Leisure Suit Larry: Land of the Lounge Lizards – DOS

Ah, the beautiful sanctity of marriage. Such an auspicious and respected tradition.

Ah, the beautiful sanctity of marriage. Such an auspicious and respected tradition.

Sometime early in college, my great Uncle Harold upgraded his computer.  Essentially my grandfather, Uncle Harold has some impressive traits for a senior citizen. One, as an early adopter of technology, he always has the latest gadgets (usually photography-related) well before anyone else in my family. Two, although he doesn’t flaunt it like a lot of old men, he has a vibrant, private dirty side to him. And while I may not yet have found his alleged hoard of Playboys, I did receive a pleasant surprise when he gave me his old Windows 95 computer (in 2002) and a box full of unmarked 3.5 inch floppy disks. Let me stress the term “unmarked.” While most of them had nothing of note on them, two of them caught my attention. On one, what I can best describe as an extended animated .gif, a woman having sex demonstrated the technological capacity for photo-realistic breast-bouncing. To put it mildly. On another, I found that for all of Uncle Harold’s subtle disapproval of my reading fiction and playing video games, he had indulged in a lively, lighthearted little legend among electronic gaming, Leisure Suit Larry and the Land of the Lounge Lizards.

You couldn't call a game about the quest for anonymous sex complete without a good, moral lesson about public exposure.

You couldn’t call a game about the quest for anonymous sex complete without a good, moral lesson about public exposure.

Sadly, for all my interest in classic SNES-era RPGs, I’ve found that entries with terms like breasts, penis, sex, bdsm, and any other of those erotic terms I can figure out how to squeeze into the text are really the entries that drive viewers to my blog. Since I’ve finished all the Mystique Swedish Erotica series, I had to look around for something new. Fortunately, I’ll have underground sex games aplenty should I ever need to up my viewership. For now, after spending about a week with Larry Laffer, I have, let’s say, “unlocked a new achievement”: Two in a row! I have just abandoned my second game in a row due to overpowering tedium!

Wait, let me get my calculator...sorry, I can't find the beer button.

Wait, let me get my calculator…sorry, I can’t find the beer button.

Let me get the background out of the way, first. Leisure Suit Larry tells the story of Larry Laffer, a 40-year-old version before Steve Carell made it cool, on a quest to get laid. I guess publisher Sierra had a different approach to the concept of “virtual reality.” I play games for something unusual and interesting! Not to relive ten years of frustration! Anyway, over the course of an evening in Las Vegas, Larry must go through all the proper steps of wooing women–boxes of candy, jewelery found in a men’s room, expensive wine, and other gestures that came off as hackneyed and cliched at a time when movie stars still rode off into sunsets and people wrote stories on papyrus. The game comes in two forms, the 1987 text parser adventure (type commands via keyboard) and the 1991 remake, which uses a point-and-click interface, and an upgraded resolution that can show more realistic looking anatomy, including shaded breasts and nipples–but chooses not to do so. Keepin’ it classy, eh, Larry? I hate to break it to you, Sierra, but your attempted humor has all the appeal of a Tuesday night strip club–a few drinks might make it interesting, but I’d still rather go home and sleep.

Because all adults can agree on the appropriate answer to this question, furthermore, without acting like children.

Because all adults can agree on the appropriate answer to this question, furthermore, without acting like children.

Stepping up to the plate for your first attempt at swinging, the game first pitches you a quiz. It asks you for your age, and if you answer in the range of 0-15 or over 100, the game automatically kicks you off.  Apparently seeing the hints of pixilated cleavage and a square representing an erect nipple through a dress might just cause centurions to have heart attacks, or send a 15-year-old boy spiraling into a den of sin from which he’ll never escape. No problem with 16-year-olds, though. Apparently, sex adventure games rate somewhere less than “R” and higher than “PG-13.“ Next problem I encountered, the game quizzed me to make sure I fell in the 21-39 range I claimed after I stopped trying to have fun by playing a game and fess up honestly. Apparently, Sierra has developed a crack formula for determining information that all adults know, but would mystify anyone younger than 16. Mainly that consists of knowing intimate details about the Nixon administration, including knowing all three vice-presidents from 1973-1974, the fact that Ford didn’t ever win a presidential election, and a running tab of U.S. attorney generals. Fortunately, I could guess the number of calories in a can of beer and look up the star of “Bedtime for Bonzo,” but I disagree vehemently with the game when it said that showing up to a party in your birthday suit would not “a: Help you make a lot of new friends.” I guess I could consider finding ways to age restrict what they perceived as a racy game as a noble attempt, but half that stuff I knew by the age of 12, and the other half I had to rev up my brain into GRE mode just to have a shot at answering. I’ll admit I don’t know what germ causes syphilis. I’ll wager a majority of the people with syphilis don’t even know the name of the germ, and the majority of them have a minimal knowledge of germs in general.

Losing all control when someone shows you porn seems like a bad quality in a man who sells naked women for a living.

Losing all control when someone shows you porn seems like a bad quality in a man who sells naked women for a living.

By the time I got to the actual game, I first took note of Larry, moving around the screen with all the vivacity of a sedated tortoise suffering from severe depression. After about an hour of playing, I noticed an option in the menu for increasing the game’s speed. It baffles me that anyone thought people would welcome this option. If you need five minutes to mentally adjust to the idea of crossing a room, you should avoid video games of any sort. Seriously, if you need to play LSL at anything less than the fastest setting, a rousing game of solitaire could trigger an epileptic fit, and something like Minesweeper could put you into anaphylactic shock. I also didn’t appreciate having to repeat commands, reading graffiti or flipping through TV channels ad infinitum just to read through every last pitch for a joke that went around the developer’s table. Comedy relies on speedy timing, and having jokes delivered on the backs of snails does tend to ruin the jokes. By the time I did figure out I needed to enter the command multiple times, I had enough time to notice that since the TV used a rabbit-ear antenna, I would not likely find the porn flick that eventually distracted the pimp on a broadcast station.

Finally, Larry, you've found some wholesome wife-material. Take this one home to meet mom!

