Ben X

Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Posts posted by Ben X


  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: https://lparchive.org/Gabriel-Knight-Sins-of-the-Fathers/ 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: https://mixnmojo.com/features/sitefeatures/LucasArts-Secret-History-9-Sam-and-Max-Hit-the-Road
    Short making of: https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/the-making-of-sam-max-hit-the-road/
    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!): https://soundcloud.com/laserschwert/sets/sam-max-hit-the-road


    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): https://www.usgamer.net/articles/day-of-the-tentacle-the-oral-history
    The MixNMojo retrospective: https://mixnmojo.com/features/sitefeatures/LucasArts-Secret-History-8-Day-of-the-Tentacle

    Idle Thumbs Forum thread for the remaster: https://www.idlethumbs.net/forums/topic/9813-day-of-the-tentacle-special-edition/

    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: https://www.pressreader.com/uk/retro-gamer/20200903/283815741005743

    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: https://mixnmojo.com/features/sitefeatures/LucasArts-Secret-History-7-Indiana-Jones-and-the-Fate-of-Atlantis

     

    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: https://mixnmojo.com/features/sitefeatures/LucasArts-Secret-History-6-Monkey-Island-2-LeChucks-Revenge

     

    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!


  16. I've decided to get through my comics backlog before I read any more books, and I prioritised Sandman because not only is it probably the one I've had for the longest, it's also got a new telly adaptation coming up (as well as a radio adaptation that came out recently and I believe starred one of our forumites pabosher!). I'm over halfway through, and after a slightly more traditionally DC Comicsy start, it has spread out into something absolutely wonderful. It's so diverse in its subject matter, settings and storytelling modes, and the art is gorgeous. I love how experimental it gets without ever disappearing up its own arse, and all the little touches like how Dream's visual abstraction varies without mention - sometimes he looks like a goth icon, sometimes like a portrait of Neil Gaiman, sometimes like a Jim Henson creation.

     

    I just have no idea how they're going to adapt this for telly!


  17. Whewf, finally got through the Four Map Pieces section of the game, which really feels huge. The puzzles are inventive, varied and mostly fair, although you have to intuit more stuff on your own than in most later Lucasarts adventures. For example, you're told that one of the map pieces belonged to Rapp Scallion, who died in his Weenie Hut on Scabb Island. The hut is locked. You then have to infer that he must be buried in the Scabb Island graveyard somewhere, notice that his name isn't on any of the graves there but there's a locked crypt with Stan's branding on it, so you should steal the key from him, get into the crypt and work out which of the coffins is Scallion's by reading the quotes on them then finding a compendium of Pirate Quotes amongst the dozens of individual books in the library's catalogue system. None of it is exactly unfair or illogical, especially when you're dealing with a finite number of locations etc, but I don't know how easy I'd be finding this now if I were playing it for the first time. And the density of detail I mentioned previously does serve to make it a little tougher, I suspect intentionally. Of course, there are some actually unfair puzzles like the notorious 'monkey wrench' one which, even if you are aware of the term, is Discworld levels of abstrusity.
    Overall, though , it's structured really nicely, with the one major goal - get the map - dividing into smaller goals - get the four pieces of the map, aided by a brief summary of who last had them - which then divide down again and again. Some of these form little linear sequences of single-step puzzles as well, like when you chase one piece of the map around the island as it gets thrown out of windows and snatched by birds. It's a little daunting at first when you're dumped into a huge collection of locations with little to go on but as you make your way around, slowly figuring out your list of obstacles and theoretical solutions and whittling them down, it's really satisfying when you solve them all and move into a narrow section of interactive storytelling and then the much more contained space of LeChuck's fortress. It feels a bit like surviving one of Far Cry's 'action bubbles' and getting to walk down a jungle pathway for a bit!
    I wrapped up my play session just before getting into one of Lucasarts' beloved 'looping maze which you need a guide - preferably disguised as dance moves - to solve' as seen in Last Crusade and twice in Monkey Island 1!


