Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Escape From Monster Manor: Cheesy Immortals

Ah, the 3DO...or is it 3D0? I never know. Released in 1993 as a sort of "mature" video game console; It was plagued with the sorts of problems all early CD-based consoles had, 700 MB of space and nary a clue of what to do with it. Keep in mind, your typical non-CD title reached 4 MB at this time. Its no surprise that FMV shovelware littered these consoles. Makes that price of 699$ in '93 money a hard sell.
Now, of course there were actually good games released on the 3DO, because you don't last 3 years on shovelware alone, its just that if you're not rich, little justifies the pricetag. I have a favorite on the console and I wouldn't pay that price...probably because it was ported to Windows later. But today's not that favorite, today's Escape From Monster Mansion. I'm in a mansion and I need to find talisman pieces to stop an ancient evil. That sounds suspiciously like a certain shareware PC game I just finished that wouldn't cost me the same as a decent stereo setup.

An intro cutscene, making real use of that CD. There's a cheesy narrator talking up the horrors of the mansion. He's some immortal who tells us we shouldn't be scared, we should be terrified. He goes on to explain the backstory, the talisman was created by a cult for some reason, which protected them against evil. But they were consumed by greed and lust for power, so they torn the talisman apart. This rendered it useless, and caused evil to rise. I'm not entirely clear on what happens next, but the person who brought all the fragments together put them in this mansion, his descendants fled when evil returned, a dark god approaches, and this place is too dangerous even for an immortal. That's either a lie or the truth, but we'll see soon enough. Before I get into it, I should mention the game let's you practice each individual level. Interesting.

It starts off good, no monsters in sight. I get used to the controls. A typical setup I believe. Movement, shooting. But curiously there are three menus. One that just pauses, one that returns to the main menu, one that brings up supplies, from there you can bring up the map.

I walk around a little, there's a spirit phasing in and out of visibility, but he's just scenery. The real monsters are these hilarious claymation puppets. I think they're claymation anyway. They die in one hit, and whenever you get hit you give off the Doom wall-humping sound effect, among others. They approach on Catacomb rules, you see them, they attack, you don't everything's fine.

Its a fairly standard Wolf clone set in a mansion so far. Spooky scenery, like this hanged dude, or chairs rocking by themselves. Its a play for points deal, so there is a lot of treasure. The hand reminds me of the one in Nitemare 3D...but it couldn't be the same...could it? I guess the guy behind that has cribbed a few things, but that's fairly major. Anyway, the game itself feels very weighty. The player has momentum in movement and the gun pushes the player back a bit, even though its a lightning gun and there's no reason for it.

There's very little complexity to this game, just walk along a hallway, kill enemies, find items. There are health and ammo items. I like how a sound plays if you have full health/ammo and run one over. Even the boss is simplicity itself, zap him a dozen times, then exit the level.

At the end of the level the narrator talks about the guy who entered before me, and how he's dead. Okay. That's something I needed to know, game. It appears saving only happens between levels. I think the 3DO has a lot of save space for its time, but I could be wrong, its not like I'm playing it on original hardware.
The next level throws out screams and monsters eating people into the background track. That's effective for a level, but I see this going badly if it returns. This level proves more tricky, although its still not very complex. Nothing's ever in the middle of a series of rooms. It opens with three doors, and the one on the right fully opens. It gets tricky in that here the doors are some considerable ways apart. I say tricky, because I thought I missed a door somewhere, but it turns out I didn't. Come to think of it, that might be a subtle sign this isn't that bad.

Once again, the same boss. He got some backup. I didn't mention them before, but there are these skulls that are ranged enemies. They start off human-looking before turning into the skulls. They hit hard, but that wasn't what was tricky here. No, the tricky part is that I run out of ammo. There's no melee weapon, not that you'd want to use it. I have to go back, grab ammo, then come back.

