ZombiePie's GBCER XIV Plans: "The Quest For The Worst Adventure Game Puzzle" Returns, But First As a Charity Stream!

Avatar image for zombiepie
ZombiePie

9302

Forum Posts

94844

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 19

Edited By ZombiePie  Staff

Let's Talk About Raising Money FOR KIDS!

Can't stop; won't stop!
Can't stop; won't stop!

Well, it is that time of the year again when I throw in my lot with the members of the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run. Those who have been around this site for a while may recall the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run being a community-led Spring charity drive. It is something that got started years ago when electricviking noticed that after the Persona 4 Endurance Run, users would not stop asking the staff to do another one. He challenged the community to do their own with games of their choosing while also raising money for charity! These days, the Giant Bomb Community Endurance has stuck around, but with streaming gimmicks and the site's most significant users sharing their respective knowledge of a cavalcade of big and small games. Some still make an effort to finish what they start, and others treat their streams to create user-created Quick Look homages or video essays. I will be bucking a trend this year and will NOT be streaming any JRPGs. Instead, I will use this edition of the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run to revive one of my most neglected blogging features on the site, "The Quest For The Worst Adventure Game Puzzles!" So, for those asking me to return to my old tricks of complaining about pixel hunts in Myst clones or SCUMM-based or parser-based old-school design foibles, read on about what I will be doing from April 12th through the 14th!

This year, I'm fundraising for Feed the Children! Feed the Children is an OK-based US charity that provides food and nourishment to children in need worldwide. It operates in the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, the Philippines, and numerous areas impacted by natural disasters or war. With Feed the Children, even a $1 donation provides $9 worth of food and living essentials. Giant Bomb has continued to transform and change since the last time we hosted one of these Spring charity drives. All I ask is that for any of you who have enjoyed my blogging or thread-creating efforts, the Community Spotlights that I write on the site, with the help of Marino, or the work I do on social media to try and bring some attention to the magnificent works you publish on this site; please consider donating what you can spare to my donation page linked below. Even a single dollar is a massive morale booster, and if that's too much to ask, don't worry. You can help by sending the link to my donation page to people you know who might be interested in donating or spreading the word further. This year has been challenging for many, and I welcome you to sit back and enjoy what I will be streaming for your entertainment.

Important Links:

FMV Fridays!

Friday, April 12th ⋅ 4:30 – 10:30 pm (PDT)

Bargon Attack

To start things off, I'm finally taking the time to explore a game from Coktel Vision, a former French game developer known in the past for its classic adventure games and penchant for making questionable edutainment games in Europe based on the Asterix and Playtoons IPs. However, they are also best known for developing the Gobliiins MS-DOS games, and many of you are most familiar with them being the studio behind Inca (i.e., that Inca People CD-i game). It would behoove me also not to point out that they had a WEIRD STREAK in which they pulled a note from the Leisure Suit Lary series and made a string of softcore pornography point-and-click adventure games, but I'm not going to talk about those in any way shape or form now or likely ever. Nonetheless, outside of "peak" Cryo Interactive, there was a brief one to two-year window when they were the second biggest European adventure game studio, occassionally outperforming larger outfits like Psygnosis by sheer volume. At one point, they even convinced Sierra to be their exclusive North American publisher for games like The Prophecy and Lost in Time, the latter of which might be something I have to cover on the site as it is widely considered as one of the most challenging '90s era point-and-click adventure games ever made.

Coktel Vision was also wild about its writing and production values, and Bargon Attack is one of their middle-era works that best communicates that. The game mixes FMV cutscenes with the expected pixel-based SCUMM-engine-like gameplay of the era. Bargon Attack is also one of many games that show that Coktel had a passionate love for the first generation of the SCUMM engine and viewed later engine revisions by the late '90s as a betrayal of the genre. Bargon Attack looks and plays like Maniac Mansion, with a few unique quirks here and there, but it is a game that was released in 1992. That means it was pitted against Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and came out AFTER Monkey Island 2. It was also released the same year as Sierra's King's Quest VI: Heir Today. This game got BURIED by its competition, and that's a shame because it's a wild and wacky ride. It's an alien invasion point-and-click adventure that borrows several notes from Sierra's Manhunter series and even has some brutal player death scenarios to find. Still, it also has the jaunty humor of LucasArts' Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. This game has some out-of-place live-action FMV cutscenes at the start, which feature actors who are CLEARLY the designers having a fun time, with some of the worst costumes I have ever seen from a game of this type from this era.

