Saturday, May 1, 2021

Corporation: Chief Exploring Officer

Its always strange to see a Core game before Tomb Raider. Lara Croft was the all-consuming beast that propelled them to greatness, and spelled their undoing. And of course, the zombie that lived on long after them. What were they doing before then? Lots of stuff. Everything from platformers to adventure games. Including publishing this cyberpunk title, developed by a company called Dementia, who only did this game.

The back of the box waxes on about how realistic it is. (for 1990) We've got psychic powers, a lot of combat, and a holographic projector! The objective is to stop The Universal Cybernetics Corporation from unleashing "mutant robots" that will destroy all mankind. Maybe that's a mistranslation from British English to American English.
The manual describes the backstory of the robots. the UCC was once European Cybernetics, and became a multi-national corporation through the use of robots. The robots were the RX series. RX1 the domestic model, RX2 the industrial, RX3 the agricultural. The robots had many advantages over the old ones, like being able to do anything a human could do. Why there needed to be different models, I can't tell you. "...small companies which could not previously justify the expense of a robot suddenly could". This is something the manual acknowledges as the company keeps the prices of their robots artificially low. How did they become rich then? It doesn't say, but knowing what I do of a bunch of modern companies, stupid investors and selling personal data.
The robots were designed to be as unthreatening as possible, and the advertising campaign said they were easier to use than a video recorder. That they can program a video recorder. Ah, VHS humor. A short paragraph about the population turning to having easier lives in creative fields and that leisure culture had finally arrived. Even this positive paragraph has the statement that those that don't have robots pretend that they did. Then more dystopian writing about UCC getting into media, pharmaceuticals and space exploration. Because of UCC having clever public relations, all fears about their rise were downplayed and presented as "local boy made good". (???) Then about military conflicts with robots, followed by UCC pointing out that they control so much now that would be bad.
Jesus Christ. We're on the first page of the backstory and this world already seems like such a horrific dystopian nightmare that humanity could never wake up from. It doesn't help that the writing here comes off semi-positive about this stuff. I could imagine someone writing something almost exactly like this in real life. Now we touch on the real bad stuff.
Robots had limitations, they were slow and unable to think for themselves. And something about not repairing and reproducing themselves. Apparently they can't be programmed to do that. So they begin conducting illegal genetic engineering. They sourced "customers" (???) and "Clients". (as capitalized???) "The 'Clients' wanted a highly illegal killing machine. UCC obliged!" So they made a symbiotic humanoid that is an omnivore, sunlight, meat and veg. "The 'client' (this time in single quotes) was overjoyed with the sample and a small army was order. UCC themselves...used them as guards." One escaped in London and became a new Ripper.
The UK government (called "the Government", for some reason, no quotes) after some time noticed something was up with UCC and manufacturing sentient beings. More so because it would affect their popularity and the UCC would leave London. Which is not entirely unreasonable, because apparently them leaving would result in a great depression. Because the government doesn't want to be linked to this, the investigation will be done by "ZODIAC, the internationally renowned espionage agency, believed by many to be a myth." Could have phrased that better, I assume those that know it exist speak highly of it. "An agent is to be chosen from the Libra chapter whose specialty is restoring balance." Oh, god, that really made me laugh.
The actual mission is that I will be dropped in from the roof, find the lab and collect an embryo of the 'product'. I escape via ground level. If the suspicions are correct, the evidence will be used to "encourage" the UCC to stop their illegal experiments "in this country". Thatcher, am I right, people?
"If the evidence was made public, every nation would prosecute UCC, public opinion would turn agains [sic] them and the directors would be imprisoned. With this prospect, UCC should be keen to co-operate."
An evil global corporation that has its hands in every pot and likely has caused more damage to the public than the manual lets on, has been making human-eating killing machines. One of them got loose and the UK government has hired ZODIAC to collect evidence so they can get the evil corporation to do their evil elsewhere. I'll say it again, Jesus Christ.
The manual goes on to state what I should do to win the game, which is avoid the system. If the system catches me, I will be locked in and hit with sleeping gas. At which point guards will be sent to my location and the UCC will dispose of my body with no evidence that I was ever there. There are no real complicated controls.
That's about it for the interesting manual information. There was the option to have yourself be added to the game by paying the authors a nominal fee. Something tells me that's off the table.

One of the things we don't appreciate emulating DOS games is configuring the mouse. I remember back on the old DOS computer I had, you had to type in a program in order to use the mouse. This is of course, because MS-DOS wasn't one of your ten thousand dollar Macintoshes or Amigas, the only human interface you needed was a keyboard. Personally, I like to think games on DOS kickstarted the use of a mouse, but I'm no expert. I bring this up because you have to run a program. In DOSbox. Like an actual DOS computer. This isn't a simple task either, you have to go searching around for the damn program or build it yourself. Now, while I do use a form of Linux, I'm not really an expert in building things from source.
Which is where I'd be talking about the Amiga version instead, only that didn't work either. I gave up at the time I originally wrote this stuff, until someone told me about D-Fend Reloaded working with it. D-Fend Reloaded is a front end for DOSbox, something I don't use. I only use front ends for other emulators, that don't come with GUIs. I don't have any sound.

With all that, I have my option of characters, which have a bunch of stats I don't understand. Following this, I have a bunch of items, none of which I understand. Sometime between the time I started writing this and I started playing this I lost the manual. Oh, well, a gun and armor is always good. I guess I should get whatever looks like ammo, and a lockpick. Items are contained in various body parts and the player surprisingly has a weight limit.

The game starts off uncermoniously, in a darkened room. It can be controlled through a mix of keyboard and mouse controls, although this is like other games of its era, where you aim independently with the mouse, and turn with the arrow keys. The mouse can have the player move and presumably there are keyboard commands for all the mouse functions, even if just a hacky keyboard mouse cursor. There's simple crouching and jumping, but as of yet, I see no reason for this. There's a very confusing look and grab system.

I walk out, see a camera, and try to shoot it...only resulting in me throwing a punch, Rayman-style. It sees me, and that triggers an alert. This, I guess causes a mechanical spider to pop out. From here, nothing much happens, probably due to my own bewilderment, and I restart.
Second attempt, still not sure why I'm not shooting my gun. I see an alien...or a monster. He's not doing anything...okay. I can do nothing to him. Behind him is a robot that is. I kill him, but I'm not sure how effective this is.
Okay, I eventually figure things out on my third attempt. Put the gun into your hand, then you can fire. Only I have no idea how to reload. Ammo is limited, this game is just featureless corridors, and this is all not very interesting.
Fourth attempt, hoping I keep ammo this time, and manage to get sound working. Still no sound, but I do discover the death screen. This is going to be a long game. So far its not really surprising as to why this never picked up a cult following. There's a lot of technical stuff for a game that's so far an incredibly mundane corridor shooter.

This Session: 30 minutes

*We have in order, major releases, Vixen, Athena, Vixen, Time Gal, Ms. Pac-Man.

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