Eventually the lack of supplies hits me hard and the skulls actually kill me. That hand gets pretty beat up, making the whole HUD very subtle, although you can use the supply menu to see the values. However, the skull on the game over screen looks very familiar. Hmm...it must be a stock effect of some kind. Maybe in another EA game...hmm...The second time around I don't have much trouble, probably because I better ration ammo.

This Session: 50 minutes

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Game 53: Star Strike

Name:Star Strike
Time: 1 hour

The trench run from Star Wars...did you ever think this would be good video game fodder? Because I didn't. A cramped corridor where the attacker is easily annihilated by enemies. I suppose nobody really cares about fridge logic in Star Wars in the year of our Lord 2021, but I'm throwing it out anyway. A ship that enters there is asking to get killed, your only shot is finding the end of that trench and shooting at the exhaust port from there. In a realistic situation involving a moon-sized mobile space station, that is the only way to get a successful outcome. Next, I'm going to prove black is white and wonder why Africans never domesticated horses.

Its hard to think that anyone could make a good video game out of that concept, but I think Star Strike succeeds. There are a few differences between the two though. Here, you have to take out a series of bombs rather than a single one, and there are no turrets. The things that remain constant are the enemy ships chasing after you and the bombs will destroy Earth if they're missed while Earth is in visible view.

Enemy ships are a constant, they take three shots at you, and then they pass you. There are two of them, so you have to be careful about taking them out with your own lasers. If you're clever, you can set it up so one enemy kills the other. If you've killed both enemies, you have a few seconds to hopefully take out a target, if you've killed one or neither, they quickly reappear.

The targets, or bombs as I call them, are a tricky thing to hit. You receive an alert whenever you're about to reach one, whether or not its been hit before is irrelevant. You have to aim the bomb carefully, as you have a very short margin of error. Of use is your own ship's shadow. Up and down only matters in the timing, if you're not in the center, you're not hitting anything. You have some time until the Earth gets dead center, at which point a single miss causes the Earth to explode. You win the game after all five targets are eliminated.

You have to pay attention to two things lining up, the enemy ships with your laser gun and the bombs with your own bomb. Slightly more interesting than the usual fare. 2/10

There was some thought put in here, their shots can destroy their allies, enemies who aren't killed return instantly. Although that cleverness disappears when I found out I can just move up and down and the enemies will never figure it out. 1/10

None. 0/10

Its the same bland corridor over and over again. 0/10

Player Agency:
I can't help but feel buttons don't work as they should, befitting a game being played in an emulator, but so few original Intellivisions must exist these days, I doubt anyone's going to find anything interesting these days. Usually the games came with inserts for the weird phone controller, so you know which buttons do what. Here, I think the buttons only affect the difficulty. Although this might be caused by the game in some settings. 2/10

None. 0/10

There's a little in the franticness of trying to stop the Earth from getting blown up. 1/10

Simple, smooth, but not very interesting. If that's supposed to be the Earth, which part am I looking at? The stars look weird too. Oh, well. 1/10

Prevent planet from getting blown up by aliens. 0/10

The usual assortment of Intellivision bloops and beeps. 1/10

That is 8. Typical high score from the era. Curiously, the game was later ported to the Atari...after the infamous crash. Yes, it was by Mattel, which makes things very strange. That version appears quite inferior, but I have no reason to find out for myself.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Game 52: Maze Wars

