Retro City Rampage

Warning: there will be some spoilers.  The gist of this review is that Retro City Rampage is fun in spurts but the Grand Theft Auto stuff is the only parts that are good.  Every classic gaming section is boring or worse, and most of the jokes are not funny.  I don’t recommend it.

Retro City Rampage is a good game destroyed by a lack of restraint.  It’s popular among older players because it hits all the right buttons that get their juices flowing.  In other words, it references a lot of 80s gaming and pop culture, and that’s all you need to do to get most retro gamers happy.  Sean Penn is statistically proven to be the most boring man in the world, but if he ever just blurted out “our princess is in another castle” you would have the entire gaming population over the age of 30 lining up to give him head.  That’s the basis for all the humor in Retro City Rampage.  If it’s 80s and pop culture, it’s here.  Do you remember Metal Gear?  Back to the Future?  Battletoads?  Bill & Ted?  The dog from Duck Hunt?  Married with Children?  Saved by the Bell?  Pitfall?  Mega Man?  Smash TV?  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  The guy who made this certainly did.

So what’s the punchline?  “Hey, it’s that thing I remember from my childhood!”  Well that’s not funny.  There has to be some kind of gag to go with it.  When Retro City Rampage has an actual joke, with a beginning, middle, and end, it’s typically funny.  Otherwise, it’s just painful.  I never got how humor like this is supposed to work.  You know how every Adam Sandler movie has a Col. Sanders look-alike in it?  What exactly is funny about that?  Someone please explain it to me.  I’m hoping some context will make it funny in time for his next shitty flick.

This section looks like Contra. I think we’ll all agree that Contra is a pretty good game. The problem here is the game only looks like Contra. It doesn’t play like it, or more importantly, feel like it. It plays and feels like a bad ripoff of Contra that was lifted straight out of the 80s. I’m guessing that isn’t what the developer was aiming for.

When Retro City Rampage is good, it’s really good.  That might sound like high praise, but the flip side of it is when Retro City Rampage is bad, it’s really, really bad.  The sad thing is, the game does the old-school Grand Theft Auto better than the last two official 2D GTAs did.  It controls reasonably well, there’s a fun variety of weapons, and the game keeps track of all the damage you’ve rang up.  If the game had stuck to this stuff, it would have been sublime.  But it doesn’t.  Because it’s so married to the whole classic-gaming thing, it keeps doing “homages” to that era.   And the material chosen here is head scratching.  The dam stages from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES.  I’ve never played it, but I know of its reputation and it’s not a good one.  The same goes for the hoverbike sequence from Battletoads.  I don’t know if it improves the mechanics (since I didn’t choose suicide over finishing the stage, I’m guessing it must have), but why include them in the first place?

The shitty thing is the guy who made this obviously knew sections of the game were not fun, because the game outright tells you such.  When you have a mission where you have to tail a car without being spotted and also refilling on coffee every ten feet, the game outright tells you that it’s “one of those boring missions.”  Which would be funny if it somehow took the piss out of the genre, but it doesn’t.  When it turns out the mission really is boring, it crosses a line from being cute to being to being obnoxious.  When you do the Ninja Turtles dam sequence, it moans “oh no, not another water stage!”  And then it proceeds to be slow, boring, and not fun at all.  I acknowledge that I’m probably not Retro City Rampage’s target audience, but with all the great stuff in gaming history, why pay tribute to the crappy stuff?  Even worse, why keep it crappy?  If you know what’s wrong with something, why not fix it?  If I have a leaky sink, I don’t build a fucking shrine to it.  I fix the damn thing.  Retro City Rampage decided to go with the shrine, and as a result this tribute to bad games itself becomes a bad game.

The Paperboy section, which feels like a bad clone of the real thing.

Whenever it deviates from the Grand Theft Auto stuff, the game sucks.  Sadly, the game keeps forcing you to do these “classic gaming” sections like you’re being dragged by a choke chain.  With no exceptions, I found those fell into two categories: boring, or long and boring.  A section based on Paperboy?  Boring.  And bad, because the engine isn’t suited for Paperboy.  A section based on Contra?  Boring.  An extended section based on ‘Splosion Man?  Long and boring.  And again, the engine isn’t suited for it.  Nor is it suited for a boring Smash TV section, or especially a long and boring Smash TV section.  Yep, there’s two.  Or a portion of the game based on Tapper.  There’s an extended boss fight with Dr. Robotnik (or Buttnik as the game calls him) that is long, boring, and has no check points.  For a game that I was so overjoyed when I started it, and even after several hours, I couldn’t believe how horrible it had become by about eight hours in.  I had just beaten the Robotnik boss, and suddenly the game decided to pay tribute to some 3D motorcycle racing thing.  The good news is they actually used a different engine for this part.  The bad news is this is where I finally said “you know what?  All the fun I’ve had in this game has long since been drowned out by shit like this.”  Exact quote.  I made Brian write it down.  This was somewhere near the end of the game.  After three stages with a motorcycle, you end up in a time-traveling DeLorean, fighting a boss.  I spent an hour with this thing, fighting spotty collision detection, unfair enemy placement, and tedium on a level I didn’t think was possible in something I had previous had a lot of fun with.  Finally, after getting close to the end of its lifebar, something happened and I went from having all three of my hit-points left to having none.  I’m not sure what happened.  I think I should have taken one point of damage from getting hit, but my health was instantly all gone and it was time to restart for the 35th time.  Fuck.  That.

