måndag 18 februari 2013

The Cave

Blimey! I haven't really gone through my sodding head with this thing through. And here I though I could lock people in a small room and gas them all with the essence of sour herring and let them all choke in their own vomit.

But anyway, I've never been to much in reviewing games that recently got released. I'm not really employed nor got rich parents so I have to gather whatever I have and use it to buy Donald Duck Pocket books. Nor am I someone who really follows most recent games because the ones I'm intrested comes during the other half of this year... probably. Or atleast I hope so.
But I kinda got a bit chance with this game right here, so this is "The Cave"

"The Cave" developed by "Double-Fine Studios" as a puzzle-platformer-adventure... thingy and... Holy Shit! It was created by "Ron Gilbert", the creator of the "Monkey Island"? So... a game made by both Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer who created a couple of the best point 'n click adventure games ever... Yup! It was something I just had to look at.

So anyway, The story is about a talking cave that's known to show people about themselves and what they might become in the dark and deep labyrinth. And across time and space, seven people (or rather eight, one of the characters are actually two). Are drawn into the cave harboring secrets they do not wish to release.
So we have a group here so let's see who we have:
A knight, a monk, an adventurer, a scientist, a hillbilly, a time-traveler and creepy twins (It's always have to be "creepy" twins... real originality right there... Oh! the game acknowledges that... Oh well.)
So we take three of those buggers and enter The Cave... wait a minute... seven characters? Choosing only three? Using them to solve puzzles? THIS IS FUCKING MANIAC MANSION!!!! Another game made by Ron Gilbert during his time in Lucasarts.

So the gameplay is pretty easy, you individually control one of the three chosen characters, solve puzzles and move to the next area. It kinda hold as it's own level. Every area has it's own puzzle items to pick up and use only in the area, which is kinda nice so you don't have to run back and forth too much. But it also loses on it's creativity. Everything is kinda too simple like using a bucket to hold water drops so it doesn't hit a battery device, or use a crank from a well to use it on another well. Remember on my Chzo Mythos bit where most bad puzzles are usually bat shit crazy? Well, this is kinda the opposite of the same bad puzzzle formula. It's too simple and doesn't have much creativity. So it becomes too obvious puzzles and more of an item hunt kind of game. It's formula hides behind the split control like holding a lever to open a gate so another bloke can recieve an object.
And that's pretty much the whole gameplay in a fucking nutshell isn't it?. Having two of the characters holding a lever so it opens a gate for the third one to pass. Sometimes you have a smart puzzle, but most of the time it's to simple or gate opening. And thanks fucking christ that characters spawns at checkpoints or I would have rage-quit from all the tracking for every seperate character.

Anyway, every character have their own special skill, like The Hillbilly can hold his breath longer, The Time-traveler can phase through small walls, and The Twins can dublicate themselves in a phantom version of their previous position from their physical form. So every character will be used to complete the puzzles. The appeal of having to use different characters to solve puzzles differently was very intresting. But the problem is that it's contextual as fuck! The reason why comes later...

But eventually you will stumble upon a level that is for a certain character you chose on the trio and in obvious places just so you know. For example, The Knight will be in a castle, The Monk will be in a buddhist temple, and The Scientist will be in an underground labratory.
Because every character (I think) represents one of the 7 deadly sins, and their backstory is told by pictures you find by finding iconographs on walls that will tell on how it when the sin started to us. And the characters personal level will show us what the sin may create, have created or is creating. But certain character level are only accessable if you have the right characters with you. If you come to the Time-Travelers level without the Time-Traveler, then you can't phase through a wall to access the characters level, and you just take an opening and pass the level. But IF you have the Time-Traveler with you, then the opening is closed and you just have to complete it's level.

