Saturday, June 20, 2020

E.S.S: Thoth Patrol

Two Coktel Vision games at the same time, you might ask, assuming you know that European Space Station* was made by Coktel Vision. The enlightened among you can figure that Galactic Empire is going to take a while. More out of a curious roadblock than any real problem. The manual does a great deal at trying to set the tone, but suffers continuous errors in capitalization that I assume make sense to the French. Which is curious, since French is basically English anyway. Why the hell do the French keep popping up in shooting games. First we have Coktel Vision, adventure makers extraordinary, then we have Infogrames, who may be Atari now, and finally we have Ubisoft, destroyer of worlds.
Where was I? Ah, making fun of the manual. "[...] and remain in waiting orbit for a month (eight days for Americans)." Is this that dreaded metric week I keep hearing about? "[...]THOT orbiter (an egyptian god with an ibis-like head[...]" Joking aside, the game takes place between 2010 and 2013, which is now the past. It predicts that low-earth orbit would become very crowded. It also predicts that space-tourism isn't a thing yet.
To summarize, the translator sucks, its 2010, and I'm in charge of the International Space Corporation.
Further, the reason why I'm playing this game is that it seems to have been completely forgotten. Some crappy space race strategy game seems to be the only space sim anybody remembers.
After some loading and my token taking of the title screen, I am greeted by some flashing lights. Gonna have some fun managing the cycles on this bad boy. Oh, the mouse is as sloth as a 1989 DOS game, how fitting for a 1989 DOS game. I have no idea what the buttons between the game and the shuttle are, and nothing I do seems to do anything. I sense a sign that this isn't ending well for me.
Done fiddling around, I launch the shuttle. The majestic machine rushes up amidst a cloud of smoke, the boosters separate...the shuttle explodes, the game crashes. It wouldn't be a Coktel Vision shooter if something didn't screw up. I ponder for a moment. I don't know if I screwed up or if this wasn't cracked properly. I know I'd do something like that if I were trying to defeat pirates. Mind you, I also wouldn't be anticipating some dumbass playing my games 30 years down the line with no code wheel. Doesn't help my dumb ass isn't reading the manual. Then I'd see they keep misspelling Thoth. Can't the French do anything right? Besides copyright protection?
So I try again, the manual says that failures are very rare in the year 2010, but failing to enter the right code in the launching of the software will result in an explosion. Ah, good, smells like there's a lot of failure coming up. Right, Amiga version coming up.
You can tell how crap I am at taking Amiga screenshots compared to DOS
Still flashing, no ability to adjust the speed here, oh, well. Time to launch...its going...its actually going. And time for the game to load again. Its what I get for not buying a floppy drive and a copy of the original release. Several minutes pass. Might as well do something else. So I get distracted elsewhere. You know what happens? Nothing. I restart, nothing again. Several more times, some different copies. Nothing. Oh, this isn't going to be easy, is it? All this text written, all this time spent, and nothing to say.
One final attempt, got the code book and everything. Its going, its going. Haha. A budgetary screen flashes past me, and I understand nothing as of yet.
Ah, space...oh, that's going fast. This must be that metric time I hear so much about, that was designed specifically to create misery in human subjects. The combination of rapidly-moving time and me not knowing what to do is a very effective panicking tactic. Its just like the launch screen, except I'm in space. The ! button shows some kind of movement screen. Except every time I use it I screw up and nothing happens. Pretty sure that's not how space travel works, but it also doesn't have DRM.
Eventually, one of the buttons gives me a first person mode...and it doesn't show me Earth, I can't seem to move, and nothing really happens. When you get down to it, isn't that what this session has been all about? Bitter disappointment. If there's one thing to take away from this first attempt, its that Thot is a legitimate spelling of Thoth. Really, isn't that what this blog is all about? Learning interesting mythology?

Post-Script: When I began a second session it became clear that the game was not going to go the way I wanted. Its not an easy game nor is it one that lends itself very well to my writing. More to the point, this game is obtuse. I eventually figured out the movement scheme, holding down the key until a certain point, releasing. I also seem to have figured out how to move in space, modes and that kind of stuff. But I can't figure out what I'm actually supposed to do. It's not really fair for me to screw around for a bit then rate it. Eventually, I'll see if E.S.S. Mega is any better, but probably not.

This Session: 1 hour

*Or E.S.S, no final period, no nothing.

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