Sunday, August 9, 2020

Anachronox #12 - Rictus Spaceship

And some orange.

Rictus spaceship is all hues of purple and also a huge puzzle. It takes me a while to figure out but I get there, without any help I might add! You get some sort of map of the area, but I've rarely seen a less helpful map in all my life, I have trouble seeing how it is useful in any way. It's actually quite a fun puzzle though, involving the order of rooms, what enemies are in those rooms and what 3d objects you find in those rooms. Pretty straight forward really, especially once you get it, but not too simple. And this is one point where the camera actually comes in handy, since it allows me to take snap shots of the rooms and what is in it, which my shitty memory would never be able to handle on its own.

Ok so I go here and then...

Rictus himself isn't very difficult, but that is probably because when I think I've beaten him... I actually haven't. Sly remembers too late that Rictus actually has a second form, or something, and we get thrown into super hero jail, along with a big bunch of other super heroes who have tried to take Rictus on and failed. Now we need to figure out a way to get out of this jail.

No biggie.

Want to know how to do it? Of course you do, it's as good of an example of how this game works and thinks as you're ever going to get.

Well, first you need to talk to everyone of course. You find out that some of the super heroes are locked up in cells whereas the weaker ones, like you, are free to roam the little room you have at your disposal. You need a code to break out one of the stronger super heroes, named the Fist, so that he can smash through the wall for you. To get the code you need to talk to a super hero named Headbreaker, or something along those lines, and get him to give you the ability to read minds. With that ability you can read the mind of Dr Hush-Hush who knows part of the code. The other part of the code you need to get from Invisolad, but unfortunately he is permanently invisible and hiding somewhere in the room (he has also gone mad from this, just like Invisible Man). To find Invisolad you need to get help from Krapto the Dog, who can sniff him out. But Krapto is really thirsty, so you need to find him a drink. Fortunately there is another large alien super hero maggot looking thing that needs to get its "sacks milked" and problem solved. Krapto sniffs out Invisolad for us, we read Invisolads mind and free the Fist. Easy, right?

At least its clean.

Unfortunately the Fist is now a depressed drunkard and not at all interested in saving us or the Universe. We give up on him and are about to see if we can find another way out when Invisolad decides to press the button that flushes everyone in the room out in to space (why there is such a button in the room is anyones guess). Like I said, he is mad. Things are looking really grim for us when Democratus, with unprecedented speed, unanimously votes to save our hides by going back to original size. 

Unhelpful.

This means Rictus space ship is immediately destroyed and everyone who hasn't already succumbed to the vacuum, radiation and cold of space are now running around somewhere on the planet surface. That includes our little team.

Atmospheric and cold.

We don't all end up in the same place of course, that would be too easy. We know where Democratus is for obvious reasons, so question is where Rho and the Fist ends up (and Rictus?). And where are we? Sly ends up in a small, snowy town called Whitendon which instantly makes me think of Thief. We get approached by a guy who tells us that they've got a problem with people disappearing and maybe I should go talk to the mayor and see if I can assist them? Yes, maybe I should. As I talk to people around town it seems they are confusing me for some guy named "Pete" who is an inhabitant of this town. Did I take over his body? That wouldn't make any sense. I probably just look a lot like that guy.

This game just went from a comic book to a detective mystery (hey, that should suit us!) in less time than it takes me to choke on my tea from laughter. I did just not see that coming at all and it is absolutely brilliant.

Now let's see if I can solve these disappearances.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Anachronox #11 - The Mysterious Levant

Spoiler alert, Sister Angela was the culprit. Fortunately for us, her partner in crime is completely incompetent and leaves the stolen goods just lying around in the open. We get the necessary evidence against her and problem solved. I am starting to suspect that you were only ever able to bring Stiletto and Grumpos to Hephaestus, though the game made a good job at making me think this was accidental. Now that we get to read the library, Grumpos goes to work. He learns how to untap the hidden potential in Mystech and tries to teach blockhead Sly (ergo, us) how to do it. It's good that he explains it slowly and in laymans terms because I still don't get it.

Choose your henchmen carefully.

