Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Mod 1: Barneystein 3D

Name:Barneystein
Number:1
Year:1993
Mod for:Wolfenstein 3D
Modder:PC-Crap
Genre:FPS
Difficulty:3/5
Time:1 hour

When I first started Wolfenstein, I knew I wasn't just going to do the base game or Spear of Destiny. I had to do my first experience with Wolfenstein 3D. You see, while I started with the shareware version of it. I didn't start with the official shareware, but rather, a mod of the shareware version*. I didn't know this right away. You see, the enhancements weren't on by default in my version, so I didn't find out until later when I went messing around with the disc of shareware I got it on. Lo, and behold, I find Barneystein is on my version. Barneystein graphics, and a bunch of stories. Stories, I should add, that a pre-teen child should not have been reading. Sure, this game contained scenes of violence involving people getting shot and creating bloodpiles, but it was all in a cartoony way, not as all realistic. Sure enough, I was terrified of the story and quit the setup instantly.

THIS INTRO CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE DAY OF THE BARNEY, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
...if you even care.

Barneystein is a confusing story. It takes place after Wolfenstein. BJ is back in America, presumably raising Commander Keen's dad with his famous actress wife. He's stealing cable FROM THE FUTURE! One of Barney's children, Maca'hzar, also a time and dimension traveling wizard, teleports to his house and asks to come in. BJ takes issue with Maca'hzar's use of his nickname by way of threatening to murder him and asks him to call him Bill. "Bill" then lets him come in and the discuss both "Bill" and Maca'hzar's adventures. "Bill" being completely freaking psychopathic in this story, putting this game in line with a slightly alternate reality New Order series.
Maca'hzar of course, relates the tale of Day of the Barney, in which Barney convinces the children of the world to kill all the adults. His new world order involving killing any male over the age of 14 and impregnating the females. How a boy named Johnny finally killed him. And how Maca'hzar became such a mystical fellow.
"Bill" is perfectly willing to handle ol' Barney, because he always wanted to kill a dinosaur. The game also makes fun of Wyoming. Personally, I think if you make an elaborate backstory for your game about killing a stupid children's mascot character that no one over the age of five likes, you shouldn't be making fun of anyone. Also, apparently The Doctor** gave "Bill" cable. Given the writing, I buy it. "Bill" also whines about not getting sent directly to Level 9 and so forth.
Maca'hzar also goes on to mention that Barney clones his enemies so he can kill and torture them multiple times. He's also cloned and brainwashed...Beavis and Butthead. I actually remembered this, what gave me real pause was The Doctor. He also goes on to mention that the gatling gun will be a laser particle cannon. Now, I'm just a dumb American, but aren't lasers and particles completely different? Jeez, I haven't even played it yet and I'm already questioning the game's entire logic.
To finish it all off, the author of the game breaks the fourth walls, and whines about Wolfedit. Oh, joy, its going to have Blake Stone sprites. It ends with him saying I have better things to do, but I won't do them anyway. With the use of the word "smeg". You know, I vaguely like Red Dwarf and The Doctor and I want to strangle this guy through time. Well, you know, I could read Moby Dick instead. Herman Melville is a much better author than I think any of us give him credit for. Recently I read Typee and thought it quite intriguing. I could work on making a game. No, I've got to relive a Wolf mod from my childhood.
Barneystein, when you get down to it, is a slightly modified Episode I. You get some recolored sprites, some recolored textures from Blake Stone. I think one of the wall textures is from Spear of Destiny. That's great. Smoke comes out of the pistol barrel now for some reason. All the other weapons are recolored. There seem to be two sets of sounds in this game, one for the crappy cards which sound like complete garbage, and the other one which is fine. Ripped, but fine.
Onto the meat of the mod.
E1M1:
Its a riff on the original. Follows most of the same beats but does it differently. Doesn't link to the secret level, which is smart. We also begin with some subtle satire, like the MTV logo replacing the swastika and Barney replacing Hitler. We also get a boatload of purple. I don't mind that, we're assuming that Barney is very vain.
We also get to see some other cartoon mascots tortured. We a pile of bones with a Merlin hat, and what appears to be Tigger tied up. There's a sentence I don't want to use again.
E1M2:
Commits a cardinal sin of level design, having the area behind the player be a new area rather than the blocked off way back. The real attraction of this level is a long hallway where you're trapped between two groups of B&B. You can't enter either area with the enemies, so you have to fight them at a disadvantage. If you want to. There's plenty of ammo and health hidden behind some Catacomb Abyss level secrets. Also in the subtle satire layer, we have a McDonalds meal replacing the blood from the base game. The health items go like this now: Medikit>Candy Bar>Something vaguely green in a bowl?>McDonalds. Is there a cheaper shot at this point?
E1M3:
Ground floor already? This level is a castle-type level. For the first half. Its certainly densely packed. The latter half has basically no health or ammo beyond McDonalds and scavenged ammo. If I need McDonalds for health, chances are I'm already dead***.
E1M4:
I'm starting off weakened and about to die because nobody left any ammo on the last level. This feeling is extended because there's a horde of enemies nearby that I have no choice but to kill in my current state.
The level itself brings to mind Nitemare 3D's E1M2, a square room with four exits leading to another square room with six exits leading to different areas. This level has no mercy in terms of supplies. There's probably something inside the secret rooms here, but there was no obvious place for them to be. Excepting the exit, which is hidden behind a level exit that turns out to be a pushwall.
E1M5:
Yeah, start me off with a ton of enemies, that isn't annoying at all. This levelpack seems to be balanced around you just surviving off the scraps of your enemies. Also, Piglet is here in a cage. And some elephant. There are certainly elements of greatness here, several areas that you see can later be entered, but we aren't quite there yet. Some unnecessary locked areas with supplies in them is a nice touch.

