Tag Archives: PC

FGC #279 The Walking Dead

It will get worseToday we’re going to talk about why zombies suck.

I don’t know about you, possibly-swole reader, but I’m kind of a weakling. I’m not completely helpless (I can help move a buddy’s couch like a champ), but I don’t have much in the upper-body strength department, and, when you get right down to it, I’m pretty sure a group of particularly rowdy preschoolers could take me out. In other words, I’m less Zangief, a lot more Dan. Possibly as a result of this, I do live in a vague kind of fear of other humans. I’m not an agoraphobic, and I don’t walk the streets cowering in my coat, but I know that if some random dude decided to pressure me for my precious wallet, I wouldn’t have much in the way of recourse. I’m not going to bust out my amazing kung-fu, I’m not going to start swinging a secret sword around like a mad man; I’m… probably just going to get beat up. I’m done, the end. I fear the walking living.

But I’m not afraid of zombies. Okay, a prime reason to not fear zombies is that, ya know, they’re fictional. But other than that, zombies are… dumb. Yes, if there were some zombie outbreak, I’d be a little concerned about the dead walking and maybe the moon crying blood or something, but after getting over the initial shock, even the magical “running zombie” isn’t much of a big deal. Humans are threatening because they have intelligence, remove that essential trait, and you’ve basically got a big, lumbering Chihuahua. Look out for the teeth! He’s gonna bite! And… get past that, and we’re in the clear. I’m afraid of a human with a club or gun, I’m not afraid of being scratched to death by some shambling dork. Various bits of zombie media have already included the “neutered zombie”: cut off the jaw, and what have you got? … Wait, has anyone ever addressed zombie versions of people with dentures? Is there truly nothing to fear from Zombie Washington?

Keep on shamblingThough I suppose I’m missing the forest for the trees here, as the real threat of zombies is supposed to be numbers. Zombies have a tendency to herd together, and, while one individual zombie isn’t a big deal, when there’s a whole gang literally knocking down your door, that’s when it’s time to go for the safe room. This is the premise of a healthy amount of zombie media, and allows for fun situations where “there’s nowhere to run”. And, yes, zombie hordes are generally scary… but they’re still basically a problem of poor planning. As I am continually reminded, I am basically a handsomer Batman, and, given enough preparation, I could overcome any problem. Whether it be rampaging throngs of zombies or republicans, I’m still not afraid of crowds, because I am an excellent hider. Give me a general space of about twenty square feet, and I guarantee I could find an area to “hold up” until this whole mob danger has passed. Zombies, even in great numbers, don’t scare me.

And this all might trace itself back to videogames. In a way, every videogame enemy/monster/met is a zombie. They’ve got limited intelligence (AI), can only perform the most basic of functions, and their only goal is your (protagonist’s) death. The end. There is no secret desire of slimes (assuming said slimes are not Rocket), and, like zombies, programmed “intelligence” may be easily tricked by tossing out some bait that would be blatantly obvious to any really thinking individual. Koopa troopas spawn way to close to fire flowers, and zombies have a tendency to follow their noses straight into the threshing machine. Nothing scary about a threat that will walk right into a bullet.

So it’s a minor miracle that The Walking Dead actually makes zombies threatening again.

Am I having a stroke?Come to think of it, there’s a lot that is miraculous about Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. For one thing, it’s either an “old school” adventure game or a slightly graduated visual novel, and both of those genres have absolutely no business being interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I loved King’s Quest V as much as the next guy, but the whole “adventure game” mold is basically based on making interesting stories with unique ways to interact with the environment before videogames really had the power to do it “right”. And take a look at the number of transitory, wannabe adventure games for examples on the real reason that genre never went anywhere. Oh, and visual novels? Not even going to address why those are terrible. Basically, it’s amazing that The Walking Dead was able to properly synthesize an excellent game out of these basic pieces, left alone the whole zombie problem.