Remember those heaps of bugs that were lying around everywhere? I mentioned them before and how I had no idea what they were for even though you could interact with them. Well up until now we have thought they were just mounds of disgusting bugs. Now we know better. The bugs are tuned to the Mystech and by attaching them on to it and also feeding them petals of flowers that grow around the place we can increase the strength by our Mystech (quite a lot it turns out). Yeah I don't really get it either, but I just tinker around and the end result is pretty awesome.

I get about as little as Sly does.

Now that Grumpos has read up on Mystech he also wants to have a word with the big honcho himself. The abbot informs us that they don't want to talk to us until we've... you guessed it, help them with another task. This one is a bit bigger though, we have to go deep into the underbelly of the monastery and make the pump work again. 

Walls or tunnels, who can tell?

This place is a maze like every other place, but it's also extra dark making it a bit more difficult for me to find my way around. Where is my Cat's Eye potion when I need it? The task is straightforward as usual, and only really requires you to go through the area and interact with whatever you can interact with. At one point however it took me embarrassingly long (read: around 30 min) to find the path I needed to go to continue. I even had to go look at a walkthrough, but the walkthrough was so blurry it was even more difficult to make anything out! It didn't really help me, it only confirmed what I already knew, there was a path somewhere I needed to take and for some reason my eyes refused to acknowledge its existence. If I ever have any complaint about this game, it would be that it's too damn dark!

If only they were all as obvious as this one.

I also accidentally read in this walkthrough *cough* that there are weapons to find for Grumpos and Stiletto, but unlike before they're not just lying about but have to be found by talking to the right person. There is just no way I could figure these things out by myself, and I'll be damned if I am going to talk to every person with every person in my team! Some of them give little clues though so I guess I just need to be more alert about them. I can't get Grumpos new weapon however because my Yammer skill isn't high enough, yet another thing I have missed to improve on somehow. I am hoping the weapons can be bought in the store once this is over, as the other ones have been.

The enemies down here aren't too difficult fortunately, even with my apparently subpar team skills, especially since Grumpos has an aoe-heal-all which feels quite overpowered. The reason the pump is working turns out to be because a massive lava-monster has decided to live in it, or something. Either way, it's boss time again and also again it has a gimmick in which you can pull some levers that blow cold air on the monster for a very high damage attack. I do like the tactical aspect to the fight, where each turn you have several options and you often have to weigh them against each other and choose the right one for the right time. Since I mentioned about the combat being a bit too simple it's definitely ramped up and is now at a pretty good level where you can't just mash a button and win but have to give some thought to your actions, but without too much worry about death around each corner.

What is the opposite of "burn baby, burn"?

Enemies only respawn once you leave an area, and what counts as "leaving an area" is something that isn't entirely logical and can't be explained, you'll learn as you play the game and will get a feeling for it. Overall this means that as long as you are in an area doing your thing you won't have to be in many battles. If you ever leave an area you'll know exactly where the battles are and what enemies you meet too. It's a pretty good system because it allows you to grind levels if you want to, or just focus on problem solving (once you've done away with the enemies) if you want to.

Once we've solved the problem with the pump we get to talk to the main guy and he tells us something about how Chaos has escaped and is causing all the trouble. Seems like a tall order for little Sly to save the universe, but apparently that's his destiny or something. Next up is going to the planet Limbus, not that we know how that is going to help but that's the only clue we've got so far.

It seems like a good idea to revisit areas when you have the opportunity, the game sort of hints at it as well. A guy gives me a side quest to go to Anachronox and back there I find another guy who gives me the master level of Democratus tractor beam. So that is how that works ey? The fact that you can revisit areas is a pretty good hint that they've left things lying around for you to do, once you've got new characters with new abilities. It's not entirely easy to figure out exactly what these are though, so either you've got to be a bit lucky or literally run through the entire areas again to see what you come across.

Flying to Limbus I bring Rho and Democratus with me. Again I am not sure if I actually have a choice in the matter of team mates, but the game makes another good job at making me believe I do. But the cut scenes all involve Rho and Democratus, so either they've got cut scenes for all possible team configurations or I've been set up, again. 


I'd read that.

Before we get there though, the massivest space ship ever recorded (according to Democratus) shows up and swallows us into its belly. The game keeps throwing us curve-balls because yet again something happens that I just couldn't have anticipated even in my wildest fever-dreams. Sly immediately recognizes that the ship belongs to a "super-villain" (his words) called Rictus. Apparently there are comic books across the galaxy about some people called the Kratons and they're based on actual real people. Rictus is part of this somehow. No, it doesn't make sense to me either.

