Monday, January 25, 2021

Highlander - The Last of the MacLeods: Energy Chamber

Last time I had found the keys to two panels in the sewer section of the game...a few minutes away in a barracks. One fun feature is that the two keys are identical, but are coded to two different locations. Now, I want to point out that's an absolutely terrible game design choice. The only reason why you'd ever make two items identical is if they're, A) Identical in function (in this case, generic keys) or B) A trick. This isn't some complex game design idea either, literally the first time I ever thought up a game I was like, yeah, let's make every item look different. I was a child then. How the hell am I better than a professional?

Anyway, the key brings down a catwalk, standard stuff...except the game goes through four screen transitions to get to the end of a catwalk. This game is definitely overworking the scenery a bit too much. Considering its not much too look at either...

After another long tube upwards, I come across another generic industrial place. Guard no. 1, not visible until he's almost upon me, nice, nice. Guard no. 2, trapped behind a wall, also nice. I get the feeling that this wasn't tested by anyone not part of the development team, or at least they were unheard.

Behind the second guard I come across what I assume is a training room. There's some awful generic sexy music going on, weird choice for a game based off a children's cartoon, but whatever. The camera angles feel like someone's watching me. I hear another guard eventually. Where is he? I don't know, but he has a gun. He can hit me through walls sometimes, lovely.
It takes a few tries, fighting a guy with a gun while using a sword seems unwise, but whatever. He drops a key, maybe to that center door. Nearby there's a gun, which brings the amount I have up to three. I think its safe to use one of these at this point.
Giving it a test, you get the usual dodge moves, plus a behind the back shot, very Blackthrone, also not helpful. The rest are just various cool shooting poses. The rest of this area proves interesting, it doesn't give me any use for any of the items, but I find a couple of health items and ANOTHER gun. This is considerably more generous than I was led to believe. Clearly, I'll be able to handle the other locked area much easier.
Oh, I'm sorry, that's because the gun is absolute crap. You can't aim this thing. This makes Alone in the Dark look like a precision shooter. Because Quentin's turning radius is really quick, you can't hit something with the precision the hitboxes require. This isn't a problem with the sword, because most of the time I use horizontal slashes, but you can still see where the sword is pointing.
There's a puzzle here, a door you can't enter. So you use the uniform, hope you opened that chest earlier. This shows a cutscene where Quentin walks into a room covered in a guard uniform, then after the the cutscene ends, is presumably charged by two guards. At this point the game once again starts crashing without fail. As much as I hate to give up, at this point its another code puzzle, with more fighting for no real point except saying I won a game you can already see the ending of. The ending cutscenes are really just more things taken from the animated series. What's the point?

Final Time: 5.5 hours

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Game 39: Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold

Name:Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Number:39
Year:1993
Publisher:Apogee
Developer:JAM Software
Genre:FPS
Difficulty:4/5 (on Veteran)
Time: 32.5 hours

Well, what a game, eh? Heh...heh...heh...Looking back on it, Aliens of Gold gave me one final feeling. That of some Doom wads. At first it seems good, its slick, its well-polished, its got nice and shiny graphics. You start it up, its badass, with well-made levels. Eventually you give up, sing its praises to those you know and don't know. You just didn't have the time to finish it then, that's all. Then you finally sit down and say, I'm going to finish this. Its trash. The ammo and health are slathered on with no care, on easier difficulties you have 10x the amount you need, on harder ones you have none. Enemies in places are like a borderline slaughterwad. Elements that sounded cool to the devs, but just don't work at all.

At the end of it I have to wonder if the game's elements were good ideas badly implimented or bad ideas plaguing an otherwise okay game. Leaning on the former, some of these ideas return from Catacomb, like the monster that turns into a slime pit, or the monster that hides underwater. They led to a more acceptable game that time, so something went wrong here. For the latter, non-combat entities would have a while to go before even the semi-acceptable nature of Half-Life 1's scientists and guards. I think if you take out those guys this game becomes much less tedious to play, they're a sort of black hole on this game's quality.

