thing that's been nagging at me this entire time: bee Plasmids. Could you ever think of anything stupider than that? I know that Plasmids modify your DNA (which is already a shaky way of justifying things like hacking open turrets), but I don't think there's any combination of genes that equates to "turn your arm into a beehive for an entirely separate species". And genetics aside, who the hell is buying this damn thing? I mean, what possible market would there be for a bee-shooting Plasmi-
Oh dear god...Rapture is...full of...MASTURBEETORS! MASTURBEETORS, ONE AND ALL! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!
Hello, I am Vincent Kinian, and I'm here to ask you a question: is a gamer not entitled to the fullness of his morality? No, says the man in the diving suit rushing at me with his drill arm...
Fortunately, I have all these cool guns and Plasmids to help me through this situation.
It doesn't hurt that there's a free Vita Chamber every two feet in Rapture. Man, Andrew Ryan's government sure is generous with these life handouts!
I'm not clear on what practical use this could ever have, but here you go! Step one in becoming Andrew Ryan: telling God to go suck it.
I...what? This game is just so confusing. It all started with very confusing reasons: I wanted to put that (admittedly pretty good) BioShock/Little Mer-wait. OK, now I can put it to rest once and for all. Instead, I must now focus on the strangeness that is this game. For instance, why is Prince Eric so cool with his girlfriend being a mermaid out of nowhere? Why does Denmark have walruses? Is Ariel embarrassed when her dad walks around the house completely naked? AND HOW THE HELL DOES ALL THIS ADD UP TO BE SUCH AN AVERAGE GAME!?
Perhaps I should explain things, or at least those things that can be explained. As many of you could probably tell, this game is based off a Disney movie based on yet another spell of Hans Christian Andersen psychosis. What you don't know is how irrelevant all this is. The entire movie? It's all glossed over as set-up for the actual storyline: Ursula's magicking up the sea and it's up to Ariel to stop her! How? By turning back into a mermaid, of course, bringing up the question of why she had Ursula turn her into a human if she could just switch back and forth at will. And isn't it kinda strange that not only does the story completely skip past major details like a first love and changing species and the motivations behind either of these actions, but also that it contradicts these details just as quickly? And then we move from an exercise in narrative focus into absolute insanity. Ursula's freezing the sea, fish rain from the sky, and that cartoonlet from above happens at some point. So in short, the experience is a surreal, bat-shit insane interpretation of The Little Mermaid.
And a...shooter? Ecco the Dolphin knock-off? Generic action game? If it sounds like the gameplay is just as strange as the set-up, though, I'm sorry to say that it's really the exact opposite. You're just swimming through almost the same level again and again and again. And again and again and the game ends after five levels. Doesn't sound terribly exciting, does it? It really isn't, but not for lack of trying. I mean, the final level has a cool maze thing going, and there are a few instances where you get to watch Ariel desperately flop about on land, somehow managing to be more depressing than the source material (see: my last link). I guess it's just the ease of things that turns the game into a bland mush. The bosses don't put up too much of a challenge, and being able to swim wherever destroys any threatening menace the enemies could have held in any other game.
Although it does lead to some mildly interesting puzzles. Yea, I'm surprised, too, mainly because I don't think the game was even aware of this. That probably explains why it's pretty much the same puzzle each time: they didn't think you'd care. But I care. I care about opening those treasure chests and getting the power-ups within. Mainly because there are things like challenge and physics and other concepts attached to all this exclusively. Kinda wish it applied to the rest of the game, at least in more obvious amounts. I also kinda wish those Little Mermaid elements were the focus instead of window decoration for what appears to be Pee Wee's Playhouse. I mean, yea, it leads to some catchy music throughout, but I want more than that. Capcom, you had an opportunity to make a mermaid dating sim (a market that, as far as I can tell, is still an empty vacuum), but instead, you went for a confusing and forgettable...action game, I guess? I'd still recommend this game, but not for anything it did on purpose.
What's stranger than a reverse Katawa Shoujo? Ignoring that in favor of farting on sharks.
I forgot what I wanted to say in this bullet. Shocking.
Cool puzzles, though. Somebody tell 1990s Capcom about this shit.
So did any of you guess what the theme is? The answer below:
(And so I have reached a milestone few on this site can claim to have achieved.) How many of you can claim to have written 300 blogs in your time here? And how many of you can claim to have blogged on this site for four years, seven months, and a day? Not many of you, with such an incredibly specific number. Now, over the years, when I've reached an x00 blog, I've liked to use it as a platform for experimentation, whether it's pseudo game design (now useless in light of the actual AC3) or telling Igor to suck it. In that spirit, I use this blog as a moment of reflection and earning the ire of @PsEG and @Marino I'm gonna start this retrospective with some general trends. First, let's look at how you, my semi-loyal subjects, have commented on my blog over these many years:
Holy shit! That one huge spike at the beginning is making it impossible for me to pick out any trends whatsoever. Hey, you know what would be really helpful? If I completely and utterly ignored its existence altogether. Because that's all I'm going to do.
That's better. Now I can probably spot some actual trends and patterns and whatnot. How can I do that with all those terrible spikes? Either wizard eyes or I leased my soul to @PsEG. Take your pick. Anyway, what are we dealing with? Well, good news first: the average number of comments on my blog is going up over time, even if it is slowly. Right now, I'm sitting pretty at about 23 comments per blog. Now this may look like it's spread over a ton of random spikes, but that's far from what the reality is. (The random part; not the spike part.) Turns out I've found a few annual trends in the Renegade Ego experience:
Every year starts out slow. I'm guessing you guys are too hung-over from New Year's to bother commenting on my blogs, and then you're too hung-over from Chinese New Year's to bother commenting on later blogs. 2012 is an exception to this, though, mainly because of Katawa Shoujo and Code: Veronica X. (To my memory.)
