#73 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Posted: 23rd September 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1001th played so far

Genre: Interactive Fiction
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1984
Developer: Infocom
Publisher: Infocom

So this is weird. If there had not been a second edition of the book, I would be done now – instead I’m going into overtime. I’m playing the final double digit game – it was the last game remaining for it and is one of those weirdly eccentric entries that deserves it. And sticking with our milestone + 1 rule, Infocom feels a bit like its own indie of the day – independent with its own niche – even if it was really a big publisher of its day. And since it’s part-designed by Douglas Adams, this is also another version of the story that we’ve seen told before in radio, book, TV and movie form.

I’ve been looking forward to this one.

Interactive Fiction

Partially due to my own edits, the interactive fiction bag has been a bit of a mix of games. What you get, to a greater or lesser extent, is the focus on and experimentation with storytelling, at times combined with puzzle solving. That’s abundantly clear in the exploration of A Mind Forever Voyaging and the oddities of Thirty Flights of Loving, but I feel that it’s also a genre that has exploded in the decade after the book’s publishing. While they’ve been referred to with the deriding term ‘walking simulator’, there have been a lot of games that took gameplay elements and moved them to focusing on their story, with a differing amount of other interactions. In fact, as I write this I finished What Remains of Edith Finch a day ago and its structure of voice overs while you play simple mini games is an evolution of what started with Infocom’s experiments with narrative.

While I wouldn’t have said this a decade ago, it feels like this is the purest expression of video games as art – a system that tells a story and creates an emotional response in part through the way you interact with it, as an active participant rather than a passive observer. It shows the power of the medium, and it’s been the smaller indie developers that really pushed it. It’s a small fraction of the list, but it also contains the games that had the biggest impact on my thoughts of what a game is.

Our Thoughts

It feels almost inevitable than any interpretation of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy feels a bit like fan fiction, even if (as is the case here) Douglas Adams had a hand in it. For the video game, that means that the initial scenes are incredibly familiar – wake up, lie in front of a bulldozer, get teleported to a Vogon spaceship – are all there. Playing as Arthur Dent, though, means that your perspective on these is quite different. You know what instructions to follow, but Ford going off means you have to trust that what happens makes sense. While the initial beats of the story stay the same, they diverge at one point as you can dive into the memories of several of the known characters, seeing major scenes from their perspective and with their take on it. Aside from a nice way to get in the moments you almost expect to see, it feels like a really good way to enhance the storytelling in a way that you don’t get in a more passive work, especially not outside the books. It only covers a small amount of the story from other works, but it’s satisfying in what it does have.

It’s more difficult to say the same from the other side, when it comes to the puzzles the game has. There are a lot of options and blind alleys that leave you in trouble long after you made the initial decision. I soon switched to playing with a guide to avoid the pitfalls (and there are many, even with a guide I messed up the timing of a few events) and my enjoyment increased immensely as I could actually see the story beats, while using some save games to follow other paths. It’s neat once you do that, but it does feel like a flaw in the core game, albeit a flaw I expect from the era.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the video game, would work as well as just telling a story. The parts where you have to go around, take certain actions and react to the world work to tell of what you’re doing, and the many failure situations work to explore why you need to do them. On the other hand, it feels like the gameplay and puzzles are a bit too difficult to keep track of, and almost delight in their cruelty when you miss doing something. A guide and save games help, but if I didn’t have both to help me, it feels like it would have really tested my patience.

#776 Pac-Man Championship Edition

Posted: 20th September 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1000th played so far

Genre: Maze
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games

We’ve reached quadruple digits! We’re in a great group of landmarks for the list now, where this and the next one will feel monumental but we’ve got another twenty to go after that. To mark the occasion, it felt appropriate for me to look back and go back to Pac-Man and see what its modern interpretation of this game is like.

Maze

The maze genre, as listed in the book, is really to separate series that are connected only by superficially featuring mazes. One is the Pac-Man series, where you travel around a preset maze that you move around. It’s a good game, but perfected with the original in a case where I don’t think the later sequels work well – adding stuff subtracts from the end result.