I think its ultimately because of this, that the game failed. Certainly, Doom helped, but take it on its own merits, what do you have? Wolfenstein 2.0 with targets you're not supposed to hit. It doesn't help that they stuck most of the good levels at the front. It feels like its taken a step back from Catacomb and those weren't exactly the most brilliant games to begin with.
Weapons:
This is a very interesting selection of weapons. You have the three Wolfenstein guns, pistol, slow rapid-fire, quick rapid-fire. Then you have a slow pistol as the ammoless weapon and a rocket launcher. What's interesting about the rocket launcher is that it doesn't damage the player. Despite the overall issues with the game's design, I must admit that because of the way its set-up none of these weapons are ever really useless. The slow pistol in particular is much more useful than Wolfenstein's knife.

3/10 for being interesting.

Enemies:
At times they try, like with the aliens in objects or the aliens that hide on the floor, but for the most part, the cleverness that inhabited the Catacomb games is just gone. Gotta back up ten miles because the water alien doesn't want to shoot or because the STAR trooper doesn't get up off the ground for his second wind. Oh, can't forget about the exploding barrel I need to destroy to get 100% completion, but a friendly scientist is in the way! Oh, and the plasmaoid generators. Just the plasmaoid generators.

1, and I'm really doing this because the scientists ruin it.

Non-Enemies:
Uff...the scientists man, the scientists. Isn't it amazing how an idea that sounds good on paper just completely screws things up? These guys caused me no end of grief, thanks to their inability to get out of harm's way. Not just getting in front of things I needed to shoot, but getting in my way of moving. Their presence makes the game considerably worse than it would have been as a plain Wolf-clone. The innovation doesn't really amount to much even, Galactic Empire, among others had the same feature before, and as a bonus, actually had a reason for them. This is just a few simple changes to the actor beneath, no attack state, and minus points for dying. The information they gave out was never really helpful either.

This is a 0.

Levels:
This starts off nice. Well-designed maps with clever secrets. Then the shareware episode ends and its the meme about Doom, bizarre level design that's just an endless key hunt. 1

Player Agency:
This is the typical Wolfenstein-clone, tank controls unless you press alt, then can move but not turn. The game offers fast turning, but I felt it was annoying that the 180 degree turn only went one direction, rather than an option for the other one. Of interest is the map, which is absolutely ideal for this kind of shooter. Nice square, shows the whole map, highlights the secret areas and others of importance. Otherwise its okay. 5/10

Interactivity:
Its like Wolfenstein. Well, I guess there are vending machines that give you food, but that's not very interesting either. 1

Atmosphere:
Well, there is something...its just not very good. It feels like a strange little sci-fi game at first, then the layers are slowly stripped away by the passage of time. 2/10

Graphics:
Its very blue, in retrospect. I will give it some credit, there's a lot of variety in one kind of wall. The whole environment looks really well. I don't think we're going to see anything look this technically good for years. With the caveat that this game doesn't look really slick otherwise. It all looks very...amateurish. Oh, wow, a simple gradient. If you or I made something that looked like this, it'd get called trash. That's nothing necessarily against it, its fine, but I think its not impressive otherwise. You can definitely tell its just one step above the Catacomb games though. 3/10

Story:
Dr. Goldfire is going to invade the Earth and I don't really care one way or the other. Its not very complex. 1/10

Sound/Music:
I like the sounds...broadly. Some care went into these and the little details. They could be as stock sound effect as Doom, but nobody cares enough to track these down. Then, there's the voices. I'm getting real sick of enemies saying one line in a certain situation. In particular, I disliked the voice of the mutant guard. Reminds me of the voice in Iron Blood, although that's later. At first it was cool, then it was just there to tell me another kind of enemy was there.

Musically, the soundtrack is rather generic for the most part. Its fine. Not exciting, boring really. Then there's the track I dub "The Space Harem of the Oil Sheik", which is just straight-up cursed and doesn't sound like it belongs, like it's some mod track downgraded to a lowish bitrate. Its bizarre.

Overall, not satisfactory. 3/10

That is 20. That puts it in now the most popular rating on my list. Right next to Hovertank 3D among others. I didn't find the experience worthwhile. Maybe you disagree with my conclusion, that's fine, this could have just hit at a bad time, I'm just here to tell you what I think. And others. Man, its really hard to think that I nearly beat four other games before this.