Name:Maze Wars
Publisher:Amazing Graphics
Developer:Amazing Graphics
Time:1 hour

I could tell before I had even opened up the game that it would be trouble. It befits many games made before iD solidified the arrow key movement scheme that many weird attempts at experimentation were designed. You have weird mouse keyboard hybrids that have the mouse function as a cursor rather than the end of a gun; You have keyboard games that mimic that and so forth. But Maze Wars uses the mouse, exclusively. You can do that with a lot of games, true, but in those cases moving the mouse moves your character. Not so here, you move with the mouse buttons, you shoot by pressing both of them. Of all the questionable choices, why that? Surely in the design phase that would seem unideal?
I wish to point out that this isn't related to the more well-known Maze Wars games, that started off in the mainframe kind of computers.
Its hard to find good things to say about this game. Certainly, its 1992 and its impressive for a FPS to exist with a very small filesize...but that doesn't make it good. I daresay anyone would only feel like playing this for a brief period in that year. Its not even the weird control scheme, its how awkward the whole game is. I don't know yet if it shows up in screenshots, but the game stutters. This could just be because I couldn't find a proper speed for it, but at the same time, that's sort of what I'm here for. Enemies don't show up if you're turning and its hard to properly aim at things.
Here I am, wandering the beginner's maze again. Why is it the beginner's maze? There's a difficulty setting but that seems like a lie, so what's going on? I nearly beat it once, but nearly. I could try and try again until I beat it...but I don't feel like I'm getting anything out of that. I guess trying to predict the path of enemies so you can hit them is amusing for a little while, since bullets travel in a straight line and the enemies are similarly predictable. But I could do that in a flight sim too, and that has the advantage of a more interesting central concept.
So that leaves me wandering around what is essentially a very simple maze, a rough take on Pac-Man perhaps? Wandering around a maze shooting enemies that are only a threat if I let them, by walking into their path. The only other enemy is a timer that seems to have plenty of time if you're already skilled at the game. Hence my thought that the beginner's maze was a lie. The goal for a level is to kill every monster and then escape...but meh.
I don't feel this game deserves any points. Even if the game has different maze designs its not going to be any good. Enemies are simple and not interesting, the weapon tries to add strategy where there is none, the controls are barely functional, its all very ugly and the only sound is that of me destroying an enemy.

Since I don't yet keep a win/loss counter on the side, I'm currently standing at 22 wins, 13 losses, 15 unwinnable games. This of course, being the 13th loss, as I didn't beat the 11th level. (or any for that matter) A pretty low ratio of wins, I must admit, but looking at the games I've lost, its clear why. I was unwilling to put in effort for little reward or the games suffered some horrendous glitch.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Game 51: Wizard of Wor

Name:Wizard of Wor
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time: 1 hour

This arcade classic was more appealing to me, at least at first. Night Stalker is about my favorite arcade-style shooter, and its effectively a descendant of Wizard of Wor. This is another science fiction top-down shooter, this time with a sprinkling of fantasy thrown in. From what I understand, the Wizard of Wor is an evil dude doing evil things and I have to stop him, one way or another. As per usual, I will be playing a home console port, this for the Atari 2600.

Its Pac-Man as a shooter. Right down to a poor Atari 2600 port. Its okay, I guess, but it actually ticked me off enough to briefly consider playing the arcade original. Eh, whenever the year gets to me something with a decent arcade collection, I'll do just that. Mobygames lists what should be a faithful Windows port, but that's 2004. Although to be fair its not all that bad, its still fun. I didn't realize this was supposed to have voice clips until I started checking things for the write-up.
The gameplay is as follows, there are two "worriors", played by one or two players. The objective is to shoot all the monsters in the current screen, however, the monsters shoot back, some even turn invisible or teleport. Everyone can shoot one bullet at a time, but bullets are about fast as are you, so that's not too crippling. It starts off with dumb monsters, then stronger ones that can turn invisible show up...sometimes in your guy...and eventually the Wizard shows up and teleports around like crazy.
That's about it, it was fun, but obviously it wasn't a very good port. There were only two levels I could reach and I didn't even realize that until I was checking my screenshots. I couldn't get past the Wizard unfortunately, but that's how it is with me and arcade games.