Finally, Larry, you’ve found some wholesome wife-material. Take this one home to meet mom!

In addition to that, the game includes such interesting behavior as a) handing out booze like spare change, thus ensuring a speedy death via alcohol poisoning to any drunk who might have randomly useful shit in his pockets. b) A woman proposing to a complete stranger who gave her a diamond ring, then danced with her, because when it comes to the gray area of fucking a stranger, only marriage will somehow clear up any moral ambiguity. Because she shouldn’t worry at all about the syphilis germ. Or her potential death at the hands of a possible serial killer. And, of course, I have to mention the coup de grace, c) censored sex scenes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in a game preying on humans’ instinctive attraction to sex, a game involving a rigorous age filter, a game about a balding 38-year-old hobbit looking to score, every time the pants come off, the black “censored” bar goes on. Custer’s Revenge had more erotic moments than Leisure Suit Larry. Fuck it. Skip this game and just go to Red Tube.

What the fuck? Literally! Their parts may have the lowest resolution this side of the Atari 2600, but I think I deserve it for having slogged through the unintuitive muck of this game.

What the fuck? Literally! Their parts may have the lowest resolution this side of the Atari 2600, but I think I deserve it for having slogged through the unintuitive muck of this game.

Darkened Skye – Game Cube, PC

Taste the half-assed advertising campaign. I mean rainbow. Also, give us money.

Taste the half-assed advertising campaign. I mean rainbow. Also, give us money.

Everywhere I go, I hear people lament the loss of good advertising. “Oh why can’t we get a few billboards put up in school hallways?” or “For God’s sake, I don’t have nearly enough time to take dump in the middle of my TV show. Couldn’t we make the breaks longer?” or “These webpages load way too fast! I might have a seizure. If only we could fill it with dead weight to slow it down.”  Fortunately, Corporate America has devised a clever new way of treating us like morons in hopes of us giving them money: product placement in video games! And thus, with a heavy heart, I introduce Darkened Skye, a high fantasy epic action adventure platformer about a young sorceress heroine who unlocks her hidden magical potential…with Skittles. Yes. Those Skittles.

Skye, a young twentle herder with a sort of Christina Hendricks vibe opens the story with an onslaught of unsolicited exposition about not knowing her father, wanting to find her mother, hoping to live to a higher destiny than herding twentle, and other such topics that don’t really segue into one another, but would still help us understand everything about the story without having to subtly reveal this all piece by piece throughout the course of the game. Then, chasing after a twentle that suddenly blitzes a technicolor path away from the herd, she finds an orange skittle, magical things start to happen, and suddenly the game’s great evil puts her on his hit list.  The game reveals very early on that it doesn’t take itself very seriously and adopts an irreverent tone. They even give you a wisecracking gargoyle sidekick. Or, rather, a cracking gargoyle sidekick. His jokes don’t display a whole lot of wisdom or wit.

Trust me. You'll enjoy this picture more than his joke.

Trust me. You’ll enjoy this picture more than his joke.

See, if you want to make a game that mocks the tropes and cliches of mill fantasy stories, first you have to have the talent to actually write a better story. Darkened Skye wants to toy with these tropes, but sometimes makes fun of minor ones while oblivious to the extremely worn out plot devices. Early on, Skye discovers a secret message–which the player never sees themselves–and declares sarcastically, “How will I ever decode this? They wrote it in backwards writing!” Congratulations. You figured out the Mirror of Erised as fast as a borderline-aspergers case who used to read things backwards everywhere I went.  Now would you please throw in some snappy witticism about revealing that the villain’s right-hand man who’s plagued you throughout the game dramatically reveals himself as your father? Please? Even a short remark indicating that you know how often this happens in science fiction and fantasy?  No? We just want to look the other way on this one? Nah, that doesn’t embarrass you in the least, does it?

I have to go where? Do these pillows at least have a railing?

I have to go where? Do these pillows at least have a railing?

Before I continue…Fuck you Mario! Damn you to Hel! You heard me…the Norse Hel. Where a dragon will gnaw on your corpse for eternity.  You save one measly video game industry from collapsing, and now everyone assumes that nothing pleases players as much as hopping from tiny ledges over gaping chasms.  Seriously, though; Super Mario Bros. didn’t even focus on that. Why does everyone who wants to throw together a game without any inspiration whatsoever automatically drain their environments of anything interesting, fill it with water or lava or just take away the ground, and assume that will sell? The early stages of Darkened Skye reveal the heroine’s complete inability to swim just before taking her to an archipelago for the first 30% of the game. And of course, if you so much as get your toe wet, you have to restart the level. Does no one understand that people naturally float? No one should die that easily in water unless their body consists of pure potassium.

Shit! I missed. Would you mind waiting for my candy to recharge?

Shit! I missed. Would you mind waiting for my candy to recharge?

But when not hopping over obnoxious gameplay cliches, Skye has to fight monsters. She begins the game with a staff that she can bash over the skulls of her foes with all the might of a pile of overcooked spaghetti, but eventually starts accumulating offensive magic, which fire different types of missiles at her foes with all the might of a pile of overcooked spaghetti. I can’t tell whether the designers wanted tedious combat or frustrating combat. Either way, you’ll run through a lot of life potions while fighting, and often–especially early on–you’ll lose less life just by turning the other cheek and performing your work as though you didn’t have evil lizard-frogs shooting two or three fireballs at you every second.  Later in the game, this evens out a little, although I can’t tell if that happened because I got better, my spells got stronger, or that I didn’t have to worry about falling off as many precarious precipices. Still, the lack of an aiming mechanic makes fighting enemies at a distance a pain, and even using the staff melee attack, Skye just swings it around ostentatiously with no real regard for the thing directly in front of her that the player wants to kill. Combat takes time, saps life, and I couldn’t have gotten through the game if it hadn’t essentially let me use save states.

Found this long before I got the shrink spell. Had to go through long after I got it. I didn't figure this out immediately.

Found this long before I got the shrink spell. Had to go through long after I got it. I didn’t figure this out immediately.