Almost universally the period reviewers point out the poor marketing of coming out the same time as Doom, its inferiority to it, and how its an updated Wolfenstein 3D.  That's not necessarily wrong, but its telling of a larger problem with this game. Its not that interesting to talk about.
Modern reviewers don't really have much to say about it, with the exception of GGmanlives, who I'm not terribly fond of. He doesn't bring up many interesting points that haven't already been established, but he does feel the music is a lot better than me...when he isn't pointing out that there's six tracks. Which is a valid point. What is of interest is that in the comments, Big Jim talked a bit about the game. The development on this was a bit troubled, with it taking twenty months and it was difficult to find a decent staff. What I find really interesting is that the Catacomb games were done in under 60 days.

In conclusion? It happened. Nobody's really concerned about it.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Highlander - The Last of the MacLeods: Sewers

Next time you're playing through a game and go like, man this is boring, I want to point out that the selling-point of the Jaguar CD requires you to go across a canyon multiple times in order to win. A canyon, that takes around 4 minutes to traverse.

So, what's after the gate? Two guys. Fun fact, you can get kicked across the desert via damage. Did I say fun? I meant to say annoying as all hell. This place is ugly too, and the soundtrack, well, you should probably be glad you aren't ever going to hear that.

 

This room is confusingly laid out, and the map the guards dropped is not helpful. I soon find a bridge with some rungs missing. I try one jump, and fail. This shows me a cutscene and returns me a little earlier, just with health missing. Not the worst thing the game has done, considering its making me do platforming with these controls. After looking around the previous room and finding nothing, I realize I really am supposed to make that jump. First hole fine, I can just barely make it. Now the next one...

You tell me, can you tell where the void begins and the wooden planks end? Didn't think so. This jump's supposed to be handled with a running start, which is fair...if there was ever any indication that I got a horizontal boost by doing that. I spend a few minutes trying to get across by precision jumping. The annoying part is it actually seems like you can do it that way by regular jumping.

The next part jumps right out at me. I think this is the first time I've been hit by a jump scare on this blog. This guy's like a proto-Hunter, from Resident Evil. He charges, he hits me. Now the funny thing is, unlike in Resident Evil, I have relatively good melee combat skills. If Jill Valentine could swing around a sword like in this game, it'd be a lot easier. This guy never really lands a follow-up attack.

After killing the guy, a cutscene happens, where Bootleg Sean Connery and Last MacLeod meet a voodoo guy and someone else, who talk about helping the Dundees escape some kind of energy collector? Hardcore stuff for a children's cartoon. Maybe we shouldn't make those off of R-rated film franchises.

 

Then the game gives me a false choice, followed by another cutscene. Yadda, yadda, yadda, Bootleg Sean Connery is going to place a bomb somewhere, Last MacLeod is going free the Dundees. This one's interesting because its in the in-game engine. Both paths lead to a giant crusher thing, and the game tells me something about timing my way through it. Its at this point where things go very wrong. I can't open my inventory and whenever I try to even force my way through the thing, I can't move through it. It doesn't really matter either way, since I'm going to have to open that at some point. The answer is, I have too many items in my inventory.

It honestly blows my mind that something like this happened. Did something change between the completed Jaguar release and this unfinished PC version? Surely at some point the developers loaded up as many items as they could without crashing. Holding onto those health items is really important, because at this point there are quite a few fights without any new ones whatsoever. Its not a concern for me, because I'm just going to cheat, but this is just a port of an already released game.

In order to get past the crusher thing, you have to use the stopwatch. That's it, you're teleported there afterward. Then, its a lot of sewers, then a lot of enemies in the sewers. I'm half annoyed and half okay with it. The closed quarters aren't great fun when dealing with enemies, but they get stuck on the walls quite a bit, which is nice.

 

At some point I reach...something. It looks like a powerplant. Ties into the sewers...I guess. Here we have the first sign of them using these pre-selected camera angles for something interesting...of course its right in front of a really nasty fight, but one thing at a time. Because of how the rest of the game has not taken advantage of these angles, this looks really out of place, not to mention an overuse of bloom.