I'm starting to like games that force their only weapon into a bit of a utility role. Wizard of Wor's weapon generally felt satisfying to use to boot. 2/10

Decent variety, kept me on my toes as long as I had the patience to play. 2/10

None. 0/10

As far as I played, basically the same. 0/10

Player Agency:
I'm ragging on this for not being that amazing a port, but man, it controls very well. I got beat on numerous times, but it was always my own fault, or the layouts. 4/10

None. 0/10

Eh...eh...eh... 0/10

Not terribly impressive, even by Atari standards. 1/10

Is there even a real plot? 0/10

It just has a simple level intro music and the usual assortment of Atari blips and bloops. 1/10

That's 10 points. Which puts it in the lead for 1981. Not bad for a mediocre Atari port. I won't talk about the reviews yet, that seems like a poor idea, as I mentioned.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Elite: Fifty Games

Fifty shooters. I've seen some interesting things, some weird things, but most of all, I've learned that coming first means nothing if the game isn't good...or in English. With the 50th game, I decided to go after something interesting. Elite holds credit as the first big shooter that wasn't connected to the arcades or imitating them. Every game in the series was big, even today, an Elite game remains one of the few space shooters still popular. Thinking about that now, all of those space sims are MMOs, but that's neither here nor there. What is here is Elite, the original BBC Micro game. There are many ports and many remakes, some of which I'll be getting to. Observing the official website alone reveals at least six important editions and two interesting looking unreleased versions.

So, Elite, the granddaddy of space shooters, wide open sandboxes, and 3D graphics. That doesn't really seem impressive to me anymore. I've seen games like that already. They didn't impressive me, but could Elite have what those games lacked? Thrilling gameplay? The ability to fly away from a planet and not get gunned down? As you can tell, I'm not looking forward to this. I played this once when I was young, it was a DOS version, and it didn't leave a good impression on me. Which is why I'm a bit reluctant to start the game.
The game comes with a manual and a novella...which I won't be touching yet. I don't miss novellas. I realize you had to make do in the dark ages before you could fit many words in your video game, but I don't care for having to read that much text before playing a game. Not to mention I don't think highly of game-related fiction. Of course, those are usually not distributed with the games themselves. Ah, but the manual, the manual explains everything to my satisfaction. Don't shoot innocents, police or space stations, otherwise you'll become public enemy no. 1. Further, don't trade illegal goods either. I'm not interested in the bad guy route yet.

The game starts, and I have a Cobra Mk III (not that I can change it), I'm docked at a planet called Lave, I have enough fuel for 7.0 light years of travel, one crappy laser, and 100 credits. I can outfit my ship with many things, but the only things I can really afford are trade goods. There are a lot of screens I don't really understand at the moment, so I'm going to focus on something I can understand. Learning to fly.

Pressing F10 (or whatever its tied to on the BBC Micro) causes the ship to leave the space station to travel. Controls are not very intuitive. S & X move up and down, while , & . spin the ship along the the wings. Like how a plane actually functions. But unlike an airplane, a spaceship doesn't move through the air, so this just causes the ship to rotate weirdly. This never made any sense to me as a kid and now that I'm an adult, going for a realistic space simulation and having the ship function like one designed for the air seems a bad design choice. Babylon 5 did it best when they had their fighters rotate with little jets. Curiously few games seem to acknowledge momentum in their space games, so getting the engine damaged affects your top speed.

Moving around is simple enough, but I want to get good at docking. So I figure out whichever part of the space station I'm supposed to dock at. Its clearly not the rotating parts, so its the "top" or "bottom". This is really hard, least of all because of the station's movement. Crash feedback is not great, and a subtle sign of the game's code. See, this game functions like most games of the era did, the player doesn't technically move, everything around him does. The player also cannot reverse, so bing bang boom, dead.

I manage to get in on the second try. The rotation is actually no problem at all, but a different one arises. The current emulator I'm using, as in the first one that actually works on my machine, is BeebEm. Saving states in BeebEm crashes it and given my lack of familiarity with the game and system, I'm not sure how saving and loading is going to work. The manual says nothing and I don't see any way to save. I tried B-em, but the launch button causes the game to return to the start. So...the BBC Micro version is effectively unplayable. Honestly, it seems like any game I try to play ends up screwing up in one way or another if its more than a few minutes long. That's great. But then I, not really wanting to play a different version just yet vainly try loading it without starting the game...and that works. I'm sure there's a good reason for that.