E1M6:
24 enemies and I have almost full supplies. Very disappointing. Don't mistake that for ease. This is a big level and its easy to wake enemies early. You won't be the only one scrambling around the labyrinth.

E1M7:
A bunch of zig-zagging corridors with enemies on both sides. This was in registered Wolf. I can't see why Apogee and Id would be upset at this at all. I don't think it had a bunch of supplies at the start nor a pushwall at the end. The rest is just a long walk through a corridor with some side rooms. Also hope you weren't shooting for 100% secrets, bud, because some of them are mutually exclusive. Like ones on either end of a blocked off area. Absolutely no health items after the start, yay.
E1M8:
Why its a maze. You know what I like after a maze? Another maze. A corpse of Kermit is here. Its probably earlier in the game, but I didn't find it. Its funny how all the characters here are owned by Disney. You could change a few words and graphics around and blam Disney satire. You'd also have to work in the acid mines to pay off Disney when they sued your ass, but hey, we can't have everything.
We once again get the required push wall, this time a mini-pushwall maze. I did not realize how low this game was going to dive.
E1M9:
I guess I missed the secret level. How horrible. How will I ever live with myself? How can I go on with this project? I'd continue this, but guess which level needs you to find a secret to win? How lovely.
So, Barney looks like that, he has some badly done audio I presume is ripped from something. That's the end of it. The final area looks like a wide open area with a couple of swastikas.

That was certainly something. Let's see how it stacks up. The enemies and items are all the same as Wolf, despite the different graphics.

Levels:
Eh, some were better, some were worse, and some did what I would call 'bad level design'. 2/10

Graphics:
This section can be summed up as, look ma, I changed the palette in my shootin' game. Some are ripped from Blake Stone. Some, I presume, is original. 2/10

Story:
The guy didn't even bother to change the in-game text. 1/10

Sound/Music:
There's a lot of sound ripped from other sources. It clashes with each other and with the sounds that are still from the base game. Not even bothering to change the music either. 0/10

Now, I may have lost the ability to add in the hour I played this game, but I think that adds up to 5 out of 40. Of course it does, why would you play this today?

I'd also like to add that this mod also has a post taken from Usenet about the content of Barney compared to Seasme Street and Mr Rogers. Honestly, the content contained next to the mod is far more interesting than the mod itself.
https://wl6.fandom.com/wiki/Barneystein_3-D
http://hiaaron.com/wolf3d/gutentag-content.html (scroll down, you'll see it eventually)
Of course, that last link shows me I'm not quite done with that damn purple dinosaur.

