Friday, June 24, 2022

Guardian

If these screenshots are ugly, I do have to apologize, since the last Apple II game I've upgraded by OS and the settings for this emulator have been lost in the change
Name:Guardian
Number:132
Year:1982
Publisher:Continental Software
Developer:"Tom and Jerry" (Allegedly, Bob Flanagan and Scott Miller)
Genre:Top-Down
Difficulty:3/5
Time:30 minutes
Won:Yes (44W/47L)

Normally, you wouldn't think today's title would be very interesting. A random Apple II action game by some long dead publisher...except that the developers are Bob Flanagan and Scott Miller. The former, a bigshot software engineer who did work for The Sims series, and Scott Miller, founder of Apogee. Pretty heavy-hitting talent. The game itself doesn't sound too unusual, outside of having an exit mechanic like the one in TRON: Deadly Discs; Every time the player kills an enemy, the exit changes locations, and the player has to reach there in a certain time frame. The story is about protecting a special emerald in the far future of 2112, but this isn't too important.

One of the many level starts

Well, that's the description. In practice you have a time limit each level which runs the second you start it, at which point enemies circle the starting area. Until you fire a shot they'll continue to do that. Fire a shot and they'll start chasing after you. The only special enemies are the purple ghosts, who fly through walls, and the orb things, which take two shots. The exit doesn't appear until you kill an enemy, not that this matters since you won't be able to reach it anyway. Each enemy you kill changes the exit's location, but generally speaking this isn't too worrying, enemies follow you surely but leisurely and aren't in short supply.

Unprepared, you can easily find yourself taking out one enemy only to get taken out by another
Reach the exit two times and you get deadly walls, which kill you. Fun fact, the game doesn't properly stop you after exiting a level, so the game can and will screw you over. You can beat this by rapidly pressing the K key as you enter the level, or maybe any of the shooting keys. There are no other changes, and the designs of these walls seem to picked at random from a selection of pre-made wall layouts. Reach the exit two more times and you are in a level with walls that turn invisible. Beat this 2 times and you win the game.

One of the more annoying layouts, offering little protection against the horde

This is a twin-stick shooter, and thankfully I can play it via keyboard. I probably shouldn't have, since the layout is QWEASDZXC for shooting and UIOJKLM,. for moving. S & K shoot and stop respectively. You cannot move and shoot at the same time, however this is not a problem. The problem is that the game feels awkward to control. I don't know if this is my keyboard or if this would have been ass on a period computer, but I often felt like I was wrestling with the controls. Later on, I seemed to have problems lining up shots against the very corners of enemies.

I beat the game on normal difficulty, and figuring out how to win is simply a matter of figuring out where enemies will approach. The walls are rarely a concern, almost always pop up by complete accident. Try to take out a purple ghost first thing, and then take out any others in your way. The key thing is that enemies are not important, killing them all actually starts the level over. If you can break away before then, go for it.

This feels considerably less impressive than it should be
Winning the game does nothing special, you only get the pleasure of having beaten Guardian. Which doesn't really seem all that impressive considering it didn't take me that many attempts to win. The game has an expert mode, but the game wasn't that special the first time through.


Really, this game's novel ideas just don't work that well. Having monsters circling the player at the start is an interesting idea, but it feels a bit like I'm watching the monsters dance around me. The time limit feels strange. I should feel like I'm in a panic about it, but I never tripped it up. Perhaps I just got lucky at the end, when the timer was down to 20 seconds, but its not really making the game harder. Decreasing it further wouldn't really work though.

Weapons:
Generic gun. 1/10

Enemies:
The two unusual enemies add a little variation. 2/10

Non-Enemies:
None.

Levels:
Fairly generic sets of walls. 1/10

Player Agency:
Technically it should work, but it doesn't quite work right. And there is that issue where you can die as soon as you start a level. 3/10

Interactivity:
None.

Atmosphere:
None.

Graphics:
Its a bit hideous, but it works. 1/10

Story:
None.

