Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Free D.C.! - Many Happy Returns

By Ilmari

My fine fellow adventurers! I have today with me two guest stars, you have all learned to love in the previous weeks. Please say welcome to Avery Zedd and his trusted companion, Wattson, from the instant unhit and none-seller, Free AC!

I know, I always confuse the two currents

Avery and Wattson are here to help me decide the score for the game they starred in. Many of you have guessed that Free D.C.! will be one of the worst games of the year. I have a hunch you were right, since playing this game felt like… hmmm, how should I describe it?

Avery, you got the best analogies

But enough small talk, let’s begin with the game!

It sure is

Puzzles and Solvability

Puzzles.... were there actually any puzzles?

What would you like?

No, we don’t have one of those. I might ask Trickster give you few Smacks

It’s CAPs, Avery, C-A-P-S, CAPs. But did you see any puzzles?

Those would have been great puzzles, but there wasn’t any of that.
I am afraid you’ll get zero CAPs, Avery

Avery wasn’t any help, so I’ll have to do this myself. Let’s see, there was one quest: find the five Detectron parts. Three of them required nothing else but speaking to right persons at the right time, while finding the one hidden in jungle happened just by pure luck. That leaves only one piece with something more complex to do - you had to find the correct weapon to fend off the Cones in the Natural Museum. After that single quest, everything happened almost automatically. Even if the game was sold as not being very puzzle oriented, I must say I am not very impressed!

Oh no! Should I duck and cover?

Oh yeah, I forgot, they can’t hit even the far side of the barn

This is perhaps the best point to mention the game’s inane use of firearms. I am usually very much against all action minigames in adventure games, but Free D.C! manages to be extra annoying in that shooting the robots is either impossible (if you don’t have the right weapon) or insanely easy (if you have the right weapon). If you are making a minigame, why would you want to make it a complete waste of time? (Yeah, I know, it adds for playing hours).

Bragging about your imaginary exploits? But let’s move on

No Wattson, you can do that AFTER the show!

Score: 1

Interface and Inventory

Interface wasn’t much to talk about. There were three different activities, and even most of them were usually of no use - and when they were, it was far from obvious that you could use them. Inventory consisted of a variety of guns, with pretty pictures and a name, but nothing else. I especially missed the ability to LOOK anything - either the scenery or the inventory items. It just felt silly that Avery, a private eye, failed to have any powers of observation.

Avery, you didn’t enjoy me controlling you?

It wasn't my fault, I blame the bugs

Yes, bugs. Overall, the game flowed smoothly, but sometimes weird things happened. Interface might lose some crucial button, Avery would lose Wattson somewhere and stuff like that, which usually required a reload. Such things occurred often enough that I am going to reduce some points for it.

Score: 3

Story and Setting

So Avery, what did you like about the story?

You mean it was bloated by empty and unnecessary calories?

To start with positives, the premise had some potential - we could have learned more about why robots imprisoned and froze humans and about the fates and destinies of the last humans alive. But for a game that was advertised as being full of stories, the result was disappointing. All we got was one-liners and repetitive encounters with few cardboard characters.

Yes, repetitive

Suffice to say, story really wen’t nowhere. The only plot development was the romance between Avery and Johnnie, which wasn’t quite believable.

I said it wasn’t believable

Alternative endings are always a positive, but here they were rather lackluster. One ending was straightforward: Avery kills bad robots and everyone is happy. Another was a bit more varied: Avery tries to deal with the Interface, who reverts his brain all the way to childhood and it is up to Johnnie to kill the interface. It is best not to even mention the third ending. All in all, the alternative endings were so diverse in their tones and plot resolutions that they just manage to highlight the non-essentiality of the whole plot - you could attach any old ending to the game without a difference.

Score: 2

Sounds and Graphics

I don’t really know whether claymation added anything, but the game sure does look nice. I really appreciated the pictures of all the great sights of D.C., which looked quite realistic. The character animation was decent enough and the faces showed some intricate facial expressions, especially with Avery - different emotions, like irritation and amusement, were clearly readable on his face. All in all, I felt mostly positive about the way game looked.

You both have good taste in graphics

Sounds were more of a mixed variety. There were few tunes that were played at appropriate places - there was one that started whenever a hostile robot approached that I heard very often. All in all, not very memorable, which will lower the overall score.

Score: 4

Environment and Atmosphere

This is a very difficult to category to score. Avery, how did you find your experience in the Zoo?