If Retro City Rampage had stuck to gameplay like this, I wouldn’t be calling it Retro Shitty Rampage to Brian right now.

For those of you who will love this game no matter how flawed it is, go ahead and tell yourselves that I only disliked it because I grew up with a PlayStation instead of an NES.  Yea, I probably didn’t get all the references (or “jokes” as they are being passed off as), but if that’s all you really want in a game, you need to get your head examined.  Why punish yourself with a game that sometimes brags about being boring (and it’s not a joke, it really is boring in those sections) just so you can see a reference to Mr. Belding or the raccoon suit from Super Mario 3?  Retro City Rampage can be fun, but it’s so bad in so many sections that you’ll never really reach that apex of satisfaction.  I was practically floating two hours into it, before the game lost me forever by rubbing in the fact that a section designed to be boring had been placed in the game.  That really soured the mood, and it never recovered.   There were still fleeting moments of greatness, but the threat that the game might decide to intentionally be bad again tainted it all.  It also brought to light some stuff I might have missed if I had remained in a blissful state.  Stuff like close-quarters combat being shitty, club-based weapons being useless, and having too much recoil from getting hit.  And then the game would have more sections of intentional badness.  Sigh.  Who could possibly think being bad is a good thing?  Nobody likes things that suck on purpose, unless it involves a mouth and genitals.

Retro City Rampage was developed by Vblank Entertainment

$14.99 killed more dogs than hip dysplasia in the making of this review.

Cathy was assisted in gameplay while playing Retro City Rampage to help her avoid having a seizure due to epilepsy.  The bulk of the game was played by her.  All opinions in this review are her’s alone. 

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

Hell Yeah! comes to us from Arkedo, the guys who did the Arkedo Series of XBLIGs. As a quick recap of what I thought of those, they’re pretty games that were boring as hell, and vastly overrated by the community at large. All style, no substance. So let it be said to all aspiring developers: style must be all you need. That’s because Arkedo’s latest game just landed on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade and is being published by none other than Sega. So what does this mean? Well, obviously with a company that puts such a high premium of quality as Sega does, we can expect plenty of substance to go with the style here. Heh. Hehehe. Right. Oh, and being on PSN and XBLA bumps the sticker up on it to $15.  Joy.

Don’t worry. Walking on this fire won’t burn you. Some fires in this game will, but this one won’t. Good luck keeping track of that!

You’re a rabbit that is the brutal ruler of Hell. And then he gets caught corn-holing a rubber ducky in his bathtub, photos of it circulate, and it ruins his reputation, thus forcing him to extract revenge. No, really. That’s the plot. Did I mention this game is Japanese? No? Well, it’s not. It’s French. That somehow makes it worse. You know how everyone has someone in their life that will do an obnoxiously racist impression of a Japanese person? Imagine if that person were French. Go ahead and do it. I’ll wait.

Cringe worthy, huh?

The bizarre story is complemented by some of the most painfully unfunny dialog and gags I’ve encountered in a game. Lots of cussing, lots of call backs to other games, and lots of random weirdness. All of which can be funny if it has a punchline, or some semblance of context. There is none of that in Hell Yeah.

At first glance, Hell Yeah looks like a typical platformer, only with some run-and-spray shooting mechanics thrown in. But there is a hook, and it could have been a neat one. There are several “large” enemies throughout the game that you have to track down and kill. This is done by draining their health bar, which then activates a Wario Ware-like quick-time event. If you complete the event successfully, the enemy is defeated in a spectacularly over-the-top pseudo cut scene. It sounds great, and at first it kept me slogging through the game, even though the amount of fun I was having would have to be measured in nano-fractions. For a while, every character died uniquely. After about three hours (or 30 odd creatures) in, that stopped. In a fire stage, I beat one enemy and a dude shaped like a piece of toast shouted “ROASTIE!” Ohhhhh, I get it. Like that guy in Mortal Kombat. The thing is, that joke is so over-played that it hasn’t been funny since long before I was even playing games. I felt bad for Arkedo, but then the very next guy I killed, the Roastie guy popped up again to do the same exact joke. Suddenly, I didn’t feel bad for them anymore. This is the equivalent of a drunk at a party telling a lame joke and then saying “get it?” You want to tell them with all sincerity and concern, “no really, you should stop.” But they’re still laughing at themselves, nodding their head and saying “no, GET IT?” Sigh. Yes, I get it. It just isn’t funny. And Hell Yeah is not funny at all. Not once. Not even on accident.

Boss fights are multi-staged events that take too long and have no check points. Are we having fun yet?