Sound/Music:
Annoying blips and bloops. 0/10

That's 8. A bit below average for the year. Nothing really interesting, but nothing offensive. I had the impressive before uncovering this game that Scott Miller didn't do anything in the gaming world before he started Apogee, and I think I understand why now. This makes even those awkward early Apogee games look like masterpieces.

I won't be having any more entries for Star Cruiser outside of the review/summary. There's nothing to talk about with the gameplay and the story isn't very interesting either.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Cylon Attack

Name:Cylon Attack
Number:131
Year:1982
Publisher:A&F Software
Developer:Doug Anderson
Genre:Space Sim
Difficulty: 3/5
Time:15 minutes
Won:Not possible

Cylon Attack is mostly unremarkable. Its title is a reference to the classic space opera series Battlestar Galactica. Unlicensed of course, and the game could lose that reference without losing anything. The developer is not terribly remarkable in terms of RPGs, shooters or adventure games, but was one half of the publisher. The only unusual thing about the game is that it is a space sim, in 1982, before Elite, released on British computers. The question is, will it be interesting, or will it be Space Vikings - British Edition?
No, its a fairly mundane early space shooter. Not so much actually flying around as aiming at anything headed your way. No real movement, just shoot things. Dodging is accomplished by simply not being on the same screen as the shot.

I don't remember the Cylons having a Tie Fighter...
Combat comes in the form of waves, and as a form of challenge, you have to deal with your shields and a limited fuel supply to start with, and when the shooting starts, your basic rechargable laser. Keep in mind where ships are going. Should you run low on fuel, you can return to your mothership to refuel, but this will result in your enemies going after it. Shields don't regenerate except when you return to the mothership between waves. Returning to the mothership is a bit Elite-ish in the sense that you shouldn't hit the walls, but otherwise its just sliding the vehicle in.

Once you figure out how to lead your shots, its smooth sailing. Which was suspicious to me. I'm used to these old games pulling the rug out from me, but there really didn't feel like much of a threat coming from these ships. I reject that I've gotten good at the game all of a sudden, rather, I suspected that the fuel would quickly become a great issue. On wave 2 while there were more enemies, they weren't really any more challenging than the last ones.

I wonder what this is a reference to?
Eventually I do manage to lose on the 3rd wave, but only due to sheer amount of enemies and enemy shots. Yes, this is one of those games where the amount of stuff on-screen outpaces the computer's ability to cope with it. Which sort of makes this game, already not the best early space shooter, feel completely pointless. Because there's an example of this style of game that I like, which is Space Battle, on the Intellivision, which strips out all these unnecessary elements and just delivers a solid experience if you like that sort of thing.

Weapons:
A laser that only recharges whenever you aren't doing anything. 1/10

Enemies:
I did detect some variations in the movement patterns of enemy ships, but nothing exciting. 1/10

Non-Enemies:
The mothership doesn't really count. 0/10

Levels:
Generic space. 0/10

Player Agency:
The game, while the keys aren't rebindable, offers three selections, and is pretty good. Not great or anything, but I have no complaints here. 4/10

Interactivity:
None.

Atmosphere:
None.

Graphics:
It works, its not great or anything. 2/10

Story:
None.

Sound/Music:
Strangely Intellivision-like. 1/10

That's 9. There's not really anything else interesting to say.

I skipped Total Eclipse 2, as it was only released on 8-bit platforms, and despite there being an optimized version, still played very slowly, too slow for me. Owing to time constraints brought on by a game jam, I will not be doing a Star Cruiser entry this week.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Star Cruiser: No Longer Starbound

There's a fleet outside of Saturn, and holy crap, space battles are difficult again. Good, just what I wanted. The real sticking point is that these ships just won't die. I just barely manage to survive the fight, and at such great strength depletion that I don't have enough energy left to reach another planet. I set down, hoping that there's a repair bay somewhere, or at least some energy pickup.
Saturn, or more accurately, Titan, starts of blue and like your typical "outdoor" scene, but thankfully a friendly outpost is here. Ah, good, that would have been annoying. Now, what's here? Nothing, nothing but the repair shop and a military bunker.
The good admiral whose name I can't remember is here, as to be expected. Right away, he tells us that Diana has gotten a few promotions and is now Major Diana. I would be disappointed I didn't get one, but I'm apparently a hunter, which means I'm too cool for ranks. If I had a portrait I would be wearing a leather jacket and aviator shades.