I guess to "balance this out", April, as far as I can tell, is just a generally shitty month for my blogs. This year, I've prepared for it, using April as my chance to post a bunch of no-effort throwaway blogs for games nobody gives a shit about, like Nimbus, New Zealand Story, Fushigi no Yume no Alice, Alone in the Dark, Rez, Jet Grind Radio, Psycho.....nauts......A.....Reckless....Dis......I'm so horribly fucked in almost a month.
Fortunately, things look like they're gonna pick up mid way through the year and, more importantly, stay there until post-GOTY season. What the hell could be the cause of it? I'd like to use summer as an explanation, but I'm fairly certain I have an international audience, so that explanation's out. Maybe you guys just need to build momentum in your comments. I don't know. I'm no mathematician.
Finally, there's one peculiarity that I want to address: why were you guys turned off my blog in early 2010? The hell was going on there? I was hitting all my bases at the time; I gave you guys a taste of both the big stuff (Assassin's Creed 2, No More Heroes 2, BioShock 2) and the obscure, possibly Japan only stuff (Trip World, Panorama Cotton, Fragile Dreams). Hell, I even reviewed pizza! Is that not enough for you? I mean, yea, there was a delay when my computer crapped out on me, but that's not enough of an explanation.
But what does any of this matter? I seem to have settled into something consistent around August of 2012 In terms of comments, at least. There's still a lot more I have to tackle in this celebration, such as...
Here's something horrifically shocking: I have written 600141words over the course of this blog. (Not counting this one, of course, because how the fuck would I even do that?) That's more words than Atlas Shrugged, and almost twice as foolish. But really, that only translates to about 358 words per day or 2007 per blog. Wow, that still sounds like a lot. In fact....
Good. No embarrassing spikes like last time. The highest I seem to reach here is that peak in 2011, just past 6000 words. (It was my ninja blog, if you're curious.) Other than that, it's honestly very difficult to spot any trends in this data. I mean, yea, there's the spiky up and down we've come to know and love in the past two graphs, but what fun is that? I'd also like to say that I comfortably stayed in the 1000-2000 word count range, but just look. There's no way you can keep my blog confined to such a tiny range. It's breaking out all the time, and not always just going up. MY EGO IS TRULY A RENEGADE!!! But that doesn't solve the issue of trendless data. Maybe I should pair it up with the comment stuff from before. Maybe you guys like 4000 word diatribes about Panorama Cotton.
I know this is going to sound like a cheap cop-out, but I'm not spotting any significant patterns here. Just look at that. Everything's packed into that one little corner. The hell am I supposed to do with it? Yet that doesn't mean I'm completely without observation:
I write a ton of blogs in the 1000-2000 word range. This is somehow in addition to the fact that I average about 2007 words per blog. Math, you truly are a fickle bitch. Perhaps this is your form of punishment.
Let's venture up for a bit, though, because it turns out that 2000-4000 is where I hit it big. I knew you guys liked wordy blogs. Hell, there aren't even any duds past about 2200, 2300 words. Why else do you think that I'm making this as inhumanly long as possible? (Running the odds, honestly, if you see all the 2000+ blogs confined to the left.) Hell, even the stragglers at the top are getting a healthy amount of love. You should all be very afraid.
But what about those points at the bottom? How did they get so many comments? From what I can tell, those were most likely birthday blogs. We'll get to those later. Right now, it's all about...
(....Shit.) I don't have any fancy graphs for this. I have stats, but it's hard to graph out Final Fantasy VI music, which would constitute about half the graph. I kid, of course. The majority of my music, at about 37%, has been removed from YouTube. I can't even tell you what the music was before it was removed, because that information isn't even available (or at least I don't know how to access it).
But let us move to information I can actually access, since that's the only thing that matters. Here, things become more predictable. Final Fantasy just fucking dominates the stats. Was it any surprise? There are a ton of Final Fantasy games with a lot of great music, but for some reason, I focused most of that energy on the sixth, at 32 entries. To put that in perspective: that's three more than the Fire Emblem games I gush about half the time. Oddly enough, Seisen no Keifu only shows up seven times in all this mess, although I suspect that's because 240 of those instances were removed.
That's not the first strange thing in these stats, and it certainly won't be the last. For instance, did you know that I like Mother 3, Mystic Ark, and Romancing SaGa 3 equally? I don't, but apparently, they all had ten songs apiece. These are the type of skewed priorities that pop up when I select music for my blogs. Taboo beats out Gitaroo Man Lives (although I'm certain that I used the same song in Taboo, just multiple times), Devil Survivor is worth twice as much as Panzer Dragoon Saga (probably for the same reasons as the last example), and Terranigma is worth more than Fragile Dreams and Persona 4 combined. And then there were songs that aren't even game-related, like Dethklok (once), this (once (and I actually remember this one)), this (THREE TIMES!?), and....this? What?
And then things got weird. Two songs began showing up a lot as I started this retrospective: Europe and Monkey Love Song. So many blogs began with these two songs (although I don't think I ever found them both at the same time). Unsurprisingly, a lot of these instances were in Season 0. European bestiality sounds like it would fit in with the general quality of that period. Oh, and one of my musical links was apparently to a Gears of War 2 image, because some real crazy shit happened back in Season 0. That reminds me, though: let's break this all down by season, shall we? Yes, I write this blog in seasons. How else do you explain Claude's endorsement of Junes? Anyway, we'll start with the only season not to have a banner, and for very good reason:
(OH DEAR GOD, THIS WAS DREADFUL!) Looking back on all these old blogs of mine, I only now realize how goddamn horrible they all are. Hell, that was the season when I wrote a blog about a Scrabble game I played. That's the level of respect I had for my readers. (Although while I'm on the subject, I recently (several months ago) tried to play a word in Scrabble that wrapped around to the other side of the board. Didn't work; that is all.) I feel the greatest sorry for 2017 King. This bullshit went on for 72 episodes before I decided to put a banner on it, like putting a bowtie on a turd. But we'll get to season 1 later. There's still some close analysis we have to do here.