Except for aforementioned offensive spells, Skye’s magic performs effects. True Sight lets her see invisible things, Firewalk lets her cross lava on foot, and Diminish lets her briefly shrink to a tiny size–an interesting feat when you realize the people playing the game use Skittles to magically increase their size. I’d describe it as a refreshing concept had they actually done it well. They don’t always make it obvious when a new spell becomes available, and oftentimes when you do get one, you don’t yet have enough of the right color of Skittles to perform it. So I ran into a lot of puzzles that confused me to no end, only to find the solution in my magic menu a half hour later.  Or even better, sometimes I’d run into puzzles after forgetting about a spell I used once or twice at the beginning of the game, a problem compounded by the fact that the only person who published a complete walkthrough online seems to consider punctuation pretentious.  The entire guide contains about three sentences and cuts out some important information; at one point it told me to follow a set of human footprints instead of gargoyle footprints, but didn’t bother to mention that without the spell that I literally only used in the first level I couldn’t see either of them.

I wanted to hate this game. I really did. Honest. But despite obnoxious boss battles, lame attempts at humor, endless combat, reloading the game every twelve seconds, at a series of bugs and glitches, one of which makes Skye move through the level like her puppeteer had tangled up her strings, I actually caught myself enjoying it.  Sure they pour inept jokes into the game like a leaky septic tank, but every so often they pull off something genuinely amusing–likely by accident, but still funny.  The stages have no relation to each other, but after about six or so, they start to make the world feel flushed out and complete.  Also I didn’t mind the busty orange-haired heroine with the voice of Princess Jasmine (almost the only acting job she’s taken other than the Aladdin franchise). I actually liked it in a never-going-to-play-this-again sort of way.

If I could take screenshots with my Game Cube, I'd show you the marionette glitch. But I can't. So here's a Chinese-looking guy instead.

If I could take screenshots with my Game Cube, I’d show you the marionette glitch. But I can’t. So here’s a Chinese-looking guy instead.

The length, however, holds the game back more than anything else. While I beat the game with the clock under eight hours, it probably took me four or five times that much what with all the falling into holes and getting killed by monsters and solving convoluted puzzles and looking stuff up in the walkthrough. Thirty hours feels like ages for a simple game like this, and I can honestly say I’ve never given that much attention to a commercial before. I actually don’t mind advertising.  I don’t really want to think about the day when they start casting big-name celebrities just to endorse products–David Duchovney breaking up the conspiracy in XIII with his trusty Ruger Firearms, or Liam Neeson in Fallout suggesting you raid the old Dunham’s store for top-quality protective gear–but I can recognize that I get some good stuff out of it. Namely, I don’t have to fund Futurama’s animation staff out of my own pocket. But even Burger King and Taco Bell can recognize what Darkened Skye can’t; if you want us to sit through a 30-hour commercial, you have to make the game free.

Mario (Galaxy – Wii) vs Wario (Land – Game Boy) – An alternative Prospective

Sorry guys, but I’m taking this week off. Hey, some games just take more than a week to play! Give me some time. Anyway, Anne agreed to take over, and since I don’t share the world’s love of Mario, she came up with a few thoughts on the subject. Enjoy.

I find it difficult to believe that this planet could support an apex predator of this size.

I find it difficult to believe that this planet could support an apex predator of this size.

Some games don’t need a long synopsis to help the player grasp the concept of the game play or the progression of the story. These games tend to change only minimally since the beginning of their series. When someone says they’ve been playing Mega Man you may feel the need to clarify, “classic, X or Zero series?” But regardless of their response, your mind probably fills with images of 8 boss levels of varying themes and everyone’s favorite tiny robotic hero and his blue spandex codpiece. The same goes, if not more so, for the Mario franchise. No, don’t start pulling up your emails to send me an angry rant pointing out Mario RPG’s originality or Mario’s cameo appearance in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. We both know that the main series has changed only superficially since its 2D NES days.

Dude, he won't take the hint. Just tell him she's on another planet.


Dude, he won’t take the hint. Just tell him she’s on another planet.

So no, I won’t bore you with a long and tedious description of how the story of Mario Galaxy progresses or spend time lavishing praise over the colorful and creative level designs. For those few of you who have taken up hermitage since before the release of the Nintendo Wii and have only just come down off your mountains: Bowser once more kidnaps Princess Peach, this time into space, and Mario, still unable to take a hint, flies off to her rescue. This of course requires him to traverse the corners of the universe in order to save the least protected ruler of all time. He does this through using changes in the physics of the levels to his advantage as well as turning into the requisite Mario franchise creatures; in this case a ghost and a bee.

Princess Peach meets Jessica Rabbit

Princess Peach meets Jessica Rabbit

With that out of the way, we can get to the more important topic; why the hell doesn’t Mario just forget about Peach and take up with Rosalina? Kidding of course. The real question is, are we sure that Mario really is the hero of this franchise? I mean, we all assume that since the basis of the games’ quite limited storyline is always Mario saving the princess that he must therefore be a valiant and selfless figure, but many people on the Internet have theorized that Mario is in fact a rather morally ambiguous figure. To mention only a few examples, he murders helpless goombas who pose no threat to him unless he stupidly walks straight into them of his own free will, and in games like Mario Kart he shows his disdain for even his own brother. For more examples I will point you in the direction of the Game Theorist on YouTube and his Vlog article entitled ‘Why Mario is Mental’.

But that then begs the further consideration that, if Mario is not the hero but rather the villain of the tale then how can he have an evil doppleganger. I am of course speaking of Wario, the apparent anti-hero to mirror Mario’s supposedly altruistic persona. I would like to make the argument that perhaps Wario is, in reality, a hero in his own right and that we have been judging him through the colored lens of our belief in Mario’s goodness, and in that he looks like what we expect a villainous version of our protagonist to look like, cue all the jokes about profiling ever. But consider this, when we first meet Wario he is shown stealing Mario’s castle, which leads everyone’s favorite excrement clearer to start a journey to get it back. Yet, what if Wario was taking over for a good reason; what if, in fact, he really was leading a revolution in order to depose the tyrannical despot that has previously been ruling in order to give less understood creatures like the goomba and koopas a chance to thrive right along side their cuter, yet no more threatening counterparts, the Toads? The revolution is upon us, comrades! The proletariat will rise and shed the mushrooms and question mark blocks of our oppressors!

