Diving into things that overwhelm me, I play an RTS. Sort of.



Astal

( Anybody else feel like they're in a gaming rut?) No? Just me? What the hell? Oh, you guys are playing those new games, like Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2, Dante's Inferno, and Sexy Librarian! Thanks for making me feel depressed as hell for saying that first sentence. Let me depress you with this next fact: I played through Brütal Legend. Oh, wait, that's the next section. This one's more about Astal, an obscure Saturn platformer that almost managed to crash my computer.
 
Also, it almost managed to crash my brain. Into a wall. Before I could actually play the game, I had to sit through an introduction that makes Magic Knight Rayearth seem uber-manly with a capital dotted U. I suspect that I could've skipped it, but part of my reviewer's code states that I must always give a game a chance, even if it destroys that chance worse than this game destroyed my forehead. But what exactly made me want to paint my walls and apply face paint simultaneously? Here's the story: a goddess created a man and a woman to populate the Earth. That would sound like the story of Adam and Eve if the girl wasn't kidnapped immediately and if the guy didn't want to beat the piss out of everything. On his quest to rescue the "princess", Astal (that's the "Adam", if you haven't caught on yet) learns the importance of friendship and emoti- HUAAAHGUHGUHAHAHHHHHHHGGGGGG!!! Ugh, what the hell? I anticipate more puking in the near future, so let's stay the hell away from that.
 
Instead, let's move onto the graphics. For all you graphics whores out there....I don't know how graphics sex works, but I imagine this game would do something good with that concept or something. It's the game that proves that the Saturn was tailor-made for 2D graphics (Burning Rangers obviously being the game that proved the system used 3D worse than the film industry is right now). The environments are lush and vibrant, showing a high amount of detail that's not only incredibly pretty, but also shows the extreme amount of detail that went into each and every part of what you're seeing on screen. Too bad the actual game couldn't be like this. If this game's graphics matched its gameplay, it'd look a helluva lot like Rakugaki Showtime, only without as much effort. Look at it, and then wrap your minds around that.
 
Fuck you, turtle! That's what you get for being a turtle!
Oh, you're confused? Of course you are! I don't know what the hell that game is, either! I guess I should get to explaining the actual game: it's your typical runny-jumpy platformer, wherein you run and jump on platforms. It's an oddly simple formula that makes for predictably bland results, like when you were a kid and decided to mix every food item in the house into one horrible abomination of a sludge you called a drink, or am I alone on that experience. It's not like the developers weren't trying to make this game unique, it just seems like they weren't. The levels are incredibly varied, ranging from simple runny-jumpy parts to stuff like riding a turtle through a swamp and stopping every 3 seconds to blow out your birthday candles. Two things I must address there, though: first, I'm sure most of you noticed that a lot of those levels sounded at least similar to things you've seen in other platformers. Specifically, Donkey Kong Country, for me. It doesn't adversely affect the quality of the game, it's just a bit of an elaboration on why the game feels a bit bland.
 
That second thing: remember me mentioning the blowing of birthday candles? Not like that, you impractical pervert; I was referring to one of Astal's attacks. Again, evidence that they were actually trying to make this game unique, and it's probably the most successful part of their endeavors. Rather than go to his caveman routes and just punch anything different than him, Astal prefers to use a variety of attacks at any given time: he can punch things, but he can also punch the ground to get things to him for punching, blow on things until they're punchable, or, if his fists aren't in the mood, he can sick his bird on his foes. However, whether or not the bird actually does it is up to the damn bird; the little guy only attacks the enemy if he feels like it, and I never discovered what made the bird want to kill things. I'm guessing it was just luck, which is odd, given that all the other attacks are balanced well enough and have a decent amount of strategy to them.
 
What's odder still is that while the difficulty is perfectly balanced, the game is old school to the point that you'd think the game is trying to sabotage itself, like me in making a very poor Gollum reference. "What do you mean by old school," you say to me, somehow having hijacked my very blog, "this is a Saturn game, right? Keep in mind that there's a thing called " too old school", and some of this game's features are just that. Things like no save feature, lack of in-level checkpoints, and health not refilling betwixt levels are things that justify me giving this game the exact same score as about a billion other games. Oh, and for some reason, it also justifies my giving of the Confused Demographic Award. Boys will be pissed that this game is the reason that they now pee sitting down, and girls will be pissed that it's a video game..........Oh, I meant "because all those features mean they probably won't have the patience to make it through this game in the one sitting it demands."
 

