Ben X

Phaedrus' Street Crew
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About Ben X

  • Rank
    Formerly bbX1138
  • Birthday May 24

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Nottingham, UK


  • Interests
    film, lit, comics
  • Occupation
    desk monkey/narrative designer
  • Favorite Games
    Day Of The Tentacle, Quake
  1. Got a little way in. I played BASS a few years ago, enjoyed it and got very close to the end but then got stuck and never went back to it for some reason, I think. Anyway, I'm still liking this. It looks great even though the pixel art is a little smeary in places. The opening intro, a motion comic with art by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame, is full of artefacting too. It's kind of disappointing at this stage to not get an animated intro regardless, though. Gabriel Knight used still comic-panel-style art for some of its cutscenes too, and it always feels cheap. Even Revolution's own Lure Of The Temptress found a way to have an animated intro on a budget. (The remastered iOS version of BASS redid it with all the same source art at a high res, and doing a better job with the animation and camera moves, which all makes it feel a little more high-value.) Anyway, the game overall looks good, and there's a fair amount of Gibbons' character in there. The voice acting is cheap and cheerful, with a lot of regional Brit accents in there, giving it a Monty Python or Aardman feel. The writing is great so far - a pulpy dystopian setting that draws on a bunch of influences from 1984 to Mad Max, some gory deaths, lots of British slang, and a robot sidekick who constantly slags you off and complains about you transferring his circuit board to a vacuum cleaner. The puzzles are fine so far, nothing too ridiculous and they make use of the setting well. And I very rarely bump into any of the Virtual Theatre issues that plagued Lure Of The Temptress. I'm now stuck - I think my prime goal is to get the elevator working, and I've managed to distract a worker elsewhere so I can flip a switch, but that doesn't seem to have affected anything. So either it's a puzzle I don't need to solve yet, or I've missed something. I'm sure I solved most of this game without a walkthrough last time, so I'd really like to manage it again! I'll take a break and see if something clicks when I come back to it...
  2. Ugh, so the solution to finding the crime scene was to go to the park, walk past a mime so he'll follow you, then, hoping the mime doesn't get distracted by an NPC and head back to his starting point, walk three screens over to the motorbike cop so he gets annoyed by the mime and chases him off. If you then listen to the police radio (which you've been able to hear anyway) you overhear a conversation about where the crime scene is. This is bullshit. But that gets me somewhere. Later, I ask my detective chum for some photos, he says to ask Officer Franks. When I do that, she tells me she doesn't have time to talk. The solution? Use the second 'talk to' verb on her. This usually just leads to a quip, but here it's what you have to use to open up a dialogue tree instead of the regular 'talk to' verb that normally does this. This is bullshit. Another issue with the Day system is that you can potentially solve a bunch of puzzles before you have any idea why you want to. This means that a lot of walkthroughs just have you do stuff as soon as possible, so it's tough to work out the one thing you need to get you moving past your current obstacle. Even the Universal Hints System site isn't great with this game. So far the best thing I've found is this walkthrough/fan-novelisation hybrid that puts everything in the order you should be doing it logically: Thanks to that , I now know that there's one puzzle I can solve now, even though I don't need to until a few 'days' later. 'Clues' for it will be dripfed over the next few days, but I will never have any logical reason for following them. Apparently the player's thinking should be: Gabriel's paintings and sketches have groups of three snakes in them. Gabriel has a dream where three snakes transform out of a knife. If you randomly look at a book on snakes, Grace mentions that old stories of dragons were actually about snakes. So maybe 'three snakes' can mean 'three dragons'??? Gabriel gets calls from Wolfgang Ritter, who claims to be family. If you look on Gabriel's bookshelves for no reason, eventually you'll find a poem, by Heinz Ritter, called "Drei Drakhen," (which, if you find a German to English dictionary by clicking on other shelves, and click on it a few dozen times, you'll learn means 'three dragons'). So if Wolfgang is telling the truth and Gabriel is related to the Ritters and therefore a family member wrote a poem that refers to three dragons. So taking all this into account, the 'three dragons' motif seems important to Gabriel's family. He should therefore go to his grandmother's attic, look at a little clock, turn the hands to three o clock, and rotate the paintings round the face so that the dragon is at twelve o'clock (??), turn the key, and this will open a hidden drawer. This, my friends, is bullshit. I think I'd pretty much be using a walkthrough constantly to get through this game, and due to all the technical issues, design issues, merely adequate visuals and rather shoddy writing, that's not something I fancy doing. So I'm giving up on this one. I can't find much in the way of ancillary reading materials, except this amazing video from the CD release@ And with that, on to Beneath A Steel Sky.
