Clue

Watching a hand roll a die has never been this...visible
Watching a hand roll a die has never been this...visible

Plum scraped brain off his sleeve. He stood, his knees shaking slightly as they propelled his tired body upwards. He turned and silently regarded the gathered crowd. They stood watching each other. “He’s dead,” said Professor Plum, cupping a hand to his mouth as he broke the tense silence. “Murdered.” Looks of shock and dismay rippled across the faces of the crowd and some of them backed away, glancing around nervously.

“Clearly,” said Plum, “the killer is still here.” A murmur. “Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell what killed our poor dead friend Mr. Boddy – just look at him!”

The crowd regarded the crumpled heap. “It could have been anything that did that: a pipe, a revolver or a candlestick…”

“Maybe even a noose or knife!” Mrs. White called out with her completely useless and uneducated maid’s opinion.

“Yes, of course!” replied Plum. “Maybe the killer used a…a…wrench, you imbecile! A noose or a knife – don’t be ridiculous!”

“I hate the entirety of humanity and hope the world burns as a thousand suns explode,” whispered Mrs. White under her breath, deciding to call the INS on one of her coworkers.

Miss Scarlet rose from her knees and wiped her mouth as Colonel Mustard’s fingers relaxed their white-knuckled grip on a nearby end table. “It occurs to me,” she said, seductively wrapping an arm around Plum’s shoulders, “that we should probably summon those boys in blue.”

Mr. Green slid forward, running his eager hands along the edges of the corpse. “I say we empty his pockets, take his rings, pry the gold out of his teeth and sell his organs. Let’s wrap him up in this rug. Let’s take all of these rugs.”

“Sir!” screamed Colonel Mustard, drawing a revolver from his coat, “I CHALLENGE YOU TO A DUEL TO THE DEATH!”

“Whoa fella,” said Green, throwing his hands in front of his face defensively, “I ain’t got no heater. That’s no fair.”

“I say!” Mrs. Peacock’s monocle popped off her withered and fallen face as her surprise at this boorish display caused her a series of small heart palpitations. Plum couldn’t find his glasses and they were on the top of his head!

What a zany goddamned cast of characters!

This is what the board game “Clue” would be like if you played it on the SNES. There are representations of the cards. A creepy hand rolls the die and throws it on the board. Your marker hops around, an uninspired digital copy of the game’s pieces. The computer figures out who killed Mr. Boddy before you do because you’re high and tired and not paying attention. You sit there and blink stupidly while a tiny digital curtain raises and then the murder is outlined in front of your eyes as irritating music loops in the background. Coincidentally, this is what OJ Simpson sees every night as he dreams.

I’ve had a lot of fun playing the REAL LIFE (board game) version of Clue in the past, but this video game version falls pretty short since the thing I like about Clue is the interaction with the other players. In the absence of people you can verbally torture and interrogate, the game becomes rolling dice and waiting. How can I waterboard a video game? I can’t. How do you dangle sprites out of a fifth story window over the snow-dusted hard streets below? I’m denied about half of my best Clue strategies.

The only way I can really recommend this game is if you’re a Clue fanatic that needs to play EVERY SINGLE DAY and you don’t really have any friends to play with (probably because you’re a Clue fanatic who needs to play it EVERY SINGLE DAY and does weird shit like write Clue fanfiction).

There, I killed this review in my office with the candlestick.

I typed all of this with a candlestick.

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Cliffhanger

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

The game lets you pick the number of lives you want to start with. Srsly. Do I need to continue this review? The developers are shouting loud and clear: We fucked up. Our bad. Sorry. Here, pick the number of lives you want. Don’t even need to bother with a Game Genie.

All tough guys wear short sleaved shirts in sub-freezing, mountain temperatures.  WAT!
All tough guys wear short sleaved shirts in sub-freezing, mountain temperatures. WAT!

The classic design of a bad side scroller: Pits that insta kill you that are exactly one millimeter smaller than your maximum jump range, repetitive music, stupid AI that likes to walk into knives, repeatedly. Oh, and of course, the infamous super move that somehow drains your health. Apparently Stalone’s muscles were so tense that every time he did a tripping kick motion, he ripped 3 more tendons, so you take more damage than you could ever conceivably take from the enemy you kill. Better yet, the amazingly costed super move is interruptible by any bad guy who decides to poke you in the middle, and you still take the full damage. Yay. And then there’s the avalanche scene, also know as the how-to-spend-all-7-of-your-lives-in-approximately-21-seconds scene.

