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.

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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

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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/

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – NES

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Covering The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in class this week, my students couldn’t have shocked me more if they had all ambushed me with cattle prods; they actually liked the book. But why not? It actually makes a good story, reads easily, and only lasts about eighty pages. However, the reason they gave was the suspense of not knowing what would happen next and the twist ending. Yes, my students hadn’t even heard of the story before, and jaws dropped faster than a cartoon wolf in an Asian strip club when they figured out that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were, in fact, the same person!

Hopefully I didn’t ruin the story for any of you, but I insist that spoilers have a statute of limitations, and I have no obligation to keep secret a plot devised in 1886.  Unfortunately, while I couldn’t believe how many of my students hadn’t heard of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I have no shred of doubt that the developers at Toho and Bandai hadn’t heard of the book either.  While the book comments quite adeptly about the duality of human nature, clandestine desires, and the forced separation of public and private lives, the NES game has the literary value of a bird shitting on pedestrians. I didn’t intend to employ sarcastic wit in that last sentence; the game literally forces the player to dodge steaming piles of bird crap, lest it kindle the rage within Dr. Jekyll, transforming him into the incredible, hulking figure of Mr. Hyde. Covered in feces.

I wonder why it comes out pre-piled...

I wonder why it comes out pre-piled…

NES games didn’t sell themselves on strong stories; most games had a premise, at best a scenario to follow, but they didn’t consider gameplay as the venue for developing plot.  However, with a timeless tale of horror already fabricated, making the game interesting should pose no problem at all. Right?  Unfortunately, while the book focuses on Jekyll’s close friend investigating the bad crowd the doctor has fallen in with, while giving us glimpses of Jekyll losing control of his personality, the game has the good doctor on his way to the church to get married.  Apparently harboring a criminal rage that indulged in dark pleasures didn’t excite Toho quite as much as the conflict of not being somewhere else. Along the way, the common rabble of London work their magic to piss Dr. J. off as much as possible.

Robert Louis Stevenson when they pitched the bird shit idea to him.

Robert Louis Stevenson when they pitched the bird shit idea to him.

While I’ve played games with pretty far-fetched elements (including the murder of frogs by force-feeding turnips), I find the scenario downright implausible.  Everything becomes an obstacle. Vicious dogs make sense, as do ruffian orphans.  Yeah, we’ve all watched the skies with guarded eyes for the rogue seagull with dysentery, and I can even stretch to say some people may freeze in their tracks if a spider dropped out of a tree.  However, I can’t quite see why every full-grown adult in the London streets feels the need to body check Dr. Jekyll like they only have one shot at the Stanley Cup, and the dozens of mild-mannered citizens dropping bombs at his feet give me reason to wonder why the police feel the need to make Mr. Hyde a priority arrest. By the final level, the game starts chucking barrels like it always wanted a career in Donkey Konging and its father forced him into a career murdering classical literature, and in addition to the suspension of suspension of disbelief, it becomes virtually unplayable, even with save states.

As Mr. Hyde, beating up on brains makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

As Mr. Hyde, beating up on brains makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

The game did experiment with a few novel concepts for its time.  The player has not only a life meter, but a mood bar as well.  When the life bar enemies, the player dies–no surprise there. However, when the mood gauge empties, the player transforms into Mr. Hyde, day becomes night, side-scrolling moves right-to-left, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria.  Apparently Mr. Hyde needs some down time to vent his frustration, and wailing on monsters and demons rampaging through London (which again gives pause over the danger Hyde poses) makes him feel better. Successfully not dying as Hyde returns Dr. Jekyll to his quest of…going to church…and refills some of his life bar.  Also as Hyde, enemies drop coins, which Jekyll can use to pay off singers who spout out music notes like shrapnel, and to much of the same effect.  Dropping the pretense of music causing physical harm, this amounts to a man putting off his own marriage because he feels the need to stop and comment on how much he doesn’t like street performers. And again, Hyde is the jerk?

Normally when a game frustrates me, I remind myself that developers plan gameplay and test their games to make sure players can, theoretically, get through them.  However, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ruined challenging games for me by shattering that axiom.  I could barely finish the game using save states.  Some scenes threw so many enemies at me that I had no choice but to replay them and hope for a fortunate random behavior to give me an opening to get through, a task made infinitely more difficult by the fact that Jekyll handles like a Winnebago with four flat tires and no engine trying to pull itself free from a swamp using a broken winch and fifty centimeters of dental floss. The B button controls a walking stick, which the player can wave around to feel more like a Victorian gentleman, but it doesn’t actually effect the game in any way.  I chalk that up to a glitch, considering the number of bombs that followed me as I jumped over them, and how the game inverted its colors during the final level.

This is what happens when you finish. Literally. You see this screen.

This is what happens when you finish. Literally. You see this screen.

Honestly, I wonder how people thought games like this would sell.  I’ve finished some difficult games in my time, but I’ve always felt someone could finish them without save states if they had enough free time on their hands, but I don’t think Dr. J. and Mr. H. falls into that category. The end of the game offers less satisfaction than even the SNES Jurassic Park adaptation, but at the very least I won the right to complain about how terrible this bird crap of an idea turned out.

Working my way through Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Slow going, but I’ll try to update when I can. Thanks for reading!