Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Front Line (1984)

Name:Front Line
Publisher:Interceptor Software
Developer:Lee Braine
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:1 hour
Won:No (80W/64L)

Another game for that category of top-down tank shooter. Seems like it was quite the thing, possibly because it was easy to develop if you couldn't do a lot of animation. This one actually shows some promise; I have several other games from Mr...Braine listed. (I wonder if that's his real name...?) As seems to be typical, a seemingly familiar classical piece plays in the background, this one a jaunty tune completely ill-fitting for a war game.

Controls are simple but a bit clever. You move with the stick and shoot with the button...only one shot on-screen at a time, but how long that shot remains on-screen is determined by how long you hold down the fire button. Don't be fooled by the low number of shells there, you're not going to run out of ammo in this game unless you're extremely unlucky. The objective is to find all the crates, I think, these restore one point of health and all your ammo.

Standing in your way are the usual assortment of constantly respawning enemies. All enemies/projectiles die in one hit and disappear if they go off screen. There are enemy tanks, but these only show up in dedicated buildings. Most of the time you'll be shooting down helicopters and planes. Yeah. Helicopters move around randomly and shoot a slow-moving but homing attack; Planes go in one direction and spit out bombs. It's hard hitting these guys, for reasons I'll go over in a moment.

Ground objects include a turret which occasionally shoots out cannonballs, the only attack which hurts you more than once. You can't destroy any stationary objects, so you're just dodging them. Landmines, which explode as you go over them, annoying because I found myself carefully moving through them only to crash into some because the controls were just imprecise enough for me to accidentally hit one. It's difficult to move diagonally from a standstill, and you can't shoot them. Then there's this weird thing, brown and black orb, it shoots out fireballs which slowly home towards you for a few moments, then start jumping around like crazy. You can shoot them, but it's tricky depending on where they're at.

What separates this from the earlier chaff is that it has one consistent level. One with the presumable end objective of getting all crates. This is easier than one might usually think, but not by very much. Having health as opposed to constantly dying is nice, but there's no mercy invulnerability, enemies can stack up the hits and the level is designed around making you drive into as many mines as possible.
You start somewhere in roughly the west middle of the map. To the exact west of your starting position is mine city. God, how annoying this section is. I always start off here because there is just no earthly way of getting through this without getting hit. Good luck avoiding planes and cannonballs here.
There's actually a cannon in that graphical glitch, which is a good sign.
North of this is another cramped space, but at least it isn't full of mines. The top left of the map has this weird graphical error, no idea if that affects anything. Southwest is quite similar but opens up just enough to make shooting back at the various planes and fireballs possible.

Most of the central areas are only dangerous by virtue of grinding you down. Cramped areas are not as common as in other sections. Though there are a few with cannons right next to them. This is the most visually interesting, including a town and several tank areas.

I always seem to die when I reach the northeast part of the map. There are two mines here that the game practically decides, oh, you wanted to drive past that? Sorry, you get to drive over both of them. Which is funny, because this section really isn't that bad otherwise.

That more or less ends the interesting parts of the game, the rest of the east is more of the same and I never did reach the end of this one. Perhaps it isn't winnable, you just get parts to prolong the inevitable. Considering the same tune has been playing since I started this game, I'm not going to find out, I'm that annoyed.

A somewhat clever, but still simple single fire attack. 1/10

A wide variety of very annoying enemies. 2/10


A large somewhat nicely designed level, dragged down by respawning enemies and indestructible enemies. 2/10

Player Agency:
Straight-forward but janky. 3/10


Mildly fun at first. 1/10

Not attractive, but everything was clear. 2/10


Typical blips and bloops, with an annoying classical track in the background. Having music and sound together does not necessarily improve a game. 1/10

That's 12. I've spent an hour on worse. I'd have even finished it if it weren't for how annoying the game can be.

Next, game 200.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Resident Evil (1996)

Name:Resident Evil
Genre:Survival Horror
Time:24 hours
Won:Yes (80W/63L)

Resident Evil is a game series near and dear to my heart, being the first "mature" series I can remember being allowed to play. Specifically the Gamecube-era remake and the 4th entry in the series. Which is weird when you think about it, but when you get down to it, are zombies and chainsaw maniacs really any worse than driving through sidewalks at 90 MPH blasting Kickstart My Heart or ripping out someone's spine or gritty realistic warfare? I didn't play this one as much as the remake since at the time this was one series I wanted to actually own my copies of rather than just emulate, and in general I haven't played any of these games in any significant amount in 10 years, so it was really nice coming back to it.