The path these two were guarding? Nothing I can do with it yet, there are three doors, one that seems important, and two that look like they're here for scenery. The other path is much more fruitful, a big-ass barracks with a couple of guards. The guards drop keys. For where? For two panels back in the sewers. This game man, this game.

This Session: 1 hours

Total Time: 4.5 hours

Monday, January 11, 2021

Blake Stone: The Final Three Missions

This part could be titled, "I don't care anymore, let's finish this". I realize that technically I've been playing Galactic Empire for longer, but there's a very good reason why I'm still handling that and still haven't given up. I give up on this and there's still information on how to win this elsewhere. On what the end-game is and all that good stuff.

Mission 4:
Star Port, this place is back on Earth. Hopefully this means the level design will get back to what I liked from the first episode...but probably not.
You know what I hate? Plasma generators. You know what this mission has in spades? Plasma generators. Its like every floor. I'm pretty sure some of them just spawn out of thin air in this mission. They knew this was bad too, everywhere near them is just slathered with medikits and ammo. There's even one as a trap early on, just a secret room with nothing but two generators. This episode goes pretty heavy on the backtracking if you want full points and I suspect these two things are interconnected.

The secrets on this level are weird for a Wolf-clone. A lot of the treasure is just out in the open, meanwhile enemies and ammo are well-hidden. Its a curious dilemma, at least on skilled. Curiously, the two secret levels aren't that hard to reach, the teleport to the secret level is right out in the open and the 10th floor's access card is similarly placed. This possibly contributes to the levels being not all that impressive.

There are no new enemies or soundtracks, but there's a new trick I didn't notice before. The mutated guards get up out of the beds. I didn't realize this was the standard hiding enemy trick until later, so that might have contributed to my lower than complete level scores. Of course, by this point, I don't really care.

The boss level is a bit annoying. Goldfire spawns in a room full of points, ammo and health, which is not super fun to deal with. Then its just...eh...Just because you can do 66 levels in a year doesn't mean you should. Or a hundred-something.

 

Mission 5:
Habitant II. Its very geometric shape based. I realize there's not much you can do to avoid that in a Wolf-clone, but this feels rather guilty of it. Circle, square, bunch of squares, holy crap, a triangle. Another problem is that all the secrets feel like an afterthought, or a normal part of the level made secret. Enemies are dropping a lot of vending machine tokens suddenly, but there don't seem to be that many. Speaking of secrets, the two secret levels here are really not. They're just straight-up in the open again. Listen, you can't just use a word when it doesn't apply to what you're doing. I realize this is the 21st century speaking, we do that as long as we can be assholes to someone, but this is a game. That you want people to buy.

The only new elements I can think of here are two songs, both of which are pretty nice, or just because I've heard them once. That one track I really hate returns...on a level I had a bit of trouble with.

The boss floor is really weird. You've got Goldfire, natch, but he's just in some random non-descript room. After the alien boss there's some weird half-assed maze going around. What the hell?


Mission 6:
Satellite Defense...what the hell is someone like Goldfire doing with that? Apparently its a defense facility of some kind. And this mission I'm supposed to blow up some pillars...I mean power generators or something. The first level starts off like you expect. Instead of some epic music worthy of penetrating Goldfire's final fortress gunning down guards left and right, generic Blake Stone music like I'm futzing around in a money vault. Honestly, the opening level isn't half-bad. There's some weird secret room with tables surrounded by chairs. Its kind of interesting.