Somehow, I guess two or three wrongs make a right, because, technically, The Walking Dead relies on a phrase that strikes fear into my heart: The Walking Dead is a game-long escort mission. TWD is, at its core, a “dad game”, you’re Lee, who, shortly after the game begins, finds the orphaned Clementine, a little girl that, left to her own devices, will certainly be devoured by the undead inside of five minutes. Actually, that’s probably not accurate, as Clementine generally seems to have her head on straight, but the game certainly treats you, the player, as Clementine’s only hope for salvation. So, dad, it’s time to take care of your daughter for five episodes or so. You’re constantly in danger, Clementine is constantly in danger, and you’re often asked to compromise your own safety for hers. I don’t think I’m even spoiling the ending to note that, yes, at one point you will have to let Clementine “grow up” because maybe Booker Lee started taking this “dad” thing a little too literally to be healthy.

Move alongBut the adventure game motif comingling with the escort mission works brilliantly for the undead hordes. Lee is, at best, equipped with a cumbersome axe, and he is never going to be granted a rocket launcher. It’s clear from the first episode that the most “physical” Lee is ever going to get is reeeeeeally reaching for a key, so don’t expect any crazy zombie jump kicks during this adventure. Ultimately, this all adds up to maintaining the zombies as a constant threat, and then ups the ante by giving the player someone to protect. I’m not worried about Lee dying, after all, he’s a videogame protagonist, any of his deaths will be undone by a quick “Press X the restart”; but Clementine? If something happens to her… well… that would be horrible. I’d give my left arm to guarantee Clementine’s safety!

So congratulations to Telltale Games’ Walking Dead for making zombies scary again. In AMC’s The Walking Dead, the eponymous Dead have become little more than shaved (but plentiful) bears, and every other videogame has made zombies useless fodder. But zombies had a brief time to shine in this Walking Dead. The combination of a bunch of gaming tropes that don’t usually work actually coalesced into something fun… and something to fear.

Good job, zombies, you don’t completely suck. Maybe you just bite.

FGC #279 The Walking Dead

  • System: This might be faster if I just list which systems don’t host this game. It ain’t on any Nintendo systems. Other than that, it’s all over the place. There’s even a Vita version? Weird.
  • Number of players: One player controls Lee, and then a small audience gathers around that player.
  • Race Relations: Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a black protagonist that was smart and level-headed, but didn’t have a background of being a violent criminal? I realize Lee’s whole deal allows for some drama with the cast in the early episodes, but, come on, Telltale, did we need further reinforcement of that unfortunate stereotype?
  • It's GlennFavorite Character: She’s completely insane, but I like Lilly. On one hand, she’s absolutely a pain in the butt in many situations (some of them involving exploding heads), but, really, for all my bluster about not being afraid of no zombie, she’s probably an example of how I would actually operate in a zombie apocalypse. Protect your family, assume everyone else is against you, and maybe go steal a vehicle because you’re secretly kind of a jerk. … Hm, I wonder what this says about me.
  • Did you know? There is a lot of unused dialogue in this game that seems to indicate that there were different plans for various characters and their backstories. It’s kind of amusing that this is the game that really kicked off Telltale’s “adventure game” renaissance (or at least totally funded it), and it’s clear the writers had no idea what they were doing in the early episodes. Okay, they undoubtedly knew what they were doing, they just didn’t have a firm grasp on the characters and future plot from the start of the first episode. It’s understandable, but I’m the kind of guy that meticulously plans out everything I write and… Great, now I forgot how I was going to end this sentence.
  • Would I play again? You know, I enjoyed this game… but I still haven’t played the sequel. The whole franchise seems to dominate this weird no man’s land where it’s not really a videogame (like I wouldn’t sit down to play it like I would a Mega Man title), but it’s certainly more intense than watching a random TV show. I liked my experience playing this game, but I might never do it again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Troll Islands for the SNES! Are… are you trolling me, robot? Is this even a real game? Guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!