One thing I can appreciate now, looking back, is how much of a western game this is. In the sense that this was uniquely the product of the western world in the sense of that hopeful, interconnected world building upon previous cultural achievements in a way that makes the whole thing better. A Japanese game, set in America, inspired by Italian and American zombie movies, and playing almost exactly like a French adventure game. In turn, that adventure game was inspired by American horror writers and other adventure games, some French, some not, with some of the very same influences Resident Evil would get. Even Resident Evil's status as an unofficial remake of Sweet Home ties into that worldly influence, haunted mansions, by their very nature, are alien to Japan, and very much their own takes on American and European phenomena.

I also appreciate the general plot now. While the original source of the modern zombie film, I Am Legend, went into detail on how it's vampire virus worked, it, to my knowledge did not explain how it happened. While the explanation of the virus would only happen later, this level of detail is nice to see in a genre which usually just throws its hands up. It's a shame that this level of detail would be used for a series which would later go so far into sci-fi that the usual perpetual motion machines would seem realistic by comparison.

Meanwhile, the actual meat of the story is disturbingly plausible. A pharmaceutical company is creating a virus, which if released, might possibly end all life on Earth, and escapes because of poor lab security? The government, while not completely on-board with this, is aware of it and knows what it could do. Even though most real pharma companies are just implicated in corruption scandals, it doesn't seem that far off from reality.

This has a lot of potential too. Obviously, we have an outbreak in the city in the first two sequels and the Outbreak spin-offs, but there's so much more you can do with the setting. This is an international company responsible for the destruction of an entire city. Suddenly a lot of people are going to be very interested in what the local Umbrella building is doing. Some of those people will be under official orders to kick doors down, others will be going in vigilante style. Better hope those people don't accidentally shoot a vial containing another zombie virus. To say nothing of what the war on terror might be like if Al-Qaeda might be dropping zombie bombs instead of kamikaze attacks. After all, why do the work yourself when you can get your enemies to do it?

Even in the small scale depicted in the game, the story is interesting. I've seen the Japanese title described as a spoiler, but it doesn't really take a while before you can figure out that the virus is man-made. It just unfolds in a neat little way, though it can feel like the player and player character do not make the leap at the same time.

The same cannot be said for the voice acting. It's only good in a way that makes you physically cringe. I expect goofy phrasing from my horror games/movies, whoever was translating Italian horror films in the '70s and '80s did so like a hacksaw to a tree. I do expect voice actors to at least try, and this does not sound like they tried. I know more words have been written about the voice acting than the game itself at this point by others, but as humorous as it may be, it damages the serious vibe of the game.

It's odd because the rest of the game's sound design is spot on. The tell-tale sound of an enemy, to the gunshots to the background music. Everything is very satisfying and fitting. The music goes for a very thematic rather than memorable sound, but it works. Every player, upon first going outside, no doubt freaks out hearing those howls in the background. Are there more? Are there?

Getting to the meat of the game, the mansion itself. I like it. It's well-thought out, and every room has something to it, be it an item, a key or some strange trap. Each room is filled in and doesn't just feel like it's there to take up space. While the background art really has that'90s CGI look to it, the art direction is nice, really feels like a mansion. I have no complaints about backtracking through it, it adds a new twist and you know where you have to explore. All my complaints are really just minor. For instance it has no master bedroom. The biggest is the Keeper's room, which really just looks like your average Midwestern bedroom.

A lot of the areas after this are kinda disappointing though. I can forgive the garden for it's straightforwardness, it's a constant rush. The background art is strongest here, just feeling like a low-res version of something much higher quality than looking off. The mansion basement? The mansion basement only exists because the developers needed another way to screw over Chris. It's mostly just a random bland hallway that has no reason to exist. The underground area is similar, feeling like it was taken from a completely different game, though it's attempts at changing up the game's formula are nice at least.

I like the guardhouse, but that might just be superficial liking. Any chance you have of knifing any zombies is gone here, the rooms are just too small and awkward to do so. It's also surprisingly linear despite seeming more complex, there's only one real path forward throughout this section. My art criticisms towards the mansion apply here too.

The lab is kind of linear, but has enough to it to make up for that. It's a pretty straight shot to the final boss, but there's quite a bit to see and do. While it doesn't pull many traps like the mansion, it gives the illusion of it pretty strongly. Also, a room where you can shoot four zombies in a row!

Pre-rendered cutscenes have a cheap feel to them.

Locations don't quite line up with what the game implies. Much like an Italian horror film, there's something not quite right about the mansion. I don't mean the traps, I expect those. I mean the layout of the mansion. There's a welded door where you get out of the underground tunnels. Where does it lead? As near as I can tell, the indoor garden area, which seemingly has a section you can't ever reach. I can't imagine a bunch of scientists going through a greenhouse every time they have to go to work.

Then we get to the lab itself, and it's underwhelming. Notes build up a grand location full of test tubes and monster pens, and when you get there the labs proper are like four rooms. No wonder the virus escaped, they don't have any method of containing it short of blowing the place up. The mansion is almost perfectly scaled, yet the lab is so underwhelming.