Our fleet has been taken out by VOID's forces, and while I took out theirs, one ship got away, a Star Cruiser by the name of Cutty Sark. Why do people insist on using that silly sounding name? Anyway, its off to Io where Gibson has headed, since that's where the Cutty Sark was from.
By the way, this area is subtly changing in color. Its very annoying, and by very, I mean eye-searing pain on my part. Its a maze full of enemies, and my heat shield is slowly draining. Wow, this game got worse. I wonder how this game is going to continue to make itself annoying as hell. One needs to find two elements, an entrance into the enemy base and the key. As I enter I meet Gibson on his way on, he'll be at the old restaurant.
Inside the base I find myself getting injured and losing more and more. Partially because they're doing things like having two enemies in a row, so I can't just spam my laser attack, partially because I'm getting tired of the game. I've taken to long stretches without the game's sound and my own music.
The real objective of this mission is just to pick up whatever equipment the Cutty Sark has. To this end I find a Photon Drive, and a Nuclear Shield, of which I need 2 to win...okay.
Back at the restaurant, we're waiting for a call from Tommy, our admiral. I know it sounds like I'm leaving out a lot of the plot going on, but I'm not, its really that strange area between an actual story and mindless fluff.
Anyway, outside of the admiral wanting my "friends" to meet him wherever he is now, VOID has offered a deal. The Star Cruiser in exchange for the Gravity Catapult. I am unsure who's giving who, since all I remember was a plan to take the Catapult. I have to go to Earth...I guess because I'm going to fight VOID again. This game feels like its getting longer and longer without much for me to talk about. It also doesn't help that every time I quit and return I have to check what I've written because otherwise I completely forgot what my next objective is.
On Earth I'm not quite sure what or where I'm supposed to do. Everyone is talking about how the Information Center's computer has gone haywire, but that could just be because it broke down the last time I was here. That is a valid option.
Oh, I was supposed to wait outside the planet, gotcha. Now its time to fight against the Cutty Sark. I'm as good as dead, so says my foe, Jack. So after destroying the Cutty Sark the good Admiral congratulates me for saving the solar system. It actually was a bit of a challenge, I used up my entire stock up missiles, both the ones I can get more of and the heavier ones, to take him out. Nearly bite it too.
However, this is just the beginning. Not literally right? We're at least someway through the game? VOID is going to be doing more fighting at...Alpha Centauri...? Wow, we're getting out of the solar system. Also, I need to be concerned about Geist Nidoman, someone who is at least 200 years old, whoever the hell that is.
This has a couple of problems, first, with the death of Jack we've seemingly cut of the head of VOID, and secondly I have no idea where to go to get to Alpha Centauri. The answer to the former is that Jack is hardly the only leader of VOID, I'm sure, and the second is that this is what the Gravity Catapult is for.
The Gravity Catapult is a full-fledged town, and the first building I see contains a restaurant, where Diana is waiting for me. Huh? She'll be with me when I'm at Alpha Centauri, fine by me, and gives me all the necessary stuff to travel there.
We get a nice travel sequence, and then a soldier greets us on AX-1, telling us that Admiral Edgar Nash is waiting for us. Nash seems to be a Sonny Chiba type of guy by the looks of him. We get our orders and a little bit of orientation for the new star system.
Basically, this place contains quite a lot of ancient ruins, and they named the planets things like Planet Barbarian, Fantasia, and Folder. The second star has a barrier preventing entry into most of it, and I assume we don't understand it. My next destination is AX-3, currently occupied by terrorists. Diana will instead be meeting an alien, named Carlin, on Planet Folder. Admiral Nash also gives me a hypnotic gas to use on the terrorists, which seems weird to me after blasting my way through a galaxy.
Curiously, the gas doesn't show up as a weapon. I guess I have to figure out where to use it. Back to your standard space station combat section. There is something out of the ordinary here, multiple floors. I didn't say it was very interesting, now did I?