Oh noes! An avalanche! Try number 324.  Fuck it.  Just lie down and die.  It's easier and it's the same outcome anyways. Gotta wonder what's under those moggles.
Oh noes! An avalanche! Try number 324. Fuck it. Just lie down and die. It's easier and it's the same outcome anyways. Gotta wonder what's under those moggles.

This game is not fun for more than 48.7 seconds. Sure, games don’t HAVE to be fun, if they have some artistic merit, or the tiniest of redeeming factor. This game has neither. That leaves only the fun factor. There must be fun to be had somewhere?!?! The most fun I had playing this game was putting down the controller, and watching one of the cookie cutter bad guys who was wearing the exact same outfit as the 57 other guys – no seriously, what do they all shop together, buy in bulk or something? – punch the living shit out of Stalone, over and over and over. Apparently if you stand still, and don’t block, they just sucker punch you, repeatedly. No kicking, nothing. Just whap, whap, whap, whap, whap, whap, punching, the, crap, out, of, his, stupid, face.

Here it comes!
Here it comes!
BAFF!  In your FACE!
BAFF! In your FACE!
You want some more of this? HUH!?! PUNK!?!
You want some more of this? HUH!?! PUNK!?!
BIFF!  Take that! You like that, huh?  You naughty boy.  Dirty boy.  You like that!
BIFF! Take that! You like that, huh? You naughty boy. Dirty boy. You like that!
GAZZOOK!  I got lots more of where this came from! And you still have infinite continues!
GAZZOOK! I got lots more of where this came from! And you still have 6 more lives!

Verdict: This game doesn’t even deserve the title of franchise rape because the Cliffhanger franchise really didn’t have that much prestige to it to begin with. If you have the urge to play a difficult side scroller, play something with character instead, like Double Dragon II.

Claymates

Does anyone else remember the ‘clay’ craze that took place circa 1993?  It seemed like every game and his dog wanted to be made out of clay, when in reality it was probably just Interplay.  Maybe the whole thing was a symptom of those ‘photorealistic’ FMV games on the Mega CD, or Mortal Kombat.  Then again, who really cares? Claymates is the second ‘clay’ themed franchise from Interplay, ClayFighter having just been released six months beforehand.

Claymates is built around a bizarre premise: your name is Clayton (get it?), and your nutty professor father has developed a formula to turn humans into animals(!) and is presumably about to show you/experiment on you(!), when out of nowhere an evil shaman teleports himself inside the laboratory, transforming you into a ball of clay with his stick before spiriting your father away!

THIS IS BLASPHEMY!  THIS IS MADNESS!!

This is Claymates.

"NO!!  FATHER, PLEASE!!!"
“NO!! FATHER, PLEASE!!!”

So now you’re this blue ball of clay rolling around a garish level that exists solely within the confines of your backyard sandpit.  You’d be surprised what you can fit in a sandpit!  It’s funny, because Claymates invented ‘sandbox’ gaming before GTA did [except not really, because that was a joke, and if we were to take it that literally the first child that ever took up a bucket and spade invented sandbox gaming].  Anyway, you pick up a coloured ball of clay pretty soon and transform into a slow-as-buggery cat or a mouse-with-his-ass-on-fire most of the time, but occasionally you might transform into something interesting like a bird that pecks and flies really badly or a squirrel that throws acorns or a fish that shoots bubbles.  I don’t know what goldmine they thought they were sitting on here, but I noticed before the title screen that Interplay had trademarked all these animals, giving them names like “Muckster™ the Cat” and “Globmeister™ the Gopher” (apparently not a squirrel anymore), which is interesting considering the animals pretty much look like generic depictions of what they are (the mouse looks like a mouse, the cat looks like a cat, etc.).

Timeless Classics(TM).
Timeless Classics™.

Thing is, I thought you were still ‘you’ (Clayton) when you picked up the clay and transformed into an animal.  After all, is that not what Prof. Dad’s formula was all about?  Perhaps this means that you’re imbued with the evil shaman’s animistic powers and can channel the spirits of these kooky characters, which begs the question, why, then, would the shaman even need the formula if he already had the power to channel animal spirits?! This game raises far more questions than it seeks to answer.

After you’ve pondered the logistics of animism and weird science, you run and jump from left to right kleptomanaically collecting gems, items, power-ups, and uncovering secret mini-levels.  The collect-a-thon is, however, spoiled by dubious checkpoint placement and the fact that you lose all gems, items, and animality upon dying (even if you’ve reached a checkpoint).  The harshness of it all really discouraged me, and was seemingly at odds with the game’s initial invitation to experiment and explore.  That said, Claymates is still inviting, and packed full of things to do.  Upon finishing the level, two robots are unleashed upon your backyard (overworld) and help you break into your neighbours’ backyards(!) and consequently, their sandpits (levels).  Curiouser and curiouser.

