Sunday, 30 March 2014

Game 42: King's Quest Remake - noituloser elddir s'ypmur

Sir Graham Journal Entry 2: "I've got the magic chest! It hasn't been easy though, having to pass an angry troll, solve a near-impossible riddle, scare off a wicked witch, climb a magic beanstalk, and defeat an enormous giant! I fear that getting my hands on the next two treasures will be no easier, but after coming so far, there's no turning back now!"

Someone wasn't sure what description to apply to this screen here.

The first half of my Daventry exploration had been fairly uneventful. Apart from rediscovering the location of the magic mirror, I’d only managed to collect a few unimportant trinkets. The second half was where things really got moving, mostly because I had the items I needed when I reached the more critical points. My first post covered exactly half of the Daventry gameworld, ending when I came upon the goat pen without the carrot I needed to entice the goat to follow me. From there I continued my zigzag approach to the west, passing harmlessly through a screen containing a waterfall and then another with a stone bridge. This brought me to another bridge leading to the west, but my attempts to cross it were interrupted by a large, ugly troll. “Well, what’ve we got here? You think yer gonna cross my bridge do you? Not for FREE, you ain’t. Dat’s right. Gimme somethin’ valuable and maybe, JUST maybe, I’ll letcha cross dis bridge. If I feel like it. Which I ain’t sure I do.” I probably could have given him one of the gold items in my inventory at this point, but I recalled from the original that trolls are particularly frightened of goats. I decided to save my trinkets and to come back with a horny companion later on. I travelled south through three more screens where there was nothing to do (a river, a lake and the left side of the goat pen), before once again moving on to the west.

This is one of the prettier screens in the remake.

This is not one of the prettier characters in the remake.

So that’s five columns of Daventry down, three to go. The sixth one started with an uneventful lake, but on the second screen I came across another guarded bridge. The same troll came running up and blocked my way across. This halted my progress to the south, so I decided to head north to cover the rest of this column. The first new screen I arrived on at first seemed vacant, but after just a few steps a floating woman sparkled into view and had the following to say: “Gentle Sir Graham, I am your fairy godmother. Your quest is indeed noble. What little aid I can offer you is this protective magic spell, effective but a little while. I shall be watching over you, Sir Graham.” Waving her wand in my direction, she cast the spell on me, resulting in me being surrounded by little twirling lights. I knew that the spell wouldn’t last for long, so I took the most direct path I could back to the Gingerbread House. I’m not certain whether there are other uses for the Fairy Godmother’s spell, but I distinctly recalled using it to evade the witch. As soon as I entered the house, the witch disappeared in a flash of light: “Be thankful that you have a protective spell or the witch may have stuck around to try and catch you!” I was now able to explore her home, starting with the cupboard on the wall. (2 points) Within I discovered a piece of Swiss cheese, which I picked up (2 points).

Aren't fairies supposed to be really small?

I took this screenshot in the witch's house. Check out the steam above the pot!!! I swear it wasn't there when I took it!

There was a note on the table in the second room, so I wandered in and picked that up too (1 point). It read: “Sometimes it is wise to think backwards.” (2 points) I knew exactly what puzzle this was referring to of course, but I remember a time long ago when I didn’t (we’ll come back to this soon enough). Having searched the witch’s home, I made my way back to the screen where my Fairy Godmother had worked her magic, then headed off north. The next location contained a “fragrant patch of clover growing in this lush meadow”. I wandered over and typed “pick up clover”, watching as Graham bent down and picked up a lucky four leaf version. (2 points) Continuing north, I ran into yet another bridge that was guarded by the troll! This was the third bridge that I’d been unable to pass, and this one forced me to leave this column incomplete and move on to the west. Thankfully, the next screen I visited was the garden, where I was able to pick up a nice plump, orange carrot (2 points). At this point I could have made my way back to the goat pen, but I decided to finish mapping things out before I did so. However, the next three screens contained little of interest, with the last of them having some “treacherous whitewater rapids” running across it that blocked my way to the north. I made my way back down to the garden and then exited the screen to the west, entering what would turn out to be the final column of screens to explore in Daventry.

One neat addition to the game are the birds and butterflies that move around the screen.