On the other side there are the games like Boulder Dash, which has you dig through a maze to reach an endpoint or defeat enemies, focused around strategic puzzles rather than focusing on your reflexes. They are the more interesting ones where the puzzle elements add to the games feeling different. It makes sense to create new games and play with the formula.

With hindsight, we probably should have looked at combining these with other genres, but it’s where we’re at. It means that I get to stick a Pac-Man game in here, which feels deserved as a reference to the older games.

Our Thoughts

While this game looks like Pac-Man, once you get past needing to collect dots it starts playing fairly differently. First of all, there are several different mazes available that you play through. That’s not too offensive as the idea of playing through different mazes feels quite natural and it expands neatly to give you more of them as you go on. I’m sure the classic maze is in there as well, although I didn’t end up seeing it. You get several different graphic looks as well, which can apply to any maze – it goes a bit beyond changing colour, but you’re still just skinning the mazes without any gameplay differences.

It’s that gameplay difference that makes me feel this is the inferior game. Rather than clearing a maze, then moving to the next level, you clear a group of dots on the maze, after which a new set comes in (usually on the other side of the maze). You keep chasing new sets of dots while you try to hold out for as long as you can, based on the game mode. Every set of dots also adds a ghost to the ones chasing you, but because you’re following a single path they all tend to follow you in a long chain of ghosts. It becomes an inferior version of Snake where you have to manage your trail, but not quite a nicely. You get recurring power pellets to get rid of them, which means that they don’t become as much of a problem, and because all ghosts follow the same logic (rather than the differences of the original game) the single chain stays rather boring.

Final Thoughts

While Pac-Man Championship Edition‘s different mode of playing is interesting from its competitive element, I feel the infinite repetition removes the simplicity of Pac-Man‘s simple rules leading to complex situations.  Rather than working out your path and dealing with ghost situations, you’re just following the path each set of puzzles lays out, occasionally pausing to deal with the ghosts when they become too much. It misses the point of the game and gets boring sooner than a game like this should be.

#430 The Typing of the Dead

Posted: 17th September 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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999th played so far

Genre: Action/Edutainment
Platform: Arcade/Dreamcast/PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: WOW Entertainment/Smilebit
Publisher: Sega

The Typing of the Dead was the first game I reserved as a final game without being able to go back on it. We played The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis really early on, then reserved Oregon Trail for the midway point of the game, as seemed fitting for the oldest game on the list (Pong made for a better blog title). As the smallest genre on the list, it seemed like edutainment would be best as the first to go back to for our final journey through the genres.

As a game, it feels like a bizarre match up: it appears to be an adaptation of House of the Dead 2, but here you take out zombies by typing rather than shooting them. It’s interesting – and I’m a decent enough typist to manage better than having to aim my attacks. I guess I’ll see how that works.

Edutainment

There’s on going evidence that games can help you learn things. Reflexes and fine motor controls can be helped by playing certain games, for example, and games like Assassin’s Creed have certainly sparked an interest in some areas of history. When it comes to games that specifically trying to teach you something, though, it seems harder to get something out of it and you rarely get something that’s quite as engaging. I can’t quite tell whether that’s still true in schools, but few games of the kind break through to the mainstream other than the Zachtronics style of games that teach you simple coding.

It makes sense, then, that the genre barely shows up on the list, but also that more recent indie games are more likely to do this, giving you a chance to experiment and train your brain. I have a backlog of these games too, so I hope I’ll soon see what more there is.

Our Thoughts

I’m not sure to what extent I can explain the insanity of this game. As I said, you play straight through The House of the Dead 2, with the same story, environments and enemies present in there. Rather than shooting, though, you need to type in a word or phrase to ‘shoot’ an enemy, with later enemies requiring multiple words. To reinforce this and push it into the absurd, the characters in the game don’t carry guns. Instead, they each have these keyboards hanging off straps around their neck, typing on them as they need to. It’s a bizarre visual, clearly matching what you’re doing in the game but otherwise feeling so clunky that they’re out of place in the zombie story you’re in. It shows how ridiculous the premise is, but the game is incredibly playable instead.

