Saturday, April 19, 2014

Diary Entry #26: Peeking at the Spectrum and Altered Destiny

               I bought a buttload of PS1 and PS2 games yesterday, several of which I tried in rapid succession. Some quick notes on my time with the games:
  1. Dynasty Warriors 2 is really, really fun. I recall playing through the third entry with my friend Dave back in high school and it being utterly abysmal. Now, I absolutely loved slicing through all hundreds of enemies who sort of just stand around waiting for you to kill them.

  2. Although I hated the show, the Weakest Link for PS1 is a surprisingly decent video game. With four players, it's an absolute blast. During the voting procedure, deciding whether to eliminate your closest human rival or annoying computer characters who never flub a question is always a treat.

  3. Apocalypse starring Bruce Willis is one of the PS1's best kept secrets. It's like One meets Robotron, an adrenaline-fueled romp that takes everything great about run-and-gun classics like Contra and smoothly transitions them into 3D. Writing that made me recall that I recently bought Contra: Legacy of War, which I still haven't tried.

  4. Back in 2003, I remember being really excited about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D beat-em-up after my mom bought the family a Gamecube. I picked up the PS2 version at a thrift store and was pleasantly surprised. It's overall a pretty shallow experience, but it's narrow corridors and bevy of repetitive enemies recall the classic TMNT arcade games.

  5. The TMNT film-tie in for PS2 is absolutely dreadful, reminding me of Prince of Persia or Crash Bandicoot 1 more than anything. When you are thrown into slapdash fighting sequences, the four enemies at a time approach poses no real threat. At least in Dynasty Warriors, there's twenty guys standing around waiting for you to kill them, which occasionally leads to one of them hitting you.

  6. I totally forgot about the Hunter: The Reckoning games. I got Wayward for a dollar and it's not nearly as enjoyable as I remember the original being ten years back. That game had droves of enemies coming after you akin to Gauntlet, while this game just has four or five appear randomly. I need to play it with another person.

               While I've been acquiring random PS2 games, the ZX Spectrum is currently piquing my interest. I find it fascinating that 8-bit computers like the C64 and the Apple IIe were still in production long after the introduction of 16-bit computers, and with the lowest graphical and processing capabilities, the Spectrum probably has the highest quotient of forgotten classics. I have played a handful of Spectrum games before like the Beast of Torrack Moor, but now I'm ready to sit down and familiarize myself with some of the computer's great exclusives.

               My Name is Uncle Groucho, You Win a Fat Cigar is a strange game, opening with this street screen:

               Eventually, Groucho Marx walks across the screen, apparently unaware of the fact that he's walking in the middle of the road.

               Eventually, the game prompts me to do something. When I enter an option, this screen appears:

               Unfortunately for me, I'm at some sort of disadvantage because I haven't played Pimania. Although the game assures me it won't be too long, it never gets past this screen. Perhaps I have a bad tape image. I'll try another later.

               Evidently made by the same designer, Mel Croucher, Deus Ex Machina is a multi-media game. I didn't know this when I started the game, so I was pretty bewildered by the whole thing. In the opening sequence, a mouse crawls up the screen, promptly dies, then some dots appear on the screen. Some mp3 files of the cassette tape that you're supposed to play along with the game in real time are easily found online, so I'm going to give the game another stab later this weekend. This has been ported to a few other computers, but I'm more interested in some four color goodness.

               The third game I tried was Ah Diddums, a game where you're a teddy bear that moves stuff around a room. I couldn't for the life of me comprehend what was going on, so I took my screenshot and walked away. The graphics have a horrible flickering problem, as you can see from the bear-less screenshot. Hint: his right paw and leg are floating near the top of the screen.

               The Mel Croucher games I played are pretty interesting. After reading about some of his other games, I'm pretty anxious to play through all of them and post my impressions.

               On an unrelated note, I also gave Altered Destiny a shot. A point-and-click adventure released by Accolade in 1990, it was released for the PC and Amiga using the same engine as Les Manley: In Search of the King. That game suffered from one fatal flaw: it wanted so bad to be like Leisure Suit Larry that it forgot to make sensible puzzles. Altered Destiny has some equally strange elements, but at least the bizarre other dimension setting calls for some oddball puzzles.

               The main character is PJ Barret, a dude in a suave pink shirt. I can really relate to this guy. His eye-shadowed girlfriend really wants to catch an all-night film festival on cable, but PJ has to go pick up his TV from the shop. While this might seem like a simple task, the owner gives him the wrong TV, which sends him hurtling into another dimension before he can check out his girlfriend's hot new lingerie. 

               The game is absolutely gorgeous, with crisp, bright colors that give the game a singular look. Nothing in Sierra or LucasArt's catalog looks quite like it, although the text parser and keyboard optional movement give it a very Kings Quest feel.

               There are some very creative plays on perspective, as you can see here with the giant NPC in the foreground and my little guy behind him. This blue person doesn't seem to mind if I take all the stuff around him, so I help myself.

               The items are incredibly strange, with this sphere telling me a story. Some gems on the table are also a secret party invitation that needs to be decoded using a tube. I wish more games flagrantly disregarded the player's conception of reality.

               More gorgeous imagery. The pixel-art might not exactly be top-notch, but it's imaginative enough to captivate.

               After flying over to this little space island, I accidentally walk off the side of the screen and instantly die. That's some Sierra crap right there. I stopped playing, but I fully intend on giving the game another shot in the near future.

               I'm sort of directionless right now, darting from game to game with little direction. I'm thinking I'll either go back to Altered Destiny or try those Spectrum games, but with all these games I've been grabbing, there's so many to try. I plan on my next post having much more focus.

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