But that also leads to a problem for the game. The whole game is split into about 7 (Not sure the exact...) puzzle areas, and 3 of them are the chosen characters personal levels so most of the game are areas you encounter are the bloody same. I though that the whole game were suppose to adapt to the chosen characters you chose but as above it's extremly contextual. Oh yea! There might be a couple of hooks here and there for The Adventurer to swing, but why even bother and take the other way around instead as the others who doesn't need a bloody hook to pass the obstacle. Oh! I don't have the Time-Traveler with me so I can't phase through gate, so I may need two people for one to hold up a gate for the other to pass. Again! that's pretty much the game in a nutshell, holding up gates for others to pass and item hunt. And when you realise that you pretty much will be doing the same thing in 4 parts of the game breaks the illusion of a quite long puzzle game. I mean seriously, you can beat the bloody game in about an hour if you really know what you're supposed to do.

And for fuck sake! If you are going to put a good ending and a bad ending for the characters. Atleast make the game so you can have a save file, but NOPE! instead we have one checkpoint save, so when you get one of the endings, you have to start ALL OVER AGAIN to see the other ending.
I would not mind that too much if the good and bad ending was cleverly split, but it's not. I thought that the way to get the good ending is to make sure that in the character levels, you change the decision by not causing the horrible fate. But no, what you do is a certain action three times at the ending of the game that don't really make much sense.
The thought was nice though, rejecting your sinful desire to redeem yourself, but the execution is bollocks.
This is where I kinda realised it was quite stupid to have un-even characters, because of the endings, the only replayability is to see every characters personal levels, meaning you will have to replay the whole game six times to get everything. My take? Just play the characters once and watch their endings on youtube if you are incredibly lazy. The game is short, but to play the same area over and over again can be aggrevating.

Which is quite a shame because I really like the comedy of The Cave, and you can see that Double-Fine had a steady hand in it because the personality in the game is up to the eyeballs. The whole Cave can talk and plays as some "Willy Wonka" kind of person. The whole place plays as a tourist attracton. And the NPC's are really enjoyable, but they kinda are just there to throw items to help you proceed. I guess it's on the joke of the whole place being a tourist attraction and they're being a part of it. But they don't really give much of an imperssion and pretty much comes and goes, well except for the cave.
The characters themselves doesn't really talk except doing a couple grunts and shrieks when you jump or land on a pit of spikes. You respawn instantly so it does satisfy my psychotic side by jumping into spikes and too high ledges. "HAHA! Take That You Fucking Scientist! How Do You Like It Now When Your Kneecaps Are In Your Fucking Lungs!!!!"
What would help the replayability is to give the charactes dialouges. If the characters had some kind of "Dragon Age-y" conversation with eachother would have made the game more enjoyable.

But for what we have, it's not a bad game. The premise was promising but ended up disappointing me a bit, but maybe it's because I expected too much. But it is still worth playing atleast ONCE!!!! The mystery about what the Cave might can be intruiging and the gameplay can still be quite fun. But again, the game's worth playing atleast every character once. Then just find whatever from youtube if you want the rest and save yourself from repetition.

torsdag 24 januari 2013

The Void

Do you like immensive violence that cover more than the world genocide? Do you like being an invincible superman that can walk through enemy fire with unhealthy healing abilities? Do you like killing husbands and sons whose several families and wives now lost because you kill them for your own selfish country? Do you like using electronic killing-droids against civilians that has to use sticks and stones only to stop you from killing more civilians? Do you like having an incredible amount of weapon arsenal against dusty Kalash rifles that have enough dust to form it's own bullets. Do you like a game that keeps holding your hand on everything you do? Do you like being nothing but an unemotional droid with no response than to follow arrows to your destination, being ordered in a linear path but doesn't mind because they just have a realistic wood texture? Do you like repetive gameplay with the only new thing every sodding game being a new gun? Do you like having a plot about rich and wealthy people moving down other nations because they use the toothpaste on the middle? Do you like being imperialists massacring the ewoks? Do you like that I pretty much summarized almost every modern war game?Yes?

"The Void" aka "Tension" aka "Turgor" aka "Captain Scarlet and the Quest for Booty" is a very... well intresting game made by "Ice-Pick Lodge". But how to really talk about it without exaggerating is a very hard thing to do.
Ok, ok, ok. It's too early to bash on an "interesting"  game, but if "I" am going to explain The Void, people will die of old age if I'm going through it. So I will give you fractions, but if you want the whole picture with your own intepretation, then I suggest you get the game.