Along the way I meet a soldier who tells me to regain control of the station I should reach the control room. Thanks...? Once I reach that room, I find out who the new enemy are, a mysterious-looking black robed man. Time to use that sleeping gas I got. After using it, and they fall down, Freddy tells me it was Hydrogen Cyanide. Are we sure we're not the bad guys here?

Holy crap, game, I didn't expect to be responsible for a crime against humanity. They have some stuff, which I take, including a card explaining that they defend humanity against ugly aliens. Which I suspect is just a poor choice of words at this point, since we're clearly not the good guys if we're gassing people.
This is actually something the game points out as I walk out, with the survivors on our side thanking me, but still pointing out that gassing them was "kind of harsh".


Back talking with Edgar, I get my orders to save Diana on Folder, because of course, and nary a mention of the poison gas until I bring it up. Yeah, we're going to get that, we change sides because the people we were working with were secretly the bad guys all along, plot twist. At the very least Edgar is going to turn out to be a bad guy.
I realize I'm harping on about it, but you realize how nearly every major space opera franchise has done this twist, in addition to a ton of major JRPGs?
I haven't mentioned it much, but as I traveled to Folder, I had to travel some distance manually, since I don't get significant range on my warp function. This meant I was flying towards one of the stations, which I didn't have a beacon for. I didn't mention it because the whole beacon system sounded silly anyway and the plot was taking me along everywhere fairly smoothly anyway.
Lo and behold, the game stops me dead in space because I don't have the beacon for that station. I guess this is a way to stop players from sequence breaking. (I know how painful that is) Not on the station, just so far away from the station I couldn't see it.
Arriving on Folder, I can't enter, there's a barrier. A ship exits, and we fight. Its not too hard, but I'm more interested in that the game doesn't have me talk it out with them yet. Yes, I am 100% expecting the game to shift gears because of this and I would actually be shocked if it didn't. I've been half expecting it since I had to shoot out of a friendly jail!

Another space station section, this time its green. The layout's a bit confusing but I preserve. I find Diana pretty quickly, apparently the alien ambassador is being held hostage and we don't know how to enter the enemy base. Oh, look, I have a card without any obvious data on it, and I can use an item on Diana. She says its a key! And the base is nearby.

We're locked inside, but the combat continues. Its not terribly unusual at this point. A boss fight, and then we have the ambassador. He looks like one of those things out of Wing Commander. I can get out of the base fairly quickly, but where to go next is not clear.

Eventually, I check the other switch door, and end up in a maze. After a bit more time than I would have liked, I'm at the ambassador's quarters and he can now speak something I can understand. The plot thickens, because his security is incredibly tight and yet enemy soldiers, implied to be VOID, kidnapped him past this. And they were incredibly polite.
I can use an item, and without really thinking I try the first card I got off the gassed soldiers. This was a distraction so that their fleet could take Fantasia! One of the planets here. First, we'll be going to AX-2, then to Fantasia, because we need to get a beacon from Max (her brother) on AX-2 and that's the only place Diana has a Beacon for. This isn't unnecessarily complicated at all. I'll leave off here since I've solved most of the important problems for now.

