Saturday, July 27, 2019

Fail State - The Aborted Potential of Deep Sky Derelicts

I try out a lot of games from Good Old Games. They sometimes have decent prices on retro games. I don't get anything new from them, really. Well, one game caught my eye; Deep Sky Derelicts. I'm not linking it because it sucks on toast. It's a crappy game from an equally crappy "company" (I use the term loosely). 

The story is ok, I guess. You control a team of space scavengers who make their living spelunking gigantic, ancient spaceships floating in the cosmos. Sounds cute but your team can only have a max of 3 characters and this does feel very constricting when, later in the game, you face large groups of enemies. In general, get used to having your ass handed to you as a hat.
Why are these ships out there? Where is this base you start from where you pick up missions? How do you learn how to upgrade your equipment without randomly mashing icons and buttons until it seems you've made some sort of progress in ensuring your team is using up-to-level equipment?
DSD is one of those games that SHOULD be good. You WANT it to live up to it's, admittedly artistic, graphics. Unfortunately, it fails.
The combat is a card-based mini-game but despite my many upgrades and equipment swapping, I only see the same 5-8 cards. They vary per character depending on class, but it's not an exciting experience. At times, your character's "hand" is 5 Recharge Shield cards and no offensive options. 
Making things worse is the lack of documentation. No one could slap together any sort of manual to answer any of these problems. There IS an in-game glossary but that's it.
They've released some DLC wherein you can now explore a bit of a planet for your missions along with the derelict ships, but, again, no documentation to tell you how it works and what to expect. You buy it, load the game, and see absolutely no indication that additional content has been added.
The cherry on top? I tweeted the "company" to inquire about some of these issues and their "rep" berated me for daring to ask his company about the product they offer. Good stuff. Really good stuff.
Don't waste your time. DSD looks good but there's nothing but confusion and frustration under the hood.
Fuck you, DSD. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

DisapPoint-and-Click - Day of the Tentacle

I played Maniac Mansion when it first came out for my trusty Commodore 64. I, like many others, became enamored by the game with its charming 8-bit graphics, B-movie story line, and truly paranoia-inducing game play. Then, I went to college and, it being the early 90's, I was distanced from computer games for a few years, being busy at a bunch of other things. But I heard of Day of the Tentacle and I heard it was a sequel to MM so I assumed it would be a good game, once I finally got around to playing it.
Well, I finally did almost thirty years later, but hey, better late than never. I always looked forward to sitting around and catching up on all the point-and-click games I've missed and Tentacle was a title near the top of the list. 
I finally got my chance to play through a handful of point-and-clickers (as anyone who dropped by my Twitch site has seen). And one day I played Day of the Tentacle, excited for the wacky adventures I was about to have, but that day, the world went dark. The game was, and still is, the most disappointing game I've ever played. I guess I say that because of how I had in my head that this Tentacle game was a worthy sequel, just waiting for me to finally get to it.
I'll tell you what this game is. It's either an ersatz sequel slapped together carelessly and lazily OR it's a whole separate game that, in order to sell it, jammed Maniac Mansion references into it. For example, why is the Mansion now a motel? Seriously. Early in the game, you visit the mansion from the first game but now it's a hotel complete with lobby and sleeping guests. This occurs without any explanation. They just call it the mansion and you're supposed to just fucking roll with it.
So while moving through this motel, i mean, mansion, you meet characters supposedly from the first game but, of course, they are so altered and weird that they're basically unrecognizable. Tack on a retarded time-travel plot and you've got yourself a shrill game with no likable characters whatsoever.
The art direction is supposed to pay tribute to Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame but he's probably rolling in his grave if these obnoxious scenes are supposed to be a comparison. The voice acting is annoying, as well. The creators seem to think lisping is utterly hysterical as numerous characters have this speech impediment.
I won't be finishing this game and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone above the age of 6. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Text Games That Time Forgot: The Tower of the Elephant