  18. Well, this is a hefty step up - it's fun to imagine a player back in the day who had played the EGA version of MI, then upgraded and a year later got their hair blown back by this. The introduction of continuous background music along with the iMuse system that segues seamlessly between themes as you move from area to area is a godsend, for one. The graphics are much more tangible and detailed, even compared to the first game's VGA graphics - I know Peter Chan wasn't happy with how pixelated the backgrounds ended up after the scanning process, but I really like the effect - it reminds me of Van Gogh's Starry Night paintings or even Seurat's pointillism, and at worst it's a sort of randomised dithering. (It's certainly better than the sanitised crap of the special edition.) For me,  it lends the art more griminess, an analogue density. The whole game is strikingly dense in comparison to its predecessor, in fact - not just because of the beefed up audio-visuals, but in the storytelling too. Guybrush comes with a built-in backstory now, plus he's had a fall in fortune between games and he now has a specific goal (Big Whoop) and specific obstacles to that goal which don't feel as contrived as the three trials; the first playable screen you get to is a small hub packed with five separate areas, some with off-shoot rooms; dialogue trees go much deeper, and object descriptions are more numerous (where before you would look at a shelf of bottles and get "I don't see anything special about them", now you get a description and riff on each individual vial). One could even say that it's a little overwhelming, especially coming off the back of the clean design of the first game, but really this is good sequelising - altering the tone to the point where it avoids redundancy but still feels of a piece with previous entries. It's Life Of Brian to the first game's Holy Grail.


  19. Finished Monkey 1! This is great. Looks lovely (I'm on the PC CD version - I think this is pretty much the last time I'll need to worry about what version I'm playing, they're all pretty uniform going forward), genuinely funny, and the puzzles are mostly fair and satisfying.
    There are only a few little niggles: the occasional dodgy puzzle or hotspot (maybe I missed a hint, but how should I know the yellow flowers will drug the dogs? And that fort is very easy to miss, though Herman does mention its existence at one point); slightly too much walking back and forth on Monkey Island which easily could have been skipped once access is gained; the graphics still have some rough edges and the audio is still a little bare in places (though the music is fantastic - the MI theme and LeChuck theme still kick today).
    Finally, one could criticise the story for being so slender as to be almost non-existent - 'you want to be a pirate for no reason, so here's some stuff to do; oh no, the woman you met for ten seconds got kidnapped, go rescue her'. But I think that, similarly to the popular Raiders Of The Lost Ark fan theory/criticism (which I don't really agree with n that case, but that's a topic for another time), this is the point. If Guybrush hadn't shown up, not much would have happened differently - Elaine would have got kidnapped, rescued herself and defeated LeChuck; this, along with his lack of motivation, underlines the fact that he's just playing at being pirate, something which builds in significance come the sequel. Also, on a practical level, the comedy plays better if there's not too much storifying getting in the way. Besides, the game still has some depth even if the narrative is slight - the motley Monkey Island residents' long history of fractious co-existence as told through the piles of passive-aggressive notes strewn about the place, for example, or the easily missed detail that Melee Island's employ of a blind lookout is part of LeChuck's schemes.

    MnM retrospective: https://mixnmojo.com/features/sitefeatures/LucasArts-Secret-History-5-The-Secret-of-Monkey-Island
    Making of vid:

     

    (I really should read On Stranger Tides one day...)

     

    Now onto the sequel, The Secret Of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge!

     


  20. I've played Monkey Island enough times that it's difficult to mentally reframe it into this chronological context, but it really does feel more polished and lighter on its feet.  The Men Of Low Moral Fiber are a good example - they have strong writing, good looking character art, and actual comic timing and slapstick; the game has pitched and achieved its ambition perfectly.
    It still feels quiet at points, but there's more background music and sound going on. It's got characters wandering around of their own accord but that only serves to help not hinder you. There's a maze but Guybrush refuses to go in until he's got some sort of guide. It's clear why this is the game that gets labelled as the point where Lucasarts cemented their formula. The only, minor annoyance so far has been that Marley's mansion doesn't connect to the map screen.


