E.V.O: The Search For Eden

Okay, so this is the first time that I’ve actually pulled a game that is worth talking about on its own merit rather than two paragraphs of whatever followed by two sentences about the game. So here goes.

E.V.O: The Search For Eden, was a pretty innovative RPG for its time. It took RPG genre conventions in a pretty interesting direction and offered character customization that was rarely seen in consoles of this generation. The premise is this: Gaia, a personification of the spirit of Earth (man do JRPGs love their gaiaism), wants you to find Eden, but I guess she wants you to work for it so you have to run a darwinian gauntlet of no-holds barred eat-or-be-eaten paleolithic combat.

You start out as a pretty lame looking weak-ass fish.
You start out as a pretty lame looking weak-ass fish.

One of the things that the retro-goggles of my childhood concealed from me was the sheer amount of grind in this game. The levels are small and there are really no puzzles to speak of, just combat to get points to upgrade your fish into a way cooler fish. I had no time for this, so did what any hardworking games journalist would: I cheated.

Old and Busted
Old and Busted

Okay, so that was a little closer. But we can do better.

New Hotness
New Hotness

Yeahhhh!

So this exposes what I suppose is the only flaw of the game: that it has one but only one good idea. The game consists of getting EVO Points, getting sweet new body parts, and continuing. After awhile you have to fight a big shark who turns into some giant pieces of sushi, and then turn into a pretty stupid looking walking fish.

Hideous. Evolutionary dead end.
Hideous. Evolutionary dead end.

Oh, it gets worse, dear reader.

BEHOLD:

Ugh. Just. Why are you this way?
Ugh. Just. Why are you this way?

But mere seconds later I am a sweet dragonsaur, so it’s not all bad.

Yeahhhhhhh
Yeahhhhhhh

So this game is still pretty fun, but if you have any fond memories of it just look at these pictures and go on about your day with a smile on your face as you remember eating other, smaller creatures for kicks.

You’re welcome.

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Dungeon Master

These graphics are blowing my imagination away!
These graphics are blowing my imagination away!

Let us delve now, traveler, into the adventure-packed realm of Dungeon Master! Our four players will be Paul, Matt, Nick and Jason. I, Scott, will be the DUNGEON MASTER!

Scott: You stand in front of the cracked stone edifice, gazing warily into the utter blackness of the doorway. This is the dungeon that you’ve heard so much about. First, you must wander the HALL OF CHAMPIONS and select a player character!

Paul: Why?

Scott: You need someone to represent you as you wander around the dungeon killing monsters and finding treasure! Trust me, this will be great.

Paul: Fine. I’ll take…uh, “Iaido.” I’m a fighter.

Matt: I’ll be “Zed.” I guess I’m also a fighter, although specializing would be wonderful if I get the opportunity.

Scott: Ok, let’s mix it up a bit. Nick—why don’t you play as “Elija” the wizard?

Nick: Sure, whatever.

Scott: Great! Jason, how about you?

Jason: I’m “Syra,” a woman.

Scott: Right, but what class are you playing?

Jason: Woman.

Scott: You know what, let’s just get started. What are you armed with?

Paul: I’m a fighter. I have a falchion.

Matt: I would appear to be wielding a club, so hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to find a more useful weapon. While I appreciate that blunt objects are better against some kinds of undead, the club is rather unwieldy and is primar—

Nick: I have magic I think. Wizard.

Jason: Boobs! And being a whore! Ha ha!

Scott: Yes. Right then. You walk through the ancient corridors, the faint drip of water hitting the stone floor the only noise aside from your anxious breathing. It seems as if you’ve been wandering for some time when you come across a metal gate. To its side there is a small stone button in the wall. Beyond the gate, you can just make out what appears to be a figure wrapped in bandages.

Matt: We move forward cautiously.

Scott: You bounce off the door, each taking a few points of damage!

Paul: Wait, what? We just took damage from walking into a door? That’s retarded. Don’t be stupid.

Scott: Look, that’s what happens, ok? Maybe you should look at the button.