This Session: 1 hour

Total Time: 3 hours 30 Minutes

Friday, June 10, 2022

Day of the Viper

Name:Day of the Viper
Number:130
Year:1989
Publisher:Accolade
Developer:John Conley & James Oxley
Genre:FPS
Difficulty:3/5
Time:6 hours
Won:Yes (43W/48L)

I've been waiting for this one. A lot of people have said some very interesting things about this game. An interesting blend of action and adventure, and many comparisons to System Shock abounded. For such an important title I should check on Youtube to see which version I should play. the DOS version looks interesting, but it is 1989 and PC Speaker is still very common...and its Slaygon again. Except now we have slightly more complex combat. It seems like the Atari ST version was the primary platform, but after having failed to run that, and having had a text display error in the DOS port, I decided to run the Amiga version. Only, two of those didn't work, so it was back to the DOS version. Despite seeming crap, this game was actually fun.
The game tries to have a complex intro to introduce the game, well, the Amiga version did, but it just feels slow. My ship is somewhere out in space and somehow its been horribly damaged. This is the copy protection. Solving that the game gives me the real plot, in the Parin system, the defense base was attacked by an enemy, presumed to be allied with GAR, I think a hostile robot. Because this base was developing weapons and shield research this was the reason why, and I have to go in as a last ditch effort, and using floppies found around the base, reactivate the place's defenses. Easy enough in theory.
GAR, as explained in the manual, was a biotechnical robot AI, something in an assault vehicle that can think. Unfortunately, the design process created something that had pain on thinking and it went mad and decided to take out the human race. Because it was more intelligent than humans, he developed more powerful weapons and things haven't been going too well for the Sun League. This is where the game starts.

The game, pretty much as it opens
Once inside the game proper, I see that the interface has thankfully been simplified somewhat from Slaygon. Its down to map, radar (show more of the map for a slight power charge), gun and shield. The general gameplay loop is mostly unchanged, endless maze, key and door puzzles. The colors blue, green, yellow, red, white serve as an indicator of how powerful something is. Several defense items are no longer inventory items, and instead appear like upgrades in a menu. The game calls these circuits. There are also special attack items, which deal set damage to enemies. In addition to the usual health and energy recharges, you also get toxic waste, which recharges energy but hurts you. As health slowly heals, and shields deal with most problems, this isn't that bad a deal.
Keyboard commands are rare, but necessary. Home, my screenshot key, pauses, and I can only continue by pressing a different key. Otherwise its the same as Slaygon, annoying mouse only controls.
One of the more common enemies, there isn't much trouble finding their target point

Its combat where things have obviously changed for the worse. Its now a real-time affair, and enemies follow you, and attack from multiple directions. There are like ten enemies near the start of the first floor and all of them seem difficult to kill. Seems to be like Dimensional Fighter Epsilon3, where I don't know if there's a spot I have to hit or not, and because they're moving, I'm missing. Weapons overheat too. Guess I don't want a remake of that game with mouse controls then. The first time through I nearly bite it.
Gradually, things appear clearly, enemies have foreseeable patterns, and the real problem appears. Mines. Randomly placed like items, these can hurt you, teleport you, or worst of all, cause you to move around erratically for a few moments. That last one can and has resulted in a chain of setting off those mines. Of course the defense items help, but as the game's bigger, its a longer time before you find though. Later on they start damaging circuits or the map, which is where the real hurt starts. You get spare circuits and general repair items, but its an uphill battle. The game gives you grenades, but there are more of these than grenades and you might not even realize that the grenades are helpful if you don't read the manual.

The game is randomly generated. It seems like its just item/enemy placement that's random. Hence why the first time I played the game I nearly died. Its also slightly related to the version you play, the DOS version seems to be easier, but the weapon overheats faster.
So to recap, we have repair items, which heal damage taken if you get hit without a shield, energy charges, which come in many flavors and recharge energy, and then we have various stationary locations, that, with an item, can be used to recharge or heal. Later, there are items that upgrade one's weapons or shields. Also returning are various items that do something with the environment. Which yes, means that inventory management is once again a thing. This leads to the problem where some items, if their purpose isn't very obvious, does lead to tossing aside some items as useless. Later on there are dark areas, and if you don't figure out that a high color card works on lower color doors.
One of the later enemies, not quite the nastiest variations
The game has 25 smaller levels. The game divides these among 5 buildings, but all this means is that there's a certain block you can move around freely, whereas between buildings require one special thing. And yes, this does mean backtracking. You need keys to unlock doors, and to unlock certain crates. Passcodes are used to unlock special storage areas which have several items in them. The game even requires you to go through everything again once you reach the end, so it might be a wise choice to leave some levels for later. That said, the game is fairly fun as a dungeon crawler come FPS.
This leads to a problem though, as the game has a fairly linear layout at times. This game works like Blake Stone in that most of your inter-level transportation is done by an elevator, which you will have found fairly readily, or inter-building transport, which is usually at the opposite end of the map from the elevator. The three other areas of interest, computer room with the floppy, and the healing stations, are usually fairly removed from these locations, and often require extensive search. This isn't a problem the first time through, but if you need to find a recharge station its a pain in the butt.
One of the more boilerplate messages