The action button doubles as the run button, which is a bit awkward, seeing as slow-as-buggery Muckety-Mucky-Muckster™ can’t run and slash at the same time.  Oozy™ the Mouse is impressively fast – possibly even faster than a certain blue hedgehog – and must make use of the ‘blaze-processing’ boasted about on some virtual box art I found the other day.  Problem is these fellas run about as smooth as an oil slick, but let’s chalk that one up to personal preference, hey?  The level design is Spartan, but clever – the various power-ups and level devices themselves are crude, ugly, and reminiscent of Apogee shareware.

Deliciously Ugly.
Deliciously Ugly.

The sprites look okay, and I suspect the clay effect would have knocked the socks off of kids on their CRT televisions back in the day, but now they look a little out of place juxtaposed with the decidedly un-clay levels.  The character animation is terrible once again – I’m starting to see a trend here in most non-Mario/Sonic platformers – to the point that I’m wondering whether it was animation, and chiefly animation, that separated those two giants of industry from the rest of the competition during that era.

It may not be Mario and it may not be Sonic, but Claymates is definitely one of the more interesting platformers out there.  I suspect the lack of polish is inversely proportional to the overabundance of ideas crammed into these sandpits.  My advice: climb into the sandpit wide-eyed like a child and you’ll be in a state of constant surprise.

Just don’t come crying to me if you get sand in your eyes.

Clay Fighter: Tournament Edition

I love 2-D fighters and always have. I have spent most of my time being sad that there is very little in the way of 2-D fighters left in North America. It seems like you have to travel to Asia to find the arcades still full of gamers playing the newest and latest 2-D fighters. North America developed this plague of terrible spammy 3-D fighters like Dead or Alive and SoulCalibur (Yes, spelling it all one word makes your game hardcore). Having played Clay Fighter: Tournament Edition I now understand why development just ceased.

Barry Bonds faces off againts Igy Pop with AIDS
Barry Bonds faces off againts Igy Pop with AIDS

Before I even get into the gameplay let us have a look at the title. Tournament Edition. This seems very optimist to think that people will be lining up to see who will lead their pile of Clay to victory. Now the reason this seems very optimist is because the game play is rather lacking. Rounds consist of battles that have come straight out of Team America. I did not have the luxury of playing against a real opponent so I was pitted against the over powered AI. How this AI had been limited to just an SNES game is mind boggling. Not only do I think this AI could pass the Turing Test I think it has secretly found its way into Hawlkings wheelchair and is behind all of his great ideas. The battles seem almost unfair unless of course you attack. The simple act of attacking causes the AI to lock up and drop everything it is doing and block. If you attack repeatedly with a super you can chip away at its life while he unleashes his fury of blocking everything with no attempt at escape.

For a sequel you would think they could have made the game at least moderate playable. As it stands this game unplayable and anyone who has found memorize of this game should probably ask their mothers how much they had to drink in the first 9 months of your life.

Clayfighter

clayLike every book, movie and professional wrestler, every video game needs a gimmick to hook people in order to sell copies.  Dawn of the Dead has zombies, Pride and Prejudice has zombies and The Undertaker IS a zombie. This game’s claim to fame is that it has … well … the fighters are all made of clay. Alright, I’ll bite. Not every gimmick can be a winner. The biggest problem with Clayfighters is that even though it has such an outlandish premise that peaks your curiousity, it just can’t back it up with any sort of decent gameplay.

Even though I loved playing this game as a kid, as an adult it just falls short. There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about this piece of crap. A moveset limited to pretty much just strikes,impossible combo combinations,  an AI that will beat you before you ever get a chance to land any sort of offense and choppy animation are just three of the many problems that plague this game.  One fight against the Elvis impersonator destroying me all the while screaming “Watch the hair” despite being on the opposite side of the screen was enough for me to throw in the towel here. It’s funny because I can actually remember loving this game growing up but the problem with Nostalgia, is that just like your ex girlfriend, it’s never as good as the first time.

undertaker
He got it right. This game didn't.