It will get worse

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

MajesticWithout whipping out the chart, there’s a clear geek hierarchy out there. Sure, I play a lot of videogames, but at least I’m not one of those nerds playing MMORPGs and letting their lives be dictated by party raids and random character nerfs. Ha ha! Those nerds! They’d never have time to write about three separate videogames a week and then do a yearlong Let’s Play of a decade old videogame franchise nobody likes! Losers! Everybody hold up, I have to go put the finishing touches on my Allen Ridgley cosplay.

Things get even weirder when you examine the nerd hierarchy in the comic book world, though (or, maybe, as a videogame nerd, I just think it’s weirder because it’s not my specific fandom). Batman, for instance, is always going to be popular. Superman, too, for that matter. Then you get into some of the lesser heroes, but, good news, many of them have movies coming up. Get ready for Aquaman aquaing around Aqua Town! … But real nerds don’t like those movies, because they’re too serious, or not serious enough, or Oedipal complexes are too complex, or whatever. No, the real place you want to see your heroes is… on the CW? No, that can’t be right… though I did once encounter a perfectly normal woman at the DMV excitedly telling her friend, “Oh my gosh, Flash is a new episode tonight! That’s awesome!” Yes, I suppose there are literally thousands more (popular) people that could identify Felicity Smoak than Oracle. But then you get into the animated nerds, that learned everything they need to know about Batman from Batman The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, or maybe Teen Titans Go. Hey, Dr. Light appeared in 66% of those productions, so they’re all valid ways to learn about superheroes and superteens randomly yelling. But then, there at the bottom, the nerdiest of the nerdy, are the geeks that actually, ya know, read comic books. Can you imagine? You have to use your hands! Like a baby!

Also… obviously… I’m one of those nerds.

WhoopsBut I know it’s crazy! I’ve discussed it before, but following “comics continuity” is basically a never ending trap. Here’s how it goes down: You’ve got A-Man, champion of the letter A. A decent writer and artist combine in some mystical fashion, and write one good comic series for A-Man. Everyone, yourself included, is talking about A-Man, and check out this great run, and A-Man is doing what A-Man has never done before; and it all gets bolstered by the fact that A-Man comics drop once a month, so this “one story” gets magnified by half a year of speculation and discussion. By the time the inevitably disappointing A-Man #6 hits the stands and finally ends the arc, everyone is disappointed, but that anticipation of “what’s gonna happen next” lingers, so, naturally, you pick up A-Man #7 with a brand new creative team. Here’s your Goggle Bob sports metaphor for the year: If a soccer team wins the World Series, and then everyone involved quits or gets reassigned to other teams, do you expect the “new creative team” to score enough touchdowns to win that Stanley Cup again? No, that would be silly, but comic book fans follow that “same” A-Man over and over again, until, finally, A-Man’s reputation is so terrible, “he” is selling about two issues a year. So then it’s time for a reboot! Toss out everything that doesn’t work (which is usually something like a decade’s worth of stories), start all over again, and maybe get someone half decent on the writing staff. Hire Alex Ross for a cover, and we’re back in business. A-Man is reborn (in an issue likely literally called “A-Man Reborn”), and we’re right back at the start of the cycle.

This is fun and all, but it can create some… hiccups. For instance, with the exception of the titans of the industry (not the Teen Titans, to be clear), it’s very difficult for a superhero to hold on to a supporting cast. Let’s use CW’s comics shows as an example here: can you imagine The Flash without Cisco? How about Legends of Tomorrow without Gideon? That disembodied voice is an integral part of the cast! Meanwhile, most comic books identify this “we need a supporting cast” problem, fill the hole, make some of the supporting characters I am the nightmore interesting than the boring hero who has to save the day every week, and then… well, sorry, there was a reboot, so that character doesn’t exist anymore. Oh, she was your favorite? Sorry, time to move on. Heck, Powergirl can barely hold on to her cat (and people love cats!), so I wouldn’t get too attached to her superhero understudy with the rock powers that gal palled around with her for like ten issues.