I almost began this post by discussing the complicated career of Robert E. Howard. Being a huge fan, I wanted to mention a few things that most people may not know about the pulp fiction writer. Like how he was a pen-pal of H.P.Lovecraft's. Or how he didn't just churn out sword-and-sorcery tales but also tales of high adventure, historical romance, and countless stories of pirates, boxers, inquisitors and cowboys. He wrote literally hundreds and hundreds of stories and poems. Much more than even a prolific author like Stephen King, who doesn't give Howard a glowing review at all, really. I mean, Howard is only seen as the father of the genre of Pulp Fiction, or at least its visionary. He helped to influence, and was directly influenced by, writers of weird fiction such as Lovecraft. These are genres in which Stephen King writes. I can't name a genre King himself created. He also wrote more stories than King can ever hope to catch up to. And Howard did all this before his suicide AT THIRTY YEARS OLD. But whatever, Steve. 
Anyhoo, according to the Interactive Fiction Database, there is a veritable dearth of Robert E. Howard inspired works. One that stands out for many is Conan Kill Everything (2005) by Ian Habercorn but this is inspired by name-only along with a truckload of a lack-of-understanding the genre, the character, and the original author. Strangely, the work is well-received, having garnered 3/5 stars and a nomination for Best Individual PC in the XYZZY Awards that year. SPAG's William McDuff wrote that "There's not much of a plot or story to speak off, but given the source of the game, expecting one seems silly." Which is one of the most ignorant things I've read. And what I mean is it's genuinely ignorant of Robert E. Howard and the Pulp genre. No plot? Howard wrote compulsively. He had more plot ideas than Tolkien on acid, and in many more genres. You don't sell countless tales to magazines without them having intriguing plots.
(This misrepresentation stems from the smear campaign by a Mr. L. Sprague de Camp who spent decades ripping-off Howard's intellectual property and passing it off as his own. Sadly, also altering the stories so they really were just shit and he spent years writing about how Howard's only contribution was the character Conan and otherwise, he was an imbecile bereft of ideas. It wasn't until the late 70s and early 80s when fans of Howard's actual oeuvre pushed to restore his name and hold over his works.)
What was my point? Oh yeah. Interactive Pulp Fiction or lack thereof. Now we come to The Tower of the Elephant (2006) by Tor Andersson. The game was released during the annual Interactive Fiction Competition and won 15th place, which, out of 43 entries, ain't bad. It holds 3.5/5 rating and the two reviews on IFDB both saying the game is fine but suffers from some underimplementation.  
I completed it a few days ago and I agree that it is a worthy adaptation but could use more implementing in an otherwise immersive work. It does justice to the source material while allowing the player agency to take a different direction than Conan did in the original story. There's a definite feeling of satisfaction when reaching the end, however, in my opinion, there's too much of a reliance on the "wait" command during a couple of scenes.
Here's a vid of my playthrough. There is auto-narration (starts about 30 seconds in) if you just want to listen to it instead of reading along. It takes about a half hour. I should start doing these playthroughs with some light background music.
Anyway, I definitely suggest this one. It's fun and short. You can bang it out on the train home from work.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Interactive Fiction Competition 2018 is totally going on! (part 4)

The Interactive Fiction Competition 2018 is totally going on! (part 4)

I continue checking out the blurbs and pics of the entries of the IFComp 2018. Eventually, I will take the best five and play them and vote on 'em. But for now, let's take a look at....

Dungeon Detective by Wonaglot with art by Caitlin Mulvihill
I guess Children's Games are now a full-blown sub-genre of the competition. This one, you're a gnoll (a dog humanoid for you non DnD people). And I guess you're also a detective? The artwork is pretty great, for sure. It's choice-based but if it delivers on a truly interactive detective game with plenty of player agency then more power to it.

Dynamite Powers vs The Ray of Night by Mike Carletta

Props to the pulp fiction game. And that's pulp fiction the literary genre, not the overrated and pointless Tarantino turd. Personally, I would've avoided specifying the torture the character apparently suffered as "Chinese water torture". I mean, you could've just said "torture" and kept it in a fictional realm rather than give me memories of horrible news stories about Guantánamo Bay. Otherwise, this is pretty much right up my alley. I like pulp stories, even if they are send-ups of the genre. Also, it's tagged as a longer, parser game. So, this is probably going on my list.

En Garde by Jack Welch

I have a feeling this entry is totally great or pretty god-awful. I don't think there'll be an in-between. If it wasn't a really short, choice-based game, I might've tried it. Otherwise, not sure if this is for me.

Erstwhile by Maddie Fialla & Marijke Perry

This looks ok but it's probably a "reader". That is, lots of text dumps. Otherwise, it sounds like a promising premise. 

Escape From Dinosaur Island by Richard Pettigrew
Reinforcing my realization that Children's Games are now a thriving facet of the competition is this abjectly cliche' rendition of Doyle's The Lost World. Oh, and another reason we know this is decidedly a game for babies is the blurb's warning that any profanity entered in the parser will immediately end the game. Pass.

Eunice by Gita Ryaboy

This looks promising. Sounds somewhat original, like an IF version of Populous. Good blurb although I'm unsure what a "mem-ory" is. Just a half-hour? Boo. I'll still check this out, I'm sure.

A Final Grind by nrsm_ha

I guess a robot made this game? What kind of handle is "nrsm_ha"? Regardless, it sounds a bit clever. Looks like it turns the whole dungeon-crawl on its head a bit. The blurb also warns that "use of a calculator is to be considered cheating". So don't get caught.

Flowers of Mysteria by David Sweeney

I can't really argue with this one. It self-identifies as an "old-fashioned" text adventure. That's my style as I'm pretty old-school when it comes to my tastes in IF. It looks to be high fantasy and a parser game. I could easily include this on my list.

The Forgotten Tavern by Peter M.J. Gross

Choice-based fantasy tavern simulator? I'm losing as much patience as I am interest with these choice-based games. I know it's an unpopular opinion, but I fail to see how choice-based games compares with parser games in any way. It's like comparing The Lord of the Rings with a fucking Fighting Fantasy gamebook.


More later....