Review Synopsis

  • A manly character that will turn you into a girl? And this isn't an anime? The hell?
  • Nice, I get to do more than just beat people up; now I have options!
  • The difficulty is balanced, but somehow, the individual components of it aren't. Somebody get me a better scale!
 
 
 
 
You may not like this video, but your face was asking for it!
 
   
 

Brütal Legend

( I'm starting to hate you, Jack Black.) I know that I essentially said this back in my unread Kung Fu Panda blog, but I gave you some leeway because of how awesome Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny is. Then you walked up to the podium at those Spike awards and told various games to suck your balls. Minus a point. Yet after that, various games actually managed to suck your balls. Plus a point. But you missed the obvious "Wii would like to play" pun. Minus a point. Brütal Legend. Minus a point.
 
 What was that?
"Of course that's minus a point", I hear you yelling into my ears as you watch me type this, "it's Brütal Legend! Everybody should know that BL is crap by now, it came out in, like, October!" I'm one of those everybody, so why did I bother getting it? I've been trying to get into RTSes for a long time. I'd elaborate, but I'll do that in my inevitable Starcraft blog, since that game introduced me to the genre far more efficiently. As for this game, I thought that the diluted combination of sandbox roaming and Zerg-rushing would help me jump at least into the shallow end of the genre. However, I soon found out that the diluted part of the equation is what people don't like about it. I also found out that any notions about the RTS and sandbox elements of the game showing any sort of unity were more misled than my opinion that this would be a decent introduction to RTSes.
 
Instead of being like Assassin's Creed II, where even something like doing gymnastics in a church felt like it connected to other parts of the game, Brütal Legend (I'm going to start calling it Brumlaut Legend because I'm tired of copying and pasting the name) is more like ActRaiser, a game that held no dreams of connecting Castlevania to Civilization. The closest this game comes to joining the two pieces comes in the form of side quests where you lead a group of warriors to victory in ambush. However, there are so many things wrong with that premise that I don't know where to begin. *rolls dice* OK, actual strategy, or more accurately, the lack of any. Just order your troops to attack, let them do so, and then melt people's faces off with a bitchin' solo. The reward for doing this is minimal, so why would you want to do it?
 
Actually, that question came up quite a bit whilst I was doing the side missions. That's why the only ones I actually committed to doing were the racing ones, where I beat the piss out of a racer who was Irish, for some reason; everything else was just story. It's not like there was anything else to do in the world of Brumlaut Legend, or much of a reason to explore the world; there's not much interaction to be had with the random roaming hordes, not a whole lot to buy, and it's somewhat difficult to navigate this world. Between the vehicle with a donut steering wheel and the map that doesn't exist, I didn't wander about for fear of losing track of where the hell I was. It doesn't help that you can't easily get from one end of the world to the other without taking a little road trip. (Get it? Because he's a roadie? Huh? Huh?) The only good thing I have to say about the open world aspect is that there's a variety of locations, making it somewhat easier to tell where you are, but again, it's hard to tell when you can't look at a little circle in the corner that tells you where north is.
 
But whatever, that's not what I came for. The reason I got this game instead of, say, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was because I wanted to get into RTSes. For that reason, I recommend it minimally, since this game assumes that you already know how to play an RTS. OK, fine, it'll teach you how to secure a fan geyser (RTS currency) and that some units do things different from others, but other than that, you're on your own. Speaking of unit variety, it's definitely present, which shows that they were trying, but the main problem is that it doesn't matter. Outside a few special instances where the game forces you to use a certain unit just for the hell of it, chances are you'll stick to the same 2-3 squads because bassists are useless, like everybody else. 
 