IdLBwLoI would like to direct your attention to the original Wario Land series for the Gameboy where Wario does the exact same things that Mario does in all of his games; punching baddies, dropping through tubes, and more importantly collecting coins. He does this in order to purchase his own castle. Note: PURCHASE, not steal. Yes, he loots ancient treasures but if we as a society are willing to call Indiana Jones and Lara Croft heroes when they do the same thing, then we might be setting a bit of a double standard by villainizing Wario for that behavior. At the end of the first game he comes upon a young woman who has a genie that she orders to murder him. When this doesn’t work out she disappears, and Wario uses his wish, not to get back at Mario or anyone else who has slighted him–including the would-be murderess–but instead wishes for a castle. The size of the prize is dependent on the amount of money and treasure the player has collected to this point in the game (I’m not admitting that I have rarely gotten above the absolute base hovel in most play-throughs so I don’t want to hear any snicker in the back row. That means you!). This clearly shows the connection of his hard work paying off rather than him being given status based on what brainless royal he is currently dating.

I believe that Wario is not the monster portrayed by Nintendo’s over dramatized story-telling but rather the victim of a vicious smear campaign, perpetrated in order to hide the much more dastardly actions of his counterpart, namely everyone’s golden boy: Mario.

Dear God! He's gone full chia! Abandon planet!

Dear God! He’s gone full chia! Abandon planet!

Also, if you need further proof that Mario isn’t exactly the poster child for positive messages, just think about the underlying themes of Mario Galaxy, if not all of his earlier games. The viewer is expected to believe the Mario just happened to come into town on a star-themed festival day that also just so happened to coincide with the newest abduction attempt of his spiky antagonist and then goes rocketing off into space-sans helmet- in order to save his love interest. In the course of this trip he turns into animals, leaves his physical body to become a spirit, rockets around between a rainbow plethora of psychedelic planets with bizarre and often impossible gravity changes. I would like to present this theory to the reader: Mario is not out saving the damsel in a daring space adventure but rather tripping out on Reindeer Mushrooms that he picked up at the star festival and ingested.

Can you believe the earth looked like this when it first formed?

Can you believe the earth looked like this when it first formed?

First, a science lesson: Amanita muscaria, most known by gamers as the red and white Mario mushroom is, in real life a highly toxic mushroom found all around the world. In addition to its poisonous nature this mushroom also has another fun trick up its sleeve in the form of its ability to cause extreme and prolonged hallucinations. Reindeer that eat them in northern climates have been known to chase and even ram cars while hopped up on the effects of these diminutive fungi.

Doesn’t it then, seem much more likely that after seeing all of the star paraphernalia from the festival, ingests some of the country’s most common cuisine (do we really see any other edible foliage throughout the Mario series?) and spends the afternoon tripping out about the one thing he knows best: saving the princess. He even goes so far as to throw in an even hotter love interest and gives himself the power to ignore the laws of space and time. Now I don’t know about you but that sounds like a psychedelic trip to me.

I leave it to you to make up your mind about the accusations laid before you today but keep in mind, if we keep standing behind this possibly psychopathic drug addict we may have no one else to blame when he names himself the unquestioned tyrannical ruler of all.

Mystique Sex Games (Round 2) – Atari 2600

Here, the game challenges you to figure out the secret input to continue: up, down, repeat.

Here, the game challenges you to figure out the secret input to continue: up, down, repeat.

When I first started out as a wee little blogger, WordPress eased me into the online community by recommending that I follow those with similar interests, so I looked into a few other people writing about video games and left a comment or two here and there. Out of that original group, I can proudly boast that only I still update on a regular basis. Or at all. Writing doesn’t come easy, even to me, and few things can discourage a writer more than having a stat counter that only proves no one reads your work. However, one year later not only do I still post, but I have averaged about five views per day since I started. Not that I always had this many readers. Well…viewers. Who knows if they actually read each dissertation I write?

My luck turned around about three or four months back with one entry that I rushed through and didn’t feel confident about. In it, I mocked the Mystique/Playaround line of sex games for the Atari 2600, naively thinking that no one in their right mind–no one!–could actually get interested in super-low resolution sprites of naked men and women engaged in simple, mechanical two-sprite animations meant to resemble sex acts. To give you an idea of the magnitude of my misjudgment, after that entry my readership jumped up to an average of about 23 views per day. So to show my appreciation for the unnatural pleasure I take from constantly looking at the graphs on my stats page, I’d let you take some unnatural pleasure in the other three Mystique games.

For those of you who missed the previous entry, Mystique, later rebranded as Playaround, tried to make games for the Atari 2600 that appealed to adults. Horny, creepy, perverted adults. They released the 1982 equivalent of M rated games on extra-long cartridges that had two games in one (because you simply can’t pleasure yourself if you can’t jam your extra-long toy in at both ends). These games, sold under the description of “Swedish Erotica,” came out (hehe…) as six paired cartridges, with each pair offering essentially the same game with reverse gender roles.

An improved version of "Breakout." Nothing to shake a dick...I mean, nothing to shake a stick at.

An improved version of “Breakout.” Nothing to shake a dick…I mean, nothing to shake a stick at.

If you look at games like Bachelor Party / Bachelorette Party, you may notice they didn’t set the bar very high. In fact, they just re-made Breakout. A crappy, watered-down version of Breakout. And I didn’t like Breakout to begin with.  The player’s pong paddle blocks a tiny naked man, in Bachelor Party, or a woman in Bachelorette Party, who bounces through a small field of naked people of the opposite gender. These people act like the blocks in Breakout. There. You know all about the game. Yes, I guess I could elaborate and tell you that it has four game modes, two of them sporting a zig-zag pattern of debauchery while the other forms a straight double line of fornication, each version having an easy mode with multiple…uh…guys versus the hard mode with only one.  As the player…uh…hits on?…more naked people, then run faster and faster (although we can hardly fault the little guys for getting excited), but apparently they need you as the trusty wing man to make sure they run back to the women rather than darting for your escape. Honestly, no, I don’t get it, but they modeled the game after Breakout and what more do you need than naked people?! Huh?!