  3. I've got a very small way into this, but this is a really frustrating game to play. There are NINE cursor verbs and no keyboard shortcuts, so you have to either cycle through them or go to the top menu every time you want to use them. You can't cycle through while dialogue is playing, to save time, and dialogue keeps getting interrupted or delayed by incidental events like NPCs talking to each other or walking in and out. Story-wise, all I have to go on is that I'm researching voodoo for a novel I'm writing, and there happen to be some voodoo-themed murders happening in my neighbourhood. So I'm reduced to wandering around randomly looking at stuff and talking to people, picking up all the loose crap I can find. Every conversation has ten or so general topics that I have no reason to ask about, and look at dialogue is mostly there to show off the research the writers did, but I have to go through it all in case it opens up a new location. Like, the furthest I've got so far in any one direction is asking my assistant three times about my messages, getting told that my grandmother left one, which opens up her house on the map, so I go there, ask her randomly to tell me about my mother, and that opens up the cemetery on the map. So far, this is a worse detective game than Sam & Max Hit The Road. There's also a Day system in place where, presumably, once I've achieved enough things the game moves onto Day 2 and certain new characters show up or whatever. So I'm not sure what I should be interested in now, and what I just need to wait for. Am I supposed to find the latest crime scene, or wait to read about it in tomorrow's paper? And if not, what the hell am I supposed to do? To the walkthrough! (There is one helpful UI element: the tape recorder that lets you play back your conversations, in case you forgot or missed a bit of information.) Side-note: it originally came bundled with a short graphic novel. It's not included with the Steam release, though the manual is, so I had to track it down online. It's a nicely illustrated flashback story about a voodoo-related slave revolt in the 17th century, which seems to tie in with the nightmares Gabriel is having. Also, seems like a descendant of the witch-hunter in it has been trying to call me! So that's pretty cool, though it doesn't help me progress right now. This game is reminding me of Loom, in that they're trying very hard to conjure up a certain atmosphere, and at least partly succeeding, but the clunky gameplay is getting in the way.
  4. On the one hand, I'm looking forward to this as the second game so far that I've not played any of (the first being Loom). However, I'm also a little trepidatious because I suspect even the lesser Lucasarts games have given me high general expectations that most other adventures will fail to live up to. This game was too buggy on ScummVM, surprisingly, so I'm playing directly via Steam, which plays it through DOSBox. The speech audio has a fair amount of pop and crackle on it, unfortunately, but apart from that everything else runs smoothly. Fun voice cast, though, including Tim Curry, Mark Hamill and Michael Dorn. I've played about two minutes of it so far. It starts off very abruptly, with you waking up at your bookstore on a regular day and not given any even short-term goals. Also, I didn't realise there was a narrator at first, because she doesn't say anything until you start looking at certain objects, so for a short time I thought that Grace was breaking the fourth wall and mocking Gabriel's item descriptions and accent! It's atmospheric and it looks nice enough, though the sprites for some of the interactive objects are jarringly sharper than the rest of the art. There's already some awful pixel-hunting just perusing the bookstore (e.g. the tiny hair-thin tweezers) and your cursor doesn't change when it's over a hotspot, so I expect to be checking walkthroughs a lot on this one, to be honest.