I’m a fast typer, far more than a shooter, and even though I can’t reach A rank on all of the levels I got to the final level where I got overwhelmed and ran out of lives. It turns out typing is a lot of fun in this context and there are some creative options surrounding the bosses, with one hydra boss requiring a small quiz where you need to type the right question. It gets confusing when punctuation comes in – spaces are optional while others aren’t – but it’s the tricky words with short time limits that really starting tripping me off at the end. The difficulty curve feels appropriate for the the game too – it really builds up to the right point to stay challenging.

Final Thoughts

I think that with the nature of the genre, only the very best rise to the top – with lesser edutainment titles being pushed down as being too educational to be a good game. The Typing of the Dead shows this – as a ridiculous, almost game jam like adaptation of an existing game, it shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it stays fun and accessible.

48 Game Round Up: 951-998 (Jeroen)

Posted: 16th September 2021 by Jeroen in Round-Up

As discussed yesterday, we’re not quite biting off another 50, but this close to the end I wanted to get my round up in a bit early so we have a clean run to the end.

I’ll have to admit that writing this post feels more difficult than normal. Being in the final rush to the end, I think the exhaustion of having to judge all the games is hitting me harder, and as I’ve been given myself extra time to play my blog games, the pressure feels like it’s that much greater.

I’ll do my best to give you something though. Bear with me, we’re nearly there.

Best Game I Had Not Previously Played

If I look at my list of best new games, I find myself drawn to the RPGs and adventure games for this batch – I think I’ve saved some of the best ones for this run. I’ll cover RPGs below, but want to mention Chrono Cross as sticking in my mind as being excellent.

But while Cruise For A Corpse had its issue, the dystopian future adventures are the two that really stand out. Do I pick Beneath a Steel Sky, the dystopian idea that felt like the perfect sci-fi version of its kind even if it looks a bit rough? Or do I go for Blade Runner, a game that sticks to the tone and feel of its source so well that any clunkiness is made up for by what it accomplishes and how well it does so, still feeling like a mystery in places.

Pick either, really, and it works here.

Worst Game

The worst games were harder to pick – I guess I had a good eye for what to leave until the end – but there were still some that fell flat. For Burning Rangers, that was because the game’s concept just didn’t work that well as a game, with a console that didn’t quite work for what it was meant to do.

Those excuses don’t really apply to Hidden & Dangerous 2, which gave me trouble on its tutorial and continued to have issues afterwards. I can see how it would work for the fans, but as a casual player it’s a game I couldn’t get myself into.

Most Surprising Game

I have to say, if you want to go most literal, Ninja Gaiden II might be the most surprising, compared to the game that came first in the series – I am still quite curious about going back to it sometimes.

However, as I said above, there are so many RPGs that stand out. I almost put Breath of Fire II first here – an old fashioned JRPG, but one that kept surprising me with the different systems and twists on the formula it had.

But if you really want a twist on the formula, one that surprised and delighted me even if I’m uncertain how long it would have held up for a longer playthrough, you have to play Panzer Dragoon Saga. It actually manages to make a JRPG feel like a shoot ’em up, with a somewhat engaging story, some fine puzzles and in the end a battle system that works. You have to play it to get it, but it’s worth trying.

Biggest Disappointment

For our disappointments this time, we are dealing with sequels that didn’t live up to  the earlier games, where I was hoping for something fun but it didn’t work as well as the original.

I should have expected it for Metroid Prime 3: the control issues were ones that I had experienced with the first game and were the reason I switched to playing the Gamecube versions for the first two. The game had more issues though, with its level design and world being inferior to the second game. Out of the three, it’s the one I would recommend least and would be the one that I would say belongs least on the list.

But then there’s the Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. There was a lot of life and content to the first game’s world, where I felt I kept exploring interesting new places. Dark Athena, in return, dials down on those elements in favour of even more corridors with on going restrictions on what you can do. I just didn’t enjoy it as much and it felt like a real step back rather than a nice upgrade on a fun shooter.