*Hence, why, if you check early stuff regarding Doom, they ask you to make modifications only for the registered version. I'm guessing this had something to do with it. If they give a shit now, who knows.
**As in Doctor Who.
***Please take this out of context. I don't hate McDonalds like so many others do, but I would find a random inclusion of that quote hilarious.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Game 12: The Catacomb Abyss

Name:The Catacomb Abyss
Number:12
Year:1992
Publisher:Softdisk Publishing
Developer:Gamer's Edge*
Genre:FPS
Difficulty:2/10
Time:Under 2 Hours

It could just be nostalga talking, but I still like this game. Most fantasy games tend to be Doom with wands. The gameplay in this hasn't really been copied by anyone else. As a sequel to Catacomb 3D, its ironed out most of the big faults. Judging by the end, not all of those were intentional.
This isn't the last we'll see of Big Jim and Mike. To immident interest of myself, they were the programers of Blake Stone. Big Jim would go on to do something for Duke Nukem and Mike would end up going on to iD Software. Current iD Software. I wonder if this came up in the interview?
Almost all of the same criticisms and advantages apply to this as they did to the game this is based off of. Its basically the same game except better. One thing to note is that there are two sequels. They're just the usual shareware games, first episode free, rest paid. I feel like the only reason why people call them different games is because no one played them until they were seperate.
Despite this Abyss is cleverer with its level design. Encounters in most single plane shooters are solely what you find in room. Abyss can have something sneak up on you without you knowing it even exists. The high points of the game are where this can actually happen. Around a third of the campaign involves this, which is good, it sticks to its strengths without overwhelming its strengths. Unfortunately, some of those times it sticks to its weaknesses. I don't mind spamming attacks against a boss, but when your normal enemies take around 4 zappers to kill, you probably shouldn't fill the levels with them. I guess you could call it balanced around the extreme amount of items, but I wouldn't. Because its not. This won't blow your mind if you don't like games like Wolfenstein though, and I'd wager that's most people.

Weapons:
Weapons from Catacomb 3D are mostly unaltered, with the exception of the removal of charged shots. Thanks guys. 2/10

Enemies:
The enemy selection has been greatly improved from Catacomb 3D. The undead are the real standout, but mages also provide some variety to encounters. We're starting to get to Doom levels of enemy variety, but not enough that you could release a 1 Monster levelset. 5/10

Non-Enemies:
0/10

Levels:
A lot of time and effort went into these levels. This is a graveyard, this is a mauseleum, this is a sewer. I hate the sewer. The level descriptions just make each level easy to navigate and just more interesting than the comparable Wolfenstein levels. With some annoying exceptions, especially the secret levels, of which I don't even feel like bothering telling you about, they're just that lame. 8/10

Player Agency:
Same as before, now with quick turning. 5/10

Interactivity:
Same as before. 1/10

Atmosphere:
Funny, removing the music and adding more room descriptions makes the atmosphere so much better. Its very tense at times when it really isn't. 5/10

Graphics:
Despite reusing a lot of assets, the new assets don't really clash and generally feel like they belong. The most out of places ones are the trolls/demons, and Nemesis himself. Those were around since the beginning. 5/10

Story:
Oh, nice, you screw up what little story you had. 0/10

Sound/Music:
No music this time, which is actually a boon. Not much sound, but I feel like the footsteps are a nice touch. 3/10

That brings us to 34. More than the Wolf series. Unsurprising. If you're interested in a good flat plane shooter this is much more fun as an overall package than Wolfenstein. Unfortunately nobody ever seemed to make levels for ol' Catacomb Abyss, so this could very well be the last we see of it.

*Which, for my own selfish desires, will not be in the labels for this game, because they're literally just Softdisk's developing division.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Game 15: Submarine Commander

Name:Submarine Commander (2600)
Number:15
Year:1982
Publisher:Sears
Developer:Atari
Genre:Submarine Simulation
Difficulty:1/5
Time:~1 hour