After a few more attempts, and confident in my abilities to not make a complete hash of things, I purchase some trade goods and set forth on a short journey. My destination, the nearest planet, thus guaranteed to be the least valuable journey ever. Travel occurs, after leaving a space station, by entering the galactic map, pressing G on the destination, then H. This goes off without a hitch, there's nothing near me. I see what seems like a space station, there's nothing else around here, so I approach it, at an angle. The space station's entrance seems to be rotating, but I figure that's just some kind of weird game quirk.

As I do this, someone attacks me. So I begin evasive maneuvers and attempt to return fire. There are two of them, so I try to attack one of them. The chaos that ensues causes me to not be very clear on the events, I destroyed a spaceship...eventually, before I'm killed. Checking the manual again, I realize I was fighting the police...for some reason. I love it when I play a game where I have no real chance of finding my actual enemy.
I'm going to stop here for now, before my frustration gets the better of me. Still, there are positives. I can't think of any space game that doesn't use the same radar this game does. When I was actually fighting something, the game was fun. Its just starting to look like Space Vikings again.

This Session: 50 Minutes

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Game 47: Freaks

Time: 8.5 Hours

Its hard to think that a game made with a worse engine than Hovertank 3D gives me a bigger smile than just about anything I've played in the past year. You turn in 90-degree angles, no sound, no use key, bulletsponge enemies, enemies are stupid sacks of crap, and the gun is the bare minimum of what a shooter needs. What could possibly be good?

One of the things that appeals to me a great deal are puzzles. Short games that have logical, easy to understand rules that have an understandable solution. I greatly enjoy games like The Fool's Errand, Crush the Castle and The Incredible Machine, even if these things aren't always the cleverest or the most fun. Usually whatever pain there is gets over quickly enough and I'm back to doing what I like best. Shooters that mimic this feel of short, interesting to solve puzzles just give me a warm feeling inside. That was this game. Short bite-sized levels combined with an autosave and it becomes Deadly Rooms of Death 3D. Except I don't think that was intentional. Which makes this all the more strange.
The story is, you're The Magician, a servant of Gaia, creating all manner of nasty creatures. You have an assistant, named The Learner*, who is obviously evil, yet you do nothing. Naturally, he betrays you, killing you, and Gaia recreates you. You get a shotgun with infinite ammo somehow, and begin your quest to regenerate your body and take out The Learner, who has caused all your creations to turn on you. Then the author mentions he likes Lovecraft, Giger and Dead Can Dance. I have to admit, considering how many games just stick a Xenomorph in their game, it was quite refreshing to see a game that said "I love Giger, but I'm not going to take the completely obvious route." At no point are these inspirations blatantly obvious, with exception to one of Dead Can Dance's album titles.
At this point, the game begins, and its fun. The game consists mostly of small levels, and it autosaves every time you enter a new level, so its never time-consuming to get back to where you were. This honestly cuts off most of the problems older shooters had. Its not a question of where or when to save, so you're not savescumming or saving too little. Which places you entirely on the focus of beating this level. What makes this all work is ironically enough the engine's 90-degree turn limitation, more like Dungeon Master than Wolfenstein.
Because you always shoot in a precise direction and enemies always head for you in the simplest way possible, accuracy or enemies firing back, were only problems in specific situations. Like whenever the enemies were blocking a door or on the edge of a corner; The game is a bit weird with where the gun hits, so you're hitting the air in some cases. Thus the game is entirely about strategy. That's not saying this strategy was always brilliant, no, sometimes the strategy was standing at the end of a long corridor while holding down the fire button. But the amount of levels that had me figuring things out was always high. The gun does a set amount of damage over a set amount of time while the enemies are similarly predictable. This provided the majority of gameplay.
It doesn't even change when the game throws out ranged enemies either. They're all hitscanners. The damage they deal to you is inconsequential to what damage they deal to you if you attack them, so these sections suddenly turn into a different kind of puzzle. Although because they didn't die, you could sometimes screw up and place them in front of a door you needed to go through. I never had this happen to me, but I was smart, you might not be so lucky.
Now, I say this could be accidental, because there are boss battles, and they are not fun. They're all damage sponges, and none of these battles, except the first, involve any kind of thought from the player. The first is only an exception because it introduces the ranged enemies. The only thoughts are when he realizes its shooting at him, and if he realizes its hurting him when he fires at it.
Like I said this game feels like a bit of a counter argument to several typical shooter problems. Don't know when to save? Only the game can save. Think backtracking sucks? Its usually obvious when you need to backtrack and it isn't ever obnoxious. Don't know which weapon is optimal against which enemy? Doesn't matter, everything's the same. Its the antithesis of every generic shooter complaint one could have against the early era...except, explain to anyone that the solution to their problems is this game. Doom is the suxxor, so go play this game that looks like the missing link between Wolfenstein and Dungeon Master.