Speaking of money vaults, the first secret level literally is just near the start. Its Goldfire's money vault, but its rather underwhelming. Big perimeter, with the interior being tons of little vaults. Personally, I'd have liked to have seen a money pool, but I understand the desire to not choke players' computers to death.
This episode feels pretty nice...most of the time. I really wish the oil sheik song wasn't used 4 times over the entire game, but that's a general fault with the music, not enough of it.
So, the 9th and 10th floors. The opening level music, really, the final confrontation? Lame. A few secrets, mostly ammo and health, nice. Goldfire's tucked away in a room you have to go out of your way to reach, nice. The boss is hard, but near plenty of ammo, nice. The area with the fancy pillars is a series of rooms shaped like half a hexagon. Continuing our adventures in geometry, but fine. What's not fine is that halfway through there's the secret with the red key card. That means I half to go all the way back from a long series of rooms to get to the last level.
I realize that sounds like a nitpick, but this feels completely wrong. Think back to other bonus levels in games. They usually happen because you found something hidden in a level or did well against a boss. Usually they don't happen when you've killed the boss, and are already halfway through destroying his base. This isn't like the proceeding mission ends where we're just delaying our transportation to the next mission. This is me putting an end to Goldfire's plans. Like, can you imagine how widely mocked Super Mario Bros would be if you defeated Bowser at the end and the game said "Congrats Mario, you can go to a secret bonus level now!" The only people who see it are going to be completionists who just want to see everything.
For what? The final secret level is supposed to be some kind of data center, but its just another treasure room. Its got two interesting things; A corridor full of automatic doors with turrets in them, very nice, almost worth the price of admission; A room full of small treasures and plasma generators. I say again on the last one. Small treasures and plasma generators. There's a lot of treasure around the level too, so this becomes another unfun round of "Where's that last treasure"? And unlike the last three rounds, I care this time.
So I blow up the generators, and the end cutscene is...the building blows up and...Blake Stone gets the Intergalactic Medal of something from the Queen. "Intergalactic"? Is this an intergalactic game? Doesn't seem very space opera-y to me. Have we even left our solar system in this game's universe? We haven't in the story mentioned. I'll find out in Planet Strike...assuming I suddenly care.

This Session: 9 hours

Final time: 32.5 hours

Friday, January 8, 2021

Highlander - Last of the MacLeods: One, Two, Three

One thing of note I mentioned regarding this game was that due to it depending on a Jaguar CD, it was living on borrowed time, and now that its on PC everything is fine. Well, it turns out that's not true. During this session several interesting crashes occur. The first of which just crashes my game whenever I first boot up DOSbox. It causes cutscenes to skip too. This is very helpful.

Check out that compression, I've never seen anything like it
Near where I left off there's a pond, there, I find Clyde's Waterwheel. Examining it starts a cutscene that also skips. Clyde seems to be Quentin's sister. The two talk about nightmares. Quentin talks about one where a very weird version of Sean Connery's character from the original asks his name and says he'll be back. Bootleg Sean Connery also appeared in the intro.

Sometimes this game pulls off something nice...

After this, I notice a tank in the distance. Aha! There must something inside the tank. Takes a few tries to get back into it, but I kill the guard. It might not be the best combat system ever made, but it is fun. Going around the tank eventually takes me to the desert, but I don't want to do that yet. Continuing to look around reveals some health items...and nothing. I guess we aren't going to discover what's inside that chest.

...and sometimes it doesn't

After a cutscene where Bootleg Sean Connery talks about the upcoming level, I arrive at a canyon. There's a guard charging at me straight off, but after that its relatively tranquil. If nothing else this game gives a good sense of scale in its levels. Its not fun running to and from, but at a first glance its pretty interesting.
The whole area is actually a pretty good, for Jaguar, processor to locations games like later Myst-clones and shooters would do better. Points for effort even if it doesn't live up to that hype.

The first section I go to is a cliff leading to a bunker. Skillfully hidden by the camera until you go past a different staircase. Then you see the staircase you can walk up. I'm not too mad. What is annoying is there are several enemies here that are aware of you before you're aware of them, before you can even see them in-character. This includes at least one hidden behind a bridge I can't bring down yet. This, I would hope, is something I can fix later. There's also cheese here, lying on the ground. Yum.

The canyon floor continues past a second staircase, although its probably the first you see. We'll get back to that one. I keep expecting snipers to shoot me, but that's later. For a good while its just guards on the ground. Two of these are guarding a rather small side pass, and sneaking up on the second one is very interesting. As I mentioned last time, the AI uses the same pathfinding system you do, but the added bonus is they're very stupid. I got him stuck for a good minute or so.

Continuing further down there are two paths, one with a tank and the other with two snipers I can't reach. What I'm supposed to do is run past the snipers, but because I assumed they were road blocks, I backtracked. At this point I find a flower.