The Atari 2600, you'd think a trendy '90s PC gamer like myself wouldn't care about this system, and you'd be right, my parents had the Intellivision, a marvel of controller engineering that nobody appreciates. The Atari, meanwhile, has a single button and a joystick. This really held back any enjoyment I could have from the system outside of simple arcade-style games, and we already know I don't have much nostalgia for those. That meant that complex titles like Raiders of the Lost Ark needed two controllers, yeah, that's what I need out of life.
Submarine Commander for the Atari 2600 is a strange beast, it came out the same year as another game with the exact same title. They're completely unrelated, while looking for a manual for the other one I saw a few books with the same title that could be where these games drew inspiration, but I doubt that.
The game plays like a shooting gallery game, except the targets are all boats. Boats that don't really look like military boats. You can play a guessing game as what the story is, because beyond "In enemy waters, kill them all", I found none. Are you German, American, Japanese? Some psychopath with a submarine and the timer is a countdown until the Coast Guard show up? Maybe I'm putting too much thought into a game made in three months? Huh, maybe.
Boats come by in four rows, and in three variants, a slow one, a fast one, and a very fast one. To get the fast ones you either need to be stupid/lucky or pay attention to your sonar, which boops whenever something is coming from a particular direction. You shoot them for about 10 minutes and then you get a final score, which now you can post on the internet to tell other people you're a better video game player than them. Since you're playing an Atari game very few people have heard of, that's probably true.
That's about it, I tried setting to a higher difficulty, since there are supposed to be depth charges in this game, but nothing I did seemed to make them appear. It wouldn't really change anything score-wise.

Weapons:
Torpedoes. 0/10

Enemies:
Regular enemies and fast enemies you have to be clever for. 2/10

Non-Enemies:
Non-existent. 0/10

Levels:
None. 0/10

Player Agency:
You can look around and shoot. 0/10

Interactivity:
None. 0/10

Atmosphere:
Its a fast-paced submarine game that doesn't have any basis in reality whatsoever. Doesn't give me any warm fuzzy feelings, but I can see how it might do that for someone else. 1/10

Graphics:
Simple and appealing. You can tell roughly what everything is supposed to be. 3/10

Story:
None. 0/10

Sound/Music:
The game sticks to the Atari's strengths, which are simple explosions and boops. 2/10

That's 8, but keep in mind this is fun, good game, its just not a shooter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Catacomb Abyss: Nemesis

You know what? I've milked this one out long enough.
Battleground of the Titans:
Starts off with a scroll: "The key to your salvation lies in the grips of death." Thanks, minion of Nemesis, for that helpful information. What this means is that the key to the level exit is behind a crapton of trolls and demons. Central area, or the way out, has a little treasure and two demons and two trolls. On the west side, demons, east, trolls. This is the only level that I can see the demons on the mini-map. I can see them without feeling like I'm looking at Stygian Blue. They got like ten of them, it slows down DOSBox at base speed. This is about the only time the hourglass is useful, and that's only because the hordes are absolutely surrounded with treasure. You can destroy the key, too, if you aren't careful.
The Coven of Mages:
Hmm, portals, is there anything this game can't do? I guess the included tax software is a little out of date. This is another one of the levels with the Satanic images. This one's a bit goofier, having a bright blue painting every other wall tends to do that. We also get the final new enemy, the Eyeball, or the Evil Eye. They're basically tougher mages with weaker attacks.
The level itself is divided in six areas. The first, of course, being the starting area in which you can go through five portals.
1)Citadel of the Mages is a room divided into two with a bunch of little side corridors. It also has a scroll: "The Evil Nemesis lies beyond the tangled web of the Mages." I am not responsible for that capitalization. Some treasure and a wise little first encounter with the Evil Eye.
2)Subwall passages is exactly what you think it is, a series of passages filled with treasure and enemies. Not any breakable walls, just a weird L-like shaped area.
3)Antechamber before the Altar starts off with you getting mobbed by mages, no doubt in an event that will cause you to destroy some of the nearby treasure. There's a locked door here and I don't have any keys.
4)The Room of Walls, a weird hallway with a series of walls. Its not a maze, its just weird. Will this wall have treasure or enemies? Both? That would be a question if the enemies didn't all awake when you entered the room.
5)The Long Passages of Discipline. Its a long passageway, its got a key and a hallway you enter in the middle. This would be annoying in Doom. At one end is the key and at the other an Evil Eye hiding behind a chest. Did I mention they can shoot from behind chests? There are torches on the wall here and they have the purple wall textures.
Back at the Antechamber, I reach Decision Point. A big chunk of Nemesis portraits that I'm sure don't explode or anything. The decision is about which wall you explode first. The smaller ones, with less treasure, or the big one, which you will absolutely destroy the treasure in. The big one also leads to the Altar of the All-Seeing Eye, which has an eyes in front of it.
The level exit is proceeded by a bunch of walls with the exploding wall texture. They don't explode, they just look like it.
The Inner Sanctum:
You know that one maze section where you have to get out of a gradually bigger square? That's the intro to this level. Except this level has the red demons. They're just like the previous ones, except they eat more punishment. Around five zappers. Abyss missed an opportunity to have more diverse enemy packs, and this does show. Well, not here, there's some more mysteriously appearing skeletons. This level wouldn't be bad if it weren't for explosions. That must be why I like death metal so much. There's also a hourglass hidden behind some demons, like I'm going to be using that. There's really clever encounter here where someone you don't expect shows up.
The Haunt of Nemesis:
This one starts off with a grand, epic room. There are two exits out of this room. One, with fifty mages in it, and another, with fifty red demons in it. There are more behind some chests on either side. Those wear down your supplies, so if you used up all your zappers on the previous level, you're screwed. I didn't, I only used like fifty. Exterminators are also very in-demand. And Nemesis just shows up behind a breakable wall. He takes twelve zappers. Twelve. I thought it was a fake at first, it was so surprising.

