Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Bargon Attack - Won!

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Bob journal #4 : “This is it, I’m in the eye of the storm now… I’ve gained access to the cult headquarters and I’m approaching the heart of the alien invasion. It’s time to put an end to this, with my faithful arm cannon. If only I could get past these stupid flower pots…”

So we’re now finally in what appears to be the cult headquarters. Around us we have a flower pot with weird looking flowers (that obviously kill you when you approach it), some kind of locked cabinet and cult members going back and forth on the first floor.

And one confused-looking guy under a hood

Shooting the flowers with my shoot beam works. They disappear, only to leave some other kind of flower that I can pick up (on the second try, though. It’s worth noting that the first time I killed the flowers, nothing happened for whatever reason, encountering a game-breaking bug if I had saved after that). Funnily enough, trying to use the flower I picked grants me a hint message, remembering a line from the leaflet. Would have been nice to have this kind of feature for the gargoyle puzzle, no?

Yeah, you also read a lot of other stuff in the leaflet that you didn’t bother to remember earlier…

“It withers in the shade”. I try using the flower on the cabinet that is in the shade, or using it on me while standing in the shade. Nope. Then I realize that the light near the right door is selectable, so I use the flower on it… and I disappear in a ray of light… to reappear on the surface of Bargon! Bargonian flowers appear to have teleporting powers… I try not to overthink the fact that I left that stupid cabinet locked behind me and I look at this strange alien land.

Apparently these flowers also have the power to strip you from your hood and gloves

As soon as we arrive, some kind of weird crab-like flying creature hovers over me and a Bargonian appears to take aim. My ultra-fast reflexes (and a couple of reloads) allow me to shoot a laser at the Bargonian before he’s able to do the same. Shooting the mutate or shoot beams at the crab doesn’t seem to result in anything except getting crushed to death, but going into the green door on the right and activating the keyboard allows me to lock it in. Now to focus on the red sand pool that impedes my progress. Walking on it is obviously deadly but using the Mutate program on the milestones make a safe path appear on the sand.

Ok, “safe” might be a strong word

The two milestones on the left lead you to your death but the one on the right opens the way to the building on the other side. I enter some kind of transportation device and am treated to another cut scene, where Sark contacts me and tells me that the Earth has already been destroyed (!) but that I can restore it using the Save Disk I found in the smugglers cache. I’m then supposed to contact the Bargonian revolution and help them revolt against their leaders.

Naturally! But wait… you mean I wasn’t on Bargon already?

I then appear in some kind of cave where no less than six lion-like slug monsters lying around. I simply kill them all with my Shoot laser to be able to progress. I’ll come back to this but I feel like all I’ve been doing for a long time is shoot random beams at random things. We’re kinda remote from the Moose-head puzzle in the first part of the game! And not in a good way… All we have to do here is select shoot laser, click on monster one, then select shoot laser, click on monster two, etc… well at least, we’re making progress...

Most boring 3rd-person shooter ever...

After slaughtering all the monsters from the cave, we emerge in the daylight of Bargon. We find there a stela telling that we’re in a military training area. “Open to the public, every civilian found trespassing is considered an enemy and must behave as such”. I would have loved if it added that it was the only path to the local public school…

Another thing : if you’re close enough to read the stela, does it mean you’re already in the training area and considered hostile? That’s what I call a fair warning!

Walking around this area reveal a few places where you sink and die (as usual). Funnily enough, this is how you solve the puzzle of the screen. If you walk on the down left of the stela, you sink… but you go back up on the back of some kind of big worm. Trying to do anything here is just leading you to your death. Move from the worm and you die, but wait for it to move and it brings you to the next screen! Another example of random game design. To solve, you must go against everything this game has taught you so far. Walk in a random place (which usually gets you killed) and then wait for something to happen (which usually gets you killed). I can’t decide whether it’s more or less sadistic than the warning stela, but I’m starting to think this game might have been developed by real Bargonians… It might even be a fabulous fourth-wall breaking to reveal something like this… Nah, I’m probably overthinking all of this, it’s probably just plain bad game design.