And this kind of “hiccup” can really annoy fans. And, to be clear (and I hate that I have to be clear about this), I’m not talking about “fans doxxing every women in the tri-state area”, I’m leaning more toward “unlikely to ever read a new issue pertaining to a previously beloved character ever again”. If you’re reading Blue Beetle because you really like his close family ties and friends that remind you of real friends you have in your life, and then, next month, those friends don’t exist anymore… that gets kind of annoying. And, again, it’s not like a fan is putting their foot down and demanding a boycott (which, of course, does happen), simply that when you enjoy something for a particular trait or cast member, and then that thing you loved is completely dropped, then why read it anymore at all? Reboots are feared by comic nerds because they have taken so much from us!

WetThis winds up being an exclusively comics problem, too, because, unlike other entertainment mediums, comics aren’t allowed to end. Somehow, some way, there must always be the Batman. He’s the hero we deserve. And there’s going to be a Joker, a Robin, and maybe purple gloves somewhere in there. Batman is always going to be “Batman” in the comic book universe. There is no “NuBatman” or “80sBatman” to differentiate, no, Batman is just Batman, because if he’s being identified as a “Batman variant” then that means this story isn’t important, and if the story isn’t important, then why the hell are you reading it? To enjoy it? Bah!

And then something like Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure comes along, and it’s salt in the wound.

Scribblenauts Unmasked contains an incredible DC Comics glossary. You want John Constantine to fight Swamp Thing? Cool, we got that. You want the NU52 Agents of S.H.A.D.E. (featuring Frankenstein and an immortal Asian schoolgirl)? We’ve got that, too. Want every damn Green Lantern concept that Alan Moore sneezed into existence? There’s Green Lantern Groot right there. All of your old friends are here: Wonder Woman (with or without pants), Batman, Superman, and Doctor Midnight. If you can name a DC comics character, they’re likely in here, and possibly with variants.

And it’s a damn shame, because it reminds the player of all the toys available to DC Comics that just aren’t being used. Depending on the week, the entire Justice Society, the heroes that fought in World War 2 and are the “grandpas” to the heroes of today, may or may not exist. And the Justice Society is a great concept! And they’ve got kids! And I like those kids! Mostly just Jade! But, nope, those toys are stuck in the closet, because DC determined it would be more interesting this week if Superman was the first superhero ever, and he’s macking on Wonder Woman for some reason. Oh, wait, no, he’s dead, now there’s the old Superman who loves Lois, and he’s got a kid of his own. Wait… does he remember the Justice Society? Can he bring them back? Please? Oh well, at least I can still pit Alan Scott against Larfleeze in Scribblenauts, a game that has no impact on anything.

ORANGEAnd that’s what really gets my goat about Scribblenauts Unmasked: I want to see these toys be free. Maybe I’m at the bottom of the nerd ladder for this, but I believe that, when you’ve got the potential for unlimited interesting stories, you take that potential and grab it. Don’t limit yourself to one universe, don’t limit yourself to one fandom, and be more like Scribblenauts, and include everything available. You’ve got nearly a century worth of interesting toys to play with, so play with ‘em all.

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

  • System: WiiU, 3DS, and Steam. Really? That’s it? I’d expect a greater range here, but I guess the stylus/keyboard part is kind of necessary.
  • Number of players: Just the one. Which is also surprising, as the whole “plot” is basically about dueling scribblenauts, so you’d think they’d find a way to make that more playable.
  • Favorite Adjective: Moist. Moist for days. Mooooooist.
  • Favorite DC Hero: Matter Eater Lad popped out without so much as a suggestion. I mean, ya know, Mon-El had a problem, so I had to summon the luminaries of the Legion of Superheroes, right? Bouncing Boy was my second choice.
  • Con man... get it?Did you know? John Constantine once got a drug-addicted ex-girlfriend hooked on hallucinogenic magical sand that nearly destroyed the entire universe. And here he is in a Nintendo WiiU game about randomly summoning Tomorrow Gal. Go fig.
  • Would I play again: I prefer the less story-driven Scribblenauts games. As much as I love a toy chest containing the entire DC universe, I still like solving problems exclusively through T-Rexes more.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy for the Atari Jaguar! That… can’t be good. Please… look forward to it.