They like charming fellows.

Even weirder, the game decides to go comic-book mode, and the entire exposition cut scene is in a comic book style, think like Scott Pilgrim. The game hardly even takes itself seriously at this point and I love that. I have no idea what is coming next and I love that too.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Anachronox #10 - Hephaestus

Sarah doesn't go by the name Sarah anymore, now she is known as Stiletto. Stiletto Anyway, even. Yeah, even the game acknowledges that it's a stupid name, but apparently Stiletto has wanted to re-invent herself and this is the result. Stiletto is nowhere near as cool and useful in combat as Rho Bowman though, in fact she is probably my least useful character so far. But Sly likes her. Fatima, my dead ex-secretary turned into computer doesn't like her though, because apparently she broke Sly's heart or something.

As we discuss how to get the item we need out of the Mystech Museum, PAL-18 decides to go off on his own to solve the problem. We play as PAL-18 for a short bit until he gets, needlessly I might add, rescued by Stiletto who then also decides to join forces with us. I didn't really catch what her motivations for that were, other than that she didn't really have much else to do at the moment.

PAL-18 tries to prove himself.

Rho gives us a quick lesson on what seems to be happening. First of all, there is the Big Bang and the Big Crunch. The universe expands and contracts cyclically forever. This can only happen because there is a certain amount of matter available in each universe. Apparently, someone is dumping matter from a previous universe into our current universe (don't know how a previous universe exists to be able to do that, but that's how it is) and it will eventually lead to our current universe crunching into non-existance earlier than it's supposed to. We need to stop this from happening, obviously.

Rho tries to keep it simple.

Now that we've got the item Rho wanted, it is time to take on Grumpos task of getting to the Mystech Library on Hephaestus - the lava planet where Mystech comes from. Since Rho accidentally activated Mystech all over the known universe, the monks on Hephaestus have been very quick to earn money from it by churning out Mystech from the lava and sell it. It's already a booming business, and some people are saying that they only do it for the money but the monks themselves assure everyone it's for the good of the universe.

Hephaestus, such a nice place for a vacation.

However that may be, as we get to Hephaestus we quickly learn that the abbot of the monastery won't give us access to the library unless we can solve some problems for him first. Of course.

What the game doesn't tell you at this point is that whomever you happen to have in your party when you leave Sender Station Station for Hephaestus are the only people you bring along (though I think you can technically fly back to SSS at any point to swap members, it is a bit of a trek - literally). Every other time the party has stuck together, except for that one time when PAL-18 didn't come along to the Hive for some reason. When you get to Hephaestus the party also agrees to split up, meaning Boots is on his own at first. You can see your chosen party members, in my case Grumpos and Stiletto, walk around the areas on their own, so that is a nice touch.

Have to get everything done myself.

Let me tell you a little bit about some creatures called "Bipidri". When I first came across them I thought they were tiny maintenance robots. I think they're biological creatures though and it seems to be a running gag (if you want to call it that) how mistreated they are by pretty much everyone. They're eaten, kept as pets and abused in every imaginable (and unimaginable, as you'll find out in the Red Light District...) way, though I am fairly sure they're sentient to some extent. I really hope the game resolves the Bipidri side-story by me setting them free or something. I really feel for these little cuties.

I mean they have suitcases, they need to be sentient right?

Let me talk a little bit about the music too. When I mentioned it before I said that it was a bit subdued and I hadn't really noticed it. That was on Anachronox and things have changed significantly since then. Interestingly enough the music has taken a big step up and offers quite a wide range of genres and there are loads of great tracks here. When I go down into the underworks of SSS there is a track that I swear could be straight out of FFIX. And then you have this nice little jazzy tune that plays on Hephaestus or this cool spacey techno tune (can't remember where that plays though). There were many composers on this soundtrack so maybe their diverse talents shine through here, either way it is well worth listening through, I can almost promise you'll find something you like.

Said no one ever.

Back to the abbot and his problems then. First of all you need to refill some substance they're running low on and secondly someone has stolen some relics from the monastery and you need to find the thief. Getting the substance means going down into the lavaworks with all its hazards. Before you're done down there you'll have struggled through poisonous gas, tried not to be electrocuted and avoiding spouting lava that would've made Bowser proud. Great fun in other words.