  5. Finished it! There are a few quibbles - the anarchic nature is a bit of a double-edged sword, collapsing into randomness by the end when new locations are opened up because you happen to see a leaflet, or the final puzzle being a fetch quest for four random items; although it's tricky for me to judge the difficulty having completed the game so many times over the years, some of the puzzles are bizarre and sometimes lack the signposting to make them truly fair; there are a few iffy exit hotspots. Overall, though, the shagginess does fit the Sam & Max style, and the game is so wild and funny and stuffed with character that it's not dampened much by these issues. It's nice how it acts as a sister game to DOTT, too, in a similar way that Monkey Island did to Loom - just as Max cameos in DOTT, Bernard cameos (three times, in various terrible disguises!) as a Stuckey's employee, some easy-listening musak and sound effects are shared, and there's a bunch of other stuff like the founding fathers' appearances that make them feel of a piece. MixNMojoRetro: Short making of: Laserschwert's (he of the Lucasarts poster fan-remasters) excellent work-in-progress arrangement of the game's music with HD samples (almost makes me want a HtR remaster!): Now onto the first game in a while that I haven't played before: Gabriel Knight.
  6. Ahhh, Hit The Road. Ostensibly very similar game to DOTT, but it's got the fullscreen (albeit 4:3) graphics, a more wry humour and an anarchic hyperactivity. It's packed full of pointless diversions like feeding Max's cockroaches, brutalising a convenience store robber, having one-sided conversations with carny freaks or even just listening to weird answerphone messages, and the animations are surprisingly detailed and fluid. If DOTT is Chuck Jones cartoons, then HTR is Ren & Stimpy or Duckman. It's nice as well that in this run of games - DOTT, HTR and Full Throttle - that the gameplay matches the story and tone. In DOTT, the Chuck Jones cartoon, you're endless running through the same space performing variations on actions, setting up contraptions and falling from heights, swapping objects for similar objects and pulling pranks. In Hit The Road, the detective story, you're finding clues and interrogating people to open up new locations. In Full Throttle, the biker action story, there's no inventory-combining and you're performing basic actions, mostly to demolish stuff.
  7. Obviously I've played this a million times, but it's been a while. I'd forgotten how low-res the sprites are and I'd never noticed the hissing on some of the voice clips, but that stopped registering after a couple of minutes. It still looks gorgeous, though, with its chunky cartoon graphics and fantastic animation, and the music is perfect. It starts out so energetically, too, with a long, lavish Chuck Jonesy cutscene that blows all the previous games' openings out of the water. Then there's a quick easy single-room puzzle to ease you in, before BAM the time-travel concept comes out of nowhere and within moments you're hurtling through a time-tunnel in another big cutscene. But at the same time it doesn't overwhelm you - you're given a simple find quest to let you get acquainted with the (easily navigable) modern-day map before you get given your modern-day main objective and access to the past map (which closely echoes the modern day one so again it's quickly memorisable). It's expert pacing, wrapped up in gorgeous presentation. And already it's very funny, with broad cartoon humour alongside clever wordplay and even the occasional sly political dig like the Ronald Reagan pic that mentions an EPA grant. I'd also forgotten how detailed it is, there's still dialogue in there that I'm discovering now. Reading the boring book and squirting disappearing ink on every single character turns up some great responses! The puzzles are all really clever (only a couple of tough ones where the signposting could be a bit better), and it has your major tasks outlined from the start and visibly present throughout, so there's a massive feeling of achievement when you complete one of them. The ending is fantastic as well, lots more cutscenes mixed with some bitesize puzzles and a killer final gag. A good oral history (with a couple more linked articles): The MixNMojo retrospective: Idle Thumbs Forum thread for the remaster: Making of vid for the remaster: Onto Sam And Max Hit The Road!