Civilization

Alright. Let’s get this story straight. Truth be told, Sid Meier’s Civilization is the kind of game that certainly necessitates more play-through than a barely-awake hour and a half on a red eye to New York by someone who has no prior experience with turn-based strategy games. Fortunately, Civilization is the kind of game that has a large and enthusiastic fanbase of players who can surely detail you with the many triumphs that it accomplishes as a game. But until I talk to one of those guys, this review will be delightfully stunted.

civilization-pick-tribe
I’ll begin with my first impressions, starting with the menu items. My impressions are that they are great. How often do you get approached with the option to choose between starting your game with “Customize World” (yes please) or “EARTH.” I start my game, and I’m approached with THE choice. I have to choose my tribe. My roots. My blood brothers. I made love to the idea of being a Mongol at first, but ultimately chose to side with the Aztecs, a decision that fatally brought my first game to its dire end.

As an Aztek (named MICKEY!!!, nonetheless), I was approached by a beautifully tanned goddess who promised she’d teach me the ways of irrigation, obtaining raw materials, and road building. Anticipating at least some sort of hand-holding guidance as I made my way into the world, little did I know that the tutorial messages were turned off by default. Thus, in my first baby steps toward world conquest I could only think to wander my tiny settlers piece across the world, in a lonely, 20-minute journey tangled in menus and fruitless turn-based exploration. Eventually I figured out how to finally create my city, MONTEZUMA, which I quickly turned into a democracy, a democracy that I then swiftly determined to rebel against. End of civilization.

Game two, was in fact, slightly more successful.

I knew I couldn’t mess this civilization business up the second time around, so I went with my actual roots and assigned the young and virtuous CHOW to lead the Chinese to victory. This time I putted around with the controls enough to recruit a few men to defend my city of CHINA (I figure that’s a lucky enough name for a civilization, right?) and encountered enough straglers to recruit a decent assembly of men. With their assistance, I met the rulers of both Germany and Russia, who unbeknownst to me were both close neighbors of CHINA.

civilization-frederick

Frederick, The Ruler and Emperor of Germany, was polite and dressed to the nines. Despite the clear advancements his civilization had made in hairstyles and tailoring, Frederick offered to trade my sages’ knowledge of wheel-making for horse riding, to which I enthusiastically agreed to. Deal done! Then, there was that awkward run-in with Stalin, in which he demanded the same terms as Frederick and things got tense when I told him Frederick was the only man I could trust with that information. Shucks. Despite the increase of action in this second go with civilization, CHINA actually ended up with a lower score than MONTEZUMA. Double shucks.

So that’s it. By the end of the day, I was left with two boring, futile civilizations. With a little more time I’m sure I would’ve had more exciting stories to tell, but, hey, on the bright side, I did learn some valuable lessons. Number one: sometimes you need to read the directions before playing. Number two: stay true and never teach Stalin how to make a wheel. Now go and spread civilization.

Chuck Rock

HE JUMPS LIKE A MOMO, BTW
HE JUMPS LIKE A MOMO, BTW

Anything this game could give you, you could get somewhere else, and it’d be better.

Let’s say you wanted a platformer. It’s a platformer, yeah. But why not play Super Mario Bros 3? Or, like, Strider or something? It doesn’t make sense to play this.

Oh, but wait. You want your platformer to have dinosaurs in it. Well, fine. If you insist (and Super Mario World doesn’t count for whatever reason), play E.V.O. – The search For Eden. That game is awesome, and you get to be all sorts of Triassic/Jurassic creatures!

Wait, you don’t want to be a dinosaur, you want to be a caveman who has to deal with dinosaurs? Fuck… alright, fine. Play Bonk. Bonk is pretty fun, I guess.

You want it on the SNES? Play Super Bonk, then.

Wow, ANOTHER stipulation? What’s that you say? The caveman in question can’t be bald? Jesus. Okay. Here: play Joe & Mac. Seriously. Not this.

Oh, but you want your game to have no more than one first name in the title? Ahh. Bummer. I guess that leaves Chuck Rock.

I TRICKED YOU! “Chuck” is a first name (see ultra-macho writer Chuck Palahniuk) as is Rock (see famous closeted movie star Rock Hudson). YOU DO NOT GET TO PLAY A GAME ANYMORE.

But, if you need to play a platformer with dinosaurs that you don’t control but instead you control a caveman who deals with dinosaurs on the SNES but isn’t bald and is called Chuck Rock, then, woo, boy, Chuck Rock is the game for you!

What I’m saying is, basically: I recommend Chuck Rock to anyone who wants to play an SNES game that rhymes with Fuck Cock. I can’t believe I only thought of Fuck Cock at the end of this article.