Well, immediately, I'm already spotting a trend that's gonna run through these comments: they bounce up and down rapidly. The average was around 17 comments, but I doubt there's a single blog that reflects that well. Sometimes, you guys like to discuss some obscure shit I'm talking about, while others times, you guys ignore Halo: Reach like the plague. But ignoring that, it looks like I was getting more comments leading up to that spike, and they suddenly decided to taper off a little bit after that. What was that huge spike? My birthday, of course! Amazing to think that you guys allocated all your comments to the day of my birth! You really do care about me! I have so much to say, I...I just....
At first, this looks pretty similar to the earlier comment graph. Things are bouncing up and down, but on the whole stay pretty consistent (with an average of 1772 words, somehow). Hell, you even have a similar spike from before. Except that's in reverse. The spike is my Phantasy Star Collection blog, and the dip is my birthday blog at just 63 words. Given how much I've written already, that can't bode well for how many of you actually bother to read this schlock.
(And this is where things became...slightly better.) That doesn't mean things still had the suck of season 0, but it also doesn't mean that all the blogs are going to be as awesome as, say, this. If anything, it was all OK. Good, but not great. But important, for this was the season of milestones. I opened the season with a banner. I middled it with my 100th blog (an experimental one, as has already been established). I beat my 1000th video game and closed things out. Some middle stuff also happened, like finding out that Earthbound is a good game and....oh no....NONONONONONONONONO!!!!! WHY HAST THOU RETURNED, FOUL BEAST!? WHAT BUSINESS HAST THEE WITH MORTAL MEN!?
This is weird. I bounced around a lot like last time, but look at the data. It's all stretched out. I imagine it has a lot to do with the timeframe (season 1 took place over at least a year), but I'd like to think it's because I evened out. Still, it looks like I was getting more spikes this season, so that's always a plus. Granted, the averages don't bare out (about 21 for this season), but that damn spike in season 0 is probably fucking with my averages big time. Suffice it to say that I'm calling this an improvement. The only anomaly seems to be that plateau at mid-to-late May. Yes, those blogs both got the same number of comments. Seems you guys love emo pussies as much as you love...well, emo pussies. But do you love long-winded diatribes? Of course you do, if you're reading this, but what I meant of that was:
Well, that's certainly a contrast to the previous season. A helluva lot less consistent (that (and my shitty old laptop crapping out on me) explains the gap in late April) and a helluva lot less words. Or at least it looks that way. Yea, it doesn't reach quite the peak that the previous season obtained, but that's because I don't remember extensively blogging about five games at once in season 1. Besides, the average word count for this season was 1994. If things weren't getting better (they were), they were at least getting wordier, and that's always a plus. Literally. That's always going to be a plus.
Gotta go with good ol' Captain Novolin. All around a funny blog, and it still has my favorite joke so far:
Frankly, I find that to be bullshit; there is no such thing as diabetes camp, but there are such things as failed fat camps. I suspect that it's easier to relabel it a diabetes camp than it is to say, "Look, we know how much we suck at this and that we're horrible people, but hey, at least they lost weight."
Honorable mention goes to my Persona blog, which was the only time I could fit both a Tim & Eric and an Ed Edd 'n Eddy reference in and make them relevant. Plus there's a reference to my Final Fantasy Tactics blog in there. Always a plus!
Least favorite episode
I'm honestly having trouble remembering any particularly bad blogs from this season, although that really has nothing to do with the overall quality of season 1. How about that Buck Bumble blog? Sure was a piece of shit, I guess, right? South Korean pizza dances? What the hell was I thinking? Clearly, you, as an audience, are far more interested in Japanese McDonald's nightmares.
(And this is where things started getting good.) For one, it was where I got a banner that didn't look entirely like garbage. It's also when I decided to adopt a formal schedule. You see, early on, I'd just write a blog and shove it out into the masses. While this was great for frequency (I think my record was three regular blogs in a single week), it certainly explains that lack of confidence in the quality of the earlier seasons. Eventually, though, The Temple of Elemental Evil forced me into an odd sort of schedule: regular blogs on Thursdays, gaiden blogs on Sunday or Monday or whatever. (I don't have a lot of gaiden blogs.) Two things happened here: first, a gap developed between my writing a blog and my actually posting it. Not even by a few days. In fact, to give you some perspective...what's today? The 28th? Of February? Because I began writing this in on the 7th. Of November. (Last year, obviously. I'm not usually a time wizard.) As for what I'm writing right now, it turns out it's....most likely Bit.Trip RUNNER or Sonic Adventure 2.
Second: my writing seemed to improve. At least it feels like it did. I mean, at least I'm more confident in my writing, and I'll sometimes make a more specific and thought out point than "this is a good game that's challenging and also has variety". (I still do that, but alongside other stuff.) There was also that brief period when I barely touched the Enter key, like I was afraid it would sue me for sexual harassment (see: Radiant Historia, the McDonald's stuff from before), so there's that. Definitely the longest lasting season by far; not counting this blog, it lasted 137 episodes and two years, 27 days. To put that in perspective: that's more episodes than Cartoon Network's longest running series, and it has all lasted longer than Game of Thrones. Anywho...
I know I've said it before, but things seem to stabilize near the end of the graph. Unfortunately, there seems to be a cost I had not been able to notice earlier in the blog: no more glorious spikes. In fact, my last big spike seems to have been midway through 2012, when I terrified all of you with Mary Kate and Ashley. After that, no more huge spikes. Quite a few dips, as is clearly evident, but no huge bumps. *sigh* Perhaps looking at another form of e-peen will boost my spirits.