At least the game is still pretty…

The next screen is a bridge with “no hiding places” as Bob says, so we’re probably awaiting an ambush of some kind. Sure enough, just walking to the other end of the screen gets me killed by another Bargonian. I’m pretty sure something has to be done with the mirror in the center of the screen. Shooting it just breaks the mirror, but the good thing about this is that I die before being able to enjoy my seven years of bad luck. I’ll spare you the looong time of searching that leads to the solution of this one. You have to shoot the Mutate beam at the milestone for it to (probably) reflect and turn you into a Bargonian. Why not, after all, that’s not such a stupid puzzle, right? Well what’s stupid about it is that you have to be in a very specific place for it to trigger. You can’t be too far or too close of the mirror and NOTHING tells you you’re on the right track while using the Mutate beam, just the usual “it doesn’t work” message. I’m guessing that a lot of players (such as me) just stumbled onto this one by sheer luck, while others probably spent way too much time on this screen. Then again, maybe not a lot of players had the patience to reach this place anyway… Exiting the screen while being a Bargonian leads you into a bar where another painfully long text explains to you the context of the revolution on Bargon.

Who would have known punk and fierce-looking fellows like this would be so versed into political science? Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, kids!

Billions of unemployed? Not that far from a correct prediction of Earth’s state nowadays!

What happened to our interactivity? A player asked the developers, banging his mouse on the table.

These cut scenes are so long that I’m beginning to think Hideo Kojima worked on this game as a consultant.

I’m feeling dizzy as well, just get me back to the game so I can shoot random beams at random things again please…

Finally I find myself back in control, right next to the central computer. This screen is probably the place where I spent the most playing time (apart for the damned gargoyle screen), if trial and error to its worse can be considered playing time. This screen holds three bridge parts (that you can move by Mutating them) and two buttons. Spoiler alert : the solution is to move the 3rd bridge, then press the right button, then move the 3rd bridge again.

This is the place where the fun comes to die.

Any other solution (or order) leads to one of two deaths : or the bridge you’re on brings you to the bottom-right of the screen, where you’re evaporated by lasers, or a Bargonian comes out of nowhere and zap you. Meaning that you have 3 bridges, multiplied by 4 buttons combos, plus 3 bridges again : 35 ways of dying before stumbling on the right answer. At no point the game gives you any clue. The buttons don’t change the direction of the bridge movements, you can’t direct the bridge. Heck, you don’t even know where you’re trying to go. Every try takes its toll of 10-15 seconds before being able to try again, and at this point of the game, you’re so sick and tired of the game over screen that only pure willpower stops you from throwing your head against a wall every time it appears. Stumbling on the right answer doesn’t bring you relief, it angers you even more because you don’t know how you did it. This is not a game, this is a boredom russian roulette. Let’s wrap this up already.

The Central computer! Please let this be the last screen of the game!

The central computer is finally at hand. Going towards the central armchair gets you killed by a Bargonian sitting in it, obviously, so you have to use the Shoot program on it before walking in the room (because why not add another random unpredictable death if we can?... it’s FUN). You then sit in the armchair and get treated with another cut-scene telling us that Sark has been arrested and that the revolution is as good as crushed.

The police trucks must be really large on this planet.

At the end of the cut-scene, another Bargonian appears and we use the Shoot program on him. Is that still considered as a puzzle? We can now enter the elevator on the right of the screen, which brings us to the second floor where we find… the disk drives! We just have to put the Save disk in disk drive 3 and we’re done!

Wait, what? It’s right in front of your eyes!!!!

But we still have one surprise ahead of us. The first try to put the disk in drive 3 gets us an “I can’t reach it” for a drive that seem to be right in front of our eyebrows (and the appearance of a killer Bargonian right after that). You have to first press a button that raises some sort of stepladder THEN put the disk in drive 3. We can now escape with the elevator. We’ve saved the Earth!!!

Question : are we sure that the Earth being destroyed then recreated from a Save Disk can be considered a success?

First example of trouble with recreation from a Save Disk : messed up jacket and hat colors.

So what is coming for us now? One final gauntlet of legendary puzzles? One epic click fest action game against the giant crab? One overly long cut-scene?

Oh. Okay...

So this open-ended finish means that they were actually thinking about a sequel? Ballsy, guys. Ballsy...

Session time : 2 hours
Total time : 7 hours 30 minutes

4 comments:

  1. Congratulations! What a strange game, can't wait to see how you rate it!

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  2. So, the point of the game was just to lure the player to read that long piece of social commentary? It might have worked better, if the game itself had made some sense.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed, there is something interesting underneath all this mess. That the aliens act as they do out of desperation and not simply to kill the human race... it's a shame the story only kicks in halfway through and that the game itself is so poorly designed...

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  3. This game seemed really painful to play. Congrats on finishing it and thanks for playing it so we don't have to!

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