Before I continue past the snipers, I'm going to briefly talk about the second staircase. I don't, as of yet know if I can cross it. There's a path that looks like you're supposed to jump over it, but you just lack the reach for it. It took me several tries to realize this. There's no falling damage, but below is some quicksand.

Running past the snipers is tricky, but not impossible. Its after that it becomes annoying. Every item is so small it might as well be a speck of dust on my monitor. Every fight is tricky. Either due to the camera angle messing me up or some weird skill level on the enemies. Then there's the lieutenant figure, a new enemy type. They don't technically seem to be harder, but they're harder. Its roughly this point that I figure out that if you get hit with your back against a wall it counts as walking backwards and turns you.

Then comes the game's worst encounter so far. Another lieutenant, is hidden behind a rock. This isn't a problem because he doesn't know you're there when he shouldn't. What is a problem is that as soon as you get out he is guaranteed to hit you if you aren't aware of this. Even then its still a problem, if he gets enough hits he knocks me into a camera transition. The thing is, these are two different in-game scenes. Which is to say he can't hurt me here, only he's waiting right outside. Eventually I kill him...eventually. Later I realize this was a mistake, as I could have just went through a different path. Who knows if that would have ended badly.

Next two swordsmen, in a manner difficult to seperate them, plus awkward angle. Generally speaking any time the enemy is approaching me from an angle where the enemy is a lot closer sprite-wise than he really is, makes things difficult to fight. Either I'm worse at these kinds of games than I thought or this game chose a lot of poor angles. Another lieutenant guarding the gates. He drops a key, after checking the rest of the area, I go for the obvious choice.

The logo these guys have looks a lot like a maple leaf. You can tell this is a fantasy game, the Canadian army controls the world.

Oh...no...Am I really supposed to do this? Oh...good. Far be it for me to be cheap, but I think I'm going to cheat. In the readme that came supplied with the game, there are a few codes, the only one I'm interested in is invincibility. I still do the pain animation, but eventually I manage to kill them. Eventually.

Oh...no...Um...I guess I need to backtrack...joy...I guess I need to find something for this. Ygh...It takes a while to walk back across the canyon, it doesn't help that the area is designed in a genuinely confusing way. Highlander pulled some weird tricks. You could walk along, shift to a different camera angle, then back to the previous one with no explanation.

I finally figure out how to solve one bit of the puzzle. In order to get up the second staircase I need a board. Where is that board? Back at the Highlander camp. How do I get there? Just walk back. I'd complain, but knowing some games, that's nice. After that it gets worse. Much worse.

At this point nearly every encounter is with two enemies, so I either have to cheat, which is not really fun, or get them to come at me one at a time, which is slow. I find a gun, but something tells me that's going to be necessary later. So there are three bunkers with the three pieces of the code I need to find. Why do I need to do this? Apparently this game doesn't have a long enough running time. There are two on the second staircase and one on the first.

The lever is in one of the bunkers on the second staircase, which brings down the walkway on the other staircase. This leads me to three enemies...if I'm not careful. After I get through all three, I find a crowbar and the final bit of code. I wonder if I can open the chest with this? At this point that's when something interesting happens. Any time I try to go back to the start from here it crashes.

Just like daytime television

Well, I have another solution. There's another cheat code, this one teleports me to a secret room. Its just the developers faces in rather unflattering poses. This goes out somewhere beneath the snipers. I think the flower is used to enter here, but I'm not entirely certain. Its a useless location.

Eventually I return. Might be because I transitioned between scenes too quickly after starting, might be because I have too much cheese. The crowbar works on the chest and I get a...uniform. Why...? I don't know yet. I'll pick this up next time after reaching the next area.

This Session: 1.5 hours

Total Time: 3.5 hours

Monday, January 4, 2021

Blake Stone: Mission 3

For this episode, I thought I'd make some changes to prevent myself from going nuts. Firstly, I'm just doing each mission in one big chunk, this will take slower, but make my life easier by a bit. Secondly, I'm switching to the easiest difficulty setting. Yeah, yeah, it was that or remove all the plasma generators and scientists in a map editor.
The mission begins after a shuttle explosion, which we never see. We land in some place called "Pan Crevasse", although apparently Stone makes a suggestion that would have been a better name. This starts the player off at a rover-module entrance to "Goldfire's Underground Network". As if I understand any of this or even care. Dangerous mission, Goldfire didn't expect survival, Breather Beast, genetic storage. Five pages is a lot for a game that doesn't really have a story. At least Halloween Harry had cutscenes, this is just sad.