RetroArch-0306-185436I can say this much about these games, though: they don’t discriminate. Your player picks up women/men of every color! Black, white, yellow, red . . . blue. . . and green. Damn it! Breakout, people! Why don’t you understand that?  Oddly enough, though, the game treats you to a jingle from Auld Lang Syne every time you start. I don’t entirely know what possessed them to do that. Maybe you’ve known these naked people for ages and don’t want to forget them…in bed? Or perhaps you’ve planned the party on New Year’s Eve, a night known for drunken hedonism? Or perhaps they simply selected a well-known public domain song? As much as I’d like to believe any one of those suggestions, they use “happy birthday” for Bachelorette Party, which easily shatters all of those hypotheses. (Yes, Happy Birthday still falls under copyright protection. I didn’t believe it either, but I looked it up on Snopes.)

Rule #1: Don't point your weapon at anything you don't intend to...well...

Rule #1: Don’t point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to…well…

Next in our line-up comes Beat ‘em and Eat ‘em / Philly Flasher, and I only have one word to say about these masterpieces. “Gross.” In Beat ‘em and Eat ‘em, a naked man so well-endowed that he probably needs leg braces and a special sling to walk masturbates off the roof of a building. The player controls two nude women (or one in the second game mode) who dash madly back and forth…to catch the drops…with their mouths….I guess some people get their kicks that way, and hey, semen has a lot of protein and ingesting it supposedly helps prevent depression, so I guess this game promotes good health. You know, in addition to public indecency.

Because witches lactate, right?

Because witches lactate, right?

In the reverse gender role version, Philly Flasher, they don’t change much, the men who dash for the droplets of I-don’t-want-to-know-what for some reason have stripes. Like a bee. A big, naked bee that masturbates after successful catches. But hey, bees cover themselves in pollen, and doesn’t pollen work like flower semen? Gross? Yeah, I know. Also the lady on the roof top sports a witch hat for some reason. This game seemed infatuated with the concept of “for some reason.” Unfortunately, the game doesn’t have anything going for it other than the concept (which while appealing to some, does not appeal to me). Darting back and forth doesn’t really create stimulating gameplay, and…well…nope. I can’t criticize anything else. You just dart back and forth. I might suggest skipping this one.

However, like in my first review on Mystique games, one of them actually stands out as kind of fun to play. Theoretically. If you get used to it.  Cathouse Blues / Gigolo stars a man and woman respectively, out for a night on the town.  The player has three objectives: one, when the police release all their prostitutes into the wild, you need to memorize which houses they go to. Two, you have to swing by the ATM. Three…well, I should hope you’ve figured it out by now. Just don’t get caught. The police will drag you to jail and you’ll lose a life, or the thief (or so I assume) will take all your cash, resulting in an automatic game over.

They say video games make kids believe they have extra lives in reality. Not Mystique: they only deal in spare genitalia.

They say video games make kids believe they have extra lives in reality. Not Mystique: they only deal in spare genitalia.

For an Atari 2600 game, Cathouse Blues and Gigolo have a surprising level of sophistication. They have multiple goals, require different skills, and they have a mostly plausible premise (except, you know, for the guy who has sex seven times in one evening. They didn’t have Viagra in 1982.) While recommending anything by Mystique falls on the line of suggesting which hardcore, illegal narcotic might best fit your needs, if you had to choose one, go for this one. While it does dull the senses somewhat, at least you get a small rush before losing all sensation and waking up the next morning with a crushing sense of regret and shame.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and if you haven’t stormed off in disgust after your search for “sex pc game” led you to an obscure, non-graphical Atari cartridge that would cost anywhere from $50 to $1000 on ebay, consider reading, following, and/or commenting on some of my other entries. Look for upcoming articles on the Kingdom Hearts games, or if I get really ambitious, “Captain N: The Game Master.” Feel free to leave suggestions for games you’d like me to write about, and I know some of the guys on youtube get actual copies of the games from fans who want to see Jon Tron or the Completionist cover their favorite…so, you know, if any of you really want me to write about Conker’s Bad Fur Day, just know that I wouldn’t cry if you absolutely needed me to plug that into my lineup.

Super Mario Bros. – 1993 Movie

Out of all the decisions this movie made that I don't like, I actually agree with their choice of tagline.

Out of all the decisions this movie made that I don’t like, I actually agree with their choice of tagline.

Not many people respected video games in 1993. I had spent the better part of four years obsessed with the idea, though, and after begging and pleading for my parents to let me buy a used Nintendo and a hoard of crappy sports games from one of my dad’s students, I finally got my wish and had my very own box of magic entertainment—which they promptly made me sell if I wanted to buy the Super Nintendo. Needless to say, I often felt treated like a leper for basically wanting to entertain myself. My community of friends at school extended about half the distance of a normal nine-year-old, so I had a great deal of trouble seeking out like-minded individuals to discuss the finer points of proper Mega Man boss order, how to make Link’s tools from scrap wood lying around the house, and whether or not a power-up mushroom would jump back out of the lava and let you grow to nearly the size of the screen (Note: It never happened…until the New Super Mario Bros. I think Nintendo had spies listening in on our playground conversations).

King Koopa: Fearless, terrible, all-powerful, and obsessive germophobe

King Koopa: Fearless, terrible, all-powerful, and obsessive germophobe

Captain N: The Game Master and the Super Mario Bros. Super Show aired irregularly and infrequently, so when they announced a live action film version of the game, I just about had a nine-year-old aneurysm from over-stimulation. A video game movie! How did God approve that one? Did the grown ups know about this? Fuck yeah, they knew. They just didn’t care—as evident by the movie itself. See, I recently looked up this milestone film for old time’s sake…then shut it off halfway through. But then I obtained the rifftrax file to sync up with the movie and then…then! I could get through the film without vomiting out of my ears from the horror.

