Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Secret of Monkey Island Nostalgia

The bf had been in a bit of a gaming slump lately, relating to the fact that he is a massive (and I mean super massive) Dark Souls fan but lacks the means in which to play the third installment. His computer is not good enough simply, and the PS4 version wasn't worthy apparently (DS is to be enjoyed only on the highest of settings, or something like that). So anyway, as it had started to bother me to see him fall into his usual rut of watching yet another clip from some DBZ episode for the 500th time, I started suggesting games for him. Pretty much anything retro, as other than DS the bf isn't particularly interested in modern gaming. Even then he shunned all of my suggestions, because he is a very, very picky man. Nothing was good enough. Then, for some reason, his interest seemed piqued with Secret of Monkey Island. In a way it made sense, he has some small interest in point and click adventure games and had previously played Grim Fandango (which he didn't like) and Day of the Tentacle (which he thought was ok). So Secret of Monkey Island should be a good idea then, seeing as it is a classic in the genre. I was thrilled. I am a big fan of SoMI and was looking forward to seeing the bfs reaction to it. I should have known better.

Those new graphics though... *shudder*

As he started playing it, and I had told him that for the love of all that is holy to play it with the original graphical settings rather than the remade ones, I pretty soon noticed that something was amiss. He was clicking around, doing the things, trying to half-heartedly solve the puzzles, meeting all the funny and whacky characters that inhabit Melee Island and just so obviously, clear as day, not feeling it. What?! He didn't enjoy SoMI? How is that even possible?

True enough, eventhough he did complete it, he proclaimed he didn't understand what the "fuzz" was all about. I didn't know what to say. How do you explain the "fuzz" about Monkey Island? It's just there!

The "combat" suited my pacifist child-self perfectly.

Like I said, I love SoMI. I don't remember when or where I first played it and I probably didn't get very far that time as I probably was quite young. But I have replayed it a couple of times since and also some of the sequels (possibly even all the sequels come to think of it, yes even the Tales of Monkey Island one) and it holds a very fuzzy (!), warm spot in my heart. I fell in love with that perpetually dusked island way back and it's always been one of my favorite examples of a game with a very good "feeling". The mood of the game is just right and even through the crude but beautiful pixels it manages to instill the sense of being an actual place with actual (albeit a bit crazy) people (and monsters). I believed in Monkey Island. Somehow it's like an actual place to me without actually feeling like a real place, but I know that probably makes no sense. And whenever I think of it I think of it more of a place to revisit than a game to replay. Maybe like a really vivid dream? I don't know very many games that give me this feeling, World of Warcraft used to be that but has with its many new expansions that I haven't taken part in lost some of that nostalgia for me. Thief definitely gave me some of that feeling, but was a bit too creepy and stressful to give me a pure happy sensation (still love that game though). Some old movies can give me that feeling, movies you watched a hundred times as a kid and you wished really existed.


I'm not even sure I would have patience with most of the puzzles in SoMI nowadays (and eventhough you'd think I remember most of them, that is never the case). Actually, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't. But of course it's not about the puzzles, the puzzles are just the reason to introduce you to settings and people that will stick in your memory. To me Monkey Island was always just the island. Sure there is the troll by the bridge, the circus guys, the red herring, the dogs, the guy in that store who walks all the way to the Sword Master over and over... But somehow what really stuck in my memory was just being on that island, on that endless night where everything was nice and calm and I could just chill out.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Omikron: The Nomad Soul - Unfinished Playthrough Review

After what is probably a year of trying to get through it, I decided to uninstall Omikron: The Nomad Soul. And what really bugs me about it is that I can't really put my finger on why I couldn't get into it.
There are plenty of games otherwise that I enjoy well enough, but I just know that I will never be able to beat them for one reason or other - most often the reason being that it's just too damn difficult. For instance I loved Faster Than Light and played it countless hours but I still ever only managed to beat it on easy (and I am pretty damn proud at that). I could've played it still today, and probably will play it again in the future, but I just had to recognize that eventhough it was still fun there were also other games I wanted to try out (oh, so many) and I simply needed to make room. For FTL it was not goodbye however, simply auf wiedesehen. I am also currently playing Crypt of the Necrodancer and having great fun with it but I can also tell already that I will never be able to beat that game - I've made it halfway through world two at the moment and damn those dragons get me every time! I am still far from giving up on that one however, thanks in large to the über-awesome OST, so you never know - miracles to happen.

Just your typical bar.

That was not the issue with Omikron however. I don't know what the issue with Omikron was! Just a bit of background here, it was originally released in 1999 (a great year for PC gaming - Age of Empires 2, System Shock 2 and Planescape Torment were also released this year, to name a few!) by Quantic Dream, you know the people who later did Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls? Yeah, this was their first game.
It really had everything going for it to sweep me off my feet. It was from the time period of PC gaming that I love, it has the fugly graphics that I love. The story is pretty good and the characters are interesting enough. I didn't even think the controls and gameplay mechanics were overly difficult, once I finally got them working anyway (turns out Omikron doesn't particularly like it when you have a controller installed but that took me way long to figure out). The controls were far from perfect, for instance why would you have two completely different control schemes depending on if you're swimming or walking? That nearly had me drowning way too many times. But that is something I come to expect from that time period, I've played plenty of games from that time to know that back then people just invented their own way of doing it, WASD was barely a thing yet. So with each game you try out, part of the fun is trying to figure out how to move around at all. And like I said, it wasn't overly bad in Omikron, but pretty standard tank-controls with easy to understand trigger-keys.

You can tell it's David Bowie, right?

And the gameplay, well - many of the gameplay aspects were actually quite good. They had the regular mode, but then in some parts of the game it turns into some style of shooter (and again, different controls) but all of these were well designed enough to add rather than subtract from the whole. It spiced things up and never became frustrating. The "hail-a-taxi"-feature was great, making sure you could always get to quest-points you needed to go to, or had already visited. This made sure you never got lost and confused. Ok, scratch that - I was plenty confused. Some of the puzzles were quite tricky and I definitely had to employ walkthroughs to get through them. Even when I knew exactly what I had to do, I wasn't standing in the exact right place or talking to the right people in the right order to get it to work. And I would've never been able to figure out I needed to take over the guards body to escape from the prison, I didn't even know I had that ability! But again, it's the style of the times and that in combination with my, quite frankly, abysmal puzzle-solving skills is just a hotbed for frustration on my part. I don't blame the game for that though, the information was there if you knew where to look (or had the patience to keep looking).

It didn't crash or bug on me even once either (not counting when I first started playing it and couldn't get the controls to work), unlike games like KOTOR. KOTOR I had to stop playing after I realized I had spent more time troubleshooting bugs and crashes than I had spent time actually playing it. After a critical bug saw me having to replay hours of the game (I had chosen the wrong dialogue option way back, not triggering an event to happen) I decided enough was enough. No such trouble with Omikron, it ran smoothly.

The cab is the best.
And yet, it just never was... fun enough. But like I said, I can't explain why. Somehow the the whole ended up just not being as good as the parts of it. I could appreciate each element of the game on their own (especially the part where David Bowie has a pretty big part in it) but it just didn't manage to come together in a way that kept me around.

I can't say it's a bad game though, because it really isn't. The whole idea that it's not actually a game and you as a "player" is actually sucked into the world of Omikron to save it from some sort of demon is actually a really fun and interesting one. Maybe I just got stuck too often. If I have to resort to a walkthrough too much, I'm not really playing the game anyway, am I? I might as well just watch a LP of it, because that is basically what I am doing anyway. So, that is what I might just do. But finish this game, I will not.