Coming back to this game after so long, I'm forced to come to a conclusion I wish I didn't have to. Either Resident Evil is a lot easier than it's given credit for or I've just gotten really good at the genre. I'll get into specifics at the moment, but there's evidence for both parts. I note that in both playthroughs I had a pretty good number of supplies that by the end I didn't need to worry about ammo anymore.
On one hand, I used the knife in melee, successfully. I never killed a boss with it, but it's very much the mark of a good player to be able to use a melee weapon in a survival horror game well. Outside of those games specifically designed around melee combat. Meleeing everything in a survival horror game is a lot more manageable than meleeing everything in a FPS.

On the other, there are several aspects that are clearly just "perceived difficulty". That is, difficulty that's only there because you think it is. There's probably just enough ammo to kill every enemy that isn't invulnerable or respawning, and even if there isn't, you can run away from most enemies, except ironically enough, the zombies, pretty easily.

Though I will note that this game has given me a revelation regarding my skill level at games in general. Before this I was of the mind that while I was better than Joe Average, I wasn't particularly skilled, just in comparison. Now, I think that I'm pretty good. Not the best, and any dedicated player of a game could whoop me, but I feel pretty confident.

Control-wise, the game hasn't changed much from Alone in the Dark. That said, the additions are very welcome, and some missing aspects are even better. In the later, I for one am grateful not to have to do another jumping sequence with a cinematic camera! There's a run button, and rather than having to choose which action you can take from a menu, you just activate things and/or shoot them without having to enter the inventory screen at all.

For many of the things cited as negatives, tank controls, limited saves and limited inventory space, I don't necessarily mind any of them. Something between my eyes and the game itself is going wrong, because whenever I run I never quite seem to be able to go where I want to. Other than that, the only thing I really need is a quick turn. No auto-aim isn't that much of a loss since it's fairly easy to figure out where your character is aiming.

Limited saves and limited inventory space are also not quite troublesome. I think even as Chris there's something like 18 saves, which should be more than enough to get you through the game unless you save every five minutes. Inventory space as Jill is fine, 8 slots, more than enough for a weapon, ammo, the knife, a health item and a key. For Chris, that's 6 inventory slots, and now your inventory is nearly full up.

Chris has it really bad at the start when you have no access to an item box though.

Speaking of character differences, I have to say that neither is really better. From a gameplay perspective, Jill works the best, every weapon is useful, your side character does his own thing, and it's just the most fun as a game. Chris works better from a story perspective, but he's down one weapon and his choice of side character awkwardly fits into the game. You are forced to make a decision regarding Rebecca you have no idea will have consequences later when at the time you make it, you have no possible reason not to chose that choice.

This lends more credence to the theory that certain aspects of the game are supposed to suck. Something which feels like detractors of the game exaggerate as an opinion of people who like the game more than it really is. As a general observation, I don't think anyone ever picked out tank controls because they were supposed to suck. In Alone in the Dark/Resident Evil's case, it's because the game was designed around the cinematic camera, and it's a necessary evil because freedom of movement in such cameras tends to suck. You think you want it until you're constantly fighting against camera angle changes.

Now, there are absolutely camera angles in this game designed to screw you over. Does that necessarily make them something that's supposed to suck? I think that kind of depends. While I never confirmed it, I don't think you can shoot enemies off-screen. A lot of screens force you into a position where you don't know when a zombie is about to arrive until it's too late, so you have to risk it when you know something is off-screen. This isn't necessarily sucky, it's cruel. There is a difference. It's not so bad as to be unmanageable though.

But that's not going into how the camera works. You get a view that shows you all that's around you, while still being within the game world, as opposed to isometric or side-scrolling. The cinematic camera, as the name implies, makes it look cinematic without having to stop the game every 5 minutes for a cutscene. Taking out an enemy or running away like this just looks cool. As is slowly walking around a corner while you hear something unpleasant going on.

Combat is intriguing both from an atmospheric perspective and a gameplay perspective. You are seemingly against the odds with these creatures, every shuffling or clicking off-screen a sign of impending terror. As you fight them more and more, you gradually realize how to defeat them with minimal loss to yourself. Every weapon has a niche...I'm sorry, almost every weapon has a niche. From the lowly knife to the mighty magnum, almost every weapon is far more useful than you might think.

The weapons:

The knife is a deceptively useful weapon. On the face of it, you're relying on a weapon that doesn't stun enemies, has a short range, and because of the combat system, means you can't run away. If you screw around with it enough you start to figure out how you can use it effectively. You move faster backing away from zombies than they do towards you, and hunters have awful turning arcs. Even in hallway you can abuse this knowledge. And that's all you need to know. This is why I think I've gotten really good, I can actually use it effectively; I'm not going to be good enough to knife a Tyrant or anything, it's just a neat party trick.