The keen observer may notice several subtly placed allusions to the Super Mario Bros video game series. To examine the effort they put into making this movie, I want you to read the excerpt from the NES instruction manual (I assume from the movie’s title that they decided to skip Donkey Kong and Mario Bros and go straight to Mario’s upgrade to Super):

“One day the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horsehair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin. The only one who can undo the magic spell on the Mushroom People and return them to their normal selves is the Princess Toadstool, the daughter of the Mushroom King. Unfortunately, she is presently in the hands of the great Koopa turtle king. Mario, the hero of the story (maybe) hears about the Mushroom People’s plight and sets out on a quest to free the Mushroom Princess from the evil Koopa and restore the fallen kingdom of the Mushroom People. You are Mario! It’s up to you to save the Mushroom People from the black magic of Koopa!”

We all know about Mario's predeliction for sea food...no jokes about Bertha swallowing him whole, though.

We all know about Mario’s predeliction for sea food…no jokes about Bertha swallowing him whole, though.

Excellent! A single eighth of a page of source material, and the screenwriters have plenty of information to work with. The first sentence alone provides us with a premise, a setting, a victim, description of the villain and a pretty strong clue as to their methods. As a writer myself, I know exactly where I could go with mushroom kingdom and black-magic wielding turtles—obviously to mammalian, humanoid evolutions of dinosaurs in modern day Brooklyn. Perfect match!

Seriously, if you need compelling evidence that the free market economy does not follow natural rules that inevitably leave customers with the highest-quality product that will satisfy them, look no further than this movie (although any other video game movie offers pretty good support to this thesis). I imagine they met with the screenwriter and said, “So we have a simple premise. A plumber…”

“Yeah yeah. Whatever. Mario rides that Yoshi guy my kid won’t shut up about, right? Some story about dinosaurs. Got it, got it. Now leave me alone.”

I have to credit the writers with creativity, though. For those of you who know the premise of the game…well, forget it because it will only confuse you. A mysterious narrator who only appears for the film’s opening explains that the meteor at the end of the Cretaceous period didn’t kill the dinosaurs, but split them off into a parallel dimension where they evolved in a way that eliminated the need for hiring a costume design team. Koopa, in the only fraction of the film that resembles the game in any way (kinda), turned the King into a fungus using his…magical?…de-evolution machine and set himself up as an Orwellian despot, keen on invading neighboring dimensions for lack of any actual neighbors to invade. Although Princess…uh, Daisy (really? The one from the game boy? Okay then…), while not possessing a mushroom’s sack worth of power to challenge Koopa, happens to have a fragment of the meteor that somehow can unite the two dimensions, sort of like a cyberpunk Dark Crystal. Except her mother abandoned her in Brooklyn, where she grew up and fell in love with…uh, Luigi? Really? What, did the director really feel that fans would respond better to Mario dating someone out of My Cousin Vinnie than the Mushroom Princess?

Who could forget the loveable, chestnut-mushroom...hulking ape-lizards that...dance?

Who could forget the loveable, chestnut-mushroom…hulking ape-lizards that…dance?

Meh. Forget the story. If you really want to understand how badly these guys missed the mark, they cast Dennis Hopper as Koopa. Dennis. Fricken. Hopper. Why not just hire Quentin Tarantino to write the script and hand it to Martin Scorsese to direct? Silence of the Lambs came out only two years earlier…I think Anthony Hopkins could have done an excellent job as Mario, don’t you think? Who casts Dennis Hopper in a light-hearted fantasy about mushroom people? And they didn’t stop themselves with turning Koopa into a calculating, predatory monster. Nope. Goombas (and I think koopa troopas?) became towering, 8-foot tall behemoths. Big Bertha became a bad-ass gangster woman who outweighs Mario and Luigi put together. Toad appears as a folk singer. A folk singer! I rather enjoy folk music, but when the source material describes his job as “Mushroom Retainer,” I expect him to pick up his sword and stoically fight off Koopa’s minions to his last feudalistic breath, not sparking up a doobie and serenading us about the evils of anti-union robber barons. The harmonica doesn’t quite have the same power to change the course of politics as a claymore to the skull.

Oh, God! Dennis! Keep that thing to yourself. You already make us feel uncomfortable.

Oh, God! Dennis! Keep that thing to yourself. You already make us feel uncomfortable.

Let’s run down a list of game elements that may potentially remind Mario lovers why they wanted to see this movie. Mushrooms? Nope. Castles? Nope. Fire flowers? A few enemies use flame throwers, but I think those found themselves in the film by accident. Jumping—you know, Mario’s original name? Accomplished once or twice—sorta—via rocket-powered shoes. Koopa Kids? Turned into Koopa’s cousins (well, one of them, at least), but bear a stronger resemblance to Dumb and Dumber than anything else. Yoshi? Looks like either an emaciated velociraptor or a baby skeksis who might die under the weight of a saddle. Turtles of any kind? They didn’t even spring for used costumes from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Going through pipes? Maybe once, I think. They didn’t even have the decency to make anything in the movie out of bricks.

“Well, you got anything from the game?”

“Mario uses a bob-omb.”

“What? No catches?”

“Well, it wears Reeboks.”

“Perfect. They’ll love it!”

Over twenty years have passed since people started making movies based on video games, and no one has yet figured out that these movies wouldn’t epitomize the finest points of turtle shit if they bothered to write a script actually based on the games. I’d like to make an offer, and since most google searches that lead to my blog involve the terms “bdsm pc game,” I can reasonably expect plenty of viewers from Hollywood; I will, free of charge, write you a good script based on a video game. Absolutely free. I guarantee I know how to do it better than anyone who has ever written a video game movie. I only demand that if people actually like it, you have to do every video game movie the same way.

Mamma mia! Did we a-just make-a this piece-a of shit?

Mamma mia! Did we a-just make-a this piece-a of shit?