The western half of the garden offered up nothing, but on the next screen to the north I found a little elf running around. I talked to him, and my friendliness impressed him so much that he handed over a small ring. “I’ve had my eye on ye, Sir Graham. Methinks you might enjoy this little trinket. For just a wee bit o’ time, it has the power to make ye invisible. May it give ye as much entertainment as ye has given me this day!” After this act of generosity, the elf literally vanished into thin air, leaving me to ponder what the ring of invisibility might be for. Either I was really struggling to remember my play through of the original or I never found a use for it. I wondered whether it might be an alternate way of getting past the witch in the Gingerbread House, but for now I set out to complete the last few screens of mapping. On the next screen to the north I found a small yellow and red item on the ground. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, so I right clicked on it. “There appears to be some sort of bowl on the ground.” Oh of course, it’s the bowl! I must say it didn’t really look like one, and I remember the original one being much larger. I picked it up (3 points), recalling that the bowl had writing on the inside. It was at this point that I realised I’d not yet checked out the game’s inventory!

Let's hope Mr McGregor isn't around here!

An easily pleased little fellow!

Well it didn't look like a bowl to me!

The inventory at first appeared to be just a list of items, but I soon realised I could either scroll up and down it using the arrow keys or simply click on an item with the mouse. Selecting an item brought up a small picture of it along with a brief description. When I came to the bowl it said “Inscribed on the inside of this empty ceramic bowl is the word Fill.” (1 point) Since there were only two screens left to check out, I rushed to the north to finish my initial exploration. The first one had a cliff, yet there was nothing to interact with. Tthe second one really tweaked my memory though. I found myself standing on the left bank of a river. I could see the castle to the north, but my passage in that direction was blocked. Across the river I could see a single white mushroom. I wasn’t able to get to it, but I knew I would need to later on. I wasn’t at all certain how I would get over there, but something told me it involved a bird (or was that in King’s Quest II or III?). Alright! After an hour of play, I’d finally mapped out all 48 screens of Daventry with the exception of two screens. The first one would only be accessed when I could get past the bridge troll, while the second one was behind the mushroom across the river. All I had to do now was decide what puzzle I would attack first!

This puzzle is certainly a lot easier to solve in the remake.

Hmmm...there really isn't mushroom on this side!

I made up my mind to go back to the goat pen with my carrot. I opened the gate and offered the vegetable to the goat, which eagerly followed me away from his enclosure (5 points). I made my way to one of the bridges that the troll had been guarding. As soon as the troll wandered onto the bridge, I received the following message. “It is a well known fact that goats hate trolls intensely. You move aside and let the goat take care of this wretched, nasty troll.” It was actually pretty funny to watch the little animal charge the ugly beast, knocking him from the bridge into the raging river. (4 points) Its job done, the goat left me to go back to its pen. I now had the opportunity to cross over the bridge for the first time, and to see what unvisited screen was waiting for me on the other side. Having played the original, I already knew that I’d find Rumpelstiltskin there, but this time he was actually sitting down turning straw into gold. At least in the remake a player has a chance of figuring out who he is (in the original he was just an old man with a walking stick, with no spinning wheel to hint at his identity). “Welcome, Sir Graham. I have been expecting you. I have something that will be of great use to you. But first, Sir Graham, you must answer this riddle. I’ll give you three guesses. What is my name?”

One little billy goat, one little billy goat, one little billy goat gruff!

Is the fear of goats from a fairy tale I missed as a kid?

For a guy that can turn straw into gold, he doesn't exactly live in luxury.

For those readers that have never played the original, it’s difficult to portray just how difficult this puzzle was. Not only was the player expected to figure out that the old man was Rumpelstiltskin (based on nothing more than the fact the character in the Brothers Grimm story asks a similar question), but they then had to type it backwards to solve the puzzle (which they were supposed to figure out based on the note in the witch’s house). I believe the remake will accept the name in either direction, but I typed “nikstlitslepmur” anyway, thinking that might give me more points. “That’s right! Outstanding! I didn’t think you were THAT clever. As a reward for your sharp intellect, here are some beans. They’re no ordinary beans, but it’s up to you to find out why.” (9 points) After handing over the beans, Rumpelstiltskin entered his home in the tree and was gone. I tried following him inside, but I was told that I couldn’t as I wasn’t invited. It was great that I now had the beans, and I knew exactly what would happen when I planted them, but I wasn’t entirely sure where I was actually supposed to do that. Looking at my map I figured the screen with the wildflowers was the most likely spot, since I’d not achieved anything else there, and the ground was obviously fertile. I headed straight for it, typing “plant beans” as soon as I arrived. (2 points) A beanstalk burst out of the ground and rapidly grew off into the sky!