Matt: I’ll press the button.

Scott: Good idea! As you press the button, the metal gate raises upwards and the figure becomes more distinct. It’s a mummy!

Paul: What? Why? Why is there a mummy here?

Scott: I don’t know, but he’s standing over what appears to be a water skin, a club and an apple!

Jason: I’ll pick up the club and the apple.

Scott: The mummy turns and begins to advance!

Jason: I throw the club at it!

Scott: The club misses and falls to the ground at the mummy’s feet! He still hasn’t done anything yet, but he probably will soon!

Paul: I’ll hit the mummy with my falchion. There, 16 points of damage.

Scott: The mummy is destroyed! He leaves behind some corn.

Nick: Corn?

Scott: Yes, corn.

Nick: Like, corn corn?

Scott: Corn.

Nick: Corn, the vegetable?

Scott: Corn.

Jason: I take the corn!

Scott: You continue wandering through the dungeon. Here and there, you see a coat hook. Suddenly, you come across another door!

Matt: Does this one have a button?

Scott: Yes, this door is made of wood and has a wooden button in the wall.

Jason: I throw the corn at the button!

Scott: The corn bounces uselessly off the wooden button and onto the floor.

Paul: HOLY SHIT THIS IS STUPID.

Scott: I agree. Rocks fall, you all die. Except you, Matt. You’re already dead.

Matt: Your inside joke does not surprise or entertain me.

Jason: I pick up the corn again! HEY-O!

Dream TV

Picture 1

The only good thing about this game was impossible for me to enjoy.

You see, when you first start playing, you’re this little blonde boy (that’s not the good part) and there’s this little black boy (also not the good part) in a split screen on the bottom (getting warmer) but the entire time there’s this ticker. Some straight CNN shit here, right? I think there’s an evil face or something taunting you. I couldn’t read it though, because there was nowhere safe to stand while I watched it.

The game starts you wwith something like ten lives. That is what we call in the “blogging about shit nobody reads” biz as a BAD SIGN.

LIFE 1: a man with a club hit me. TIME: 5 seconds.

LIFE 2: I fell in a pit I couldn’t see. TIME: 8 more seconds.

LIFE 3: I stood on an elevator thing which flattened me against its roof. TIME: another 7 seconds.

I finally got past that bit and ended up in every kid’s nightmare: a dungeon full of skeletons! Just kidding. Every kid’s nightmare is a shitty platformer. I ended up in a shitty platformer. Then I figured out I COULD CONTROL THE LITTLE BLACK BOY TOO! So, I found a ladder for blondie to chill on and took the other kid from the beginning. He died a few times, I took a screenshot, and I watched Johnnie To’s fantastic crime drama, Election. If you are thinking about emulating my life (which you probably are; I am great) skip this game and just watch the movie. It has nothing to do with this and that’s a good thing.

Drakkhen

For fuck's sake.
For fuck's sake.

Drakkhen is a game where, in the text-only tutorial, there are three pages on what to do if you can’t move and you don’t know why.

The game is a bizarre RPG where you play your whole party from first person until you enter a castle, then you move them around individually or let the AI control them.  I have yet to figure out how you make your own dude attack.

Outside of a castle, you actually move around in first person in a terrible Mode 7 landscape that must be what nightmares look like in two dimensions.  I didn’t think it was even possible to have clipping errors in a two dimensional game but I was quite powerfully wrong.

The brief adventures of my four characters – Assbutt, Dickbutt, Cuntface, and Vagoodoo – involved walking over a bridge on an infinite green carpet, whereupon I was attacked from the side by what looked like a doormat, or a pillowcase full of rocks.  My party walked into it over and over again until it died.  There was a castle; I walked up to it, as I was instructed to do.  In this castle were four doorways, and instead of doors they had lightning.  Red and blue lightning.  I eventually discovered that beside the doors, the little triangles were buttons – which, when pressed, summoned some kind of hunchbacked generic enemy that my party proceeded to bravely walk into.  Having nudged this fell beast to death, I tried another button, with the exact same result.