The Passage to the Surface:
This level is basically just an interactive credits sequence. Interactive isn't the right word, its just something you walk through. The cheats are also here, and no, I'm not telling them to you, if you're that lazy cheat elsewhere. You do need the level select cheat to reach the secret levels. Will I tell you about those?

Secret Levels:
No.
They're really lame. They take everything that was good about the game and remove it.

Now, its time to stop stalling and talk about what I really think.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Game 13: Alone in the Dark

Name:Alone in the Dark
Number:13
Year:1992
Publisher:i-Motion
Developer:Infogrames
Genre:Survival Horror
Difficulty:3/5
Time:18 hours

GETTING IT TO RUN:
I didn't have any problems, but I used the GOG version. I imagine if you own it on disc you'd just rip it and mount the img. It requires some fiddling around with the speed settings, your ability to run is tied to the CPU speed.

Alone in the Dark is the first game in what I would consider possibly my favorite genre. You can say Sweet Home, or Legacy: Realms of Terror, or Where Time Stood Still are the first survival horror games, but really, 3D movement is key to the true survival horror game. Certainly, those games are all good, they're all fun, but part of the primary appeal in survival horror is the action. Not, oh no, I have to wait ten seconds for my attack meter to refill. No, Alone in the Dark deserves its spot as the grandfather of survival horror.
That's not to say there aren't issues, while its easy to gang up on the poorly done 3D and tank controls, there are bigger issues. The story starts off good, then turns bad. The appearance of jumping 5/6ths through the game. Immortal enemies that don't appear immortal until you spend a minute on them. Bad running controls. Otherwise I felt it was fine, if very much an adventure game that someone threw action game elements on.
Now, some things that might seem like issues aren't all that bad. It makes sense that Pregzt wants a body despite being an eldritch horror. He's just a young eldritch horror, and well-read cosmic horror fans will know that of course some eldritch horrors like messing with humans.
The concept of a big, horror-infested mansion, is something I have a soft spot for. It has become cliche by sheer desire of most people's distaste for it, not by the number of games that have the concept. Although, admittedly, it does seem like there are a lot of text adventures with the premise. In 3D survival horror terms I know of two, maybe three games in this setting. The third being that Nosferatu game.
Now, during the review itself, I said some things that might have been wrong, these are:
1)Nowhere is the actual floor number mentioned. Everyone else seems to mention it like the European system. Everyone else is wrong and Europe stinks.
2)I mention several things have no explained solution. This is because I didn't spend as much time in the library as I should have.
3)You can read De Vermis Mysteriis in the circle, I just didn't get the right place in the circle.
4)The lantern being thrown at Pragzt at the end is supposedly mentioned in the original manual in some sneaky way. The manual that comes with the GOG version does not mention this. Regardless, this isn't a stupid puzzle, wood burns.
5)My confusion over what floor I'm on is solely due to my own incomptence.

