Saturday, 23 July 2016

Elvira II - Final Rating

By Deimar

I don’t think you really know how happy I am of finally being able to click there...

And the second Elvira game, the third for Horrosoft, is in the can now. Finally, I might add. I was reviewing my opinions of Elvira I, as comparisons between them are inevitable, and I can say that it is better than this one.

I thought that the first one was a game that didn’t know if it was an adventure game or an RPG. The second one tends more to its RPG side, but it is simply not very interesting. The spell system is almost completely useless; there is no reward for exploration (beyond looking at more brown walls); at no point you feel like becoming more powerful; and there are no opportunities to really role-play you character. And all of that goes in detriment of its adventure side, which is roughly less than one third of the game. And although I really like how it is presented, I can also see the sacrifices made to integrate the RPG side.

Summing up, Elvira II feels a bit disjointed. It wants to be an RPG but it is not. Let’s see how this affects its PISSED rating.

Puzzles and Solvability
Like many other adventure games, Elvira II has its fair share of good, bad and mediocre puzzles. I would classify inside this group things like getting the key in the piranha tank, getting out of the pantry or getting past the necromancer, as annoying as it is discovering the puzzle after six floors of dungeon crawling and having to go back and forth. These are fairly well designed puzzles (well, but for the “guess how you can dead-end yourself talking to the janitor or the evil scientist), with plenty of in-game hints, mostly from the library or Elvira’s advice, and there is some logic in them and you can feel a bit more clever after solving them.

Then we have the bad puzzles. Like killing the vampire with the tuning fork. And not even because I got stuck there. It has logic, but it is cartoon logic. And the item needed is the only of its type included in the game for a spell. But I won’t talk more about that one in particular, as I already said my piece. Let’s talk about the group of vampires in the hidden chamber, which if not for Scorpia’s review I wouldn’t even know there is a puzzle there. Or worse, I would be stuck without knowing what to do because the golden cross in the church doesn’t work with them, nor the holy barrier spell. Or the succubus, which I solved just on pure luck.

And then you have the “meh” puzzles. Some people wouldn’t even classify these as puzzles to be honest. Every single trap in the catacombs falls here. After finishing the game I read a walkthrough to see if there was any use to the items there. They don’t have any if you are wondering, not even as reagents. But I discovered that you can use the Breathe Underwater spell to avoid the poison traps, which kind of makes sense if you read the description of the spell (“you can breathe in hostile environments”) but has a very misleading name. Or the trap where you have to change the place of a sword, which is literally pixel-hunter, as the new resting place is represented by two black pixels. Or that you can be creative with the spells. I include this one here not because I don’t think it is a good idea, in fact I think it is a very good idea, but because its implementation is lacking. In the end, there are very few spells with a broad range of possible ingredients. These puzzles are simply unsatisfactory and completely optional for the most part, which begs the question of why they were included.

And I think I know the answer. Sadly, most of the puzzles belong to the bad and meh categories and they are placed in the spider’s lair and the catacombs. I would say that the haunted house is by far the set where most of the work went, while the other two seem more like an afterthought, put there just to artificially increase the length of the game, with repeated rooms full of enemies. Therefore, I can’t in good faith give a good rating for puzzles and solvability.

Rating: 5

How do I despise thee? Let me count the ways. One one-thousand...

Interface and Inventory
There are many improvements from Elvira I to Elvira II. Sadly, inventory management is not among them. The same problems that plagued the first one have not been corrected in the second part. There are items in the environment that you can interact with, but don’t appear in the room inventory or have verbs associated. Descriptions are brief or absent in most items. Some items affect the game without you noticing, like for example, wearing the metal glove protects you from the poison spike traps. So, all in all, I should keep the same rating if we were to look only at inventory.

However, the interface has greatly improved. The list of verbs is a lot shorter and dynamic, which frees screen to include other useful information like the damage you are being dealt and the one you do, the different combat modes, the active spells or the monster radar, even though it is completely useless as you have to be completely still for a while. Even the hitpoint image is prettier. The game still doesn’t do a good job telling you when something bad happens to you though, like when the spellbook is burned or if you lose strength (which I think happened to me, but I am not sure). The combat interface is also simpler, which is very good as combat has never been an interesting part of these games. These little improvements deserve at least a point higher than Elvira I.