(This is assuming that I have two penises, and one just won't shut the hell up.) Well, I certainly seem to have started season 2 on a wordy note. Remember that ninja blog I mentioned long ago? Guess what? That was season 2. Although oddly enough, it seems like my word count actually decreased as time went on. I mean, you certainly wouldn't be able to tell by looking, given the Enter rationing going on for a while, but things are definitely settling into a smaller range than before. Hopefully, this blog becomes long enough to upset that trend. In fact, I'll make sure to that later on. But that's later on, obviously, for now, we must deal with my...
I know this is going to sound obvious and borderline obsessive, but I have to go with my Katawa Shoujo blog. It was fun to write, pretty well written, and although @Turambar just tore me the hell apart pretty early, it was ultimately necessary for the sweet comments that ensued. Honorable mentions go to my first criticism of originality, which honestly might have taken the cake if the comments following the brutal deconstruction on the first page were any good, and my Duke Nukem Forever blog, simply because of the beauty behind it being delayed.
Least favorite episode
Oh god, that World of Goo blog I farted out. I clearly had no idea how to handle something with this level of abstraction (not very high, but still), and it shows. Or at least I think it shows. It should be obvious that I don't like looking at my failures.
(Not yet, damn it!) That's not until next week. (Unless you happened to catch my preview of season 3 on the beta site, in which case: stay tuned for this blog, time jumping past person!) But I do have some more planned for this blog, if you're curious. For instance, remember that word count thing from earlier before? Well, that wasn't enough for me, so, through the power of insanity, I compiled every blog I had ever written (because I don't know if there's an RSS feed for this or anything) and jammed it all into a word cloud generator! The results:
This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. With this, I believe I can craft the archetypical Renegade Ego experience:
Game Games: Much Play Synopsis
(Already, this is damn easy.) I will use every word. EVERY WORD! Wait....I should explain. Way long ago, in a better blog, I remember many awesome games. However, I'm sure that one game gets an award above all others. That game is Game Games: Much Play Synopsis, released for the Death System. The weapons. The characters. The enemies. The much. Wait...crap and stuff. Shit. What a good game.
First, story. I guess something makes it good. Awesome awards are spread around the game, and I remember much of levels being awesome. Given that he was really fucking shit, I can imagine killing him a bit. However, I know there's a problem with something, and that something is the characters. See, I like them well enough. The problem with the characters in this game is what I thought of them. "Already, I want death", I remember saying too many fucking times in this game. Man, I know people thought the characters were never crap, but that's the problem: they're always crap. Hell, there was that one time where the people were right, and I thought "Sure, this makes sense", but then bosses! I found the pretty systems decent, though.
In fact, let me tell you about the systems in this review. I really like them good. Man, the enemies know exactly what points make the characters crap. I know it looks like crap, but come on: every system ever wants better enemies. But not Game Games; it makes better enemies. I mean, I thought the weapons were too easy, but then I got to the second level. This is where things get good. Assuming, of course, you are playing the right version. Given that this game is actually several games in one, it's easy to get crap instead of everything else. OK, I kinda remember a lot of menus that tell you what to fucking do, but that's the problem: well, there were so many times when things wouldn't work that things actually became shit. Fuck.
But nothing beats another game, and, as I've already thought, that's what Game Games: Much Play Synopsis does best. I tell you what, something just works in Game Games' world. The gameplay? Awesome. The boss (just the one; take it or leave it)? Also awesome, if hard. The entire work? Death and stuff. I know, right? You just kill every place with all your weapons, guy. Sure, at first, it actually sounds stuff, but guess what? Place so many kills so many times in the story, and any reason for fun immediately becomes way too shit. Still, give it a try and stuff. The levels are kinda played, but I still found every other part very fun. Come on. It makes so much sense.
I just find things too easy.
Do I need a reason?
Man, things just got pretty much weird.
Blog Weapons Just Need Story
(Bit by bit, this blog takes the least amount of actual thought.) Sure, I know it looks hard, but every word comes easy. Anything else is the territory of Blog Weapons Just Need Story. Remember? Whatever. Make games about story, and it gets this game. That's a fact. But is another type of this thing gonna be a problem? I guess. What the hell?
For example, the blog. It's a video problem. Without a reason to remember people, the levels are kinda nothing. What makes them easy? Nothing. The enemies are exactly mean. The Man is fucking work. The Man should not be fucking work! I know how many times I've said this, but I found everything really long and stuff. Going from place to place, I need new crap again and again. Given that every system is already another version, and since I thought another example was awesome, was the best, The Man was, like, another game. What a bunch of crap. I've already played Game Games: Much Play Synopsis, Blog Weapons Just Need Story, so I don't need a reason to go back to the damn version of Game Games, guy.
Now the story, on the other hand, is probably really OK. Two years ago, something bad actually synopsis. Crap doesn't work, and another level may end. I think. Little by little, they must beat the mind and make one last review. Now look, that part was cool, but my point is that I feel some stuff could be more weird. Never have I seen whatever this is, and that's a problem. The reason is pretty decent, though. You really feel for the characters as they think and do that thing. The enemies, too, were a very mean little making, especially since the boss was just so fucking OK. Well, granted, I may have found him too right, but everything's like that, kinda. Are you really going to remember that after playing through so much death? I say "thought"! "Thought", I say!
Last, the bad. It gets come. Exactly what tells you that's awesome? For one, the video is new in that it can take playing every level to the next level. And that's awesome. Did I hell you that? See, I got pretty much every gameplay element without death ever. Damn, I'm just awesome, and so is this game. The shit world is gonna be a problem, but without it, the place is fucking playing with me, you know? Like crap gets around my Review, and then, well, the gameplay's fun and decent and stuff. I've never given anything a little thought, but....Does any of this even mean anything? Shit. Fuck. Do you mind if I give this game another Award? The last award, I promise. How about.....the Sure, Much Sense Guess Award for Mean Characters and Long Bit Work. Actually....never mind.
This blog was way too long.