The pistol, meanwhile, is a deceptively weak weapon. It's ranged, but it doesn't do much more damage than the knife. It's only effective against zombies and dogs, but it's very situational in how you should use it. Do you have the room to fight? How many are there? Will they all approach at once? Hunters ignore it, and chimeras, well, who is still packing a pistol against them? 

The shotgun is a weird weapon. As Chris, it's basically your heavy duty weapon for most of the game. Jill can afford to use it more casually. This is very much on the extreme end of video game shotguns, you need to press it against a monster's temple for it to be effective, otherwise you're basically shooting slightly more powerful pistol rounds. That makes it dangerous to use, because you're usually within stabbing range if you get the full effect. Hunters in particular require a bit of precision and luck, but everything else is manageable.

The grenade launcher (or bazooka) functions weirdly too. Jill is the only one to get it, and it's by far the most useful weapon in the game. Since you can get it practically from the start. You get three ammo types, acid, explosive and flame, whose usage can seemingly only be understood via outside game materials. Acid rounds are apparently useful against all living things, which is fair, but video game logic dictates that a giant snake is strong against poison, of which acid is usually lumped in. Flame would be the most logical choice, yet that is apparently weaker. Considering that you can't unload grenades from the launcher, this feels unnecessarily complicated.

The magnum is the most powerful of the weapons. It takes out most enemies in 1 or 2 shots only tempered by a relative lack of ammo. I'm going to let you in on a little secret though. If you track down the locations of all the magnum ammo in the game, you have more than enough to get rid of any hunters in your path and the Tyrant. Granted, you need to get there first...

The flamethrower is Chris's exclusive weapon. You cannot reload it, but there are two of them. They're all on pins which control whether a door is locked or not. One locks the only door out. In this game, there is no sane reason to use that one. The other you also don't have much reason to use or get, until you discover that it opens a door later on. As such it's only used against some hunters, one boss and a webbed up door. Since you can just bypass the boss by burning the door, why would you want to use it on the boss?

The enemies:

 Zombie, on the surface, the least deadly enemy. You can knife them with some practice, the pistol takes out most before they can reach you, and anything stronger kills them in one or two shots. By the time I reached the endgame as Chris, my opinion changed somewhat. They hit very hard, if you get unlucky you might find yourself burning through herbs against them. You can't dodge them like you can other enemies, they automatically grab you if you're within their range. To say nothing of how the camera screws you over most often with these guys. That makes it tricky to run past them, as the only way you can do so is when their AI decides to just walk against a wall than towards you. I do like the trick of having them fall down before they die again, to fake you out, though it can be annoying when the camera angle hides the tell-tale pool of blood that occurs when they're dead again.

Cerberus, or zombie dog. Fast, but rare. They seem dangerous on the surface since they always come in packs and slowly walk around until you decide to run. This is very deceptive, their primary attack is to jump at you, which I found quite easy to dodge. You get a good moment to change the direction you're moving in, and they cannot correct in mid-air. At least if you have the space to do this and you're not dealing with three at once. The pistol works beautifully against them, stopping them in their tracks.
Yawn, or the giant snake. This game doesn't mention the name to my knowledge, no idea if that was in the remake or if it's mentioned in some manga or something. You fight this guy twice. He's really annoying thanks to the way he moves; he's a giant snake and you can't walk over him. I didn't figure out the trick to this guy, beyond it being a horrible idea to use the magnum. The first time around you can just run past him and get a key item he's guarding. If you get bit the first time, you get poisoned. This usually triggers your partner bringing you to the other side of the mansion to give you the curing serum, which only works on the snake's venom.

Snakes and spiders. These I'm lumping together because they were basically the same, poisonous enemies you can easily run past. The snakes appear 2-3 times. All in places where it's not really in your interests to walk. I never fought them because I would never need to. The spiders at least have some reason to fight in their 2 appearances. Thing is, all their attacks are telegraphed and the rooms they appear in are optional. Poison isn't really a problem because the game gives you 9 blue herbs.

There are also wasps and crows, neither of which I was ever on-screen with long enough to actually fight.