Yes, but none of this really happened, you just talked about it.
(And for the record, you got my gender wrong)

Avery’s comment sums up the dilemma perfectly. You get all kinds of interesting tidbits about the past and present life in D.C. particularly and in USA generally. You get to learn even whether Jeopardy lasted to 30th century.

Thanks for telling this, Wattson

Problem is, you never feel these revelations ever matter within the game. In fact, the game world is just so empty and without any content to interact with, and except for the beautiful pictures of the buildings, you never would guess that you are riding through a deserted capital of USA. With different pictures and different trivia in the dialogues, the game could have been just as well called Free Berlin!

Score: 3

Dialogue and Acting

With no puzzles to go around and with almost no plot progression to speak of, Free D.C. had to rely on dialogues - and boy there were lot of them.

You two at least have fruitful dialogues

This is definitely the high point of the game. Avery Zedd and his fellow zoomates might not win a Pulitzer prize for their jokes and ramblings, but their discussions are rich, detailed and work well with their facial expressions. There are some branching dialogues, and even if they don’t usually matter that much for the plot, at least they add to the complexity of the game. The only negative is that voice acting had been done only for few lines for each character - then again, having heard Wattson speak I think this might even have been a blessing.

Score: 5

So, the final score is 1 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 3 + 5 = 18, which divided by 0,6 makes 30, which sounds just about right, since the game now joins such classics like Les Manley and B.A.T. Joe Pranevich was right on target with his guess!

All right, the only thing that’s left is CAP distribution, but before that, let’s give final farewells to our guests, Avery Zedd and Wattson!

I still have this show to end…

Lovebirds? What are you implying?

What are you doing guys?

This is a family oriented blog!

That does it! Get out of here both!

And good riddance!

Just go already!

Phew, I hope that’s the last we’ll see of them. Well, here are the CAPs!

Cap Distribution

210 CAPs to Joe Pranevich
  • Archeologist Award - 50 CAPs - For digging up a long lost Questprobe game and blogging about it for our enjoyment
  • Journalist Award - 50 CAPs - For interviewing Scott Adams and Ken McNair
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For correctly guessing the score of Free D.C.!
  • Comic Aficionado Award - 50 CAPs - For reading through all the Questprobe comics and surviving the ordeal to tell us
  • I'm Not In The Book Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about Winnie the Pooh
150 CAPs to Ilmari
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For risking his mental health while blogging this game for your enjoyment
  • Sleuth Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging about Poe's detective stories and Deadline just to remain sane while playing Free D.C.!
35 CAPs to Charles
  • Summer Games Award - 35 CAPs - For knowing his sports
20 CAPs to Reiko
  • Leaderboard Award - 5 CAPs - For knowing how to play golf
  • I Am Not A Number Award - 5 CAPs - For knowing what show I was about to reference
  • Gracie Allen Murder Case - 5 CAPs - For knowing her detectives
  • Honesty IS the Best Policy - 5 CAPs - For correcting my faulty calculations
12 CAPs to Alex
  • All In The Wolfe Family Award - 7 CAPs - For finding an obvious fault in my post
  • Real D.C. Award - 5 CAPs - For providing us insight on the current Big Freeze in East Coast
15 CAPs to TBD
  • Adventure Appreciation Award - 5 CAPs - For promoting an adventure game sale on X-Men post
  • Last Minute Save Award - 5 CAPs - For putting the score graphic where it belongs
  • Grumpy Gamer Award - 5 CAPs - For linking Ron Gilbert's blog post on Monkey Island
10 CAPs to Andy Panthro
  • Quality Taste Award - 5 CAPs - For showing proper appreciation for Jeremy Brett
  • Presidential Award - 5 CAPs - For giving a new nickname to George W.
10 CAPs for Rowan Lipkovits
  • Historian Award - 5 CAPs - For pointing out an obvious thing with the floppy disk space
  • Al Lowe Scholar Award - 5 CAPs - For reminding Joe of a game he had missed
5 CAPs to Joseph Curwen
  • Quality Taste Award - 5 CAPs - For showing proper appreciation for Jeremy Brett
5 CAPs to Lupus Yonderboy
  • Foreign Language Award - 5 CAPs - For an insightful story of using games to brush up on English
5 CAPs to Alfred n the Fettuc
  • Adventure Appreciation Award - 5 CAPs - For promoting a game sale on Scott Adams interview
1 CAPs to Kenny McCormick
  • Chicken Award - - 1 CAPs - For refusing to participate in caption contest for fear of losing CAPs
  • We Miss You Award - 2 CAPs - For getting bloggers worried for the non-presence of the Dark Lord of TAG
Rankings of 1991 games