The Final Dungeon

Posted: 15th September 2021 by Jeroen in Endgame
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It’s time for a brief intermission before we get ready for the end game. While game 998 might not sound like an odd point to do so, there is some meaning behind it – by our definition of genres, there are 25 genres left. We finished two of those a long time ago – Wii Fit was the only fitness game on the list, so we finished that genre four games into the list, over a decade ago. I’ve played all of the MMORPGs, finishing with Everquest 2 back in 2013, early after the closure of City of Heroes made me fear others would follow suit. I don’t believe any of the other listed games ever did close, even if my professional relationship with Runescape turned odd a few years later.

That, you’ll notice, leaves me with 23 genres and (thanks to the second edition of the list) 23 games left to play.  Like a classic boss rush, we selected some games for each genre to play last and, obviously, narrowed it down to one per genre to be played now. Most of these are amongst the best games in the genre that represent a major series in it or one that stands out. In some cases, it was left to chance instead what I ended up playing last. Either way, though, there’s a game for each genre left that’s (almost) just that, something that I hope will really represent the genre in some way.

For these final 23 games things will mostly go the same, but I hope to get a short retrospective in for each genre to look at how they land with me. Now my schedule is more certain, I will also be able to get a bit deeper into some of them before we finish this, but we’ll see how that goes. As I’m starting a new set, I’ll do my round up for this batch a bit early – at 998 rather than 1000 – so we can go in fairly with that area. That’ll be up tomorrow, so we can start with our first entry of the final batch on the 17th.

With that, I can also confirm the end date of this blog. Barring any weird events – and by the time you read this, all of the posts should be scheduled and written anyway – the final post of this blog will be posted on November 22nd, exactly 11 years after we posted Pong. See you after that for our final round up!

And since I’ve missed out on doing these overviews for those genres, here they are for fitness games and MMORPGs!

Fitness

I managed to finish this genre, as it is, quite early on. The only fitness game on the list is Wii Fit, the fourth game we played as it fit into our fitness regime at the time, and the only one in this genre. With hindsight, we may have rolled it into the sports genre, but we made this choice before we ever thought we’d make it to the end. Even outside that, the genre is pretty small, with Ring Fit Adventure and the Zoomba games being the only others that come to mind. I haven’t seen much of them though – while I think the gameification would help be give that incentive, I’ve been focusing more on other ways to get fit. In the end, they would never go for the deepest gameplay options, but would treat exercise as the main focus, and that is always going to make it more constrained as a game on their own.

MMORPG

I finished the MMORPGs early for quite a different reason. A few weeks after we played City of Heroes, on the same day its post went up on here, it was announced that the game would be shut down. It’s available for free now, after the server source code was released (somewhat illegally) a few years ago, but for a long time it looked like it’d be a lost game on the list – something that was out there, but can’t be played anymore. We ran into the same problem with Reset Generation, which has just disappeared and needed a big workaround, and Golden Tee Live, which required us to compromise on the version of the game we played.  Ultimately, though, while various games have started to disappear from online sites disappearing, app stores no longer providing them and physical machine that are required for the game (like Final Furlong) being increasingly hard to track down and made worst during the pandemic, it’s the online only MMORPG genre where the threat of servers disappearing is always ready.

Having fast tracked them, I finished them with Everquest 2 eight years ago. As far as I know, the other eight MMORPGs are still online and even the oldest ones are continuing to be updated. I suspect it helps that the servers will be cheaper to run now than they would have been back then, but even then the regular updates they seem to be receiving shows the value in the long burn of these games. I wouldn’t have needed to rush, but I couldn’t have known that.

I’m not sure whether they would have necessarily reached me further anyway. While I enjoy some couch co-op gaming, the idea of working with strangers relying on me makes me quite nervous and I felt quite late to the party to connect with people. I end up treating it as a single player experience with others around, which doesn’t feel that far off from what the earlier levels of most of them feel like regardless, but in that case you tend to end up playing a grindy RPG instead – none of them connected on that level and I did feel better just playing a  standard RPG.