My victory was punctuated by a triumphant dialogue box that announced “Dickbutt got shirt!”

I don’t know why Dickbutt got the shirt.  He already had a shirt.  Maybe, since he was a “scout,” he was just the fastest of my greedy-fingered adventurers.  Maybe he rolled better.

I found it difficult to care at all about Dickbutt and his shirt, and his awful world that seemed to be the ugly little brother of Carl Sagan’s “Flatland.”  I did not play this game for very long.  If someone were to attempt to get me to play this game again, I would inform them that I would rather staple my penis to my face, or beat myself to death with my own scrotum.

Dragon’s Lair

I like the other Bluth company a lot better.
I like the other Bluth company a lot better.

I have “fond” memories of playing the incredibly frustrating arcade version of Dragon’s Lair when I was but a child, content to waste many of my parents’ quarters in the brainless attempt to pull the joystick in whatever direction or push the correct button quickly enough to thwart the reaper. Little did I realize that I’d be writing a review for another version of the game over two decades later. Even littler did I realize that this newer version would be worse in every conceivable way.

One of the main things the arcade version of Dragon’s Lair had going for it was the then-gorgeous graphics. The arcade game looked AMAZING. I think I played the game just to watch the animation as Dirk the Daring met end after inglorious end thanks to my incapable hands (I was also bad at video games when I was a child, though not quite so bad as I am now). When I play this version of the game and Dirk sticks his gangly neck in-between the eager skeletal hands of Death, I feel nothing. Nothing. The animation is substandard. The music subpar. The office submarine.*

The controls in this game are bad. The jumping is reminiscent of Luigi from Super Mario Bros. 2, except instead of going where you want, Luigi would instead opt to fall into a pit and break his neck. Since it’s kind of hard to make Dirk land where you intend, he gets hit an awful lot.

It took me several tries to get through the first level of Dragon’s Lair—remember, I am bad at video games—and every time I died, I started cursing Dirk’s seemingly useless armor. I mean, come on: the guy is dressed in chain mail. Are you seriously telling me an animate broom that casually strolls into his leg is going to do him fatal damage? Is it a poison broom? Is the broom crawling with nanites that immediately jump onto Dirk’s leg and burrow their way through his flesh shutting down internal organs as they go? That gives me an idea for a movie.

The only way I could ever see myself playing this game for more than a few minutes (outside of having to so I could write this review) would involve a complicated series of circumstances involving hostages and SAW-esque death traps. Even then, I’d have to think long and hard about letting my loved ones die in a pit full of needles and snakes before I picked up that controller again.

If anyone wants me, I’ll be working on my horror movie script, “DEATHSWEEPER.**”

* That’s a KITH reference since I always need to jam pop culture into my reviews. If you don’t know what KITH stands for, maybe your brain needs to eat more candy. That was a reference to the movie Brain Candy. There. That should be all the information you need to figure out what I’m talking about if you care enough to expend fifteen seconds of effort—which you probably don’t.

** Optional titles: “BRISTLE COMMAND”; “BROOMITES”; “SWEEP THE LEG, BROOMY”

Dragon – The Bruce Lee Story

Dragon - The Bruce Lee Story
Dragon - The Bruce Lee Story

Kiyaaa! Bruce Lee’s kung fu is the story of legends, but a game, based on a movie, based on a legend… That’s a stretch, even for the awesomeness of Bruce Lee.  The game has a rough story mode, which consists basically of a few pixelated frames of the highlights of the movie, followed by a fight.  The game is basically a poorly written 2 (optionally 3) player fighter.  If it weren’t contemporary to Super Street Fighter II, it would almost be forgivable, but by 1994, the fighter genre had evolved far past the button mashing and awkward movement of this game.

Come! Let us dance!
Come! Let us dance!