Plant 42, the giant plant. The first unavoidable boss, but there is a way to make it easier. There's one of those liquid pouring puzzles that you can solve just before reaching him, do it and you cut his health by half. Jill has this guy easy, if you stand in a corner with the grenade launcher you can plink away at him. Chris doesn't, he needs to point his shotgun up at the guy and stand close, leaving him very vulnerable to getting hit by his tentacles.
Hunters, the bane of anyone who walked back into the mansion expecting an easy time. Fast, jumpy fellas with an inclination to decapitate you. That tell-tale off-screen clicking sound is a terrible sign. They're curious enemies. The pistol is next to useless against them. Using the shotgun is more effort than it should be, you need to be right on the money with it and it takes more hits than feels comfortable. The magnum and grenade launcher are very effective, but the former requires you to go through most of the mansion to get it, and if you're playing as Chris, that's not going to be easy. Knifing them, in contrast, while difficult, is not as hard as it seems. They're almost all left-handed and they have turning arcs, so if you're right behind them they'll move around awkwardly before attacking. It's also very easy to just run past most of them...at least if there's not too many in the room.
Chimeras, fly monsters or the last enemies in the game. Nothing about these things is explained in-game, for some reason. They're difficult to kill, but not that hard to fight. They're on the ceiling most of the time, which means you can run past them. Easily. It's hard to hit them with weapon because you can't aim straight up, you aim up at an angle. On the ground they're not much harder, but they run faster than you, which is a point in their favor.
Tyrant, doesn't have any pain animation whatsoever, but every time you fight this guy you get plenty of space to dodge. If you haven't been burning through ammo, you shouldn't have a problem with him. Really, that's true of all bosses in this game, they're just another enemy that takes a few more shotgun shells.

I was greatly disappointed in the puzzle design here. I think there's a total of four puzzles that can't be summed up as key and door, sometimes the key is a crest and block pushing. Someone on the dev team was proud of implementing block pushing, so proud. Every variation he could thing of, like a zombie-infested Sokoban. I do not care for the block puzzles. I don't think highly of the key puzzles, but at least that can be acknowledged as forcing the player to look around.

Of those four, we have two follow the instructions puzzles. I think more fondly of the painting puzzle than the V-jolt puzzle, simply because the painting puzzle requires a little thought. Mixing a bunch of stuff together is such a tedious process, especially in a game with limited inventory space. We get a game of Lights Out to reach the V-jolt puzzle, which I hate.

Then we have the lab password puzzle. Technically not that impressive, you have to read a very simple cypher to figure out a four letter password. The game itself offers the option to basically spoil this, by giving away what the cypher is if you move an obviously moveable cabinet. Even without that it's not that hard, but it actually stopped me for a moment to think about it, and I appreciate that.

Outside of conversing with Rebecca, the game packs in a lot of ways the game can go, seemingly unimportant actions can result in fighting a zombie where you don't want to. The game tracks a lot of variables I wasn't expecting it to. I suspect there's a heck of a lot more going on than I found, and even that was a lot.

Finally, I like the models. For a game of this era on consoles, they all look great. They have the right amount of detail versus abstraction to work with the PSX's capabilities. It also helps that the game rarely lets you get close to a model, almost always they're from a fair distance. The humans have a very nice, somewhat anime-esque look to them, while all the monsters have a sufficient vile rotting nature to them.

The map feels like a flawless example of how such things should work, you're in the red area, green are areas you've visited, outlined areas you haven't visited but found the map.
Well-balance, but less than I would have liked. Chris gets unfairly crippled in this department. 5/10

Despite the small number, most of the game's mainstays are well thought out from all perspectives. 7/10

The game puts in an incredible amount of effort to put in NPCs that can follow you, yet also takes them away before you can engage in any combat with them next to you. 1/10

A well-designed and interesting place to explore, only brought down by the odd out of place section. 9/10

Player Agency:
It could stand to have a few improvements in the movement department, especially a quick turn around. No real menu and no way to cancel out of actions you'd prefer to not have done. I don't mind the loss of auto-aim, but I do wish there was some method of showing that the player is actually aiming at his target. 6/10

Despite some poor puzzles, an incredible amount of foresight on the developers in reacting to what the player does. 4/10

Works beautifully as both a horror game and as an action game. 10/10

It's aged, some aspects more than others, but good art direction saves it from the same fate as many of it's contemporaries. 7/10

Intriguing, but minor point loss for the betrayal subplot feeling awkward in it's execution. 5/10

While the voice acting is goofy, the rest of the sound design is quite effective, and music never overwhelms the game itself. 7/10

That's 61, which puts it as a tie for number 1. Considering that whenever I replay Doom it's likely to lose a few points, that might as well put it at number 1.

In regards to the modern debates that seem to happen in regards to whether you should play this or the Gamecube remake, I would say it ultimately depends. PSX is a lot more approachable, it fits in with the rest of the series more, and it has a better artstyle. That said, it's aged graphically and it has several things which make the controls more aggravating than it should. GCN is more challenging, fills in the series lore nicely, and looks nearly flawless. That said, outside of some of that lore, it feels completely disconnected from the rest of the series in what it changes, some of the new gameplay elements are annoying and some aspects were put into the game solely to screw with players of the original.

My real opinion is, who cares? It's like having a choice between sex with two beautiful women and then badmouthing the one you didn't pick. If you like one, you'll like the other, and everything else is just being nitpicky.