Rating: 6

Even if it is more an inconvenience than something really useful, I like the body picture.

Story and Setting
Again, I have seen cereal boxes with more story than this game. So there is not a lot to say here. The setting however is very interesting. The idea behind the studio sets and props becoming alive is very interesting, even if the resulting game is not. There are nice touches here and there to give a sense of being is a studio set, like finding movie props in the catacombs, seeing that the organs in the house basement come from the priest, finding the director in the spider lair. The setting opens a lot of possibilities, although the environment itself suffers, as we will see below. Therefore, I will also rate it a point higher than Elvira I.

Rating: 4

Let me guess, it doesn’t have any gas

Sound and graphics
Ok, call me crazy but I think the graphics are actually prettier in Elvira I. And I know it is a false feeling. If I compare screenshots of both games, images in Elvira II are clearly more detailed. However, everything in Elvira II is kind of brown. And the monster design seems more simple, more forgettable. Compare the two skeletons:

Who is prettier?

I think the one from Elvira I looks a lot better. Granted, there is a greater variety of monster in Elvira II, but the ambition in making the game bigger I think took its toll on the quality of the graphics. For example, in this game I have the feeling that all deaths use the same exact graphic, changing small details like the colour of the face, or the wounds that appear. That was also the case with some deaths in Elvira I, but having less deaths meant that there were a greater range. Here you get bored of seeing the same face over and over. The game is still pretty and has very good graphics, but it is no longer as superior to other products of the time as the first one was.

Regarding sound however, I think we have improved. Although there are not that many tunes in the game, the music always changes between levels. And even though it goes back and forth between two tunes, it is enough to not get bored from it, like it happened in the first game. The quality is not better, it still sounds like someone just learned to use the synthesizer, but the increased number of tunes and the clever use of interlacing music is worth mentioning.

Rating: 5

What? Did you really though I wouldn’t show the ant queen?

Environment and Atmosphere
I have a major problem here. While I said in setting that the idea is very interesting, it is here where that idea suffers. There is just no cohesion in the game. Entering each set is like playing a completely different game, in spite of those little touches I mentioned early. It just doesn’t feel like a game, but more like three different. Or well, at least two. And it is not just the graphics, it is how the game plays and feel in each section. Each area in Elvira I was part of the castle and its location and architecture was coherent with the setting. Here, you could be in a cursed studio or keep teleporting between locations because there are not enough things tying each set with the idea of it being a movie studio.

If we consider each section independently, they made a very good job of giving each one its own personality, even if in some cases it is just down to the kind of enemies there. But it just doesn’t feel like playing the same game.

Rating: 4

Here begin and end all references to us being in a movie studio

Dialogue and acting
Good things: At least there is a dialogue system now. And people to use it with. And there is more Elvira this time, which is always good.

Meh things: Elvira is even less relevant in her second game than in the first one.

Very bad things: The dialogue system is just a new way of getting dead-ended. Essentially, it would be better to have no dialogue system and get the NPCs to just act as exposition bots than playing the game of “guess-what-the-developers-wanted-you-to-ask-and-in-which-order” by picking lines and having to reload because somehow the NPC didn’t like that phrase. Even if the phrase is innocuous.

Rating: 3

But... but… I just said I like your clothes!!

Final Rating

5+6+4+5+4+3 divided by 0.6 is 45. That’s 8 points less than Elvira I. I think the reason for that is that this game seems to have a lot of filler, that is not very fun to play because the RPG parts are lacking. You have a spell system that you can’t use because the spell point regeneration mechanism just doesn’t allow a lot of uses. As a consequence, you spent most of the game just clicking on the enemies and it gets boring very fast. Therefore, there are not as many of the adventure elements we are used to. To be honest, I am a bit surprised, as I remembered it being a lot better, but I had never played the catacombs or the spider lair.


In any case, congratulations to Lupus, who is going to be the local farseer after not only guessing the exact number of deaths, but also the exact score. And I swear I don’t have any relationship with him (but I will be waiting for my share of CAPs as pacted).