I think I've gained an appreciation of one-weapon shooters now. The gun in this game has showed me that the weapon is only a tool, not necessarily something that needs to appeal on its own. Not that it changes the rating. 1/10

For the most part, the enemies really are interchangeable. You've got shooting enemies, and you've got melee enemies. You're not really supposed to kill the shooting ones because they hurt you whenever you attack. Bit backwards, but otherwise they're jokes if you don't get surrounded. However, I must admit they had an appeal beyond their varying health meters. It was neat seeing what weird new enemy would show up, and they all interesting in that regard. What was really different about this game was you needed to kill enemies in order to get health. I'm sure there are later games that focus solely on getting health via vampirism, I remember a Doom mod in particular, but this seems to be the first actual appearance of it. 3/10

None, everything was an enemy. 0/10

Freaks made use of some really inventive level design for the most part, and because of the way it was set up, most of the levels weren't obnoxious to get through. How do I get through this level with as much health as possible? Every game is like that, but here, because of each level's short length, it becomes that much more of an interesting thought. Now, the problem is that the 3rd episode felt more like a mediocre Wolfenstein-clone in a lot of places. But overall episode had more good levels than bad levels. 8/10

Player Agency:
I thought I was going to hate the way this has no smooth turning, just sharp turns. That was fine, no more troublesome than any other DOS-era shooter. What was troublesome was the weird issue where walls are technically larger than they appear. I have to assume this is some kind of coding issue rather than an intentional design choice, because its just so odd-looking. I could have used some rebinding of keys, since the Shift+Ctrl+Alt cluster are always tied into system functions. Also, the pause key crashed the game. 3/10

There wasn't really any. 0/10

Freaks does what I think very few shooters or shooter mods have ever succeeded in doing, do an excellent Lovecraftian atmosphere. This just felt like a bizarre alien adventure, but every part of it was going to be good. 9/10

I liked all the graphics in of themselves, but they felt like they were made ugly because of the engine. I like the hand-drawn VGA pixel-look. The problem is that at long distances or from a side angle, like most of the game, they look off. 4/10

The player is effectively God killing the Devil, with a shotgun. I realize its still an excuse plot, but man, how many games do you know that have a story like that? 2/10

There were basically three tracks in the game, which considering the level design, made sense, don't want tracks getting cut off in weird ways. The first track was the best, and it played the longest, reappearing at the final boss. The second was okay, except for the ear-bleeding part of it. The third was just okay in general. No sound, unfortunately. 3/10

Because this game is good in a way I didn't exactly anticipate when making my score system, I'm going to give it 3 bonus points. That's 36 points. Putting it one point below Catacomb Armageddon and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Am I wrong? Well, you'll never know that unless you play it yourself. Because there aren't any reviews beyond my own. Freaks is incredibly obscure, I've only seen it on a handful of sites, even including my otherwise large field of vision. This won't be the last game from Spanish developer Triptico AKA Lovecraft Dreams. Sometime in the future we'll take a look at Space Plumber, which is weird, and the remake of Freaks, which adds smooth turning. That might honestly ruin the game, since this feels like its only as good as it is through a combination of its out-of-date by 1993 tech choices. Making it a normal shooter would probably make it a mediocre Wolfenstein-clone, and I already know I'll have my fill of those by 2002.