While it's obvious I'm going to play the other games in the series at some point, I need to talk about the various versions of the game and which one I'm going to play. There are noticeable differences between rereleases, consoles and even countries. Of note, we have Director's Cut for arrange mode, basically changing up the entire game, the Saturn for Battle Mode, and Deadly Silence which changes things around. At some point I'm going to talk about the original Japanese version, but that's going to be a one-off.

That doesn't include the remake, of which I'll have to check both the original and one of the later versions with the option to not have tank controls. The only tricky part here is Deadly Silence, a Nintendo DS game. I could overspend on another copy of Resident Evil and play it in my DS with a slightly awful screen, or I could play it in a nice crisp emulator, and end up dying because I need three hands to use an emulated DS's touch screen controls. Decisions, decisions. For another day, anyway.

Starting next year, I'm going to make two changes, start with survival horror games in September and start focusing on these games chronologically. Survival horror as a genre seems like something that has been poorly defined and used over the years, and it seems to be getting worse. I'm looking at lists of early survival horror from Wikipedia, Giantbomb, TVtropes among others and all of these games have barely anything in common with each other. Sifting out the crap some dude really wants to push as the first survival horror game from the real survival horror games is going to be a herculean task. In the meantime, it's back to business as usual, with one exception, one final game from 1996 (for now) and quite possibly my candidate for greatest game of all time.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Gyropod (1984)

Time:40 minutes
Won:Not possible

Gyropod is a very strange game. Depressing music plays in the background before you start the game. It's not that of a sci-fi game, it's a funeral dirge. (perhaps I'm wrong, I don't recognize the classic piece it's inspired by) My version is quite cursed. To start it up, you need to switch from a P2 joystick to a P1 to get past the pirate intro, but the game itself only works with P2 joystick. Then you need to go to the options menu so you get more than one life. I'm not kidding, by default I got one. You can get 8 or you could just activate the trainer and play as long as your patience allows.

The story is that you're just going around killing aliens and destroying their planet. You're not exactly the good guy here. You do this by shooting down all the alien ship defenders and the rest is mostly automatic. This is not some grand reversal of The Dreadnaught Factor, you are, in fact, completely outclassed. You get shields, for the ship itself. Enemy ships automatically crash into it. (this doesn't kill them because this game hates you) It's even divided into two parts, one for the pod and one for the rim. Your gun dies in one hit, and you have limited ammo. Very limited ammo, basically one planet's worth. Oh, and if you die, all the enemies you killed respawn.

The control scheme is the novel part about this. You can completely rotate around the ship. Movement is very loose here. It really feels like you're sliding around, movement keeps happening even after you let go of the joystick. Shooting is way too fast for a game that puts a harsh limit on your ammo. If it wasn't for the fact that it seems to be designed around the ammo limitation, I'd swear it was added really late in development.

When you inevitably need more supplies, you can go to the planet by pressing left left right on the joystick. If you didn't have the manual you're screwed. This puts you in a weird Lunar Lander sequence. It's weird because you don't move, you just control how slowly you descend by holding down the fire button. You're always going down, it never stops you or takes you back up. There's some trick to this, because the second you get here you seem to be on a timer until an enemy also lands.

This introduces an aspect that makes this part seemingly impossible. You have to grab crates to bring back to your ship to get supplies. This is reasonable. Enemy ships fly down; one gets out and shoots at you, you can shoot back. This is reasonable. One pops down left and another one on the right. That's also reasonable. What's unreasonable is that you can't kill them, you just push them back with your shots. This breaks the central concept of the game for me. I can understand having a high difficulty curve, but this gets simply unmanagable. You're basically screwed.
The trick, in as much as there is a trick, is to just speed through it. Go down as fast as you can, grab a crate and fly off. You can go back to the planet as many times as you want and the crates will respawn. Fighting them is a losing battle. It's not great, but at least you get something out of it. Considering how bizarrely stiff this second feels, this is about all you can do.
Getting back to shooting down enemy ships. Enemies fly around quite a bit, so it's not easy to get a shot on them. They also disappear and reappear sometimes, not a cloak, just going off to the side. Which, when you think about it, is a bit goofy in a space game. Where can they disappear to? You shoot down all but a couple, and you keep missing. They dodge a lot, they disappear a lot. But it's at this stage that I see the cherry upon this crap sundae. They have such a tiny hitbox. You can't hit the wings, no, you have to hit the body and just the body. I could figure out how to master the game's sliding turret, it's very loose but I could get it eventually, but I'd rather just quit.

