Weekly: Back to the Trenchcoat Future

Connor

A coat, a fedora hat, a gun and… jumping trousers? I have you at Gunpoint!

Admittedly, my previous approach to this game was utterly wrong. While my initial reaction was enthusiastic, I simply got tired of trying to finish each level with the best result possible. Now, I’m back in the noir-cyberpunk business and a more relaxed way to play Gunpoint makes me discover how great it is. Just like mentioned in that post long time ago, all I want is to make my clients happy and get the A+ rating for every mission.

One of my favourite things is the dialogue system, even if it doesn’t reach the level of Fallout 2 writing.

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Maybe it’s not much, but I really enjoy to choose between snarky and cold, professional answers – especially when my choice isn’t just cosmetic and determines the plot. Besides, just passing levels and solving puzzles (which light to turn off first?) is a pleasurable experience. Yeah, I’ve come back and now I’m ready to finish the game.

Meanwhile, it’s The Current Year and I discovered that demo versions still exist.

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Too bad that the demo of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus was a huge disappointment. It’s not even about the ridiculous opening sequence, but even playing the first level feels bad. A shooter which doesn’t give you any pleasure of shooting. Still, everyone and their mum tells me that it’s a great game, so maybe I should give it another chance.

The only positive thing so far is that it made me realise how much I’ve always loved demo versions. Why don’t I write a post explaining why they are a unique experience…

 

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Just Finished: Another World

My back is broken, I can’t feel my legs and I will probably never find a way back home, but at least my only friend in this another world is here, and we’re riding towards the sunset on the back of a huge flying lizard. See you in the next episode.

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By a lucky coincidence, I played the original Another World at the same time as when I discovered the joys of reading classic SF books. The thing is that some of the old editions available at my school’s library had those fantastic illustrations made by masters like Frank Frazetta and others. Well, sometimes their art was too fantastic — I swear that I was too afraid to open my copy of Burroughs’ Princess of Mars — but it certainly helped me to appreciate the incredible vision of an alien reality in Eric Chahi‘s masterpiece.

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Too bad that I lacked the skill and resolve for fair play and used codes to skip some, let’s say, problematic sections, but as a kid I didn’t care about it. Now it’s time to return and do it the proper way.

First of all, playing the 25th anniversary edition made me understand why people on Steam and elsewhere keep complaining about remastered editions. In case of Another World, you don’t get much, just hi-res graphics and soundtrack. There’s no audio commentary from the maker, no concept art, no new levels. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though, because I shamelessly pirated the Amiga original so it was the right thing to pay the money without any additional benefits.

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What are my thoughts after I finally finished the right way? Human memory is a fickle thing, but this might have been the first mature game in my life. In this case ‘mature’ means an ambition to reach beyond, transgress the borders and make a video game something more than just pure leisure.

One example of this revolutionary approach is Buddy, the NPC companion with whom you try to escape captivity. Being a native to this another world, he has a different set of skills and is able to operate alien technology, but also to fight the baddies hand-to-hand – something that our eggheaded protagonist isn’t capable to do. What’s even better, sometimes our former cell-mate acts in a different dimension, for example escaping pursuit right in front of the virtual camera while the hero moves in the background. A very interesting and unique approach whis reminds the player that this 2D game has an actual third dimension.

Of course, being almost two decades, I cannot ignore the game’s flaws now. First of all, there’s little interaction with the environment and virtually no dialogue at all. The combat mechanics, although surprisingly exciting, are too simplistic – a cover system like in Alcatraz or Blackthorne would make it much more interesting. Finally, my standard complaint is that it’s far too short, but it’s understandable given the technical limitations of home computers at the time Another World was released.

Still, does it all even matter when we’re talking about a work of a genius. Maybe one day I’ll make my personal shrine, a shelf with physical copies of the greatest games I’ve ever played. Another World will certainly be among them.

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Distraction: Dirty Coward

Surprisingly, my innocent pastime with Fire Force is taking longer than expected. While I was planning to play just it for a while and eventually drop it, discouraged by the player-unfriendly difficulty level, I’m actually managing to pass the first missions without any effort,¬† and enjoying it. Even awkward controls can’t scare me off. Of course, it’s always a little discouraging see the name of my brave Navy Seal with a little K.I.A. next to it, but, all out of sudden, I found a way to deal with the (perma)death…

…which is surprisingly simple. So simple that it’s no wonder that I haven’t discovered that one dirty trick before. Just like mentioned in my previous post about Fire Force, the game records the outcome of each mission on a special savedisk. Of course, using two different disks to avoid the permadeath would definitely be cheating, but there’s another way to save my character’s skin when things are about to go SNAFU. Similarly to the Cannon Fodder series, it’s possible to abort the mission on any given moment simply by hitting the Escape key. No matter if my stalwart defender of the American Way of Life has just received an entire AKM magazine into is stomach, no matter if the extraction zone is on the other end of the level — the game will return to the roster screen without saving the game status, giving the player a chance to replay a mission without any penalties. Of course, a true hardcore gamer would be too high-principled to exploit this option, which certainly looks strange in a game trying to be somewhat realistic (for the standards of a platformer released in 1992, of course). Well, this doesn’t bother me at all, because I wouldn’t dare to call myself a hardcore videogame player (despite my unhealthy inclination to set myself impossible challenges) and, of course, I don’t have that much time to play daily anymore while there are so many other titles I intend to finish. Besides, it really seems that the miraculous escape button is a genuine feature, not bug. Hey, the game even keeps rewarding me with medals and promotions, so I guess this time my conscience is clean.

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Beginning Of Darkness: Gunpoint

Promises are to be kept, but the promises a man swore to himself are easily broken.

My Windows desktop has a whole column of shortcuts to previously installed games. Each of them is like a granite rock hanging on my heart and for that reason a few months ago I’ve made a decision to stop trying new titles until I’m finished with that painful burden. Predictably, all I managed to accomplish was to make God laugh again — the proverb about telling Him about one’s plans is a bitter truth about human hybris. First, it was the sudden appearence of Sunless Sea in my life, which has consumed most of my playing time since two months, and then I fell again and purchased Gupoint at a Steam sale.

First Post
Jumping into the muddy waters of corporate crime

How could I resist the temptation? Platform games are generally one of my favourite genres, but the idea of a stealth logical platformer is especially appealing to me. Although it seems to be an invention of the modern retro-gaming movement, I can still recall its possible predecessors in titles like Alcatraz or Black Thorne. The former had innovative mechanics, forcing the player to avoid searchlights by finding hiding spots in a two-dimensional environment, while in the latter hugging the walls was crucial in surviving the fight with mean proto-Orks wearing oversized shotguns.

Another major reason to play Gunpoint was the film noir theme. While I do realise that many of its elements have become a clich√© long time ago — cynical protagonists clad in trench coats, poisonous femmes fatales, constant gloom and rain, whisky and cigarettes — I still cannot resists its charm, which is fitting for a man who used to devour cheap Polish editions of Chandler’s novels. Especially when the general theme is accompanied by a soundtrack which matches it perfectly.

When I’m writing these words, my hacker-detective in sour armour has already begun his dubious carreer in the shady P.I. business. After completing a few simple jobs, and even finishing one mission with a perfect score and a very nice golden achievement badge (thanks, Steam!), I feel sure that I can handle the game well, but this time I’m not going to set myself too ambitious goals. I’ll leave that for a second playthrough.

Customer Friendly: Finish all missions with A+ rating

…which will mean that I’ll be riding the moral scale back and forth, because my clientele is a really colourful bunch, some of them wishing to minimise the violence, others demanding a permament removal of all witnesses. Philip Marlowe would be proud of me.