Tuesday 17 March 2015

Game 50: B.A.T. (1990) - Introduction

Written by Aperama

I assume I'm the guy with the arm technology who's staring at the wolfman?
(Also: Ubisoft title before DRM! I expect multiple layered manual protection systems..)

A-A-AH! I get to learn to use B.O.B as part of B.A.T! I 'can't wait' to see what acronyms await me

Again, we find ourselves approaching a hybrid adventure game. B.A.T. is going to be difficult to tackle – it's already been taken on by another blogger most of us know around here (though he used the 1989 definition from the Atari version as opposed to the PC redo that we're playing), has the unenviable situation of being directly noted in the PISSED rating by the man who started us all off on our quest to play games in public.. and perhaps worst of all, is French. For those of you who are presently spitting your croissants and fine wine onto your screen at present, I'll freely point out that this blog has something of a negative history as it comes to French adventure titles – typically, they look great and have a fantastic personality to them, but are both painfully confusing and handle like a tank being driven by a slug – so it's fair to say that I'm not particularly enamored of the task that sits ahead of me. Still, it's definitely going to be interesting, even if it does already feel like a pain in waiting.

The two on the right of this picture appear to be the creators of this
– Lange to the left, Cordoleani to the right

I've spent some small amount of time attempting to research 'Computer's Dream' (later Haiku Studios) who created this game – it essentially appears to be a two man team. Hervé Lange and Olivier Cordoleani (who had prior to this made another adventure game never translated from native French, 'Fer et Flamme', or Iron and Flame). I've spent more than my fair share of time slipping around in an attempt to work out if they got up to much of anything else over this period, but it doesn't appear that they have any pedigree from text adventure or other games of their ilk. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – but I do note that after this game and its sequel, they only managed to produce one more title before they eventually became bankrupt. If they've been up to anything of note since, I struggle to find any more information about them of recent days, with the possible exception of Mr. Lange, who either moved to Canada or has a doppelganger with a history of working on a Nickelodeon-based MMO and a few children's puzzle games for the PS2 according to a random Linkedin page I can find. Hopefully, this just means that they faded into obscurity having had their fill of dealing with the woes of computer gaming, and not that the game was so horrible nobody ever wanted to work with them again. The only other name I can find against the game is 'Mike Brown', who obviously ported the game from Atari to DOS. So not really someone who worked on the game per se – just the person that made sure the hardware differences weren't a huge issue. Apparently, it came with its own dongle for the Atari ST to better play the music it had, which I'm listing as it's the only other piece of information I can get about the game that isn't ripped from the pages of the manual.

This is the most legible page of the 'story' section of the manual. This appears to be the whole backstory of the game – it has a glossary appended with no less than twelve explanations!

And what a manual it is! Half of it is 'story' – it's supposed to read as a short transcript of a conversation pushed amidst an 'encyclopaedia entry'. For those of you who are wondering what that is, it's like Wikipedia in a book. (Boy, seeing one of these in a 'futuristic' game makes it feel old!) There's a sincere issue I find here, as the 'short story' reads like it's the middle of a story, not the start of one – I've tried to read through it three times now and find my eyes begin glossing over and wondering what brand the little Marvel Thor figurine sitting to the right of my computer screen is – it was bought for me as a Christmas present, and it holds a hair-tie around it which I use in emergencies. It's actually Blu-tacked to the speaker sitting next to it.. I mean, the story is very interesting! *cough* Thankfully, a fair idea is given by the back cover, sans the gobbledygook wording that has yet to draw me in. There's a fair chance that I'll be referring back to the manual's story as the game progresses and the universe unfolds around me – but as I read the following half of a paragraph?

'… thermodynamism (ability to adapt to the pervading atmosphere) is obtained thanks to prolix hair (an animal native of the Arpion desert, a planet subject to important climactic variations)... My combat clothing conserves the trends of the 1st millennium of our era... however, the abdorax based on licox is rigid...'

… I feel like I need to have had a few chapters with no new words introduced before I'm going to know what prolix, licox, abdoraxes.. oh, dear lord. The basic story is that Vrangor, an 'evil genius', has announced in co-ordination with Merigo, a 'small-time crook', that they plan to bomb the largest city in 'Selenia'. This is probably only a problem because the character (that you can either use a default one of or create) is living there, right? Wrong! The he/she/it that we are tasked to play as (who I am planning on calling AFGNCAAP) is a member of B.A.T – the Bureau of Astral Troubleshooters.