I look forward to hearing a voice acted version of this event.

Rumpel's magic pills gave Graham a truly impressive erection!

I distinctly recalled struggling to climb up the beanstalk in the original, continually falling to my death. I figured the team behind the remake might have made some attempt to make it a bit easier this time around, but that thought was quickly put to rest. I fell over and over again, despite Sir Graham appearing to be well within the stalks outer edge at all times. In the end I was forced to save regularly until I finally reached the summit (a couple of readers have suggested using the mouse makes these movement tests much easier in the remake, but I read that after this session was complete). (2 points) Anyone that has read Jack and the Beanstalk would know what I found at the top. “You are in the Land of the Clouds. It is rumored that a giant lives up here.” I walked through the strange land until I set eyes on the bearded giant. “The enormous giant has been carrying that heavy chest for longer than he can remember.” I knew that a single pebble would be all it would take to bring him down (David and Goliath style), but I also knew that I still needed the sling to have any hope. I left the giant and walked east until I found a tree with a hole in the bottom of it. Inside I found the sling (2 points), and returning to the giant I typed “use sling on giant” and watched as Sir Graham sent a pebble straight into his head. (3 points) The giant fell over dead, leaving me to pilfer the magic chest!  (8 points) The first treasure was mine! Two more to go and I'm done...

If only this were Les Manley's quest. He'd have no trouble picking himself back up.

Save 9

Fee fie foe f....ooowww, that really hurt!!!!

Now to go into hiding and wait for old King Edward to kick the bucket.

Session Time: 0 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Game 42: King's Quest Remake - Tidying Up the Memories

Sir Graham Journal Entry 1: "The King of Daventry has given me a quest! I must find three magical treasures that were lost many years ago, and then return them to him. If I can manage this feat, then the Kingdom of Daventry will be bestowed upon me! I have therefore set out across the land, looking for any clue that might lead to the magic mirror, the magical shield, or the enchanted chest. During this journey I have been accosted by various nightmarish beings, including an evil sorcerer, a vicious wolf, a nasty witch, and a monstrous dragon! The last of these creatures sure looked fearsome, but I do believe it was the magic mirror that was resting by its side. If only I could find some way to defeat it and bring the first treasure into my possession!"

Where's my sword!? Can someone fetch my sword!

This isn’t going to take long. I figured I would treat the King’s Quest remake as though it were a completely new game, but now that I’ve ripped through three quarters of it in just over an hour, I’m convinced it will be done in three gameplay posts and one final rating post. That’s not to say that I haven’t had to think at all while playing…but more on that soon enough. Let’s begin! As you would expect, this version of the game starts off pretty much the same way the original did. It’s immediately apparent that the graphics and sound have been vastly improved, and the intro dialogue has also been expanded upon. As Sir Graham (that’s me) kneeled at the throne, King Edward had the following to say (slightly summarised): “I am an old man, Sir Graham. My bones ache, my hands tremble. I’m afraid my time on Earth grows short. Great misfortunes have befallen Daventry since the loss, years ago, of three magical treasures. I have chosen you, the finest knight in all of Daventry, to search for these lost treasures. Only then can this kingdom be restored to its former glory. And only then may I rest with the knowledge that my people are safe. The first treasure is a magic mirror that foretells the future. The second is a magical shield that protects the bearer from all mortal harm. The third and last is an enchanted chest that is forever filled with gold. If you succeed, you will inherit my crown, and will rule the Realm of Daventry as her rightful King. Go, Sir Graham, and know that the fate of Daventry lies in your hands.”

I don't suppose it told you where it would be hidden before it was lost?

How does one just lose items like these?

Um...yeah...sure...I'll return the chest as soon as I find it. Promise!

With that I was free to explore Daventry and attempt to find the three treasures. One thing I always enjoyed about old King’s Quest games was the initial exploration. The open environments meant that I could stroll through the entire game world, mapping it out with items found, dangers faced, and puzzles to be solved. Despite remembering where a lot of stuff was, I decided to take the same approach this time around, opening up an Excel spreadsheet and setting off to the west away from the castle before turning south. For those of you that have never played one of these early games, the environment loops eternally, meaning if you keep walking in the same direction you will eventually reappear where you started. On the way to the wilderness, I checked out the interface to see how things differed in the remake. The main difference was that I could now right click on items on the screen to get a description. This would be handy for those items that are difficult to put a label to, but given my previous experience, I didn’t expect it to be of much benefit to me. On entering a forest clearing, I typed “look” and pressed enter. Just as I expected, I was given a brief description: “You’re in a shady forest clearing. A large rock rests in the middle of the clearing.” I recalled there being something interesting hidden beneath a rock somewhere in the game, so set about investigating it. Typing “look at rock” resulted in “You see nothing special, Sir Graham.” Hmmm…perhaps this wasn’t the rock?

