Game Review: Eat Me (2017, Chandler Groover)


Copyright Chandler Groover

Eat Me is both one of the strangest and most delicious text adventures that I’ve ever played.

You are a very hungry child being held captive in a dungeon.  Fortunately, your manacles are very tasty.  For that matter, so is the door to your cell, probably because it’s made out of a cheesecake.  If you want to go for a more minimal meal, the skeleton of the prisoner who was in the cell before you is also available for snacking.  In fact, as the player soon discovers, everything in this dungeon can be eaten.  That includes the doors, the instruments of torture, the bodies of the other prisoners, and the guards.  If you’re going to escape you better start eating.

There are a few things that stand out about Eat Me.  One thing is that the solution to almost every problem is to eat.  Some things are easier to eat than others but eating is always the safest way to go.  The other is that it’s a very well-written game, with very tasty descriptions of each room, each object, each person, and, of course, each bite.  Some of the descriptions are downright tasty while others are not something you should read on a full stomach.  None of the NPCs in the game really want to be eaten but, in the end, it’s either you or them.

For those ready to start their meal, Eat Me can played online here.

Game Review: Suspended: A Cryogenic Nightmare (1983, Infocom)


Welcome to the future.  On the planet of Contra, an Earth colony is run by a self-maintaining system that is housed in a gigantic facility.  The system is responsible for everything from transportation to keeping the weather hospitable for the colonists.  You are at the center of the system.  You have been placed in suspended animation so that your mind can serve as the Central Mentality that keeps the entire system from falling apart.  It’s a job that’s meant to last for 500 years but the rewards are great.

Unfortunately, there’s been an earthquake and the complex has been damaged.  Though you are still in suspended animation, you know that you have to repair the complex before the angry colonists shut you down.  Since you’re in stasis, you have to direct five robots to do all the work.  Each robot has its own “personality” and unique way of describing each room in the complex.  You’ll have to figure out how to get the robots to work together before all of you get shut down permanently.

Suspended is one of the most difficult text adventures that I’ve ever played.  Since each robot can only tell you certain things about each room in the facility, the game often depends on getting the right robots in the right room at the right time.  If you can pull that off, the damage itself is often easy to fix but it’s not always easy to guess which robot will be useful in which situation.  In typical Infocom fashion, there’s also a time limit to the game and making too many mistakes can make it impossible to get things done before time expires.  For most players, winning this game will come down to trial-and-error and frequent saving.  The game is so complex, though, that you feel really damn good when you actually manage to figure it all out.

Suspended can be found at various archival and abandonware sites online, including here.

Silent Hill Memories


I was sixteen when Silent Hill first came out for the Playstation.

From the first minute I played it, I was hooked and Silent Hill would go on to become the first video game that I ever seriously got into.  I would study the game.  I would go online, in those early days of the world wide web, to read the theories of other players and visit the occasional Geocities-hosted fan page.  I actually got very upset when innocent nurse Lisa Garland was lost to the town’s curse.  I was also amazed to discover that the game’s storyline and ending could change depending on whether or not I saved Cybil Bennett.  A video game with multiple endings that went beyond just “good” and “bad?”  This was a big deal back in 1999!

Looking back after all these years, there are four main things that I remember about Silent Hill.

First off, and I know I’m not alone,I remembered the opening and especially the music that played during the scenes of Harry Mason driving down that foggy road:

Secondly, I remember the scenes that played after the game’s ending, which featured all of Silent Hill‘s characters blowing their lines, missing their cues, and laughing about it.  Today the animation may look primitive but back in 1999, seeing this at least provided some comfort if you got one of the bad endings, especially the “bad” ending where you defeated the monster but your daughter died (“Thank you, Daddy … goodbye.”) and then you ended up dead in your car.