Wrath of the Gods

Here's a game I cannot wait to show you all if you decide to tune in to my charity stream. Wrath of the Gods is a pure edutainment FMV adventure game with green-screened actors, usually various designers and their family members, pretending to be Greek gods and goddesses. The acting is terrible, making it one of the funniest games I have played this year. The game is the only title from developer Luminaria, which means it was likely a passion project of a close group of friends, which are always the best FMV games to play. Last year, I played Gothos, and that game is truly something special. The weirdest part about Wrath of the Gods is the fact that you can still legally play it as someone from Luminara continues to renew the license to the game's official website, which now lets you play the educational version FOR FREE! As someone who teaches history/social studies and has played this game at least once, I can authoritatively say that the "educational" merits of Wrath of the Gods are highly dubious. Sure, the game has an in-game encyclopedia. Still, it is buried deep in the game, and most of your experience will involve butting up against random NPCs and marveling at the over-delivery of their lines.

For the most part, Wrath of the Gods falls into the "pick-up and delivery" format that was incredibly common in FMV adventure games of this era. The trick is not in solving puzzles or complex brain-teasers but through your ability to parse backgrounds and foregrounds and click on objects that are the size of a handful of pixels and then apply these items to quest givers or pieces of furniture that are several screens removed from where you picked them up. The act of playing Wrath of the Gods could be better, but that's not why we are here. We are here for the bad acting AND the stop-motion animation for all of the Greek mythological monsters and creatures you encounter. While the overall product isn't great, I have to give Luminara props for leaning into their material and providing some INCREDIBLE Ray Harryhausen-inspired stop-motion monsters that filled my heart with glee when I first saw them. There's a fight with a Medusa and a Chimera; both look how you would want homages to Ray Harryhausen's work on Jason and the Argonauts to appear and animate. It's stunning and nostalgia-pleasing stuff.

Soldier Boyz

What would any FMV streaming special be without at least one rail shooter? Here's the kicker. Soldier Boyz features some incredibly poorly compressed cutscenes produced by a future award-winning director. The cutscenes in Soldier Boyz were directed by none other than Darren Aronofsky. The guy who directed critically acclaimed films like The Wrestler, Black Swan, and The Whale directed cutscenes for a terrible FMV rail shooter. This game was released less than one year after Aronofsky made Pi, but shortly before he released Requiem for a Dream. While between those two projects, he decided to try making cutscenes for an FMV rail shooter that was essentially a re-interpretation of the almost wholly forgotten HBO Home Video film starring Michael Dudikoff, Soldier Boyz. I get that people have to eat, but alongside finding Nick Offerman in MTV's Club Dead, seeing Aronofsky's name pop up during the game's credits was the most glorious FMV surprise of my lifetime. My jaw dropped, and I began punching the air; I won't lie. The idea of Aronofsky directing something with popcorn movie action sensibilities with shmaltzy, hyper-charged acting is alien to me.

Besides the novelty of playing a cheap check that a famed director made to feed their family, there are a lot of layers to Soldier Boyz's awfulness. The film and game feature a troop of committed delinquents who must perform a rescue mission in Vietnam to make their case that they deserve freedom. How both Soldier Boyz products go out of their way to make you believe you are watching teenaged criminals slowly embark on a combat-based character change, at times, reek of racially-coded tropes that would make Daryl F. Gates blush. There are two Latino/Latinx gangster characters, and you can feel their actors struggle as their directors continually ask them to play up their accents to a painful degree. The gameplay is no different from the 3DO version of Demolition Man, but with one massive caveat. Soldier Boyz was filmed without using a blue or green screen and instead was filmed on real exterior sets. This point of differentiation means the in-game video compression is atrocious, and every cutscene is overblown regarding the gamma and overall brightness. It is downright impossible to play. As a result, I will be playing the game with an invincibility cheat. Without this assist, there is no other way I can imagine beating the game.

Quest For The Worst Adventure Game Puzzle SPECIAL

Saturday, April 13th ⋅ 10:35 am – 10:35 pm (PDT)

Commander Blood

There may be a handful of you who may recall that in the early days of the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run, I would pick a single game to stream and play for nearly 48 hours across the three-day event. Those days are beyond me as I have come to respect variety and pornography as the spices of life that keep me going. I offer considerable props to users like @dixavd, @mattyftm, or @marino, who might still remember me streaming Final Fantasy VII and getting lost trying to find Kalm. Nonetheless, as a funny compromise, I tend to pick a single moderate-length game for the main event of the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run on the Saturday it takes place. On this day, I complete this selected game within ten to twelve hours. This year, I am playing the game I crowned during my 2023 GOTY awards, the "Best Use Of FMV," Commander Blood. On Friday, I plan to share some hilarious uses of FMV featuring less-than-professional actors doing their best, but have you ever heard of an FMV game using puppets on miniature sets? Let's talk about Commander Blood, one of the weirdest adventure games I have played short of Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong Nou.

