The Rise of Renegade X (Chelsea Campbell, Kindle eBook)

Well, it's leaps and bounds beyond Daniel X, I'll say that at least. There his, however, a lot of corny (and potentially offensive) mythos you'll have to swallow to get anything out of this book - it's a superhero story where, due to a virus somebody created after discoving heroism and villain is genetic, those who are born of hero and villain parents have their right thumbprint turn into either an H or a V on their 16th birthday. Damien, an aspiring villain who was raised by his single villainess mother, gets an X on his 16th birthday and discovers his father was a superhero. He insists he's going to be a villain, but his actions show him as a "Chaotic Good" type - as well as freeing his mother's lab rats after taking pity on them, his "villainy" is limited to vindictive pranks against people who've wronged him. Gee, where does that sound familiar.

I'm a little unsure of what the intended age for this book is. It uses a teenage protagonist and supertypes to tell a story about trying to be something you're not, but the writing is way too spicy for kids. It's peppered with profanity and waist-deep in teenage sexuality, there's at least one pedophilia joke (it's probably not as bad as it sounds, though: just a double entendre Damien makes about his father teaching him how to fly), and I for one wouldn't like to be the mother who had to explain to her kid what a vibrator is.

There is some entertaining dialogue at the beginning, but as the book went on the comedy gave way to teenage angst and Damien moping about his relationship with Kat, his shapeshifting girlfriend whom he broke up with after she cheated on him with his best friend. And the resolution to this meakes for one incredibly sickening ending. Also, Damien's mother's plan to take over the city was totally lifted from Batman Beings.


The Binding of Isaac (PC)

I reviewed this last year after beating Mom's Heart, and figured I'd revisit it after beating It Lives and Satan. You're probably wondering why I keep playing this when I don't care that much for it. Chalk it up to morbid curiosity, an adoration of the soundtrack, and finding it an acceptable game for when you just want something quick to sit down with at the end of the day.

I may have warmed up slightly to the game since I last reviewed it, and might even be willing to group it with Shadow of the Beast and Golden Axe as games I don't think are very good, but have some sort of a fondness for. There's something in the concept I find intriguing, the soundtrack is the shit, and when it's not being offensive for the sake of being offensive it can be quite appealingly fucked up. But the actual game is an imbalanced mess, with its difficulty and your ability to progress depending mostly on what items the game feels like coughing up. Just to illustrate how poorly balanced this game is, there's recolored, more powerful versions of monsters and bosses called "Champions", but the Champion version of the Gurdy boss is actually easier than the original. There was also one time I reached Mom but hadn't gotten any upgrades to my attack strength or rate, and all I could do was chip away at her health for several minutes until she finally stomped me flat. On the flip side, when I beat Satan I had obtained the completely broken Dr. Fetus/Mr. Mega/Wafer combo and wiped him out before realizing what an aggressive son of a bitch he is. I made it to him a second time, but I had the Pony item which makes the controls way too squirrely for the fight, and despite coming in with far more health and an item to completely refill it, I still lost.


Evilquest (PC)

It's sort of like Crystalis if you played as Zoda from Startropics. At first it showed some promise as an action RPG, but while it's only about two hours long, by the midway point I was still getting sick of it. By that point I was tanking attacks and spamming the healing spell, and I played through the final dungeon not giving a shit. The game "compensates" for the broken healing spells with a four-stage final boss fight that looks nice, but is an absolute clusterfuck in action.

I also found the story's narrative lacking in any kind of humor or personality. The game's gimmick is that you're the villain who wants to destroy the world, but all Galvis does is announces to everyone that he's going to kill them, and then does so. It's a one-trick pony that gets old fast.


Lunar 2: Eternal Blue (Sega CD)

From my quickie for Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete:

"At least Ghaleon's goal wasn't to destroy the world to prevent the world from being destroyed."

Well, so much for that, right Lucia?

Why is it that every Lunar-related game I play only makes me look back and appreciate the first game more? This was almost as painful as Pier Solar; the encounter rate might be even worse than Black Sigil, the Working Designs writing is as grating as ever (and unlike the original version of Lunar 1, this game does have a masturbation joke), and the "power of love and the human spirit" message somehow managed to be even more hamfisted and sickening than it was in Lunar SSSC. Also, why does this game have loading delays before each battle when Lunar 1 didn't?