In case you were all wondering, it's a Funko brand. I asked.

With a dearth of acronyms already thrown at me (and many doubtless to come), the manual explains that all B.A.T. agents have a B.O.B. installed – a Bio-directional Organic Bioputer – which is implanted into their arm so that they can get good mobile reception no matter where they are. Long story short? AFGNCAAP is a secret agent for the space police, and (it) has ten days in order to find out where all of the bombs are being hidden. I do wonder if the character generation process is actually going to prove itself as noteworthy, with six statistics – Force (strength), intelligence, charisma, perception, energy (vitality/'willpower'?) and reflexes (agility). These influence fourteen characteristics – 'chatter', lockpicking, detection (of traps), electronics, climbing, evaluate (barter), mechanics, stealing, tracking, locating, vigilance, 'firing' (power), precision and psychology (charisma). I'm referring all of these mentally back to fantasy RPG tropes as opposed to the sci-fi feel that the game is going for largely because I feel more comfortable with those terms. The base six stats (0-20) for each, with an overall points pool of 78, influence the fourteen characteristics, so I'm imagining that a character with high force, reflexes and energy will be a death machine, and a character with high intelligence, charisma and perception will be a loveable construction worker. I'm leaning towards the latter. There are also weapons listed in the manual which will apparently 'be issued when you make contact with your agent', from the stealthy yet largely undamaging Voktrasof to the game's BFG, the Nova. You can either hold one big (freaking) gun or two smaller ones.

Definitely some options – the only real questions are can they be influenced in game,
and will they really end up mattering?

They've definitely put some thought into the in-game combat, and the game even has meters that check whether you've eaten/drunk enough throughout the game. The manual suggests that it's entirely mouse-driven, with a context-sensitive set of nine icons that will pop up when usable – movement, speech (one for 'static' characters always in one spot, one for 'mobile characters' that move around), drinking, buying, a 'target' for fighting, a 'heart' for romance, an arrow to say you can use the object (e.g. a computer) and a question mark to say that you don't have what you need in order to use the object on screen. It already looks quite clunky just from the manual – and there's still the entire menu full of things to use B.O.B, vehicle use (the 'DRAG', a Tex Murphy-sounding flight simulator), gambling.. the game really does look like it's tried to throw just about everything it can at the player, so it has every opportunity to actually grip me in spite of my slight pessimism looking into it, largely because the manual reads awfully like a flight simulator or something similar. And hey – King's Quest 5 will be being played concurrently, meaning that nobody will read these anyway! Onwards to Daventry! Er, the XXIth century!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's 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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

Example bet:
V pnzr urer gb fghql fbzr erthyne ebpxf
Jvgu uryc sebz n urycshy naq ybpny lbhat zna
N abvfr sebz gur qbbe naq n frevrf bs xabpxf
V arrq gb pbzr hc jvgu n hfrshy arj cyna

Jub nz V sbe 20 PNCf?


  1. A french game with confusing narrative.

    I expect half-way through your playthrough it might be better for your sanity to just start blogging about the Thor figurine instead.

    I'll guess 27, as I'm one of the people here who have fear in my heart whenever I hear the term "French adventure game"

    Also, wait, onward to the XXIst century? Hasn't it been that for a 14 years already? Maybe you should have looked more than 10 years into the future for your futuristic game, eh, Computer's Dream.

    1. I just used 'XXIst' as it was actually listed in the manual written like that, which made me cringe. I think it might actually be set in 2100+, though it could well be late 2000s (e.g. '2065' and '2080' are listed in the manual, so if it was set in 2097 like a much better game involving large-scale robot fighting, this might make sense.)

      There again, we have until October to get flying cars and hoverboards.. and return to fax machines. Future-proofing is not easy.

    2. Yeah, it's hard to see how our technological development would lean towards as it's usually pushed by safety, societal, fashion and cultural trends.

      We could have flying cars by now actually but further development on this was actually banned because it's already terribly unsafe when traffic was 2-dimensional. If you add in another dimension, it's gonna exponentially increase accidents.

      Who said we don't have hoverboards now?