The crocodiles have been upgraded to "scaly, slimy serpents".

We're almost on a bridge Charlie!

Ahem...I believe there are two large!

Looking under the rock didn’t work either, so I put “Large Rock” on my map and walked away to the south. On the next screen I was set upon by an unfriendly sorcerer! Looking at him revealed that he wanted to try out a paralyze spell on me. Often in the original game, leaving the screen and then coming back would make the various villains disappear, so I tried doing exactly that. It worked, allowing me to wander through the otherwise empty screen and onwards to the next. The sorcerer returned on that screen, and was replaced by an ogre when I tried the “leave and come back” approach. I repeated the process several times, and was confronted by the sorcerer, the ogre, and a thieving dwarf on every occasion. I remembered the dwarf being a particular pain, as coming into contact with him results in random items disappearing from your inventory forever. Eventually I managed to get through the screen unscathed, and soon found myself standing near a large walnut tree. I picked up, and then opened, one of the walnuts (which turned out to be filled with gold), and received my first points (3 points for picking it up and 3 points for opening it). The next screen to the south contained a large door built into the mountainside, but since I specifically recalled coming out of that door at some point in the game, I left it alone and moved on.

Run away! Run away!

Sir Graham was especially famous for his gold nuts.

Just dropping in to see my good old friend Bilbo. Perhaps he'll let me borrow that nifty mithril armour!

The final screen I visited before things looped back on themselves contained an enormous oak tree. I climbed it (2 points), made my way along the branch to a nest situated at it's extremity, and then picked up a golden egg that was lying there (6 points). When I say that I “made my way along the branch”, I should point out that it was a little bit challenging to manoeuvre Graham all the way along without falling off. It was already clear that the new development team had decided to leave the tricky movement sections in place, despite how frustrating players found them the first time. The tree branch would be far from the worst example! As mentioned earlier, when I left the large tree screen to continue south, I found myself back at the forest section with the large rock. I therefore went one screen west with the intention of covering the game world in a zigzag fashion (go south as far as possible, then west one screen, then south as far as possible, then west one screen etc.). The screen I was on now held a little beach with a bunch of pebbles in the sand. I picked up some of the pebbles (1 point), and then departed. I passed through a screen containing the rear end of a cottage, knowing my exploration pattern would eventually bring me to the entrance. Typing "look" on the next screen revealed that there was a “small hole at the base of one of the craggy boulders”. Inside the hole was a “faint greenish glow somewhere far inside”, which I knew would be the home of the leprechauns. I couldn’t remember exactly how I was supposed to get inside their home, but I knew I couldn’t do it now.

Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can...

I can't see you, so you mustn't be able to see me! Right!?

You never know when there might be someone, or something, to throw them at.

The next three screens were fairly uneventful, being a gloomy, ancient forest, a crystal clear lake, and a seemingly vacant clearing. Just as I was about to leave the clearing though, a vicious wolf darted out of the bushes and tore me to shreds! I restored, and since leaving the clearing to the south brought me back to the beach, I moved on to the west. This brought me to a serene lake, but since there was nothing to do there, I walked to the south and arrived at the entrance to the cottage I’d seen previously. I recognised it as the woodcutter’s house, and despite knowing that I didn’t have the item I needed to complete the puzzle inside, I wandered in to see what it looked like. The room inside had a totally different perspective to the one in the original, and the woodcutter was resting on a bed with his wife rather than the two of them sitting at a table. The poor man had the following to say: “We would welcome you to our home, Sir Knight, but we have had no food for so long, my beautiful wife cannot even rise from her bed. I fear she may die soon.” This was a similar story to the one heard in the original, but the woman’s weak repose made things seem much more desperate this time. I knew that giving some food to the woodcutter would allow me to take the fiddle that was sitting on the table nearby, but I also knew that I didn’t yet have the bowl that I needed to do it. I’d have to come back later once I’d found it.