 Coincidence? Probably.
Predictably, the effectively small unit variety means you won't have much strategy. I know that it's probably just me and my lack of experience with the RTS genre, but the only strategies I found were "secure fan geysers, fight enemy, destroy stage." I wasn't taught anything else. Sure, it led to a metric shitload of stalemates, but this strategy seemed to be effective. I never knew how, as it was never exactly clear how I won the match, but somehow my efforts summoned a Brütal Victory message. Maybe it was because I'd often repeat my earlier strategy of getting into the enemy's face before melting it off. Oh, this must be why I found it hard to use this as an introduction to RTSes: rather than use a mouse to select a group of units to beat the piss out of similar-looking units, you continue playing as General Eddie, the only difference being that you fly. Why you can't do this during the rest of the game is never answered. Ever.
 
Hold on, I was suddenly hit with a sense of nostalgia, bear with me on this. RTS with direct character control, little to no strategy, major console RTS, play it for the multiplayer: I think we have a next-gen version of Herzog Zwei. That's why I couldn't get any introductory value from it: because Herzog Zwei was crap at that, too! Also, they both point out some major flaws in console RTSes, at least from their design choice. As I previously stated, it's hard to have any sort of strategy when you can't easily get from one end of the battlefield to the other. It's also hard to resist the impulse to jump down into the battlefield and jam an axe into somebody's spine. It works, it's easy, and at least it's an easy way to tell which units are your own, at least in the early part of the game. 
 
Then again, there's not much reason to avoid hitting your guys (potentially). After all, what connection do have to these thick-headed headbangers? Oh, shit, I forgot to cover that in the first paragraph. I only remember one instance of this ever, and it ended with rape. Let's hope that this does not happen. Anyway, you take the role of Eddie Riggs, a roadie who looks like Nathan Explosion if he gained about 20 pounds, at least 2 of which are in facial hair alone. He finds that his job sucks and comments on how dead metal is. Metal responds by KILLING HIS FAT ASS and sending him to a rock afterlife where nobody knows what rock is. Makes about as much sense as anything else Jack Black has made, and it feels a lot like your typical Jack Black affair (a bit of a *removes glasses* renegade ego, quirky jokes, etc.). However, what you won't find in, say, Year One, is an awesome metal soundtrack. Everybody's here, from Dragonf-*pukes out lungs*...ugh....from Judas Priest to Black Sabbath. But you know what's not between those: Dethklok. The hell, guys? You got Dragonf-*pukes out liver*....but not Dethklok? I know they're making their own game, but without them, this game's soundtrack feels underdeveloped and wanting of more. In fact, that's how you could describe this entire game, which is why I give Brumlaut Legend the Pygmy Manchild Award, and this blog the Most Metalocalypse References Award. Let me top it off with this random video.
 

Review Synopsis

  • The world is barren and not demanding of exploration.
  • The stage battles are lacking and not demanding of actual strategy.
  • The soundtrack is awesome and I demand more Dethklok.
9 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by Video_Game_King


Astal

( Anybody else feel like they're in a gaming rut?) No? Just me? What the hell? Oh, you guys are playing those new games, like Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2, Dante's Inferno, and Sexy Librarian! Thanks for making me feel depressed as hell for saying that first sentence. Let me depress you with this next fact: I played through Brütal Legend. Oh, wait, that's the next section. This one's more about Astal, an obscure Saturn platformer that almost managed to crash my computer.
 
Also, it almost managed to crash my brain. Into a wall. Before I could actually play the game, I had to sit through an introduction that makes Magic Knight Rayearth seem uber-manly with a capital dotted U. I suspect that I could've skipped it, but part of my reviewer's code states that I must always give a game a chance, even if it destroys that chance worse than this game destroyed my forehead. But what exactly made me want to paint my walls and apply face paint simultaneously? Here's the story: a goddess created a man and a woman to populate the Earth. That would sound like the story of Adam and Eve if the girl wasn't kidnapped immediately and if the guy didn't want to beat the piss out of everything. On his quest to rescue the "princess", Astal (that's the "Adam", if you haven't caught on yet) learns the importance of friendship and emoti- HUAAAHGUHGUHAHAHHHHHHHGGGGGG!!! Ugh, what the hell? I anticipate more puking in the near future, so let's stay the hell away from that.
 