Weapons:
When I said I like a lot of weapons in my game, what I meant was being able to pick what weapons I like best before dumping the ones I don't like. I don't like getting dumped with a thousand different knifes, none of which I know if I'll need later. I only ever needed five weapons and a skilled Edward player could get by with only using two. As for the guns? I didn't use them much, but every time I did I had the aim of a caveman who never fired a gun before. 3/10

Enemies:
There are essentially two kinds of enemies in this game. The normally killable enemies, and the puzzle enemies. Most of the puzzle enemies don't have a very good description of being puzzle enemies until you spend a minute fighting them. I don't like that. There's a rat you can't kill. If you want me to avoid staying in the basement through a ghost at me, not this garbage.
The regular enemies, while very similar, weren't terrible. They were capable of killing me just as much I was them, this being due to control issues, but it is true. 4/10

Non-Enemies:
I don't think I'd say there are any non-enemies. 0/10

Levels:
Its a very well-thought out mansion, mostly. There are places that don't make sense if you don't think of them as a place in a video game. There are some puzzles that don't make sense if you don't think of them as a video game. Pirate man still doesn't make any sense no matter how much of a pirate Pregzt is. 7/10

Player Agency:
I am not a person who hates tank controls. I am a person who hates poorly done tank controls. Running should not involve double tapping the forward key. There should be a run button. Jumping should not be a specific action, it should have a dedicated button. I have an entire keyboard at my fingertips and I don't get quick select keys? Yeah, I sure am grateful for being able to press a button to turn off the music and sound. Its fully functional otherwise. 5/10

Interactivity:
For an adventure game I felt cheated out of the adventure game aspect. It needed a look function for the items. 6/10

Atmosphere:
Despite my making fun of a lot of the game's poor logic, the game is immensely atmospheric. I love haunted old houses. I just love old houses. There is just a non-stop feeling of dread playing this game and I love it. I play games like this for this feeling even if the game itself is very questionable. Even when the story went sour I still felt that feeling. 10/10

Graphics:
Alone in the Dark has some of the best 2D backgrounds ever done, and some of the goofiest 3D graphics that have ever graced a computer screen. The background art in this should be shown to every one who ever wants to do pixel art. I guess the 3D should be shown as what an amateur will usually produce. I guess the 3D does have some charm despite being terrible. Its not like I ever outright hated it. 7/10

Story:
A nice well-done story about an Cthulhu-ish horror that lives underneath a spooky house that is also a pirate. You had me until the pirate part. 4/10

Sound/Music:
This game has an arsenal of well-chosen sounds. Every action you take has an appropriate sound effect. You even get different sound effects for different kinds of ground. There are games today that don't do that. The music is okay, nice background music. Not something catchy or something I'd want to hear remixes of or listen to. 7/10

If I'm not mistaken that adds up to 53. Putting it above every game except Doom. I can't say I didn't completely see this coming if it didn't end up screwing with me. I am heavily biased towards survival horror. I will put up with a lot that other people just won't for survival horror. Next year, I'll go through the sequel. I'm sure that'll drop down the scale. Next, whatever I play next won't possibly top this. This is a must-play for survival horror fans and non-fans alike, but non-fans can be forgiven for not finishing it.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Game 14: Submarine Commander

Name:Submarine Commander (Computer)
Number:14
Year:1982
Publisher:Thorn EMI
Developer:Dean Lock
Genre:Submarine Simulator
Difficulty:4/5
Time:~1 Hour

Submarine Commander wasn't my first choice for early examples of the FPS genre, but I couldn't find any copies of them for the Apple II and the one I could find for DOS wouldn't work without me fiddling around with it. Something I wasn't willing to do. That gives me the deep question of how to play an Atari 8-bit computer these days. It also follows that Submarine Commander's Apple II conversion is from 1983, making the year a lie. Software companies were apparently beating down the doors to release software for the now four years discontinued computer. This is in the old days when you couldn't just emulate old computers. Now you can pass the modern computer compatability over to the DOSBox team and they couldn't care less as long as you aren't doing your spreadsheets in it.
The game loads up with the sort of sound that makes me nostalgic for the PC Speaker. I'm not a fan of the ear-splitting sound AppleWin seems to be saddled with, whether or not that was present in the original system...I don't care. This is about playability in the modern era, if this is the only way to play it, its something that's going to have an effect on it.
I went through this game twice, once I did it very badly and yet somehow still didn't wreck my ship. Apparently generic German engineering is better than top of the line Soviet engineering. The second time, well...Unfortunately, Submarine Commander seems to actively resist playing it, you have to use the F & H keys to turn, the T & V keys to ascend and descend, and the number keys to speed. You have further menus in the form of Periscope, Map, and Sonar. The keys are the capitals.
I am offered the entire Mediterranean to terrorize. Speed is quite nice, I figure you could get across most of the map in under half an hour. The whole ship package is good for '82. I can see how HFRO improved upon it. So I move my way over to one of these convoys. There was one close by me this time. Two. One of them lands so I go after the other one. Turning is very fast in this game, or the game speed is very fast.
Now, admittedly, I did not play it as much as I should have. I gave up at this point. Enemies did not appear on my radar or on the periscope. I caught up to them, a sound played, they buzzed off. This could be because the guy who cracked it was terrible at his hobby, or because I was supposed to do something else. Either way, I don't really care. Its not like this game was suddenly going to turn fun just because I knocked off a few ships.

