Humongous Entertainment Wrapup (PC)
This is the final batch of Humongous Entertainment adventure games, and thus the final batch of quickies I'm going to be doing for them unless somewhere down the line I can get the last game to work. There are a few minigame collections, but nobody cares about those.
A thought that occurred to me while playing Spy Fox 3: Operation Ozone is that I'd be a lot more generous with not only the Spy Fox series but the Humongous franchise as a whole if the characters would just shut up. Of the Humongous series, Spy Fox might have the best puzzles but it's all bookended with bad puns and characters pointing out the obvious. Also, several puzzles are solved with an item from a vending machine in the spy headquarters, but there's no way to know beforehand which gadgets you're going to need at what points in the game, and you can only carry four at a time. I don't know why, maybe there's more of them or the previous games were better at putting the items you'd needed early in the game at the front of the machine, but I was running back to HQ to swap gadgets a lot more in this game than the other two.
Freddi Fish 4: The Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch is an even better example of the constant chatter bringing down the game because Spy Fox doesn't team you up with an obnoxious sidekick you spend the whole game wanting to strangle. Like with Stolen Conch Shell, you have to finger the leader of the rustlers based on clues around the game, except it makes cases for multiple people. I went with the person who left an item in the final area, but I kinda wonder if the game will go with whoever you oust or if making multiple people sketchy is so they can swap out the item in the final area and call it randomized.
Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove is more Freddi Fish with less faffing around hubs to get to the different locations. So I'll take this moment to at least praise the games for their pretty backgrounds and bright colors.
I went into Pajama Sam in No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside expecting the series to be even more infantile than Putt-Putt. Surprisingly, it's more like Freddi Fish without the irritating sidekick in both puzzle complexity and the bright, colorful environments. However, I don't know if the game is bad at walling off parts that aren't used when it randomizes itself on different runs, or if some puzzles are optional sidequests to get all the socks. But there's a room of dancing furniture that all hide when they see you and I eventually found out how to make myself invisible, but couldn't figure out what to do in that room before the spell wore off. I wound up completing the game without doing anything with that room, or anything else with the spellbook for that matter. I also never found out how to extract the gold to give to the toll bridge. Cute ending, though.
Pajama Sam in Thunder and Lightning Aren't So Frightening is the weakest of the three (admittedly though, not significantly), mostly because the game takes place in a sprawling factory and running around the place felt like navigating an M.C. Escher painting. Also, the story of Dark Outside was Sam overcoming his fear of the dark, and What You Eat is going to be about Sam learning he can't just eat cookies all day. Here, he learns his lesson about not fearing thunder and lightning at the start of the game, then spends the game repairing a machine to restore things back to where they started, so the actual game doesn't really have a character arc. Did I really just talk about a narrative of a Humongous game? Why, yes I did!
Pajama Sam in You Are What You Eat From Your Head to Your Feet is the strongest in terms of puzzle design (except for the bean counter minigame it makes you play for some shitawful reason), but I preferred Dark Outside when it came to the story and environment. By the way, I find it odd that the story concerns a meeting of anthropomorphic foods representing each of the food groups, but there's no meat representative. Obviously the bean was supposed to be protein, but it's still weird they didn't have a talking meatball or chicken there.
Pajama Sam in Life is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff is bugged and crashes whenever I try to launch it. Apparently this has something to do with DRM they forgot to take out for the Steam release.
King's Quest III: To Heir is Human (PC)
This is the only retro Sierra game I completed this month so I guess I'm reviewing it by itself.
King's Quest III has a few interesting ideas over the other two, I'll give it that. Instead of Sir/King Graham you play as the abused servant of an evil wizard, and a few changes are made to the gameplay with spell crafting and events occurring based on an in-game clock. Unfortunately, in the hands of Sierra and Roberta Williams that just means more things to screw up.
First of all, the backstory is the evil wizard Manannan goes around kidnapping babies so he can break them into servants, kills them when they turn 18 lest they become too adventurous and threaten him, then kidnaps another baby to do it all over again. Let's assume Man-At-Arms has magically prolonged his life so the whole "How many times has he done this and how old is he?" question isn't a thing. How the hell is a baby supposed to do his chores? All they can do is scream and shit themselves.
Things got off to a thrilling start when the game opens with The Mandalorian commanding me to clean his study, but giving me no clue as to *how* to clean his damn study. I tried walking into the room and typing "Clean study" but the game just gave me a confused look. After that you wait until Manny McManface decides to leave, and you have twenty-five minutes to gather the reagents for a spell to defeat him. This is an... interesting form of copy protection, because the only way to know the spell recipes is to look them up in the manual. Or just GameFAQs them, because even when know what you need actually getting the shit is a winding road of moon logic and falling off cliffs. I didn't quite gather the reagents in time so I had to wait for Mankini to come home, eat, then go to bed before I could actually make the spells. Then spend twenty minutes twiddling my thumbs until he woke up before I could advance the game some more.
And you defeat Mananaphone by feeding him a cookie that turns him into a cat. Just thought I'd throw that out. I'm not bitter. At all. No siree.
I haven't mentioned the RNG in these games yet, have I. You frequently need items from events that happen randomly, typically needing an NPC to spawn or for them to be doing something specific. But if things aren't going the right way when you walk on screen you have to keep leaving and entering until the RNG gods finally decide to let you progress. In this game you need to steal a coin pouch from some bandits while the guard is asleep, except you don't know if the guard is asleep until you walk into the treehouse and he pushes you to your death. So you keep entering and reloading your save until you finally enter the hideout when the fucker is asleep. And then you get two RNG checks when stealing the porridge from the three bears: first the bears need to be leaving the house when you enter the screen, THEN there has to be porridge on the table when you go into their house. And sometimes you even need to wait a minute or so for the thing to actually appear once the game decides it's going to spawn, like the eagle that drops its feather (there was also an elf in the first game that I never got to appear, but you only needed to find him for a few extra points).
How in the fuck is anybody supposed to figure this out on their own? Because unless they have a bunch of friends playing this game and one of them says "Wait, I went into the hideout and he was asleep?" they're going to assume you need an item you haven't found to deal with it and spend ages looking for what doesn't exist. At least Leisure Suit Larry kept its random bullshit to the casino, and even ditched that after the first game. And it's extra inexcusable in a game that's on a fucking timer.
At the end of the game you have to escort a princess down a flight of narrow stairs, except somebody thought it would be a good idea to give her a collision box. If you transition screens at the wrong points, she'll appear on the next screen in front of you, pinning you to the wall because you can't go through her, and if you try to go around her you'll just fall off the stairs. And if you try to backtrack to move her, you'll return to the previous screen and she'll now be blocking you from ascending.
Monster on the Hill (Written and Illustrated by Bob Harrell)
Monster on the Hill has an interesting idea where Victorian towns are regularly terrorized by monsters, but it's more like a game to both parties. Except one town's monster is having an endless sulk because he's small for a monster, doesn't have any natural weapons, and can't even fly with his pitiful wings, so a doctor and a street urchin try to help him out of his doldrums. But when a particularly nasty monster that doesn't play by the rules rears his head, Rayburn learns he doesn't have to be the biggest or the strongest as long as as he has gusto and determination. And that's sort of how the comic itself is; it's not the biggest or the best out there, but it's happy to brighten your day.
Playing Gorogoa is basically fiddling around with a digital popup book. Sections can be zoomed in on, foregrounds can be pulled apart from backgrounds, and two different scenes can be connected to make one. There were moments of Aha! I need set up the pieces like this to make this happen!, but that's only after lots of headbutting to see what does what.