Meanwhile, the gameplay seems like it should be better than it is. The controls are mostly adequate. Your dude walks around, picking up an absurd amount of weapons, shooting things, wall jumping, double jumping, and cutting through enemies using a saw-blade/jetpack thing that you pick up right off the bat. With all this firepower, you would think it would be really fun to just run around and kill things. But it never is. And sometimes those adequate controls go off their meds and become unreasonable. Aiming is done with the right stick, but all movement is handled by the left stick, with no option for the directional pad. It makes it really awkward when an enemy’s only weak spot can be hit by jumping, aiming downwards and firing. I couldn’t help but take damage every time this was required. A dash attack later on gets mapped to the left trigger, at which point the controls officially cross the line from decent to cumbersome. Plus, you have too many weapons to juggle (and you get more as you go along), so sections of the game where everything is taken from you actually come as a startling relief. Oddly enough, those are the only parts of the game that I almost had a little bit of fun. Almost.

Hell Yeah is just a bad game. A directionless hodgepodge of half-baked ideas that often don’t work the way they should. The QTEs required to beat enemies don’t always offer enough time to set yourself and figure out what you’re supposed to do. If you fail one, you take damage and the enemy gets some of its life back. I would be shocked if a person was capable of doing most of these on their first try. It turns Hell Yeah into a serious of “gotcha” moments. Even worse is the checkpoint system. There’s quite a few checkpoints, but they’re not marked clearly enough. But the real crappy part is if you die and respawn, you come back with the same amount of life you had when you hit the check point. Imagine going into a difficult, bullet-hellish section with only a tiny fraction of health left. It forces you to backtrack to the last health refill station, which you can bet your ass is on the other side of the level, without taking damage. It also doesn’t help that the levels are sprawling and BORING. Even having beautiful graphics isn’t all that helpful. If you got lost wandering the Louvre for hours on end, you’re not going to finally walk out of the place saying “well, at least it was a good sight-seeing tour.”

The “each guy gets a gruesome death” stuff was good, until they started repeating themselves.

Arkedo continues to have the style-over-substance problem. This is the fourth game I’ve played of theirs and the fourth one that I decided to quit before the game was finished. I know people say that’s not very professional conduct. Thankfully, I’ve never claimed to be a professional, so I can stick out my tongue and blow a raspberry at them. I put about five hours into Hell Yeah! and was bored stiff by horrible level design, droning boss fights, and controls that started okay but got progressive worse as the game kept changing directions. It sure is pretty to look at, but that doesn’t take the edge off the tedium. I wouldn’t have liked Hell Yeah if it had been a $1 XBLIG. At $15, I’m pretty sure I’m now going to hell for murdering money. Ironically, once there I’ll probably be stuck playing Hell Yeah.

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit was developed by Arkedo

$14.99 heard that Judas chose being chewed on by Satan over playing Sententia in the making of this review. 

The Sequel Blues

We have been penalized by the lack of new consoles on the market. I understand the manufacturers don’t want them too often because it’s expensive, but it’s important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity.

-Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft

I’m rarely stunned by the stupidity of words that come from the heads of major game studios, so I have to give Mr. Guillemot credit.  That was a remarkably dumb statement.  One that I wholeheartedly reject.  It was a defensive statement, for something that doesn’t need defending.

Gamers can be an irrational breed of people.  When they’re at their worst, gamers can be reactionary, twitchy, slobbering crybabies.  Or we can shorten that and call it “fanboys.”  I get it with kids.  Santa Claus brings Johnny an Xbox 360 for Christmas, while Bobby gets a PlayStation 3.  They’ll end up doing what kids do, arguing that their machine is the best.  But the bad ones, they’re the assholes who drag this argument out into adulthood.  They’re also the ones who bitch about console manufacturers who push non-gaming content, DLC, and especially sequels.

Minecraft 360 has sold over three million copies. Not bad for a dead platform.

I don’t get the argument against sequels.  Of all the truly stupid shit that gamers get angry over, the resentment of sequels is the one that baffles me the most.  I think many people forget that gaming is a business that exists to be profitable.  That might sound condescending, but it’s true.  When you bitch at developer for being too sequel heavy, you’re essentially telling them to not take the path of least resistance towards profitability, placing their company’s future at a greater risk.

Here’s my question: why does this make you, the angry gamer, so damn mad?  How in the blue fuck does Call of Battlewar Modern Reach 17 possibly affect you?  Other than the fact that you’ll be $60 less wealthy once it’s out because you know you’ll buy it.  Yes you will.

If sequels aren’t your thing, don’t get them!  Their existence doesn’t stop the influx of other purchasing options.  Gaming has entered a second Golden Age of creativity.  The advent of independent gaming, plus the roll out of digital distribution on consoles has opened the door to new and original properties that would never be given a green-light seven years ago.  In 2012, the major digital platforms on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have seen two record-shattering games be released: Journey and Minecraft 360.  Whether these games appeal to you directly or not is irrelevant.  It’s what they represent that is important.  They’re new properties (in Minecraft’s case, new to consoles) that destroys the notion of sequels drowning the industry.  The gaming landscape is full of titles like that.  Rarely does a month go by where there isn’t at least one, maybe two games on those platforms that I just have to try because they look so different.