This guy really ripped into me!

I knew I couldn't get it, but I still had to try!

This really is a sad story. No, really, it is!

Continuing my travels, I arrived at a swamp where a large green snake hung above a swamp. I couldn’t recognise the screen from the original game, nor I could I find anything to do there. That wasn’t the case for the next location, which was the gingerbread house where the creepy green witch lived. I couldn’t remember whether I ever tried eating some of the house during the original, but I gave it a shot now regardless. “As you begin to eat the house, a squeaky voice from somewhere says, “Nibble, nibble, little mouse. Who is nibbling at my house?”” (2 points) Clearly she was home, but I opened the door and walked in anyway. Once again the view of the room was very different to the one I remembered, but the general contents were the same. I didn’t have much time to look at said contents however, as the witch raced towards me at great speed. I left the house quickly, thinking that I might be able to keep re-entering until she wasn’t there. Oddly, no matter how many times I went back in, she was always there to confront me. I knew of a way to defeat her later on, so I left the gingerbread house behind for now and continued my exploration. I passed through another vacant ancient forest before stumbling upon a well in yet another clearing. I knew exactly what I would find at the bottom of the well, but couldn't recall whether I had everything I needed to survive down there. I saved my game and hopped in the bucket to find out! (2 points)

I don't recall the snake from the original. I'll have to take a peak at my screenshots to see what screen this replaced.

I still have nightmares about having to "come a little closer" after Future Wars!

I'll get you my pretty!

No true adventurer could stroll past this well without climbing in to see what was at the bottom.

I descended into the well before jumping out into the water once the bucket reached the bottom. I typed “dive”, and swam down towards the chest I could see on the ground below (4 points). The chest was a distraction, so I left it alone and swam west into the tunnel, eventually emerging from the water and out into a cave. As I entered the next screen, I had my first glimpse of the mighty green dragon that was guarding the magic mirror(1 point). I recalled there being more than one way to defeat the dragon, but could only remember throwing water at it. *Facepalm!* I was supposed to bring the bucket with me, but had left it attached to the rope in the well. It was at this moment that I realised there was an item I was supposed to bring with me into the well but hadn't! To cut the rope and take the bucket, I would need a knife, and I hadn't yet come across one in my travels. Perhaps I could have climbed back out of the well, but I decided to restore back to the top instead, assuming I would eventually find the dagger and return for the mirror. The well was the last screen in this column, returning me to the serene lake as I exited it to the south. I once again journeyed west, arriving at a lush grassy area with a log lying on the ground and a promising looking tree stump to one side. I found nothing in the log, but there was a small leather pouch inside the stump (1 point). I picked it up (3 points), and then opened it to find it contained a bunch of “sparkling and flashing diamonds” (3 points)!

Samara was patient, waiting for the sound of the VCR to start recording...

Just a slightly more convincing dragon than the original

Who thought it was a good idea to leave their precious jewels inside an open stump?

Leaving the stump, I wandered past a non-descript lake before entering a field full of colourful wildflowers. I thought I needed to pick one, but trying to do so resulted in “It would be a shame to pick the lovely wildflowers.” Slightly perplexed, I ventured onwards until I reached a cave. Wandering inside, I found that the path was blocked by a large boulder. My memory informed me that I would pass through this cave from the other side at a later time, and my failure to move the boulder strengthened this belief. Exiting the cave, I journeyed south to the last screen in this fourth column, the goat pen. I could see the goat wandering around inside, but knew for certain that I needed to find a carrot prior to opening the gate. This last screen was the 24th one I’d put on the map so far, and since there are a total of 48 in the grid for the game (8 columns by 6 rows), could be considered the halfway point in my initial exploration. So far the game is almost identical to the original, and if I ignore the updated technology, has only a few changed perspectives to differentiate it. That being said, I’m surprised by how much I’ve forgotten during the two years that have passed since I last played the original. I really do think the puzzles and solutions from a lot of other games I’ve played since have merged together to confuse me into imagining puzzles that aren’t there. I keep recalling things that I later realise were in King's Quest II or III, and even in completely different series! I’m sure it will all fall into place once I’ve finished the exploration stage and know exactly what I need to progress.

oooohhhhh, preeeetttyyy!!!!!!

Perhaps if I go and work on my strength stat for a while, I'll be able to...oh, wrong game!