Weapons:
You get torpedoes. 0/10

Enemies:
Three kinds, I figure they're violent and non-violent kinds. 2/10

Non-Enemies:
Non-existent. 0/10

Levels:
Yet another submarine game that boasts about having potentially limitless encounters in the same sandbox. 0/10

Player Agency:
There is everything I ever expected in a submarine game...questionably so. This is really put off by the lack of a mouse. 3/10

Interactivity:
Doesn't apply here. 0/10

Atmosphere:
It was depressing and felt pointless, but I wouldn't call it a feeling the game tried to give. 0/10

Graphics:
Weeeell, it was good at the time. 1/10

Story:
I had to look it up to find out. I thought it was during the cold war at first. 0/10

Sound/Music:
Silence, followed by annoying blips and bloops when the action finally happens. 0/10

6 is the total. It was fun messing around with the submarine's options for a minute. Hopefully that'll be the worse game of all-time on this blog.
I'm not alone in thinking this game offers nothing now, as Computer Gaming World did a survey in 1993 saying exactly the same thing and giving it a 1 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Catacomb Abyss: Welcome to Hell

The title might be a spoiler, but how are you going to talk about trolls when there's a portal to Hell near your town? Come to think of it, that's basically Waterdeep in Forgotten Realms. What would possibly possess someone to live near unending terror? Are there really that many cute little bistros there?
Have you gotten that this is the Lair of Trolls yet? I suppose I could complain about the troll statues here, but this was supposedly contructed by Nemesis's minions, not some random trolls cave. There's blood on the walls too. Little treasures behind the entrance.
The area takes a hard right to the first enemy. A bunch of orcs. Eh, I'm not going to complain too much, the trolls eat damage like it was breakfast.
Here we go, first troll just saunters towards me. Like the water trolls, they aren't stopped when in their pain animation. Being that they're the same genus, if not general species, I don't know if that's a shock. The hallway the orcs were in is called "Byway of Brutality", and we're now entering the level of the game that is just covered in blood. I guess that's something Catacomb can say it did first. Hell, Doom doesn't really have mysterious bloodstains all over the walls, you know why they're all there. Quarrels between minions or outside victims?
Behind these bloodied walls are chests, which at this point are starting to be useless to me. You can't get anymore than 99 of an item and unlike some games, items are always consumed when you touch them.
A troll tries to sneak up on me. If only I had more zappers than I knew what to do with. One and a few more shots and they'll go down. The room he was guarding? Some more blood splatters on the wall, but this time they're clever. Instead of just blowing up all the same colored bricks in the group, they only blow up two. Amazing! These "Secret Passages" lead to a room with another troll in it. I'm sorry, they're still "Secret Passages".
"The Gallery of Horror", you need more than statues of trolls for that to be true, game. Those troll statues lead to a dead end covered in blood. That's actually a very disturbing idea, and if this were more high-res this would be really freaky. Well, until you advance and discover it to be "Entry to the Troll's Keep". Full of items in front of trolls, including a key. The room is even more full of blood on the inside. The key turns out to be useful ten seconds later, when I find a door.
"Torture Chamber of the Trolls" has two trolls, more magic and a hourglass. The hourglass is quite frankly, completely useless throughout the game. It stops time for 99 seconds*, allowing you to fire a bunch of magick missiles at once. It stops the magick missiles at some limit or another. In order for it to be useful, you'd need to fight several enemies without any other attack items. You'd need to find a level pack that has that kind of limitation put into it. I want to point out that there are no such level packs. You'd have to be really clever and like this game for that to work. Three trolls versus 96 zappers in an open room. There are three hourglasses in this room.
After the slaughter, I discover that naturally, the door to the next level is locked. I know where it'll be. Back to the start, to an area filled with more blood. "Eastern Caverns". Which implies that there are other caverns, despite the only other area involving secret passages. I swear this game's level design is better than I'm making it sound.