Damn, making this blog was fucking hard.
Oh, and that made three.
And that's it on this retrospective, EXCEPT IT ISN'T. Anybody remember the beta? The beta I mentioned so many words ago? Well, during the Era of the Serpent, I decided to create a wiki page unto myself. Much of its content has been devoured by the Great Sea Serpent in its unholy wrath, but I was able to save one morsel from his terror: a review of me, as written by @AndrewB. Here is said review, in almost all its entirety. (I had to sacrifice images unto the Serpent to distract it.)
Video Game King - The official AndrewB Review.
Video Game King is an oddity in this world of franchise and genre-based video games. It defies definition. It's something completely different from any previous releases, and as such, a very difficult game to describe with any sort of context. Suffice it to say that, in my lengthy time with Video Game King, I feel it a justified purchase for literally any type of gamer.
You play the Video Game King, beginning life as a mere resident of the kingdom of Giant Bomb. The early-goings of the game will see you completing such tasks as mass wiki editing, writing half-insane blog posts based on other video games that no one has actually played, and generally replying snarkily (in the most charming manner) to other residents of Giant Bomb. Much of your time will actually be taken up playing other games for review. Many of them are osbcure, many awful, but there are of course some shining rays of light. You'll see much of the Fire Emblem series, being the King's favorite, and such sequences are infinitely enjoyable. Worth the purchase itself. Minigames dot your adventure, consisting mostly of wall-posts and creating elaborate Persona 4 -cross- Katawa Shoujo backgrounds for your profile. Such backgrounds are endearing enough to make the experience worth it, and as such do not detract from the overall gameplay in any way.
You'll recieve upgrades along the way. Links to Youtube being key to your arsenal. It's one of the game's more amusing aspects, and certainly places it on a pedastal far above the rest. You can choose from a near-infinte assortment, although many come from Adventure Time, a Cartoon Network series I personally have yet to watch. As such - and this leads to the downside- unless you're aware of the pop-culture references, many of them may go over your head. The problem is alleviated somewhat by external links on the internet, such as Wikipedia and Urbandictionary, to help you understand them. Doing so, of course, comes at the cost of a good deal of the humor within, so use them with caution.
The graphics consist mostly of expertly-crafted Paint.Net edits. Unfortunately, sometimes the roughness of the limitations in such an image editor shine through. For a game developed by an indie studio on a limted budget, however, it's an understandable dilemma, and in that context the graphics are forgivable and actually quite well put together. Header images are high quality PNG files, while the body consist mostly of HTML formatted text using an internal editor. The aforementioned comical images and video often dot this text in both appropriate and inappropriate places.
Audio is mostly non-existent, although you will come across the occasion expertly-crafted Youtube link to a soundtrack which rounds out the overall experience. Without voice acting of any sort, however, the limited budget really shines through, and while I'm skeptical of the quality of voice acting which could be afforded by such a limited budget, it would certainly be nice for the sometimes lengthy walls of text to be accompanied by voice samples of any sort in an era of other fully-voiced projects.
Multiplayer consists of starting out as a flegdling site user, and it's up to you to decide which path to take. You can reply snarkily to other comments, continue the tired meme of Brad escaping from the Kingdom, or even contribute to the wiki yourself. It's questionable if the goal of exceeding The King's post count is ever actually achievable, although that's something that remains to be seen until such a time that the game is released to the ravenous, general masses. Unfortunately, due to the complete redesign of the site this time around (warning: Kat Smith's glorious cartoon style is rare in this version), it's impossible to obtain achievements, thus doing so would have no other worldly benefit in the first place. Co-op DLC is planned, but as of writing has not been released.
Make no mistake: Video Game King is an expertly-crafted game, despite some of the aforementioned shortcomings. It can last you anywhere from minutes to 100+ years, depending upon your level of commitment. At any price, it's a bargain. As a free-to-play entry without any of the added paid hooks beyond a standard Giant Bomb subscription, however, it's a no-brainer. I've been playing for about 4 years now, and I can honestly say there's no sign of stopping, which is why a recommendation of Video Game King comes so highly.
And finally, I wish to stretch this blog out to infinity with an idle curiosity: how popular is my birthday? Let's just make a graph of all the comme-
(...Am I still doing it?) Am I still alerting you to whenever I complete a Humble Indie Bundle game? Well, I am now, I guess. Anywho, Penumbra! It's a survival horror game, and it came so close to being the one survival horror game I like without reservation. (Clock Tower's as close as it's gonna get, for now.) But alas, it was not meant to be, for it suffers the same pitfalls that drive me to other genres entirely!
For example, a mediocre story! It all starts in Britain, when an emotionally distant 25 year old university professor gets a letter from his dead dad. No, that's not really supposed to be the scary part. Those parts come later, when he goes to a mine in...Denmark? Antarctica? Greenland? Coldistan? I guess the location isn't important; what really matters is the artefact (or artifact; the game honestly can't decide) his father left in this mine, which turns out to be....I have no goddamn clue. That's my main problem with the plot: not enough detail. Yes, I'm left with more questions than answers at the end, but not in a good, provocative way or anything.
For example, why do the dogs hate my character? Maybe they're rabid because of decay and disease, since their bod-Wait, why are their bodies so goddamn messed up? Is it the decay thing, or is it some demon magic bullshit? I mean, there are those lantern things sc-What are the lantern things? Are they visions of the future, of the past, dead people trapped inside, strange recordings, what? And is this supposed to be rooted in crushing reality, or is there some supernatural shit going on here? Mind telling me, game? Or are you content with your "unhinged" (read: annoying beyond belief) side-character? I imagine much of the blame goes to the episodic nature of Penumbra, given the cliffhanger nature of the ending, but that's no excuse. Don't hide your answers in a different game entirely.