A map covering half of Daventry (walking off the bottom reappears at the top and vice versa)

Session Time: 0 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 0 hours 45 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Guest Game 1: Circuit's Edge - Final Rating

Trickster's Note: The below post (and indeed all posts for Circuit's Edge) was written by guest blogger Zenic Reverie.

First and foremost, sorry for the negativity. I did not hate the game so much as dread playing it. A fine distinction I'm not sure I'm describing well in words. It's not bad. I just did not have fun. I'm not sure how clear that is, but I'll try to expound on it through a system developed by Trickster to evaluate graphical adventure games (a genre this dips into ever so slightly). Any parts of the game I don't touch upon were adequate.

Puzzles and Solvability
Puzzles... puzzles... yeah, I guess you could call them that. In reality, most puzzles are presented in such a way that you either have the item or skill necessary in which case the solution will be obvious, or you don't have the item or skill and you'll have to stumble across it without any idea of what you're looking for. Now, there were times that required me to pick up on certain keywords and use them in questioning others. It came down to either a trivially easy solution, up to clever investigative work, to "I hope you bought the necessary item there's no clue about buying." Once I generated enough funds to buy everything up, the game grew on me. It was then that I needed to rely on finding the correct person to ask about a subject, and the game once again became a pain. Searching for the one location to ask a specific keyword with little indication isn't my idea of a good time. Even when I was doing things right it felt like it was wrong, but that's due to the fault of the interface (although partially my own).
Rating: 5


Most of the puzzles are solved through dialogue, which would be fine if the characters could carry a conversation.

Interface and Inventory
The inventory, both items and chip implants, are limited. I understand having a limited inventory, even if I don't like it. However, implementing one forces the player to become creative with their items, like having a pile in their apartment and a separate pile down the alley. Chips aren't such a big deal as you can carry 10 even when only 4 are equippable at any one time. Inventory on the other hand is limited to 11, but that's already taken up by a space for kiam, the chip rack, the belt phone, and a banking disk; none of them felt optional, although I suppose I didn't always need the banking disk. The interface on the other hand left much to be desired. Beyond the fact that I was able to break the game just by using an item in the wrong location, I ran into many issues where I used the wrong keyword yet had no indication what were the alternatives. All but a single keyphrase (odd woman) were single words, words that the parser picked up on very well. In fact, a little too well, as when I asked about "ice pick" characters thought I was asking about a "lock pick." The limited responses to key items in the game (ice pick was the murder weapon in the beginning) didn't allow me the freedom to explore the world, to get lost in it. Instead I was playing the game the way the developers wanted. The game does have mouse support as well as a much more responsive single key menu. It does have it's quirks though, such as trying to pick up item 'E' which is also the key to exit buildings (guess which one the game always assumes you want to use). One of the best features is the ability to recall up to fifty events. These are the exact descriptions for situations of note that have passed. This may be one of the first games with an in-game journal.
Rating: 4

Hoarders 2: Using the Streets

Story and Setting
One of the most unique settings I've seen constructed in a coherent manner, wrapped in a story of taboo and intrigue. The Budayeen is said to offer up any opportunity for debauchery. It's said to be a lot of things that really don't come through in the experience of the game. Even with the in-depth back story, learning about all the characters close to Marid, I found myself lost trying to understand the connection between what I was told and what I needed to find out. I'll cover dialogue below, but I want to touch on how many of the characters are one time use and act as generic NPCs the majority of the time. The story unfolds bit by bit with many false starts (and false false starts). The small bits of information gathered at each location, with each interaction, are just enough to pull more information. The feeling of ignorance didn't lift until the final moments where the story decided to wrap itself up in a long exposition followed by an anti-climactic scene. I appreciate that it's a game that tried something different.
Rating: 5

Seems we'll have to wait a couple hundred years to confirm this game's lore.

Sound and Graphics
The music and graphics are well done. I'm easily amused when it comes to both though, so don't take me on my word. Still, I'm fairly sure it looks better than most games released at the same time. It's a bit Spartan with the number of unique locations, but given the size and scope of the Budayeen I won't knock it for reusing its graphics. Sound effects are missing altogether (save some beeps and boops when saving and loading). The main theme was quiet enough to break the silence every once in a while and leave me able to explore without distraction. Fight music was upbeat and intense, even if the fighting was not.
Rating: 6

Because I promised Trickster and everyone on this blog that I would.