  21. Okay, finished. I admire the ambition of this game and there's some lovely atmosphere, but it was full of irritating design choices and that ending was really weak. I can see why this is a cult favourite compared to its smash hit franchise starting sister game The Secret Of Monkey Island. Which, thank fuck, is next!

     

    Loom post-mortem vid with Brian Moriarty: 

     

    MixnMojo retrospective: https://mixnmojo.com/features/sitefeatures/LucasArts-Secret-History-4-Loom

     


  22. Immediately had to resort to a walkthrough. Currently finding the rules of the spellcasting rather loose and obscure, plus an inventory graphic was actively misleading (I wonder if it didn't exist in the earlier versions and was added in by someone who didn't understand the puzzle). Now I know that I can do stuff like cast the owl spell on some darkness so I get the see-in-dark power of owls, or play spells backwards to get the reverse effect, or do a certain number of successful spellcasts (I assume) to level up, I might do a little better.
    Also, the sound glitches are pretty irritating, especially as the game still plays in silence most of the time. Shame I couldn't get the Amiga version going.

     

    EDIT: got a bit further, though I had to use a WT again because something was unclear, due to a mix of low-fi graphics, unhelpful description and this game's predilection for layouts that are not only unclear but also lead you round the most tortuous path possible. On some screens you have to wait for a good 20 seconds or so for your character to enter, or travel from point to point. I can't help but feel like it's more Last Crusade style padding. This suspicion was compounded when I got to a fucking maze. Much like in LC, you can only see a small radius around your character - here, this combines with the shitty layouts to make the maze even more infuriating.  I'm not sure how much longer I'll last with this game, between the audio bugs (and irritating voice-acting) and the abrasive design...


  23. Due to a few issues with the voice-acting, I had a quick search and discovered that the CD version is generally considered to be the poorest. The Amiga version seems to be the one most recommend, as it has nice graphics but no dialogue or close-ups removed. I'd be sacrificing the voice-acting but I think that's reasonable, considering I'll be going back to non-VO games after this anyway. Seems to be tricky to find the files needed to run it on SCUMMVM, though...

     

    I've had a bit of a play, anyway. The audio drama was endearingly ambitious yet creaky, and I've figured out a couple of puzzles. It's pretty satisfying and atmospheric figuring out how to use a magic spell in interesting ways, even though at the moment it seems to be in practice just a long-winded way of clicking on verbs...


  24. Well, first thing that stands out is that I've got the CD version so I have voice acting! It's in 256 colours, which I think the Steam version of Last Crusade was too, but it looks a bit nicer somehow. It feels very Monkey Island-ish as well, thanks to the font and the visual style, as well as the opening where I have to descend from a high hill down to a small village. I got as far as finding the staff before realising that I really needed to read the manual. Having done so, it turns out I should really listen to the 30-minute audio drama that was originally bundled with the game on a cassette tape! I can't quite tell at this point whether this game is going to be refreshingly easy or punishingly abstruse...


  25. So, this maze also has a bunch of pointless empty rooms, making the way that the overhead layout doesn't tally with the side-on layouts even more frustrating, and a bunch of soldiers that you pretty much have to fight unless you're very lucky with your dialogue choices, in the shitty unforgiving combat system. Using online maps and guides doesn't make this process particularly easier or more fun, so fuck this game. I'd be tempted to find a savegame online to skip ahead, but a) that's a dangerous precedent, and sunglasses) I don't feel like the game has earned my ongoing attention. I don't think I ever got past the catacombs when I played this back in the early 90s, so I'm pretty disappointed that this is what was waiting for me on the other side! Really hoping Loom and Fate Of Atlantis are less frustrating than these first two games. Speaking of which:

     

    Onto Loom!

     

    (but first, the special features!)
    Mix n Mojo's retrospective: https://mixnmojo.com/features/sitefeatures/LucasArts-Secret-History-3-Indiana-Jones-and-the-Last-Crusade/1
    Post-mortem vid with Noah Falstein: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/472467516