Bog standard attack. 1/10

I didn't get that far, but the only enemies seem to be ships with annoying AI and ground soldiers which are invulernable. 1/10


Generic outer space and weird planet. 1/10

Player Agency:
Loose and awkward, with obtuse actions for anything more simple than moving and shooting. 2/10


I like the way this game implies there's much more to it than there really is. 1/10

Not terrible, but very limited. 2/10

It's a mildly interesting twist on the usual space game, but it feels less like galactic conqueror and more space terrorist. 1/10

Nice, but really short loops of music and the usual sound effects. 2/10

That's 11. Tried to find something interesting about this one, but there just isn't much.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Resident Evil: The Ultimate Comedy

Because of my advance knowledge as Jill, I know that I'll need about 12 magnum rounds for the Tyrant, and that there are 30. Which means I can afford to take out a few hunters with this bad boy. That'll be very helpful, considering there are a lot of hunters and a considerable amount of ground to cover. Right now, the rooms outside the save rooms are clear, but every room connecting to those rooms is full of hunters, and I can't easily get out of here without a few stabs.

I grab the jewel upstairs, ignoring the hunter. I'm probably not going to need to come back here since Barry gave me the code to the door here in Jill's playthrough. That means I have to clear out one of the hunters outside the tiger statue room, and one in the hallway the first zombie was in. (the two western interior hallways that aren't on the upper left side) I note from looking at the map again that I never went back into the keeper's room after my earlier death, which means I missed a magazine and a pack of shells. Which means I now have about 150 pistol rounds. I'm going to have to make the most of that in a moment.

That went well.

Damn, taking out this guy is a hard pain. It'd almost be worth it to use the magnum just to not deal with using the shotgun on these things. You have such a small margin for error for hitting them with any real damage that it's very dangerous. It's absolutely brutal in some rooms, where you have a small margin for hitting them to begin with, like the above screenshot. Hey, just like in Alone in the Dark, only right now I'm actually shooting things as opposed to punching them.

I go through the hunters, as usual with this strategy, including taking out the ones above the eastern save room by exploiting how stairs work. Now for the second fight with Yawn, this time I'm bringing the magnum. If I need more than the 16 shots I brought along, I'm screwed anyway.

The fight proceeds quite differently as Chris. Chris just sort of looks blankly at the piano, and the Yawn does his thing. The magnum is a poor substitute for the grenade launcher. Either the acid rounds are truly that much more effective against it or there's some trick to the fight that using the magnum misses. I kept running out of magnum ammo somehow, yet beat it with just as many, if not fewer shells. It's such a bizarre thing. After killing him, there's no coming out of the hole and no secondary path to the locked off areas, through the hole you go, and out the 1st floor you will come.

This is pretty much unchanged, except the strategy to get out, and another desk key. I brought the magnum along for the hunter, given that it's useless against Yawn. Two shots to take out the one of the two in the hallway just outside the dining room, and I should be able to get through the area easily. It's not that difficult, though getting out and then back in the room after taking out one is a must.

Because upstairs has one method, a lot of zombies aren't optional. Now, this doesn't really put the player in an inescapable situation when they enter a room, but I did find myself getting bit by fallen zombies quite a bit. Takes me a few trips, but I get everything, shotgun shells, magnum rounds, battery and MO disk. Outside, while it turns out that two zombie dogs are easy to manage, three are not. So. Very not. Now it's guaranteed that they'll approach from multiple angles, whereas two seemed to stick together.

At least with my first attempt. Thanks to not making a save state after last saving the game, I have to do everything after Yawn again. (hey, it saves 15 seconds when you start and just as much time if you die) This puts it into perspective. Location is everything. You have to set yourself up somewhere where they can't do that. It's not a guarantee you'll take them out hit free, but it helps a heck of a lot.

Bringing the magnum down to the tunnels, if I need the shotgun against the spider, I can always return later. The Y-shaped hallway that Barry was in as Jill has another key difference this playthrough, there's a flamethrower on the wall. It uses the same mechanism as the shotgun in the mansion, only it locks doors. As it locks the way out, there's not much point to it. As it only "throws flame for 9 seconds." Not the worst example of Japanese English this game, but still an awkward statement.

There are no hunters in the adjoining room. Curious. The power plant still has a first aid spray, but now it's accompanied by shotgun shells. Enrico, this time around is suspicious of Chris, telling him to not come any closer. He says double crosser and tries to shoot Chris, before someone off-screen shoots him. Chris then has the audacity to ask if someone is there, and then asking what Enrico meant by double crosser. Chris is very dumb in this game.

I make my way out, and there are two hunters now. I'm not risking having to pick up the hex crank with these guys around. Somehow Chris is oneshotting these guys with the magnum. My later Tyrant fight thanks you, Chris. The boulder is almost the same, this time magnum ammo is behind it. I think even with this addition 6 rounds I would be better off with the shotgun. And the flamethrower, because there's another one here. This allows me to bypass the spider boss by just burning off the webs. I guess I could do that with Jill, but eh. And I actually need the flamethrower, the door in the next hallway has a slot for one.

This goes as normal after this, I get the second MO disk, the other medal for the fountain, and begin my descend into the lab. It's at this point I realize something, the third MO disk is in a desk. Will I need a key for it? No, because it's not in the desk, it's on the desk. Like last time, I took advantage of the reappearance of the zombies to use some of my last pistol ammo.