Ok, so you are a soul that accidently lingered into something called "The Void". The Void is a purgatory-like place before absolute death. How you got there is for you to find out yourself, though there may be hints that your death was caused by suicide. My own reason why I died was that I got executed for fucking a hot mother and her hot daughter while doing an 'effing piano solo on the desecrated corpse of Godzilla.
But anyway, in The Void, colour is the life force for The Void. But a mystical famine occured and almost compeletly drained the whole Void of it's colour.
Anyway, you are awaken by a nameless "Sister" who gives you a "Heart" and colour on her realm so you can survive. She tells you that there is a way to escape The Void, but to do that, you need to find all the hearts around The Void and "Your real heart" and reach "Turgor".

Ok, that's pretty much what I could get from The Void, so your game starts with scavenger hunt for colour. That is pretty much your food, ammo, armor, communication, donation and movement. And you will constantly use colour. So this is a game where you need to fucking roleplay "Scrooge McDuck" to survive the game. Several times I died was that my colour got depleted. Anyway, so as I said, you start with looking around for roots of colour into something called "Lympha", a palette  that holds your colour that you've collected. That you can put on your "hearts" to be able to survive and move around The Void. And as time goes, colour that is in your hearts will convert into colour for your "Nerva", which is a palette that holds colour that you can paint with, for attack, movement, donation and so forth.
So yea, using colour to draw "Glyphs" makes it a dark version of "Okami".

Eventually you stumble to a "Garden". There, you can donate colour to trees that in due time will bloom colour for you to harvest.

PRO TIP: Make sure you only plant 2-3 trees in the beginning. Because to fill the trees to full potential takes a large amount of colour and every time they bloom, the trees starts to die and give you less and less colour. They do reset, but that will take time. And make sure to focus on a couple of colours.
And by the time the game goes, I realised that I was also playing an abstract version of "Farm Simulation", with the maintaining of the gardens and stuff.
And to get through the early stages, you have to focus on an certain colour.

So to open up the game, you need to donate colour to "Sisters". (And my dirty mind have done something I don't want to share.) And that will take a HUGE amount of colour, so make sure to use excess colour of the colour they like and use a certain colour bonus when donating. The reason why you donate is to open their hearts (More about it comes later) and be given access to their specific realm and if you give them enough colour for a second heart, then you are given access to even more sisters, and their realm.

The Sisters are some kind of priestess or something  to keep realms around the alive. Actually, I kinda have a hard time to explain the Sisters right now. May I save it for more explaining later? If not, fuck you this is my writing.

Also we meet the "Brothers" who looks like entries to a Silent Hill Fanart Contest. Anyway, you end up pretending to be a "Brother" so you can walk around The Void. The Brothers seems to be security around The Void as they walk around destroying excess colour that lies around the realms. The reason why, is that since the mystical famine, colour is extremly precious and can't be used wastefully. It is also food for everything around The Void, even to predators that will feed on colour drops lying around. So that means, everytime you use colour in a realm, more and stronger predators will appear as they devour any remains from used colour.                          

I kinda like how they made the conflict between the Sister and the Brother believable. They don't make the Brothers "evil because they are" like most of the games around here. Because using colour drains whatever life The Void have left and The Brothers want to save colour to keep The Void alive
But the Nameless Sister, (Who I for now will call "Death" because that's what the other sisters call her) believe that The Void will be completly drained with no colour left no matter how much you try to grow it.
And when you reach Turgor, you will use a breakthrough, taking every colour around The Void pretty much killing everything.
So yes, it's a dilemma on both sides. I FUCKING LOVE IT!!!! (Though don't take my story version too much, I'm not happy with that.)