  8. Right, giving up on this game. The next sub-quest given to me in my attempt to enter the town hall was to use a lockpick to get into the alchemist's house. So you consult your handdrawn map and make your way over there, trying not to get trapped in a looping shuffle of politeness by wandering NPCs. You try the lockpick on the door. It doesn't work. You then realise there's a two-pixel lock. You try the lockpick on that. It doesn't work. You have no way to know this, but the solution is to get Ratpouch to do it for you. He's got stuck in a loop entering and exiting a door elsewhere and stopped following you, so you go find him, try to click on him at just the right microsecond to break him out of the loop, and take him back to the house. You give him the lockpick, which is a chore because despite him being about five steps away from you with no obstacles, you keep getting stuck in pathfinding loops and then once you start interacting with him an NPC bumps into him and they get stuck saying sorry to each other. Anyway, you finally get him to unlock the door. You try to walk through it but you get stuck behind an NPC for a few seconds, during which time an orc appears and locks the door. Finally, you get Ratpouch to pick the lock again, you go open the door, walk in and close it behind you. There's nothing there but science equipment. There's no way you could possibly know this, but the next steps are: randomly ask a pub customer about the alchemist's house and she'll give you his diary. This lets you know that the equipment needs heat to make a potion that will make you look like the villain. That should get you in the town hall! So now go through the rigmarole of unlocking the house again, look at the equipment again and you'll unlock a (very difficult to find) hotspot for the oil burner. You need heat, so go to the blacksmith's forge and pixel-hunt until you find a tiny tinderbox on the ground. Go unlock the house again, use the tinderbox on the equipment. Now you need something to hold it in. So randomly speak to one particular NPC to get a quest to give an item to the shopkeeper, who will in return give you a blue jewel. If you happen to look at one of the pub signs you'll see that it has a blue jewel on it, so give the jewel to the innkeep and she'll give you a flask. But it's full! There is no verb for emptying it onto the ground, and you can't drink it yourself because it's too nasty. So offer it to everyone you meet until finally you find the one person who will drink it (the blacksmith). You can now struggle your way past NPCs, struggle your way back into the house and get the potion. I guessed about half of this, but the other half is utterly random and stupid, and even when you know exactly what to do it's teeth-grindingly fiddly. Perhaps getting it to run on modern computers has caused or exacerbated the issues, but this game is too broken to play. Making of: And now onto my favourite game of all time, Day Of The Tentacle!
  9. The intro is short but with an early-cinema charm, with lots of rotoscoped silhouettes against plain-coloured backgrounds. Once you're in the game, though, the graphics are rather tawdry and bland and the sound is almost non-existent. I put it on mute and played the Hawk The Slayer soundtrack instead. You start off with a simple escape-the-cell puzzle, then rescue Ratpouch, a jester who becomes your sidekick. You can give him a series of complex orders and he'll trot off to perform them. After telling him to open a secret passage for me, I get out to the town and I'm given a series of 'find this person and ask them about this' quests. Now, in theory, the idea that all the NPCs are living their own lives and you have to track them down, get to know people etc is intriguing. But the execution of it here renders the entire game incredibly frustrating. The NPCs' routines are given equal priority to your own actions and the pathfinding is horrendous, so you spend 90% of your time caught in little dances with them, or waiting for idle background chatter to play out so your own conversation can continue. If you're unlucky enough to be in a room with two or three other NPCs, there's a good chance you'll get stuck in an infinite loop of everyone bumping into each other and saying "Excuse me" and have to go back to an old savegame. I cannot understand how they playtested this for more than two minutes without deciding to make it so characters can just pass through each other. Plus, the village is laid out in an anonymous grid with plenty of empty interlinking passages, meaning I had to spend ages mapping the whole thing out and noting down every street name in case I was directed there by one of the quests. The setting is bland high fantasy, and while the dialogue has some Brit comedy charm, it's hard to appreciate when it's delivered in so frustrating a package. It's easy to see why the polish and invention of the Lucasarts games stood out back then.
  10. Got through it, heavily using a walkthrough. Mostly more pixel hunting and another maze (this time a case of choosing what door to go through completely at random) and a dialogue puzzle where you die unless you patiently choose the refusal option over and over. There were some nice destruction and death animations, but by the end this game really squandered any goodwill it had built up. MixNMojo retrospective: Onto Lure Of The Temptress. I think I've tried to play this a couple of times before and got stuck very early on. If I recall correctly, it uses Revolution's "Virtual Theatre" system to extreme effect, with puzzle-dependent NPCs wandering all over the place, and the need to send sidekicks off with complex instruction lists...
  11. This game has become utterly obnoxious. Unclear or unfair puzzles made worse by huge amounts of padding that forces you to spend a good minute or so getting from room to room, and that's if you don't have to spend time dodging or fighting guards. I'm giving up for today, but I think I'll probably just walkthrough the rest of it when I come back, especially if it's all empty underground stone rooms from now on. If it weren't part of the Lucasarts golden era I'd probably have bailed by now.
