Incantation

This game has wizards n' shit
This game has wizards n' shit

Incantation is a pretty by the numbers side-scroller where you play as a wizard with really non-threatening magic. You can jump around and collect coins, and occasionally you’ll teleport somewhere else in the stage by shooting a crystal with your non-threatening magic. The graphics are all cutesy and bright, the music is…present, and the control is fine.

That’s it.

I’ve reviewed enough of these games to tell you that there’s nothing special here, nor is there anything particularly offensive. Incantation just is. Why don’t you ask me to review some toast?

I could review toast and it would be more interesting. I love toast. Eat it almost every day. A bit of browned brown bread with some peanut butter slathered on that sucker is a wonderful second breakfast. I like to darken my toast so it’s firm and crunchy with the centre approaching softness. I don’t understand those misguided souls that burn their toast beyond recognition. All carbon and a mouth full of ashes. Breakfast time tragedies.

Now that I think back on it, I don’t remember if Incantation has an intro screen or a storyline of any kind. Why is the deformed little wizard so intent on blasting everything with his benign sorcery (wizardry)? He’s probably trying to save someone from something, but who and from what? Why is he on his own? Doesn’t he know that, as a wizard, he’s compelled to find a “meatshield” and hide behind it for the entirety of any battle? He is not minimizing his weaknesses or maximizing his strengths at all. Clearly he can’t cast spells above 4th level because his INT isn’t that high*!

The problem with games like Incantation is that they ride this line between almost decent and terrible where I can’t really latch on to anything to talk about. They just sit there, being. Like I said already, Incantation just is. It doesn’t care that you’re not interested, it doesn’t care that you’re ambivalent, it doesn’t care about anything or anyone. It’s Incantation. It has a tiny wizard who fires little balls at things.

If you like wizards, this game has an approximation of one.

* That was a joke from 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons, so I’ll understand if you’re too young or cool or a combination of both to get it. Be happy you don’t get that joke.

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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!

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons – Eye of the Beholder

Get ready for this, because I am about to go all delusions of grandeur on your asses, but wow. There must be a God, and he must be toying with me. I set upon my epic quest top play video games and write about them to my slavering, adoring fans, and he drops bombs like this on me. This game mixes three of my favourite things in games, nay, three of my favourite things EVER:

1) D&D. Second edition, fair, but D&D nonetheless. Many a Sunday were frittered away rolling dice in my youth. Actually, by “my youth” I mean “until I moved out, about 9 months ago.” I also mean “and even then only because I was too far to keep playing with the same group” and also, “I miss D&D.” There, full disclosure. It was like improv but with more swords. Further full disclosure: I was/am a complete improv junkie. I don’t do it anymore, but I should. I should be on Second City. On SNL. I should have been a Kid in the Hall.

I warned you about delusions of grandeur, right? Oh yeah, those three things.

2) Capcom. Yeah, Capcom produced this sucker. Those same guys that gave me an excuse to beat up a blonde Jay Leno impersonator in red pyjamas. That’s the company. But, they’re not as awesome as the other company that ALSO worked on this game:

3) STRATEGIC SIMULATIONS INC.  You do not understand the deep man-lust I have for the SSi gentlemen. Star Command was epic. It was also the first of its kind I played, pen-and-paper or otherwise. Endlessly rerolling to get the perfect sniper/grenade guy/esper? PRICELESS. The only other game I loved this much was Warlords. Also SSi. Wait, shit. Wikipedia says that was SSG. Well, they were also awesome, I guess. There remain only three names in video games I’d follow off of a cliff, then: SSi (Strategic Simulations, inc), SI (Sports Interactive — have you PLAYED Football Manager? Because I have. Today. It was awesome. As always.), and SSG, apparently (Strategic Studies Group? Okay). Wait, I am making that list five long, to add Sir-Tech (for Jagged Alliance) and, well, I guess Tim Cain, even though I only liked Fallout. But I liked it a lot.

So. Add those three juggernauts of awesome together, and what do you get?

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons - Eye of the Beholder

You get Iron Rations and a Short Sword. FUCK!

To continue my trip into nostalgia, this whole first-person dungeon-crawler thing only did it for me twice in my life. Once was Space Hulk for the previously mentioned Amiga. Scared the stool out of me as a kid. The “freeze time” as it was called was light-years (haaaa) ahead of its time. It was like proto-proto-bullet time, allowing you a chance to make your moved before the genestealers ate your face. The second game that “got” me in this genre was abotu a week ago when I started Etrian Odyssey. And even then, it’s only because I have three hours of public transit a day. And even then it’s struggling to  find a place between Picross DS and New York Times Crosswords, for heaven’s sake. I don’t like these games. They’re a terrible replacement for good ol’ pen-and-paper crawls (which are terrible replacements for actually fighting goblins in an old catacomb, surely). This one’s no different. Not even making my own characters could save this game (if you must know, they were Chunk the human fighter, Foxxo the elven thief, Ugala the dwarven cleric, and Daeiei the elven mage). You ever tried to push a cockroach around with a nine-foot-long, five-millimeter-thick cooked piece of spaghetti? I imagine this is how it would feel.

There are no words.

I want to write more, but there are no words left. It’s too late. I’ve fallen into a pit of nostalgic ennui.

Wake me up when they make Jagged Alliance 3.