I want to jump on board at an earlier point in an MMO’s lifecycle and properly experience it, but I’ve not had my moment yet – perhaps my post-blog free time will make it easier for me to do so. As it is, though, I haven’t fully had the experience yet that I’m looking for from these.

998th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Gamecube/Wii
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo

As I’m starting to round up games, it’s time to say goodbye to another major franchise. I’ve always enjoyed the look of The Legend of Zelda series, my experience was always with the original 2D entries, with the Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons series being the originals I owned. As I’ve played through more of them, I’ve begun enjoying the entire series and Breath of the Wild has become one of the best games ever – I am certain it would have been in an updated version of the list. While it breaks with the formula in many ways, one of the smaller joys of going through the other games have been all the nods shared between the different games in the series.

Twilight Princess is the last 3D console iteration of the game, with the DS games of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks being more recent, but where neither of them count as the full series. The missing entry is Skyward Sword, which I guess I’ll have time to try a few months from now.

At the same time, with this entry I say goodbye to the action/adventure genre. Although for our internal tracking we counted them as separate games, it does feel like it doesn’t quite belong there – while the action genre is quite broad, the adventure genre is often about the avoiding of action in favour of puzzle solving, conversation and story telling. The methods in which it shows up in action/adventures is, as we’ve played through them, clearly being more about action puzzles and physics rather than inventory combination and such, and seeing it as its own time makes more sense. I’ve always enjoyed these more than pure action games as I enjoy the exploration elements, and I hope I’ll see that here too.

Our Thoughts

On the whole, a slow start to a game is a real detriment when I’m playing a game for the blog. Much as I want to experience the atmosphere, I also want to get a good feel for the game, its mechanics and separate features. As I approach the end of the list, though, I made sure I could take my time with Twilight Princess, taking my time in the early stages of the game, as you explore your home village and learn some basic skills while going through some simple side quests. It’s here where I did struggle with some of the controls, possibly because of the results of the Wii port – horse jumping has some peculiar timing that the game doesn’t explain well, as does fishing. It’s unfortunate, even if the latter hasn’t had much use yet.

That slow start takes you through your first exploration segment, a dark forest with some enemies and larger open areas. The game feels quite standard at that point, perhaps not the most creative, until the end of that section lands you in a twilight area, transformed into a wolf, having to learn a new skillset while accompanied by a weird devil creature. It’s a strange idea and even in the hours I played it I only scratched the surface, knowing both sides of the experience will feature heavily.

What probably felt more interesting is that at this point, the weird lore has come to the forefront. We see more of what Zelda is doing, but the twilight world seems to push that weirdness further. As much as your gentle life in the village seems simple, it’s the contrast of that with the dark world you have to struggle to survive in that feels good, down to having to crawl through bushes rather than go straight to an area to make it feel more cramped. It might mean that the game is a bit lower on puzzles, but the movement in the first castle-type dungeon already feels like its own tense experience.

Final Thoughts

The Legend of Zelda is a great example of a game that found its own place and is rarely matched in its genre. Twilight Princess again introduces some interesting new elements, but the style of the environments, the traversal and set up feels like it belongs to the series.  If anything, I felt this game was the one that invited me most to explore its world, getting used to your life there and immerse yourself in everything that’s going on. Together, possibly, with Link to the Past, this is probably the game of the series I’ll probably get back to first.

#373 Panzer Dragoon Saga

Posted: 11th September 2021 by Jeroen in Goodbye
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997th played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Saturn
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Team Andromeda
Publisher: Sega

Once upon a time, years ago by now, we covered Panzer Dragoon Orta, an enjoyable 3D shooter focused around flying around your enemies and shooting from all sides while you’re on a dragon. It was incredibly difficult, but clearly had some merit there.