I miss when people were this enthusiastic about computers.

Chris is very enthusiastic on the computer. Otherwise it's fairly typical for a while. Get the key from the second basement briefing room, dash downstairs to the first MO disk room. The one with 4 zombies. The only real trouble is that circular room with the respawning zombies. The camera angles there are just terrible, you have too many blind spots. Still no zombies in the room in the center of it, either.

It turns out if you try to save ammo here, you get a jump scare.
Final total of magnum ammo before the boss, including inside the gun? 30. I should remind you at this point that I was not stingy with using it this time around, I killed at least 6 hunters with it. And my shotgun shell count is at 70. I really over prepared for this game...

...Or not.
Oh, yeah, hello Chris getting one more monster per room. Yes, I enjoy having to fight three Chimeras at a time. Though as with last time, it's not that hard to just run past them, and interacting with important objects isn't that dangerous. With the power connected to the elevator and the three codes, I first go to see Jill. She says that Wesker is...and Chris cuts her off before he can finish. Well, that was lame. Off to see Wesker then.
Hey, someone found a gun, she seems like the kind of girl who wouldn't shoot a fly.

Rebecca shows up as I activate the elevator. Good, I was starting to worry I did something wrong. She saw me in the garden and caught up here. He tells her not to go out alone and they share an awkward, silent elevator ride. They round the corner to find...

I'm almost surprised Rebecca doesn't pull a Barry here.

Wesker, how shocking. Despite me saying Chris was an idiot earlier, he tells Wesker he knows he's working for Umbrella. Funny, Wesker doesn't really have us at a disadvantage, considering that, oh, wait, Rebecca is incompetent with a gun. Wesker says he doesn't work for Umbrella anymore, and he's willing to do anything, including getting rid of "you vigilante STARS". Interesting mistake, I wonder what it was in the original Japanese? Because Japanese has their own word for vigilante, so this must be some accidental corrupting of vigilant. Chris talks of how the virus accidentally broke free, creating an accidental "biological weapon", nearly creating a title drop for the Japanese version. (and no less shoehorned in than Sweet Home and it's Resident Evil reference)

Wesker almost seems sorrowful about his actions, resulting in the deaths of his teammates...then he admits to shooting Enrico and blows away Rebecca. Chris let's out an underwhelming "Rebecca!" Wesker tells that he has something to show him. The Tyrant.

The more I look at this cutscene, the worse it gets.

Afterwards, Wesker sounds really proud of the Tyrant, while Chris starts laughing. Wesker tells him to stop it, like they're siblings and Chris is annoying him. Chris outright says that he's pitiful, this "savior" is a failure. Wesker is so butthurt about this he activates Tyrant. Holy crap, Wesker is that butthurt that Chris is laughing at this. After the tank drains and Tyrant breaks out, Wesker tells Chris to go to hell...

Damn, he won't be in Resident Evil 3.

And then the Tyrant kills him. Chris: "You can't kill me!" 30 magnum rounds and three full heals would agree with that Chris. Even getting hit three times doesn't require one use, jees. Eight magnum shots later and Tyrant was dethroned. Somehow even less impressive the second time around. The console has a door switch, but otherwise the room, even with Wesker in it, is empty. I leave, going to get Jill.

Wouldn't you know it, but Rebecca is alive, thanks to a bullet proof jacket. After another awkward elevator ride, Rebecca gets Chris's attention, just as he was running off. Telling him that they need to blow this place up, because there's a lot of research material here. They agree, and she runs off to the central power room, where the "triggering system" is. I don't know if I should go after her, but I'll go for Jill first since she has a gun now. It goes off when I reach the central hallway, guess that answers my question.

A very appropriate teammate hug.
Jill is very happy to see Chris, whereas Chris is just his usual self. Hilarious. Granted, considering the end cinematic as Jill has him smiling while she rests on his shoulders, this isn't a one-sided, somewhat inappropriate flirtation. Or at least it would if the RE series wasn't allergic to giving its cast a happy ending. The escape out the long hallway happens much the same way. Though Rebecca gives me quite the cause for concern by only showing up just as I put the battery in it's socket. They'll hold off the, well, judging by the sound, Chimeras, while I go light a flare.

The second Tyrant battle goes much as before, though I put on a bigger show of actually fighting it. Hey, need to use that magnum ammo sometime!

The ending cutscene is almost identical to as Jill, except instead of Barry, Rebecca is on the other side, lying down. Tough first day on the job. The credits show all the important scenes as Chris, but because I never told Rebecca she could move around, I missed a few of them in the game itself.

Nice. I suspect what cost me a lot of time was knifing the zombies early on. Effective, but time consuming. That's it for this version except the summary.

This Session: 3 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 24 hours 00 minutes