Are we really ready to let go of the PlayStation 3 when such innovative, never before attempted ideas such as this one are on the verge of fulfillment?

That’s why I think Yves Guillemot’s comment pissed me off so much.  Because it was a pass-the-buck move for something that didn’t require defending or an explanation.  Anybody whinny enough to complain about sequels will never be satisfied with anything because they’re miserable human beings just looking for stuff to moan about.  You can’t please them, and it’s not even worth trying.  Whether they admit it or not, they buy all the mass-marketed stuff anyway.  They just have to try to be “cool” and reject sequels.  That makes them sound non-conformist.  I walked into a Gamestop once (bad decision, I admit.  I think I might have been under the influence of seizure medication) and saw what looked to be a half-man, half-manatee complaining about Crackdown 2 being a soulless cash-in that didn’t really try to be different.  And he said all this with a straight face while wearing a Gears of War 2 tee-shirt.  This is the type of moron you can’t win with.

Why try to justify yourself to these people?  Especially with outright bullshit, as is the case with Mr. Guillemot.  Saying “no no no no, it’s not OUR fault that we’re making sequels.  It’s their fault!  Sony’s and Microsoft’s!  Blame them!  We need new hardware or we simply can’t be original!”  Right.  Because launch-window games are known for their high-risk creative endeavors.  Of course they’re not.  New consoles bring with them 12 to 18 months worth of last-generation gameplay rehashes dressed-up with shiny graphics.  The Wii might have been an exception to that, just because it had that wacky new controller thing, but I don’t think anyone would try to argue the machine sparked a revolution of creativity.  It takes about two years for developers, even first party ones, to get over the learning curve of developing for a new platform.  While that is going on, they stick with what they know.

So Mr. Guillemot is wrong.  New consoles don’t breed creativity.  They might make a game producer’s imagination run wild with possibilities, but that doesn’t necessarily transition to the final product.  That’s why the truly neat stuff doesn’t hit until a console has been around a while.  A new concept, like Katamari Damacy, couldn’t have launched with the PlayStation 2.  Developers stick with what they know works, which is why Touch My Katamari launched with the Vita.

Spec Ops: The Line is technically a sequel, but it’s not really, because the series was never this bad ass.

And that’s why I don’t want this generation of consoles to end just yet.  Look at what the last 18 months have given us.  L.A. Noire.  Journey.  Bastion.  From Dust.  Fez.  Walking Dead.  Catherine.  Dragon’s Dogma.  I just finished Spec Ops: The Line, a game that is a sequel in name only, and I was blown away by its gutsy narrative.  You wouldn’t see anything like that christen a new platform.  You just wouldn’t.  Yea, this console generation has had an unusually long lifespan, but with promising new IPs like Watch Dogs or The Last of Us still on the horizon, why are we already writing a eulogy?  So I reject Mr. Guillemot’s assertion that developers need new consoles to be creative.  An especially hypocritical stance from the guy in charge of the publishing house that is bringing us the next big new IP, Watch Dogs.  According to him, they shouldn’t have even bothered, and instead of focused on the Wii U, which is the new platform his employees need or they just can’t think.  And what is this new platform in essence?  A screen that you have to flail around like you’re trying to swat a fly with it.  What is he doing with that?  ZombiU.  That’s his idea of innovation: holding a screen in front of another screen.  It would be like Firestone deciding the next generation of tires should be square-shaped.  Besides, my faith in that game is nil.  Ubisoft does launch titles about as well as buffaloes do deep-sea diving.  I remember Red Steel.

Sequels are not the problem with gaming.  I’m not even sure there is a problem with gaming right now.  We live in an era that features multiple thriving platforms, and hundreds (if not thousands) of games of all shapes, sizes, and costs that are released annually.  With so many options available to consumers, I simply don’t understand how so many gamers can be singing the Sequel Blues.  If all you can see is sequels, you need to get your eyes examined, because I do believe you’re more near-sighted than Mr. Magoo.

Kairi on E3 2012: Sony Edition

Tell me I’m the first one to say “J.K. Rowling cast the Avada Kedavra Killing Curse on Sony’s E3 press conference.”  I’m sure I’m not, but I just thought of it all on my own, and that counts!  Actually, it really is kind of funny how Sony can have such a well done press conference, but you have one little brain fart like a ten minute session of J.K. Rowling sitting oblivious to the fact that we would have rather seen J.K. Simmons and suddenly everything is less than hunky dory.  By time the conference was over, nobody was talking about all the fucking awesome videos of games.  They were making Harry Potter jokes.  Smooth, Sony.

I thought it was a good conference.  Besides WonderBook, they hit all the right notes.  No 3D bullshit (maybe the billion dollar bath they just took on 3D televisions had something to do with that), not a whole lot of Move, minimal talk about non-gaming applications, and a whole lot of major titles with actual game footage.  Not all of them interested me, and I’m sure not all of them interested you.  But there really was something for everybody here. Especially if you’re eight-years-old or stupid, because that’s all WonderBook can appeal to.