One of the curious aspects of the game is the story. Its fairly standard, not especially well-written. Various terminals explain what happened before you got here, much like The Colony. At first I ignored it, because it seemed to me that it was more impressive that it existed rather than what the quality was. Basically, they were building weapons, noticed something funny on one of the planets, then got invaded. Where it gets interesting is that as I got nearer to the end, GAR and the robot army started talking on it. About how they missed one member of the team that was here. That changed things for me, and made me genuinely curious about the direction the plot was going to take.
Deeper into the complex, the robots started noticing that some of their number were disappearing. Its an interesting touch, since they're not on the lookout for a machine, they're only predicting a return attack by humans.

Every single red mark on the map is a mine, it is doable though
So this maintains my interest to skip ahead to the end section of the game, since that's what its building towards and I want to cut backtracking down as much as possible. Still clearing out areas as I reach them. This works well...until building 4 floor 5, or as the screenshot I've taken shows, the motherload of mines. And beyond that, there are enemies, just hordes of them. This is actually where the game shifts from being fun into being actually interesting. The last couple of buildings are quite the interesting challenge.

You know, a lot of the dungeon crawlers I've been playing seen to be focused on fetch quests...
GAR himself is in front of the master computer, having had found the prototype weapon and shield. That means for my not having the best weapon and shield, a direct fight is suicide. Luckily for me, he dies easily to 4 or so explosive weapons. Its at this point what the game expects one to do sinks in. Now, the final objective of the game is to get a floppy from each floor of the base, and then upload them to the master computer. I assumed that the game expected me to get all the floppies, but they were locked behind some of the later keys, and then after uploading them all to the master computer, return to the computers where these floppies were. The game does not expect you to do this, but it might be a better idea to head to the final floor quickly anyway, since the later cards are more helpful if you get them sooner.
The ending to the game isn't quite as interesting as the plot was developing towards, and a text crawl to end it isn't great, but its okay.
Weapons:
While the gun is generic, we get a bunch of single-use items that can change the tide of a battle. 2/10

Enemies:
While every enemy was basically the same, the targeting system made each new kind of enemy an interesting encounter. For a while, you might not even know if you could succeed in fighting one, and be forced to use explosives. 4/10

Non-Enemies:
None.

Levels:
There is some genuinely nice dungeon crawling going on here. Unfortunately, the game expects you to walk through the entire map about three times, which is just insanity. 4/10

Player Agency:
Its nice that they removed some of the fat here, but interacting with things feels too much like work at times, and this game desperately needs keypresses for some of these actions, especially moving. I hit the wrong arrow quite a lot. 2/10

Interactivity:
Hey, I get a description of what it is I'm looking at, thus usually telling me what something does. This includes rooms too. Everything is simple otherwise. 2/10

Atmosphere:
Its a very 1989 game. What I mean is the VGA that doesn't look like VGA plus the PC Speaker sound evokes the area it was made in quite strongly. Its not so much that the game itself has an atmosphere, just that it carries a general atmosphere of an era I have a fondness for. 4/10

Graphics:
Its fairly simple-looking. It all works but its nothing special. The Amiga version is interesting, because the walls are blue, which is something I have said in the past wouldn't work. Shame I couldn't test that theory. 3/10

Story:
I was surprised by this. The manual felt poorly written as a military document, while the first bunch of computer texts were standard. Then GAR takes over and things got interesting. Not quite well-written, but interesting. 3/10

Sound/Music:
While it is PC Speaker, it isn't terribly intrusive. Sound effects only happen whenever something important happens, like a door opening or a lasershot. The Amiga version isn't really that much better, only having an intro tune. 3/10

That's 27, which for a game I didn't go out of my way to play, is a nice score.