Everything is a maze.

My second task is more up Boots' alley, some good old detective work. It mostly revolves around questioning a lot of people about where they were and whom they suspect but in the end I find the culprit thanks to some nasty grit found on the crime scene. Before I go to apprehend the thief however it is time to round up my team again, it's always better to not go into those situations on your own.

But the game makes sure you don't get lost.

I could harp on about how great this game is, and I will probably say it a couple of times more before I am done playing it. It really is more of reading a crazy book than it is "gamey", and maybe that is what could put people off. You do have to do a lot of talking, but so far I haven't tired of it because they all say hilarious things. You just know that something completely unexpected and funny is going to happen around every corner and I kinda don't want this game to end.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Anachronox #9 - Red Light District

So we're back at Sender Station Station. From here you can choose to either help Grumpos find more information on Mystech on a planet called something like Haephestos or help Rho find more information on why planets get blown apart. I choose to help Rho first simply because I like her better. Also, her cause seems a tad bit more urgent.

Time for some more mini-games while we relax.

Rho needs some pieces of equipment to continue her research, and to get one of them we need to head down to the Red Light District on Sender Station Station. Remember when I mentioned that a few posts back? Probably not. To get to it we have to run through the pump station tunnels and I swear this game must be reading my blog posts or something because since I complained mentioned the difficulty level of the combat in my previous post I can almost physically see how the game rolled up its sleeves to open a can of whoopass on me. I've gone from not having any trouble at all to actually having to act quite carefully in combat. While I have yet to have anyone die, they get down to red health now and I have to make sure I equip the right trinkets (bracelets in this game though) so I don't get "winky'd", which I think is the equivalent of "confused" in every other game ever. I don't know what the status "nuts" does either, but it ain't good.

These guys got really difficult suddenly.

Did I also mention that you level really quickly? Because that's not true anymore. I actually have to grind a bit and get some new gear before I feel like I can venture further down the pump station tunnels but it turns out there aren't very many enemies down here fortunately. It does help that Grumpos has an aoe full heal at his disposal, though you have to wait a while to use it which puts my character dangerously low on health. It's all about tactical choices, and it's quite fun.

I find these anthills everywhere but don't know what they do.

And then I get to the Red Light District which is exactly as tragically decadent as I assume every Red Light District is. You're going to have to suffer through a whole lot of wanking euphemisms before you're done in this area so buckle up.

Nothing is subtle here.

In one of the pubs there is actually an opportunity to earn some cash by doing some sexy (?) dancing. I was immediately reminded of Cloud in the Honey Bee Inn and the gameplay is very similar. I do it a couple of times to try and nail it but I keep getting the same part wrong... I know I am actually horrible at rhythm games so maybe it just wasn't meant to be, sorry Boots for making a fool out of you.

Of course I needed a copy of "Deus Sex".

Speaking of something completely else though, I haven't had to use my camera for anything since I left Anachronox. But now that I mention it here I am sure the game is going to pick up on it and have me use it for something in my next play session. That would be extremely creepy. This game is definitely weird enough to be its own sentient being.

But you don't have to get naked.

I go into another bar and see what must be my next team member dance around for a bit. Then she makes a magnificent leap through the air and assassinates some thug-looking people standing in a corner (I know they are thug-looking because they look like the guy who beat the crap out of me in the beginning of the game). Boots seems to know who she is and calls out "Sarah" after. She basically says "oh hai" as she walks past him and runs out of the bar. The main reason I suspect that she is another team member is because she on the box art.

That just leaves one more team member to find, which must be the other dude on the game box. Interesting that the last two members for your team are the ones on the box art, nice way to spoil that!

As dangerous as she looks.

We're still not done on Sender Station Station though, now I need to figure out how to smuggle myself into the Tech-Museum to steal an item I need in there. I'm pretty sure I need to go through the vents but I haven't really figured out how yet. Maybe this Sarah person can help me with that?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Anachronox #8 - Cyberinsects

Finding the votes isn't particularly difficult, as long as you just talk to everyone and remember to use your skills in the right places. In fact, the vote I ended up having the most trouble with (Proposition nr 2, whether Vomit Torture should be allowed) was the one you'd think was going to be the easiest, because the answer was right in the open on posters plastered on the walls. I didn't think to look there!