M3F1:
We start off with one of the few decent tracks, and a few guards alert to me. He's off in the distance and he can't physically reach me, there's a switch barrier in the way, so it isn't too bad. There seems to be a half-dozen behind him. Honestly, fighting a bunch of these in highly controlled conditions isn't that bad, unfortunately there's a secret room nearby, which, although I found it afterward, still eliminates that controlled condition.

Oh...I can't imagine having to play this level on one of the harder difficulties. Its not too bad on the easiest, but turrets, and I imagine a dozen guards would be difficult there. On easy, its still panic inducing. I have to find a rifle so I can hit something, anything...and I get one...off a STAR trooper. I repeat, I kill a STAR trooper with the protector. I forget, was I on the highest difficulty? He shocked me too, he was in a secret treasure room, just hiding. It gets even better, there's a regular rifle guard in a shower near that room, and he dies in two shots. This might actually be too easy. I restart on the second difficulty, Skilled. Its still easier than Expert, but not a complete joke.

The gist of the level is a key hunt. I swear it was padded out just to increase the length. You look everywhere, the key is nowhere to be found. Where is it? Not in a secret...in the elevator. A nasty trick, but not the worst. Then it just gets annoying, the path to the red key requires you basically lap the level twice in order to get it. It feels like there's a point...but I don't really get that point.

M3F2:
This isn't a Network Operations and Control, this is more of an alien storage center...with...I dunno. There's barely any computer rooms here. Considering how many big computer rooms there have been in this game, I'm curious as to the reason of this choice.

There are two sections here, a series of small hallways and rooms in the south, mostly human enemies, and a wide-open area north full of pod aliens. The pod area has plenty of health, but lacks ammo, which was a problem because I tackled that first. That leads to the blue key, which leads upstairs. Despite the ammo problem, I feel like this is too easy, but I'm admittedly stuck here, because I'd prefer not dealing with too hard.

The southern section has a few rooms full of medical equipment, what I'd say are autopsy rooms. Looks like the dead bodies of informants. Very interesting. There are also more showers, and more rock areas I can't reach. I suspect there are guards there on harder difficulties.

Once again, the PDU is acquired before the Neutron Disruptor. What even is the point of having that thing at this point? Just because it was in Wolfenstein? Admittedly, it is a rather boring series of switches to get the PDU, across multiple screen rooms, but I have to admit, at this point I'm not going to be concerned with that.
I didn't get 100%, too many unknown variables for me to care. Did I miss a pod alien? Did I miss a guard? I don't care.

M3F3:
Not the weird music again. How long must I be tortured? I have half a mind to just turn the music off. Considering that I had to screw around with it for a different game, I actually had to turn it back on. As soon as I exit the room I see something really funny. A desk prop and a chair prop. Now, maybe I missed that earlier in the game, but it seems like those are two problems that give a massive improvement to the feeling of there actually being a room and not just a video game place in a game. Later on there's a stool in front of some computers. What the hell? What the hell?
For a level called Lunar Exploration, there isn't a whole lot of lunar. Oh, sure, there are some rocks to the north, but that's just hiding a key to the exit for some reason. Most of this seems to be some kind of medical lab, with not a single scientist in sight. A few gruesome scenes though. Most of the area fits in with the so far typical of this mission wide-open areas.
There's yet another PDU in a secret area, but the real interesting bit is that there's an alien guard in this game. I thought they only appeared in the sequel. I didn't get a good screenshot, because his appearance surprised me, and he is inside a secret area. Curious, I suspect I'll see more later.