None of the reviews seem to say anything interesting about the game that I failed to mention. Basically, fun if you want a dungeon crawler without that pesky map-making or RPG stuff. Otherwise not really worth playing.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Star Cruiser: Much Ado about Nothing

Space is big, very big, even on this game's vastly reduced scale, and that means I made a horrible mistake last session not noting where the asteroid belt is. Because I assumed that the game would tell me where it is. Slip up one time and suddenly everything's gone south. So I started this session my flying around shooting down hostile ships. That went well.
Now, while the game allows you to warp everywhere, you can just fly your ship through space to get places too. This wouldn't be a problem if I knew where the hell any asteroids were either, but he didn't give a precise location anyway, just a rough estimate. Is it up or is it down?
After a bit of exploring I travel to Station 2, where after exiting my ship I walk over a one-way floor, that's right. Of all the classic dungeon crawler stuff to include. Well, a teleporter takes me back, so it has that going for it at least.
So I return to Daigo, to get directions again...no, that would be too kind of the game. Guess I'll be exploring space until I find asteroids.

If you look just above the crosshair, you can see a rock
Aha, they're these green things on my radar. Since in the past those were missiles I obviously was trying to avoid them. This is boring. Flying combat has been fish in a barrel after I got past the intro fight, and fighting against something that doesn't fight back makes it worse. Even though using the tractor beam on the asteroids drains my energy like crazy its still a breeze.

Give hydrogen to Daigo, then go back to the restaurant to advance the plot. Apparently the waiter here talked to his sister back on Earth, some boob lady I barely mentioned, and knows I was there. Anyway, Musashi tells me about my next destination, Venus. There he's going to hold a Hunter meeting at the Kinen Festival. Or the Memory Festival.
Back with Daigo, he's not yet done, so me and Freddy examine the data we got. The Star Cruiser is missing a B-system, no the game doesn't tell me either. Then we get a list of VOID targets...and the next one is Venus and finishing off with Mars. Guess I know my destination! And my near and dear friend Gibson is restored too. This does mean that before we go to Venus we have to get his starship from Earth.

Venus looks remarkably like Earth, but less green. We tell Musashi about the attack and he says we should go to the police. Now comes the fun part of the game, where I have to enter every building trying to find them. It takes a while, but I do find the Federal Chief in an arcade and a suspicious character in a bar.
So I go through every building, and there isn't one for the police. Logical answer, I missed it somewhere in the spaceport. Once I'm back there someone bombs all the spaceships. And guess who gets blamed for the incident? That's right, us.

Once in a jail Masashi and Gibson start plotting a jailbreak. Based on how quickly the Federation threw us in here and how unpleasant it is, I'm starting to suspect they might not be the good guys. I have to help, I have no choice in the matter. A key I randomly picked up earlier opens the door. Huh. Now I enter combat, guess we're shooting our way out.
Yep, we're shooting our way out. Even if I'm just trying to clear my name here, this speaks remarkably poorly of the capabilities of the Federation that we have so little confidence in their detectives. And yes, the soldiers move around like the tanks and spaceships despite being the human model.
The person we have to talk to is the local general. He doesn't notice our approach somehow, apparently he didn't hear the laserfire and screams of the "losing consciousness" of his soldiers. He doesn't believe us, but he brings his other suspects in because we asked.
There are four of them, and their roles in the plot are fairly obvious:
*Diana Gaddis, who I am sure is going to be important to the plot later.
*Anna McCaffrey, who has boobs.
*Dave Clavius, who is actually David El Fan, a secret soldier.
*Jack Rogers, who I swear looks like the prototype of that Ao Oni thing, and is the saboteur.
We don't actually see any of this solved, but upon the revelation that the Dave guy is some member of a secret platoon, we find out that there's a VOID base here. Guess we're still all the good guys. I have to go and destroy it. Wow...this plot is getting really stupid. Now that I'm out, I see that the game straight up didn't allow the police to help me, because I saw exactly where their station is.
And guess what, I don't know where the VOID base could possibly be, which means looking through the entire town again. Once I only have the church left I brace myself for something really stupid, but it isn't. The priest tells me that someone is persistent in asking for a dead guy to be revived, RPG humor? Anyway, he noticed a strange man tampering with the fountain nearby.
I interact with it, and a card reader appears...wait, I have a key from Dave...is he the bomber? Huh. Anyway, this leads to the base, hidden behind some hedges.