FGC #216 Code of Princess

Nice hairThis is a videogame blog, but not a videogame website. Why do I make that distinction? Because, if you’ve noticed, in 200 or so entries about videogames, I have barely ever even referenced “videogame strategy”. I might write a quick aside regarding the Konami Code or “boy, is this game hard”, but I’m not so much into telling my loyal readers exactly how to defeat the boss of world five (Clawgrip?). With the exception of articles where I’m examining the gameplay for the sake of the gameplay (like when toads or giant robots are involved), I save strategy discussions for the other guys, and stick to the artsy fartsy nonsense you can expect from Gogglebob.com.

But why? Why do I avoid videogame strategy discussion in my blog? Well, the answer is simple: I don’t think I’m good at videogames.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I play videogames to relax. Yes, that might seem kind of ridiculous when you consider that I’ve been writing complete essays about every old school game I’ve played for the last year or so (a feat that would have made my high school self weep with anger at an uncaring world that made videogames homework), but, when you get right down to it, I play videogames to not think. As a result, in fighting games I have a tendency to “main” the most powerful but least combo-heavy character, in action games I find the most destructive attack and never deviate, and in JRPGs I often discover some way to min/max early, so as to never have to think again. Now, I’m not a complete Neanderthal when it comes to gaming; if I like a game, I often revisit it and “play for real” with stimulating setups and innovative job finagling (most Final Fantasy games get a replay with this in mind), but, nine times out of ten, how I play is, “Wow, the Fire Rod is really powerful and kills everything in a few hits… I better never use anything else ever again!”

Die, monsterAs a result, despite the sheer number of games I’ve beaten, I often feel like I’m not really “playing right”. I have this mental image of the rest of gamers out there (my readers included) as delicate maids, carefully dusting and vacuuming and flipping the mattress every week after properly washing the sheets. Me? I spray Febreze on the smelly bits, hope I remembered to empty the Roomba, and pray any company that might unexpectedly arrive has no problem with the fact that my couch might best be described as “crunchy”. Yes, my videogame skills are passable, but Pokémon got EVs, Street Fighters got aerial combos, and Sonic the Hedgehog has something called “S Rank”. What could “S” even stand for? Doesn’t matter, I’ll never see such a thing.

But I do know how to beat Code of Princess, so I may as well share such valuable information.

Code of Princess is, essentially, a beat ‘em up. Okay, no doubt about it, it is a beat ‘em up, but it has one very distinct mutation in the formula that almost drops CoP into another genre. Code of Princess is a beat ‘em up that is almost entirely 2-D. Your hero (usually a princess) is pretty much stuck on one plane of existence, and “moving up and down” is right out. As a result, this beat ‘em up feels even more limited than most games where you beat up the same guy over and over again. But! CoP recovers gracefully with an eclectic cast of enemies and combatants that would even put a D&D Monster Manual to shame. There are goblins, and, like, bigger goblins? They’re totally different creatures. Oh, and there’s a dragon! Sometimes two! You’re always going to have a good time when you punch a dragon.

But the other significant thing that separates Code of Princess from its Final Fighting contemporaries is the pretty robust RPG-esque system involved. Like in your typical JRPG (also a series of games where you fight dragons), your four-person party has access to a gigantic collection of equipment and items, and your heroes level up. While the equipment is pretty straightforward (+2 sword is better than +1 sword… I think), the leveling system can seem pretty overwhelming, as every level up offers bonus points, and those points may be redeemed for increases in any one of six stats. Given the length of the bars involved, it seems like these stats may be embiggened from zero to something in the department of twelve billion, so the choice of what to increase is likely a difficult one for many new players.

So here’s the Goggle Bob official Code of Princess strategy: don’t worry about it, you’re here to hit things.

Stats!