I remember the nearly legendary fifth ending of the game, in which Harry Mason ended up getting abducted by aliens.  In the days before YouTube, when you had to trust word-of-mouth, there were some people who insisted that this ending was just an urban legend while there were others who couldn’t stop bragging about how they had gotten the alien ending while the rest of us just had to settle for the “saved the world and your daughter” ending.  When I finally managed to get the UFO ending, I was so happy that I felt like I was the one who had been abducted by aliens.

Finally, the main thing I remember about Silent Hill is that I was never very good at it.  I was the player who always ended up getting lost and walking around in a circle.  I can’t remember how many times I played before I managed to not die in the diner.  As soon as I heard the radio static that indicated that I was about to get attacked, I started to run because I know I wasn’t a good enough shot to fight off any of the game’s monsters.  Harry Mason was searching for his daughter and I was probably the worst possible person to lead him in that search because I somehow always managed to get Harry killed.  It didn’t matter how many times I played the game, I never really got good at it.  Even when I finally managed to get the best ending possible, it was only after saving and reloading the game a countless number of times.

I may have never been good at the game but I still enjoyed leading Harry to his death and occasionally to one of the good endings.  Silent Hill is what taught me that there was more to video games than just jumping and shooting and for that, I will be forever thankful.

Game Review: The Witness (1983, Infocom)


You are a detective, working in 1930s Los Angeles.  One night, you and your assistant, Sgt. Duffy (remember him from Deadline?) are called to the home of Freeman Linder.  Linder is a soldier of fortune whose wife has recently died under mysterious circumstances.  After you arrive and assuming that you are smart enough to follow Linder into his study, he tells you to have a seat while he explains why he needs to be protected from a man named Stiles.  If you don’t take a seat, you’ll end up getting a bullet that was originally meant for Linder.  If you do take your seat, you’ll witness Linder getting shot by an unseen assailant.  You now have 12 hours to explore the house, interrogate all of the suspects (there aren’t many of them), and figure out who murdered Freeman Linder!

The Witness was Infocom’s follow-up to its fabulously successful murder mystery, Deadline.  The Witness is a much simpler and much easier game, though it’s still a good deal of fun.  If Deadline seemed like a big budget MGM extravaganza, The Witness is an entertaining Warner Bros. B-movie.  The mystery at the heart of The Witness is not difficult to solve.  It’s mostly a case of making sure that you’re in the right place at the right time to witness certain events and also making sure that you do certain things in the right order.  The mystery may be easy to solve but getting all of the evidence necessary for a conviction can be tough.

As with most Infocom games, The Witness is well-written and full of memorable details.  The game is set on February 9th, 1938 and, if your detective turns on the radio, he’ll hear programs that actually aired on that date.  The game’s author, Stu Galley, even researched 1930s slang to give the game’s dialogue an authentic feel.  It’s a fun if not particularly difficult game.

The Witness can currently be played over at the Internet Archive.

Retro Game Review: Destroy All Humans! 2 (2006, THQ)


Yesterday, I wrote about how excited I am about the prospect of once again getting to play Destroy All Humans! when the remake of the game is rereleased in 2020.

But why stop with there?  Why not follow that up by remaking Destroy All Humans! 2?

Destroy All Humans! 2 picks up ten years after the end of Destroy All Humans!  It is now 1969 and the world is swinging.  The latest Crypto clone is still disguised as the President of the United States and he is having a ball.  Of course, then the KGB decides to ruin it all by launching a nuclear missile at the Furon mothership.

With the mothership destroyed and Pox reduced to being an ill-tempted hologram, Crypro must figure out not only what the KGB is planning but he must also get revenge for the destruction of the mothership and the death of his commander.  Destroy All Humans! 2 spans the globe, with Crypto going from San Francisco to London to Tokyo to Siberia with the game’s climax taking place on the moon.  Along the way, Destroy All Human! 2 parodies everything from hippies to Godzilla to James Bond.  This is a fun and humorous game that could be played all the way through in just a couple of sessions.  Along with having everything that the first game had, Destroy All Humans! 2 also has some new features.  My favorite was the ability to force hippies, schoolgirls, and other innocent bystanders to forget about me by making them suddenly hear acid rock.  Of course, it’s also a sandbox game so, if you don’t feel like concentrating on the plot, you can just focus your energies on destroying all humans!