I guess to make up for this, Penumbra put a ton of work into the atmosphere. For those of you playing this game alongside the blog, what? You're stranger than that Red character you'll come to hate soon. But anyway, it may sound strange, given how much the game tells you to be scared, but give it time. Soon, things are gonna pay off. You think you want the comforting touch of man (since, I guess, that's the aim of the game), but you spurn the company of others you see. The darkness becomes your friend, and silence your other friend. I know this sounds like pretentious bullshit (and that's probably because I still have Red on my mind), so anybody who has played this game full screen with the brightness knocked down to nothingness can probably attest to how scary this game can be. That probably explains why the game threw such a hissy fit when I tried to get it in windowed m-
NO! Good things now, bad things later! How about generally interacting with the world? I'd say that it's almost as good as the atmosphere, but really, the two go hand in hand with each other. Objects have a real sense of weight behind them, which is as close as possible to feeling like you're actually there. Besides, it's generally fun to fuck around with bottles and rocks and other shit. Same with the com-ALMOST. You think I'd say the combat is fun, given that it also has the sense of weight behind it, but I really can't. Yea, there's power behind your swing of the hammer, but the dog's not gonna find that shit funny. He's gonna bite your face off. All your pussy-ass can hope to kill is an oddly powerful spider, and that's on a good day. (Somebody get on posting a picture of a pussy-ass in the comments.) And that's what I love so much about Penumbra. It's one of those rare cases of a survival horror game making you feel powerless without making the combat a complete pain in the ass...
...until, of course, you stand on something slightly elevated above the ground, like a 1950s woman standing on her stool, screaming at the mutant zombie mouse sneaking into the kitchen. Turns out those wild dogs lunging at you have no idea how to strike at something standing on a fucking box. It's at this point that you realize how dumb the enemy AI is, since they're perfectly happy to bite straight into your pickaxe and collapse over dead. And then come are the moronic puzzles, because you can't have a survival horror game without idiotic puzzles. (Clock Tower tried, and we all know what became of that.) I'll just let this defy logic all on its own. The context doesn't justify it too much, either; it's a riddle to help you remember which chemical beaker is which, even though there's no reason the names couldn't have been written on the actual beakers. Did you enjoy that? Well, regardless, there are more puzzles like that in the Penumbra experience. No! You're coming apart at the seams, Penumbra! And you were so close to being a competent survival horror game! Will none stand to the call of duty?.....Please let the first survival horror game I unconditionally love be a Call of Duty game. I don't care if it makes no sense. Get on it, game industry.
Claustrophobia is scarier when you're not being pestered by an imbalanced dick.
But it's effective claustrophobia, nonetheless.
At least until you're fucking about with pistons to progress.
This may not look like it fits into anything else in this blog (and not just because I can't embed the actual video), but just skip to 5:46 and watch your brain start to leak out your ears. (Your eyes will have rolled back into your head at this point, making it more than possible.)
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti
(Sure, why not?) I need a vaguely horror themed game to go alongside Penumbra and SpongeBob, and this is about as vague as it gets. Remember how the first three games were controversial back in the day. (I doubt it; I'm around specifically so you guys don't have to remember that shit.) Well, the closest this version comes is that old Nintendo brand of controversial made up entirely of acknowledging religion as a thing. Now remember how the Splatterhouse games were pretty much nothing but walking forward and whacking things, like some murderously aggressive game of Whack a Mole? Well, this was the one aspect they kept in the game. I don't know, either.
I'm not kidding; that really is all Wanpaku Graffiti has to offer. Just walk forward, slash something that's in your way, and jump a couple of times. There are a few instances where you get a shotgun, but that's about it. You cannot carry seven levels on this idea alone. Maybe one level, but not seven. After that long, I'm gonna want more. More weapons, more meaningful enemy variety, more challenge, more anything. Challenge especially, because I shouldn't have to tell you that there isn't much challenging about Wanpaku Graffiti. OK, there are a few difficult moments littered about, but it's ultimately an easy-ass game. Hell, most of the boss battles consist of simply beating the opposition over the head until they just get fed up and decide to leave.
But remember that whole "moving away from traditional Splatterhouse" stuff I said before? Well, it turns out it was for the better. I'm not trying to insult previous Splatterhouse games (mainly because I've only played the first, and that was a while ago), but what Wanpaku Graffiti does works perfectly. I don't even know how to explain it. There's just something very appealing about gathering up all the vague horror references you possibly can and turning them into this light hearted romp. Maybe it's how ridiculous it is to have a masked murderer rise from the grave (along with a pumpkin head, because that's scary, I guess) looking so effing cute, or maybe it's the fact that one of the bosses is Thriller. I'm not entirely sure. All I know I that it gives the game a very clear, highly memorable personality. So where does that leave us? Is all this enough to mask (no pun intended) the fact that the gameplay consists entirely of moving right and slashing things? Juuuuust barely.
Why is that cute little five year old ripping out that pumpkin demon's intestines? Also, what the fuck are pumpkin demons doing in something like this?
And do I ever use any buttons other than right and "kill"?
By the way, the title translates to "Naughty Graffiti". Not that it makes any more sense, given the utter lack of graffiti in this game.
Wait, something just occurred to me. What number blog is this? Seriously? 299? Shit! I'm gonna have to prepare something seriously awesome for next week. So I guess tune in next week, wherein I remind you that I have written 300 blogs (too many).
(It could've been worse.) I could've called this the Cog Blog, you know. But I didn't. Be thankful for my infinite mercy. Oddly enough, you will never hear these words coming from Cogs, mainly because its mercy is very finite and used up very, very quickly. Play it for long enough (like, say, into a single puzzle), and it's going to mock you for your utter lack of intelligence. Maybe I utterly hate myself, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
In fact, I have no choice but to go with the self-hatred, given what's going on in this game. "What are you talking about", you say as you've clearly hijacked my blog. "Penis penis penis penis." Well, that was certainly mature of you, but I get what you're saying. What about living in a cuckoo clock could make you loathe yourself so? I've news for you: that wonderful mechanical aesthetic? It's all a front for some Saw-ass shit. And I mean that quite literally. Each of these puzzles has you crafting what you believe to be the tools to your freedom, but turn out to be the instruments of your demise. That music box, for instance? Turns out that tune sets off a bomb attached to your jaw that goes off at juuust the right frequency. Those stars aren't a mere reward for doing so well, but what you see as you ascend to the heavens. Or something like that. I don't know; there's no real explicit plot, and Dear Esther has taught me to over-analyze the fuck out of everything.
