Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Game 60: Lethal Tender

Name:Lethal Tender
Developer:Pie in the Sky Software
Time:2 hours

Lethal Tender is the first game in the much used and little enjoyed Pie in the Sky engine, its the sort of thing that helps hide hidden gems. Having finally summoned the strength to beat it myself...I can only think one thing. WHAT? I still don't know what else to think of it. Its not good, but its not bad. Its just sort of there. In the end, isn't that the worst thing I could say of a game? That it exists? I tried for quite some time to think up something, and despite its technical achievements, its just not that interesting.

The elephant in the room is the Pie in the Sky engine's inventory system, which is a bit confusing. You carry everything in your inventory, from guns to notes to keys. You have a limited inventory, so you can't just carry everything. This is annoying, because in a more adventure game fashion, you have to pick things up with the I key. Further, when things are in your inventory you can't use them there, you have to press S, move the inventory cursor over them, then drop them. If its something like a medikit and you're injured, it works automatically. Only notes are not automatic, you have to drop them and then pick them up.
Beyond that the game strips away most of a FPS's downtime. You have no interact button, you just run into doors. There's no mazes or anything remotely confusing about the level design, but there's really nothing interesting either. There are a few tricks, but nothing that'll leave you standing still for long. There's a neat outdoor area, but its just a minor touch. Minor touches help games feel higher quality, but without substance, they're ultimately hollow. Enemies and weapons are just basically a blur and function in their most basic way.
Which is what everything interesting here boils down to. There's a story, involving explosive money even notes inside the game, but Doom's lack of them strikes me as an intentional choice. The game tracks your movement along the Z-axis, but beyond one jumping action that isn't even a puzzle, the whole system is cool, but pointless. There are grenades, which I found unusable and useless due to the bizarre throwing system. Destructible environments, that come into play once. Everything is once, like an idea added just because it got thought up. None of it comes up ever again. Even a system where enemies spawn in locations you've already gone through is used only for the one and only boss.
It does looks good, its well-animated, its got a real place feeling to it, if for 1993. Its not the most complex, but for a shareware, and let's be honest, that's the competition, its pretty good-looking. I'd be hard pressed to make a joke or even find a major complaint. Like the helicopter in the opening room is just a wall graphic, yeah, game ruined. Ceilings and floor heights that actually aren't all the same! 45-degree walls! Moving inanimate objects! Fancy camera angles! But that nagging feeling returns, there's no point to any of it, the game's bland.

I guess some notice should be given to the game's seemingly advanced health system. Damage is done on any number of limbs. Get shot in the leg, you move awkwardly, get shot in the arm and you probably have worse aim, get shot elsewhere, you're in a body bag. There's also a whole bunch of medical numbers that I am sure have no effect on gameplay. But what is the point? I don't have a complicated first aid system to match, I just drop a medikit and I'm healed. In a way it foreshadows games like Robinson's Requiem and Deus, but those games had a reason for that, since they pretended to care about your bodily functions.

In a twisted sense, the game is too short for its own good. So much is built up, but there's never any payoff. Like a demo masquerading as a commercial game, hoping for a full release that will never come. A victim of its author's inability to create a bigger game. But perhaps my wish for a more satisfying, longer experience would have resulted in just plain hatred of this game. In that same twisted sense, its a good thing there's going to be a hundred more of these games, because I'm going to find that out, since at least one of the engine's users will be a good level designer.

You get four weapons. A kick, which is unnecessary as long as you don't waste ammo. A grenade, which is difficult to throw properly. A pistol, which shoots slowly but strongly. A rifle, which is fast and works against most enemies rather well. They weren't very interesting, but they got the job done. 2/10

Four in total, again. Weak enemy, strong enemy, stationary enemy, and boss. None of which were very interesting. 1/10


Sort of open-ended, but not really. You're not really going to be taking a different path or anything. 3/10

Player Agency:
Confusing inventory aside, it isn't bad. I dislike having a semi-puzzle focused shooter not having an use key. The jumping mechanics felt tacked-on heavily. 4/10

For a game with no use key, there is a frightening amount of interactivity. Switches you can run into or shoot, destructible objects, notes. 1/10

Very low-budget action film starring some random dude with one screen credit. 1/10

Its not bad looking. I could criticize little things for days, but I just don't feel like doing that. Its got some nice graphical things that weren't commonplace by now, like variable size floors and a sprite helicopter moving off-screen. 4/10

You're Nick Hunter and you're going to kill some dudes who are threatening to put bombs on US money. This is typical, except for two things, you see a lot of notes, which expand this story, and I think those same notes made me think I was doing something else first. Its bizarre. 2/10

There is no music, and the closest thing there is are distracting door sounds from a distance. The sound itself is fine, nothing too distracting. 2/10

That's 20. Placing the same as Blake Stone and Midwinter 2. I think unlike those though, this is something you could play casually and enjoy. Well, pass an evening. Its a one trick pony and there's just nothing else to say about it. Pie in the Sky software was responsible for three other games, directly that is, not just something using their engine. There's one flight sim, made before this game, and two FPS, made after. I foresee myself getting those out of the way rather quickly if this is any indication.

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