Instead, let's move onto the graphics. For all you graphics whores out there....I don't know how graphics sex works, but I imagine this game would do something good with that concept or something. It's the game that proves that the Saturn was tailor-made for 2D graphics (Burning Rangers obviously being the game that proved the system used 3D worse than the film industry is right now). The environments are lush and vibrant, showing a high amount of detail that's not only incredibly pretty, but also shows the extreme amount of detail that went into each and every part of what you're seeing on screen. Too bad the actual game couldn't be like this. If this game's graphics matched its gameplay, it'd look a helluva lot like Rakugaki Showtime, only without as much effort. Look at it, and then wrap your minds around that.
 
Fuck you, turtle! That's what you get for being a turtle!
Oh, you're confused? Of course you are! I don't know what the hell that game is, either! I guess I should get to explaining the actual game: it's your typical runny-jumpy platformer, wherein you run and jump on platforms. It's an oddly simple formula that makes for predictably bland results, like when you were a kid and decided to mix every food item in the house into one horrible abomination of a sludge you called a drink, or am I alone on that experience. It's not like the developers weren't trying to make this game unique, it just seems like they weren't. The levels are incredibly varied, ranging from simple runny-jumpy parts to stuff like riding a turtle through a swamp and stopping every 3 seconds to blow out your birthday candles. Two things I must address there, though: first, I'm sure most of you noticed that a lot of those levels sounded at least similar to things you've seen in other platformers. Specifically, Donkey Kong Country, for me. It doesn't adversely affect the quality of the game, it's just a bit of an elaboration on why the game feels a bit bland.
 
That second thing: remember me mentioning the blowing of birthday candles? Not like that, you impractical pervert; I was referring to one of Astal's attacks. Again, evidence that they were actually trying to make this game unique, and it's probably the most successful part of their endeavors. Rather than go to his caveman routes and just punch anything different than him, Astal prefers to use a variety of attacks at any given time: he can punch things, but he can also punch the ground to get things to him for punching, blow on things until they're punchable, or, if his fists aren't in the mood, he can sick his bird on his foes. However, whether or not the bird actually does it is up to the damn bird; the little guy only attacks the enemy if he feels like it, and I never discovered what made the bird want to kill things. I'm guessing it was just luck, which is odd, given that all the other attacks are balanced well enough and have a decent amount of strategy to them.
 
What's odder still is that while the difficulty is perfectly balanced, the game is old school to the point that you'd think the game is trying to sabotage itself, like me in making a very poor Gollum reference. "What do you mean by old school," you say to me, somehow having hijacked my very blog, "this is a Saturn game, right? Keep in mind that there's a thing called " too old school", and some of this game's features are just that. Things like no save feature, lack of in-level checkpoints, and health not refilling betwixt levels are things that justify me giving this game the exact same score as about a billion other games. Oh, and for some reason, it also justifies my giving of the Confused Demographic Award. Boys will be pissed that this game is the reason that they now pee sitting down, and girls will be pissed that it's a video game..........Oh, I meant "because all those features mean they probably won't have the patience to make it through this game in the one sitting it demands."
 

Review Synopsis

  • A manly character that will turn you into a girl? And this isn't an anime? The hell?
  • Nice, I get to do more than just beat people up; now I have options!
  • The difficulty is balanced, but somehow, the individual components of it aren't. Somebody get me a better scale!
 
 
 
 
You may not like this video, but your face was asking for it!
 
   
 

Brütal Legend

( I'm starting to hate you, Jack Black.) I know that I essentially said this back in my unread Kung Fu Panda blog, but I gave you some leeway because of how awesome Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny is. Then you walked up to the podium at those Spike awards and told various games to suck your balls. Minus a point. Yet after that, various games actually managed to suck your balls. Plus a point. But you missed the obvious "Wii would like to play" pun. Minus a point. Brütal Legend. Minus a point.
 