Good thing, too, given what type of game this is. It's a puzzle game where you rotate things until you're told to stop rotating things. But to be fair, there's more to Cogs than simply shuffling pieces about.....OK, there isn't, but there's a very good reason for that. It manages to get a lot out of simply rotating shit around. Balloons, music, steam, and everything else that can kill you horribly! Assuming, of course, that you actually manage to solve some of these puzzles, because they can be immensely difficult. So difficult, in fact, that I could only describe them using a word that had "MENSA" in it, if you careful readers picked up on that. (My own idiocy certainly wasn't helping.) I'm fine with it, though. They're nothing more than logic puzzles, so working them out on your own after hours of careful thought turns you into the Supreme Logic Master of the Cosmos....Or at least that's how it's gonna make you feel. The only exception would be puzzles that require you to flip the board around, which are less challenging fun and more mean-spirited taunts.
But on that note, the game could still use a bit of minor polishing to appease the over-analyzing dicks it creates. Control could use some refining oddly enough. I'm aware of how strange it is for a game to fuck up clicking around, but that's not the issue. Instead, the game doesn't teach you certain techniques that are absolutely necessary to solving these puzzles. I know that sounds like pointless whining, but given how often you find yourself trying to figure out these techniques, you'd think the game would inform you in some capacity as to how to perform them. Doesn't happen, though. I also wish you had the ability to undo moves in case you've fucked up. I'm aware of stars you get for finishing a puzzle in a certain number of moves, but the time stars are there to balance things out just fine. Even if that's not the case, you could still limit how many undos you get in one puzzle, somehow. Unfortunately, you'll never get to undo your mistakes. You must live with them for the rest of your bleak existence....Wow, what a mean way to end this blog. Maybe I should end it by praising the puzzle design or something like that?.....Nah. Enjoy your nihilistic decline, folks!
It's a well built puzzle game. That's really all I need to say about it.
Man, that game would've been so much easier if I was an Airbender. And if I could've told it to suck my dick.
(That's better.) I'm guessing. Reading over my blog for it that I'm certainly not linking you to, turns out Cogswell's Caper was actually an OK game. Who knew? Anyway, Money Puzzle Exchanger. You have to exchange money in this puzzle game. I'd say more, but that's really all there is to it. Throw in some anime girls and me flailing about, hoping I'll actually get good at it, and you have the Money Puzzle Exchanger experience.
But let's pretend that this is a regular blog, for humor's sake. That means starting off with the story, which is...anime catgirls running past sunsets. Joy. Sadly, that's pretty much the entire game's aesthetic: animes and cute. Normally, I wouldn't be complaining about something this small, but it's really in your face about it. There's literally nowhere you can look in this game that isn't just utterly saturated with cute anime girls given vaguely money related names. (And a guy.) I mean, if you enjoy this type of thing, all the more power to you, but even for someone like me (meeeeee), this was too much.
I'd say that fortunately, the gameplay's here to make up for that, but it's just so hard to focus on that when you have the entire Sailor Bleach Evangelion cast breathing down your neck. But gameplay I shall focus on! You start things off by choosing from one of two entirely identical characters you'll never get a good look at, making you wonder why you'd ever bother. And then you get into things, and find out that it's just like every oth-OK, time to stop being so damn dismissive. Somehow, this game manages to be both relaxing and fast-paced. You're just matching up moneys into groups of two or five, but man, there can be a rhythm to it. It's the type of oddly satisfying thing where you can't enjoy all those cools moves you're pulling because that would leave less time to perform other cool moves. And then you execute a combo, watching your pair of anime tits become SHIVA, LORD OF ALL DESTRUCTION! ALL SHALL BE DESTROYED IN MY W-
Wait, I got that mixed up: turns out the other anime was Shiva. And so my ass has been kicked, an experience repeated many times over the course of Money Puzzle Exchanger. (Man, it sure is surprising how well this game conforms to Hindu lore.) This game does not fuck around. If you don't know what you're doing, this game is gonna chew you up and continue chewing you up, because it won't even allow you the satisfaction of a conclusion. You can avoid this by learning decent arrangements and speed the hell up, but the learning curve on this game sure is steep. It certainly doesn't help that the computer cheats on the later levels (there's no way they can move that fast without black magic). Look, do you want to have fun with this game? Get somebody else (preferably around your level) and pop it in for ten minutes of a quick match. That's what this game was made for. Anything except how I handled it. I mean, did you see all the irrelevant mythological references? DON'T END UP LIKE MEEEEEEE!!!!!
Words fail to describe how aggressively anime this thing is.
There's nothing more fun than moving between time.
Provided you can reach such a plane of existence.
Wait, did I just write the same blog twice in a row?
(Hey, any of you remember my last blog?) Remember how in the second part, I tried something artsy and experimental with my narrative, and nobody knew what the hell I was talking about? (I hope you remember; it was only last week.) Well, that's Dear Esther for you, only with prose about 67% less purple. Now do not mistake this for me calling the game bad. In fact, don't mistake this for me calling the game good, either, because I have no goddamn clue what the hell to think about the game.