Either he’s playing WonderBook or he got into the medicine cabinet.

WonderBook was bad.  Like “why are they showing a tech demo for the PlayStation 2 Eye Toy like it’s 2003?” bad.  Just to point out how off base Sony is, they spend ten minutes pimping the game like it’s a child’s toy, complete with footage of elementary school kids hoping like hell Sony wasn’t lying about giving them free games for taking part in this ad.  And then what other game besides Book of Spells did they talk about, albeit very briefly?  A game called Digg’s Nightcrawler that has a Film Noir theme to it.  Way to nail down that target demographic, Sony!  Why, not a day goes by where a six-year-old doesn’t ask me if I’m a fan of the Maltese Falcon.

Otherwise, the conference was swell.  God of War is targeting other creatures of myth, which I assume means the Last Guardian will be one of the bosses in it.  Sure, it pretty much is the same old shit that we’ve had shoveled at us since 2005, but hey, God of War!  Look, Kratos killed some dudes by dismembering them!  Haven’t seen that before!  Actually, Kratos does have a new gift: he can rewind time to create platforms to hop on.  So you guys are grifting from Lego Star Wars now?  If  you had to do that, you should have just made this Lego God of War.  At least that would have been funny.

The highlight of the show was The Last of Us.  Like everything else shown at E3, the game’s pitch boils down to “It’s Uncharted, but..”  Resident Evil 6 was Uncharted, but with zombies.  Tomb Raider was Uncharted, but with boobies.  In this case, it’s Uncharted, but set in post-apocalyptic America.  It actually looked decent though.  Ironically, it had more stealth stuff in its footage than stealth-series Splinter Cell’s trailer did.  Of course, there were still moments of mind-numbing stupidity of design.  After all, we can’t venture too far away from Uncharted.  The scene that sunk the trailer for me involved a shoot out where people were using couches as cover.  Couches.  Things made of foam, cotton, and tiny little springs.  I kept thinking “shoot the fucking couch!”  Maybe the dude thought he would accidentally shoot the tag off and get arrested.

At least it looked like a game I wanted to play.  I can’t say the same thing about Beyond: Two Souls by Quantic Dream.  I thought their previous effort, Heavy Rain, was a boring piece of shit.  I think most people probably feel the same way as me about it, but won’t admit it because then they become “anti-video games as art” people.  I feel no shame when I say that I want to be a gamer, not an art connoisseur.  I also don’t feel I should have to volunteer to be bored for hours while waiting for the quote “good stuff.”  Yet, that’s what the argument for Heavy Rain is.  It starts slow, but a few hours in it gets better, so just wait for it.  Why should I?  Unless the good stuff will undoubtedly be the greatest thing EVER, wouldn’t that time spent being bored be better spent not being bored?  I know, crazy talk.

“Quick, before you die, where are the fire extinguishers again?”

Hold on though, they got Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page.  Great!  And then they showed it off by cutting to a cinematic where her character didn’t speak a word for five minutes.  When you actually got to hear her, she wasn’t really any better than 90% of all game voice overs.  Which is to say she totally phones in every line of dialog.  Money well spent, Sony.  Next time, do what Capcom does and just hire Sally from accounting to do the acting.

And no, I have nothing to say about the Vita.  I’m just like Sony!

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I

My intent here had originally been to review both parts of Sonic 4.  However, after slogging through Episode I and encountering the single most boring final boss in the history of video games, I don’t think I have the strength in me to even try it.  It doesn’t help that most people are telling me that some of the stuff I will be complaining about below got fixed, yet the game is still worse.  How is that even possible?  It’s like unclogging a toilet by blowing up the building and calling it a job well done.

Long time readers probably expected me to hate Sonic 4 before I even started it.  Whether it was my hate-article against Sega, my review of Sonic CD, or the fact that my Twitter picture was typically me figuring out different ways to torture and kill a stuffed Sonic The Hedgehog doll, I think the message is clear: fuck Sonic.  By the way, I would have kept up with the Sonic killings, but wood-chippers are shockingly expensive and there’s a bullshit 7-day waiting period on flame-throwers.  To me, the franchise represents everything wrong with gaming: generic character with committee-designed personality that’s best viewed through nostalgia goggles.  Sonic is the gaming equivalent of Poochie.  Every attempt at modernizing Sonic has failed, with fans rightfully bitching that they suck and they just want an old-fashioned 2D Sonic game.  The only problem is, those old-fashioned 2D Sonic games weren’t really all that good to begin with.  As a child, they were neat for you because they pushed new technology and did stuff games hadn’t done to that point.  Today?  They don’t hold up, and neither do attempts at recreating the magic.  Stuff like Sonic Colors and Sonic 4 continue to get lambasted.  And whenever something with Sonic that is borderline not shitty comes along, like Sonic Generations, fanboys treat it like Jesus just emerged from his tomb.  You guys are easier to please than my dog, and all I have to do to make her happy is throw her a teeny piece of pizza crust.