I’d love for a chance to re-make Resident Evil into a horror film, or write a Silent Hill script that follow’s James Sunderland’s crippling guilt. I wish I didn’t have to point out to Square Enix how they screwed up Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within by making it sci-fi instead of fantasy, setting it in New York instead of Midgar, leaving out swords, moogles, chocobos, airships, summoned monsters and everything else that actually makes it a Final Fantasy storyline. At least they haven’t gotten their meat hooks into Metroid or Castlevania.

And Hollywood, if you don’t take my offer…at least give us the Mario Bros remake with Hopkins, Tarantino and Scorsese. Now that I’ve had a chance to think it over, I’d actually like to see that.

Mystique Sex Games (Custer’s Revenge, Burning Desire, Knight on the Town) – Atari

RetroArch-0909-031923

After eight months of writing,  this entry will pop my cherry, sending my innocence–and any delusions I had of holding a “G” rating–cascading down the drain, through the earth and plummeting into the fiery hell of the planet’s core; I intend to enlighten you about the dreaded Mystique “pornographic” games for the Atari 2600! Yes, ladies and gentleman, by the end of this entry, a thick coat of soot, tar, and the shattered dreams of parents who expected their children to live an entirely asexual lifestyle will cling tightly to our hearts. Now, keep in mind that modern games frequently aim to re-create the feeling of real-life battle, and whether you want to watch it or not, the Fallout games will incessantly show you bullets ripping humans and animals alike into carrion and bone meal, but the games that disturb people involve an instinctual, consensual act of affection (or, at the very least, amusement) between two cartoons pixilated beyond any semblance of humanity? Really, world?

Which of these looks more realistic to you?

Which of these looks more realistic to you?

I generally oppose censorship. We could easily stop implicating video games as violence-inducing murder simulators if politicians and reporters could A) play a few of the thousands of games that don’t involve guns or B) look past the handful of school shooters to see the millions of people who play violent games without using educational facilities as target practice. I would like to say that studies show no difference in attitudes toward sex and women between men who watch porn and men who don’t, but I can’t, because those studies have failed since scientists can’t find men who don’t watch porn. Ubiquitous, natural, required for life, and generally all-around, good clean wholesome fun, sex shouldn’t really ruffle our feathers as much as it does. So I’d like to examine some of the games released by Mystique like I would any other game, and explain what they’ll actually do to you; make you bored, frustrated, and not the least bit aroused.

Custer’s Revenge / General Retreat

Probably more infamous than any other game on the list, “Custer’s Revenge” stars the reanimated corpse (or so we can only assume) of General George Armstrong Custer, trying to stick it to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse by sticking it to…well, you get the picture. The game simply asks you to take control of Custer, decked-out in his Union Army hat, boots, and all the glory God gave him, and walk across the screen to an excited-looking Native American girl with scolioses, likely caused by a top-heavy physique. The catch? Much like the girl, Sitting Bull won’t take it lying down, and Custer must dodge a rain of arrows on his way to commit miscegenetic fornication. While…uh…engaging the young woman…against a cactus…Custer must occasionally…”withdraw from the battle”…as the arrows keep flying in, and the game wants you to keep pounding…uh, the action button until the deed is over.

After running into an invisible cactus.

After running into an invisible cactus.

Dear General Custer,

While I admire that, in spite of history recalling you as a proud, stubborn, and arrogant man, you’ve found a non-violent way to seek revenge for your painful murder, I might advise A) pants and B) that you take the girl somewhere a little more romantic than the brink of the afterlife. Mystique has granted you a second chance at life. Please use it well.

While the concept will probably keep me snickering for the rest of my life, the game itself displays less thought than its protagonist. The game offers a surprising challenge, but due to Custer’s slow movement, the tight spacing between arrows, and…well, expected difficulties in making a sufficient retreat…certain dodges can feel impossible. I eventually learned that arrows could safely hit the brim of his hat, which requires perfect timing to execute. By itself, I wouldn’t condemn the game for that. Higher difficulty levels, though, do some weird things, including placing an invisible cactus in the center of the screen, ready to skewer Custer’s reason for crossing the second half of the screen. I haven’t yet figured out how to dodge this.  And every time you die, the game plays an explosion sound, followed by a short excerpt from “Taps,” and restarting requires you to sit through a modal, Native-American-esque theme from “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” After spending a half hour on this game, 28 minutes of which involved waiting for these songs to end, I decided to just put on a Justin Bieber album so I could at least play a good game while I let music drive me insane.

Mystique games come in pairs, depending on which gender role you want to adopt (with “General Retreat” serving as the reverse of “Custer’s Revenge”); however, since they boast identical gameplay and each one revolves around a heterosexual orientation, the end result doesn’t change. Game winners get to watch pixel clusters and imagine it looks like a man and woman having sex. Of all the games I got working, only Custer’s Revenge suggested a non-consensual relationship, since the box art depicts the girl tied to a pole, but since General Retreat shows her free and going after Custer, I can only assume she enjoys that sort of thing.

Burning Desire / Jungle Fever

In Burning Desire and Jungle Fever, you play as a man or woman dangling from a helicopter, trying to rescue people from two pillars of flame, slowly closing in on their location, while two jungle monsters lob rocks (or something) at you. Yet for some reason, you flew out here au naturel, and don’t seem to have the wits to fight the fire with anything other than your least efficient bodily fluids. At least, the game’s material tells you the characters spray the flames with ejaculate and milk. One may want to tell Mystique that their depiction of the droplets coming from above the characters’ necks actually tames down the perversion of the game.

RetroArch-0909-032819Given the choice, I’ll take the necrophiliac Civil War vet over this game; at least it makes more sense. Burning Desire and Jungle Fever manage to leave gaping plot holes in a game that literally has no plot. Why not just lift the poor guy out of the fire? Why put it out first? Normally, that sort of thing wouldn’t bother me, but any time you stop spraying the fire, the flames immediately jump back to their original height, with a small chance of remaining extinguished for five or so seconds if you put it out completely. That means you have an almost certain chance of one fire reviving as you try to fight the other. Combined with the extra-finicky controls for allowing the rescued man/woman to latch onto…special bits…to let the helicopter lift him/her out of peril and into a position to thank the rescuer very affectionately, and I can say I only succeeded twice. By luck. I have no idea how to re-create what I did.