At the time I wrote that we’re expecting Panzer Dragoon Saga to be even harder, without realizing that it’s actually an RPG of sorts. For some reason I didn’t actually playing it – I think the novelty of this type of adaptation has made me wait so I could get a surprise in. I still feel curious about it, but I’m looking forward to where we end up today.

Our Thoughts

When adapting a game like this, one of the most interesting parts is about how you integrate that other game’s mechanics. In Panzer Dragoon Saga, the reference is more than a nod – it integrates the core mechanics into its systems. While you’re not constantly moving and dodging as you shoot, for the most part you are flying on your dragon through the levels, whether they’re single canyons or large open fields, and as you fight you position yourself in front of, behind or to the side of your enemies. Each has a different risk in whether you can get attacked that depends on their attack pattern, but you need to balance this with the weak spots on those enemies. It really does feel like how a shooter would work in a turn based system, aping the Final Fantasy Active Time Battle system.

Beyond that, the dragon-born bits consist of some puzzle solving and exploring, but not too much of the story. Instead, that plays out while you’re on foot, staying at a camp or village or investigating some areas on foot. There is a lot more to investigate there, but they are clearly just for story, not too many gameplay happens in there beyond that. Not that I’d call the story that impressive – it’s a fairly standard take out the evil empire set in a (so far) fairly desolate world. The game sets you up to build relationships with several characters, but so far the interactions there didn’t seem quite as complex either.

Final Thoughts

I wasn’t overly convinced by the world Panzer Dragoon Saga creates, as it felt rather built around the game without it living, while not quite having the depth I look for in an RPG. What impressed me instead were the mechanics, with the way it integrated its shooter elements impressing even now. It’s well worth a play for that alone.

#406 Freespace 2

Posted: 8th September 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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996th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Volition
Publisher: Interplay Entertainment

I covered Descent a little while ago as an odd blast from the past. That game got a couple of sequels until we got Descent: Freespace, which started to take place in an open space rather than constrained bases and meteors. That series seem to have gotten the subsequent sequels, dropping the Descent name, and one of those games is what we are covering today.

Our Thoughts

It feels like I’ve ended up with all the in-space dog fighting games at the end this time – I’ve got one of the kings of the genre still coming up as my final shooter in a few months time. At least Freespace 2 appears to have more of a story than Star Wars: X-Wing vs Tie Fighter. It’s a pretty standard space war, but there is a lot more to it. Just as Supreme Commander had its story develop during its missions, Freespace 2 integrates its story into the mission. One example I quite liked is how a large ship shows up as part of an asteroid during one mission, but it warps away before you can destroy. It comes back later, where you are forced to fail an objective to take it out to reinforce your questions about your superiors.

That’s a neat idea and added to that is that the game is a lot easier to get into compared to earlier games. The interface is more readable and feels easier to control. Perhaps it’s almost too easy, as it feels like the training between missions gets really drawn out. Every time you get a new craft, you get dropped into an explanation that takes a while, and it feels the need to keep repeating the same lesson on targeting each time with very slight, mostly unimportant variations. I wish we didn’t quite have that – a quicker explanation would have meant there was more to actually enjoy here.

Final Thoughts

I’ll have to admit that this game moving this far away from the original setting of Descent is a downside in my book, as we have so many games like this on the list. Freespace 2 is on the more playable side of this, and feels like a good predecessor of later games that take the formula further, such as X3: Reunion. If it wasn’t for the tutorials that got too boring, I would have left it.

#795 Supreme Commander

Posted: 5th September 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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995th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Publisher: THQ/Aspyr/505 Games

Ever close to the end, today we’re closing the door on the RTS genre. While with a lot of other genres it wasn’t necessarily as special, I do count the RTS genre as one of my favourite. Warcraft 2 and 3 and Starcraft had some interesting stories and integration in their missions and I’ve since seen others take it further.

On the other hand, the genre has changed, with the Dawn of War series making adjustments as there’s less of a focus on base building which World in Conflict pushed further. Given that, once this project is done and my gaming time is freed up, I’ll revisit this – but I hope I can have a fun final hurrah here.

