Thursday, April 22, 2021

Lethal Tender: As Phony as a Two Dollar Bill

Lethal Tender, not the first game from infamous game studio, Pie in the Sky Software, responsible for the Pie in the Sky Game Creation System, and bane of anyone interested in obscure '90s FPS games. Game after game made in the same engine. This isn't like iDtech or Build games, those were functional. PSGCS is...different, to say the least. This game has a freaky story. Terrorists have developed a new kind of bomb, one they're putting on money, metal and paper. The mastermind? One Thorne Devereaux, damn French-Canadians. Although the story goes on to say that we know where he is, an old mining town, scraping up old silver and bronze...and for some reason the US government isn't just bombing him. Naturally, instead of Rainbow Six or a bunch of A-10s a single man, nay, a LEGEND is being sent, Nick Hunter. He is the one who won the war against terrorism and drugs! I guess I was mistaken, he sounds capable of handling this. There's a lot of backstory on this guy. Is this serious? This sounds like a parody. Anyway, on to stopping Devereaux's mining operation.

The game starts...oh hang on, the txt files are in-game too. This is a lot of technical information for a game about shooting people. This isn't going to be another stealth game, methinks. At least, I'm not going to play it like one.

A weird loading screen...weirder gun. Very low-budget action film with a middle-aged star look. Someone trying to pull off Tom Selleck, but he doesn't have the facial structure to pull it off. Very '80s.

The opening level is a tutorial of the, figure it out yourself sort. The game's a bit confusing, the inventory is the culprit. The inventory is some weird fusion of Galactic Empire and Wolfenstein 3D. You manually pick up items with the I key, which adds them to your inventory. If they're guns or ammo, no more interaction is necessary on your part, just use one of the number keys. If they're a bomb or a landmine, that's where it gets fun. Apparently you're supposed to use those strategically, like you would in later, better games. I'm not using those if I don't have to, since that's typical of my trap expertise in video games. The guns are typical, kick, pistol, grenade and rifle. They've got nice animations, I'll give 'em that. The grenade is going to be interesting, since it seems very weird in the way its thrown, since you have power. Advanced for its time, but not fun.
Another interesting thing is this engine seems more advanced than Wolfenstein. 45 degree walls, 3D scenery, fancy animations. It looks pretty sweet, I must admit. They put some good effort into this, I'll give them that. That's enough of that, how about the actual game?
This mission isn't the one advertised, I've just got to kill some random explosives seller. Okay, cool. I start off on a surprisingly small roof, which leads quickly enough to another floor. Interesting, very interesting. Doors open automatically. I guess Quake was really late to that party. Here, I find some dudes to kill. There's no avoiding it, its slow, even with an automatic. They're bullet-sponges and there are quite a few of them. They don't drop any items, except a uniform, which I decide to take after killing them all. This hurts me quite a bit, hopefully I didn't miss all the medikits in this level when I left them behind at HQ. Curiously, there are crates with hammer and sickles on them, and Stars of David. Are these guns that the drug lord bought, or are they explosives shipments to those places? Either way, bold choices, especially considering its 1993 and the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore.

I continue downstairs. As you get injured, the game realistically makes you slower, turns the screen red and making walking in a straight line troublesome. As I was writing some of this, I was waiting for the between floor loading screen to end, when suddenly I hear gunshots. I return, only to see a guard shooting me, and the loading screen start again. I figure I died, so I return to writing things down. Only, I got knocked back, I have to deal getting this guy. I figure I must be nearly dead, only I manage to clear the entire floor. The pistol is actually a pretty strong weapon, hits harder than the rifle. I find a door, thinking, aha, this leads to the basement.

Outside. This leaves some questions about this mission, since I'm supposed to reach a basement. I didn't realize this was a complex. The game says factory. Okay. I quickly enough bite it to some more guards. Took a surprising amount of punishment. The dead screen has Hunter in a bodybag. Jees. Still, as I restart the game, I notice something interesting, the machine gun has a variable speed. Sometimes its really fast, other times its just a fast pistol.

Properly equipped, the guards outside are little trouble. I'm not sure how I'm going to survive a level if it turns into a slog though. The grenades seem completely useless or specialized enough equipment that I'm not ever going to figure out how to use them. Since this is the first time we've seen a weapon with its own physics, that's not entirely surprising.

There's a house here, it has a bathroom/changing station. Nothing I can take. What I can take is a key and something showing me the secret entrance. This game is actually more advanced than one would think. I can climb on top of desks. Not sure what that's going to do, but its pretty cool regardless.

The interior starts off as a short but convoluted key hunt. Mostly because of me getting confused. The key I brought here is so far useless, as I'm supposed to find a key in a radio room. This key opens the door to a generator room, which I shoot in order to get past an electrified door. All the while there are dozens of notes to read and guards to kill. Most of which aren't very interesting to talk about. Although one note is a key.
This continues to a room filled with oil. Why is there a room filled with oil? I don't know. I assume I can't pass it, and so continue downward, where there are a series of devices that may involve the player getting past it on some time trick. I first try shooting it, and then advancing, where I properly die. The death screen still shows me shot. Then I try to get to through the oil...which causes me to drown in goo.
The answer to this question is to shoot the two panels to the side of the orbs. I have just enough time to rush past. More interesting things here, a rotating wall, and a corridor full of lasers. Something I'm not talking about is that this game has some interesting lighting effects. Environmental hazards change the color of the screen quite a bit. I don't know how to deal with the lasers, so I wager on the wall. This leads me downwards, to some oil related chamber? I dunno. I do read a note telling me to be careful around certain panels, otherwise they'll blow up.
This directly leads to the most annoying fight so far, three of the tougher guards just hanging out outside the next door. They get me pretty good. Turns out there are a lot of dudes in this section. I wasn't clear on it before, but I think there's a limb damage system here. During my successful attempt at clearing this area, my leg got shot up pretty badly, and this was reflected in-game. Curious.
Next, a barracks. Its not that interesting at first. Portraits of some dude I have no context for, is this the guy responsible for...LETHAL TENDER? Ahem. The interesting bit is a new enemy, a dude in bed. I've never been shot at by an enemy in a bed before. From here I eventually arrive at the little isle in the goo I passed by earlier. Three dudes here, plus two above me. This causes me a little grief, probably because I wasn't expecting this. But this is clearly the end of the line. So I walk back...only to discover there's no elevator back. Oh, well, explosions time. They might not be very effective in actual combat, but against inanimate objects, these is working out pretty sweet. Game even says I completed the objective, and now I have to return to the roof. Okay, this is going to be interesting. Only its not...I just didn't realize I could jump before. Okay.
Takes a while walking back, great level design, and I return to a boss. He's not that bad, took a medikit, but that's just because I screwed up a bit. Anyway, next time, we'll see what lovely mission we have next.
...I won? What? I won? That's it? That's the end of the game? But the guy mentioned in the message earlier has a different name than the big bad. Well...okay then...I guess I have to do a summary...I hope this wasn't full-priced back in the day.

Total Time: 2 hours

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