There are six different stats that may be increased. Let’s look at those. Speed is likely to catch your eye, but ignore it. This is an action game, and, unless you’re playing as Earl, you’re already fast enough to get around the screen and dodge attacks. If you weren’t, this would be a pretty lousy game, and no amount of pumping up that stat will eventually turn you into a teleporting monster. Then we’ve got Defense and Mind. Oh, this is one of those games where there’s a DEF and MDEF stat? Screw that noise. If you think you need to live longer to survive the battlefield, just pump those points into Vitality, the HP stat. That covers both bases, so if you encounter a magical or physical-based boss, you don’t have anything to worry about. Finally, there is Piety and Attack. Piety influences your magic attack, but magic is a consumable resource. You can run out of magic, and, even though it will eventually refill, what are you going to do if you’re facing the Black Knight, and you’ve got to wait for a recharge? Gesture rudely? Where’s your piety now? No, you want to pour all those points into Attack, because you can always swing your weapon around like a lunatic, and there’s no MP gauge for wholesale whacking.

So what have we learned? Put all those level up points into Vit and Attack, and call it a day.

Stats!
I got confused and added a little extra defense.

And this technique applies to other games, too! Look at any action game with level up choices, and then analyze what you “need” to win. Is this a game where there’s a regular attack and a limited special attack? Well, focus on that regular attack, because, unlike real life, in 90% of videogames, you don’t have to account for contingency plans. Yes, you might imagine there’s some world where you’ll eventually need your speed, magic attack, or charisma stat to do something, but, nope, nearly every videogame out there wants you to eventually win, and will not throw up an insurmountable brick wall because you didn’t acknowledge your piety. And, with the exception of a few WRPGs, attacking is the only way your digital avatar knows how to interact with his/her world, so screw everything else, it’s time to become the best swordsperson in the universe. Those increased murder stats might not be so useful once peacetime comes, but this ain’t Harvest Moon.

SpookySo the next time you’re faced with a choice in a videogame (and especially Code of Princess), stick to the bruiser path. You’ll find it’s the easiest way. It’s certainly the Goggle Bob way.

FGC #216 Code of Princess

  • System: 3DS, and then, mysteriously, a PC version. Guess that makes it a lot more likely to get some multiplayer going.
  • Number of players: Four? Two? I don’t know. I think it’s four, but I’ll probably have to get that PC version to score even a second player.
  • Rated T for Teen: This is somehow the second beat ‘em up with scantily clad heroines I’ve reviewed in recent memory. Code of Princess is slightly less overt about it than Dragon’s Crown… Well, assuming you ignore the fact that our princess is wearing the ol’ battle bikini. Necromancer Zozo is also pretty underdressed, but she’s supposed to be a literal walking corpse, so I think that only appeals to a distinct subset of viewers.
  • Tell me a story: Code of Princess appears to take place in a typical medieval magical land. However, it is eventually revealed that “our society” grew too decadent, so the gods introduced magic and monsters to the world to throw humanity off its ozone destroying ass. At the finale of the story, Princess Solange has the choice of destroying all magic (and potentially dooming humanity to the Information Age again), or letting it fester so an unstoppable evil can be reborn in a millennia or so. I’m guessing the canon is that she destroyed all magic, because Solange’s piety stat is atrocious.
  • Winners!Favorite Character: I rarely go straight for the title character, but Solange Blanchefleur de Lux’s preference for giant swords captured my heart. The sword is called DeLuxcalibur? That’s neat, now keep hitting things until they fall down.
  • Have a laugh: I also have to note that Code of Princess is a generally “funny” game. The voice acting is a big factor here, and I’m really quite glad for its English dub. Yes, some of the characters are annoying, but it’s all worth it for Zozo’s deadpan delivery of… everything.
  • Did you know? Like a certain other famous beat ‘em up, you can eventually unlock a playable version of practically every character in the game. Playing as the dragon sounds pretty impressive, but walking vegetables are available if that’s more your speed.
  • Would I play again: Probably not, unfortunately. I like this game, but its gameplay seems kind of limited, and I’m not going to spend all day trying to make the numbers go up on that battle nun until she’s a viable character. I’d certainly pick up Code of Princess 2, but until that’s available, I’ll probably play something else.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! Why? Well, because… Oh, you get the idea. Please look forward to it!

Owie