1. Space Quest 4 - 65 points
2. Willy Beamish - 61 points
3. Larry 1 Remake - 60 points
4. Space Quest 1 Remake - 58 points
5. Spellcasting 201 - 51 points
6. Martian Memorandum - 50 points
7.-9. Timequest, Larry 5 and Police Quest 3 - 47 points
10. Castle of Dr. Brain - 46 points
11. Free D.C.! - 30 points
12. Hugo II - 18 points


  1. CAP scores and leaderboard updated. Joe Pranevich is rising in the ranks!

  2. It is to my great regret that I shall never do a rating post as cool as this one!

    That said, thank you for your generosity with CAPs this time! I'm not sure I should be rewarded for reading comic books, but thanks!

    1. Oh well, you just need the right game to do it (preferably with lot of silly dialogue).

      And no mention, I just thought you'd deserve some extra, since you've put a lot of effort on the whole Questprobe series. Thanks for that!

    2. Can't top that random dialogue for quotability! I'm a little curious to know the original context for some of those lines - but not curious enough to play the game myself.

    3. And did you just call me a gopher?

    4. I am actually tempted to store my screenshots, because some of these one-liners could surely be used to spice up future blog posts.

      If you are particularly wondering some line, I might be able to place it in its correct context (although at some points the dialogue was a bit rambling and it was just one joke following another).

    5. Joe: Oh you mean the Winnie the Pooh -reference? It was more like the only line I could remember from the Disney version at the moment.

  3. I suppose that at least it didn't hold you up as nauseam. I've always felt that what makes a bad game truly terrible is when it tries to keep you playing no matter how much you want to escape. That said? This one is definitely deserving of its spot near the bottom of the heap.

    1. There was that time when I had to go through the same jungle who knows how many times, just to get one piece of Detectron. But if you forget that episode, this was at least a short game.

      And yeah, it's currently the second worst game of the year. It will be interesting to see whether Les Manley 2 will beat it from that spot.

  4. I get 20 CAPs for three things worth 5 each? Where do the other 5 come from?

    1. Well, they obviously come from... you know... let's see... Oh well, check it again, now you've got them officially!

  5. I'm almost starting to think you're just making up all these awards as you go. But just almost...

    1. We do have this big book of official TAG awards, written by Trickster and handed down to the current admin in time immemorial. Unfortunately, it is written in ancient Mongolian script, and since neither me nor TBD are native speakers, we've had some trouble deciphering it. For instance, the Quality Taste Award should probably have been translated as Yak Butter Award, but that just didn't seem to make any sense.

    2. Don't tell me you lost the code wheel! There is only one in existence, and it has proven impossible to photograph or copy in any way due to its magical properties. It took me years to retrieve it from the tomb of Genghis Khan.

    3. Code wheel?????? What code wheel???? Oh, you mean that code wheel! The pictures of Elvis fooled us to think it was just a clever copy protection for Les Manley 2! Last I heard, it was in possession of Aperama, who told us he hadn’t found any use for it in the game and was considering selling it to a suspiciously wealthy Sumatran black market dealer with an obvious fake name.

    4. I was mostly trying to see if I could manage to make it read 'boobies' written in numbers upside down under a picture of Les Manley. Isn't that what it was for? :(

  6. Not a propos of its context here, but in that "Mr. Wattson, come here, I want you" screenshot, the game is making reference to Alexander Graham Bell's first words ever spoken via telephone.

    Historian Award - 5 CAPs - For pointing out an obvious thing with the floppy disk space

    We're going to have to start deep-linking these, I only have the haziest of memories regard whatever remark I'm being feted for here, and no idea what game it was pertaining to.

    1. Most of the awards pertain to comments in the game that is currently being rated. For instance, your award was earned by the comment "In 1991, ran out of floppy disk space is far more likely", which was a correction of my statement that producers probably run out of money, since there's so little speech in the game. Missed Classics and other extra posts tend to confuse this a bit, since awards for them are given usually in the next suitable Final Rating of a game from an official list.

  7. This post is awesome! This game is not! Although, the "Poodle" ending makes me wonder if they were Frank Zappa fans . . .

    1. Thanks, it required some tinkering to get it right! And don't feel pressured to do something similar for the Conquests of the Longbow (although we'd surely love you chatting up with Robin Hood).

  8. This summary post is a magnificent example of letting a game speak for itself. Well done.

  9. I finally found where this was open in my hundreds and hundreds of browser tabs!

    1. I hope you haven't been searching it for very long!