This place is not terribly unusual. Combat seems to be a bit harder, but nothing special. A bit more non-linear, but nothing obnoxious. Generous, but not something I'm ungrateful for. Nothing interesting to talk about, I collect the data I was supposed to get and blow up the base. Naturally characters in this game don't care that they heard a large explosion.

This proves all our innocence, and we discover who the rest of these people are. Diana is a Federal Patrol intelligence agent, while Anna is Dave's assistant, and Jack is the suspect, he nearly killed Gibson. Interesting, I forgot about that. Anyway, he's a general, his men were secretly here, there's a bomb here, and he's going to take my Star Cruiser. Glad that we've preserved some sense that the bad guys are actually worse than we are.
The time bomb isn't too challenging, but I did have to open a bunch of doors. Jack stole the Star Cruiser and went to where else but Mars. Our good general, the Federal Patrol one, is gearing up to have a massive space battle against him. It seems that me, Gibson and Diana will be joining the general for at least a short while, since she wants to go after him and I have no ship. Or I'm just going to take Gibson's ship. I can just go to Mars from here. Not sure why we needed all the confusing plan of action, but I suspect something has been lost in translation.
On Mars, we get a call from Admiral "Tommy", our general/admiral with the Russian name I can't type. Gibson is going to be doing something with him and I have to find the Star Cruiser. Now its up to me and my new friend, Diana to find it. By exploring the town again. This game is really getting on my nerves. At this point what don't I hate? Slowly walk around a town, into the same 5 buildings, to the same 5 people, with the same slow walking speed. I really hope I'm at least at the halfway point for this game, because I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. Even managing to find a secret wall, which of course leads to a sealed door, doesn't improve the experience much.

Finally, after exploring everything, for far too long a time, I enter the local university, where Max is. Apparently Diana is his sister. Some stock "Don't be in the military, its dangerous" speech and I'm told that the Star Cruiser is west of the dome. Turns out the secret wall is the one that leads to the place where my ship is. Or is the switch that opens the door anyway.

Once outside I'm ambushed by enemy vehicles. Hey, the game got one over on me for once. This is actually challenging and required me to use the homing missiles to survive. Hey, the game is interesting all of a sudden. And the game ruins it by making me hunt down a switch before I can enter the location proper. Once inside the game returns to being business as usual. I should explain, the only difficulty in combat so far has been that enemies move around constantly, almost like a dance. When they do this, they completely ignore the player as an entity and walk through you. Meaning that depending on where you are, the enemy is just unloading missiles directly into you. As such the only real way the developer has to increase the difficulty of the game is to put the player into situations where they have to dance along with the AI.

This level hits me as a particularly annoying example of that. By the time I reach Jack and we have our climatic boss fight, I'm even more sick of the game than I was. I'm too late, their regiment is going to attack Saturn, that's where Admiral Tommy is. That's where me and Diana are headed next...or at least after I return to Mars to resupply...and we'll get there next entry, because honestly, I am not feeling the game right now.

This Session: 1 hour

Total Time: 2 hours 30 Minutes