 What was that?
"Of course that's minus a point", I hear you yelling into my ears as you watch me type this, "it's Brütal Legend! Everybody should know that BL is crap by now, it came out in, like, October!" I'm one of those everybody, so why did I bother getting it? I've been trying to get into RTSes for a long time. I'd elaborate, but I'll do that in my inevitable Starcraft blog, since that game introduced me to the genre far more efficiently. As for this game, I thought that the diluted combination of sandbox roaming and Zerg-rushing would help me jump at least into the shallow end of the genre. However, I soon found out that the diluted part of the equation is what people don't like about it. I also found out that any notions about the RTS and sandbox elements of the game showing any sort of unity were more misled than my opinion that this would be a decent introduction to RTSes.
 
Instead of being like Assassin's Creed II, where even something like doing gymnastics in a church felt like it connected to other parts of the game, Brütal Legend (I'm going to start calling it Brumlaut Legend because I'm tired of copying and pasting the name) is more like ActRaiser, a game that held no dreams of connecting Castlevania to Civilization. The closest this game comes to joining the two pieces comes in the form of side quests where you lead a group of warriors to victory in ambush. However, there are so many things wrong with that premise that I don't know where to begin. *rolls dice* OK, actual strategy, or more accurately, the lack of any. Just order your troops to attack, let them do so, and then melt people's faces off with a bitchin' solo. The reward for doing this is minimal, so why would you want to do it?
 
Actually, that question came up quite a bit whilst I was doing the side missions. That's why the only ones I actually committed to doing were the racing ones, where I beat the piss out of a racer who was Irish, for some reason; everything else was just story. It's not like there was anything else to do in the world of Brumlaut Legend, or much of a reason to explore the world; there's not much interaction to be had with the random roaming hordes, not a whole lot to buy, and it's somewhat difficult to navigate this world. Between the vehicle with a donut steering wheel and the map that doesn't exist, I didn't wander about for fear of losing track of where the hell I was. It doesn't help that you can't easily get from one end of the world to the other without taking a little road trip. (Get it? Because he's a roadie? Huh? Huh?) The only good thing I have to say about the open world aspect is that there's a variety of locations, making it somewhat easier to tell where you are, but again, it's hard to tell when you can't look at a little circle in the corner that tells you where north is.
 
But whatever, that's not what I came for. The reason I got this game instead of, say, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was because I wanted to get into RTSes. For that reason, I recommend it minimally, since this game assumes that you already know how to play an RTS. OK, fine, it'll teach you how to secure a fan geyser (RTS currency) and that some units do things different from others, but other than that, you're on your own. Speaking of unit variety, it's definitely present, which shows that they were trying, but the main problem is that it doesn't matter. Outside a few special instances where the game forces you to use a certain unit just for the hell of it, chances are you'll stick to the same 2-3 squads because bassists are useless, like everybody else. 
 
 Coincidence? Probably.
Predictably, the effectively small unit variety means you won't have much strategy. I know that it's probably just me and my lack of experience with the RTS genre, but the only strategies I found were "secure fan geysers, fight enemy, destroy stage." I wasn't taught anything else. Sure, it led to a metric shitload of stalemates, but this strategy seemed to be effective. I never knew how, as it was never exactly clear how I won the match, but somehow my efforts summoned a Brütal Victory message. Maybe it was because I'd often repeat my earlier strategy of getting into the enemy's face before melting it off. Oh, this must be why I found it hard to use this as an introduction to RTSes: rather than use a mouse to select a group of units to beat the piss out of similar-looking units, you continue playing as General Eddie, the only difference being that you fly. Why you can't do this during the rest of the game is never answered. Ever.
 
Hold on, I was suddenly hit with a sense of nostalgia, bear with me on this. RTS with direct character control, little to no strategy, major console RTS, play it for the multiplayer: I think we have a next-gen version of Herzog Zwei. That's why I couldn't get any introductory value from it: because Herzog Zwei was crap at that, too! Also, they both point out some major flaws in console RTSes, at least from their design choice. As I previously stated, it's hard to have any sort of strategy when you can't easily get from one end of the battlefield to the other. It's also hard to resist the impulse to jump down into the battlefield and jam an axe into somebody's spine. It works, it's easy, and at least it's an easy way to tell which units are your own, at least in the early part of the game. 
 