I flippantly mentioned Cryo Interactive during my pitch for Bargon Attack. Still, it bears repeating that for the longest time, they were one of the biggest developers for the adventure game genre, especially when LucasArts shuttered their investments in non-Star Wars game titles in the early 2000s. It is hard to pinpoint titles of theirs that have stood the test of time, but there's no denying that they really went for it with almost everything they made. Their Atlantis series copied Myst's formula but beat Cyan at making fully 3D worlds by over a decade. At a time, they even released more game titles in Europe than their early French-developer rival, Ubisoft, and some of their works, like Versailles 1685, even outperformed Ubisoft's contemporary best hits by a not insignificant margin. With Commander Blood, they decided to have a go at making an FMV adventure game, but outside of a handful of CGI character designs, almost all of the characters in the game were created using live-action puppets in front of a chroma key screen. And before you make comparisons to Farscape, be aware that this game came out in 1994, meaning it predates Farscape by at least FIVE YEARS! Commander Blood and its weird use of puppets was a germ in someone's brain that grew and evolved independently of any influences outside of maybe Thunderbirds. And HOT DAMN, am I desperate to show you all the majesty of Commander Blood's ending cinematic! It's AMAZING!

Welcome To The Weird World of Faux-Edutainment!

Sunday, April 14th ⋅10:30 am – 4:30 pm (PDT)

The Pink Panther: Passport to Peril & The Pink Panther: Hokus Pokus Pink

Both of Wanderlust Interactive's Pink Panther edutainment games are aberrations in the pantheon of edutainment games. Both tackle some serious topics, like the Indian Caste System and the legacy of colonialism in Australia and don't sugarcoat the facts. On the other hand, the game presents these sometimes bitter realities in musical numbers that have one-sixteenth the budget of classic episodes of Schoolhouse Rock! All the while, you have the Pink Panther, who talks in both games, getting into wacky hijinx and engaging in crass bodily humor. Wanderlust Interactive's heart was in the right place with their Pink Panther games, which ended up representing Parthian Shots in terms of their abilities. They did nothing of note after Pink Panther Hocus Pocus Pink, but unfortunately, their works are undeniably messy. Let's just say that when the second one of these games attempts to broach the topic of Arab-Palestinian-Israeli relations, it reflects widely held, and not sufficiently debated, '90s geopolitical sensibilities. "It tries" is the most apt descriptor of Wanderlust's efforts to provide an educational effort with each of their Pink Panther titles.

But both games have incredibly adult moments wherein they subject you to body horror, especially in the second game, which comes out of nowhere. The second game starts with a child performing black magic and transforming one of his friends into an ogre. And then he fails to prevent an evil spirit from possessing them. The first game has a genuinely frightening juxtaposition in which you see the summer camp the Pink Panther is attempting to manage completely descend into chaos as robotic doppelgangers of camp attendees shatter into pieces and reveal their inner machinery. These are both anomalous games with some of the most insane tonal whiplashes I have ever seen in video game history. I will be playing both games back-to-back as they represent the surreptitious rise and fall of Wanderlust as a developer. I can only assume they paid a decent amount of money to get the Pink Panther IP and did it a good service compared to other less successful children's games. Nonetheless, there are times when they attempt at the creative audacity of Jim Henson by ratching up stakes or eliciting non-traditional emotional reactions in edutainment, and I don't hate it for trying because that's what makes both of these games more memorable experiences.

If I Can Reach $750 Before The End Of The GBCER, THERE WILL BE A BONUS GAME!

Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2: Gas Pump Girls Meet the Pulsating Inconvenience from Planet X!

As a token of appreciation for your support, I'm offering a special donation incentive if I manage to raise $750. Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2 is already a front-runner for the worst game I have played this year. With its Leisure Suit Larry-like sensibilities and its employment of the lion's share of the writing staff behind Infocom's Zork text adventure games, it is a video game oddity. At times, it errs every so closely to being a softcore pornography game, though it shies away from showing anything overtly explicit. It also features some "classic" humor writing from early PC game designer titan Steve Eric Meretzky. However, the end product is downright infuriating, and how you repeat your actions to complete the three different routes via its selectable player characters at the start of the game is downright criminal. I don't want to play Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2, but I will for the kids and in the name of charity. That is the cross I am willing to bear for the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run this year. Stay tuned to find out more!

Avatar image for manburger
Manburger

581

Forum Posts

28

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 7

Haha, oh yes, great batch of games! Hopefully we can be granted the leather we all crave.

Bless your heart for doing the charity stream — good luck, and have fun! For the kids!!

Avatar image for zombiepie
ZombiePie

9302

Forum Posts

94844

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 19

#2 ZombiePie  Staff

Haha, oh yes, great batch of games! Hopefully we can be granted the leather we all crave.

Bless your heart for doing the charity stream — good luck, and have fun! For the kids!!

Thank you so much for the words of encouragement! This is about to start, but rest assured that during the summer I will work hard to turn most of what I play during this event into written-based content on Giant Bomb!

Lest we not forget the time @sparky_buzzsaw forced me to do a two-part blog series on goddamn MTV's Club Dead

Avatar image for sparky_buzzsaw
sparky_buzzsaw

9918

Forum Posts

3772

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 42

Nice! Have fun and good luck!