I honestly don’t even think the graphics look that good.

I had only played the demo of Sonic 4 Episode 1 (which ought to have been subtitled The Phantom Appeal) when it came out back in 2010 and I honestly thought it was just a remake of one of the earlier Genesis games.  Can you blame me?  Same stupid opening level, same enemies, same rings, same abilities, same loops, and same power-ups.  I imagine anyone with just a passing interest in Sonic would think this was just a graphical upgrade of an existing title.  The full game’s other worlds include a casino, an underwater temple, and an industrial zone.  I mean come on, Sega!  This is like trying to rob your own home.

Everything bad about Sonic games is also here.  Same cheap ass enemy placement, same “gotcha!” level design, and every single thing people never liked in Sonic games to begin with.  I have never once met a person who said they enjoyed the water stages in Sonic The Hedgehog.  I’m sure there might be one or two stragglers out there who insist they’re brilliant, just like I’m sure that there’s one or two people out there who genuinely enjoy squirting wasabi up their nostrils, but it doesn’t mean anyone else would want to do it.  The water levels here are particularly painful because of how bad the controls are.  Sonic runs like he’s wearing concrete shoes, so building up speed becomes an issue.  Once you actually get some momentum going, good luck stopping when you need to.  I tried holding back on one of those accelerators just to see how long it would take me to stop and go back to it.  I had to press the left directional button nearly 100 times to get there.  Granted, nobody is going to play the game like that, but when you design a game around something that is moving fast and then punish people playing it the way it is intended, you’re a colossal asshole.

Of course, things are totally the opposite in the water stages.  They give you a game where you’re supposed to run fast, then submerge the character in maple syrup.  It becomes so slow and clunky that I honestly wonder if they keep putting these fucking stages in these games hoping that fans will start taking their own lives in protest.  I’m telling you, I think I’m on to something here.  There are parts in the industrial stages where you have to outrun a giant, um, not sure what it is besides a hunk of metal, and if you die you go back to a check point.  From there, you have about two seconds to run up a series of slopes or risk dying.  The problem is, you’re not given the ability to build up the required speed to get up them.  I had to spin-dash up one, hope to stop, do it again, hope to stop again, and then do it one more time.  Once you get past that, you basically just have to hold forward and wait for the game to start playing itself for you like every Sonic game seems to do.  Once again, I took a running count.  Not sure how accurate it is because I think I might have accidentally counted a couple of sections twice after dying, but regardless, I counted 77 times where I could advance forward in a level without pushing anything.  That’s over the course of only twelve stages.   Whether it’s bouncing off springs, rolling through tubes, or running past accelerators, Sonic games sure have a hard-on for not letting you play them.  As I pointed out in my last review, Sonic was originally designed by Sega to be Mario for idiots, but game design like this strikes me as Sega having outright contempt for its own fan base.  Are you getting the message Sega is sending you, Sonic fans?  THEY HATE YOU!  What do you think they were trying to tell you with all those 3D Sonics?  They weren’t fucking Valentines!

Come on! They didn’t even change the first boss from the first Sonic game! Short of knocking you out with chloroform and shitting in your mouth, what else can they do to show you they don’t like you anymore?

I pressed forward and eventually got to the last boss.  Well actually, before you fight it, the game ends with a boss rush.  I guess Robotnik felt that all those previous attempts at murdering Sonic with various contraptions that often failed within twenty seconds were worth a second look.  Once you dispatch them, you’re placed against one final, giant robot.  At first, it didn’t seem like such a big deal.  It was slow.  It was easy to attack.  So I started to bonk it.  And then I kept bonking it.  It would fly up in the air, crash down, and I would keep bonking it.  After EIGHTEEN coma-inducing bonks, the boss finally entered its second phase.  It takes eighteen hits to get there!  Mind you, this thing doesn’t put up anything resembling a real fight.  It just sort of lumbers around, waiting for you to smack it.  In the second phase, you can’t attack its body directly, so you have to wait for it to fire one of its arms at you.  Once you avoid it, it floats downwards, and you have to bonk it back to the robot to stun-lock it.  Of course, the game is kind of fickle about when something constitutes “hitting it” versus “getting hit by it.”  The arms have spikes on the bottom, so I would wait until I could attack it at a downward angle, hitting the top of the arm and thus avoiding becoming a Sonic Skewer.  This worked, oh, about half the time.  The other half the time, I would do a lock-on attack directly to the top of the glove and still die.  Grrrrrrrrrr.

Once you die, you get to go back to the 18 bonks before reaching the second phase and hoping like hell your lock-on attack doesn’t crap out on you, forcing another restart.  Well, on one such attempt, luck was on my side, because I had kept all three rings I got at the checkpoint, I had gotten to phase two, and I was able to successfully attack the boss another dozen or so times.  I’m not sure how many shots are actually required to kill it.  Possibly it’s some hypothetical number, like a quajillion, but I won’t know because the game had one final dick move supreme to pull off on me.  You have exactly ten minutes to beat every stage, including in boss battles.  I had eaten up about four minutes getting to the last encounter, and another three minutes getting to phase two of the final boss.  Well, as it turns out, the last boss has random attack patterns, only one of which opens itself up to attack.  After getting a bunch of hits on it, with about two minutes and change left until time expired, the game flipped me the bird and never again did that one attack I needed it to do.  You have got to be fucking kidding me.  Time expired, life lost, back to the start of the fight, cuss words screamed, controller thrown, power off, and Sonic 4 and go fuck itself.