      Nanotechnology is also doable and would have created a whole new era of super fuel-efficient vehicles, extremely light and pliable clothing (like a goddamn t-shirt) that could stop bullets and many other magical stuff but was impeded because it is possible unhealthy as nano-particles, when dislodged, could easily enter our bodies and kill us.

      But it's always fun to see how absurd old-timey sci-fi movies, books & games would either think we could start teleporting last year but only have access to a smartphone a century later than they predicted.

    3. I've just realized, having re-checked the manual for the eighteenth time since starting the game up, that the game is actually set at 'the beginning of the XXIInd century'. Oops.

  2. I'll be keeping you company here, if no one else will!

    Sorry to say that the game doesn't look that good, based on what Mr. Addict had to say about it. I'll predict solid 40.

    "Hopefully, this just means that they faded into obscurity having had their fill of dealing with the woes of computer gaming, and not that the game was so horrible nobody ever wanted to work with them again."
    There is a sequel of this game coming up in 1992, so I guess they weren't that ill reputed.

  3. I also like the way they've almost randomized which words they give emphasis to on the back of the box...

    Explore the dark, damp CORRIDORS!!! to search for clues.

    I now fully expect that those corridors will be well worth the bold font style.

    I also particularly like how we can meet 7 species and it names four of them followed by 'etc', as if I should be able to easily guess what the other 3 species will be. Clearly if we have Stickrobs and Glokmups the other 3 must be Pusmites, CanPlaits and DoorGassles.

    1. Onfrq ba Nqqvpg'f TVZYRG, ybg bs guvf vf whfg nq jvgu ab onfvf ba ernyvgl. Yvxr gur bire 1100 cynprf - gurer'f zber yvxr 70 qvssrerag cynprf.

    2. I wonder if the simulator parts involve Dame Edna shouting "Hello Possums!". Well' I hope they at least won't drag ;)

  4. I'll guess 35. I doubt it will trouble the leaderboard!

  5. (Boy, seeing one of these in a 'futuristic' game makes it feel old!)

    Hey, the science-fiction encyclopedia is a beloved trope of Hitchhiker's Guide provenance.

  6. I'd rather ask... , "What emergencies could a hair-tie solve other than having a full bladder during a WoW raid and have to stop th-" oh... OOOHHH! Now I get it.

    No wonder Loki likes to call him "d*ckhead".

    1. I live with two cats. They haven't worked out that I can hide a hair tie up there. They know all of my other hidey spots. My hair goes down to my shoulders. The risk of them seeing me take it off is why it's there in case of an emergency - I see it as though they feel that's how it naturally looks, and I'm going to assume they'll continue to feel so until I eventually cave and use it, just like 'break glass in case of emergency'.

      Of course, if that's how you feel, I'm not going to argue the point! (I haven't played any MMOs for years now, though.)

    2. Seeing that your version is just too mundane for a luchador, I'd go with my version, thank you very much.

      Any pics of your cats and what are their names? I love pussies.

  7. Nobody's guessed the riddle so far so here's the first and a new second clue...

    I came here to study some regular rocks
    With help from a helpful and local young man
    A noise from the door and a series of knocks
    I need to come up with a useful new plan

    The place has been unchanged for millions of years
    The things grown in length, breadth and girth
    Stay unbelieving and it will end in tears
    The meek shall inherit the Earth

    Who am I for 20 CAPs?

    1. Seriously, I have no idea at all! I guess my experience in Adventure games suck.

    2. I expect this next clue might make it easier...

      It started with a fallen meteorite
      In summer nineteen fifty one
      The insects will now give a serious bite
      Shoot their antennae with my gun

    3. Qe. Tert Oenqyrl sebz Vg Pnzr sebz gur Qrfreg?

      Google to the rescue again :-P

    4. Forgot to reply before, sorry.

      Yes, for the second time in a row, Laukku guessed the riddle. Another 20 points coming your way...

  8. 32 for me. I didn't play it for more than 20 minutes and that was enough to never ever tough it again...

  9. Speaking of futuristic games, Tex Murphy: Tesla Effect is on 75% Steam sale!

  10. You mean this game is set on the plane of Ravnica? No, wait, that's Selesnya, not Selenia...

    Quick side note: it's funny that "prolix", which means "wordy" or "long-winded", shows up in this manual...