Environment and Atmosphere
Dark. Violent. Lawless. These all describe the atmosphere of the Budayeen. The main street offers a wide area to explore, map, and discover; however, the rewards for doing so are small. The game is just large enough to get lost looking for a particular person who you may or may not know the identity of. The combat, and generally most of the RPG-elements seem ill-fitting with the framework of the rest of the game. Take the stats, useless outside of combat, and hidden unless a certain chip occupies one of the precious slots. Requiring rest, food, and a careful watch on the passing of time adds a sense of anxiety to leisurely exploration. Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll are all muted in this game, a game that takes place where anything goes. Talking about sex with anyone but a hooker results in a "not with you buddy." Hookers ask to meet up later, but never tell you where. Taking any drugs results in thugs beating you to near-death. Alcohol only serves to reduce stats. Combat is a serious affair, until you get your first weapon or combat moddie. Also, outside set fights (I count three) I ran into maybe four random encounters. I even tried looking for trouble on occasion to build up some cash, ducking through alleys, and couldn't drum up any action. The option to fight random people is there, but if you attack first a cop will find out and attack you afterwards. Characters aren't even mad after you fight them. I beat down Chiri until she ran away, then called her up to have her say she was at the medical clinic where she happily chatted with me. I'd like some realism in my realistic game. The descriptions and general writing (outside of dialogue, which comes next) is enough to bump this up from the 3 I thought about giving it.
Rating: 4

If you didn't want to wait for me, then you should have told me where you were going.

Dialogue and Acting
What I felt most lacking in the game was the ability to interact with the characters in interesting ways. Instead, all characters gave stock answers for certain things, even when plot related events were happening to those characters. Abdul-Hassan was kidnapped, yet asking anyone about him while that was happening just pointed me to Hassan's store. Asking about something unimportant to the plot results in an "I don't know" while something important although unrelated to the character I ask results in "Sounds familiar..." Something that's absolutely unhelpful. Instead of offering hints like, "wasn't so-and-so friends with insert store owner" or "I think I've seen them often around 15th street," I'm left to crisscross the main street searching for the lone character that knows what I'm talking about. The back story did so well at describing these characters. It feels wrong that they've turned into interchangeable set pieces. Ask Chiri about Fuad or Saied, and you get another stock, "everyone knows <INSERT CHARACTER NAME>." Thanks game for drawing me in. Lastly, before I forget again, each moddie imparts skills that belonged to someone. In addition to the skills the personality quirks spill through and at times take over. While walking down the street while Super Spy is jacked in Marid will comment on how he could really use some imported cigarettes (which I can't buy) or how he'd feel better with his Walter PPK (which I can't buy either). In addition to the random innocuous musings (Kung Fu Master say: "Dog with bone in mouth does not bite."), the personality will interrupt a conversation and replace what you wanted to say with a random positive or negative comment related to the personality. (I found Super Spy complimented women more than any other, but that may just have been my experience.) Enough of these negative comments can cause the conversation to end, and did a couple of times, before you can gather all the information you need. It was already aggravating enough trying to guess keywords, but being interrupted mid-sentence doesn't feel... bored now.
Rating: 3

He should, you were just talking about him but forgot to tell me where I could find him.

Alright, so that's 5 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 4 + 3, which equals 27, divided by 60 equals 0.45, which is exactly 45 when multiplied by 100. (Trickster's words, my numbers.) Maybe I'm jaded in my words, but it's not a bad game. I think this is a fair score.

I'm glad I played it here as opposed to on my own, as I don't think I'd have finished it otherwise. I'm looking forward to what Chet thinks of the game when he gets to it some time this gaming year. So, did anyone guess that? Well, look at that. Ilmari guessed 45 on the dot, and with that happenstance I turn the duty of guest blogger over to him.

100 CAPs for Zenic Reverie
Guest Blogger Award – 100 CAPs – For blogging his way through the game for our enjoyment

30 CAPs for Ilmari
Companion Assist Award – 20 CAPs – For helping Zenic out throughout the course of play through
Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – For correctly predicting the score Zenic would give the game

25 CAPs for TBD
Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam

20 CAPs for Lars-Erik
Companion Assist Award – 10 CAPs – For helping Zenic out throughout the course of play through
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG

20 CAPs for Canageek
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on Steam

5 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
Confidence Boosting Award – 5 CAPs – “Don’t hate the game, hate the player! Muahahaha!”