“Dear Sega, less water stages in Sonic games please.” “Did you say more water stages?” “No, less. Preferably none. Nobody likes them.” “More water stages it is!”

And that is when it hit me: the guys Sega stuck this project with hated making it as much as I hated playing it.  They just didn’t care.  That’s the only explanation I can think of for sticking such a tediously boring boss at the end yet another redundant Sonic game.  Maybe this was their attempt at killing the franchise once and for all.  Maybe this was their attempt at trying to avoid drawing the Sonic assignments any further.  Maybe they were outright trying to get fired.  Whatever the explanation is, Sonic 4 Episode 1 is one of the worst pieces of shit I have ever played.  But the games sell, so they’ll keep making them.  I bought this one and I just bought Episode II, so I’m part of the problem.  Excuse me, I need to go flog myself now.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Part I was developed by Sega

I honestly don’t remember how much I paid for this.  I think it was like $1 at Christmas on PlayStation Network or something like that.   Quite frankly, I can’t justify spending any amount on this game.  

Datura

Datura comes to PlayStation Network courtesy of Plastic Studios, a developer with their head stuck so far up their own ass that their face is now an intestinal blockage.  Their only other PSN title was artsy-fartsy crapfest Linger in Shadows, which actually was one of the top-selling titles on the platform.  Probably because it was cheap and most people who bought it were unaware that it wasn’t actually a game, but rather an artificially surreal, deplorably pretentious piece of rancid shit.  I guess the good news is that someone at Plastic pulled their melon out of their anus long enough to make something that kind or resembles a game.  The bad news: it still sucks, they still released it, and they’re actually charging money for it.

The idea is you’re this dude that’s fucking dead and.. oh sorry.  Hold on.

SPOILER ALERT: The dude is fucking dead.  Do not continue reading if you don’t want to know that.

The idea is you’re this dude that’s fucking dead and progressing through some sort of afterlife.  So basically, it aims to be a spiritually enlightening quest of discovery.   Gee, where have I heard that one before?  Ah, but this is totally different from Journey.  Journey had a coherent narrative and felt like it was making an honest attempt to connect to players on a spiritual level.  Datura plays out like a series of random acid trips that someone kept notes on.  Having played Linger in Shadows, I’m guessing that’s not too far from the truth.  Hell, the game opens with a dude on a bad trip (courtesy of Datura, a fruit that causes delirium) being treated in an ambulance.  Using the move controller, you pull the heart monitors off your chest, at which point the EMT shocks you with paddles and then stabs you in the chest with a syringe.  I’m guessing this could very well have been the final fate of the lead producer of Linger in Shadows.  Since Plastic is a Polish-based company, I’m going to assume he had a hilarious name, like Maciej.

You unlock this door with the key to imagination. And drugs. Lots of drugs.

Once you’re out of the ambulance, you’re dropped in a forest where you have fumble your way around, looking for white trees to rub up against.  Doing so fills out a map.  Also, there are four fucking stupid mini-games for you to find.  Once you beat those, you have to make your way through a maze so ridiculously easy that Theseus could have navigated his way out using nostril hair, followed by four more minigames.  Those are then followed by a bullshit non-ending that should have been expected by this point, just because it completes that “you really pissed your money away with this purchase” feeling.

And what are the minigames?  Well, there’s one where you drive on a road, pantomiming driving with your ping-pong-ball-on-a-stick Move controller.  Because, you know, I guess nobody had ever thought to make a motion-controlled driving game before.  Oh, and you also get to climb up a ladder using gestures that are typically reserved for jerking off a 22-inch-circumference gherkin.  There’s a ball throwing minigame, a rifle shooting minigame, a minigame where you watch your best friend get blown away by a drunken farmer, and one where you chase your friend around a swimming pool.  What the fuck?  Is this really supposed to be an art house indie game or just the Betty Ford Clinic version of Wii Play?

The Lawnmower Meh

I honestly can’t recommend Datura to anyone.  Even if you have some kind of crazy Brewster’s Millions bet going, Datura isn’t worth it.  As far as Plastic Studios, Sony needs to tell them “make a coherent game or we’re cutting your funding.”  Tough love is what they need, because empty platitudes using buzzwords like “bold” and “artistic” isn’t helping them get any better.  Honestly, I don’t see anything good ever coming out this studio, so Sony should just cut them loose.  Let them do whatever it is the Polish normally do for work.  I hear they make really good screen doors for submarines.

Datura was developed by Plastic Studios

$7.99 ($9.99 for non PS+ members) asked “how do you get a Polish game developer out of a tree?  Wave to them!” in the making of this review. 