Wow, I've gone this far talking about the story and barely on the gameplay. Well, that's because the gameplay is awkward and incredibly boring and repetive.
The majority of the game is about collecting colours, collecting colours from roots, collecting colours from trees, collecting colours from trees you've grown, collecting colours from mountain walls that you mine, collecting colours from parasites and occasionaly, paint on enemies 'till they die. 45% is wasting your fucking time walking around The Void maintaining your gardens and mines, collecting colour. 45% is donating colour on trees and sisters to get around and collecting hearts, unlocking more mines to mine and more gardens to donate colour to trees. And the rest 10% is combat. And the point of this game is to avoid combat as much as possible.
So the game focuses on "Give & Take" colour management... and that's a fucking stupid thing for a game called "The Void"

Also The Void have a bit of Dead Rising when the whole game is time-based. Everytime your have an overview of The Void, the cycle goes and every cycle have 99 seconds  before moving on and for every second, your hearts drains colour too and you can speed it up if you need to. There will be events that takes place during some cycles and you have about 37 cycles before game over. Though there is no hurry if you are in a realm because the cycle stops. And for every new cycle, colour refills randomly around The Void, so make sure you save many times.
And that's the key to winning The Void, you sometimes have to save scum the shit of the game to recieve a good amount of colour to survive, harvest, donate and occasional combat. Because the game IS incredibly hard. One mistake and you will be begging for the right colour to proceed so you don't waste any colour. There is an "easy" patch released that will help you give more colour and stuff but it is optonal to download it. For me, well... I never actually downloaded that. I already were halfway in the game so I never really bothered it. Either it's me being an idiot for taking the stairs high up when there's an escalator OR me being incredibly smart for completing the hardest ending without any help (from the patch I mean).

PRO TIP: Never engage in combat unless it's fatal or a boss. You use colour to attack enemies, but will leave drops for more enemies to come the next cycle. And you want to save as much colour as possible. Try to avoid enemies a much as possible, many of them are just a waste of colour and isn't work killing to harvest colour unless it's the non-hostile predators. Because you gain more colour than you sacrifice from those little buggers. But go into a realm, do whatever colour collecting there and bugger off before predators glimpse at you colour-filled ass.
It may weaken the Brothers but it will also make it harder for you to harvest colour as the predators become more and stronger.

So at first the only attack is to draw paint on the enemy, which at the beginning sounded quite fun when enemies can die by drawing a massive dick over them. But it extremly died down when you avoid combat as much as possible and using "painting over the body" tactics takes a quite amount of colour. As you earn hearts, you learn "Glyphs" that gives you drawings for movement, defense, mining and masturbation. Oh, and you also gets some attack glyphs, but those may need tactical maneuvers on using so you don't miss and waste colour, and since you need to save colour, it's not even used that much except in the bossfights against the Brothers. So most of them is pretty useless, even the three first bosses are pretty pathetic. In due time, you learn a glyph called "Web" that sends a poisonous web to an enemy that slowly drains it's health and when it dies, it explodes. You need to put Web on the smaller parasites so when the bigger target eats them. It gets attacked from the inside, and that's pretty much the only thing you need to do during the parasites bosses.
Even the bossfights against the brothers are pretty weak, just run around avoiding attacks and use corresponding colour against the brothers and win, then lemonade.

So combat is out of the way and most of the gameplay stand with running around into realms so you can harvest colour, so you can donate colour to trees, so you can harvest even more colour, so you can donate colour to Sisters, so you can open up their realms, so you can find hearts, so you can contain even more colour, so you can harvest even more colour, so you can donate colour to trees, so you can harvest even more colour, so you can unlock more Sisters,  so you can donate more colour to other Sisters, so you can open up more realms, so you can find more hearts, so you can contain even more colour, so you can mine colour, so you can harvest even more colour, so you can plant even more colour on trees, so you can harvest even more colour, so you can even more donate colour to even more Sisters, so you can- UUUUAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

If I made a video review instead, I would be on fucking fire. Unfortunatly for me I don't have recording equipment so... suicide by fire do I have to put on my bucket list.
I mean think of giving that to an average modern warfare gamer, I bet they wouldn't even get past the first fucking realm. I even heard some people barely got past the menu screen.

But couldn't gameplay be simple yet NOT feeling so bloody repetive. Like Pacman, easy control, you pretty much do the same thing, but with immensive action, you don't forget, and it's simple. Eat cheese, avoid ghost. That's everything you need. Also you can eat the bigger cheese if you wanna- UUUUAAHHH!!!!!!