The lead of Triptico, Angel Ortega, is kind of a renaissance man. He's done stories, he has his own one-man band, art beyond his video games, and basically had a hand in every bit of his video games. Its funny, looking at his blog, you don't see that going into any real popularity, the guy seems to have trouble getting his stories published, in addition to constant troubles with services that actually do publish his work. This guy's Spanish, so the audience is significantly less than in the English world. If this guy, who's pretty talented, in a smaller pond, can't get any kind of following, what hope does anyone else have? Food for thought for the artistically inclined among you.

*Which I suspect is a mistranslation of apprentice. The author is Spanish and that's what Learner translates into over there, with a few letters changed. As the years went on, it was probably kept because the author liked the sound of it more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Game 49: Deadline

Time: 1 hour

One of the lovely things about doing most of these shooting games by year is that I don't get a break from Wolfenstein clones for a good couple of years. Realistically the amount of games, by a certain definition, will never go down, its just everything else becomes so overwhelmingly popular that it doesn't matter one iota. In this mass of games is a unique title. Deadline doesn't sound like one at first, but it was never released, instead it seems to have been one of the earlier attempts at a public beta. This beta being free to everyone, like some weird shareware title. Whatever, it can't be worse than professionally released shooters. There is one problem, the game has no sound. This was also made by a Finnish developer, judging by the names.
The game has two different kinds of items, the guns, as can be expected from a FPS, and gizmos. The readme file explains that they're anything from keycards to mines. Oh, great, mines. Its got a weird weapon/gizmo selection method, pressing delete and PageDn control the keys. Oh, good, this is going to be like Isle of the Dead. Nah, it just cycles one per button press. I've only got 2 guns so far, a pistol and a machine gun...oh...no...there's no melee weapon. This doesn't look like its going to affect anything though, after one encounter with an enemy, its quite clear that I'll be dead if I get up close and personal.
So far my opponents are low-quality and very weird looking. Like the ones from Heretic, except very brown and with half the resolution. They're not hard to kill...just not exciting in any shape or form. Quite a few of them on this level, and they seem to be either patrolling or going around randomly with no rhyme or reason. I found them back at the starting area several times, which is interesting and also annoying. It seems to be going for a bootleg immersive sim kind of thing, but ends up being a bad Wolfenstein clone? The little ones look like Xenomorphs.
So after going through the level once, I discover no logical reason as to anything that's going on. I check the readme again, and oh, I'm just blind. Turns out I have to use the space key on the areas with dark blue dots, as shown on my map. So I do that....and...uh...it doesn't show, but the game crashed...Hmm...well, there are only two map files, so I don't think I'm missing much...

A pistol and a machine gun. They're not very satisfying to use. 1/10

A xenomorph and a big alien. They're not very satisfying to kill. 1/10

None. 0/10

Even if the game worked properly, this was awfully generic and amounted to basically nothing. 0/10

Player Agency:
Movement was very loose, accuracy was a problem and I missed quite a bit because of it. You've got to hold down the left or right arrow for an unreasonable amount of time. What was curious was the usual "use" and change weapons stuff was completely out of whack. As far as I can tell, whether or not the use key works on a door is a miracle. At first I didn't know what the hell I was doing wrong, some doors didn't want to open and the ones that did were a chore. I have no idea what the gadgets do. I also have to say that the delete and PageDn buttons for changing weapons/gizmos was a bad choice. You want the trigger hand to handle that stuff, not the walking hand. 2/10

None. 0/10

Annoyance. 0/10

Its dark, everything was shades of muted, dark colors, with the odd blast of light. 1/10

You're a researcher on cyrogenics that got stuck in an experiment with them for much longer than you wanted, now aliens are everywhere. Basic excuse plot. 1/10

None. 0/10

A quite brutal 6. That puts it the same as In Extremis. But unlike In Extremis, I have to give a little credit here, the failures here are understandable, its a beta. Its still not good, but I believe it was intended more as a feeler than anything else. Given the popularity of shareware back then, its reasonable to think they didn't get as good a reception as they hoped, and gave up. Its also worth pointing out that there are three other games sharing the title, which makes searching for something that much harder.