To be fair, it’s not horrible.  The music is probably the best part.  The made an effort to put good tracks to the fights.  The punch and kick sound effects are the usual brutal, rough sounds, but they fit alright.  In the end, what makes the game unenjoyable is really that there is little to now way to refine your skill, and study and practice combos, and interesting special moves and techniques.  The game is just too banal.  The only point of mild interest is the support for a 3rd player.  You could have a bit of a 3 player fighter extravaganza going on for a bit, and the mayhem could be somewhat interesting.  Maybe.  It is something that was not often seen in that era and helped justify the expensive SNES multi-tap purchase. The game deserves credit for that much.

Lots of button mashing, not too many interesting moves.  Meh.  Could have been better. Could have been worse.
Lots of button mashing, not too many interesting moves. Meh. Could have been better. Could have been worse.

The idea of walking through a movie in a game was still reasonably new in 1994, so it’s a reasonable attempt.  Certainly, we must be careful to not overpraise the Street Fighter franchise, seeing what they did with Street Fighter The Movie The Game.  I shudder to think of it.

Verdict: Dragon – The Bruce Lee Story is a fairly pedestrian fighting game that doesn’t offer enough variety or staying power to keep you coming back for more.  It doesn’t completely rape the movie franchise, and a decent effort was made for things like music, but on the whole, it’s just not enough to gain any real note in the history books.

Dragon View

DID YOU KNOW that Dragon View for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System utilises MODE 7 GRAPHICS?! Do you even know what Mode 7 means?! Neither do I, but I’ve heard it’s in Mario Kart and it’s probably the menace behind this ugly-ass overworld as well.

U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi!  Yo' ugly!
You ain’t got no alibi!

It just goes to show that after 15+ years, game developers still haven’t figured out that overworlds suck and get in the way of, you know, PLAYING THE ACTUAL GAME. The Mode 7 sections of Dragon View are probably only there so that Kemco could advertise it on the box art, and really only serve as a vehicle for getting from level to level (it’s only appropriate then, that when I collided with a shrub next to a doorway, I had to reverse out, steer, and drive back in as if parking a bus).  As I drove my magic bus through fields of green, watching poorly redrawn sprites blink in and out of the frame, seeing enemies flutter towards me like spotted silver clouds, I thought to myself, perhaps this is the ‘dragon view’. Perhaps this is how a dragon views his world; here and gone in the blink of an eye; his enemies reduced to tiny, silver clouds.

If there's one positive thing about my overworld experience, it's that I found a 3D Tri-force on the ground, which will please Zelda fans to no end (OMG 3D Zelda before Zelda 64!!!).
If there’s one positive thing about my overworld experience, it’s that I found a 3D Triforce on the ground, which will please Zelda fans to no end.

When I hit a silver cloud, I got a taste of the real game. And that is, side-scrolling slash ’em up (slmup) action. It was kind of like bullfighting once I’d worked out the patterns.  Slash them front on, move out of their path, let them charge like a moron, then get behind them now that they’re facing the wrong way and stab them in the back like the yellow-bellied coward I am. These encounters are good for level-grinding, which I needed to do to stop dying in the actual game. Thing is, I could avoid them altogether by simply driving around the silver clouds.

When I wasn’t getting lost or killed in the overworld, I was speaking with villagers in a strange narrated format (“a blessing upon your house, sire”, he said, “and upon your children, and your children’s children”) and doing fetch-quests for them.  Then I’d get a priest to record my valiant deeds [save game] and trudge my way through the overworld again to find whatever damned thing I was supposed to find, and bring it back.  One such example was having to go to Tylon’s storeroom (which is a cave filled with demons and A GIANT SCORPION) across the other side of the overworld to get him some more dynamite, so that he could make some more bombs for me, so that I could blow up some fallen rocks, so that a lady could get home via Galys Pass.  Now, if you hear your grandparents jabber on about how they had to walk 50 miles to school everyday barefoot in the winter snow, you can tell them to shut their damn faces.  Here’s why:

This is "on the way home" for your typical Dragon View shopkeeper.
This is “on the way home” for your typical Dragon View shopkeeper.

Notice the falling rocks, the craggy cliff face and the skeleton wedged under a rock! Hot-damn this game is hardcore.  More hardcore than your grandma, bitches.