My boyfriend noted “the trailer looks cool.”  THE TRAILER LIES!  DON’T BE FOOLED LIKE I WAS! 

The Simpsons Arcade Game

Bart’s shirt is the wrong color. Sideshow Bob helps him instead of tries to kill him. 99.9% of all the characters established in the canon don’t show up. All the enemies are completely generic characters. None of the bosses outside of Mr. Burns and Smithers are from the TV series. The whole game is just a reskinned version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that some guys at Konami probably threw together in a weekend. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the best Simpsons game ever. Only it’s not. It fucking sucks, but you should already know that.

And yes, I’m aware that the wrestler guy that’s the first boss was actually from the episode where Bart tries to jump Springfield Gorge on his skateboard. The bear doesn’t count, because it’s actually just one of the generic guys in a bear suit. I’m also aware that the game originally came out in 1991 and that I shouldn’t be so nit-picky about those things. To that I say this: fuck you. The Simpsons Arcade Game is a fossil that should have been left in the tar pits of non-release obscurity.

Remember that episode where the family started brawling with quintuplet accountants riding teacups?

Don’t look at me that way. I’m not attacking your childhood or raping your memories. That’s a George Lucas move. I’m not even saying the Simpsons was a bad game for back in the day. Hey, it was either play the Simpsons Arcade or, like, go outside and exercise or something. Psssh, what kind of loser would do that?

What I am saying is maybe those memories are better left where they are. The Simpsons Arcade Game, much like Ninja Turtles or X-Men, has not exactly aged well. Let’s face it, it’s a relic. And not one of those good, Sean Connery type ones. As much as the concept of it baffles me, I can almost understand going back and playing stuff like Final Fantasy VII for the twentieth time. I think there should be mandatory castration for anyone who does so (not that they’ll ever actually use those parts, but you can never be too cautious), but I can almost understand it. But an arcade brawler that was, quite frankly, a lazily produced reskin of an existing game designed to sucker lunch money out of children?  Why would you want to go back and play that?

And yet, since the announcement of it a few weeks ago, teenagers of the early 90s are going gaga. I had never actually played the Simpsons Arcade Game, outside of one attempt at a Pizza Hut when I was like six years old. The joystick was broken and I couldn’t move to the right, which is one of only two requirements the game actually has. I got my quarter back and thought nothing of it until I heard the announcement. I planned to ignore it, but it came free with a Playstation Plus account and I’ve never turned down a chance to troll you retro nerds before, so why start now?

I think the appeal in the Simpsons Arcade Game is the same as Sonic CD: it was the “lost game” in the series. It never got a home console port due to some licensing issues and thus it became a legend. As teenagers grew older and their minds became more polluted with various drugs, alcohol, children of their own, and all the Simpsons gaming crapola that has come out since then, those memories of the Simpsons Arcade Game became pretty fuckin’ sweet.

Remember that episode where the Simpsons dropped acid and fought a giant bowling ball?

I promise you, the Simpsons Arcade Game is not as good as you remember it. I know this because I’ve yet to hear a single person tell me that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Reshelled was as good as they remember it. And at least that one had updated its graphics. They couldn’t even bother with that here. This is a lazy port of a lazy game, and you can tell it was produced early in the show’s run. The character models are way off, the voices are off, and the game is forced to use so many generic characters because the cast of millions the show currently uses wasn’t established yet.

So here’s a wild idea: if they had the rights to make this game, why couldn’t they have produced an updated port to go with it? Leave the original game intact so that people could see how horrible it is, and then throw them something newer, using all the crazy space-age technology that leprechauns have given us over the last twenty years?

Actually, EA did a port of the Simpsons Arcade Game for iOS. I have it, and I tried to play through it, but it’s fucking impossible. This is mostly due to the fact that it uses one of those God-awful fake joysticks-and-button layouts that is about as accurate as a dart player that injected his hands with Novocaine. But imagine if they had ported that over to consoles. I mean, that game actually has characters from the series. You fight Chief Wiggum, Mayor Quimby, and various other fan favorites. It might not be the exact same game as your childhood fantasy, but it actually might be better. You know, if you could control it.

Or, even better, build an entirely new game modeled after the original arcade title, but replace all the generic baddies with random characters from the series that you fight only once, locations based on the series that actually look like they might have appeared on the series (Moe’s Tavern is a quarter-mile long casino. Who knew?), and add some modern twists. Use Castle Crashers as the basis for it. Leveling up, a variety of weapons, branched paths, hidden items, and so on, and so on. Why settle for something that was designed to steal your money as a child? Don’t you deserve better? Well, no. I suppose you don’t. If you actually gave away $10 for this piece of shit, ay caramba, there is no helping you.

The Simpsons Arcade Game was developed by Konami

Going off the math of how many free games and discounts I’ve gotten with my Playstation Plus account, approximately $0.38 was spent playing Teenage Reskinned Ninja Simpsons in the making of this review. TOO MUCH!

The Simpsons Arcade for iOS was developed by EA and costs $0.99. For God’s sake, do not buy it. 

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