The game tries to be more challenging than the first Lunar, but Game Arts and/or Workings Designs didn't know how to make a properly challenging RPG and it's just broken. First of all, Working Designs made it so you have to pay some Magic EXP to save your game, either so people wouldn't be saving their game after every battle, or to add some cost to being able to save wherever, whenever you want. I was never strapped for points, but I was also being conservative as hell with them. But it assumes the game isn't going to freeze and shitcan your work like it did when I was in that one tower with just Hiro and Leo, and the game apparently got confused and crashed when I opened the magic upgrade menu. And if you lose to a boss then revise your equipment to try a different strategy, you have to throw away another bit of Magic EXP to save your changes. So yeah, fuck the save system.

I have no idea how you can beat Borgan if you didn't buy a bunch of Silver Lights before leaving the area with the blue dragon and/or save every one you'd found in a chest since the start of the game - he casts a spell that deals way more damage than Ronfar can keep up with, and the only way to defend yourself against it is one stupidly expensive spell that none of my characters could cast more than twice before needing a $25,000 Silver Light to restore their MP. And on top of that, they don't sell Silver Lights in Neo-Vane, and you can't get back to regular Vane, the only place that sells them, until you beat Borgan and free the Destiny.

And I don't know if this is a glitch or a deliberate "feature" of the game, but as battles progress the characters' attack orders get shuffled. So you think you've got the rhythm for beating the final boss figured out? Let's spice things up by making it so you have no fucking idea who's going to attack when! Did somebody think this was a means of keeping you on your toes? Maybe it's supposed to work as a timer against bosses? Because it just throws all strategy out the window when it kicks in.

Very little happens in the first half of the game, just Hiro and Lucia avoiding capture by Leo again and again. Eventually Leo just takes them straight to Pentagulia and the story finally kicks in, only for it to be mostly lifted from Final Fantasy IV (ha ha, yeah, Lucia's speech after Zophar transforms totally wasn't inspired by the prayer scene before you fight Zeromus) and to a lesser extent VI (yeah, Ronfar entering Mauri's subconsious to fight the demon feeding off her fears didn't at all sound like Cyan and Wrexsoul). When Lunar 2 tries to deviate from those sources... you know, rather than waste time and mental energy elaborating on it, I'm just going to call back to that part where Leo briefly joins your party in an obviously terrible disguise. It's meant as a joke, but because the game's legitimate plot twists are just as laughable and predictable, it was actually really, really sad.

You know that one Cracked article by David Wong I keep linking to, where he mentions people paying to see a video that was just five seconds of a guy sneezing? Well, that's what the Lunar games are; they weren't interested in telling original, memorable stories or offering a variety of challenges, they only existed to make Sega CD owners crap themselves in amazement because CD technology allowed games to have fights with the same two or three wobbly enemies over and over, and badly voiced closeups of characters standing ram-rod stiff while only opening and closing their mouths, and maybe having some part of their hair or clothing billowing through the same three or four frames. You might be impressed with how much of a step up the opening cinema* is from Lunar 1's cutscenes, but that is by far the best animated cinema in the game.

* Which I had to watch at least six times. When my copy of the game arrived, it had hairline scratches that were bad enough to cause the voice clips to repeat like a broken record on my Sega CD. It worked fine on a PC emulator, and finally on the system after getting the disc resurfaced.

I didn't bother with the Epilogue chapter. After beating Zophar and sitting through the torturously long ending, I was completely fed up with this game. I just watched the extra ending on YouTube, thankful I didn't spend another two hours with this game for that. Hey, Game Arts, next time you want me to put in the extra effort for the sake of reuniting two lovers, maybe actually do something to make me give a fuck about them and their relationship? The first step is to write characters that actually have a relationship instead of just telling me they have one.

Is it possible I'll be convinced to bump this up half a Skitty after playing the PSX verison? Who knows!


Garfield: Caught in the Act (Genesis)

Okay, forget "mediocre", this is just an hour of sloppy controls and completely broken gameplay. It looks nice and the music is alright, but the cartoony animation dicks up the controls, the game has a habit of sending infinitely respawning enemies to blindside you, and the Catsablanca stage is a structureless mess that can be completed in two minutes if you know what you're doing.

So it's basically Shadow of the Beast if the game didn't trap you if you did something out of order, and totally piss easy because you're showered with life refils. I guess the developers felt that was an acceptable alternative to, you know, balancing the fucking game.

And it's still the best Garfield video game I've played.


Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PC)

Sometimes I wonder if I might have been a little hard on Limbo, but I have an automatic distrust of games that are trying to be the equivalent of Oscar bait. And Brothers, while not nearly as cynical and contrived as Limbo, certainly fits the bill by shoving lots of unconnected scenery porn at you and basically tring to be ICO with a controllable Yorda. But it is nice scenery porn, I'll admit. And it probably says something about the effectiveness of the game's narrative that I haven't been this shaken up by a game's ending since Haze.