Next up, the 50th game. Hopefully this time it'll be a good space game.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Freaks!: Does Hell Have a Frequent Flyer Program?

 Hmm, that joke is probably more appropriate to a Doom wad than this, oh well.

Automatic double-barreled shotgun? The dead swimming through a lake of blood? Music that doesn't feature the worst midi bank? You're back in my good graces, Freaks, try not to leave again. The opening section here is a surprise return to linearity, not that its bad for this. Gets pretty hairy in places. Especially when the mutants show up. Some very original level titles, like Towards the Within. I don't know what that's supposed to mean in-game.
Eventually, there's a fork in the path, and I enter a forest level. Its still a river of blood on the ground. The enemies here are all tentacles in the water. They're no pushover either. This comes off as cruel, but ultimately ends up being fair, as I win.
For a good while after that, its uninteresting to talk about. Perhaps as an attempt at difficulty, the developer threw out dozens of enemies rather than trying to come up with clever paths to get through a level. What's interesting...I guess...is that this episode's keys are...whatever these are. The manual tells me its going to make sense after I find them all. Okay, whatever.
Then, there's this level. Praying mantises are the primary enemy, but the important bit is that there are crucified corpses on the walls. Er...souls. Also, there's a mantis is a side-room for no apparent reason.

The lull in difficulty changes almost instantly after that. A level full of more mantises. The problem? There are too many to just shoot down at once, so the level has a bunch of little rooms. Thus the level's name, The Crypt. Its mostly just moving back and forth between two of the doors, most of the doors lack a good shot at any of the enemies.

Curiously, there are quite a few level titles relating to the dead. At first I assumed there was going to be some undead again, but I only encountered the mantises and recolored imps. A few tricky levels here, nothing interesting to talk about. Then I find The Old Cemetery. A bunch of graves, and I eventually come across a cross. Its an item, so I take it. At this point I go to write some of this, but because of the weird button combinations, DOSBox is on a different plane of computing than the text box, causing DOSbox to disappear and vice versa.

When I returned, this was going on. I guess there are undead. Forgot about that gimmick. This was actually pretty cool, although the problem I now had was that it seemed like I was stuck here, because there was a horde of these guys. This whole level exceeded at being creepy, because to begin with all the tombstones were moving.

It feels like this episode's big gimmick is enemy control via these doors. It was interesting at first, but every time it pops up again its just running around two doors because all the others are pointless to try. This comes to my great annoyance in The Dead Town, in which enemies are tucked away in the interior. I wait by the side, they just scatter all around, or I'm not fast enough to reach them. I wait by a door, well, doesn't take a genius to figure out that's not going to work. I eventually figured it out.

The cathedral section is okay. Lots of gnome ghost-like enemies. Reminds me of the levels in Deadly Rooms of Death where you'd have to trickle enemies in around a curve. I realize what the keys are forming, at least, I think I do. A funeral urn. I actually find the episode exit before I find all the items.
Somewhere in the cathedral are The Dungeons, which felt weird, but whatever. By this time, I have all but 1 items, and there's a door that's locked. Okay...weird...whatever. The final item is here, which spawns more enemies...and the locked door is a boss...I think? I feel like I've seen this in something related to Junji Ito, but I haven't seen anything. On to the episode exit...feels like I've missed something. Nope.
This episode's ending text is rather short, fitting considering the final episode is supposed to just be a boss battle.
The boss battle is...uh...not terribly impressive. The music's the same as the first episode; I don't even die once; And The Learner is some alien-looking dude. He's tough, but bullet sponge, all that.
C'mon, you give me all this awesome backstory, and you don't even give me some ending text? Man...Well, I guess I gotta decide how I feel about that.

Final Time: 8.5 hours