I think I'll have a word with these people about the graphic nature of their pixels.

I think I’ll have a word with these people about the graphic nature of their pixels.

Knight on the Town / Lady in Wading

While Mystique released several other games, I’d like to finish this list today with Knight on the Town and Lady in Wading. On this list, I can’t recommend any other game as even playable, while this game actually puts up a decent challenge. You play as either a knight or a lady, who has spent so much money on bridge-building supplies that you can’t afford a shred of protection against the sex-organ hungry alligator in the moat. The player must, brick by brick, build a bridge to cross the moat in order to…let’s say “secure an heir for your kingdom.” Meanwhile, an alligator leaps out of the water to indulge in select parts of you, a monster darts out of the bushes to devour you, and on higher difficulty settings, a…pterodactyl?…drops fireballs on you.

Seriously people. These games lampoon themselves. I really can’t add to the absurdity.

Once you’ve completed construction, one more challenge awaits you: intercourse. Here, you must successfully hit “up” and “down” on the joystick (hehe…”joystick”) in an alternating pattern until…well, you get the picture.

Apparently the monsters get to watch. I told you these games were kinky.

Apparently the monsters get to watch. I told you these games were kinky.

Honestly, I understand why people put out (hehe…”put out”) games like this. People like sex. But for some reason, it hasn’t caught on in the video game world. Yeah, we see it present in God of War, Mass Effect, and Leisure Suit Larry, but as sex, it doesn’t tend to evoke the same response in us that…well, anything else does. So even with the advent of the video game rating system, sex has only casually flirted with games. Maybe we can attribute that to the lack of quality in these early Atari games. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that the price of an Atari plus a few games, when adjusted for inflation, cost over $500, and $500 buys a lot of porn.

I give these games my rating of “8 out of 10 WTFs.”

Boss Monster – Table-top Card Game

boss_monster_retail_box-smallWow!

So it appears I last wrote about three weeks ago. Awesome. Yeah, yeah, I know the rules. “You want to keep readers,” they say, “Update frequently! Daily if possible!”

Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to update daily, I find that playing through an entire Fantasy RPG and writing about it in a 24-hour period doesn’t tend to leave me with enough time to go to work, eat, sleep, use the bathroom, write about the game or finish a full Fantasy RPG. Furthermore, the fact that I’ve still spent a good number of evenings the last three weeks addicted to the random reorganization of pixilated blocks into ultimately meaningless re-creations of buildings I used to think were “neat.”

Ah, Minecraft. the heroine to Fallout’s morphine, you have no point, no direction, other than to keep me at your side.

Not to mention, the excessively long Dragon Quest IV has only exacerbated my problem of not finishing games in a timely manner. Also, soon I’ll write about the multiplayer mode in Secret of Mana, but Anne tends to get slightly narcoleptic after 8:00 at night, so progression there has slowed down from “Playing through a fun game” levels to “waiting until work lets out,” then down to “DMV Bureaucracy.” Thankfully, we haven’t yet hit “Congress,” so you can count on something productive sooner or later.

Anyway, to give you something to feed on for the interim, check out “Boss Monster.” Anne and I found it over the weekend, luring us closer with its NES-Box style art and seducing us further with subtle nods to classic 8-bit monsters, such as “Cerebellus: Father Brain” and artwork on “Brainsucker Hive” that hearkens back to Metroid. Each card offers an 8-bit style pixilated image, and many of them derive their theme from some pop-culture reference. Not limited to video games, you may also run into Futurama, Harry Potter jokes or others.

The players begin to create the most challenging dungeons for their heroes filled with the most expensive treasures—which will lure them to their untimely deaths. See, you play, as the title suggests, as the Boss Monster, vile, odious, and ever powerfully awesome. Let’s face it: no one has wanted to play the knight in shining armor since grade school. Why do you think they love Tyrion Lannister so much?

Games play quickly–usually less than fifteen minutes–and challenge each player to strategically build dungeon rooms to offer the best treasure (a.k.a. Hero Bait) while also dealing the most damage to the poor saps who wander in, fresh out of the archetype factory. Early in the game, however, heroes may overpower your dungeon, leading to the possibility that you’ll end up like most villains–just another hackneyed monster meant to indoctrinate young children into believing that if they misbehave, they’ll suffer through life until someone kills them. Sorry, but I defer to Johnny Dangerously here…at the end of the film, the ex-gangster finishes his moral proselytizing by declaring to the young shoplifter that, “Crime doesn’t pay!” Then he changes into a tuxedo and gets into a luxury car, declaring to the camera, “Well, it paid a little.” It just so happens that in “Boss Monster,” it pays you in souls of those you destroy in your dungeon.

“Boss Monster” apparently owes its origins to Kickstarter, which means it owes its existence to a partly democratic process of determining whether or not it looked “cool.” It does; I won’t argue that. However, once you strip away the aesthetics, you find a simplistic wiring system that might get the job done, but may also short itself out in the process. The game plays through three de facto phases: “heroes can get through your dungeons,” “heroes can’t get through your dungeons,” and “epic heroes may or may not get through, but probably won’t get through your dungeons.” This places much of the strategy simply on luring heroes to your dungeons at the right time. They have absolutely no interaction with the rooms you build other than to progress through them and kindly take a beating as though they had a fetish for undead S&M. The game might have played better if heroes put up some sort of fight, or had personalized abilities that affected the game in a way other than deciding which pile to drop their corpse into. Magic spells allow players to manipulate certain things, but once cast, you won’t come by new spells very easily.

Furthermore, while most of the cards seem to hint at some sci-fi, fantasy, or video game reference, many of them either don’t, or are obscure enough to make it difficult to understand, and others I suspect don’t make much of a connection other than “Well, I guess I can kinda see that in a video game.”

Still, I enjoyed the game. I hear that expansion packs might hit stores someday, but possibly only if the game sells well. I’ll leave you the link here and let you decide, while I have laundry to do and schoolwork to stop neglecting.

“Boss Monster,” Brotherwise games:

http://brotherwisegames.com/