The Light Fantastic (Audiobook, Written by Terry Pratchett, Narrated by Nigel Planer)

This is the first time I've ever revisted a Discworld, and coming back to it after reading later books where Pratchett had a chance to refine the mythos, the writing is noticeably less mature. The story is mostly "Wizard bumbles around, stumbles into set pieces and allies." Fun set pieces mind you, with colorful descriptions, like Rincewind watching the trolls transform, and the battle at the Tower of Art is still awesome.

This might just be me, but I was picturing the characters from their appearance in the Color of Magic TV special, which frequently differed from how they were described in the book. So when Twoflower was constantly called short, fat, and/or bald, I was all "Wait, what? He was?"

The narration does the job, I guess. I think this was taken from an old cassette tape recording, with noticeable fluctuations in sound quality from chapter to chapter.


Lilly Looking Through (PC)

Yay, more scenery porn! Although this is more along the lines of Samorost 2 and Axel & Pixel, and let me tell you, I never thought I'd find myself reminiscing on Axel & Pixel. Lilly doesn't have any infuriating minigames, but Axel had an ending.


Escape Goat (PC)

The game I most want to compare this to is Super Meat Boy; it's a trap-filled platformer heavily inspired by NES games with a killer soundtrack and one-hit deaths. But Escape Goat has a greater emphasis on puzzle solving over SMB's fast paced parkour action. This mainly comes into play with your mouse friend you use to hit and hold down switches, teleport into areas you normally can't access, and bait enemies. Also, no toilet humor, so another point for Escape Goat.

But while what Escape Goat has is good, there's really not enough of it. I cleared all the main levels in about two hours, and you only have to clear seven of the nine areas to move on to the final passage. I only completed a couple of the bonus levels, so there might be more to be had there.


Let's Play! Fantasy World Dizzy (C64, Commentary by Yahtzee Croshaw and Gabriel)

Part 1 Part 2

I've played the Amiga version of this, but didn't get far in the C64 version because one of the puzzles worked a bit different. It was that one where you give the bone to the Triceratops thing (Armorog, I think he's called?). In the Amiga version you left the bone on the ground and the he'd pick it up as he charged you, but in this you had to actually get close and give it to him. But damn, I would have given up shortly after that anyway, with that coin in the invisible maze.

So, Yahtzee provided my first audiobook quickie, and now he's providing the first Let's Play quickie. Who'd've thunk it. Now, I'm not entirely sure what a Let's Play should be, but this is basically fifty minutes of two guys watching one of them play a game, telling jokes about it. Maybe there's more to LPs of longer games I'm not already familiar with.

At one point Yahtzee and his friend get into a discussion about Dizzy not having an adventurer's hat in-game, and neither of them mention he had it in the Amiga version. Shame on both of you.

(Nitpick: I'm pretty sure the name of the game is actually "Dizzy: Fantasy World", but Yahtzee always calls it "Fantasy World Dizzy")


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Audiobook, Written by Tom Angleberger, Narrated by Multiple)

I don't know if this was supposed to be a Mysticism vs. Rationality story or just another in a long line of stories for teens where a series of events gets an awkward teenage boy a dance with a girl who secretly likes him, but all I took from it was "teenagers are shallow bastards." The book is framed as a collection of stories a bunch of kids had when they asked a boy's Origami Yoda finger puppet for help, while one of them tries to figure out if Origami Yoda is really magic. Okay, the first story where the kid gets a water spot on his pants in such a way that it looks like he peed himself, and the answer Origami Yoda gave him was sort of interesting, in a point and click adventure kind of way, but that is by far the high point of the book.

The "Cheeto Hog" story totally pissed me off, maybe more than it should have. In it, the kids go to a zoo, and after being forbidden from buying food at the snack bar the kids try to get something from a vending machine. But after the first kid gets his Cheetos the teacher tells them to stop, and all the other kids start calling him "Cheeto Hog" because he didn't share his tiny bag of Cheetos with the rest of the class - what did they want him to do, grind the Cheetos up and give each of them a pinch? So how does he get everyone off his case? He goes to the store and buys about 100 snack-size bags of Cheetos and distributes them before an assembly, and suddenly he's a hero. The following stories weren't as infuriating as that one, but they also made all the characters come across as arrogant brats, and I realize Harvey was supposed the antagonist, but he could have been a lot less irritating. It's like the author made him as pompous and obnoxious as possible so you wouldn't side with him and rationality.

This is the first audiobook I've listened to that had multiple voice actors. I'm not sure what to think of it given the material they're narrating, except that one of the girls' Yoda impression sounds more like an offensively bad Chinese accent.