  12. Ugh, okay, I needed to talk to Sophia in a different room than the ones I was trying it in. I then got stuck on the map room, where you have to align three stone discs to match the slightly randomised clues in Plato's text. Most walkthroughspretty much skip over this because of the randomisation, and just say 'follow the clues' which is not helpful at all! I finally solved it, but without really understanding how, so out of curiosity I sought out a guide that breaks it all down and the whole set-up is pretty flawed. The clue about "contrary minds" bit isn't relevant until the final gate (which this is not - not sure how I'm supposed to know that). Also, the clue "darkest night" is used to either refer to a position on the sunstone OR on the moonstone, plus the moonstone has waxing and waning moons which actually never get used but some of the moon clues are so vague that any of the moon settings could apply. Some of the combinations of clues would have made it really easy, but I got some shitty ones, unfortunately. I then got stuck on a submarine piloting puzzle because I didn't realise you can only use the rudder when you're traveling in one of the directions. Indy just says "it's locked", but I just solved a puzzle where I had to unlock it with a key so again I was worried it was a bug, and a few extra words (or a working knowledge of how to operate submarines, I guess) could have cleared it up. I think there's a reason the cartoonish Lucasarts games are the better ones - it's easier to make solid puzzles without resorting to fiddly crap like the points where I've been stuck here.
  13. I used UHS to get past the book thing. Turns out it was an elaborate red herring - the only one of the three cat statues I hadn't tried picking up was the one I should have! I probably would have got there with enough clicking, and to be fair to the game, it did tell me that these were the collection I was looking for and that particular cat was odd. For some reason I thought it was just a glitch (Sophia and Indy occasionally say each other's lines so I'm not wholly confident in the dialogue system) - perhaps if they had just added a couple more words, like "hmm, this one looks odd" or whatever, I would have instantly picked it up. Ah well, that got me a lot further. I don't think the game is ever going to open up in the same way that Monkey 2 does, rather it's going to take me to a couple of new locations at a time, leaving the old ones behind, which does actually feel more like an Indy movie and again the willingness to fly through a bunch of locations, all bustling with NPCs does give it that (comparatively) AAA high production value feel, the video game equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster. There have been some more slightly silly puzzles, but also lots of cool Indy stuff to do like fly a hot air balloon around the desert to track down an X on a map, then use surveyor equipment to follow clues from an ancient mural to discover a dig site. Sometimes you're struggling with the interaction mechanics rather than the puzzle, but it's all very Raiders, and it's really exciting as you get closer and closer to discovering Atlantis. I'm now in an underground labyrinth (thankfully it's not too annoying of a maze once you map it out - no limited overhead view, thank fuck). The game gives you a choice early on whether you want to pick the Fists, Team or Wits. I'm not going to pick Fists, obv, and normally I'd pick Wits as that feels like it would give me the purest adventure game goodness, but this time I've chosen Team as I've seen a lot of people say they prefer it, it feels more Indy in a way, and hopefully it will mean fewer abstruse puzzles! I doubt I'll go back and replay with Wits, but I'll at least take a look into the differences and see if I'm tempted. I'm currently stuck again, so I'm going to take a break. I'm in the labyrinth, I've got it all mapped out and I've managed to get two orichalcum beads. As I understand it, these should be used to power stuff like Atlantean devices, statues etc, or modern day equipment - I can't see either down here so I have no idea what to do next! My only worry is that I've somehow missed a room, or a hotspot in a room...