M3F4:
What an interesting lack of choice I have here. The opening area has four doors, which lead to a security area, then a hallway, all of which lead to the same room. Its a big room, but c'mon. Its not really full up. A full third of the map contains next to nothing. Oh, sure, I find some secrets here later, but this feels aggressively like there's nothing.
Then in the east things get interesting. This is tighter, and more importantly, plenty of enemies. There's the return of the alien guard. They look less like aliens and more like zombies. They're not the stars here, that's once again the turrets. I realize the reason, there are three ways to get the player to change their weapons once they get the PDU, ammo supply issues, turrets or scientists. So far this game hasn't had much of the other two. Of course, I might have more of a reason if there was a Neutron Disruptor around.

Then there's new enemy no. 2, water aliens. So riveting I forgot to take a screenshot. They're puddles, then they turn into aliens you can attack. Glad to see you guys remembered that trick. Its sort of hard to see them as a threat, but they're new at least. They fit the area they're in quite well, lots of water spouts and water on the ground. There's also a lot of enemy containment units, both for the trash can looking mutants and the alien rip-offs. The area they're in is a long and confusing hallway.

Towards the end, after coming back from the secret level, I finally find the Neutron Disruptor. I can't help but feel this gun is considerably shafted by the developers.

M3FS:
The mission finished music, eh? That's not going to be annoying or anything...It does make a surprising turn for the better at points, so that's a plus. The gist of this level is a central fortress I'm gradually trying to penetrate. Its mostly aliens and turrets. There are no secrets and next to no scientists. Its a very simple and well-set up level. There's not much to say about it.

M3F5:
Secret level music. Feels weird. Okay, you're just making up random crap with the level titles now, "Network Atmospheric Control". If you don't have enough ideas for 66 levels, don't do 66 levels. There are three sections, two with a key and a central one where they go. The level is intended to funnel you towards the central area, where there's a lot of turrets and Goldfire spawns sometimes. I completely forgot about that. Great. Another really mundane open level.

M3F6:
Title music? Are we already all out of music? It eventually goes bonkers in a bad way. This is looking suspiciously like the last level. If it weren't for the different music and the title that the font makes look misspelled, I'd say this was the same level. Okay, it does change quickly, but for the past three levels, the area outside the elevator has been very samey. This is effectively some kind of mutant in-fighting area. I believe the implication is that the scientists are seeing what happens if they're not fed in closed quarters. What makes some of these areas weird is that there's a lot of blood walls going on. A lot.

M3F7:
The level starts off innocently enough. Another area around the elevator, followed by a large empty corridor. A single guard for roughly half the level's space. The secret area in here isn't very impressive either. You've got one room, contained inside the hallway, with some scientists. Still not a problem. Then it goes off the deep end.

You've got the central room, which is an X inside a box, we've got too many turrets, aliens of all kinds that pop out of containers, and we're just getting started. North is a vault filled with ammo, health and points items. Its laid out in such a way that you're guaranteed to miss something on the first try. There are guards here, but they're not annoying. South is a very neatly laid out series of walls designed so you're never sure if you missed something until everything is dead. Oh...

M3F8:
Why yes, the same starting layout. Corridor around elevator, followed by big looping hallway, with interior rooms and a door to the eastern half of the level. Office buildings tend to have boring layouts, I know, but this isn't supposed to be an office building. I clear out the northern half of the starting section and when I reach the southern half...well...more sadism. Scientists in a quasi-closed room with turrets and an unknown amount of enemies in containers.

The rest of the level is rather mundane at this point, although there were two points of interest. An autopsy-looking room just drenched in blood. And the southern area full of enemies is also full of barrels and radioactive goo. Its not very interesting otherwise
M3F9:
What? A new song? Its actually good? The level design discourages returning to the area with Dr. Goldfire? Both Goldfire and the boss die rather quickly. Is this level actually fun? Not really, after that the level just sort of happens until I reach the level exit, return, find the secret with the red key, and enter the next level.
M3F10:
I can't remember if I heard this Skyroads sounding music before or not. This level has no secrets, its just a jaunt into the middle of the map, grab some treasure, then leave. It doesn't really feel like a secret...or even interesting. Probably why I forgot to take a screenshot.

Next time...Mission 4. I'm going to have so much fun with that one.

This Session: 2.5 hours

Total Time: 23.5 hours