The control? Yeah, it's ok. It's small but it's simple and easy to control. Except movement is total crap. At least realm movement sucks. It is completly slow, like the walking in "Ju-On: The Grudge The Game", and you pretty much have to bunny jump to get around fast. There is a glyph that will boost your speed, but then again, you waste colour so don't bother using it. There is also a colour bonus that will speed you up, but it gives you the same movement speed as the default walking in many FPS games. So yes, bunny jumping is the way of movement is this game.

So yes, the gameplay is malarkey, but it's the story while scattered puzzle pieces,  the picture you build up to that really gets you. It's really something you need to listen and read carefully to get the picture right.

Anyway, the whole Void looks pretty stale. Most of the game is really boring and grey, it feels like I'm playing "Ultima: Pagan" again. Although it kinda works. With colour growing around, they do actually stand out. Making colour pretty easy to find. And if you visit a colour filled garden, it's really nice to visit it.

Okay, I kinda heard about a couple of negative "opinions" about The Void. Well, I shouldn't really give anything much by that except that someone accused the game of being sexist...WHAT!!!!

Apparently, some reviewer had a quite negative experience with the game. I wouldn't really go against personal taste, I mean this game can't appeal to everyone and that is one of the problems on the game. But for fuck sake! Just... stop. Stop it. I kinda worry myself for humanity with articles like:

Accusing the game for being sexist and using the Sister to see a short strip-tease and being surised when you talk to them they undress and giving them colour gives you a short sexy dance and...

STOP!!! Stop! stop! stop...  Look, I understand not having the same style of likings, I understand negative views if they have a good explanation why.  I understand sometimes not getting it. There is a line between accidental misunderstandings and mis representation. And I fucking hope it stands on the former.
But to make shit clear: Yes, there is nudity, there is tits and twats (Ok, not really full twats but still). And you can see the whole different attitude for nudity between Europe and America.
But to make even more shit clear: No, donating colour does not reward you with a peep show unless you are incredible desperate for something to masturbate on. Believe me, there are easier way to get games with better fap materials for free.
I will also mention another one that accuses the nudity of the game of "Selling-Out".

For the first thing, you can't communicate verbally to the Sisters so you have to shove colour into their gobs. But the thing is that you communicate to their "Soul Obscura". Now a Soul Obscura to the player is an overview of their body to put colour in your hearts.
A Soul Obscura to a Sister is viewing their soul, their pure form, SO OF COURSE THEY DON'T HAVE ANY FUCKING CLOTHES!!!!! So I have no fucking idea where the "undressing" thing came from, because they never actually undress.
And the accusation went to on of the early Sisters you meet who goes by the name of "Uta". And I never saw Uta's movement and caressing as sexual. I always saw them as this "High rich stuck-up, I'm the elder one here so I am smarter" kind of personality. Shrugging, and just doesn't care about anything that happens, looking down on everything, accepting whatever just have happened.
I watched pretty much every colour giving scene to Uta, and that I have to admit, some were a bit close, but it was more from "Accepting fate and silently asking you to stop before you kill yourself in vain" to "Realising everything and given power back."

I have donated colour to every sister and what, caressing thighs? wiggling hips? stroking breasts? Where? Do you really that doped to call that sexist? Do you call a woman walking in the street a whore just because she scrathes her thigh?
The Sister that matches the description the closest is "Ire" and maybe "Ava" for being the closest contestant. But for what I have, Ire is the most sexualized Sister in the game. I mean she's even naked in her physical form or atleast have some sheet barely covering her body like a concubine or a geisha. So Ire may the the most sexualized of all the Sisters but her animation, while being a bit strip-club-ish theme when given colour, she tends to breathe a sigh of relief, running her hands over her body in a pleasurable capacity for a moment before returning to her perch against a tree-stump. But then again, that's her soul.