Our Thoughts

It feels like Supreme Commander takes a lot of cues from Dune II. You have three different armies, with different specializations, with a mission cycle that appear to have them mirror each other to some extent.. Each have different focuses, to the point where your first mission is a mirror between the three, except that the focus changes – with the blue army, your standard humans, you build land units at the start of the first round, while the green army, an alien focused group, starts with a naval focus before drafting in air based units.

Where it starts to feel different is how the missions chain. You don’t just play through a single map, meet your objectives and move on. Instead, a map has several primary missions on it, with your units and base staying the same throughout. Your map expands with every offering, showing more enemy bases or giving you somewhere else to go. It can get quite disorienting, as you suddenly have an enemy base where previously you just had a map border, but it creates a nice feeling of progress while you can’t just go into the enemy base and take it out before the story wants you to. It’s a neat device once you get used to it.

Another nice twist is that your character is represented on the field. It seems to be you in a mech suit that you can order around, and while it’s mostly there as your basic worker unit, it seems to be a bit stronger too. I wouldn’t take it out into battle – not knowing what would happen – but it often happens that your final goal on a map is to kill your equivalent of the opposing army. That does mean that the game’s enemies really tend to turtle for the end of their mission, with their bases feeling difficult to defeat to the point where it seemed like a lot of time to waste. At least you don’t need to harvest to get your resources – you just need to let your buildings fill up – but I guess the opponent has the same advantages with the same annoyances on getting things rebuilt.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed playing Supreme Commander, but hit a wall on the time required for some of these levels. The expanding nature is quite fun, and the way it requires you to start defending new areas is good, but it means that missions and maps can get long and tiring. It means that awkward setups needs to persist for longer, when restarting seems like a chore, and the time needed per level now feel longer than maybe I’d like it to be.

994th played so far

Genre: Adventure
Platform: Amiga/Atari ST/PC
Year of Release: 1991
Developer: Delphine Software International
Publisher: Erbe Software/Interplay Productions/U.S. Gold

As I wanted to make sure I left a LucasArts adventure until the end, today’s conventional point & click adventure is Cruise for a Corpse, an interesting take on the formula that focuses on solving a murder mystery. We’ve seen it done since in various forms, but I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like it in a graphical adventure even if A Mind Forever Voyaging used a similar idea of finding the clues you need. I wonder whether the free  and open deduction of clues that worked so well in Her Story or Return of the Obra-Dinn is something seen in this early game though.

Our Thoughts

If you read up on this game, you’ll see that time advances. It doesn’t do that in real time as we saw in The Last Express, the game that this feels close to in both theme and aesthetic of the time it’s set in. Instead, every time you hit a certain plot beat, making a discovery in conversation or in the area, time jumps by ten minutes. At that point people move, possibly doing something else and sometimes not giving you access to them. I don’t know whether that lets you get permanently blocked under certain circumstances or it’s set up so you never will – I never ran into it being a problem.

What makes it more frustrating is that where in other situations and in reality, there are items and situations that would always be there and would always work, that don’t in the game. Items that would have been there the entire time in a normal situation now only spawn at a certain time or a certain point in plot progression and you have – very slowly and tediously – make your way around the entire ship your cruise is taking place on. In short, after seeing how frustrating this would get and an in game hour or two in, I grabbed a guide to see what to do. I did take the time to explore and soak in the atmosphere, following up on the piles of red herrings or, if you will, objects and descriptions adding flavour to your journey. Helped by that is that the characters have a lot of dialogue about everything, with a tree divided by character/suspect and a few other general options, and often at least five to ten subjects per characters. There’s a lot to learn and figure out from there even if you don’t need it.

The game’s graphics are rather mixed, with your main character looking especially awkward, which makes the walking around even less enjoying. While there are some okay backgrounds, it’s the place where the game doesn’t look as good even for its era, which hits when you still need to deal with some pixel hunting.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I would have enjoyed Cruise for a Corpse without a guide, but with it the game becomes an interesting interactive fiction story that allows you to learn a lot of additional background information while experiencing this world.