An orc just pops out while a troll I can't have possibly seen revs himself up. I take them out. Check around, hey another troll on the other side.
Crap, I really awoke some beasts here. Hey, they're guarding a scroll. I wonder what it says? There are also some hourglasses in "Treasure Room of the Trolls", but they're behind the beasties, so who cares?
Now, this I buy someone in this game wrote. Some orc with a bigger ego than talent thinks he's being clever here. Its not a very effective taunt. Even if you went straight here you'd still be past half the level's trolls. Not a lot of trolls on this level all about trolls. How droll. There's no key in here, nor is there in a hidden treasure room a little ways back. A passageway leads off from the right of the entrance here. Well, a passageway with a door. As I walk down it, I notice a troll activated himself behind me. Not actually behind me.
This is on the other side of the wall at the end of the passage. Quality work, Jim and Mike.
GEE, I WONDER WHERE I SHOULD GO NOW?
Okay, half the trolls is unfair, more like 1/3. Oh, this is it for the level?
Are the walls supposed to be living or are the walls supposed to be burning things? The green blood is also a question I have. The game calls them "The Fire Breathing Walls of Hell", which doesn't uncomplicate things any.
Check out that deep dark blue on the radar. Talk about a raw deal. Demons take about three zappers or a lot more use of the Ctrl key than you probably ever wanted. I wonder how many children back in the day got in trouble with their parents for hammering the Ctrl key so much. This is probably a good time for me to hammer the right Ctrl key for a change. There's about three paths open to me here, I pick one completely at random.
"The Way to Certain Peril", which is certainly true. Demons sneaking up on you is certainly nasty. After I take him down, using a couple of exterminators for a change, I suspect the walls won't break. None of the walls here burst upon getting hit. Does that mean they're not exploding walls?
No. Oh...three sacks of meat that deal 15% damage at once. How troublesome this would be without a full inventory of cures. Next door? Another demon. Ah, this is why the troll lair had barely any trolls. Because its lame shooting at a single opponent over and over again for 6 minutes. Another demon pops up behind him. Its not really difficult or terrifying, just annoying. I'm sorry, the demons in the "A secret cave". With an hourglass hidden behind a chest hidden behind a wall.
Okay, an hourglass that has a chance of being useful depending on how you look at the room. This level sure blows, now all the encounters are similar to the ones in the earlier levels, except this time the walls are ugly and everything takes thirty shots to kill.
What?
Yeah, this level sure feels like a death march. Wow, I'm using the special weapons in every encounter and I still haven't hit below eighty. Let's change that, Nemesis isn't going to take 90 zappers to kill.
I should still keep around...like fifty. That's thirty of them I can use against these guys. The end of this passage leads me to two more green stains on the walls (that are doors) and a demon who thinks he's clever trying to sneak up on me.
Four at once. I'm pretty sure I could be surrounded by these guys and I still would barely be able to see them on the radar. I'm not color blind, but this game is making me wish I was. A dozen or so exterminators later and all my effort was for naught at this moment. This way leads to the next level and I have no key.
So, I wander around for a while and eventually hit these guys. They're not very troublesome. There's a few passageways out of this area, as everything is apparently "Death March Way", so kidding its a death march if its everywhere. First I want to check out this explodable wall.
More demons, and is that a key I see? No, its even more demons. Fortunately, there is some treasure. I need it after using fifty zappers and exterminators. More exploration.
I don't know if this was in the original sprite or not, but that's an extremely large nostril. After this, more fighting in a room called "The Demon's Haunt". As opposed to the other players demons just happen to be in?
Hidden treasure room, hidden demon room. Call it whatever you want. The real good news is that there's a key in here. Do I have enough? Can I make it back to the level exit?

I think I have a bigger question. When will this game be fun again? Find out next time when I ask another rhetorical question.

*Not really seconds. They're faster. The game makes sound effects about time starting again at 15.