But that's what? 2-3 sisters there and the article is about Uta. So what about Ole then? She's only riding a goddamn swing. You call that a strip tease? What about Yani? She balances on a ball and does a short ballet dance on it when given colour. And what about Una? She's probably the furthest away from anything sexualized, as she shudders in some violent religion-esque way it's almost scary when giving her colour.
The the perfect example about the donating colour thing is Sister "Ima". As you meet her, you see her being "chained". Both in the physical and in her obscura with a pendulum slowly going down on her. As you donate her colour she starts to break free and eventually dodges the pendulum.

And this is what donating colour is about. It is NOT used for the Sisters to dance around while glow flies away like an adultshow with a naked woman surrounded by ballons and slowly popping them of one by one.
The colour is the life force for everything around The Void and the Sister are chained by the Brothers by the lack of colour, their food, their strength.
Because giving colour has the same impact as giving a man lost in the desert for two days, water.
The Sisters movements does not represent a striptease, that's for the people who only judges a book by it's cover. Their movements represents the strength that has been returned after an incredible long time of vulnerability and weakness as they first start slow. And when more hearts unlock, their movements becomes more energetic.
I mean look at the fucking Brothers. They barely even have physical clothes but are seen as asexual because you don't see any penis. And thank fuck for that! I can live my life without thinking what "Patriarchs" chicken dick may look like.
But I can understand where the accusations grew from. Many people use the nudity as something to catch attention to their product and you can kinda see it on the game. So I could have expected that in games like "Dead or Alive" or "Soul Calibour", even "Two Worlds 2" can I expect these accusation from it's pointless boobshot from a pointless sex scene to a pointless character that we'll never see again from the whole game... or something like that. Maybe even in "The Witcher" series because... have you even seen The Witcher? Bloody 'ell! But then again it is part of their persona.
But to see these kinds of accusations to games like Mass Effect and The Void is a bit wierd, they never really exploit sex to the fullest and doesn't make the sex completly pointless. Mass Effect had the "Calm before the Storm" romance thing going on.
So I never saw the nudity as something insulting. Because in a game like The Void, we have to know what it means. It actually have nudity as a part of the game rather some eye-piece.  So judging the game like that is like judging a fucking nutshell.
And if you really are desperate on getting the Sisters naked then you are just going to die.

Also there is the accusation with Sisters being the beautiful innocent and weak woman and the Brothers are the strong ugly monstrosity controlling the Sister and are basicly evil.
Well, that if you are thick.

The game told that there was happy times when colour was full and companionship was between the Brothers and Sisters. And when shit happened, stuff became desperate on both sides.

Another one is about you being a pimp to the Sisters when giving colour to the Sisters is like giving money to a whore.
Maybe that's the case? Maybe YOU are the whore collecting colour to the sisters while they sit on their asses. Maybe the Sister are supposed to be the evil ones and were taken away their power to stop doing evil. Maybe the Brothers are the results of the Sisters evil. So you can either take the obvious or look deeper into it to see what more exists.
This one above is argueable and can lead to very intresting discussion and interpretations.
And with that, there are several ways to view their roles in the game. And it kinda works? I think? If you want the several interpretations on gender roles in the game, I suggest for you to look up the "Ice-Pick Lodge" forum for it, but be careful, it's a bit fiesty.

But the biggest thing that I have with the game is that can both give too much and too little information at the same time. By giving too little to build a full picture yet too much that you have to cut away a theory for another theory to create something. Switching from "Show, don't tell" to "Tell, don't show". And I have no bloody idea if that's a good or a bad thing.
I mean, that the whole story can be viewed in many, many, MANY different ways whether it's good for the game or not, that's for the player themselves to get.
This is a game where it relies on the players interpretation. They tell you things and it's up to you to understand which story told by the game for you to believe in. My story above is based of my interpretation and I can assure you that if you play it yourself, you would believe in another explanation and theories.

And the ending, well... It is very deep and toughtfull but with the execution? Let's just say that Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and The Void were the inspiration for the godawful Mass Effect 3 endings.

But do I recommend this game? I have no fucking idea! While the story is beautiful and interesting, the gameplay which is supposed to be intresting to keep playing the story is quite rubbish. And it's a kind of game that can only appeal to a certain kind of people. But if you are intrested enough for the game, then I hope you are ready for an incredible slow but very interesting game.