Then again, there's not much reason to avoid hitting your guys (potentially). After all, what connection do have to these thick-headed headbangers? Oh, shit, I forgot to cover that in the first paragraph. I only remember one instance of this ever, and it ended with rape. Let's hope that this does not happen. Anyway, you take the role of Eddie Riggs, a roadie who looks like Nathan Explosion if he gained about 20 pounds, at least 2 of which are in facial hair alone. He finds that his job sucks and comments on how dead metal is. Metal responds by KILLING HIS FAT ASS and sending him to a rock afterlife where nobody knows what rock is. Makes about as much sense as anything else Jack Black has made, and it feels a lot like your typical Jack Black affair (a bit of a *removes glasses* renegade ego, quirky jokes, etc.). However, what you won't find in, say, Year One, is an awesome metal soundtrack. Everybody's here, from Dragonf-*pukes out lungs*...ugh....from Judas Priest to Black Sabbath. But you know what's not between those: Dethklok. The hell, guys? You got Dragonf-*pukes out liver*....but not Dethklok? I know they're making their own game, but without them, this game's soundtrack feels underdeveloped and wanting of more. In fact, that's how you could describe this entire game, which is why I give Brumlaut Legend the Pygmy Manchild Award, and this blog the Most Metalocalypse References Award. Let me top it off with this random video.
 

Review Synopsis

  • The world is barren and not demanding of exploration.
  • The stage battles are lacking and not demanding of actual strategy.
  • The soundtrack is awesome and I demand more Dethklok.
Posted by SamStrife

I am in a terrible gaming rut.  I play a game for 5 minutes...say, "Screw this," turn it off and do nothing instead...I don't get whats wrong with me =(
 
I liked Kung Fu Panda.
 
Very good read, enjoyed it all =)

Posted by ArbitraryWater

It's not just you. When I was 4 I made "potions" from various bathroom items (Toothpaste, soap, etc.) and made my sister (then 2) drink them. That stopped pretty quickly when my parents found out.
 
And yeah, Brutal Legend is a perfect example of how adding too many gameplay systems weakens the package as a whole. There are better RTSs and there are better God of War esque "brawlers" out there. If the development team had focused on only one of these there wouldn't have been as much of a problem.

Edited by Claude

Yeah, I'm in a rut as well. I'm getting ready to force myself to play Assassin's Creed II just to finish it. Weird, because I actually like the game. Other times, I just can't decide what to play and finally go with nothing. Beer still tastes good.

Posted by Video_Game_King
@ArbitraryWater: 
 
Coincidentally, did it taste like ass? As for this game, no, adding several gameplay systems can be a good thing, as No More Heroes 2 is telling me. The problem here was that they didn't bother to flesh out either aspect too much.
 
@Claude:
 
At least you have options. I'm running out all over the place.
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Video_Game_King said:
" @ArbitraryWater: 
 
Coincidentally, did it taste like ass? As for this game, no, adding several gameplay systems can be a good thing, as No More Heroes 2 is telling me. The problem here was that they didn't bother to flesh out either aspect too much.
 
@Claude:  At least you have options. I'm running out all over the place. "
I have no idea. I never drank any of my own stuff.  From what I remember I'm pretty sure my sister didn't like it.
 
If you are having trouble figuring out what to play, I could give several recommendations to suit that requirement.... But I won't force it on you. You are the king after all.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@ArbitraryWater: 
 
Recommendations? I've run into a bunch of crap games because of those. However, I've just realized something: I have a shitload of games that will last a long time, and more are coming. FF13. That new Lufia game. Fragile Dreams. Dear god...
Posted by OwnlyUzinWonHan

You could pick up games for cheap, like I just finished running through the original Assassin's Creed.
I say running because dear God, can that game ever drag on.

Posted by MrKlorox

Speaking of Dragon Force, you should play the Saturn game of the same name... somehow. Coincidentally it plays like a super primitive console version of a Total War game.

Posted by Video_Game_King
@MrKlorox: 
 
I'd do that, but I just got off a Saturn game, so I need to let my computer rest.
 
@OwnlyUzinWonHan:
 
Tried that yesterday, but couldn't find games that interested me. (By which I mean "no Shin Megami Tenseis, since those are supposed to be so good.")