Cap Distribution:

100 CAPs for Deimar
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For blogging his way through the game for our enjoyment? 
95 CAPs for Joe Pranevich
  • I missed you award - 50 CAPS - For playing Islands of Beta 
  • The Question award - 25 CAPS - For interviewing Teoman Irmak 
  • Ask me again award - 25 CAPS - For interviewing Michael Woodroffe 
  • Information champion - 10 CAPS - For knowing AdventureSoft trivia 
  • Lazy reporter - (-15) CAPS - For not posting anything about Tintin yet 
87 CAPs for Ilmari
  • Suspicious award - 50 CAPS - For playing Suspect 
  • Narcissist award - 25 CAPS - For assembling the hall of fame 
  • Islander award -10 CAPS - For referencing Faroe island 
  • Amateur reporter award - 2 CAPS - For contributing questions for Mike Woodroffe 
39 CAPs for TBD
  • Man of the year award - 25 CAPS - For playing the Missed Classic of the year 
  • Helpful reader award - 5 CAPS - For providing hints 
  • Couch in a stairwell award - 5 CAPS - For noticing a Dirk Gentley reference 
  • Elvira’s number 1 fan award - 2 CAPS - For having some sort of issue with the "titular character" of the game 
  • Know it all award - 2 CAPS - For contributing questions for Mike Woodroffe 
30 CAPs for Lupus Yonderboy
  • Angel of death award - 20 CAPS - For guessing the correct death count 
  • Luna Lovegood award - 10 CAPS - For guessing the score of the game 
17 CAPs for Aperama
  • May the odds be in your favour award - 20 CAPS - For betting against me, using my own RFA. I don’t know why I am giving a prize, but enjoy it :p 
  • There are not that many ways of giving awards for questions award - 2 CAPS - For contributing a question for Mike Woodroffe’s interview 
  • Mysterious guest award - (-5) CAPS - For saying that Elvia joined the cast of MST3K at one point and getting my hopes up (she didn't) 
10 CAPs for Laukku
  • No evil shall escape my sight award - 5 CAPS - For pointing out that we mis-tagged a post 
  • Fate of Atlantis award - 5 CAPs - For catching up on pre-Indiana Jones posts 
7 CAPs for Laertes
  • Paranoid award - 5 CAPS - For sabbathing in my Sabbath 
  • Just another question award - 2 CAPS - For contributing questions for Mike Woodroffe 
7 CAPs for Rowan Lipkovits
  • Horrorsoft’s number 1 fan award - 5 CAPS - For getting the Personal Nightmare reference 
  • Oh my god not another question award award - 2 CAPS - For contributing questions for Mike Woodroffe 
7 CAPs for GregT
  • Felicity’s dad award - 7 CAPs - For pointing out a calculation error in a 6 month old post 
6 CAPs for Qwerty
  • ICE award - 6 CAPs - For giving advice on Neuromancer 
5 CAPs for Niklas
  • Black Sabbath’s composer award - 5 CAPS - For being a fan of Black sabbath 
5 CAPs for Pieter Jan
  • Welcome to the jungle award - 5 CAPS - For joining our wonderful community and for having a good taste in games 
5 CAPs for Fry
  • 2.718271 award - 5 CAPS - For making a pun related to Euler 
2 CAPs for Lécio Pery Júnior
  • Finally at last award - 2 CAPS - For contributing questions for Mike Woodroffe

5 comments:

  1. I've updated the rankings for our 1991 "guess the score" game!

    Kenny, Charles, and I are all tied for the "Top 5" guess, but Kenny and I are gambling on Ecoquest and Heart of China to do well and we WILL fall out of the ranking if both of those games aren't in the Top 5. I think Charles probably have a safer bet since he just needs Heart of China to do well.

    Charles is winning the "Bottom 5" as well, but he's better on Sherlock Holmes being a terrible game. We shall see! Lakku has a very solid chance of winning if SH does better than expected as all of his bottom five have been scored already.

    As for "Full House", Ilmari has come the closest to guess the order for all games. He'll win if Heart of China does well, with Ecoquest and Holmes both being middling games.

    Very close to the end!

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  2. To be fair, Elvira wasn't actually in MST3K - she was just in a number of things which were very similar (the almost literal precursors to it).

    I almost feel like you've been a little generous, but I can't quite pick where. Is that a good place to be? Well, maybe.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. You don´t know it yet, BUT I´M YOUR FATHER, DEIMAR;)

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  5. I agree with you completely about the skeleton graphics. It seems while objectively the art is better, the art direction or art style isn't as good

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