Reading other people's letters like a criminal.

Votowne and Democratus is just absolutely bonkers. As is the entire game. It reminds me in so many ways of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and the funny thing is I wasn't even a huge fan of that book series. It felt like it tried to be quirky and weird just for the sake of it, and the story sort of got to take a backseat. To be fair, I was a cynical and pretentious teenager when I read it so I should probably give it another try. But for whatever reason, the humour in Anachronox works a lot better for me than I ever thought it did in HGttG. Maybe it's just more fun to play than it is to read about it?

Umm, shouldn't we help him?

Once I knew how to vote and had my golden vote certificate, proving that I had voted exactly like the high council that day, I made my way to ask the high council for help. Turns out they needed my help instead since the entire planet was under attack from some sort of Hive-creature that had sent out dozens of missiles to strike the planet. The high council couldn't agree on how to react, they couldn't even agree on whether there was an attack on the planet at all. They wanted to vote for it. Rho is a no-nonsense kind of person (I actually love her character) and told them that we'd gun our way into the hive and kill the queen. Boots wants to just take the space ship and run away but Rho won't let him. She's feeling guilty for blowing up Sunder and wants to atone by saving Democratus and the rest of us just has to enjoy the ride.

Rho Bowman, probably my favorite character so far.

For reasons I didn't quite understand PAL-18 chooses not to come with us. We make our way to the Verilent Hive and get to do another little mini-game, this time it's like that game Descent from 1995. Full disclosure, I haven't actually played that game, but this mini-game is how I imagine it to be. Once again the game suddenly decides to go completely mum on how to play the mini-game, probably thinking everything is self explanatory. Well... it isn't really. It took a while before I realized I couldn't fire more shots because I needed to reload, House of the Dead-style. This reloading is easily the worst part of the mini-game because I couldn't figure out a quick way to do it, each time I had to move my mouse cursor down to left corner of the screen (i.e away from my targets) and click the reload button. And you reload a lot.

A huge beehive floating around in space, what could be worse?

It also took me a while before I figured out that I could choose my own path and that I had to kill off some sort of structures before I could finally land my space ship. I flew around like a headless chicken trying to figure out what to do, but fortunately the game is pretty generous with healing items so there was little risk of failing.

Also the hit detection was bad, but overall not a horrible mini-game.

Once I am inside the hive I quickly figure out that I need to find some sort of colored items to put into colored holes to be able to open the path and... yeah it pretty much goes like all the other places I have been. While it might not be the most inventive gameplay, the dialogue and setting of the game is just so fun and funny that I don't care. The hive itself is no less of a labyrinth than the mini-game part was and here and there I find humans (?) who have been cocooned. They seem pretty ok with their situation though, I don't even make an attempt at saving these people.

You fight a lot of bugs in this place and you level up quickly in this game. Combat has yet to be a challenge but there is a lot to do so you can choose to be quite crafty about it if you like. Every character has a regular attack, some special skills that use up "bogue" which constantly charges throughout the fight, Mystech skills which use up NRG which can be recharged with Glodents (don't even ask...) and items. Any character can use any Mystech skill, they're equipped and bought like items. Special skills are unique for each character and I quickly find out that Grumpos both has an awesome aoe attack and aoe healing. With him on my team it feels like it would be impossible to die, though I really haven't felt anywhere near worried about dying so far in any case.

She looks meaner than she is.

Once I've found all the crystals I needed
to open up the path I go to fight the second boss of this game, the Hive Queen. It's a pretty fun fight, though also quite easy. For some reason the enemies are really bad at hitting you and so they miss a lot. I barely even take damage in most fights! Enemies also have a tendency to home in on just one character in my party who then takes the vast majority of attacks. Not sure if that is a good or a bad tactic, it is what it is.

The queen goes down, the missiles are disabled, Democratus is saved. We go back and get to leave with our shuttle. The Democratians have to decide on how they want to reward us, and in the meantime we go back to Sender Station Station.

I don't even know what to say.

As I am chilling in the lounge, a planet (!) shows up. Not just any planet, it's Democratus in mini-me size (because they can do that)! Apparently their reward to us is to tag along as a party member. The. Entire. Planet. This game you guys... it just has to be experienced. How do they even come up with these things?