  14. Got a little way in then had to stop because I'm stuck! The opening is fantastic, feels just like an Indy movie drawing you in with a bit of action that will led into the main plot. There's a real sense of spectacle too - it immediately runs Indy through a whole series of rooms, gets him into a fight, sends him to New York for a light puzzle then opens up three more worldwide locations. The naturalistic graphics are a little less attractive than Monkey Island 2's, but nice enough. The music is fine and the voice-acting is bearable though it's low-fidelity and sometimes has line readings that don't work with the context. (Indy also sounds a little like Alan Alda!) The puzzles are mostly fine if a little prosaic and sometimes silly (mayonnaise on a totem pole to slide it into position for climbing, and chewing gum from under a desk to put on your shoes so you can climb up a coal chute). The one I'm stuck on right now if one of those frustrating adventure game puzzles where in real life it would take five minutes to sort out and indeed you can often see a bunch of objects in the background or even in your inventory that should do the job just fine. I've got to knock a book out of a hole in the ceiling - there are any number of spears kicking about and I've got a bloody whip, but Indy won't play ball. I threw a piece of coal at it but it "broke into a hundred useless pieces" and now I can't pick up another piece, so I'm slightly worried I've hit a bug, but probably not. I'll come back later and if I can't immediately figure it out I'll resort to a walkthrough or maybe Universal Hint System if that's still around. Anyway, overall it successfully captures the Indy feel of jetsetting and tombraiding, it's well-presented and fun. I'm eager to break it open - it still feels like I'm chipping away at the edges right now...
  15. Finished Monkey Island 2! The looping maze solution was a little sneaky - you have to look at the first three words of each line of a verse, ignoring the final body part - but as each door only has three body parts on it, I suppose it's not too tough. Dinky Island is mostly bullshit, honestly. For a start, it's a little deflating that after all that map collecting, all you had to do was climb into a crate heading to LeChuck's fortress then get randomly and coincidentally thrown by an explosion to Dinky Island. Then when you get there it's just a load of random items strewn about the place and some irritating pixel-hunting, 'use bottle on rock to smash it so you can use it to cut open a hanging bag' is a bit of a rough puzzle, plus another 'maze you need a guide for' and another 'animal you need a bunch of snacks for'. Plus, at this point they've completely given up on the Look At responses, just using "nice X" for almost everything. Still, it at least looks nice and doesn't take too long, then we finally come out of the flashback structure, smartly creating a feeling of propulsion going into the endgame. LeChuck is impressively scary - I love his earlier speech about how he's going to turn Guybrush into a screaming chair, but here they pull out all the stops with the visual effects, the horror score and his rants about dimensions of pain. The puzzle is mostly fair, although there's some more pixel-hunting (that coin return slot!) and it's a bit annoying having to wait for LeChuck to show up once you've got a plan. But it's very satisfying when you complete it, and you get some chunky gore as a reward. And then we come to that ending. On the one hand, it's a striking flourish, it works well with the feeling in the first one that you're merely playing at being a pirate, and it cleverly ties a load of earlier stuff into it (that 'employees only' door from all the way back on Melee Island in the first game is put to great use). On the other hand, it's a shame that Elaine doesn't get much to do and that a lot of it is taken over by an Empire Strikes Back spoof. It would probably work better as the ending of a two-part story - instead, they throw a couple of strong hints in that Guybrush is actually under a spell (Chuckie's eyes, the cut back to Elaine) which makes it feel very much like a cliffhanger (and even if we ignore the subsequent games, I believe Ron Gilbert was intending to make a third one or at least wasn't against it). It's a mixed juju bag, and I think that in my head-fan-edit I'll erase those two hints and make 'it's a child's fantasy' canon, relegating all subsequent games to further imaginings by the kid (his parents never call him Guybrush, even in the earlier 'dream' sequence). This can even be used to explain away the more haphazard design in the latter sections of the game - the kid is getting tired and so elements of the real world start to intrude and the logic of his fantasy starts to fall apart. It's a bit of a stretch but it works better if you take the two games as one long piece! Anyway, overall a great game even if it does flag a little towards the end. I think if I had to choose I'd say I prefer the first game, because it stands on its own whereas this feels like a middle section of an unfinished trilogy and it doesn't have any weak sections. But the second game is a lot more gorgeous in its audio and visuals - even in its poster - and has a stronger feeling of depth and immersion while still being funny and inventive. So it's a close-run thing. It's harder to find features on this game than the first, for some reason, but here's the usual MixNMojo retrospective: And now onto Fate Of Atlantis! I'm simultaneously looking forward to this one and dreading it, because I only ever really played it once decades ago, probably with a walkthrough, so it'll be nice to play it basically as new, but also I remember it being incredibly difficult so I may get stuck a lot!