Destroy All Humans! 2 is another game that I used to play nonstop on my Xbox.  My Xbox is still in working condition but my controller has seen better days so, whenever I play the game nowadays, I have to keep an eye on Crypto to make sure he doesn’t take off running towards the left side of the screen.

So, how about it?  If 2020 is going to be the year of the Destroy All Humans! remake, how about following up with a remake of Destroy All Humans! 2?

After all, we need Crypto now more than ever!

 

Retro Game Review: Destroy All Humans! (2005, THQ)


I’m looking forward to 2020 for one reason and one reason only and it’s not the presidential election.

No, I’m looking forward to 2020 because that’s when I’ll finally be able to play Destroy All Humans! again!  The classic alien invasion game will be getting a full remake in 2020 and, once again, players will be able to help Crypto steal Furon DNA and conquer the planet.  It probably won’t be a minute too soon, either.  If 2019 is any indication, 2020 is a year that’s probably going to inspire a lot of people to wish they could beam up to their spaceship and blow things up.  With the remake of Destroy All Humans!, they should have the opportunity to do just that without causing any real world damage!

Back in the day (the 2005 day), Destroy All Humans! was the best reason to have either an Xbox or Playstation 2.  Crypto was a little grey man who sounded suspiciously similar to Jack Nicholson.  He came to Earth in 1959, on a quest to harvest brain stems, blow up cows, disrupt pool parties, and battle a mysterious government agency known as Majestic.  Though the game had a storyline and missions, it was also a sandbox game.  Once a location was unlocked, you could revisit and blow it up whenever you wanted to.  I lost track of how many times I took out Turnipseed Farm.  Being an industrious race, the humans always rebuilt as soon as you flew away.  It never seemed to occur to them to add any extra security precautions, no matter how many times you returned.

Because the game was set in 1959, it featured a full-on barrage of pop cultural references.  Crypto could read minds and it turned out that people all over America were thinking about Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and whether or not they really liked Ike.  Crypto could also temporarily disguise himself as a human but, after a certain amount of time, he always reverted back to his original form.  If he reverted back while surrounded by humans, panic would ensue as the humans shouted that they were being invaded by “space commies!”

Of course, Earth was a dangerous place in the 1950s and it was common for Crypto to get killed.  Luckily, every time he died, a new Crypto clone took over and was even more eager to destroy all humans!

This was my favorite game on the Xbox and it’s one of the few that I really miss playing.  (I still have the game and the Xbox.  While the Xbox works, the controller’s seen better days and, whenever I do play one my old Xbox games, it seems like I spend the majority of the game trying to keep characters like Crypto and Tommy Vercetti from running over to the left side of the screen.)  I’m looking forward to once again taking control of Crypto and invading this lousy planet!

Is it 2020 yet?

(By the way, Case Wright once reviewed Tom Abernathy, the writer of Destroy All Humans!  Read that interview here.)

Game Review: 1181 (2016, Grim and notgojira)


1181 is one of the best horror Interactive Fiction games out there right now.

It starts out simply.  You are a volunteer at a SETI lab, working the night shift.  It can be monotonous work.  Some of your colleagues seem to be struggling to adjust to the sterile nature of the place.  Not even you are sure what is really going on at the lab.  One night, something strange happens.  The lights go out.  A voice announces that you are on lock down.  And something is coming up the stairs and heading straight for you.

The is a well-written and well-programmed Twine game that makes good use of visuals.  Like most Twine games, it does run the risk of getting repetitive.  Be careful about accidentally clicking the same word that you clicked before unless you really want to go through the same descriptive passage two times in a row.  When played straight through, it’s a challenging and thought-provoking work of interactive fiction.  It comes with multiple endings, some of which are good and some of which are definitely not.

It can be played by clicking here.