How about I move from the certain to the uncertain so I can ease you in? That sound good? OK. First up: the presentation is amazing. This much is evident from the title screen, which....OK, I can't really find any decent words to describe this, mainly because they've all been used before, so how about I just use those words? It's soft, it's somber, it's evocative, haunting, emotional, beautiful, some other nice words, and a slightly mean phrase: not as good as the graphics. That's not so much an insult to the music (obviously) as it is to the graphics, which tend to be the strongest parts of the game. They can also fumble a bit in a few areas (the dirt ground looks less like dirt ground and more like painted concrete with bits of paper sticking up out of it), but for the most part, Dr. Dan (I'm not giving up that moniker) did a fantastic job of stuffing detail into everything. There's a reason I gave this the caption I gave it. And it's not even just a technical thing, because every little nook and cranny has something, anything to contribute to the story.
I just can't figure out what the fuck that might be. Maybe I should start by describing the general story. You're a guy who's wandering around an island, and...there are car accidents and sheep syphilis? I don't know. That's really the only thing I can talk about with any authority. Everything else is just an unclear blur. Does the narration describe the past or the present? (I'm leaning more toward past, because the present is just "walking around and stuff".) Is the protagonist supposed to be going slowly insane? Is he suicidal, or is the water really that fucking crazy? (I don't get either vibe, because of the game's "tell, don't show" policy on these sorts of things.) And more importantly, what's the point? Is it supposed to be something about reductionist mindsets and how dumb they are? Clever, but there's only so much evidence for that in the game, and so many other directions it could be going in.
But I can't insult it too much, because I don't think things are just thrown around the island for no reason. The story at least seems like it follows a three-act structure, since there's an obvious climax (and what a climax it is), and the narration makes stuff like a stray Bible relevant. There's clearly a reason why there are all those chemical equations strewn about; I just don't know what that reason may be. Besides, most of the stuff I can figure out is pulled off really well. (Some of it is stupidly obvious, but let us not speak of such things.) There's probably an undercurrent about how living alone is no way to live, and, well, the game reflects that. Characters tend to lead shitty lives when they separate from others, and you get a good sense that the protagonist (he doesn't have a name, so let's call him "Dear Esther", since that's something the game would readily embrace) is getting more frustrated and unhinged as his adventure stretches on.
The atmosphere's also pulled off pretty damn well, if I'm to leave anything to this game. I'm aware that I mentioned how great the game looks, but what use is that if you can't build a world with it? Fortunately, that's exactly what Dear Esther does. Death simply permeates the island. Oh, yes, there was life there at one point; that much is made clear. But now? The only remnants are the scattered lives of those before you and the premonitions of things to come. You know, sort of like Fragile Dreams, because I'm the type of simplistic asshole this game might be calling out, possibly. I don't know. Perhaps this is the type of game that's supposed to resonate with you emotionally, as I have heard from time to time. Being that I have all the emotion of a late model PS3, I may have to settle for "I don't get it", as much as I don't wish to use that to describe this game. It feels like I'm fulfilling some type of hipster prophecy.
Man, this game looks amazing.
And the story's pretty good....maybe....
It's a short hour of utter confusion.
This video should be easier to get.
(As always, I prefer to work with opposites.) Just look at these two games. Dear Esther is an artistic look at...something (I still have yet to figure out what), largely grounded in reality. M.C. Kids, meanwhile, is an advergame dipped in a bucket of acid. (Your choice on what type of acid, of course.) What's more, while I'm not very confident on what I think of Dear Esther, I have a pretty good idea of what I think about M.C. Kids: it's a freaky-ass game.
And psychotic, at that. Let's examine this from the beginning. Ronald McDonald is exposing his genitals in public when the Hamburglar steals his magic bag. Now Ronald knows (or at least has a vague clue) where his bag went, so obviously he enlists the help of children in retrieving this eldritch artifact. But before he'll tell them where it is, he makes them collect cards with his face on them out of a vague sense of vanity. Do you have any other explanation? Stranger still, every other character in the game does the exact same thing. They all recruit children into this cruel goose chase, and it...changes them. These are not the same children they once were. Twisted by a world that wants them dead, these children now murder the creatures of the forest so that they might drink their blood for sustenance. That is an actual gameplay mechanic; it is now the only world they know. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THESE CHILDREN, YOU SICK BASTARDS!?
Why have you involved them in your sick card quest? What's the point? I mean, I can respect a game trying to get me to explore levels and requiring more than simply going through them, but this is just mean. Your game's already short, so it comes off as needless padding, a point that's only hammered home with all the backtracking at that end. And that's not even getting into how you're actually supposed to get the cards. Some of them can just be deviously cruel. For example, look at this. Try to imagine how you get that without dying a pointless death. Now keep in mind that's a 1-up; the cards you need for progression are often harder to get than that, because that red stuff around Ronald McDonald's mouth isn't make-up.
Wait, are there any parts of this game that I actually enjoyed? Hmmm.....well, the game looks like vomit (although it might be an Americanthing), and the music is...actually pretty good. Full of energy and everything. That's more like it. Now we're getting into things. How about the pla-OH FUCKING HELL! This game is all kinds of crazy. No matter what level you go to, you're gonna find something balls-out crazy, like walking upside down or jumping on floating bones in a level that is clearly not Hell. (But that's only because every other part of the game is already Hell.) I know it sounds confusing, but like Dear Esther before it, there's clearly purpose to be found here. Once you understand that, the levels become kinda fun. You're just wondering what the hell's gonna come next. Even if you're not into vague insanity, you can always just blast through the levels in under a minute Sonic style. Sure, it's not as refined as Sonic (I'd prefer my momentum without a sense of inertia, if that makes any sense), but if you're willing to abandon the core feel of this game, you're gonna take what you can get.
I honestly didn't think I'd ever get another use out of this, but M.C. Kids can only be explained with 109 clown faces.
Why do you have to collect cards for Ronald McDonald to tell you where the person who stole his bag went? Because Ronald McDonald is a masochist, you see.
My whole world is upside down. I will never see things the same way ever again.